Monday, 15 February 2016

Best Books I Read in 2015

I was going to do this around the turn of the year, but forgot. So here we are - a list of five books I read last year, which I can recommend.

The Chin P'ing Mei, translated by Arthur Waley. Don't be put off by the phrase "16th century Chinese novel". It is extremely readable, both surprisingly funny and surprisingly moving, and excitingly alien. I reviewed it here.

Cutter and Bone, by Newton Thornburg. An unconventional mystery novel that keeps you guessing about just about everything until basically the last word. The prose is out of this world - the kind of writing that you really just have to describe as "delightful", as awful as that sounds. Trust me, it isn't awful - read it and be delighted.

Post-War by Tony Judt. A very beautifully written and intelligent history of Europe from 1945 to around 2004. Tony Judt was one of the best and most sensitive popular historians out there, and this book covers it all: diplomacy, culture, intellectual developments, the economy, you name it. Anyone interested in why the modern world is the way it is ought to read it - just be prepared to sacrifice a considerable amount of time to do so.

The Pyjama Game by Mark Law. A history of judo combined with personal observations from a journalist who took up the sport late in life. I'm not sure how much appeal the book has outside martial arts practitioners, but I certainly enjoyed this - although Twigger's Angry White Pyjamas is funnier and more insightful (what is it about books written about martial arts and the use of the word "pyjamas"?).

American Tabloid by James Ellroy. I love Ellroy, but had never quite got round to his "Underworld USA" trilogy. This I found almost absurdly entertaining - it feels like there is barely a single page out of its mammoth word count that isn't filled with manic, gleeful violence and/or sex. Ridiculously good fun to read.

Thinking back, I'd apparently gone off SF and fantasy. I don't think I really read anything in those genres in 2015, and didn't miss them. It actually took The Neverending Story to rekindle my enthusiasm - which it well and truly has - and I've got a good few recommendations to work on for 2016.


  1. Nice list will check out Chin P'ing Mei if I can find it. Cutter and Bone sounds intriguing. If you haven't read them try Vance's Planet of Adventure Series, first one is the City of the Chasch. 4 entertaining Scif/fantasy books all with wildly different society backdrops/alien races and their interesting interaction with the human species. I read them last year and found plenty of ideas for gaming material in them.

    1. Yeah, that's a great series. Also, similar to the Demon Princes books, it gets better as you progress.

  2. I'll second the recommendation for Vance's Planet of Adventure series. If you can't find those, look for the GURPS sourcebook. It'll nicely serve as a conspectus of the novels.