11.2.12

My top 10 of books read in 2011

Unlike with music, and unfortunately, my "books consumption" isn't that high in the last few years, and 2011 was terrible in that aspect: I only read 35 books in the whole year. So, instead of doing a "Top ten of 2011 books" like I did for music, I'm doing a "top 10 of books I've read in 2011".

Take notice that this list has no particular order.

Iain M. Banks is an awesome writer, even if I've (still?) never read anything from him apart from The Culture novel series. In 2011 I "ended" the series: I've read Look To Windward (2000), Matter (2008) and Surface Detail (2010), and all those three novels ended up on this top 10. Let me explain what's this "The Culture" series: "The Culture" is the name of a (fictional) technology-advanced alien civilization, but the books are more political or philosophical than what you would expect from "SciFi with aliens". That's right, my kind of SciFi. The Culture is an anarchic socialist utopian civilization, but, while "utopian" is on their description, the fact is that nothing is perfect and they're sometimes confronted with big dilemmas - and sometimes they make mistakes. On "Look To Windward", someone wants to get revenge from The Culture from a mistake they did 800 years before. One thing that quite teased my mind on this one was the whole concept of the Sublimed having created a Heaven. "Matter" is quite different from the rest of The Culture novels (and the first to need a glossary), because it "zooms out" for the reader, and describes other cultures and civilizations, how they get together and co-exist on the Universe. That would be mind-exercising enough for a good read, but the hints on the relations between groups with levels of power of different magnitudes also gives many food-for-thought. Finally "Surface Detail", which is probably one of the most interesting novels from the series, and that kind of picks up the theme hinted by the Sublimed Heaven from two books ago (well, and the virtual approaches from Matter), and takes it into a cross of ideas from virtual worlds and concepts of Heaven and Hell. I just hope he doesn't leave this theme as "written", and a thematic sequel appears. But, most importantly, I really hope Banks releases another Culture novel soon - I'm already anxious to have more.

Still on SciFi, but now entering the Cyberpunk field, Charles Stoss's "Rule 34", a sequel (you don't have to read the previous to understand this one) to "Halting State", actually creating an "Halting State Series". This is not only a good book, it is a book that made me create my first entry on 2014's wish list: "The Lambda Functionary", its sequel, is planned to be released by then. What is Rule 34 about? Well, it has porn (obvious by the title), it has spam and Nigerian scams, it has bugs, it has AIs, it has surveillance and everything a world with SOPA's and ACTA's will end up having - including all the aspects related with the fact that no law enforcement can shut the network down or control it. A must-read (the series, in fact) for those interested on where are we walking towards in this matters.

Talking about Cyberpunk, and obviously, I couldn't miss Neal Stephenson's REAMDE. If you know me, you know that, on my scale, Neal Stephenson is the best writer EVER. REAMDE is a very fine book - and probably the most easy-reading of them all - but it didn't stop from being a... kind of... disappoint me. No, wait, listen carefully: the book is great. Thing is, you expect always the unexpected from the best. Every Neal Stephenson's book was mind blowing to me - you read each of those books and they actually and visibly change you. With REAMDE that will happen to a lot of readers, but being an "sort of easy reading book", you'll have lots of action and cool turning-page stuff, but, specially if you've read the rest of Stephenson, there's not very much new stuff to make you think... it's probably not a book that changed me, like the others before it.

And, to end up SciFi and Cyberpunk, but on quite a different form, "Piracy Is Liberation - Deicide". There are only three series of comics, and "Piracy Is Liberation" is one of them. Piracy Is Liberation is a dystopia, sometime in the future, where people live in "the city" and capitalism is the mandatory religion. Instead of explaining it to you, I'll point you to the torrent for the first book (Deicide is number 9) - uploaded and spreaded by the author himself.

OK, so what's next? Non-fiction. I'll start with an author very well known by it's fiction: Agatha Christie, and her best work in my opinion, which is non-fiction and it is delicious: Come, Tell Me How You Live. The title is the question that this book answers: Agatha Christie not only wrote quite some novels in archaeological settings, but she was also married to Max Mallowan (a prominent archeologist) and worked with him. So, when she got back into England, people used to ask her about her life there, and instead of just telling and retelling, she ended up writing this novel about her stories in Syria - and this is an autobiographical and very very very funny book.

Talking about Syria nowadays I can only think about the most recent events there, and from that thought the mind travels to Egypt. And it is about Egypt's recent events that the next book I have on this list talks about: Alexandra Lucas Coelho's "Tahrir - Os Dias Da Revolução. Here's the short review I wrote soon after I ended reading it: "An emotive short report of what the Tahrir revolution was all about. A book everyone should read - really. I won't be surprised to see this translated into English in the near future - and I really hope so too, because no one should be kept from reading it."

The last two books from this top 10 are... books about books. Living with thousands books (wife's a collector) and being a collector myself (but of music), this two books were really exciting, and Paula heard me saying more than once, while I was reading each of them, "too bad there aren't books like this about music". "Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World" tells the (real) story of a couple that started to find interest in books, and how they suddenly found themselves in the amazing world of book collectors - ending up with more than one or two rare books in their own collection. Phantoms on the Bookshelves was written by a collector - a big collector, that is (with more than 40.000 books) - and it is more introspective, a book where Bonnet reflects on what it is to be a book collector, how to be a book collector, what are the perils of being a book collector, and... well, a book that every collector (of books or something else) will probably empathise with ;-)

There, here it is my top 10 of books I've read in 2011. Let's hope I'll find the time to read more in 2012...