My Favorite Books This Year (2020)

2020 has been a wild, scary year, but as always, books remain a great way to escape, learn, grow, and find enjoyment. I decided to put a quick “year in review” together of what I read and enjoyed. A few of these items I’m glad to say were on my list of series to read at the beginning of the year. There is just under 3 weeks left of the year, which is plenty of time to read a few more (which I will be doing), but I figured I had plenty to put into a list.

Murderbot Series

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
I started the year off going through the first several installments of The Murderbot Diaries. The newest released in May this year, Network Effect, and the next comes out this coming April titled Fugitive Telemetry. This series is simply fantastic and I am glad I now have it on my shelf.

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew QuickThe Silver Linings Playbook book cover
One of my more recent reads, I really enjoyed this one and go into detail about my thoughts on book versus movie on my post about the book.

Talking to StrangersTalking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell’s newest book delves into how we perceive those we do not know and how a few recent events escalated the way they did. Touching on some dark material while illuminating on how we interact to others subconsciously, this book is a great insight into how we move through society and, unfortunately, how we fall into situations of miscommunication.

The Inheritance GamesThe Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The great start to a mystery I happily compare to Knives Out, one of my favorite films of yesteryear. Filled with intrigue and questionable family dynamics, I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De ZoetThe Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
This was one that has been on my shelf for some time. I picked it up after enjoying Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas novel and wanted to read more of his work. I was surprised with this one, but pleasantly so. The story was much different than expected though the prose was beautiful and enticing.

Every Tool's A HammerEvery Tool’s A Hammer by Adam Savage
An enlightening look into the life of a main Mythbuster, this book was a great insight into building and what goes into creating some of the iconic films we all know and many love. I learned a lot about craft and making things and I really enjoyed Adam’s passion for what he does (even when things don’t turn out quite like he wanted). It was great to get to know more about him.

All The Light We Cannot SeeAll The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This book came as a recommendation and it was a beautiful book to read. The story was interesting as it covered some of the magical, invisible experiences of our world while centered around young characters trying to make it through World War II.

The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
A series on my list and an author I had yet to read. This series opened me to Wolfe’s work and I am a fan. I enjoyed this four book series and am about to finish a collection of short stories. I wish I would have read him sooner, but I am glad to have found his work regardless. His prose is not for everyone and I liken many of his stories to a veil with an entire universe hiding beneath. I intend to read more, and I will not be surprised if he becomes one of my favorite authors.

Books of the New Sun

Vote

Time to Vote

I do not discuss politics because they often only infuriate me or sadden me with little I commonly agree with. I hate that the political climate, especially of late, has been extremely divisive. There are always those who will defend candidates and attack others with little information or simply say “well both sides do it” as a base justification. This is never an excuse. I hope we all review our choices and cast our vote for who we want to represent us as a people.

I will never tell you who to vote for as it is a choice only you can make. I will only encourage you to vote because voting matters. It is how we as a people exercise our choice of representation even if the candidate we did not vote for wins. Not voting means not participating in that selection, and I will say you have no right to complain if you did not cast a vote. I will not lump you in as a reason things may go to shit (if that should happen and I pray it doesn’t in any situation), but I will stop any complaints with a simple “well, you should have voted then” because we both know it is true.

So, again, I am not telling you who to vote for. I am simply encouraging you to vote and use your voice. I hope you do vote or already have done so. My little personal caveat is that I hope you, like me, vote with compassion and with regard to your fellow citizens no matter what race, ethnic background, sexual preference, disability, ability, religion, non-religion, etc., because empathy is what builds unification and creates a better place for everyone. I think we can all agree, regardless of political affiliation, that we as a species can do better for each other, for the planet, and all other living things that share this good Earth. We must strive to be better, always.

Happy Voting.

Mythologies

Norse MythologyI’ve always loved mythology. My favorite has always been Norse Mythology. I recently began listening to Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. I’ve read it before but was in the mood for some stories and figured what was better than to have Neil read them himself. It was the perfect choice, and it got me thinking about different mythologies and some I want to learn more about.

Greek & Roman

MythosI know a decent amount about Greek and Roman mythology mainly because they are closely intertwined, taught in school, and likely the most popular mythologies in the world. Everyone knows of Zeus and Poseidon and Hercules and the many others within these pantheons. There have been dozens of movies made based on these stories and characters, but there is still much I’d like to learn. I’ve read The Odyssey but have yet to read The Illiad. I really want to read Stephen Fry’s retelling of the Greek myths in his book titled Mythos. I have a copy and just have to take the time.

Egyptian

Egyptian mythology may be my second or third favorite. I’ve always liked these characters since I was young, but I realized I don’t know too much about their actual history. I hope to find some texts that will give me a better background in this area. Ironically I can’t think of any at the moment.

Celtic

I know very little about these mythologies aside from a few characters and I only recently discovered them. I definitely want to know more and I did pick up one book to help me do so. Celtic Myths and Legends by Peter Berresford Ellis.

Chinese – Japanese – Hindu

Another few mythologies I know very little about aside from a few characters or names. I mainly learned of these characters through shows or video games. I used to play a game called Smite where you played as mythological gods from different pantheons. It was a lot of fun to play with friends and I really liked learning about the different mythologies and characters through the lore provided in the game even if it was brief.

Maori

Kia Ora. I lived in New Zealand for a brief time and was lucky enough to learn a bit about the Maori culture and their creation myths including Papatuanuku and Ranginui. Learning these stories increased my interest in mythologies around the world because there is so much and many of them have similarities despite the cultures never being in contact with each other.

Norse

Norse MythologyBack to my favorite. Of course there have also been modern retellings of these myths as well. Marvel comics (and the MCU) have made several characters popular despite only key elements remaining true to the myths themselves. Thor is my favorite Avenger even though he is quite different in the myths. I’m going through Neil Gaiman’s recent retellings of these myths. I’ve also read Myths of the Norsemen by H. A. Guerber and Snorri Sturleson’s Prose Edda. I still need to read the Poetic Edda and there are surely many stories in this pantheon I have yet to discover. I will eventually.

What are some of your favorite myths? Do you have some recommendations for me to learn more about some of the pantheons I mentioned? Or perhaps some that I did not? I’d love to learn more so let me know with a comment or message me on Twitter at @YarberWrites.

A 2020 Update

I haven’t been posting as much as I planned to lately. I kept a pretty decent pace for most of the year but a few developments have kept me away from devoting time to this blog the past month or so, and I’m afraid I’m not going to have much time to find for awhile.

The main reason being that I have started a second graduate program. I am currently pursuing an MBA in Management. I finished my MFA in Writing about three years ago and my ever-inquisitive mind has dreamt up interests that made getting an MBA a logical decision. I am already learning a lot and enjoying the program. I hope to complete the degree by the end of 2021.

Since I have to spend a large amount of time studying and reading for my classes, I have had little time to read for pleasure and therefore have not been writing any book recommendations. I picked up a book of short stories since I figured short stories would be easy to read with my new schedule. The collection is The Best of Gene Wolfe and I am enjoying them so far. I first read Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun series and found his writing interesting. I’m glad to find I am really enjoying his short fiction. I had a feeling I would like his work and I will likely continue exploring more of his stories. I think he is an interesting person as well. He may very well be the next installment in my On Authors series.

I have been completing house projects like my secret bookshelves leading into my new office. We are doing a few other larger house projects since our planned vacation was canceled due to the pandemic. It has been a crazy year and I have been staying sane by continuing to read and learn and try to take care of myself by focusing on the good things. Honestly, one thing that has helped is The Great British Baking Show. The show is an a sincere, relaxing, wholesome experience you wouldn’t normally find in a competition show. It isn’t a cutthroat competition like you would typically find in most competitions shows. Everyone is just trying to do their best while still helping others when they can, which is probably the best trait of the human race. The show has also made me want sweets every time I watch it and it also makes me want to delve into baking myself, which I intend to do perhaps when I’m finished studying.

It seems like everything is unstable and the world is a mess, but the day-to-day is mostly unchanged. Technology has given us a wide, constant view of the world. All the bad and the good. It just seems like the bad is more prominent. We must persevere and do what we can to look out for each other. Continue doing good and good shall prevail. Keep doing what makes you steady, healthy, and rejuvenated. Keep your balance and we will make it through.

An Alphabet of Authors

Inspired by @WS_Bookclub’s post of alphabetical fantasy authors. I decided to do an Alphabet of Authors myself. These are authors I have read and I was surprised to see several gaps in letters, so please give me some recommendations if you know of any.

I made this list mainly by perusing my bookshelf so it may very well be incomplete. I’ve also only added the authors whose work I have enjoyed (of course) because I figured you may want to read them if you haven’t yet. If you want a specific book recommendation for any of these authors, peruse my list of recommendations I have posted here. Anyway, here we go:

An alphabet of authors (by last name)

A – Douglas Adams with Honorable Mentions: Isaac Asimov, Margaret Atwood, Ryunosuke Akutagawa

B – Ray Bradbury with Honorable Mentions: Edgar Rice Burroughs

C – Ted Chiang with Honorable Mentions: Orson Scott Card, Raymond Carver, Albert Camus, Ernest Cline

D – Philip K. Dick with Honorable Mentions: Emily Dickinson, Anthony Doerr, Alexandre Dumas

E – Cary Elwes with Honorable Mention: Matthew Eck

F – Raymond E. Feist with Honorable Mentions: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Carrie Fisher, Victor Frankl

G – Neil Gaiman with Honorable Mentions: William Gibson, Arthur Golden, Helene A. Guerber, The Brothers Grimm, Malcolm Gladwell

H – Frank Herbert with Honorable Mentions: Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, Aldous Huxley

I – Dave Itzkoff with Honorable Mention: Kazuo Ishiguro

J – Robert Jordan with Honorable Mention: Diana Wynne Jones

K – Stephen King with Honorable Mention: Franz Kafka

L – Ursula K. Le Guin with Honorable Mentions: Stanislaw Lem, Ann Leckie, Tom Lloyd

M – John Marco with Honorable Mentions: David Mitchell, Cormac McCarthy

N – Garth Nix with Honorable Mentions: Phong Nguyen, Patrick Ness

O – George Orwell with Honorable Mentions: Joyce Carol Oates, Nnedi Okorafor

P – Terry Pratchett with Honorable Mentions: Gary Paulson, Robert M. Pirsig, Gareth L. Powell, Edgar Allen Poe

Q – Recommendations Please (I do want to read Matthew Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook)

R – Patrick Rothfuss with Honorable Mentions: Ayn Rand, J.K. Rowling

S – Antione de Saint-Exupery with Honorable Mentions: V.E. Schwab, Snorri Sturluson

T – J.R.R. Tolkien with Honorable Mention: Karen Traviss

U – Recommendations Please

V – Kurt Vonnegut

W – Tobias Wolff with Honorable Mentions: Gene Wolfe, Martha Wells, Danny Wallace, and Andy Weir

X – Recommendations Please

Y – Recommendations Please (I do want to read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life)

Z – Yevgeny Zamyatin with Honorable Mention: Timothy Zahn