Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Top Ten Books to Read This Autumn

This week, the Broke and Brookish inquire: what are your reading plans for the fall?

At the start of the summer, they posed a similar question, and looking back it seems I read most of the books I'd intended to read, the exceptions being Steven Saylor's The Seven Wonders and Charles C. Mann's 1493: Discovering the World that Columbus Created. I'm still very much interested in them, but they get edged out by flashier works.

1. Space Chronicles, Neil deGrasse Tyson

Space...the final frontier. Why did we go there? How did we do it? Should we keep going?  Why aren't we already?  The successor to Carl Sagan in terms of being  America's top science booster, Tyson's latest book is on...space. (You probably guessed that.) I haven't read many of his books, but I listen to his podcast weekly...and if I ever go to New York, my first stop will be the Hayden Planetarium to meet him, so I'm looking forward to this.

2. Engines of War by Christian Wolmar

Wolmar wrote a captivating social history of railroads, and as it turns out he's authored a host of books on trains, recently issuing a book that focused entirely on American railroads, called The Great Railway Revolution. Engines of War looks at trains and their use in...well, war. (Again, you probably guessed that.)

3. Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency and Good Intentions Can Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse, by David Owen

Turns out when you increase the efficiency of using energy, people use more energy. Whoops.  You can get the jist of this book in Owen's interview, "Your Pirus Won't Save You".

4. Star Trek Typhon Pact: Brinkmanship, Una McCormack ;  Star Trek Voyager: The Eternal Tide, Kirsten Breyer

These will actually be new releases. Brinkmanship is, as some might be able to guess from the title, basically the Cuban Missile Crisis in space. The Eternal Tide will be the latest in Beyer's exceptional run of Star Trek: Voyager titles. This one features Janeway on the cover, so I figure there's a chance she'll be returning from not-really-being-dead, sort of like Sisko in Unity. And if Janeway's coming back...all will be sunshine and roses.

I exaggerate, but it will be kind of awesome.

5. The Sun's Heartbeat:  And Other Stories from the Life of the Star That Powers Our Planet, Bob Berman

I figure I'll want a science read (or four) after finishing Twilight of the Mammoths, and this  should have all of the wonder of astronomy without the mind-screwiness of physics.

6. Tributes

As per my custom of celebrating various peoples near their national holidays, this fall I'll be reading books relating to both German and English culture, around 3 October and 5 November. I already have my English books picked out, if not purchased, and while I won't spoil the entire set, Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island will be among them. Germany has proven to be a bit more difficult; most books on it tend to relate to one of the world wars, and I dislike the way they dominate its reputation. Germany: Unraveling an Enigma seems promising, though.

(And yes, I know Guy Fawkes Night isn't England's national holiday. It's as close as I can find, though.)

7. Edwardian Europe

It's been a while since I visited my university stomping ground of Europe in the early 20th century. Around Armistice Day, I may read a Great-War related work (La Feu, Henri Barbusse) or a general history, like Philip Blom's The Vertigo Years.

8. Either Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash or Gone Tomorrow: the Hidden Life of Garbage.

It's so terribly difficult to decide!

9. The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan

A look at the other side of plant domestication: specifically, Pollan examines how plants have used us to benefit them.

10. Leftovers

I'm still intending to read the new releases by Mann and Saylor, of course.  The first is a history of early globalization and the second, a series of mystery short stories, each based around one of the Ancient Wonders of the World.


  1. Maybe I should have included a "leftovers" heading to my list too... A very interesting and diverse list this week.

  2. You have a very peculiar taste in books and I don't mean that in a bad way. I don't think I'd ever pick a book like these.
    I do own a book about naval aircrafts though because they are awesome, so I guess it could compete a bit with the Engines of War by Christian Wolmar.

  3. Great list! I've been slowly reading a bit more from the Edwardian period but it'd be nice to read a whole lot more from and about that era x)

    Am rather late (been busy this past week) but thanks for dropping by my blog on Tuesdays =)

    - Li @ rulethewaves.net

  4. Engines of War sounds really interesting. I guess I've never really thought about the role of trains in war, but I'm sure it will be an intriguing read! And Notes from a Small Island has been on my to-read list for a couple years now; pretty sure I have a copy floating around somewhere.

    Thanks for stopping by our top ten!


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