Books of the Year: 2019

Gnome carrying pile of booksHere are my picks for the best books of 2019, fiction and nonfiction. These aren’t the best books published this year, but rather the best I’ve read in the last twelve months. The winner in both categories is barely distinguished from the pack, and the runners up are all worthy of reading. Runners up appear in alphabetical order by their author’s surname. Each title is linked to my review of the book.

Fiction:

Winner:

  • The Powers of the Earth and Causes of Separation by Travis J. I. Corcoran
    I am jointly choosing these two novels as fiction books of the year. They are the first two volumes of the Aristillus series and may be read as one long story spanning two books.

Runners up:

Nonfiction:

Winner:

Runners up:

What were your books of the year for 2019?

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Author: John Walker

Founder of Ratburger.org, Autodesk, Inc., and Marinchip Systems. Author of The Hacker's Diet. Creator of www.fourmilab.ch.

10 thoughts on “Books of the Year: 2019”

  1. Thanks John. I have read 6 of the fiction books, based upon your earlier reviews. I enjoyed them all thoroughly. I particularly appreciate your reviews, as I no longer trust Amazon’s. I have come to believe its reviews and the books it promotes are based upon the inputs and desires to please the most vocal SJW’s; I do not wish to support that by buying books promoted for political – as opposed to literate – reasons.

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  2. I re-read a number of older books last year from Arthur C Clarke, C S Lewis, Poe, but the best book was C A Fletcher’s A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale set in the British Isles. There are a lot of references to other adventure tales and British authors that are fun easter eggs, and the story itself has a number of delightful surprises and poignant revelations.

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  3. I just downloaded; The Dream of the Iron Dragon

    I’m in need of something better to read. The one I’m reading now, so bad the title escapes me, is in dire need of replacement and abandonment. That’s what you sometimes get as freebees on Amazon, real stinkers.

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  4. civil westman:
    I particularly appreciate your reviews, as I no longer trust Amazon’s. I have come to believe its reviews and the books it promotes are based upon the inputs and desires to please the most vocal SJW’s; I do not wish to support that by buying books promoted for political – as opposed to literate – reasons.

    Starting in late June 2019, I have been posting my accumulated book reviews from the 18 years of my reading list on Amazon, one a day (except for occasional interruptions by real-world events).  As of yesterday, I had 197 reviews published, which you can view on Amazon.  I started out with a reviewer rank of something like 2.2 million (I had posted a dozen or so reviews before that, mostly for books where I knew the author or had read a pre-publication manuscript) and my rank is now 39,595.  I suspect that, as with everything, it’s a Pareto distribution and the curve gets steep near the top.  The algorithm Amazon uses for ranking reviewers is essentially completely opaque: they admit only that it depends upon the number of reviews, the number voted “helpful”, how recent the reviews are, etc.  It appears that people who value the ranking game the system by jumping in and reviewing newly-released books (perhaps without reading them) because the first reviews are likely to be voted helpful (since there are only a few), and helpful reviews are promoted near the top and receive more helpful votes.  Further, reviews by highly ranked reviewers are moved up, so “the rich get richer” in classic Pareto fashion.

    One of the more interesting things is that occasionally reviews I’ve posted are “hidden by sensitivity filter”. I have been trying to figure out what triggers this.  Here are some reviews which have stepped on this mine (links are to reviews on my site, obviously not to Amazon, where you can’t see them): The Case for Trump by Victor Davis Hanson, The New Evolution Diet by Arthur de Vany, and Hector Servadac by Jules Verne.  In addition, some reviews just disappear after having been flagged by the sensitivity filter, such as that of Quartered Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser.

    The sensitivity filter will sometimes nail a book after it has been posted without it, as happened with The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics by Anonymous Conservative, and also sometimes is removed months after being applied, as with A Brilliant Darkness by João Magueijo.

    Some highly controversial books, such as Diabolical by Milo Yiannopoulos, escape the filter entirely (at least so far: it was posted on 2019-07-22).

    I may expand this into a post after I do some more analysis of the facts and think about what they might mean.

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  5. John Walker:
    Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts

    Have to vote for this one as I read it in 2018 and heard him lecture on it at the Heritage. Roberts is a magnificent scholar and I even got this book autographed.

    Impressive note in the Acknowledgements:

    “I should like to acknowledge the gracious permission of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth to make use of material from the Royal Archives, Windsor, and especially for allowing me to be to be the first Churchill biographer to be given unfettered access to the whole of her late father King George VI’s wartime diaries.”

    Other books read in 2018 were mostly about Trump, but of the six I read, I must recommend Newt Gingrich’s Understanding Trump. It’s always special to read anything by a controversial politician yet brilliant historian.

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