Books I have read in 2019

December 31, 2019

Below is a list of some of the books I have read during 2019. Please feel free to let me know what you thought of them in the comments section:

This is quite hard sci fi, but the journey to and colonisation of a world orbiting the nearby star Proxima always had the potential to be a complex scientific affair. An interesting read for fans of the genre:

A story of the ancient demi god who defied her father the sun and was banished to an island where she meets many a Greek hero, not least amongst them Odysseys:

Poker is not really my game, but this is an accessible memoir which happens to be about the game. Written by the star of the BBC game show Only Connect, I highly recommend this biography:

I re-read this one and continue to be shocked no one has managed to make a film version of this novel which is so cinematic in scope and ripe for transformation to the screen. Great novel, one of my fav sci fi books of all time:

A more user friendly story about colonising a planet around a nearby star, and a debut from a lady with a bright future in writing:

While I mostly blog about books over here, I thought I would suggest some other ideas for seasonal presents which might be practical / fun gifts which are useful for modern life, but not too unfriendly to our environment:

The annual season of giving is approaching and if you are struggling to find books to buy for the reader in your life, here are five novels you should consider, either recently published, or classics they could try:

Or you could try an Audible subscription for them to listen to books in the car or via their device:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Audible-Membership/dp/B00OPA2XFG?actionCode=AMN30DFT1Bk06604291990WX&tag=astapor99-21

There are also my own books, which if you would like to purchase, are available from Amazon Kindle here:

Today marks 20 years of Asimo, the super cute robot from Honda.

I am still awaiting the announcement of when he will be ready to be sold to consumers like me…

Come on Honda, there is a market out here. Your 20 years of pre marketing the product has all paid off.

Had you asked me before I picked up a copy of this book, if I thought a 700 page made up history of a royal family in a make belief land would be a good read, I’d of veered towards the negative.

But I would have been extremely wrong to have done so.

Turns out Fire and Blood by George R R Martin is a massive page turner. I read this hefty tome in a week. Could not put it down. It only took me a whole week to read as I was doing other things like raising the kids, working, sleeping.

I do love the Song of Fire and Ice books (Game of Thrones) and this background story covering the history of House Targaryen is a fabulous addition to the stories of Westeros.

And there is a second installment to look forward to as this 700 pager didn’t cover all of the history.

Once upon a time we all lived in houses without toilets and running water. The power came from burning wood or peat or charcoal or coal.

Sensible minds created sewer systems from tax as well as water pumped to our houses. This was Government doing what was necessary and what the private sector initially could not. This model of to your door water and from your door sewage ensured health and hydration for the masses.

When gas and electricity came along the same model of to your home distribution was used. As a consequence massive utility companies now exist across the world (some Government owned and some not) supplying electricity and gas.

This was initially a sensible change – fires in homes for cooking and heating were a major risk to each dwelling and their neighbours in terms of burning down, but also the constant inhalation of smoke cannot have been good for people.

Piped gas for heat, burned in boilers to heat water with heated water pumped around the house is a genius idea. Similarly, electricity generated centrally and wired to our homes was a great idea when electricity first came along and for a long while after.

But, now we have been developing micro generation technologies for some time – solar panels on roofs for example; is there a better way of powering our homes?

Could we move away from centralised power creation (leading to coal burning and nuclear reactors) and head towards a de-centralised system where my home – everybody’s home – generates all the electricity it requires?

I have been pondering this for a while.

There has been a trend over time for home appliances to use less power – washing machines, fridges, etc. So the trend in consumption is downwards. Homes are being built which are much more insulated, so heating needs are also reducing. The development of batteries to store on site generated electricity is also developing (solar generates during the day, but power is required through the night as well).

So, if the technology is not there already, it probably soon will be. Which will lead to the return of the pre industrial revolution model of powering our homes – although it will be much safer than it was back then.

I wrote a little while ago about opening lines from books. I was discussing the opening to my first novel The Great Wide Open and mentioned I might list some of my favourite novel opening lines, well here goes:

(Might do some endings another time)

“Hale knew before he had been in Brighton half an hour, that they meant to kill him.”

Brighton Rock, Graham Greene

“Oh God. I feel like a refugee from a Douglas Coupland novel”.

JPod, Douglas Coupland

“I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.  I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead.”

On The Road, Jack Kerouac

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

“It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

1984, George Orwell

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like… and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it”

The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

“’Abandon hope all ye who enter here’ is scrawled in blood red lettering in the side of the Chemical Bank near the corner of Eleventh and First and is in print large enough to be seen from the backseat of the cab as it lurches forward in the traffic leaving Wall Street.”

American Psycho, Brett Easton-Ellis

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