We are deep in the heart of the 2022 holiday season. For many people, the holidays are a time of good food, visits with family and friends, and lots of sports to watch from the comfort of the sofa or your favorite easy chair. For some of us, however, the holiday break is also the perfect time to dial back the socializing and enjoy some quiet time with a great book.
We’d like to take this opportunity to shout out some of our favorite fiction and non-fiction books that we read this year. Some of these books are fairly new, while others are oldies but goodies. If you’re looking for some entertainment to unwind to over the holiday season, then you’ll find some great recommendations in our reading list.
And as always, you don’t have to be a techie to appreciate any of these selections ... but it might help.
Binge Times: Inside Hollywood's Furious Billion-Dollar Battle to Take Down Netflix — Dade Hayes and Dawn Chmielewski
For decades, Hollywood movies and bundled seasons of network TV shows were only available to the home viewing public as videocassettes and laser-read discs. Then Netflix came onto the scene and quickly transformed the face of home entertainment forever. This book is a great read about the rise of Netflix from a company that mailed rental DVDs to its customers, to a streaming content giant that leapfrogged a confused Hollywood still scrambling to catch up to.
The Passenger — Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy is one of America’s greatest novelists, end of argument. It’s been 16 years since the publication of his last book, the haunting post-apocalyptic novel The Road. Now the author of No Country For Old Men and Blood Meridian is back with a strange and powerful new story about a salvage diver with a disturbing family history. Bobby Western's life is turned upside down by an inexplicable discovery made while diving a sunken aircraft. A companion novel titled Stella Maris should be out by the time this article gets printed.
Gideon the Ninth — Tamsyn Muir
This 2019 novel from New Zealander author Tamsyn Muir is one-part fantasy, one-part horror, and one-part science fiction — with a potent dash of murder mystery thrown in for good measure. The star of the show is an indentured fighter who serves a necromantic minor royal house. Gideon Nav is a young and belligerent badass who just wants out of her contract so she can leave her gloomy home world behind her. After a wildly unsuccessful escape attempt (one in a series of many such efforts), Gideon is offered an opportunity to earn her freedom. First, she needs to learn how to fight with a rapier. This is a great debut novel that made several Top 10 lists when it was released. Two sequels have been released, so if you enjoy this first book you’ll have some follow up reading ready for you.
Roadside Picnic — Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
This sci-fi novel is not new. It was published in Russia in the early 1970s, in fact, but it still reads like a modern classic. A brief visitation by an alien race results in the creation of a number of blighted, treacherous zones filled with uncanny castoff artifacts protected by inexplicable death traps. Desperate young men called ‘stalkers’ risk imprisonment and death to infiltrate these zones and recover objects to sell to eager buyers on the black market. This novel has inspired many different adaptations and re-imaginings since its publication. It isn’t a terribly optimistic book — it is Russian after all — but it does have a compelling story told from multiple points of view.
The Nineties — Chuck Klosterman
Chuck Klosterman sharpened his pen with years of writing for publications like Esquire, Spin, and The Washington Post. This book of essays looks back at the decade of the analog-to-digital revolution, and manages to touch all of the cultural bases from that period. There is something for everyone in this nostalgic trip, whether you lived through those years or want to learn more about the world your parents came from.
What If? 2 — Randall Munroe
The creator of xkcd, a long-running webcomic much beloved by techies, engineers, physicists, and math nerds, has released a companion volume to his book of scientific answers to absurd questions. The scenarios outlined in these books feel like they were pulled from the notebooks of Wile E. Coyote. Science has never been more entertaining.
How to Take Over the World — Ryan North
Another book from a veteran webcomic writer, with a title that could have been ripped from a Pinky & the Brain episode. Ryan North is the creator of Dinosaur Comics, a strip that has famously used the same clip art filled panels for every issue. This book is subtitled “Practical Schemes and Scientific Solutions for the Aspiring Supervillain.” It’s a fun look at how technology can be used for both evil and good.
The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories — Edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer
The weird tale has been a staple of human creativity across multiple generations and disparate civilizations. This massive award-winning collection contains more than 100 stories that all examine what happens when reality slips a gear and situations get a little, well, weird. A tremendous cross-section of literary talent appears in this hefty tome — indeed, this may be a perfect candidate for a new tablet or e-reader. Much lighter to hold during long reading sessions. What really makes this anthology shine are the number of stories from international authors. Antarctica aside, every continent is represented in this collection, and the English language translations are first rate.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking — Susan Cain
This is an older book published in 2012, but in a list of recommended reads for people who want to find a quiet corner away from the boisterous family gathering, so they can settle in with some hot cocoa and a good book, this non-fiction look at how introverts can (and should) prosper is a no-brainer inclusion. If you’ve ever struggled to be creative or productive in an open-concept office, or found yourself being talked over by your more extroverted coworkers during strategy meetings, then this book offers plenty of positive affirmation and advice for your personality type.