2020 Books

After reading 30 of a planned 24 books in 2019, I decided it would be a good idea to try for 30 this year.

This year I’m not going to try to pre-plan how many of them will be technical and how many fiction (I’m reasonably sure I failed on that count anyway last year). Instead, the more important focus is to keep the reading habit alive. Even if it’s just by reading some more fiction… even those can be surprisingly enlightening at times.

Having learnt to avoid Amazon last year, I will continue with the Goodreads widget showing what I am currently reading and what I’ve completed this year. Again, apologies if you are on mobile, I still haven’t figured out how to make this plan work reasonably on a small screen. For now, I assume no-one cares: if you do, let me know, and I might make a slightly more significant effort.

Below you will find the hopefully monthly updates to this blog post with very brief notes or impressions on the books - full reviews (if any) will reside on Goodreads.

March 2020
Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin

The fourth book in the series is quite unconventional for a fantasy series. It’s really more about ordinary people living in a fantasy world. It may seem like a massive deviation from the rest of the series. This is probably something that younger-me would’ve found deeply offensive, but now I find that it works well for this particular story.

The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin

The third book is again told from the perspective of a different character than Sparrowhawk. Although this time Sparrowhawk features prominently from the start of the book. At this point, I can firmly confirm that the themes in this book would’ve passed way over early-twenties-me’s head. Themes like immortality as greed for life, death as a necessary contrast to give life meaning, addiction and probably a few more that were too subtle to consciously remember after the reading. I’m glad I finally came back around to re-reading these!

Strategy: A History by Lawrence Freedman

This book took me the longest time to finish of anything I’ve read in the last year! I started reading this nearly two years ago. I have been reading 20 minutes a day on the train almost every day over the previous three months… It was time well spent, though! The book exposed me to ideas from many authors on strategy that I would likely never have heard of in my own meanderings.

The conclusions offered about strategy seems sensible: elaborate long term plans are generally doomed to failure because we can’t predict what will happen in the future. Much of strategy also depends not just on what we do, but also what our opponents do. So instead of coming up with brilliant long-term plans, instead focus on the short-term goals that get you a little bit closer to long term goals.

It’s about a year-and-a-half since I discovered wrote my blog post that tried to define the Turn-based-strategy genre… now that I’ve finally finished reading this book, I can come back to that project with some useful insights.

February 2020
The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

The second book departs for a little bit from the story of Sparrowhawk by having a completely new viewpoint character as the protagonist, with Sparrowhawk only entering into events about halfway through the book. While the first book was vividly remembered, this one left barely any trace in my memory… I think perhaps in my university years I was too immature to appreciate this author’s artistry fully.

January 2020
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

A tiny little wisp of a book at only 180 pages, I almost feel bad, including these in my reading challenge… When I read this during university 15 years ago, it was as part of a single compendium book titled The Earthsea Quartet. I considered reading all four as having finished one book. That said, I think perhaps these stories are better experienced as tiny standalone windows into a grand fantasy world. Reading them separately with a week in between books makes the differences between books much less jarring than I felt they were in my youth.

Finished reading


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Author

Matt Van Der Westhuizen

Back-end service developer at Ubisoft Blue Byte by day - wannabe game designer & developer by night.