My usual breakneck reading pace actually fell off a cliff this year, for a number of reasons. I was extremely busy with courses and work all the way from January through to October, and that really dented my ability to read and process information through books, much to my regret. I also spent a lot more time this year gleaning information from long-form articles online, rather than through books – I read several thousand words a day from all of the articles that I peruse, but I will need to devote more time to actual reading next year.
My goal this year was 50 books – and I managed just 17, which is half what I managed in 2020, and last year was a poor year for me in terms of reading as well. The majority of my reading this year was sci-fi – mostly from the Galaxy’s Edge universe created by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole. I’ll have to aim for a bit more variety for next year.
Once again, devices and bad habits probably got in the way of my ability to read as much as I would have liked. My ability to concentrate seems to depend quite heavily on what kind of music I’m playing in the background – if I’m listening to a YouTube video, inevitably I tend to jump to the video rather than concentrating on what I’m reading. This is a bad habit, and if you have it, I recommend doing everything possible to break it. I do so by listening to heavy metal, or video game soundtracks, which seems to help considerably.
At any rate, based on what few books I did read, here are my top picks for 2021.
Didact’s Top 5 Fiction Books of 2021
1. The Tiger’s Imperium (Chronicles of an Imperial Legionary Officer Book 6) by Marc Alan Edelheit
The 6th book in the long-running Chronicles series sees Mr. Edelheit in very fine fettle. Throughout the course of the series, we have seen the dour, dutiful, battle-tested Ben Stiger go from strength to strength, and in this book, we see him finally take up his true destiny. The writing is solid, the characters are as entertaining as ever, and the trials endured by Stiger as he ascends to the Imperial throne are well explained. This was easily my favourite book in the series since the first one, as it downplays some of the sillier and more fantastical elements of previous entries in the series, particularly with respect to parallel worlds and gates and so on. Definitely worth a read.
2. Dark Victory (Galaxy’s Edge Book 12) by Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
The Galaxy’s Edge series is now something of an institution, and has expanded rapidly beyond the original two authors into a vast and sprawling universe of writers, storylines, ideas, and characters. This is all to the good. The 12th book of the main series sees the Legion trying desperately to restore the Republic to its true nature after the events of Season 1 (Books 1-9), but new actors are now involved – and a highly ominous new threat makes its presence felt, which links back nicely to The Savage Wars sub-series. It will be fascinating to see where this series goes in 2022 – there are at least another 5 books to go before Season 2 is done, plus all of the ancillary material that we know will be released sooner or later. This is what the STAR WARS Expanded Universe fiction should have been – fun, gritty, hard-hitting, action-packed, story-driven, with great and memorable characters.
3. The Problem with Immortality by Gary L. M. Martin
As I’ve noted before, Gary L. M. Martin has one of the most unique and boundless imaginations that I’ve ever come across in a writer. He seems to produce books at about the same pace that John Frusciante produces records – which is to say, at an astonishingly fast pace – yet he always seems to have something new and interesting to say. This book examines what would happen to the human race if it became essentially immortal, and how this would affect human psychology, relationships, and lifestyles. It is a work of singular imagination, to be sure. Unfortunately, it does suffer from Mr. Martin’s typically verbose tendencies – he really needs a good editor to chop down some of these books, and he tends to ramble on with the exposition, which is rather irritating. And, of course, if you don’t like scenes of a sensual nature, then avoid this book, because, like pretty much everything else that Mr. Martin writes, this book is packed full of sex. But if you’re interested in a book that makes you think while also entertaining you, then this is a solid prospect.
4. The Lost Reavers 3 by Mike Truk
Most of the “free to read” books that you get via Kindle Unlimited are, to put it very mildly, garbage. KU is a swamp of harem and LitRPG books that are long on sex and very short on good writing, world-building, plot, character, or anything resembling good writing. Mike Truk‘s The Lost Reavers series is a refreshing exception to that rule. The author clearly takes the time and effort to build a believable and interesting narrative in a fantasy setting. The story follows the continuing adventures of Hugh Stasiek as he fights to defend his lands from dark wizardry and evil intentions. There are quite a few flaws in this book, of course, starting with the harem setting – if you’re of a prudish bent, you won’t like this book at all – but the action-packed set pieces and fast-paced narrative will keep you engaged quite happily. Just be aware that this book involves a hyper-powered Gamma-idealised protagonist, and the Gary Stu tendencies of the author do tend to run away with him a bit from time to time.
Didact’s Top 5 Non-Fiction Books of 2021
1. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Dr. Frank Turek & Dr. Norman Geisler
Christians everywhere should read this book. The main problem that we have, as Christians, is that most of us don’t have serious grounding in our own faith. We know what we believe, but we don’t know why we believe it, or why it is true. This book is the antidote to that particular problem. It presents a series of highly coherent, powerful, logical apologetic arguments in an easy-to-understand format that explain exactly why Christianity is true. It unpacks for you, in considerable yet accessible detail, why atheist attacks against Christianity simply don’t make sense, and explains why you actually have to have FAR MORE blind faith to be an atheist, than you do in order to be a Christian. This is an impressive work of apologetics, which rather shamelessly borrows elements and styles from the classic C. S. Lewis work, Mere Christianity. I highly recommend it, particularly for its exposition on the problems with the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis. Essential reading at every level.
2. The Pentagon Wars: Reformers Challenge the Old Guard by James G. Burton
The 1980s were a very interesting time for weapons development in the USA. The Reagan Administration’s rearmament programme meant that hundreds of billions of dollars would be spent on brand spanking new weapons systems. But the entrenched bureaucracy and careerism of the Pentaloons inhabiting the Five-Sided Wind Tunnel meant that much of that money was wasted on massive boondoggles that did very little to make America safer, but resulted in lifelong sinecures and careers for very mediocre officers and generals. Into this fray stepped a series of reformers, operating under the philosophical leadership of the legendary Col. John Boyd, “the fighter pilot who changed the art of war”. The Reform Movement forced the Pentagon to adopt cost-effective, highly capable weapons that actually worked, and laid the ground for American military dominance for generations to come. In this book, Col. James Burton offers a unique insider account of the bureaucratic battles that he had to fight against the entire Pentaloon Establishment to make the Bradley Fighting Vehicle safe, effective, and capable in battle. He is harshly critical of much of the Reagan Administration, actually, which I find surprising, and he has nothing kind to say about many of America’s greatest technological toys, like the F-117 Nighthawk, but he offers a powerful insight into the way that the Puzzle Palace stifles innovation and destroys American fighting effectiveness. This is superb reading for anyone interested in understanding how colossal boondoggles like the Turducken Plane and the Zumwalt destroyer have come about.
3. Virus Mania by Various Authors
I will be the first to admit that this is a difficult book to like. It suffers from some very serious problems in terms of the assertions that it makes – see in particular the way that it argues that DDT is dangerous to humans, when the evidence on the ground for this claim appears to be rather thin, or how it brings up the Lanka case regarding the existence of the measles virus, and fails to mention how Dr. Lanka got off having to pay out on his bet based entirely on a technicality. The real value in this book, however, lies in the way that it challenges you to think for yourself about the manner in which the medical establishment has bent us all over a barrel and raped us with a fistful of quarters. Seriously, the level of malfeasance and corruption present at every possible level of the industry is genuinely shocking. The 6th Edition of the book has been fully updated with material about the Kung Flu, and that alone is worth the price of admission. But what the book will teach you about the manufactured HIV/AIDS crisis, the Spanish Flu, Swine Flu, Avian Flu, and other “epidemics”, will shock and enrage you. Nonetheless, I recommend reading through this with a very sceptical eye toward some of its claims, as I think that the authors are on rather thin ice in a number of places.