What’s the thing you’ve read recently that you enjoyed the most?

I just spent a few days of my semester break devouring Philip Pullman’s newest book, The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Amazon link, but supporting your local bookseller is great, if possible!) It’s the first book in a new trilogy that is a prequel to Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I listened to that trilogy while counting samples in grad school. Those books are among my all-time favorites*, so I was both excited and a little nervous about starting the new book. Could it possibly live up to my expectations?

It did. I loved it. I can’t wait for the next book in the new trilogy, and think I’ll reread the original trilogy and La Belle Sauvage as I wait for the new book. If you were a fan of His Dark Materials and haven’t gotten the new book yet, you should!

This made me wonder what books others have read recently that they loved, so I thought a quick post on the topic would be fun. I was originally thinking of non-work-related books, but, really whatever you read recently that you enjoyed the most (or found the most powerful, or whatever criterion you want to go with) works. And, if your favorite thing wasn’t a book, that’s fine, too.

I’m looking forward to what people say, even though I’m not exactly short on reading materials! My recent response to this tweet:



*The audiobooks are really well done! They are definitely my favorite audiobooks of all time.

31 thoughts on “What’s the thing you’ve read recently that you enjoyed the most?

  1. This post. Because it’s a rare treat to open my own blog and see a post I didn’t know was coming. 🙂

    Ok, in seriousness, the stuff I’ve read recently mostly wasn’t published recently. So you and other readers might well already have read it.

    I just finished Remarkable Creatures, which I quite enjoyed though I wasn’t blown away by like I was with The Signature of All Things (https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2017/07/19/book-review-the-signature-of-all-things/). The books are set around the same time and share many themes.

    I know you’ve seen these recommendations already Meghan, but in case other readers haven’t I’ll use your post to re-up our old posts asking for reader recommendations of popular science books and novels featuring scientists. And some of my old reviews of the same:


  2. I’d strongly recommend the Steerswoman series, by Rosemary Kirsten, to any ecologist. Rock solid sci-fi slightly disguised as fantasy, with some of the best depictions of what it’s like to try and learn about the world as a scientist.

    (Really minor spoiler warning) It’s also the very rare example of hard ecological science fiction. While it doesn’t come out as much in the first novel, the second and third novels really explore what a truly alien ecosystem would look like, and the challenges of exploring one.

    Beyond that, the plot is facinating, the characters are really well written, and the books just got reissued in paperback.

  3. I’ll mention one science-y, and one not. And I promise not to mention my own book. (Oops.)

    Science-y: William Souder’s Under a Wild Sky: John James Audubon and the Making of the Birds of America (Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ClRmHc). Audubon was absolutely nothing like what I expected. A con man, a frontiersman, a braggart, a gifted artist, a flawed man. Fascinating. (Not new!)

    Not science-y: N.K. Jemesin’s The Broken Earth trilogy (Amazon: http://amzn.to/2Cl6hPv, http://amzn.to/2zMyXhs, http://amzn.to/2CixTqV) Spellbinding science fiction-esque with an uncommon perspective and constant surprises.

    • For Xmas my daughter got me Fabien Grolleau & Jeremie Royer’s graphic novel Audubon: On the Wings of the World (Amazon: http://a.co/3s9VZot). Whenever I have writer’s block, I imagine how much harder it would be if I had to draw everything. And my wife got me J. Drew Lanham’s The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature ( http://a.co/eDgHHIx).

  4. Via Twitter:

  5. Not work related, as I am an ecologist, but absolutely love it: “We have no idea” by Jorge Cham & Daniel Whiteson.
    On the novel front I just finished “Abschlussball” by Jess Jochimsen who I highly recommend to anyone who speaks German – which is probably not going to be a lot of people unfortunately ;-).

  6. I’m half-way through the final volume of the Three Body Problem trilogy by Chinese SF writer Cixin Liu. Highly recommended hard science fiction with some interesting comments on the human condition and what may be out there in the universe. What I don’t recommend is what I did: not realising it was a trilogy I started with book two….

    The latest issue from the Dark Mountain project – “Sanctum” – is full of beautiful writing and fabulous images – a real work of art in itself: http://dark-mountain.net/

    I’ve written a couple of pieces for Dark Mountain over the years and whilst some of the writing will not be to everyone’s taste, there’s always enough variety to make every issue interesting.

    Bee Quest by Dave Goulson has some nice stories of his hunt for the world’s rarest bees; Dave’s a good friend of mine so it’s hard to be objective about it, but (as with his previous books) it provides a nice introduction to how (some) ecology is conducted for the non-specialist.

  7. It’s been quite some time that I’ve read it actually, but ‘Sons and other flammable objects’ by Porochista Khakpour is a read I’ve really enjoyed. The story revolves around a son of Iranian immigrants and features a lot of internal monologue.

  8. In non-science – The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman (whom I consider the best fantastic literature author who’s ever lived, and I’ve read plenty of them!).
    In science – Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?, by Frans de Waal. It’s about animal cognition, but also about human cognition and how ill-designed experiments (e.g. using human-sized mirrors to study elephant cognition) lead to misleading results.

      • The only Gaiman I’ve read is his collaboration with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens. A very funny satire on the book of Revelations. It’s about 2/3 Pratchett, though, so may have more appeal for Pratchett fans like me than Gaiman fans.

    • My favorite books by Gaiman are Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (which I actually read twice in three days). American Gods is also really good, and sort of a classic. And most of his short stories are alsp great.

  9. Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark may not have been the book I enjoyed the most this year, but it was the one I most needed to read. Like many people, I’ve found this year to be really tiring — watching the news and reading about horrible things every morning and feeling in a constant state of defensiveness. Solnit’s book helped to raise my spirits a little. It’s all about the nature of activism and change — how change can come very slowly, and then all at once — and the reasons to have hope even in situations that appear hopeless.

    My other favorite from 2017 is Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth — a real firecracker of a book!

  10. Meghan, if you’re looking ahead a bit for things to read/listen to along with your kids as they get older (like, maybe 4th grade and up?), or if you just like good “YA” books that are really for everyone, I suggest:

    -The Westing Game. Classic Newberry Medal winner from 1979. Puzzle mystery you can play along with the (well-drawn) characters. Clever, funny, utterly engrossing, and at the end surprisingly moving. One of my all time favorites.

    -Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching fantasy novels. Series of 5, of which the first three are the best, and the second of which (A Hat Full of Sky) is probably my #1 favorite novel. Tiffany’s a young girl who discovers that she’s destined to become a witch; the books chronicle her adventures as she grows into the role. She’s a fabulous character. Set in Discworld, the same setting as Pratchett’s many humorous fantasy novels for grownups. Might help a bit to already be familiar with Discworld, but mostly because it will deepen your appreciation of some of the Discworld characters who have supporting roles in the Tiffany Aching novels; previous familiarity with Discworld definitely is not essential. Also, the Tiffany Aching books have funny bits, but they’re not jokey satires like many of Pratchett’s Discworld novels.

      • Ooh, thanks for the suggestion! Better than Pullman definitely gets my attention!

      • I’m sure I read those when I was a kid! But afraid I don’t remember them at all; had to google them to check after your comment jogged my memory. This is a comment on my memory rather than the quality of the books. 🙂

        LOTR and the Hobbitt are the ones I remember reading and loving. And then as a teenager, I ate up Piers Anthony’s Xanth books.

      • Seconded on Lloyd Alexander — one of my all time favorite authors (not just for the Prydain series). He has great strong female characters too.

  11. The Peregrine by J.A. Baker. A classic of British Nature writing in qhich a Brit with a Grade 9 education virtually invented a new prose for describing his ten years mission to follow peregrines on the Essex marshes. Visceral, violent. Classic.

  12. “Trace: A Journey Through Memory, History, and the American Land” by geologist Lauret Savoy is a fascinating, emotional exploration of her family history (she doesn’t have much record of it), and the geology, geography, and social ecology of places she goes trying to find her family. “Trace” is also a critique of social constraints on people and women of color. Savoy also shares her journey to becoming a scientist. It’s not a page-turner, but it is a rich, thought-provoking book well worth reading.

    “Grief is the Thing with Feathers” is a fiction-poetry-memoir hybrid wherein Crow is grief personified – an emotional steward of a widower with two young sons. Crow is irreverent, occasionally vulgar. “Grief is the Thing with Feathers” is a fascinating look at human relationships with animals as well as social conceptions of what grief is and how one should experience it. The take-aways I drew from it have parallels for lots of other social constructions and how alternate experiences or perspectives can be productive, valuable, and uncomfortable.

  13. Pingback: What are you looking forward to as a semester break treat? | Dynamic Ecology

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.