Good books of 2015

Just thinking back over the books I’ve read in 2015, there have been some good ones. These are the ones I enjoyed the most — in no particular order (not all published in 2015 obviously but I read them in the last 12 months):

  • H is from Hawk has scenes that have stuck in my mind like a brilliant novel but it’s actually a non-fiction book. Helen Macdonald’s memoir of buying and training a Goshawk intermingled with what she learned from reading accounts of other peoples’ attempts is a wonderful book.
  • Seveneves — Neal Stephenson’s most recent is an epic story that spans generations trying to survive the Moon shattering and the subsequent meteor storms obliterating life on the surface of Earth. It’s the best new, original science fiction I’ve read this year.
  • Holacracy — I’d seen a few articles about the idea of ‘the opposite of hierarchy’ but it was watching how Fairphone put it into action that got me to read the book. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll see lots of new technologically enabled ways of organising companies in the next few years.
  • Ready Player One — Ernest Cline’s love letter to 1980s computer games is all good fun. It’s a really well done page-turner of a cyber fiction novel and no surprise that it’s going to be a film in the next couple of years.
  • To The Edge of the World — we had a fantastic time on the Trans Siberian railway in June travelling from Moscow to Beijing. I read Christian Wolmar’s history of the building of the line along the way and learned a huge amount about Russia.
  • Humans Need Not Apply — there have been a spate of machine learning and artificial intelligence books this year and this was my favourite about the implications. There’s an emerging — and slightly annoying — voice common to books by current and former Silicon Valley executives that this one does fall into, but I think many of the predictions are sound.
  • The Master Algorithm — another book about machine learning, in this case an attempt to actually explain how some of the algorithms work to a lay reader. It’s not always a straightforward read but helped me understand things much better.
  • Postcapitalism — I was sceptical about this one because I thought it was going to be about protest movements and how if we all just lived like them society would be fine, but it’s nothing of the sort. It’s a much bolder more ambitious attempt by Paul Mason to link the failure of our financial system and the rise of information technology. Definitely the best book I’ve read this year about the current situation economically and politically.
  • The Sense of Style — I’m a sucker for books about writing but this one is excellent. Steven Pinker puts his scientist’s eye and years of experience as a writer to work to create a wonderful guide to writing in the twenty-first century.

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