What I Read in January 2017

With the first month of 2017 at a close I thought I’d list out and say a few words about what I read. I managed to complete four books in January, all of them nonfiction:

  1. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
  2. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
  3. Explore/Create: My Life in Pursuit of New Frontiers, Hidden Worlds, and the Creative Spark by Richard Garriott
  4. Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories by Simon Winchester.

We listened to The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher on our drive home from Florida early in January. This was the late Miss Fisher’s most recent book, a memoir of her early days on the movie set in what would become one of the most iconic sagas of all time. It was funny, and fascinating, and a little sad, too. There is something slightly unsettling listening to the voice of the recently departed talking to you with no premonition of what was to come. I had a similar unsettling feeling watching an episode of The Dick Van Dyke show the evening after Mary Tyler Moore passed away at the end of January.

In the 21+ years that I have kept my reading list, I have never read the same book twice in a row. That is, until I re-read Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen early in January. I read the book for the first time on vacation in December, and I loved it so much, and didn’t want it to end, that I started it again from the beginning as soon as I finished it. It was the best book I read in 2016.

Richard Garriott is one of those polymath characters that fascinates me. I first knew him by his gaming handle, Lord British, when I played in 1985 what is still one of my all-time favorite computer games, Ultima IV. Garriott is an explorer, a magician, has taken a submarine to the Titanic and a Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station. And he is still making great games, descendants of the Ultima spirit. I read his book, Explore/Create in mid-January, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I like reading biographies about things. Way back in 2006, I read Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, which, although contains the word “history” in its subtitle, is really a biography of the city. I’m not sure what called my attention to Simon Winchester’s book, Atlantic, but my fascination with the sea, and the fact that it seemed like a biography of the Atlantic ocean drew me to it. I was not disappointed. The book was chock full of stories about the history of the ocean, the sailors, the battles, the storms, the ships, the fish, the geography. It was a wonderful biography of the sea. I enjoyed so much that, late in January, I began reading its companion book, Pacific, also by Simon Winchester.

I also began reading Robert Dallek’s An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 in January, but as I have not yet finished it, it will have to wait until later in February to make it on my list. Other book I’m considering for February include:

  • The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics, and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible by Simon Winchester.
  • Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 by Simon Winchester.
  • Assignment in Hell: The War Against Nazi Germany with Correspondents Walter Cronkite, Andy Rooney, A. J. Leibling, Homer Bigart, and Hal Boyle by Timothy M. Gay.
  • Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum

What did you read in January?


  1. Hurray for Simon Winchester! Really like his stuff.

    One suggestion for future reading: “A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the TransAtlantic Cable” by John Steele Gordon. It’s a fascinating book about the decades-long challenges of laying the first transatlantic cable, which was described as technology project essentially akin to a moon shoot for the nineteenth century. No one had ever made cables that long, no one know how they could be strung that far and properly insulated, and scientists differed whether telegraph signals could even travel those distances. But the payoff was potentially huge for whoever figured out how to deliver instant communications between the continents. A neat mix of science and business and derring do.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. Winchester just scratched the surface on the Transatlantic cable in his book, and I was fascinated by how such a cable was actually put down successfully. I’m glad to see there is an entire book on the subject. I will definitely add it to my list!

  2. I feel like a complete underachiever! I have a tendency to have a few books going at a time and take weeks or months to get through them.


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