The Complete List

Every book, every series, reviewed and cataloged in alphabetical order.

2001 by Arthur C. Clarke

2001 audiobook cover

It’s a classic for a reason. This was a great reading of a book every Sci-Fi fan should read. Certainly not the first incarnation of rogue AI, but definitely one of the most important early on. I heard somewhere that HAL was so named by taking IBM and shifting each letter one to the left in the alphabet. Hmmmm…

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Space Odyssey |

A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

A Fire Upon the Deep audiobook cover

Couldn’t. Even. Finish. I couldn’t even get more than a few hours into it. And I tried twice to get into it. 

Genre: Sci-Fi

A.I. Apocalypse by William Hertling

A.I. Apocalypse audiobook cover

The premise here is awesome: a computer virus that goes sentient and grows so fast that it spawns entire ecosystems that fracture and fight each other. This was my favorite of the series, by far. My only wish was that it was longer and developed the characters further, including the AIs. There was so much here worth exploring and digging into that I almost wish Neal Stephenson wrote this book.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Singularity |

Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher

Academ's Fury audiobook cover

The story of Tavi moves from the countryside to the city, and new nemeses are introduced. It’s a solid follow-on from the first. The main character is a likable kid who seems to have both extraordinary struggles and the most unique luck, which of course makes for a good story. Be forewarned, from here on out, I enjoyed the series less and less. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera |

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Agent to the Stars audiobook cover

This book is laugh-out-loud funny. Set in modern-day earth, the characters are well-written and the voice acting is fantastic (Wil Wheaton). It was Agent to the Stars that got me to revisit the Old Man’s War series and added to my appreciation of Scalzi’s style. If you want a good laugh in a short book, pick this one up.

Genre: Sci-Fi

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon audiobook cover

I love this series and this book. It’s a hard-boiled detective thriller with an awesome anti-hero protagonist. The tech of the future in this series is what I want from Sci-Fi: really advanced shit that shapes the entire story and the characters within it. The tech makes you think about the path from here to there, how humanity has changed and yet hasn’t changed, as we’ve evolved ourselves and our world. There’s also a massive “haves vs. have not’s” undercurrent in this book that few other Sci-Fi novels address in what I consider a realistic way. That is, it’s neither utopian nor dystopian.

It’s worth noting that the book/series is straight-up NC-17 with both sex and violence, so be forewarned. 

Finally, I thought the Netflix series was good, though not great. The main actor was absolutely brilliant, but other ranged from OK to hard-to-watch bad. The plot held mostly true to the book. Some of the plot changes were welcomed and well thought out, but naturally a few I disliked. I still prefer the book to the TV show.

Genre: Cyberpunk, Sci-Fi
Series: Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Amber Spyglass, The by Philip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman book cover

I didn’t love the finish to the series. Like most final books, I thought it delved too deeply into a quasi-religious rant. However, I have heard the perspective of friends that they enjoyed that aspect and the unique take on gods, God, angels, devils, and the like. If you made it this far, you should continue and finish the series. I didn’t hate it. 

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: His Dark Materials |

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Anathem audiobook cover

I was pretty stoked to read this because it came highly recommended from a friend, and it was a Neal Stephenson novel, author of Diamond Age, one of my all-time favorite stand-alone sci-fi books. Anathem was just not to my liking. I kept waiting for the story to pick up and leave the monastery, but by the time it did, the book was nearly done. I wanted more than the mundane drudgery of the monastic life in the alternate universe. 

Genre: Sci-Fi

Android’s Dream, The by John Scalzi

The Android's Dream audiobook cover

Books like this I wish I could rate 3.5 stars (my limitation is the plug-in I chose for doing these book reviews). John Scalzi comes up with amazing aliens in all of his books and this book is no exception. It’s not in the Old Man’s War universe, but the aliens are nonetheless unique and interesting. Regardless, it’s a fun story with action, cool tech, and the aforementioned aliens. It’s worth a read, especially if you like Scalzi’s style—which I do.

Genre: Sci-Fi

Army of One by B.V. Larson

Army of One audiobook cover

I had never read the Star Force series, so when Audible offered a free novella, I jumped on it to see if I’d like the series. I enjoyed the novella and decided to continue on with the series. 

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: Star Force |

Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis audiobook cover

Andy Weir is best known for The Martian—which was also a decent movie—and seemingly writing hard sci-fi, a sub-genre that tries to adhere to the laws of physics as closely as possible. As I started Artemis, I thought I was in for another Martian, but it turned out to be completely different, and I’m glad of that. It’s a hard sci-fi caper—a term the protagonist uses in the book, and is quite fitting for the whole thing—that stands on its own as an excellent book. If you haven’t read either, ask yourself, would you rather be stranded on Mars “science-ing the shit out of [things]” or would you rather partake in a caper on the Moon settlement, Artemis. I’d choose Artemis.

Genre: Hard Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi

Avogadro Corp by William Hertling

Avogadro Corp audiobook cover

The premise of the book—and keep in mind it was published in 2012—is that someone within a company that very much resembles Google, creates an AI to predict what you want to say in an email. That AI becomes sentient and off we go. As such, I was quite amused when Gmail first introduced its predictive responses. If you’re looking for a short sci-fi book that might get you thinking about implications of “runaway AI” then Avogadro Corp and the subsequent books might be the way to go. I wasn’t blown away by them though. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Singularity |

Barking up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

Barking up the Wrong Tree audiobook cover

What’s great about this book is that the author examines both sides of common perceptions (often misconceptions) about success. He takes them to their logical extreme, digs in and finds research to most refute both sides of the extreme, and often ends up recommending something right in the middle. However, there were a few good take-aways from the book, including one piece that I’m continuing to work on in my daily life: self-compassion. It’s a good book and is worth a read, even if it’s not totally mind-blowing. 

Genre: Non-Fiction, Self Improvement

Black Swan, The by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Black Swan audiobook cover

The point of the book is well worth knowing and understanding, though I think you could get the point with a very well made 10 minute video.

Genre: Business, Non-Fiction

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink audiobook cover

I’m writing this review six years and one month after buying this audiobook—I started this project of reviewing my Audible library at Thanksgiving 2018, and I’m writing this review at Christmas 2018—and at that distance, I recall liking this book quite a bit, but not much else. The stories in the publisher’s summary, below, ring a bell. What I do remember is that this book got me started on a string of other about thinking, decision making, and applying those insights to daily life. I may go back and re-read this as a refresher and come back to review it again. In the meantime, I recall it was a good Gladwell book.

Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology

Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan

Broken Angels audiobook cover

As much as I loved the far-future Earth, I welcomed the second book taking place on another planet in the far-flung universe of this series. The main character is still the flawed anti-hero, just in a different sleeve serving a different purpose. Like the first, the book has many layers and enough twists that even after the third time I read it I was still picking up on things I missed. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Captain’s Fury by Jim Butcher

Captain's Fury audiobook cover

At this point, it’s pretty obvious the books follow the same plot structure. But at the time I was reading these, I was grinding rep in WoW—and if you have no idea what that means then just know that whatever you were doing at the time I was grinding rep, even if it was sitting on the couch picking your nose, you were having a more productive life than me. And so I listened to book four.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera |

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire audiobook cover

The first book was young adult sci-fi that was bearable across the age gap. This one was so absolutely unbearable I couldn’t even get through it. I’m not going to waste another movement of my time or yours on it… hell, the publisher couldn’t even be bothered to write more than one sentence.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Series: Hunger Games |

Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds

Chasm City audiobook cover

I read this right after The Prefect, and to me it’s the perfect follow-on novel. The absolute strangeness of Chasm City is magnificent. Though I normally prefer space operas that bounce from world to world spanning the galaxy in all its splendor, I love Chasm City. The city itself seems to be a character of its own. It’s especially interesting because I read this right after The Prefect, which takes place in the Glitter Band, which Chasm City was part of before the Melding Plague brought the whole band into ruin. This is a fantastic book that I’ve read and enjoyed multiple times. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Revelation Space |

Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man book cover

The recent history of America is fascinating, and this book will provide an interesting perspective on how USA waged economic war in the cold war era, and beyond. 

Genre: Bios & Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Conquest by B.V. Larson

At this point in the series, the pattern to the plots become all too obvious. The travel between the worlds was interesting, as was the continual struggle for survival by the protagonist. But when the actions of the two main characters becomes completely predictable, it’s too much to bear. I didn’t finish the book, nor the series. It’s astounding to me that the series has twelve books in it—TWELVE! When three books in a row have zero character growth and nearly identical plot structures, it’s time to move on.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Star Force |

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

Consider Phlebas audiobook cover

This was my first Culture series book, and is so far is still my favorite. It’s a far-reaching novel with a protagonist you really want to root for, even if you don’t fully understand his motivations. He’s always in awful situations, jumping from frying pan to fryer again and again, but always has something up his sleeve to barely escape by his teeth—pun intended if you’ve read it. As I get more into the Culture series, I appreciate this book more and more. It’s an incredible adventure set in the middle of a vast universe. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Culture | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Count Zero by William Gibson

Count Zero audiobook cover

By far, this is the best book in the Sprawl Trilogy. What’s that trilogy, you ask? Why, it starts with Neuromancer. I bet you didn’t know the cyberpunk classic had sequels. Now you know. And now you know Count Zero is the best of the bunch. In fact, don’t feel obligated to read Neuromancer first (or again), this one completely stands on its own. 

The combination of voodoo and cyberpunk with awesome anti-hero protagonists and tons of grit, this is a great read. If you’re not sure about cyberpunk, I’d start here.

Genre: Cyberpunk, Sci-Fi
Series: Sprawl Trilogy |

Courageous by Jack Campbell

Courageous audiobook cover

I think I liked this one, too. So many books… they blend together. Read the series review for my less-than-unequivocal recommendation. the TL;DR: great space battles, well-written interpersonal conflict, but lots of very similar books.

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet |

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore

Crossing the Chasm audiobook cover

It’s hard to believe this was only released in 2012, because it instantly became part of the common language of tech startups everyone. It was brought up so frequently that by the time I read it in 2013, I assumed it had been around for a decade already. Regardless, it’s a great framework. If all you need is to understand the terminology or the framework, then a YouTube explainer video should do the trick. If, after watching that you want to dive in then by all means—it will be worth your time.

Genre: Business, Non-Fiction

Cursor’s Fury by Jim Butcher

Cursor's Fury audiobook cover

At this point in the series, I was still enjoying the books but noticed the similarity in the plot between books two and three. It was an enjoyable read, if similar to the previous one. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera |

Daemon by Daniel Suarez

Daemon audiobook cover

Daemon rocked my world when I first read it, and still holds up to this day. Action-packed story that intertwines a number of character arcs as things just go off the rails in the modern world. It’s a fun, easy read, even if it hits you over the head with the societal impacts of technology at times. It is one of my all-time favorites. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Daemon | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

Dark Eden

An interesting premise, with a world that is very well constructed sets the stage for a fascinating tale, but I still didn’t want to continue with the series. It’s a Swiss Family Robinson, but with a crash landing on a planet and with no rescue. What the author did an amazing job with was the slow deconstruction of society. When the crashed crew goes from four to two and then grows to 500, what aspects of the culture are preserved? What taboos are removed? And what new ones put in place? Strip away luxury, knowledge, and history and what make us human? It’s an interesting exploration, but I was glad to be done with it.

Genre: Sci-Fi

Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

I hated this book. I can’t believe it’s being made into a movie, oh excuse me, a “major motion picture.” The only reason I finished this was because it came highly recommended by one of my best friends, who raved about the series. Maybe the problem is that the only other Stephen King book I’ve read is The Stand, and this series is supposedly rife with King references. Or maybe the book just fucking sucked. I’m going with that. Sorry Ted.

Genre: Fantasy

Dauntless by Jack Campbell

Dauntless audiobook cover

There’s a lot of ways to play with time-loss in Sci-Fi, but I can’t think of any other that pulls a lost hero from a life pod. It’s a unique angle and makes for a very enjoyable first book, especially because the author continues to thrust him into bad situation after bad situation. The best part of the whole series are the space battles, which are described in exacting detail.

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet |

Diamond Age, The by Neal Stephenson

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson book cover

One of my favorite stand-alone sci-fi books. I don’t love everything Stephenson writes, but I loved this one. It’s a great look into the future. This book explores the possibilities of how technology in the hands of the right person can affect the lives of millions (or billions) of people, while also being a story of hope and serendipity in a semi-distopian future.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Do More Faster by Brad Feld, David Cohen

Do More Faster audiobook cover

Once upon a time, the idea of a startup accelerator was new, uncommon, even unique. YC and Techstars were the originators of this model. I moved to Boulder to be part of the tech startup world here, led by Techstars, and this was the bible. Filled with short stories told by the founders, this was a great read—one I read multiple times. It’s been a few years, so I don’t know how it stands up after nearly seven years. 

Genre: Business, Non-Fiction, Startups

Earth Afire by Aaron Johnston, Orson Scott Card

Earth Afire audiobook cover

Now we get to it. The battle for Earth and the Sol system begins in earnest. The book follows multiple story lines throughout with plenty of characters to root for or against. While the Earth gets ravaged, the politicians screw up plenty, and its up to the little people to make big differences. It was worth wading through the first book to get to the second. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Enderverse, The First Formic War |

Earth Unaware by Aaron Johnston, Orson Scott Card

Earth Unaware audiobook cover

When this came out I was glad the Enderverse was expanding to cover the events leading up to Ender’s Game. The first in the series is a setup for the rest of the series. It’s clear that the book was meant to be part of a greater story, and with that in mind, it serves its purpose. It sets up the state of affairs in our solar system before the Buggers arrive and gets you ready for the action that follows. If you’re a fan of Ender’s Game and are expecting a version of that, you’ll be disappointed. What you should expect is a new series with a new angle and few familiar names.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Enderverse, The First Formic War |

Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

Eisenhower in War and Peace audiobook cover

I’m not super into biographies, but I really wanted to read about great leaders, and heard good things about this book. I enjoyed learning out Eisenhower, but when it got into his presidency it started to drag for me. I finished it and am glad I read it, but decided that I’m just not that into biographies. 

Genre: Bios & Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game audiobook cover

I consider Ender’s Game to be the single greatest leadership book ever written. Yet it’s sci-fi. And about children. WTF?

Once upon a time I aspired to be a leader like Ender. After experimenting with different leadership styles, I realized that style works best in a hierarchical structure and even then is a bit dated as far as management theory goes. Regardless, I love the book and still think the both the character of Ender and the whole novel are top-notch. It’s on my must-read list.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Ender's Game, Enderverse | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Shadow audiobook cover

This is a really solid companion to the masterful work that is Ender’s Game. I love the story told from another perspective inside of one of my favorite books of all time. It adds depth to the original, and stands on its own as well. It turns out there’s a whole sub-series that follows Bean’s story line. Adding to my queue.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Ender's Shadow, Enderverse |

Endymoin by Dan Simmons

Endymion audiobook cover

I think book three is my favorite of the series. They pay-off is well worth it as you travel down the river through all the worlds, bouncing from story to story and discovering how they’re all intertwined.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Hyperion Cantos |

Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim

Escape from Cubicle Nation audiobook cover

I don’t remember anything about this book. To be fair, I’m writing this review in November of 2018, over nine years from when I read it. But some books stick with you for the impact they make on you, no matter how long it’s been. And some fade in memory. This is the latter. 

Genre: Non-Fiction, Self Improvement

Extinction by B.V. Larson

Extinction book cover

Finding the first book in the series interesting, though not ground-breaking, I decided to continue on. The second book was neither bad nor good, and moved along fast enough to keep me interested. I love to read a new author’s take on aliens, space travel, and world building. Larson kept my attention enough to want to move on to the next book.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Star Force |

Fall of Hyperion, The by Dan Simmons

Fall of Hyperion audiobook cover

Book two of the series starts to dial in the main plot line, while still expanding the universe and taking you on a great ride. The first book is good, but this book is great.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Hyperion Cantos |

Fearless by Jack Campbell

Fearless audiobook cover

I think I liked this one, too. So many books in the series, they blend together. Read the series review for my less-than-unequivocal recommendation. the TL;DR: great space battles, well-written interpersonal conflict, but lots of very similar books.

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet |

First Lord’s Fury by Jim Butcher

First Lord's Fury audiobook cover

I mean, at this point, I’m five books into the six-part series—might as well finish it, even if the plot follows the same damn outline. Again. And again. I was so burnt out on the series that I waited a year to pick up this one. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera |

Forever Odd by Dean Koontz

Forever Odd audiobook cover

The first book was so good, so unique, so unexpected that I had high hopes for the second. It was good, but not great. Since I don’t normally read Fiction, even if it’s slightly unusual—quasi-paranormal fiction—and I didn’t love this book, I didn’t continue with the series. 

Genre: Fiction
Series: Odd Thomas |

Founder’s Dilemmas, The by Noam Wasserman

The Founder's Dilemmas audiobook cover

I had the pleasure of seeing Noam speak at Techstars in Boulder, and I was deeply impressed by his research. If you are in the startup world, this is a…

Genre: Business, Non-Fiction, Startups

Freakonomics [Revised Edition] by Stephen J. Dubner, Steven D. Levitt

Freakonomics book cover

This is a great, easy read with some mind-bending research and conclusions. I highly recommend picking this book up for a fun read—and that’s not something you’d like anyone would ever say about an economics book.

Genre: Economics, Non-Fiction

Freedom (TM) by Daniel Suarez

Freedom (TM) audiobook cover

Freedom (TM) and Daemon should really be sold together as a single book. There’s no conclusion to the first book, you have to read the second. I still highly recommend Freedom (TM) as the action continues and the world really starts to unravel according to the master plan of the evil (maybe?) genius behind it all. These two are well worth a read if you haven’t picked them up yet. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Daemon |

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

Furies of Calderon

I enjoyed the first book in this huge series. The unique take on magic, where humans interact with the elements through their “furies” was a refreshing break from the typical sorcery stuff of high fantasy. The story is compelling, building a large world with diverse races and kingdoms without being too overwhelming early on.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera |

Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds

Galactic North audiobook cover

A series of short stories in the Revelation Space universe, my recommendation is that you only read it after having read all the others in the series. The stories start back at the very beginning of humankind first reaching out beyond the solar system, and continues all the way out to the end. Though the stories stand alone, some are intertwined with each other, and all are interwoven into the whole Revelation Space universe. Another top-notch book in the series. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Revelation Space |

Ghost Brigades, The by John Scalzi

The Ghost Brigades audiobook cover

As short as these books are—at least for the sci-fi genre—they pack a punch. The thing that Scalzi does well is create interesting aliens that are truly… alien. At least to us. He also spreads out his stories into separate books. What would be one massive tome if penned by Peter F. Hamilton is a few different books by Scalzi. This book doesn’t necessarily require reading the first, as it focuses on mostly new characters, but it is a good follow-on.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Old Man's War |

Golden Compass, The by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass book cover

A very enjoyable, action-packed fantasy with a young main character set in an alternate-reality. It’s not heavy swords & sorcery, which is a nice departure. It’s a great start to the series.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: His Dark Materials |

Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton

Great North Road audiobook cover

Peter F. Hamilton is one of the greatest sci-fi authors, in my opinion, and Great North Road exemplifies his work. This is an absolutely massive tome, but Hamilton does what he does best throughout it: weave detailed, intricate and separate stories, then bring them all crashing together only to realize how intertwined they were from the very beginning. He goes deep on all the characters so that you feel like you know and understand every aspect of them by the end of the book. Throughout the book the characters true selves are peeled back, layer by layer—it’s as much about the plot as it is about understanding the players. I love that. 

Genre: Sci-Fi

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World audiobook cover

At one point I was burnt out on the sci-fi I was reading and searched out some different recommendations. “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” came up from someone. It’s not sci-fi, it’s kind of an out-there fiction novel, and very much not western. I felt about it the way that I felt after going to an avante garde musical performance at MoMA years ago: way beyond my level of appreciation. This book is better than that performance, and at least with this book I can recognize that it’s fascinating, creative, pushing the boundaries… and also simply not for me. 

Genre: Fiction

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets book cover

Book two teeters on the edge of Young Adult and… not YA, which I guess would be just mainline fantasy.  Now that the Wizarding World has been established, the books start to have a lot more fun. And yet, like all of them, they turn slightly darker with each new novel. I love the introduction to Dobby, and Lockhart is a great buffoon. I thought the ending was a little weak, but I won’t say more for risk of spoiling it. And, if you haven’t read Harry Potter—what are you waiting for? 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World |

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows book cover

At last we come to the end. Though this is the least Harry Potter-esque of all the books, it is a fantastic work of fantasy. One wild adventure leads to the next and the next and the next. Once it gets going, it’s a non-stop torrent of escapades fitting for a trio on the run while the Wizarding World is in chaos. While this book is fantastic, it’s not my favorite of the series simply because it’s the least Potterish of them all. Nonetheless, you won’t be disappointed with it.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World |

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire book cover

In the summer of 2018, I re-read the entire series (the Stephen Fry version, not the Jim Dale reading on Audible). As I undertook the endeavor, I wondered what my favorite book would be. The “easy” answer is Deathly Hallows—it’s kind of like how every Star Wars fan is expected to say Empire Strikes Back is their favorite Star Wars movie. But I wanted to approach my third time through the series—once reading on actual paper and once on audiobook—with a fresh mindset, open to whatever the series brought out this time through. 

Goblet of Fire is hands-down my favorite Harry Potter book. It’s the quintessential Harry Potter experience. He’s still at school, getting up to his usual antics with his friends. They start to grow up a little bit, with the introduction of the ball we get our first taste of young love in the wizard world. Dumbledore is still the wise, beloved, distant yet present headmaster. The Malfoy-Snape-Potter story arc is more subdued, replaced with more complex antagonists. The Wizarding World opens up beyond Great Britain to show us there are witches and wizards everywhere. Harry is embroiled in some incredibly challenging wizarding tasks. And while all of this is happening at everyone’s favorite setting, Hogwarts, there is a dark wizard lurking in the shadows throughout the whole novel. While Deathly Hallows is dark from start to finish, Goblet of Fire only has the undercurrent of darkness, like storm clouds looming in the distance on an otherwise sunny summer day. It has everything (except quidditch, but I’ll take the Triwizard Tournament over quidditch any day). I love this book. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince book cover

Book six has the strongest ending of the entire series. I could hardly wait to get through the book for the final few chapters. It is the last door to be knocked down before the final—and the darkest—book. Another great thing about this book is that all the characters become more complex, the purely black and white trappings of previous books is shed. I truly enjoy book six.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World |

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Fittingly, book four is the turning point for the series (and my favorite), and now we turn to dark times in the wizarding world. In this book, my hands-down favorite antagonist comes to roost in Hogwarts:  Dolores Umbridge. She is the most delightfully sinister character in the whole series. Adding her in creates more problems for Harry, but also creates challenges for the faculty of Hogwarts. It makes the story a touch more interesting… and fun. Plus, the seriousness of the whole series steps up another notch as more adult wizards enter the fray between good and evil. This is why I love the Potter series so much: the series grows up each year, just as the main characters do.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World |

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban book cover

The only thing that holds Book 3 back from being a five-star for me is the Malfoy-Snape-Potter story arc was growing wearisome for me. At a certain point, it became a distraction from the story, which is fantastic. This book does more to setup the end game of the series than any other. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World |

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Book 1 by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Book 1

Note: This review is for the Stephen Fry recording, not the Jim Dale version on Audible, the latter of which is complete shit.1

If you haven’t read Harry Potter and you’re over the age of 18, then this first book may be a bit difficult to get through. After all, it is about a 10-year-olds. However, it is worth dealing with the young adult story, which goes by quick enough, to get into the main story of Harry Potter and introduces you to the wizarding world. The beauty of this series is that each book grows more mature in terms of plot and depth, just as the characters grow.

Power-listen through Book 1 (the Fry version, please) and consider it your ticket to ride the Hogwarts Express into the best fantasy universe on the planet.

1 I downloaded the Fry version years ago—around 2007—and recently purchased the Dale version in 2018. Jim Dale’s reading was so awful, I couldn’t tell the difference between Dumbledore and Hermione. Yes, it was so bad, a 10-year-old girl and a 109-year-old man sounded nearly identical. And yes Albus Dumbledore is 109 in book one.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World |

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

House of Suns audiobook cover

John Lee narrating an Alastair Reynolds space opera sci-fi book. It doesn’t get better than that. One of my all-time favorite stand-alone novels, I heartily recommend this to anyone. I’ve read this book more than any other in my library—though I’ve lost count, I’ve easily read it five times.

It covers more spacetime in one novel than most sci-fi series do throughout multiple books. Many species and planets are visited, sometimes at length, sometimes briefly. The diverse cultures and unique perspective of a near-immortal group of humans traversing the galaxy never gets old.  And it’s all wrapped up in a galaxy-wide, species-threatening mystery thriller. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Human Division, The by John Scalzi

The Human Division audiobook cover

One day I logged into Audible and they were offering a new short story by John Scalzi in the Old Man’s War universe for free. It was the first of 13 such short stories. My library is a bit cluttered because I have them all separate, but the sum of the parts is excellent and worth the clutter. Consider this an omnibus, and well worth it. As I dug into this series, I actually began to appreciate Scalzi’s writing far more than I had before. The interplay between the main character, CDF soldier Harry Wilson, and his diplomatic counterpart, Hart Schmidt is absolutely fantastic. This is a great addition, but only worthwhile if you’ve read (at least) the first and third books.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Old Man's War |

Hunger Games, The by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games audiobook cover

Despite any misgivings you may have about the movie(s), or the next books in the series, the first book is a quick, enjoyable read. It is firmly in the Young Adult category, so just know what you’re getting into. Though I’ve rated it four stars, there are books I’d recommend picking up before this one. However, I won’t dissuade anyone from reading it. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Series: Hunger Games |

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Hyperion audiobook cover

A Sci-Fi Canterbury Tales of sorts, this first book in an incredible series bears little resemblance to the next three books. Regardless, it’s a good start, and I highly recommend the series overall. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Hyperion Cantos |

I’m Feeling Lucky by Douglas Edwards

I'm Feeling Lucky audiobook cover

I’ve learned that I don’t really go in for memoirs, but for whatever reason this one appealed to me. It was written by one of Google’s first marketing people. It’s a wild story that covers a lot of ground with Google: multiple offices, expansion after expansion, and plenty of internal political battles. The author is a great writer, and he does own up to at least one mistake. He also clearly had no love lost for Marissa Mayer. The only reason this isn’t a four-star for me is because I prefer business books with data-backed insights and lessons over retrospectives. If memoirs are your thing, then this would be an interesting read into the early days of Google.

Genre: Bios & Memoirs, Non-Fiction

January Dancer, The by Michael Flynn

The January Dancer audiobook cover

I tried twice to get more than an hour or so into this book, and failed both times. I should have heeded the reviews. A book has to be pretty terrible to get below 4 stars on Audible. I’m not going to waste any more time on this review—skip it.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera

Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton

Judas Unchained audiobook cover

The conclusion and the reveal at the end of this book was so incredible, I couldn’t wait to get and read it again. As I said in the review of the first book in the series, Pandora’s Star, Hamilton creates vast, imaginative universes filled with complex, interweaving plots. I love his books. 

My only complaint with Judas Unchained is that there’s one story arc that I just don’t understand how it contributes to the story. I almost rated the book four stars because of that, but friends who have read the series think it’s an important part. I’m happy to debate this with you after you finish the book. Regardless, I still recommend the book and the series. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Commonwealth Saga | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Last Colony, The by John Scalzi

The Last Colony audiobook cover

To John Scalzi’s credit, he neither delves into pseudo-religious rants nor repeat the same tired plotlines in his third book. However, he also doesn’t even cross the ten-hour mark in the audiobook. Like I said in the prior review, these first three books would be just one book under some other authors. Anyway, it doesn’t diminish the book. It’s not my favorite of the series, but it’s a great midpoint, and turning point to the Old Man’s War series. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Old Man's War |

Last Firewall, The by William Hertling

I read this and honestly don’t remember a thing about the characters, the plot, or the story in general. Granted, I’m writing the review over four years after finishing it, but I remember a lot of the books I read. And any good sci-fi I read at least twice. I do recall that I wasn’t blown away and was hesitant to pick up the final book in the series. This gets a big fat “meh” from me. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Singularity |

Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In audiobook cover

Hats off to John Scalzi and Audible for this great near-future sci-fi. As with all good sci-fi, there’s an implicit social commentary built into the way the future world is shaped, and Lock In is no different. What if millions of people are suddenly unable to respond to external stimuli but are fully conscious? What sort of a world do we create or do they create? What are the prejudices we bring with us into that world? 

All well and good. And also a great detective novel. 

Another interesting thing, there are two narrations available (I think you get both when you buy either) one by a male narrator and one by a female. What does it say about me that I listened to the male version first? Maybe that I have a mancrush on Wil Wheaton? IDK.

Genre: Near Future, Sci-Fi

Long Tail, The by Chris Anderson

The Long Tail audiobook cover

Reading this in 2006 when it came out or even in 2009 when I picked it up, it felt like the inevitable future of the internet. “Mass Customization” was the trend of the day. I remember being influenced by it and enjoying it. As I write this review in 2018, I think it’s worth revisiting the book to see how well it holds up today—though I don’t think we’ve quite fulfilled Anderson’s vision.

Genre: Business, Non-Fiction

Mastery by Robert Greene

Mastery audiobook cover

I’m really torn on “Mastery” as to whether I loved it, hated it, or just liked it. The stories of everyone from Faraday to PG to Darwin and Franklin and dozens more are absolutely brilliant. I love the stories and kind of wish the book was just that: stories of great people who achieved mastery. 

What I hated was the cringe-worthy advice. There are whole sections with broad generalizations about how people supposedly behave (e.g., “arrogant people are insecure”) that are not backed up by a shred of research or evidence. For how well the rest of the book is researched, the lack of it in the parts that are supposed to help the reader better understand their fellow humans is awful. 

I appreciate that the author created a clear framework for mastery and turned it into a blueprint that others can follow. Even if not every master in the book fits precisely within that framework—who was Paul Graham’s overbearing master under whom he served as an apprentice?—it was still a decent framework. 

Pick up this book to listen to the stories and appreciate the lives of some of the greatest humans to ever walk the planet. And take the rest with a grain of salt.

Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology, Self Improvement

Measure What Matters by John Doerr

Measure What Matters audiobook cover

I was all gung-ho on OKRs for a while and when this book came out, I picked it up right away. While the stories are great, I kind of wanted more out of it. Really what the book did for me was whet my appetite to read about Andy Grove. 

I’ve since backed off my initial excitement for OKRs after hearing some strong counter arguments from startup CEOs, including my partner at SpringTime, Jeff Gardner. Hearing how OKRs work against the direction of a company and its path to growth was enlightening. 

Regardless, if you want to learn about OKRs this has a number of interesting stories about how they’ve been implemented in successful companies, as well as clear guidelines and definitions. Dig in!

Genre: Business, Non-Fiction, Startups

Name of the Wind, The by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind audiobook cover

I love this series so much I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s get one thing out of the way, the books are very long. This one clocks in at over 27 hours, however, it’s more like two distinct books than just one. 

But let’s talk about Kvothe, the protagonist. Take the best aspects of Ender (a child far smarter than his age), add in the orphan story of Bean (see Ender’s Shadow), then mix in the luck of Forrest Gump (always in the right place at the right time—or wrong place at the wrong time) but obviously with wit of Ender or Bean, then add in the wizarding school aspects of Harry Potter (including the rivalries) and that’s book one. In a fantasy world, of course. And that doesn’t really do it justice. 

This series will be the best fantasy series you’ve read in a long time.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Kingkiller Chronicle | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Neuromancer audiobook cover

I had to go back and re-read this because I didn’t remember much other than the Rastafarians in space. Though there are some anachronisms throughout the book, it’s still so far ahead of its time. AI’s, drones, cybersecurity, hacking, and virtual reality are just a few of the things Gibson really nailed. He also created and defined the cyberpunk sub-genre and for that we can all be thankful. Go read this, it’s worth it.

Genre: Cyberpunk, Sci-Fi
Series: Sprawl Trilogy |

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Ninefox Gambit audiobook cover

You’ve never read anything like the books in this series. Though distinctly sci-fi with most of the action taking place on space ships and space stations, the technology seems more magical than sci-fi. Imagine a world where the effectiveness of offensive weapons and defensive shields are based on two things: 1. the religious observances the population 2. the formations of military units. The “mathematical” interaction of the two determines what effect each formation has on offense or defense. It’s wild.

But like any great story, the real power is in the characters. The main characters are compelling and complex. The plot moves forward, revealing more backstory with each turn. It moves fast and kept me engaged from the very beginning.

Due to its unique “technology” system, Ninefox Gambit and the rest of the series are not entry-level sci-fi. I don’t recommend it to people who are looking to get a taste for sci-fi, but I do heartily recommend it to fellow sci-fi nerds looking for something new.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Machineries of Empire |

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas audiobook cover

I rarely read fiction, but this was a good exception. It’s a great story about a quirky main character with an unusual special ability in a very, very small town. It’s part of a series, too. If you like fiction, I recommend this one. 

Genre: Fiction
Series: Odd Thomas |

Off Armageddon Reef

Off Armageddon Reef audiobook cover

I couldn’t get through this book. It was so bad that I wrote a review on Audible to warn others off. Here’s part of it:

What it does do nicely is give a concise history of 17th & 18th century warfare tactics and developments. But I didn’t download this for history, I downloaded it for thought-provoking sci-fi. Lastly, as if the history lesson were not enough to put me to sleep, the unstoppable main character whose super powers are unmatched in this luddite world does not even bring the slightest bit of tension or excitement to the story.

Genre: Sci-Fi

Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer

Off to Be the Wizard audiobook cover

Laugh out loud funny. There are multiple parts of “Off to Be the Wizard” where I was literally laughing out loud. I distinctly remember being at the gym and having to stop to get through a particularly funny section. If you want some lighthearted, fun and funny fantasy, then make this your next read. 

Genre: Fantasy

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

Old Man's War audiobook cover

When I first read this series, I didn’t think much of it, but after coming back to re-read it, I found I truly enjoyed this book and the Old Man’s War universe. I think part of my initial dislike was the brevity of the book. At under 10 hours is hardly compares to the massive tomes of Reynolds or Hamilton. I wanted more. John Scalzi write fun, sometimes funny, sci-fi with well-developed characters inside a massive galaxy of aliens.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Old Man's War |

On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony

On A Pale Horse audiobook cover

In a modern world where Satan advertises on billboards and magic is part of everyday life, a complete loser becomes the next Death. It’s a wild concept and makes for a good book. Truthfully, as I’m writing this review eight and a half years later, I don’t remember anything else about the book—I may give it a quick re-read. It’s part of a series, but I didn’t continue on after book one.

Genre: Fantasy

On Basilisk Station by David Weber

On Basilisk Station audiobook cover

What’s funny about this book is that I can never remember if I’ve read it. I always have to go back to my Audible library and check to see if it has the “finished” tag. It does. That’s about all I can tell you. Well, that and, go read something else. 

Genre: Sci-Fi

Pandora’s Star by Peter F. Hamilton

Pandora's Star audiobook cover

Peter F. Hamilton creates vast, imaginative worlds filled with well-written characters on seemingly separate paths and lives…. until they all come crashing together. His plots and subplots are so intricate, his books deserve a second reading to pick up on all the subtleties you missed in the first read. 

Pandora’s Star is a massive tome, and worth every minute. I love world he’s created and the characters in it. I’ve read this and the sequel twice, and just thinking about the world he creates, I want to read it again. It helps that my favorite narrator, John Lee, reads these. As I said in another review, he could read you grocery list and have your rapt attention, wanting more. Pandora’s Star is worth every minute. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Commonwealth Saga | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Pathfinder audiobook cover

Orson Scott Card must have something with child protagonists. I guess with “Ender’s Game” being his most famous and popular piece he decided to stick with what works? I’m just speculating. The Pathfinder series is an interesting fantasy/sci-fi crossover. I’ll classify this book as fantasy based on my own arbitrary designation. Whatever. On to the review. It’s a decent enough book, and while not quite in the young adult section, it’s not quite at the depth of other fantasy or sci-fi novels. The premise is interesting, and the pacing well enough to keep me interested enough to grab the second book.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Pathfinder |

Player of Games, The by Iain M. Banks

The Player of Games audiobook cover

Two books into the series, and I am absolutely loving this universe. As a mystery-thriller-drama, The Player of Games is a completely different book from the action-adventure of Consider Phlebasbut—but still thoroughly enjoyable. Banks expands the universe further with this novel, and thinks through what a post-scarcity society would be like in the far-far future. I’ve often thought about how the post-scarcity is a socio-economic state to strive for as humankind. Anyway, that thought process is my own, and not what the book is about. It’s a great read and I recommend continuing with the series.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Culture |

Power of Habit, The by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit audiobook cover

What’s interesting about this book is that it’s the why behind the how. If you want the “how” then read Hooked. But the “why” these things work, and why we have habits and what we do with or without them and the how they form is fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Though it is basically a psychology book, it’s a great read filled with tons of stories. 

Genre: Business, Non-Fiction, Psychology

Prefect, The by Alastair Reynolds

The Prefect audiobook cover

The Revelation Space universe is outstanding. In this installment, we go to the “Glitter Band” time and place and follow a detective uncovering a system-threatening mystery. There are some incredible aspects to this book that I love to revisit. In this story Reynolds creates a number of throw-away worlds that the characters visit once and are never revisited in the rest of the series… because the universe is so absolutely massive. But even in those throw-away worlds, you’re drawn in to an unique story or angle that leaves a lasting impression. It serves to make the world feel more real by its shear size. 

I digress. This detective novel inside a space opera inside a fantastic sci-fi universe has great twists and does not disappoint. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Revelation Space |

Princep’s Fury by Jim Butcher

Princep's Fury audiobook cover

Yep. Same plot structure. Again. Still grinding rep in WoW, might as well power through the series, too.

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera |

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

Raven Stratagem audiobook cover

Book two of Machineries of Empire is every bit as intriguing as book one, but this novel is even more focused on the characters than the first. The mathematics of the battles plays less of a role, and instead Lee focuses on building the universe, delving deeper into key characters in the hexarchate, and creating more of a space opera than a space military battle novel. With far more interpersonal intrigue, the characters come alive, and the plot still has great twists making for a great read. It’s definitely worth continuing on with the series.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Machineries of Empire |

Reamde by Neal Stephenson

Reamde audiobook cover

I’m not sure if this is sci-fi or an international spy thriller. Maybe both? Set in the present, it’s an action-packed tale that moves fast, despite its 38+ hour book length. Let’s pause there, if you’re intimidated by that length, then go grab some other books that are at that length that I unequivocally recommend such as Pandora’s Star or The Name of the Wind. On the other hand, if the length sounds fine, and you want a sci-fi/spy action cross-over, then grab Reamde.

Genre: Sci-Fi

Rebellion by B.V. Larson

Rebellion audiobook cover

Though the second book was not as good as the first, it wasn’t horrible and so I decided to pick up the third. Though there was no character growth from book one to book three, this one was interesting. But the warning signs of a bad series were there: same plot outline, no character growth. Rebellion was OK, and after reading it I took a break from the series hoping a little distance between this one and the next would reinvigorate my interest in it.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Star Force |

Relentless by Jack Campbell

Relentless audiobook cover

The series continues to drag. So many books… they blend together. Read the series review for my less-than-unequivocal recommendation. the TL;DR: great space battles, well-written interpersonal conflict, but lots of very similar books.

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet |

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefevre

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator audiobook cover

I first read this book in 2000 when I was a day-trader. The stories were just as entertaining then as they were when I recently re-read it. And by entertaining, I mean entertaining to a finance nerd. I bought a copy of this book for my dad, who does his own trading, is a self-taught corporate finance guy, and has interest in the stock market. He thought this was terribly boring. I obviously disagree, but I do want to give you the caveat of my glowing recommendation: the stories are about stock and commodities trading from nearly 100 years ago.

I find the stories fascinating and the lessons especially prescient in the crypto markets today. But if you are unsure that you’ll find it interesting, then skip it.  

Genre: Bios & Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

Revelation Space audiobook cover

The Revelation Space universe is one of my favorite Sci-Fi universes. Alastair Reynolds is one of my favorite authors. And John Lee is hands-down my favorite narrator—he could read your grocery list and make it as profound as a presidential eulogy. In the first book you’ll encounter the major factions of the universe, get a teaser for some future settings, and get introduced to the technology used throughout. All while unraveling an ancient secret. It’s a good read.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Revelation Space |

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee

Revenant Gun audiobook cover

Go deeper into the Machineries of Empire saga to uncover Jedao’s real goals and how he plans to achieve them. Or is it really Jedao? I love the conclusion to this series. All the crazy technology, the fractured memories, and the hidden agendas come into play in the final book. After finishing the series, I immediately started listening to it again. Like the second book, it’s a character-driven plot with lots of twists that you’re trying to figure out along the way. I won’t say any more… enjoy it for yourself!

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Machineries of Empire |

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

Revenger audiobook cover

When I picked this up, I was expecting something along the lines of Reynolds’ other books such as House of Suns (one of my all-time favorites) and the Revelation Space series. What I got was so completely different, I nearly gave up on it early on. After I finished it the first time, my initial rating was only 4 stars. But after some distance from it, I kept thinking about how my expectation got in the way of what is an absolutely fantastic novel. I gave it a second listen and was thoroughly entertained. 

Reynolds does an amazing job of both building the universe and moving the action along. And it’s a wild combination of steampunk (on the habitations), space travel (intra-solar system only), and far-out sci-fi (from previous generations long since dead). The main character is a young girl and her character development is one of the best parts of the book. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Steampunk
Series: Revenger | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Rip-Off! by Multiple authors

Rip-Off! audiobook cover

This was a fun book. Short story is an important form in sci-fi. Many of the greatest authors got their start by getting short stories published that caught the attention of book publishers. Giving proven authors a starting point with a single line from a famous books is kind of a silly idea, but it results in some very good stories.  

Genre: Sci-Fi
Subjects: Short Stories

Rise of Endymion, The by Dan Simmons

Rise of Endymion audiobook cover

Like most series, by the time you get to the last book the author has a platform to espouse some personal philosophical or quasi-religious BS. The final book in the Hyperion Cantos is not dissimilar in this regard, but is still a great read and a strong finish.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Hyperion Cantos |

Ruins by Orson Scott Card

Ruins audiobook cover

Book one was interesting enough for me to continue with the series. And the cliffhanger at the end of this book should have been interesting enough for me to finish it out with the third book, but I never got around to it. I just really wasn’t that invested in the characters to care to finish. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Pathfinder |

Screw It, Let’s Do It by Richard Branson

Screw it lets do it audiobook cover

Richard Branson is one of those guys that everyone wants to be or wants to know. He does cool shit, does it his way, and doesn’t seem to be a dick about it—from the limited I’ve read about him. I was excited to read a book by him. It was fun. It was cool. It had great stories about his origins and the growth of Virgin. I didn’t get much else out of it. 

Genre: Bios & Memoirs, Business, Non-Fiction

Series Review: Machineries of Empire by Yoon Ha Lee

When I set out to catalog my library, I couldn’t wait to write this series’ review. This series is unlike anything you’ve ever read. It’s 100% sci-fi but the technology almost seems magical in its military applications, yet is described mathematically. The effect is a rich world, deeply imagined, and well executed. 

The story arc is intensely character-driven, and developed from the beginning with the end in mind—in other words, it all ties in neatly throughout the book. But yet, it’s not laid out directly on a straight path from past to present to future. The plot twists and turns, the timelines shift, and the perspective changes. The series is deeply engaging. 

Be warned, it’s not entry-level sci-fi. For that, I recommend 2001 Space Odyssey, Ender’s Game, or Ready Player One.  This series is for the sci-fi nerd looking for something that pushes the boundaries, breaks the norm, and yet is still interesting and engrossing.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Machineries of Empire | Subjects: Rich's Reco's, Series Review

Series: Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

Codex Alera - Tavi

I cannot recommend this series. The plot lines of books two through six are so similar that I burnt out on it and even after the final book came out, I debated whether or not to buy it for six months. There are things about the series that are good—the magic system is very interesting and unique. The world is large enough to provide new settings in each book. And the main characters are well-written. The the author’s credit, he really makes his main character struggle and earn it in every book. But the rest was too repetitive for me to rightfully recommend. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Codex Alera | Subjects: Series Review

Series: Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton

commonwealth_saga_meeting_on_mars_by_psypher101

Though this series is contains two massive tomes—and apparently a third that just came out in 2016—it is absolutely worth the read/listen. Peter F. Hamilton is one of my favorite authors, and John Lee is my favorite narrator. There is so much to these books, so many subplots, intertwined stories, and excellent characters, that it’s one of my favorite series. 

I’m going to repeating myself from the individual reviews… Peter F. Hamilton creates vast, imaginative worlds filled with well-written characters on seemingly separate paths and lives…. until they all come crashing together. His plots and subplots are so intricate, his books deserve a second reading to pick up on all the subtleties you missed in the first read.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Commonwealth Saga | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Series: Daemon by Daniel Suarez

If you play video games, you must read this series. Only two books long, but absolutely required reading for my fellow gaming geeks out there. It’s a highly plausible future with great characters, social commentary, and excellent integration of existing technology that drives the whole story forward. It’s fast-paced, an easy read, but isn’t hollow. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Daemon | Subjects: Rich's Reco's, Series Review

Series: Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter - all book covers

All of these reviews are for the Stephen Fry recording, not the Jim Dale version on Audible. That version on Audible is complete shit.

I downloaded the Fry version years ago—around 2007—and recently purchased the Dale version of book 1 in 2018. Jim Dale’s reading was so awful I couldn’t tell the difference between Dumbledore and Hermione. Yes, it was so bad, a 10-year-old girl and a 109-year-old man sounded nearly identical. And yes Albus Dumbledore is 109 in book one.

With that out of the way, let’s talk Potter. 

I believe the reason this series is such a part of the modern culture is because it does two things that very few other authors ever do: 1) the plot lines and the main characters grow up and become more serious in each book and 2) no plot lines are recycled from book to book. All the rest of the elements have been done before, yet even these are done well (or at least not overdone). 

If you have never read Harry Potter—or haven’t read it in a while—I highly recommend jumping into the series with the Stephen Fry version, and opening the door to the wizarding world. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Harry Potter, Wizarding World | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Series: Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons

Hyperion fan art

What starts out as a grouping of short stories in the first book evolves into one of the greatest space operas of contemporary Sci-Fi. Books two and three are the strongest, and book one is probably the weakest. Even having said that, the entire series is amazing, mind-bending, and essential for Sci-Fi fans. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Hyperion Cantos | Subjects: Rich's Reco's, Series Review

Series: Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

The first review I wrote for this series was after finishing The Last Colony, and thinking the series was done. I didn’t think much of it, partly due to the short book length, and party due to not really appreciating John Scalzi’s writing style as much as I do now. I digress. I enjoy this series. I love how the aliens are all so very, very alien. And I like that each book follows different characters—making the true main characters the Colonial Defense Force and Earth (and aliens as a whole). 

I can’t honestly give this my strongest recommendation as I love the longer, deeper, space-opera style books. However, the writing is solid, there’s a lot of humor throughout—laugh out loud humor—and it takes place in a vast universe. It is a very good series. And I haven’t even finished it, yet.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Old Man's War | Subjects: Series Review

Series: Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Pathfinder series book covers

Though Orson Scott Card’s big hit, Ender’s Game, has a child main character, and is one of my all-time favorite books because Ender’s character is so compelling, you’d think that would be a specialty for Card. He’s certainly written a lot of books with child protagonists, including more in the Enderverse. However, the child main characters in this series fell flat for me. I didn’t event continue on after the second book. I also thought the fantasy/sci-fi crossover was interesting, but still, I didn’t carry on after the first book. We’ll see, maybe I’ll get back and finish it. This is not a flat-out “don’t read” it’s just a three-star series that will neither waste your time nor change your life. 

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Series: Pathfinder |

Series: Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

If you’re a fan of other Alastair Reynolds books and series such as the Revelation Space series, then you can appreciate his ability to create compelling characters, vast universes, and yet highly specific and detailed individual worlds. The Revenger series is all of those things, and yet completely and utterly different than any other book of his I’ve read. 

Set in a ruined solar system far in the future, humanity continually rises up from the rubble of previous ruined civilizations, spreads out within the system, and relies on the technology of past ages, most of which they can’t replicate or build upon. While individuals struggle to keep themselves alive in the chaos of space, there’s a deeper conspiracy underlying the story, one that is just starting to get revealed at the end of book two. 

As more books come out, I’ll continue to add them here. In the meantime, this is my new favorite series to recommend. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Steampunk
Series: Revenger | Subjects: Series Review

Series: Star Force by B.V. Larson

Formulaic plots, flimsy characters with zero growth, and dozen books in the series are all great reasons to pass on this entirely. There are interesting parts of the series and…

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Star Force | Subjects: Series Review

Series: Takeshi Kovacs by Richard K. Morgan

Takeshi Kovacs fan art

I can’t say enough good things about this series. Each book is distinct and different, yet the threads between them are strong enough to weave a greater narrative. Takeshi is the ultimate anti-hero who answers only to himself—even if his employers think otherwise. Every book is filled with far-future tech embedded in societies that makes sense in the context. That is, there is both cool Sci-Fi tech and believable impacts on humankind from it. 

It’s hard to pick a favorite of this series. After I re-read each one, I decided that one was my favorite. Until I picked up the next one again.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy | Subjects: Rich's Reco's, Series Review

Series: The Lost Fleet by Jack Campbell

I recommend this series for the exquisitely detailed space battles. and the way the main character navigate the military-turned-bureaucracy politics. I can’t rightfully give it my strongest recommendation because ultimately, it’s candy. The books are quick, easy reads, and they don’t push you to think. It’s tasty without a tremendous amount of substance.

It also could have been four or five books. Despite having read the series twice, I can barely differentiate each book except the first and last. 

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet | Subjects: Series Review

Sex at Dawn by Allyson Johnson, Jonathan Davis

Sex at Dawn

This entire book was a retort to another anthropology book, “Anatomy of Love” by Helen Fisher. I had read that book right after college and recalled being blown away by it. Somehow I stumbled across a review of “Sex at Dawn” and how it provided a counterpoint to “Anatomy of Love.” It’s less of a counterpoint and more of a line-by-line nitpick. I concluded that either I’m not as into anthropology as I thought I was, or this book is just terrible. I did’t finish it.

Genre: Anthropology, Non-Fiction

Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds

Shadow Captain audiobook cover

Wow. This series is so good. What other author but Alastair Reynolds can create a world that blends space travel with steampunk? OK, the habitats are not strictly steampunk (i.e. powered by steam) but the descriptions make the habitations sound old-timey, gritty, and like everyone is bustling about with a cane and monocle. But I digress. 

Book two in the series is told from Adrana’s point of view, and is just as insightful and intense. The action doesn’t move quite as fast as in Revenger, but it is just as good, and the deeper conspiracy is just under the surface the whole time. 

I’m loving this series and can’t wait for book three to come out. 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Steampunk
Series: Revenger |

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Speaker for the Dead audiobook cover

I kept hoping this book would get better. It never did. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Ender's Game, Enderverse |

Starswarm by Jerry Pournelle

Starswarm audiobook cover

Starswarm is a unique stand-alone book with, what was at the time of its publication in 1998, a very far-fetched concept: an AI implant connected to the cloud. I enjoyed the book, and seem to recall that I read it twice, but didn’t get any more out of it from the second read. This is a quirk of mine: if I like a book, I’ll read it again a few months later to see if there is more there beneath the surface. Some of my favorite books I’ve read nearly a dozen times (Ender’s Game, House of Suns) or 3-4 times through for the longer series (Hyperion Cantos, Commonwealth Saga).

I digress. Good book, not much else. 

Genre: Sci-Fi

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Start with Why audiobook cover

An absolute must-read. There are very few non-fiction books I recommend unequivocally, and now that I think about it, this might be the only one that I recommend without preamble or qualification. I consider Start with Why to be baseline reading for anyone, anywhere. In case this wasn’t abundantly clear, you should go read this book now. And if you have read it, go re-read it. I think I’ll do the same.

Genre: Business, Leadership, Non-Fiction
Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Startup CEO by Matt Blumberg

Startup CEO audiobook cover

I really want to be able to strongly recommend this to most of the startups I work with on a daily basis, but it’s not for early stage startups. I have to keep in mind that this series of startup books originated with Brad Feld from Foundry Group, a venture firm that invests in Series A & B rounds. The vast majority of the startups I see and work with are at the angel and seed level of capital and growth. As such, advice such as annual 360 reviews is not the most critical advice I would offer early stage startups.

The title may have been better as “Scale-up CEO” and targeting companies that have found a scalable, repeatable business model. 

With the idea in mind that this is for “scale-up” executives, then I heartily recommend it. But for me and my audience, it’s something to aspire towards. 

Genre: Business, Non-Fiction, Startups

Startup Communities by Brad Feld

Startup Communities audiobook cover

Ah, the “Boulder Thesis”. Startup Communities is essential reading for anyone in the startup world, especially if you’re in the startup world outside of the Bay Area. I’ve read this book quite a few times, and have heartily recommended it over and over again. It has become such an important part of startup community development that many of the terms, ways of thinking, and even the phrase “Boulder Thesis” have become part of the startup lexicon. If you’re in the startup world and you haven’t read it, go grab it now.

Genre: Non-Fiction, Startups
Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Startup Life by Amy Batchelor, Brad Feld

Startup Life audiobook cover

Juli and I listened to this on a few road trips. It provoked some very good discussion between us, and often enough that we would pause the book, talk about what we just heard, debate and discuss, then continue listening. As I write this review some five years later, I honestly can’t recall a single specific thing from the book, but that it was thought-provoking enough for us to want to pause and discuss, should be enough of a recommendation. 

Genre: Non-Fiction, Self Improvement

Subtle Knife, The by Philip Pullman

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman book cover

Book two of the series follows on strong with more adventure in this universe. It follows on strong from book one in an imaginative new world.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: His Dark Materials |

Swarm by B.V. Larson

Swarm audiobook cover

After reading the novella, Army of One, I decided to pick up the first book in the series. It’s a wild ride. But I’ll save you the agony of having to decide if you want to start a 12-book series (12!!) — don’t bother I didn’t even finish the fourth book. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Star Force |

The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks

The Algebraist audiobook cover

The Algebraist had been heartily recommended to me by a friend, and heartily recommended against by another. Naturally, I had to pick it up. My take: it’s not at the top of my reco list, but it’s not in my hall of shame. I enjoyed it, found it somewhat thought-provoking, and thought the plot twists were interesting. My opinion might be biased to the negative because I had just (finally) finished Iain M. Banks’ Matter, book 8 of the Culture series, and hated it. It’s fair to say I was a bit put off by Banks’ style in The Algebraist after forcing myself to finish Matter. Even with that negative bias,

I still enjoyed this one. It’s a very large stand-alone novel that takes a bit too long to develop for my liking—at least for a novel that really only follows one character in depth. I don’t mind a long read, but I want to dig deep on multiple characters like Peter F. Hamilton does. For this length, I wanted more than just one main character. 

Genre: Sci-Fi

The End of All Things by John Scalzi

The End of All Things audiobook cover

Solid finish to a solid series. John Scalzi does two things very well: 1) truly alien aliens 2) humor in the midst of otherwise serious books. I like the finish here because the story is told from multiple perspectives, starting first with a “brain in a box.” As each character adds to the story, moving it forward, the drama and tension builds. I was a touch disappointed in the final chapter, otherwise this would be five stars. I do recommend the series because its enjoyable, different, and filled with great, quick reads. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Old Man's War |

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Forever War audiobook cover

The beauty of this book is thinking through the implications of long distance space travel. There’s neither hyperlight speed nor wormholes to make the trips from one solar system to the next fly by in a whirl of stars. It’s long-haul travel for the humans and other combatants. Thinking through how this affects the protagonist, his family, and his love is just as interesting as the different worlds he travels to and the aliens he fights. It’s a classic sci-fi for a reason, and apparently a series—which I just now saw. I’ll have to finish it as I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Genre: Sci-Fi

The Humor Code by Joel Warner, Peter McGraw

The Humor Code audiobook cover

My friend Peter co-wrote this, and I was very glad to see it come out on Audible right away (I do hate to read books in the old-fashioned sense). It’s outside of my normal genres of sci-fi, startup, sci-fi, business, fantasy, and more sci-fi, but I’m glad I picked it up. Despite my bias, I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Peter and Joel really do travel the world in search of what makes things funny. The combination of a researcher and a writer make for a great combo for a book. 

Genre: Non-Fiction

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup audiobook cover

Reading this for the first time in 2013 felt like reading the secret code for how all businesses will be run in the future. And it is. It’s a must-read for the startup world. It’s such an important piece of the modern business world it’s practically table-stakes. 

Genre: Business, Non-Fiction
Subjects: Rich's Reco's

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian audiobook cover

What do you think is better: the book or the movie? The movie offers great action and a condensed story with some hand-wavy science that you have to take as true. The book is longer (obviously) and goes into the minute details of how the protagonist “sciences the shit out of [everything].” I thought the book was better, but then that should be no surprise coming from a book junkie like me. Science-ing the shit out of things was awesome. But I thought Andy Weir’s Artemis was better—or at least more my style. 

Genre: Hard Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi

The Rise of The Creative Class by Richard Florida

The Rise of The Creative Class audiobook cover

I picked up this book because Brad Feld referenced it once or twice in Startup Communities. Five and a half years later, I’m trying to write a review for it. I vaguely recall nodding my head quite a bit in agreement research and feeling hope from the conclusions. However, I didn’t go back and re-read it. As much as I want to read a book that’s backed by research, sometimes the research is too much of the narrative and I want suggested action. In 2013 I was just getting started as an ecosystem leader/builder. With a few years of experience in that realm under my belt now, I may go back and give this a re-read. Until then, three stars just because I want the gameplan book (Startup Communities) not the research book (this one).

Genre: Business, Economics, Non-Fiction

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck audiobook cover

There were times during this book where I thought I was listening to a self-aggrandizing autobiography, and just as I was judging the author for a pointless diversion, BAM! He’d hit me upside the head with something mind-blowing, earth-shattering, or just laugh-out-loud funny. This book is now on my unequivocal recommendation list. GET IT, READ IT. 

Genre: Non-Fiction, Self Improvement
Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan

Thirteen audiobook cover

Richard K. Morgan does it again. This time in a stand-alone sci-fi novel. This is another top reco from my reading list. It’s an action thriller with another protagonist that’s a bit hard-boiled. Not quite as anti-hero as Takeshi Kovacs, more of a genetically modified Jason Bourne. Actually, that’s a great succinct summary of this book: Genetically-modified Jason Bourne.

Genre: Sci-Fi
Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Tipping Point, The by Malcolm Gladwell

Tipping Point audiobook cover

The Tipping Point is research and stories about what happens after you follow the advice in Made to Stick. If you want the how, read the latter. For the “what” read the former. That’s not a criticism, it’s just that I found the book interesting though not containing specific instructions.

Genre: Business, Non-Fiction

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks

Use of Weapons audiobook cover

There’s something about “Use of Weapons” that I absolutely love, but can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the planet-hopping 007-super-agent? Or the ruthlessness the Culture’s special agents employ to guide and shape civilizations? Or maybe its Banks’ character creation, exploration, and growth? 

It could be all of the above… and the unique chapter structure of the novel. I’m going to co-opt a review from Audible who explains the structure better than I could:

“The prologue establishes an event at a particular point in time, call it time t-zero. The story then begins at time t plus 13 and is told in alternating chapters, half of them moving backward toward t-zero, and the other half moving forward from time t plus 13. You arrive at the end of the book when the backward narrative reaches t-zero just as the forward narrative reaches a climax that reveals the real meaning of the events in the prologue. It is cleverly done, but you really do have to pay attention.” 

Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Culture |

Valiant by Jack Campbell

Valiant audiobook cover

The series starts to drag a bit. So many books… they blend together. Read the series review for my less-than-unequivocal recommendation. the TL;DR: great space battles, well-written interpersonal conflict, but lots of very similar books.

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet |

Venture Deals by Brad Feld, Jason Mendelson

Venture Deals audiobook cover

Note: this review is for an older edition of the book—they’re on the third edition now.

I don’t offer many conditional reviews, but this review is predicated on the fact that you want to learn more about startup venture financing. It’s a dry subject, and if you’re not into it, or it’s not relevant to you, then skip this book.  However, if you are in the startup world and you want to know about venture capital from the experts, then this is a must. It’s just OK as an audio book, and I got a copy of the print book (print! so old fashioned) to be able to review the parts with math. 

Genre: Business, Non-Fiction, Startups

Victorious by Jack Campbell

Victorious audiobook cover

The finish is good, and worth the read just to close it out. Again, I like the whole series, I just don’t love it. Read the series review for my less-than-unequivocal recommendation. the TL;DR: great space battles, well-written interpersonal conflict, but lots of very similar books.

Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi
Series: The Lost Fleet |

Who Stole the American Dream? by Hedrick Smith

Who Stole the American Dream? audiobook cover

There are very few things in the world that have had such a profound impact on me as “Who Stole the American Dream?” I read this in 2014, after being hired by SoftLayer, a recent IBM acquisition. Though my paychecks said IBM, everything else I did was under the SoftLayer banner and culture (until 2016, but that’s a story that wraps up here). 

I was flying around the country, working with startups, evangelizing a cloud product I cared about and believed in, and getting paid by IBM to do it. IBM, by the way, is prominently vilified by Hedrick Smith in a few places. Smith’s vilification and my job enjoyment—way beyond mere satisfaction—seemed in direct conflict. This was just one of the many points in the book that had me thinking deeply about my purpose in my life. 

It was a few months after finishing the book, reflecting on it, and working with a coach that I crystallized my mission: to transform the world through innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Here’s where this review becomes an actual review. The book is about the systematic erosion of the middle class in America, and how the opportunity to achieve “American Dream” is being destroyed by everything from bi-partisanship, to corporate influence over government, and ultimately the widening of the wealth gap. All of this is told through a reporter’s investigative lens in a narrative style that pulls you in page after page (or minute after minute). 

I believe I can make a difference in the American Dream and returning the middle class to prominence, but it sure as hell is an uphill battle. If you need some inspiration to join me on this quest, start here. 

Genre: Economics, Non-Fiction
Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Windup Girl, The by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl audiobook cover

A fascinating dystopian Earth where calories are the currency and agricultural businesses rule the countries in a world with melted icecaps is not as far-fetched as it first sounds. It’s…

Genre: Sci-Fi

Wise Man’s Fear, The by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man's Fear audiobook cover

As I said with “Name of the Wind” you have to treat this book, that clocks in at over 42 hours as separate books combined into one. In this case, it’s three distinct stories that could have been three separate books. Keep that in mind. 

My best analogy for the protagonist, Kvothe, is this: the timing of Forrest Gump, the wisdom of Ender, and the wit of Bean. This time the setting is at first the Hogwarts-esque school but soon ventures far afield. And now Kvothe adds to his skills by becoming the fantasy equivalent of Jason Bourne. 

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the elf sex scenes. There’s always that as an incentive to read this three-books-combined-into-one fantasy novel. 

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Kingkiller Chronicle | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan

Woken Furies audiobook

Most trilogies wind down in the third book, often times with some quasi-religious, half-assed philosophy being espoused by the author taking up too much of the last book. Not Woken Furies. It’s still all-Takeshi bad-assery all the time. Still the flawed anti-hero out for his own personal agenda, but this time with his own scores to settle. This book slowly pieces together the Takeshi Kovacs story, providing context to many decisions he made throughout the series.   

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy | Subjects: Rich's Reco's

Wyrms by Orson Scott Card

Wyrms audiobook cover

For as much as I—and many others—absolutely love Ender’s Game, I don’t feel the same about Wyrms. Like Ender’s Game, it’s an easy read with a young main character, and Orson Scott Card tells the story from her point of view. The similarities end there. It’s not as bad as the Speaker for the Dead series, but not as good as some of his other work. It’s a forgettable read.

Genre: Sci-Fi

Xenocide by Orson Scott Card

Xenocide audiobook cover

I vaguely recall this being only slightly better than Speaker for the Dead. That I haven’t re-read it in over a decade should say enough. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Ender's Game, Enderverse |