Jay Robinson’s Best Reads of 2016

3_headshot-2016-jayMy name is Jay Robinson.  I am an industrial designer for Robinson Design – my own consultancy firm that creates interiors for private aircraft. Five years ago I moved with my family from Andersonville to Evanston, and I couldn’t be happier to be part of this amazing community. In my spare time I enjoy reading, cooking, listening to podcasts, and obsessing over home improvement projects.

1)  Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (2015)

This is a sprawling, old-school hard-science-fiction novel packed to the gunwales with ideas. Set before and after a freak event creates a cataclysm on Earth, it subjects its characters to a gantlet of perils which they must overcome with wit, determination, and limited resources. A good one for fans of The Martian.

2)  Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There by Richard Wiseman (2011)

I’m fascinated by the tricks of perception and interpretation that we constantly play on ourselves. Richard Wiseman explains in a straightforward way how our mind’s irrepressible search for pattern and cause can lead us into very mistaken conclusions. Rather than being a dry psychological tome or a specific debunking of bad ideas, this book aims to show us how to fool ourselves and others as a way of getting us to give our everyday conclusions more scrutiny. An excellent introduction to critical thinking.

nimona3)  The World of Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse (1967)

Every few years I re-read these stories, and 2016 was one of those years. I introduced my daughter to Wodehouse’s fantastic dialogue and revisited them myself in the process. Consumed back-to-back, their underlying formula is easy to spot, but I find the narrative voice of Bertie Wooster so delightful that I will happily devour several in a sitting. These stories are funny, humane, and take place in a wonderfully idealized England between the wars.

4)  Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (2015)

This graphic novel was first published serially online, but I caught up with it after it had been collected into a hardcover book. This is the story of a shape-shifting wannabe evil sidekick and the difficulties her brash approaches keep creating for her adopted villain. I thoroughly enjoy Stevenson’s simple illustrations and evocative color palettes, and the story achieves unexpected poignancy as her history is revealed.

5)  The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (2015)

I like to cook, but not necessarily to follow instructions. This book addresses the practical science behind ingredients and techniques to give the reader an understanding of what’s happening in each dish. Written in an enjoyable, conversational style, this is a cookbook you can read in an easy chair — and it will make you feel smarter when you return to the kitchen.

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