Summer Reading List 2018

Welcome to Nuketown’s 11th summer reading list! As expected, this summer’s list features lots of space opera and a smattering of fantasy, but it also includes the unexpected in the form of non-fiction books related to project management and self-improvement.

The spring hit me like a hammer (or maybe like a sack of hammers. Dump truck of hammers? Hammer-shaped Star Destroyer?). Leaving aside my broken ankle recovery (which is proceeding quite nicely, thank you), I’ve been hit from all sides with work, family, and personal hammer storms.

Hammer storms? Sure, why not. The point is … it’s been a hard spring, and I’ve been working on how to restore some sort of balance to just about everything. An unexpected help with this was The Phoenix Project (Amazon) which is a book that bills itself as “a novel about IT, DevOps, and helping your business win”. I’d heard about the book a few years ago my team at work’s implemented a lot of the practical DevOps advice (particularly the bits about moving away from monolithic maintenance releases and moving toward quick updates) but I never read the novel itself.

I wish I had. There’s a lot in there that I’ll likely write about later but the key bits — about identifying workflow constraints, limiting work in process, and understanding why your work is important — were relevant not just to my day job, but to my personal life as well. It’s got me exploring different DevOps books, some of which spin off into self-improvement books.

As I mentioned in my “building my list” post I’m looking to pull back a bit form last year’s 18 novels with a more reasonable 12 books. Ten of these are fiction and two are non fiction. I also have three graphic novels on the list and seven fiction novels in my backlog.

7/12/2018 Update

The summer reading list has been going well and I’ve added a few more books and graphic novels to it. As a result the summer reading list now stands at 15 books (13 fiction, two non-fiction) and seven graphic novels.  So far I’ve finished six books and three graphic novels.


  • Wrath of Betty (Willful Child, Book 2) by Steven Erikson – Moved from the backlog to the reading list in June because I needed a fun science fiction novel to read at the beach after I realized that Thrawn: Alliances didn’t come out until July.
  • Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch, Book 2) by Ann Leckie  – Moved from the backlog to the reading list in early July so I could have a digital novel to read on my Kindle at scout camp.
  • Tales from the Loop – A fantastic art book featuring a vision of the 1980s that never was.

Graphic Novels

  • The Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk –  I snagged Planet Hulk because I loved the planetary romance-meets-engine-of-fury premise.
  • Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1  –  My son picked this up as an addition to his own reading list, inspired by the recent Black Panther movie.
  • B.P.R.D. The Devil You Know, Vol. 1  –  This would have been on my reading list initially if I’d known it existed; this is the latest graphic novel in the B.P.R.D. series.
  • Hellboy in Mexico  – I didn’t have any pure Hellboy titles on my summer reading list, which seemed like a shame. This remedied that situation.

Black Panther, Planet Hulk, and Hellboy in Mexico were all purchased at Letterhead Comics in Honesdale, Pa. during a weekend vacation to the Poconos in late June. Letterhead is an excellent comic book store with a knowledgeable staff and excellent graphic novel selection.

8/12/2018 Update

I made serious dent in my reading list during my family’s annual summer vacation to Lake Champlain. I’ve now read 11 of 15 books and seven graphic novels. I’m currently reading Ancillary Sword and listening to The Providence of Fire. That leaves Thrawn: Alliances and The DevOps Handbook for the final stretch.

Fiction Books

Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch, Book 2) by Ann Leckie (Amazon) – added 7/6/2018 – I listened to Ancillary Justice, the first book in this series, and I found it a difficult “read” because the narrator read the whole thing like a less articulate Siri. That said, the book itself was good and I’m thinking of reading the print version of the book this summer.

Elysium Fire (Revelation Space) by Alistair Reynolds (Amazon) – Reynold’s Revelation Space books are some of my favorite hard science fiction novels. He returns to that universe — specifically the pre-collapse version of the planet Yellowstone — in Elysium Fire.

Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh (Amazon) – A novel of first contact involving humans stranded on an alien planet and the hostile indigenous intelligence they find there.

Tales from the Loop  by Simon Stålenhag (Amazon) –  added 7/1/2018 –  Tales from the Loop is a gorgeous art book and short story collection featuring stories about a 1980s that never was, in which a particle accelerator in Sweden opens a bridge to the past (and maybe the future).

Thrawn: Alliances (Star Wars) by Timothy Zahn (Amazon) – Zahn re-introduced us to everyone’s favorite blue-skinned Imperial admiral in last year’s Thrawn. This year he continues the story with AlliancesThrawn was a good beach book — I read most of it in a single day at Seven Presidents Beach in New Jersey and I’m looking to repeat the experience this year.

Wrath of Betty (Willful Child, Book 2) by Steven Erikson (Amazon) – added 6/25/2018Willful Child is a quirky, satirical send-up of Star Trek. The first book was hit or miss but amusing; I’m willing to give the universe a second try.

Audio Books

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Amazon) – I should be done with third book in Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive epic fantasy series. My original plan was to listen to this book while working out during the winter and spring of 2018, but breaking my ankle nixed that plan. I finally got back to it in April when I resumed my morning walks, but I’ve got more than 3/4 of the novel to go. The danger with adding this book to the summer reading list is that it’s so huge. It could easily take me until mid-summer to listen to this entire book. That’s ok (to quote the series itself, “Journey Before Destination”) … but it does mean I might not be able to listen to all of the books on this list.

Dark Deeds (Keiko, Book 3) by Mike Brooks (Amazon) – Brook’s Firefly-esque Keiko series is a good, fast space opera read involving the crew of the Keiko, a smuggling ship that often finds itself in over its head. The second book in the series was basically a novel-length prison break story; I look forward to the crew venturing back out into the galaxy for the next adventure.

The Providence of Fire (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, Book 2) by Brian Staveley (Amazon) – I started reading this epic fantasy series about a trio of royal siblings struggling with ruling an empire after their father, the emperor, is murdered. I enjoyed it enough to pick up Book 2.

Island Books

Each summer my family and I spend a week with family friends at their cabin on an island on Lake Champlain. It’s a time we treasure — focused time with the kids, no electronic devices … and plenty of time to read. The books I take with me to the island are typically space opera in a mix of electronic and print formats (electronic because it saves space when packing; print because I’d be a fool to go on vacation without something to read in paper form).

Ascendant (Genesis Fleet, Book 2) by Jack Campbell (Amazon) – The latest in a long line of books related to Campbell’s Lost Fleet series. The Genesis Fleet series takes us back to the founding of the interstellar alliance featured in the Lost Fleet.

Cold Welcome (Vatta’s Peace, Book 1) by Elizabeth Moon (Amazon) – The follow up series to Moon’s Vatta’s War, a space opera in which a ragtag commercial fleet take on an armada of space pirates. Vatta’s Peacepicks up after the original series, with Vatta serving as the admiral of the new space defense force.

Distant Thunders (Destroyermen, Book 4) by Taylor Anderson (Amazon) – Another series that scratches my nautical fiction itch, this one involving the crew of a World War II destroyer trapped in an alternative universe populated by lemur-like intelligent beings and their ancient enemies, the brutal dinosaur descendents known as the Grik.

Persepolis Rising (The Expanse, Book 7) by James S.A. Corey (Amazon) – The space opera continues to unfold. After Book 6’s battle for control of the solar system, I’m assuming Book 7 deals the fledgling human powers beyond the interstellar gates

Graphic Novels

I’m purposefully limiting my graphic novels list to three in the hopes of picking up a few non-Hellboy/B.P.R.D. books. I’ll be reading all three of these on the island (preferably by the campfire, just as the sun is setting).

  • Abe Sapien Volume 4: The Shape of Things to Come (Amazon)
  • B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth Volume 14: The Exorcist (Amazon)
  • B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth Volume 15: Cometh the Hour (Amazon)
  • B.P.R.D. The Devil You Know, Vol. 1 (Amazon) – added 7/6/2018
  • Hellboy in Mexico  (Amazon) – added 6/22/2018 
  • The Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk (Amazon) – added 6/22/2018
  • Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1 (Amazon)  – added 6/22/2018

Fiction Backlog

Altered Starscape (Andromedan Dark, Book 1) by Ian Douglas (Amazon) – A far future space opera featuring a science vessel displaced four billion years into our future.

Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns (Amazon) – Space pirates. ‘Nuff said.

Black Lung Captain (Tales of the Ketty Jay, Book 2) by Chris Wooding (Amazon) – The series reminds me of Crimson Skies mashed up with Firefly. This book’s got the hodgepodge crew of criminals hunting down a lost treasure.

Use of Weapons (A Culture Novel, Book 3) by Iain Banks (Amazon) –  The third book in Iain Banks Culture series. Like the other novels in the series, it focuses on the interactions of the Culture – a post-scarcity human civilization — and the rest of the galaxy. This one looks to delve into the culture’s espionage arm, known as “Special Circumstances”.

The Way to Glory (RCN Series, Book 4) by David Drake (Amazon) – Last summer, after over a decade of slowly reading (and savoring) Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin novels, I finally finished the 20th book in the series last summer. O’Brian passed away, so there will never be another novel (and I don’t plan on reading the unfinished 21st book). Drake’s RCN Series — a space opera inspired by O’Brian’s novels of life in the 18th and 19th century British navy — is a worthy successor.

War Factory (Transformation, Book 2) by Neal Asher (Amazon) – A gritty space opera in which a rogue AI threatens the galaxy. I read the first book a few years ago, and I’m curious about what happens next.

Non-fiction Books

The DevOps Handbook by Gene Kim, Patrick Debois, John Willis, and Jez Humble (Amazon) – The logical follow-up to The Phoenix Project carries the tag line “How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations”. The book expands on the concepts illustrated in The Phoenix Project, and I have to say I’m pretty excited to read it. That’s not something I’ve said about a non-fiction book in quite some time.

Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry (Amazon) – As laid out on the authors’ website, there are two concepts behind their theory of “personal kanban” (kanbans being a way of managing project workflows created by Toyota engineer Taiichi Ohno).

  1. Visualize your work.
  2. Limit your work-in-progress

As someone who’s got a runaway spreadsheet with an ever-expanding list of projects and responsibilities on it, this is an exceedingly attractive concept. I’m also willing to concede that my “angular momentum” list was a bad idea. Or at least, it needs to be re-imagined to incorporate so much needed prioritization. I’m hoping this book will help with that.

Previous Summer Reading Lists

  • 2018: 15 books, 7 graphic novels
  • 2017: 17 books, 1 novella, 8 graphic novels
  • 2016: 16 books, 1 novella, 8 graphic novels
  • 2015: 15 books, 9 graphic novels
  • 2014: 13 books, 5 graphic novels
  • 2013: 11 books, 5 graphic novels
  • 2012: 11 books, 1 graphic novels
  • 2011: 11 books, 0 graphic novels
  • 2010: 7 books, 0 graphic novels
  • 2009: 9 books, 0 graphic novels
  • 2008: 8 books, 8 graphic novels
  • 1993: 26 books

Featured Image Meta

A few of the books on my summer reading list. Credit: Ken Newquist

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