Summer Reading List 2021

Welcome to Nuketown’s 14th annual summer reading list! This year’s list welcomes back Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series, returns to Iain Bank’s The Culture books, re-reads Richard Adam’s Watership Down and tries out some new series, including Elizabeth Bear’s White Space books and Martha Wells’ Murderbot novellas. All in all, the list consists of 14 books (10 novels, 3 non-fiction books, 1 short story collection), 2 novellas, and 8 graphic novels. You can follow my reading list progress on GoodReads.

One of the notable things about this summer (and thus, this summer’s reading list) is that I’m backpacking for 12 days at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. As long-time readers and followers of the Trail to Philmont know, we planned to go in 2020, but COVID-19 postponed our trip to 2021. This year – freshly vaccinated and with another 12 months of training under our belts – we should actually make it there.

I have no idea how much reading I’ll be able to do at Philmont. This is a high adventure camp and I’m guessing we won’t get much downtime. I expect to crawl into my sleeping bag and collapse after a day’s worth of hiking and side quests. Knowing that I’m still bringing a fully-charged Kindle and a bunch of books. If nothing else, I’ve got the plane ride out and back, as well as two days in Colorado prior to the hike when I might be able to sneak some reading time.

Later in the summer, we’re hoping to head to Lake Champlain for our annual family vacation. I plan to knock out a few books while I’m there. I’m also planning to escape to the New Jersey beach a few times this summer, which is always good for making progress on the ol’reading list.


  • Print is for books in paper or e-book format.
  • Audio is for the novels I’ll listen to in audiobook format, rather than read the traditional way.
  • Island books are the ones I intend to read during my family’s annual summer vacation at Lake Champlain.
  • Philmont books are the ones I plan to read while backpacking in New Mexico.


Aliens: Bug Hunt by various authors – (Amazon) – Print, Island – Added 7/15/2021 – 18 short stories about Colonial Marines fighting xenomorphs and other alien threats. Aliens is one of my favorite movies, and I’m itching to play the Alien RPG, so adding this to the list was a no-brainer.

Ancestral Night (White Space, Book 1) by Elizabeth Bear – (Amazon) – Audio – The blurb says “A space salvager and her partner make the discovery of a lifetime that just might change the universe in this wild, big-ideas space opera” … which sounds right up my alley.

Boundless (The Lost Fleet: Outlands Book 1) by Jack Campbell – (Amazon) – Print, Island – Campbell returns to his Lost Fleet universe on June 15. This time around, Admiral John “Black Jack” Geary has to survive the peace he brought about by saving the Alliance. His own government – which spawned a malevolent Artificial Intelligence fleet in the last series – fears Geary. Confronted by evidence of their own misdoings, they dispatch Geary on a dangerous expeditionary mission to the frontier while they “debate” what to do.

The big question is, do I get this on my Kindle and read it on the journey to and from Philmont, or save it for reading at Lake Champlain? I’m inclined to read it at Lake Champlain – after all these years of reading the series by the lake, it just feels … right.

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky – (Amazon) – Print – A story about the remnants of humanity trying to survive on a terraformed world that is not their own … all while avoiding the attention of an all-powerful (and hostile) alien race. A stretch goal from my 2020 reading list that I didn’t reach.

Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky – (Amazon) – Print – Added 7/13/2021 – The follow-up to Children of Time, in which another alien star system is transformed by humanity … with lots of unintended consequences. I loved Children of Time and needed another book while I was at Philmont, so I added this one.

Look to Windward (The Culture, Book 6) by Iain Banks – (Amazon) – Print – Bank’s cerebral Culture books have become a staple of my summer reading list over the last few years. This one promises lots of political intrigues as the Culture honors the destruction of two stars in the final days of the horrific Idiran War.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – (AmazonPrint, Philmont The new novel by the author of The Martian involving yet another lone astronaut trying to survive at the edge of everything … only this time he needs to save the Earth too. The Martian was great; Artemis – his sophomore effort – wasn’t nearly as good, but I’m willing to give him another try with Project Hail Mary.

Rhythm of War (Book 4 of the Stormlight Archive) by Brandon Sanderson – (Amazon) – Audio – The latest of Sanderson’s doorstop fantasy novels detailing the rise of the Knights Radiant and their epic battle against th forces of Odium, the corrupting god of passion and destruction. I spent a good chunk of the spring listening to this epic (and, at 57 hours and 26 minutes, epically long) book with the intention of finishing it by Memorial Day. I’m only a quarter of the way through the book, so clearly, that’s not going to happen. Thus … it’s on the list.

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy (Book II: Greater Good) by Timothy Zahn – (Amazon) – Print, Philmont books – Zahn continues his prehistory of Grand Admiral Thrawn with a new novel chronicling his days in the Chiss Ascendency. Fans of Thrawn and Zahn will probably love it. Everyone else, your mileage may vary. I love reading these books at the beach (“Sand. it gets everywhere”)

Trumps of Doom by Roger Zelazny – (Amazon) – Audio – I love the original Chronicles of Amber series of five novels and I’ve re-read them several times over the years. The follow-up series, also five novels … not so much. It’s told from the perspective of Merwyn , Corwin’s son and focuses on the second generation of Amberite royalty. The second series never enthralled me the way the first one did, but it’s been years since I read them and Wil Wheaton is narrating the newest iteration of the audiobook. That was enough to pull me back in.

Watership Down by Richard Adams – (Amazon) – Print, Island – One of my all-time favorite novels, Watership Down is about a small band of rabbits who escape the destruction of their warren by humans, and set out into the world to find a new home. I don’t know how many times I’ve read this book – 30? 40? It was my touchstone in high school – the book I could escape into when things got difficult. I’m taking it to Philmont with me – likely as a physical, paperbook – as inspiration for my own real-world odyssey.


Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master – (Amazon) – Print – Tons of advice for streamlining preparation for your fantasy role-playing game (though the advice applies to other genres as well).

Kobold Guide to Plot and Campaigns – (Amazon) – Print – Nineteen essays from veteran game masters offering advice on how to build, maintain, and end role-playing game campaigns. I picked this up at Dragon’s Den Games and Hobbies in Honesdale, PA this spring as a way of supporting a local game shop.

Chess and the Art of Enterprise Architecture – (Amazon) – Print  – This one is for work. Enterprise architecture is something we’ve been dabbling with for the last few years and I want to up my game by expanding my understanding of the discipline.


All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells – (Amazon) – Print  – Many of my friends love the Murderbot series, which won a bunch of awards in 2018 (including the  Hugo and Nebula for best novella). It’s about a sentient android in a universe in which most of their kind have barely enough intelligence to function. Calling themselves”Murderbot”, the android is trying to figure out who it is, while simultaneously solving mysteries alongside the humans it hates (some of which may be the humans it grows to grudgingly appreciate).

Dawnshard: From the Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson – (Amazon) – Print  – Sanderson’s been writing supplemental novellas set in between the various Stormlight Archive novels. One might argue that the last thing this series needs is more words – the books themselves are huge – but I enjoy how he’s using these to build out different aspects of the world. In this one. It’s set between Oathbringer and Rhythm of War and involves an expedition to a storm-shrouded, stormlight-draining island.

Graphic Novels

Abe Sapien Volume 8: The Desolate Shore – (Amazon) – Print, Island – This rounds out the Abe Sapien line of graphic novels; I had no idea I was so close to the end of an era (and in the B.P.R.D universe, that usually means something horrible is about to happen).

Bitter Root Volume 1: Family Business – (Amazon) – Print – From the Amazon blurb: “Once known as the greatest monster hunters of all time, the Sangerye family specialized in curing the souls of those infected by hate, but those days are fading. A terrible tragedy has claimed most of the family, leaving the surviving cousins split between curing monsters and killing them. Now, with a new breed of monster loose on the streets of Harlem, the Sangerye family must come together, or watch the human race fall to untold evil.”  Recommended by @Tomovasky on Twitter.

Lobster Johnson Volume 3: Satan Smells a Rat – (Amazon) – Print, Island – From the blurb: “Hellboy’s favorite gun-blazing vigilante takes justice to the skies aboard a Nazi-filled zeppelin and to the gritty alleyways of Chinatown against an army of monkeys.”

Lobster Johnson Volume 4: Get the Lobster – (Amazon) – Print, Island – From the blurb: “A Manhattan sporting event goes terribly wrong as the ref is killed in front of a live audience by two crazed–and seemingly bulletproof–wrestlers. Who is behind this new reign of terror?”

Lobster Johnson Volume 5: The Pirate’s Ghost and Metal Monsters of Midtown – (Amazon) – Print, Island – From the blurb: “The Lobster is at his pulpiest in a pair of three-part stories drawn by veteran Lobster artist Tonci Zonjic. A trio of robots terrorize New York City, and the only thing more mysterious than their origins is their motives. When a pirate ship’s ghostly crew appears on the Hudson River out of thin air, the harbor patrol calls on the Lobster!”

Lost Fleet: Corsair – (Amazon) – Print, Island – Somehow, I missed the fact that there’s a Lost Fleet graphic novel. It tells the story of Captain Michael Geary, “Black Jack” Geary’s descendent who was lost and taken prisoner near the beginning of the Lost Fleet series.

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: The Beast of Vargu and Others – (Amazon) – Print, Island – A new Hellboy collection released in 2020 … which is great, because I’m getting dangerously close to running out of new Hellboy books to read during my Lake Champlain vacations.

Resident Alien Volume 1: Welcome to Earth! – (Amazon) – Print – The comic book that inspired the SyFy Channel series (which I have not seen since I don’t have anything that streams SyFy). An alien crashes to Earth and tries to fit in. Recommended by @ServingWorlds on Twitter.


Inhibitor Phase (Revelation Space) by Alastair Reynolds – (Amazon) – Print – The new Revelation Space novel was set to release July 27, 2021, but is now set to come out on October 12, 2021.

In the book, one of the few remaining human worlds is threatened by a cybernetic force intent on wiping it out. It’s been a while since I read anything on the leading edge of Reynold’s Revelation Space universe (the most recent books I’ve read were set during the peak of humanity’s civilization, a few hundred years earlier) so I may be a little fuzzy on what the hell is going on. But hey, it’s Reynolds and it’s Revelation Space, so yeah, I’m going to read it.

Previous Summer Reading Lists

  • 2021: 14 books, 2 novellas, 8 graphic novels
  • 2020: 10 books, 1 novella, 5 graphic novels
  • 2019: 19 books, 5 graphic novels
  • 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

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