In a year when few things went as planned, including losing all of the time I spent on business travel, in airports, and on beach vacations where I’d be reading, I managed to finish 47 books in 2020. I ventured into much more music, business, and new author territory. I also focused on reading authors who aren’t like me — cis, white, straight, male and American — and discovered some superb new worlds, real and imagined.

To conclude the plague year, this list goes to eleven:

37. “Tropic of Kansas,” sci fi, Christopher Brown, Finished October 8.

Dystopian novels are hitting close to home — in this case, a far right government led by Al Haig, New Orleans turned into a toxic waste zone that makes the Cayuga River fire in Cleveland seem like a sparkler, and pockets of private militia and armed protests. A little too familiar, and a little too graphic, but the extrapolation from current events makes this the perfect sci-fi novel — it’s not predicting the future as much as hinting at several possible scenarios. This goes far beyond the “America is broken” into “America has become…


Hal Stern

By day: CIO for R&D at a drug company. Scalable computing, data privacy, performance. Non-day: husband, parent, phan, bass player, ice hockey coach

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