From non-fiction science to science fiction: Ashleigh’s favourite books from 2016

Vireo co-owner Ashleigh Mattern read 52 books last year; here are her favourites. She also reviewed all of the books she read on Goodreads. If you love books and reading, connect with Ashleigh on Goodreads.

Gulp by Mary Roach

This is a non-fiction science book also reads like a memoir of Roach’s often hilarious adventures in writing the book. You are there with her when she eats cat food, or asks an inmate about carrying objects in his butt, or has a colonoscopy without painkillers. Roach’s ability to write clearly about scientific subjects is matched by her ability to write humorously, and I learned the subject matter better because of the humour she injects. Sometimes it gets gross, but it’s also extremely fascinating.

Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer

Part psychological thriller, part mystery, and all science fiction, Quantum Night follows a psychologist and a physicist who discover a secret about human consciousness and how to manipulate it. Robert J. Sawyer’s newest book tackles ethics, morality, philosophy, and quantum physics, but my favourite part was seeing all the action take place in Winnipeg and Saskatoon. I especially enjoyed the hyper-local name-dropping, like when the main character orders TJs Pizza or goes to the Konga Cafe. And it helps that it’s a page-turner!

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Mari Kondo

The Konmari Method of tidying really is revolutionary: You lay out each item in a category, and decide for each item whether it “sparks joy,” or for mundane items, serves a purpose. If it does not serve, discard it. I started the process in August 2016 and finished in December 2016, so it took me about five months to declutter. I love the end result. My home is tidier, I know where to find everything, and I feel physically lighter and freer. I had no idea that throwing away stuff could be so liberating.

Contact by Carl Sagan

Originally published in 1985 and set in the ’90s, Contact’s themes and messages about world unity and the importance of science are still incredibly relevant to our world today. The book goes deeper into the science than the movie, often taking off on fascinating scientific tangents. The character-building is also deep and vivid; the protagonist Ellie could practically walk off the page. Plus, the ending moved me to tears on an existential level. How often does a book open your mind to the numinous?

Waking Up by Sam Harris

Can we have a spiritual life without religion? Sam Harris makes a convincing argument that we can. But be warned: This is a dense read, thick with philosophy and neuroscience. Even with my minor in philosophy and interest in neuroscience, I struggled with a lot of the concepts in this book. But the effort has brought me a new understanding of the mind that is absolutely life-changing. Thanks to this book, my mind has been opened to new possibilities, and I’ve rediscovered my personal spirituality.