#1 was "The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood" by James Gleick. This book was fantastic, and I am sure, even this early in the year, that this will be among my favorite non-fiction reads. Gleick examines exactly what the title suggests: The history of information theory, from the beginning of reading and the formation of our numbering system to the printing press and the universal computer, all the way up to the present problems with "too much information" and "information fatigue." A lot of the major players and events were already know to me, such as Charles Babbage and Alan Turing, but some of them, like Claude Shannon, were less well known to me. The thing I liked best about this book, however, was how the author connected various ideas and concepts as well as the way he forces you to consider exactly what the word "information" means, and how it relates to the concepts of "surprise" and "entropy," among other startling insights. Highly, highly recommended to all, but especially those who are interested in "the big ideas."
#2 was "Stones from the River" by Ursula Hegi. Don't let the fact that this was an Oprah's book club selection deter you from reading it, because it is phenomenal. I'm really happy I started off the year with two books I absolutely loved! The book is told from the viewpoint of Trudi, a woman with dwarfism who lives in Germany in the years leading up to and during World War II. Trudi becomes a keeper of secrets and a teller of tales. The book examines the ways people try to hide their secrets and conspire with others in silence. Trudi is a really compelling viewpoint character and I was really sucked into the book right away, and cried all the way through the last 15 pages or so. It's beautifully written and well worth reading. I will be seeking out more work by this author.