Last Year’s Library Reading
Caitlin and I signed up for the Overdrive system with the Baltimore County Public Library and started to check out Kindle books in July. Before that we were buying the occasional Kindle book or borrowing terrible self-published pulp fiction on Kindle Unlimited.
One of the nice side effects of having done this is that at the end of the year I have a list of books in my Amazon account that I can look back on what’s been good and bad in my virtual bookshelf.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – July 27, 2015
Super fun read, very interesting characters that cross generations and interests. The magical element would turn some people off but it really pulled me in.
Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch Book 1) by Ann Leckie – July 30, 2015
I heard about these books on the Incomparable Podcast, which I started listening to because Amy LaPearle posted a link on Facebook to their episode about the Inside Out movie and just kept it in my feed after listening to that one. The first few chapters of this book are best if you don’t know anything about the main character going in, so I don’t want to give anything away. This book provides a perspective from the “other” that you don’t usually see, and was really enjoyable.
Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch Book 2) by Ann Leckie – August 10, 2015
If you enjoy book one, definitely read book two. I did. because I wanted to spend more time with these characters. Now I can’t wait for Ancillary Mercy (book 3) to show up in the library so I can join them again.
The Art of the Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds, and by Anthony M. Amore – August 10, 2015
This book brings together a few very interesting topics: people who are obsessive enough to forge art and currency, people who collect valuable art and the market they create, and determination of provenience. Provenience is a particular favorite of mine because it brings together the characteristics of a physical object, supporting evidence (which may be other documents and objects) and other historical records. Each chapter tells a different and compelling story with fascinating characters on the side of the forgers and law enforcement alike.
Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data.. Bruce SchneierAugust 10, 2015
Bruce Schinier really shines for me in Beyond Fear and Secrets and Lies, but this one just couldn’t pull me in. Since I was reading Art of the Con and the Imperial Ratch series the same week, this one got short shrift. I might try to read it again in 2016 based on my respect for the author but this one was a bust.
Software Requirements (Developer Best Practices) by Karl Wiegers – August 13, 2015
If you’re interested in this sort of thing, you’ll probably enjoy this book. If you enjoy the things I write, you’re probably interested in this sort of thing. I wish I owned the paper version of this but the Kindle version does all right when I have a specific question that can be answered by paging through the table of contents.
The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing by Eli Pariser – August 17, 2015
I checked this book out because I am afraid that this is something that’s happening to me every day, but I couldn’t get past the first chapter or two of evening reading and eventually abandoned it.
The Essentials of Persuasive Public Speaking by Sims Wyeth – August 17, 2015
This book is terrible. I feel like this guy took a big stack of index cards, wrote two paragraphs of some random pithy sentiment on each one, then threw them up in the air, scooped them all into a pile, bound them on the edge and printed them as a book. I only finished because the book is as short as it is useless.
Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan – August 21, 2015
This book seems good, but for some reason I can’t remember anything about it even though the other books I read during this time. Either it’s forgettable, or I couldn’t get past the first chapter or so, or ran out of time with other books I had checked out in the same period.
The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom – August 21, 2015
I checked out this book because I enjoyed The Five People You Meet in Heaven by the same author. This book has a very similar feel: a man vs. God story where the main character reaches past their initial hubris and learns important lessons. If I had to read these over again, I might pass, but both books are actually a pleasant read the first time through.
How Would You Move Mount Fuji? by William Poundstone – August 22, 2015
I’m about to save you a read: 1. Trick or riddle questions in interviews are counterproductive and have undesirable side effects. 2. Microsoft’s policies and hiring practices made them miss some qualified people as the company grew and grew older.
How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman – August 22, 2015
I really enjoyed this book because it showed some of the flaws in differential diagnosis and the way that doctors need to compartmentalize to survive. We’re counting on our doctors to help us with figuring out what’s wrong with a very complicated system with a lot of moving parts, and reading this book gave me some insight as to the types of information that good doctors are looking for, and the things that overworked or overly focused doctors may tend to miss.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die Chip Heath – September 6, 2015
Home run book. Published in 2007, it contains such current event reference gems as “the sportsmanship of Lance Armstrong” and “the inspirational story of Jared Fogle the Subway spokesman.” A particularly ironic note to the second story is how many people wanted to pass on the “risky” Jared campaign. Why risky? Because they didn’t want to be seen as selling the Jared weight loss story as medical advice and suffer the ire of the FDA. It was going to go into the trash bin until Barry Krause, then head of Chicago marketing firm Hal Riney & Partners “defied the CMO of Subway and paid for the production of the Jared campaign out of the agency’s own pocket because he knew it was authentic.” Subway’s CMO then came back to HR&P hat in hand to take the campaign from regional to national media. Success! Right? Fifteen years later the un-vetted Subway spokesman takes a $1.4 million dollar highly public plea deal and prison time for illicit sexual conduct with children.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler – September 6, 2015
I expected more from this book, possibly because I expected more out of Amy Poehler or because Tina Fey’s book carried me along so well. I did learn some things about her life and work, but the book was actually a bit sad and droll in places.
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham – September 10, 2015
This book was my annual attempt at reading a dense historical biography before bed. As with most years, the dense historical biography won and stayed significantly unread. I got mired up in the first few chapters and probably abandoned it for Fight Club.
Fight Club: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk – September 16, 2015
I’ve enjoyed other Chuck Palahniuk books and I loved the movie but for some reason I never got around to reading Fight Club until just this week. It’s amazing how faithful the movie is to the book, and I’m also glad I watched the movie first because it allowed me to put a better face on most of the characters. The story goes to great length to keep the characters faceless and abstract which would have frustrated me without Ed Norton’s visage and voice to lean on. I also enjoyed the epilogue where the author basically calls out every journalist chasing a “Fight Club” story and everyone who set up a fight club as an idiot.
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown – September 27, 2015
After two years as a Freemason who’s never read a Dan Brown novel I had to figure out what all the fuss was about. This is a fun adventure mystery, but the central character is actually the body of the Catholic Church and CERN (to some degree). The Illuminati and Freemasons could have just as easily been called “The Maguffin Consortium” and carried the plot along just as nicely.
Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck by Amy Alkon – September 27, 2015
Couldn’t get past the first few chapters of this book. It isn’t really compelling of a topic for me to give it a second try.
The Da Vinci Code: A Novel (Robert Langdon) by Dan Brown – October 4, 2015
When I put this book on hold and set it to check out to me automatically from the library I didn’t realize that it would not actually connect it into my Kindle Cloud library without me going back to the Overdrive site. So I had this book out for the better part of two weeks before I realized it was there and by then it was ready to expire and I had to go back into the hold queue to get access again. I didn’t bother at the time, but I will probably try again in 2016.
Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagán – October 5, 2015
This book is terrible. It is not actually a library book, I think, but one of the free books that being a member of Kindle Prime gives you every month. This is a terrible attempt at “Eat, Pray, Love” that entirely fails to deliver. The characters are shallow and the scenes are overdramatic. Abandoned this book for my own sanity.
Zeroes: A Novel by Chuck Wendig – October 18, 2015
A fun hacker book that I stumbled on mostly by accident. I’d never heard of Chuck Wendig before but I’m glad I found this. It’s obviously written by someone who knows there way around different hacker archetypes and doesn’t just think of them as magical objects to fill plot holes. He takes the time to actually flesh out a narrative for each one as the main plot progresses and becomes more and more complicated. I’m not sure if there’s going to be a sequel to this as it wrapped up pretty well, but I can’t wait to read more of his stuff.
Paper Towns by John Green – October 19, 2015
Couldn’t piece the beginning of this book and abandoned it. I think it had some fierce competition from Zeroes and The Martian and just got left behind.
The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir – October 19, 2015
I’m glad I read the book before seeing the movie, mostly because the movie scaled back how irreverent and foul mouthed the Mark Watney character is, and covers much more of the scientific detail and necessary problem solving than the movie could possibly replicate and still be a fun watch. I did get the feeling as I read that this was written as serial fiction and it was gratifying to find that I was write. Andy Weir wrote this as a series of blog or forum posts just giving new apparently intractable problems for his main character to solve and researching all the possible answers to get him out.
1Q84 (Vintage International) by Haruki Murakami – November 5, 2015
I’m not exactly sure how I stumbled on this Haruki Murakami book but I’m glad I did. I’ve read a few since this one and the basic theme always appears to be a world substantially like the reader’s, always centered around several regions of Japan, with one or two very simple magical elements that affect the main characters substantially but the rest of the world either ignores or appears not to notice. This makes for a compelling foundation. Then the author builds a very detailed and interweaving character development around the interaction of a few key players, but uses the magical elements to take all the predictability out of their likely next steps. The ending is not always so tied up as this one but the progress of the characters kept dragging me back to this 1,184 page book every night.
Station Eleven: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel – November 11, 2015
This is another Incomparable Podcast recommendation which sadly did not pan out for me. Here’s what I got: A stage play is interrupted by a calamity, an apocalypse appears to happen to the world around the actors, Rob loses attention and abandons book.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami – November 11, 2015
I’m not sure if this book came before or after 1Q84 but it is another book of almost entirely character development and revealed perspective as the main character seeks to understand a turning point in his life from his teenage years. Every page just made me want to learn more about these people, and I was never disappointed as I got further in.
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir by Felicia Day – November 20, 2015
A touching look at the life of an actress and producer who worked hard, bootstrapped some projects that nobody thought would work, fought her own personal demons, caught some good breaks, and wound up the quirky geek on television you’ve probably seen all over. It’s great that she had the courage to write an autobiography that speaks so frankly about the impact of depression and anxiety on life and success.
Frugal Isn’t Cheap by Clare K. Levison – November 25, 2015
This is a so-so personal finance book. I thought I’d get something new out of it but I’ve already seen most of what it has to say on Lifehacker and other personal improvement blogs.
Split Second by Douglas E. Richards – November 26, 2015
Cool adventure science fiction with your usual cast of ex-military private eye, rich finacier with God complex and black operations military groups where nobody knows who is the good and bad guys.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Vintage International) by Haruki Murakami – November 27, 2015
I had high hopes for another solid magical narrative, which I got. But I also got a terrible ending and a little too much magic. I would recommend this book but not nearly as much as the other two novels.
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris – November 27, 2015
How can this book go wrong? I don’t know but it did. It’s a book about Norse mythology written from the perspective of the trickster! Marvel’s making millions off Loki’s antics. Neil Gaiman knocked it out of the park with American Gods. Book has a good legacy but just didn’t deliver for me.