Original post
  • “Tao-teching” by Lao Tzu – since it’s a very short book with many very
    different translations, I read a couple. One by Stephen Mitchell and one by
    Red Pine, which also has commentaries. It’s interesting to contrast the
    different translations – they’re very different! I found the English in
    Mitchell’s more flowy, though Red Pine seems to approach accuracy very
    academically and collects from multiple sources, so his may be the closer to
    the original (?). In any case, it’s quite a unique book which tries to convey
    the Tao without explicitly saying what it is. It’s curious to find a bunch of
    advice in it that withstood the test of time because it’s being told by
    self-help gurus and materials to this day.
  • “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline – an original fantasy sci-fi story about
    a dystopian future where people find solace in an engrossing VR simulation,
    and a group of protagonists with an RPG-like quest. Full of references to
    games, movies and geek culture from the 1980s, so somewhat earlier than my
    time. I imagine it really speaks to folks of a certain age though. Not bad for
    a sci-fi book, overall.
  • “The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World” by Daniel
    Yergin – an epic treatise of energy – oil, coal, natural gas, solar, wind,
    etc. Covers many aspects including history and geo-politics in many parts of
    the world, economics, the transportation market and much more. At over 800
    pages it’s long-winded and a bit repetitive in places, but overall a very
    well-written and interesting book.
  • “Gorilla, My Love” by Toni Cade Bambara – a collection of short stories
    about the lives of blacks in Brooklyn, told from the vantage point of a young
    girl. In theory, sounds great. In practice, however, there’s a strong mismatch
    between this book’s artistic style and what I prefer reading; I didn’t like
    the writing at all. Some stories are nice, but many are borderline unreadable
    gibberish.
  • “Deep Learning with Python” by Francois Chollet – a very good introduction
    to deep learning and the Keras library. I really like the intuitions and
    hard-won experience shared by the author for choosing the right kinds of model
    for a given problem. That said, the book avoids getting into math and
    describing the inner workings of DNNs in too much detail; I understand it’s a
    deliberate choice and respect it, but IMHO it makes it more suitable for
    complete beginners than for folks interested in getting to the next level.
  • “A Crack in Creation” by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg – some of the
    pioneers of CRISPR technology discuss its origins, developments and possible
    future. Very interesting topic, and the book is well written. I personally
    found the biology parts much more interesting than the ethics parts and would
    have liked there to be more detail. Will have to look for more technical
    literature, I guess.
  • “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein – finally got to read this
    iconic work of sci-fi and grok the origins of the word “grok”. Though it’s
    occasionally tiresome, overall it’s a brilliant book. Unfortunately, the
    blatant sexism and chauvinism stands out and would likely get a much different
    reception if published today. It’s always amusing to see how unimaginative
    future predictions of technology are, and how much they reflect the scientific
    know-how at the time of publishing. In this book people easily travel to Mars
    and have flying cars, but still use public pay phones and cassette tapes.
  • “How Linux Works, 2nd ed.” by Brian Ward – an intermediate-level book
    describing how the Linux operating system works, aimed at power users and
    system administrators, with some basic detours into . I would be
    happy if it went into more depth on some topics, but that would probably blow
    the size up 10x so I understand the author’s constraints. Chapter 8 on
    resource management/utilization was my favorite.
  • “Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are
    Changing Life on Earth” by Juan Enriquez & Steve Gullans – nice snapshot of
    the current state of bioscience and how recent advances in technology skew
    human evolution. Unfortunately, too much focus is given to speculation, ethics
    and other meta-topics; I’d prefer more discussion of actual science.

Re-reads:

  • “Billions and Billions” by Carl Sagan