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  • “Cuckoo’s Egg” by Clifford Stoll – a detailed account of the author’s
    following a hacker breaking into pre-internet computer networks (in the
    1980s). Very interesting historical perspective on computing and early
    security concerns – how simple and naive those times were! I wish the book
    would be shorter though.
  • “Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover – the author grew up in a survivalist
    Mormon family in Idaho, with zero education until late teens, and parents who
    refused any formal contact with the establishment (no birth certificates, no
    medical care, etc). This is her autobiographic account, focusing on her quest
    for formal education and her complicated, corrosive relationship with her
    family. A rather disturbing book in many aspects, but very good writing.
  • “Docker Deep Dive” by Nigel Poulton – an overview of using Docker,
    detailing many advanced features in addition to the simple things. While I
    think this is a good reference book, I’m less sure about its value as a
    tutorial. Similarly to my complaints about the author’s Kubernetes book, too
    much is spent on the how and too little on the why. This book feels like a
    certification exam preparation text (which it is, to some degree). Since
    Docker as a technology is not hard to understand this is less of a problem for
    this book, but still something that could be improved.
  • “Designing Data-Intensive Applications” by Martin Kleppmann – an extensive
    overview of modern data-processing and distributed systems – databases, stream
    processing, distributed locking/concensus, and so on. Hard to do this book
    justice in a single reading – I’m pretty sure its main utility is as a
    reference. It’s a truly massive book, and quite a test to read cover to cover.
    As opposed to most books it doesn’t have many diagrams, and almost
    no code snippets – it’s all walls of text, page after page. The author has
    spent 4 years researching and writing the book, and it shows. Overall I
    thought it’s really good and am looking forward to using it as a reference.
    Much of the distributed systems literature is dated, and this book serves as
    an excellent bridge from theory (textbooks, Lamport papers, and so on) to
    modern applications.
  • “Your Money or Your Life” by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez – the classic bible
    of the FI/RE (financial independence / retire early movement), originally
    published in 1992 and revised in 2008 with some more modern material. The
    basic premise is “strictly track your earnings / spending, minimize spending
    through frugality to get out of debt / earn enough to live off interest,
    investments as early retirement”. It was probably easier to achieve when the
    book was originally written and treasury bonds had double digit % returns 🙂
    It’s interesting to see where the modern FI/RE movement came from, but
    otherwise I didn’t find much new in this book. Even if you don’t really intend
    to retire early, the ideas in the book are interesting. I’d think it would be
    very useful to read for folks who feel they don’t have a good control of their
    finances, and if they haven’t heard of these ideas before the book is a
    reasonably good introduction.
  • “Comet” by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan – everything you wanted to know
    (and probably more than you imagined there is to know) about comets – their
    history, properties, future. Great Carl Sagan writing as usual, though a bit
    outdated now, having been written in 1985. I wish Sagan would live to see all
    the recent advances in astronomy and space exploration – the comet landing
    mission for example (Rosetta).
  • “Dismantling America” by Thomas Sowell – a collection of Sowell’s essays on
    various issues in the USA circa 2008-2010. Very good writing as usual – it’s
    interesting how I agree with Sowell on many financial topics, but not so much
    on the topics of human rights. Sowell seems to be taking a Republican view
    with a more radicalized laissez-faire bend in economics. Many of the essays
    are repetitive, and some of them are not really on topics that are interesting
    outside their immediate time frame (for example the Duke Lacrosse team rape
    trial, to which several chapters are dedicated). Overall an interesting read,
    no matter which side of the political divide you are.
  • “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho – a re-read, but the first time I read this
    book was before 2003 so there’s no review on record. I think I’m completely
    missing the point of this book – it’s so highly acclaimed, yet I totally fail
    to get all the mysticism, spirituality and applicable life lessons here.
    Didn’t enjoy it at all.
  • “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams” by Matthew
    Walker – this book will certainly give serious food for thought to many
    people. It tries to explain why the natural sleep period of 7-9 hours is
    critical for health and mental development in humans. The author makes a
    convincing case, though I found a book a bit too preachy at times. It reminds
    me of all the other books talking about X and presenting X to be the source of
    all good, while lack of X is the source of all evil. Moreover, it’s
    disappointing how little we really know about sleep – most of the cited
    research results are circumstantial evidence at best; this is not much
    different from other medical research, unfortunately. In any case, these
    shouldn’t detract from the value of reading this book. Especially if you
    believe you “don’t need much sleep”, it’s a very important read.
  • “How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life” by Massimo
    Pigliucci – another modern take on stoicism. The book is not too bad overall,
    but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re really into the ancient sources –
    especially the writings of Epictetus. For a guide to stoicism, Irvine’s book
    is much superior to this one.
  • “Seven Databases in Seven Weeks” by Perkins, Redmond and Wilson – a quick
    comparison and overview of PostgreSQL, MongoDB, CouchDB, Redis, Neo4J, HBase
    and DynamoDB. The book’s subtitle is “A guide to modern databases and the
    NoSQL movement”, and one of the things it tries to uncover is how the new
    “NoSQL” databases are different from established RDBMSs like Postges.
    A nice book overall, though IMHO it lacks depth. About 90% of it is spent on
    simple tutorial-level introductions to the databases, and the examples are
    mostly toys. I suppose it’s understandable since the differences between such
    tools are rarely easy to define very accurately.
  • “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport – a manifesto of reducing social media
    consumption and other modern distractions. Although the book is chatty, it’s
    definitely useful – especially for people who spend a lot of time daily
    consuming information on their phones.
  • “Walden, or Life in the Woods” by Henry David Thoreau – a classic of American
    literature published in 1854. The main theme of the book is praise of “simple
    living”, one of the earliest insiprations of modern frugal living movements.
    Thoreau describes the several years he spent living in a self-constructed
    wooden cabin next to the Walden pond (on the outskirts of Concord, MA).
    As usual for me, it’s not very easy to read books from so far back – the
    writing style is very unfamiliar. It’s part autobiography, part economics,
    part essays on human nature and the beauty of the natural world.
  • “Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them” by
    Jennifer Wright – a quick and enjoyable read, despite the grim topic. The
    writing is very good, but a bit too fluffy with a lot of detours to unrelated
    stuff. It’s almost as if there wasn’t that much to write about the plagues
    themselves – which is a good sign, I guess? Seriously though, it would be
    better to get some more medical details about the diseases and their cures,
    and less background historical information.

Re-reads:

  • “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt
  • “The Price of Privelege” by Madeline Levine
  • “The Pastures of Heaven” by John Steinbeck