- “In Praise of Slowness” by Carl Honoré – talks about the benefits of slowing
down in different aspects of life. The book has some good ideas in it, but
it’s wildly drawn out, mixing in a lot of irrelevant information in order to
reach a “book-worthy” page count.
- “SQL Queries for Mere Mortals” by John L. Viescas and Michael J. Hernandez –
a very slow and gentle introduction to SQL. A good book for SQL newbies. My
main criticism is the somewhat low signal-to-noise ratio; at 750 pages this
book really doesn’t cover that much. The authors use an interesting 4-step
translation for queries from the initial human language through progressive
“machine”-ization until the final SQL code. I found this to be rather useless
– all the human language expressions for nontrivial queries are almost
unreadable (20-line wall of text). On the positive side, the book is
well organized with many examples throughout each chapter, additional examples
at the end of each chapter and a bunch of exercises (with solutions available
from the book’s website). Another good thing is that the authors focus
on standard SQL and test their queries on multiple databases, discussing the
quirks of each (though the choice of databases is somewhat MS-centered).
- “Microservices in Action” by Morgan Bruce and Paulo A. Pereira – microservices
is one of the most buzzy buzzwords for programming today. If you wonder
whether it deserves a whole book – your intuition is right; it doesn’t. Thus
this book spends most of its time on domain modeling and design for enterprise
applications patterns, tools like Docker and Kubernetes and general “modern”
development practices like using intricate continuous integration & deployment
workflows. If anything, this book does a better job listing the deficiencies
of microservice architectures than convincing readers they’re an improvement
over the status quo, IMHO. The overview of modern cloud development is decent
and the diagrams are good; there are also some real examples to run.
- “The Wild Trees” by Richard Preston – tells the stories of explorers and
scientists who pioneered discovering and climbing the tallest trees on Earth,
in Redwood National Park in the north of California. Some biographic accounts,
many climbing stories and also interesting botanical and biological details.
It’s amazing how recent all of this is and how much is still unknown about the
flora and fauna of tall tree canopies around the world. Excellent book, highly
- “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn – according to the
author, the goal of this book was to present American history not from the
usual point of view of famous politicians and military leaders, but from
the daily lives of ordinary people. That’s an interesting undertaking, but the
execution is, IMHO, terrible. First of all, the book is universally
negative on pretty much any aspect of the topics it presents; in case you
didn’t know, American history is a saga of militant imperialism driven by
greedy corporations and the ever-evil top 1%. Moreover, the author can’t help
but drag the reader into rather aggressive socialistic populism, including
calling for the workers of the world to unite in the afterword. As a history
book, it’s one of the worst I have ever read; as a one-sided political
propaganta it’s a fascinating case study if you want to understand how today’s
- “Artemis” by Andy Weir – life of a petty criminal in the first human city on
the moon, set at ~2070. Has a similar vibe to The Martian, but with less
science and more of a “crazy adventure” flair to it. Not a bad book overall –
I really like Weir’s style of science fiction, but not as good as The Martian.
The plot is too much of an action movie, getting quite silly towards the end.
- “Deep into Yellowstone” by Rick Lamplugh – nice stories about Yellostone NP’s
history, features and wildlife – with a focus on wolves and elk. Interesting
insights into the minds of people who spend a lot of their time volunteering
in the park and participating in advocacy for conservation and protection of
- “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder” by Nassim Taleb – in which
Taleb summarizes his philosophy, covering material from earlier books as well.
Some parts of it I liked, some parts not so much. It combines some really
interesting insights with pages upon pages of vitriolic attacks on many
people and institutions.
- “Steinbeck: A life in letters” by John Steinbeck – a collection of letters
Steinbeck wrote througout his life. The book is enormous – over 900 pages –
but at the same time easy to read because it consists of many short (1-4 page)
letters. It took me a while to get through, but I liked it overall. It
provides a glimpse into Steinbeck’s life and mind from a very unique point of
view. Made me think about the lost art of letter writing; seems to have been
very popular before telephones became ubiquitous, and it’s a shame few people
do this any more on a regular basis. Social media is the outlet now, but it
doesn’t fill the same needs.
- “The Conscious Parent” by Shefali Tsabary – a mix of parenting advice and
inspirational self-help book. I have mixed feelings about this one – much of
the parenting advice I agree with, but still not sure about parts of it. The
book is difficult to read through because of repetitive and preachy tone and
general lack of organization.
- “1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12” by Thomas W. Phelan