Saturday, December 21, 2013

Books I read in 2013

At the beginning of 2013 I decided to keep a book log (including Audible audiobooks). These are the non-work books I read in 2013, by author. Some are re-readings, and there's still enough time for a few more. I'll be adding notes later.

✏ Chris Anderson: Makers: The New Industrial Revolution

✏ Julian Assange et alli: Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet

✏ Walter Bagehot: Lombard Street: A Description of the Money Market (reread; free)

✏ Albert-Laszlo Barabasi: Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do

✏ Gregory Benford: Foundation and Fear (reread on Dec 31st.)
Screenshot; I'm impressed by how careful Prof. Benford is to make sure that none of his personal feelings about being an academic in America comes across in his SciFi writing. The Foundation series is a good illustration of the preachiness and neoteny of most science fiction; it's mostly amateur sociology with minimal exploration of the real changes that technology creates. As a former aficionado, I have some residual interest in the genre, but you bet better futurism from A McKinsey or Bain conjectural report than from most SciFi, even Cyberpunk.
✏ Gregory Benford and Larry Niven: Bowl of Heaven
The only new sci-fi book I read this year. Hard sci-fi took a hit after 2000, when some authors decided to join the culture wars and write metaphors for the american political system.
✏ David Brin: Earth (reread)
In July I decided to reduce the amount of stuff I owned, so I replaced a number of paper books with electronic copies. This led to an assessment of which scifi books I wanted to reread. Earth was one of them, Brin's best book in my opinion. Some of the other scifi books to get replaced by eBooks are mentioned below. In the end, I donated or recycled almost two thousand paper books.
✏ Sean Carroll: The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World

✏  Phillip Dennis Cate et alli: Impressionists on the Water (FAMSF Exhibition Catalog)

✏ Arthur C Clarke: Childhood's End (reread)

✏ Daniel Dennett: Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking

✏ Edward Dolnick: The Forger's Spell
Few things describe the arts world as precisely as the end of chapter 11: "Van Meegeren fooled the world with a seventeenth-century painting made of plastic."
✏ Niall Ferguson: Civilization: The West and the Rest

✏ Niall Ferguson: The Great Degeneration
Like Civilization, you can get most of the content of the book from Niall Ferguson's talks. But I wanted the notes and details so I read the books.
✏ Seth Godin: The Icarus Deception

✏ Rose-Marie Hagen and Ranier Hagen: Masterpieces in Detail (Art book)

✏ Chip Heath and Dan Heath: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

✏ Robert Heinlein: The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (reread)

✏ Daniel Kahneman: Thinking Fast and Slow (reread)

✏ Walter Lewin: For the Love of Physics
As autobiographies of scientists go, this one is more educative than the Feynman pair (Surely you jest, Mr Feynman and What do you care what other people think?). Lewin is a superstar Physics professor from MIT, who would be the first to say that students learn Physics only when they solve the problem sets, not in the lectures. Screenshot.
✏ William Manchester and Paul Reid: The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965
Vol. III of Manchester's biography of Churchill, written by Reid based on Manchester's notes. Hard on the French. Read in one day plus two evenings. 1200 pages, but the last 130 are notes and references.
✏ Michael Moss: Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

✏ Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: Lucifer's Hammer (reread)
One of my favorite sci-fi books (and the only Pournelle to make my top 10). I reread parts of it often (notes and highlights help). I bought it 5 times in different languages and formats.
✏ Donald Norman: The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (added Dec 25)
There are enough changes from the previous edition to merit purchasing it anew, but in my case I get the added benefit of moving from a paper edition to a Kindle book, reducing the need for physical storage space. Subsumes Living With Complexity as well.
✏ Iain Pears: The Bernini Bust (reread)

✏ Iain Pears: The Titian Committee (reread)

✏ Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: Good Omens (reread)

✏ Mark Sisson: The Primal Blueprint
Good book, though I wouldn't want to give up resistant starch altogether and the high-impact exercise recommendation is better ignored. But worth reading as motivation for life changes.
✏ Benn Steil: The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order

Neal Stephenson: Anathem (reread)
Reread for the 10th or 20th time, despite being over 1000 pages long (read it in one very long reading marathon when it came out); possibly Stephenson's best book. Screenshot.
✏ Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder
Best non-fiction book I read in 2013. I think I'll be rereading my highlights and notes for years to come. Sometimes NNT's style may be a little over the top, but the substance is worth it.
✏ Barbara Tuchman: The Guns of August (reread on Remembrance Day; screenshot)

✏ Barbara Tuchman: The March of Folly

✏ Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad
Mark Twain takes on tourism, Americans, and foreigners. For some reason I had never read it before. It's available for free, since it predates the Mickey Mouse copyright rules.
✏ Lea Van Der Vinde et alli: Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis (FAMSF Exhibit Catalog)

✏ Ingo Walther and Norbert Wolf: Masterpieces of Illumination: The World's Most Famous Manuscripts 400 To 1600 (Art book)

✏ Evelyn Waugh: Brideshead Revisited (reread)
It's a book about class, friendship, religion, and growing up. The movie was a distortion of the book as bad as Starship Troopers was of the Heinlein original; the ITV series was acceptable, but the writing itself is a major part of the value of the book, and cannot be appreciated from video.
✏ Evelyn Waugh: Sword of Honor (reread)

✏ Evelyn Waugh: Vile Bodies (reread)

✏ P.G. Wodehouse: Big Money (reread)

✏ P.G. Wodehouse: Carry On Jeeves (reread)

✏ P.G. Wodehouse: The Code of the Woosters (reread, for the 20th time or so...)

✏ P.G. Wodehouse: A Man of Means
Found a Wodehouse I hadn't read before. The year was worth it. Huzzah!
✏ P.G. Wodehouse: Mulliner Nights (reread)

✏ William Zinsser: On Writing Well (reread)
Best book on writing ever, IMNSHO. I reread parts of it often; read the whole book at least once a year; and reread my notes about it before starting any writing project. Technically it's a work book for me, but I like to read it for pleasure as well.

The secret to reading this many books: watching very little television. Most of these books take only a few hours to read (though some may take a lot more), so an evening or two without television is enough to read a book. By that metric, I read a lot less than my potential, and that's not considering the multitasking afforded by audiobooks during walks or repetitive exercise like Concept II rowing.