This is a list of books that I have read since I started keeping track (March 2005) along with any commentary I feel like providing. It is mostly to augment my own memory, but I would be more that willing to answer questions regarding any of these books.
- "Everything is Illuminated," Jonathan Safran Foer
- "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay," Michael Chabon Just a fantastic book.
- "The Coming of the Third Reich," Richard
J. Evans A well-written history book describing the Nazis'
rise to power in Germany. It begins at the reunification of Germany
in the 1800s and ends in 1933 right as the Nazis' control of the
country seems to be total.
- "Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's
Greatest Mathematical Problem," Simon Singh Interesting
popular book about Fermat's last theorem and the quest to prove it.
- "Keep off the Grass," Karan Bajaj Meh...
- "The White Tiger," Aravind Adiga I really
enjoyed this book! It had a real sense of humor, even though it was
pretty dark and cynical. So far this is the best book I have read by
an Indian author and about India.
- "Into Thin Air," Jon Krakauer A pretty amazing
story. Krakauer's writing is pretty engaging, this being the second
book of his that I have read.
- "Twenty-First-Century Jet: The Making and Marketing of the
Boeing 777," Karl Sabbagh While it was interesting to see
a lot of the nitty-gritty details of plane design and manufacture, this
book ultimately did not hold my interest very well.
- "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman,"
Jon Krakauer I did a review of this book
on my blog.
- "Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters,"
Chesley B. Sullenberger with Jeffrey Zaslow This is the
autobiography of Sully Sullenberger, the USAir pilot who
successfully ditched flight 1549 in the Hudson River after both
engines were destroyed in a bird strike. It's clear that Sully is
not an author and the biography parts dragged on a bit. The story
of the incident and the events that followed, though, were quite
interesting and worth it for me.
- "Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth," Apostolos
Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou I got this graphic
novel from Rand for Christmas 2009. It was great, and I was
extremely happy and surprised to learn that something like it even
existed. The book is about logician Bertrand Russel and the search
for the foundations of mathematics which occurred during the early
part of the 20th century (and late 19th century). While I knew only
a little about Betrand Russel (mostly his
paradox) that was okay, as the book was a great introduction to
the history of formal logic and that which would eventually become
the basis for a lot of computer science, programming languages and
type theory. Recommended for anyone in C.S., and even for those outside
who are just curious!
- "Goodbye to Berlin," Christopher Isherwood I
bought this in Berlin. Good book. It was the source (indirectly)
for the musical Caberet.
- "The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media
and Technology Success of Our Time," David A. Vise and Mark Malseed
Seems like every single book I read has a subtitle... Or
maybe that's just every non-fiction book? Anyway, The Google
Story is kind of like the history of Google, right? And in that
respect, this book does exactly what it sets out to do. In Some
ways, the book takes a sort of, Google Fanboy approach, by which I
mean that just about everything Google does is lauded and just about
everything others do in response or to disparage Google is
mocked. That's not entirely true though. Some amount of time is
spent discussing privacy issues and the various lawsuits that have
been filed against the GOOG. Most interestingly, the one filed by
Overture, who held a patent for a ad-selling services that is very
similar to Google's AdWords auction. Um, but more importantly
annoying, after the initial few chapters, each chapter just seemed
to contain a bunch of information about Google smashed together.
There was not always a consistent theme that I could find.
Overall, still reasonably entertaining.
- "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable,"
Nassim Nicholas Taleb Another book from the author of
Fooled by Randomness, which I read a while ago. Many of
the points he makes are the same, but in a more refined form.
- "Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash
of the Record Industry in the Digital Age," Steve Knopper
A pretty good, and short, book about the record industry. I have
to say there are a lot of names in this book. A lot of
managers, record executives, and industry analysts. After a while
it's a little hard to remember them all. Still, an enjoyable book
if you really want the technical details.
- "A Prayer for Owen Meany," John Irving Yet
another John Irving book in the summertime, and this one may be
my last. A Prayer for Owen Meany is about a boy named
Owen who is very small and very strange and communicates with
God. (The movie Simon Birch is apparently loosely based
on this book.) Overall I think this was a good book, and I would
recommend it. However, I am starting to realize that all of
Irvings books share very similar themes, and I guess I am getting
a little bored, hence this book potentially being my last. I have
now read four of his books, and in each one several of the following
themses have been present:
It's not that these are bad themes or anything like that, but to
have them repeat in so many novels seems a bit strange to me, and
more importantly, they get old after a while.
- New Hamshire
- Marital Infidelity
- Hyper-Sexualized Female Characters
- Stuffed Animals (As in taxidermy)
- Death of One or More Parents
- "How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the
End of the War on Terror," Reza Aslan I was very excited
about this book because of an interview with the author that I saw
on The Daily Show. He seemed very reasonable and level-headed. I
did not enjoy the book nearly as much, unfortunately. I still agree
with the basic thesis, but found that is was mostly only discussed
in the final chapter and the Epilogue. Most of the book itself seemed
to be a wandering discussion of various social and religious groups.
It also annoyed me in one technical way by not using any mark to
indicate which text had associated end-notes. Yes, there were end-notes,
sourcing many of the points made by the author, but because there
was no way to tell which sentences did and did not have sources, I
had a hard time telling when the author was related and established
fact and when he was merely asserting.
- "Rounding the Mark," Andrea Camilleri I started
reading this book because I thought it took place in Genoa. It
does not. Genoa is briefly mentioned in the beginning, in the context
of a particularly violent G8 summit, which was held there.
Otherwise the story takes place in Sicily. It's your standard
mystery story, and it's pretty forgettable. It would have been
a quick read except that I never really got interested in the plot
so I put off finishing it for a long time.
- "Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of
Science," Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont
- "Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and
in the Markets," Nassim Nicholas Taleb Actually, I read this
book in college, but it was before I started counting so I didn't get
credit for it. So I read it again. The author comes across as pretty
pompus, but it still a pretty good book.
- "Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk,"
Peter L. Bernstein
- "The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and
Scandalous Fall of Enron," Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind
- "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham
Lincoln," Doris Kearns Goodwin Another huge history book
that I received for Christmas, but it was also another great
one. Team of rivals tells the story, primarily through primary
sources such as personal correspondence, of Abe Lincoln and his
political career, with a special focus on the other members of his
cabinet. Abraham Lincoln is a larger-than-life figure in American
history, so it can be hard to take seriously claims of his
preeminence. This book, however, is a mostly believable claim of
just that. Abe comes across as a great politician and a good man.
He wasn't the first person to decide that slavery was wrong, and
he may not have been color-blind in the modern sense of the term,
but once he made up his mind about slavery he did not waver.
- "American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House," Jon
Meachum A pretty interesting book about the life of Jackson
told through the correspondence of him and his close
associates. Definitely worth reading.
- "The Gospel of Food," Barry Glassner
- "God of the Door," Rob Dalby
- "The Soul of a New Machine," Tracy Kidder
- "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs," Chuck Klosterman
While this book is not without its laughs, nor its share of
honest, and accurate observations, for the most part it feels
trite and pessimistic. Maybe that's too strong. How about,
"I liked a lot of it, but don't necessarily agree with most
of its philosophical assertions."
- "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," Michael Chabon
I loved this book! I would recommend it to just about
anyone. Not only does it have neat, alternative-history aspects,
and a great detective plot, but it's actually very funny and
extremely well-written. Let's not even mention the great cover!
- "The Right Stuff," Tom Wolfe
- "Moneyball," Michael Lewis
- "No Country for Old Men," Cormac McCarthy
- "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?," Philip K. Dick
- "White Noise," Don DeLillo For the most part, I
really liked this book. It's full of a sarcasm that is not too
abrasive, and doesn't get on your nerves. It's well written, and the
plot, which centers around a chemical leak, is pretty exciting. I
did see the climax coming (and it needs a little work) but
otherwise, this is the sort of book I like.
- "I Love You Beth Cooper," Larry Doyle While
the plot of this movie seems very formulaic, it is executed quite
well and ultimately led to a book I had trouble putting down. During
his speech as valedictorian, Dennis (super-nerd/valedictorian) tells
Beth Cooper (head cheerleader/super hot) that he has loved her since
the seventh grade. The book reads like many graduation comedy
movies from the 80s up to today, but does so in a rather self-aware
manner. It manages to be really funny at some points, and the
characters themselves aren't quite as predictable as the plot would
suggest. Turns out they're actually making this book into a movie as
- "Dreaming in Code", Scott Rosenberg Dreaming in
Code is the story of the development of "Chandler," a personal
information management tool. This could be the best book about the
development of software written for people who don't develop
software, but it's still got it's problems. There are things I liked
about this book. It ultimately passed one important litmus test:
This will be the first book I give my dad so that he can ultimately
come to a better understanding of what it is I do. (Whilte my dad is
smart, and has a technical mind, but knows little about software.)
This book describes the open-source movement, programming languages,
and the strange fact that what we really do as software developers
is to create abstractions. It describes why the development of
software is so often so difficult, and I think is to be commended
for this. On the other hand, the book takes goes off on several long
tangents that I think are both unnecessary and will be difficult for
non-technical readers to understand, which is really too bad. There
is a long discussion about static vs. dynamic typing in languages,
important to me but not to the book. Other tangents take entire
chapters. Finally, there is a depressing lack of closure, which
while a part of the development process, could have been avoided by
simply waiting a few years longer to release the book. Overall, a
good book. We'll see what my dad says.
- "A Death in Vienna," Frank Tallis Part two in
my, 'reading books about Vienna because I am going to Vienna'
- "A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889," Frederic
Morton This was one of the most engaging books on history
that I have read in a while. It is written in the style of a novel
and is primarily centered around Rudolph, the crown prince of the
Austrian empire and his part in a double-suicide. Other notable
characters, such as Freud, Klimt and Brueckner, show up, and we get
to see their lives before they had yet acheived fame.
- "Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer,"
- "Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows
NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft," G. Pascal Zachary
A little bit outdated, but an interesting read nonetheless. This
book takes us through the creation of Windows NT, and focuses
primarily on David Cutler, the ex-Digital dude who was in charge of
the project. He was pretty much a hard-ass, and expected a lot out
of his people, sometimes to the point of being completely
unreasonable. Most interestingly, he completely did not care about
security, and treated it as an afterthought. While the author did
not draw too much attention to this point, I feel like if this book
had been written more recently with all of Windows' security
vulnerabilities, a bigger deal would have been made of this point.
I'd like to see a book like this about the creation of Vista, which
I hear was equally painful.
- "Managing Ignatius: The Lunacy of Lucky Dogs and Life in
New Orleans," Jerry Strahan
- "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," David
- "The Golden Compass," Philip Pullman
- "Sirens of Titan," Kurt Vonnegut Good book. My
second book club book.
- "Baudolino," Umberto Eco I am actually reading
this book along with the book club of which I am a
member. This is a good thing, because I truly enjoyed this book, but
it's in particular genre that I never in all my life would have
picked up on my own. It's all about the guy Baudolino who lives in
the 1100s and is telling the story of his life to Niketas. Or maybe
he's telling the story of his life. He might be making the whole
thing up, since we know him to be a world-class liar. Two details
about this book that I loved: The characters are constantly getting
into realistic-sounding arguments about science and the Christian
faith (e.g., can a vaccum actually exist). Also, every time we cut
back to Baudolino and his telling of the story to Master Niketas,
Niketas is always engaged in some over-the-top feast, which he finds
to be most inferrior to the sumptious meals to which he is
accustomed. Okay, there are lots of other good parts too, so go
ahead and check it out.
- "Off Magazine Street," Ronald Everett Capps
Since I kind of am willing to read any book about New Orleans, and
because I actually live off Magazine street (at least when
I'm in New Orleans), I thought I'd give this one a try. It was a
really quick read, and enjoyable, but it's really more about
atmosphere and attitude than, say, plot. I mean basically nothing
happens the whole time, and there is nothing that I would call a
true climax, but still I'm glad I read it. There's an indie movie,
too, with John Travolta and Scarlet Johansen, so I'll probably check
- "The Bonfire of the Vanities," Tom Wolfe Okay,
I'll admit it. I really liked this book. It wasn't nearly as stuffy
as I thought it would be, based on my original impression. Tom Wolfe
has a style that is very much in line with other slingers of pop
fiction. It was a very easy book to read. (I seem to say that a lot,
don't I?) My sole complaint would be the rediculous size and weight
of the hard-cover version. Why can't all books be paperback?
- "The Great Indian Middle Class," Pavan K. Varma
Absolutely ruthless in its denouncement of the ethical state of the
Indian middle class, his main hypothesis is that the middle (and
elite) class needs to become more invested in the concerns of the
large Indian underclass population before this population makes its
- "The Grapes of Wrath," John Steinbeck Nels, you
ask, are you reading this for your high school summer reading list?
No silly. In fact, I never actually read "The Grapes of Wrath"
before, and decided that now was as good a time as any to read it. I
wasn't dissapointed. I loved this book in fact. It was extremely
well written and for some reason (maybe this exposes an ignorance on
my part) it seemed somewhat relevent during my travels in India. Or
at least I felt that the poverty and hardship experienced by the
Joad family was not just some quaint relic of an earlier time. Man,
though, that ending sure is sad...
- "The Hotel New Hampshire," John Irving It's
summer time, so it must be time to read a John Irving book. I didn't
like this one nearly as much as "The World According to Garp," or
"The Cider House Rules," but it still had its moments. For some
reason, having something to do with the narrator's tone, the entire
second half of the book sounded like a denoument. It felt like I was
at the end of book for practically all the time I was reading it!
- "One Night @ The Call Center," Chetan Bhagat
Didn't really enjoy this one too much. I have to say, I haven't read
a book in a long time where I felt so unsympathetic to the
characters. I really couldn't have cared less whether things ended
up good or bad for them.
- "All the King's Men," Robert Penn Warren An
overall fantastic book. I wrote a real review of this book that I
was going to post, but I think I'd rather just keep it short; this
story is extremely well written. While it claims to be a book about
politics, it really is a book about one's own past. It's pretty
dense though, so even as good as it was, I was glad it was over by
- "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", Hunter S. Thompson
- "Freakonomics", Steven D. Levitt and Stephen
J. Dubner This book was fine, although it reminded me a lot
of "The Culture of Fear," a book that I enjoyed much more.
- "The Wind Up Bird Chronicle," Haruki Murakami
Summer seems to be the only chance I ever get to read for
fun. That's okay, as I usually more than make up for the rest of the
year. Let's see what we can scrounge up in the summer of
2007. Anyway, this book was recommended to me by Randolph. It's
modern Japanese book translated into English, which is a little
unusual for me. I normally try to avoid modern foreign books, and
wait until the hands of time have wrung out the best and brightest,
deeming them worthy of proper translation. Well if anything had been
lost in this translation, I would be surprised. The language itself
is heavy and poetic. The story itself is a little hard to describe,
except that it's a tale of dissapearance and the supernatural in
modern day Japan. However there are many characters and plot
elements in the book that are tied back to WWII era Manchuria which
at the time was controlled by the Japanese. And while I feel like a
bit of a weakling saying this, my main problem with the entire story
was a feeling of constrantly being in the dark, even after I had
finished it. It is certainly a page-turner, but I was left
unsatisfied and looking for more of an explaination behind the logic
of the supernatual events. Actually, I normally really hate it when
authors of screenwriters feel the need to drill in the explaination
at the end of the story ("don't you get it, he was a ghost the
entire time!") but here's one time when I honestly wouldn't have
- "Virtual Light," William Gibson You see I
don't like science fiction, but the works of William Gibson (in
particular his Bridge Trilogy) are growing on me. This book, just
like "All Tomorrow's Parties," takes place in a future LA and
SanFran. This was actually the first of the trilogy, and maybe
that's why it doesn't so much end as run out of pages. Sort of like
- "Black Hole," Charles Burns This was a neat
book given to me by Rand. It is a comic book/graphic novel that
takes place in the 1970s about a strange disease that is affecting a
lot of teenagers. It sort of follows some different characters who
contract the disease as they become outcasts as a result.
- "The Devil in the White City," Erik Larson
Read in preparation of my visit to Chicago, this was an interesting
book about the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and a serial killer who
was committing his crimes in Chicago at around the same time. This
story includes a lot of information on the architecture of Chicago
and the history of the fair as well as the historical context in
which the fair opened.
- "The Great Gatsby," F. Scott Fitzgerald No,
this is not a joke. Not much has changed since high school. This is
still a great book. It seemed even more relevent for this phase of
my life than it ever did when I first read it.
- "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,"
Mark Haddon Strangely, this book read much like The Last
Samaurai, mostly because of the style and language used by the
narrators in each book. Both are intelligent but naive in the same
sort of way. Overall, though, I enjoyed this one a lot.
- "It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken," Seth
- "High Fidelity," Nick Hornby
- "Running with Scissors," Augusten Burroughs
- "The Last Samurai," Helen Dewitt This book
took me forever to work my through, partially because it was
somewhat long (maybe 550 pages) but mostly because I just wasn't
giving it my full attention. It would be wrong to say that it wasn't
an engaging book as much as I wasn't personally engaged. This story
is essentially divided into two parts, the first describing the
education of the main character, and the second describing his
quest, and I can say that I did end up thouroughly enjoying this
second half. Briefly, and cryptically so as not to give too much
away, the story describes Ludo, a young prodigy, and his single and
sometimes eccentric mother Sibylla.
- "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," Michael Chabon
Since I enjoy reading books about places that I have been to or are
currently living in, I figured it was about time I read a book about
Pittsburgh. This book was recommended to me by a friend. Michael
Chabon is the same guy that wrote the book "Wonderboys" which I did
not read but did see the movie. That one also took place in
Pittsburgh. Anyway, Mysteries is the story of a recent college
graduate and his summer after graduation. It has many of the same
themes as "Less Than Zero" but with fewer drugs. It also has some
action, which certainly surprised me. But in the end it wasn't
enough. I did enjoy reading about the neighborhoods around me,
Squirrel Hill, Hill District, Craig Street and the Cloud Factory,
but I never really cared that much about the characters of the
story. The main character's life takes some interesting turns, but I
guess I just didn't really buy it. Maybe it's just my mood right
now, but I have enough of this "The Stranger" style detachment from
life. I need to read about people who are living it up, and not
letting a single moment pass by. So that's what I think, for what
it's worth. I'll probably change my mind later...
- "All Tomorrow's Parties," William Gibson
- "The Day of the Jackal," Frederick Forsyth
- "Bringing Down the House," Ben Mezrich
- "The Call of the Mall," Paco Underhill
- "The Cider House Rules," John Irving
- "Dress Your Family Up in Corduroy and Denim," David Sedaris
- "Prime," Poppy Z. Brite
- "Pompeii," Robert Harris
- "A Confederacy of Dunces," John Kennedy Toole
So good. Currently my favorite book ever.
- "Da Vinci Code," Dan Brown Wouldn't recommend
- "Angels and Demons," Dan Brown Still wouldn't
- "Planet Simpson," Chris Turner A neat look
at different elements of the Simpsons and how they reflect and
relate to our own culture. It has a lot of references so you may not
enjoy it if you're not a fan of the Simpsons. Also, it gets a little
repetitive and is kind of a slow read.
- "A Nation of Rebels," Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter
An amazing and interesting read. Another one that went by
- "The Beach," Alex Garland Good book. Quick
read. And it's better that the movie too, a movie which I sort of
- "Billions and Billions," Carl Sagan This is
definitely a pop-science book, but it's the first of his that of
read so they may all be this way. It's actually mostly about the
environment, global warming, etc. It's a good read for people (like
me) who don't know too much about those topics except for the poor
explanations given in popular discourse. It was also written at the
very end of Sagan's life, so there's a whole part at the end where
he talks about his disease and his hospital experiences. Overall a
pretty good book. If you don't like it, you won't be reading it for
very long. I read it on a plane flight from LA to Atlanta.