Summary of reading: July – September 2013

October 4th, 2013 at 5:43 am
  • "Man’s Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl – The first half of the book is the author’s auto-biographic story of his time in various Nazi concentration and work camps during WWII. It’s your usual, pretty horrible, holocaust story. He links it to the second part of the book as well, which is an explanation of his method of psychoanalysis – focusing on finding meaning in life as a means for mental health. There’s really not much to it, though, so the second part of the book felt quite repetitive and tedious. Overall I’d say I liked the book, but not as much as I hoped I would.
  • "The Moon is Down" by John Steinbeck – Not a usual book for Steinbeck – a fictitious account of a German-occupied town during World War II (even though Germany itself isn’t mentioned, it’s very clear what the book refers to). It was interesting to read about the background for this work, and especially its propaganda value in occupied Northern Europe – and how clueless the couch critics of New York were in first reviewing it. All in all, quite an interesting short read.
  • "Team Geek" by Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman – a short collection of essays on being part of a programming team. Some of it is for team leaders, but most is aimed at rank programmers. The authors mix together a lot of experiences from both the corporate world and large open source projects. Personally I think the dynamics of the two are very different. For example, one of the better known parts of the book (which I think was some kind of popular talk) – "dealing with poisonous people" – is looked at from the perspective of an open-source project and thus is only partially applicable to a team at a workplace. If you’ve never read "peopleware" kinds of books before, it’s recommended. Otherwise, not much new material here. On the other hand the book is very short and easy to read so if you just have a couple of hours to spare you’ll be through it.
  • "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman – This book is so packed with useful information it’s both fun and a burden to read. It’s a burden because information gleaned from it requires some thinking and digesting, and you just can’t read too much of it in one sitting. A lot of nonfiction books keep hammering on the same idea on and on. Not Kahneman. He provides many different angles to the points he presents and if you lose attention for a period of time you’re surely going to miss some interesting content. I really liked the presentation of the major dichotomies – system 1 vs. system 2, econs vs. humans and the experiencing vs. the remembering self. Some of the stuff will probably take me additional time to fully digest. Highly recommended if you’re interested in a breakdown of the way the human thought process works.
  • "A Farewell to Arms" by Ernest Hemingway – I have a half-vague memory of reading another book by Hemingway 15 years ago or so. My impression was "boring description of the author slacking off and drinking alcohol all day" (it was probably The Sun Also Rises). So I decided to give Hemingway another try and took a more acclaimed work – "A Farewall to Arms". What can I say, I still didn’t like it. I have a hunch that this book was considered very novel and daring 100 years ago, and of course there’s the anti-war sentiment which is always a good reason for a Nobel prize. All them silly Austrians and Italians fighting over some mountains without anyone really knowing why. But what did the protagonist have to do at that war? Also, unknown. The love story is tiresome and very mundane by today’s standards; the tragic end very much expected and very much useless. The alcohol is still there – like clockwork. A blog of drinking. You thought "here’s what I had for lunch" blogging is 21st century? Think again. To conclude, I guess Hemingway and me, we just don’t have that special connection readers have with authors they actually like.

Re-reads:

  • "Travels with Charley" by John Steinbeck
  • "Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy" by Walter C. Willett

Related posts:

  1. Summary of reading: July – September 2010
  2. Summary of reading: July – September 2012
  3. Summary of reading: July – September 2011
  4. Summary of reading: January – March 2013
  5. Summary of reading: April – June 2013

One Response to “Summary of reading: July – September 2013”

  1. ErinNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi! This is sort of a useless comment, but I just wanted to say I love that you share your recent reading. Always interesting stuff, and the pithy reviews are helpful, too. Cheers.

Leave a Reply

To post code with preserved formatting, enclose it in `backticks` (even multiple lines)