• "Introduction to Linear Algebra" by Gilbert Strang - This book is the lecture notes for the popular MIT OCW 18.06 course on Linear Algebra by the author. Note that I say "lecture notes", which is a better way to describe this book than "a textbook". It follows the lectures very closely, and the writing is the same conversational style Prof. Strang uses in his lectures. The book (and lectures) cover basic linear algebra really well and provide a useful glimpse into multiple cool applications of the math studied. On the flip side, the book could be more rigorous - Prof. Strang clearly doesn't believe in the usefulness of proofs and rigor in this first introduction to the subject, and relies on example and intuition. While there's no doubt that he's a gifted teacher, some amount of proving would be a good supplement.
  • "Biology: The Science of Life" by Stephen Novicki (audio course) - My interest in biology has mainly circled around genetics and evolution, so I wanted to expand my horizons a bit. This is a general "introduction to biology" course that encompasses a much broader view of the subject. Sure, there's a bunch of genetics in it, but also a lot of stuff about the structure of cells and organisms, as well as whole ecosystems and populations. This is also the longest course/audiobook I've head to date (36 hours).
  • "How To Prove It" by Daniel Velleman - link to full review.
  • "The Four Pillars of Investing" by William J. Bernstein - Somewhat similar to "A Random Walk Down Wall Street" - trashing stock picking, financial advisors, brokers and the financial press, recommending diversified market investment (ETFs, market indexing funds, etc). The first part of the book is a pretty good analysis of risk vs. return, both historically and conceptually. Another thing I liked is the analysis of investment strategies based on tax-protected (IRAs) or taxable accounts. For example, rebalancing a portfolio makes sense for tax-protected accounts, but not necessarily for taxables because of the capital gains taxes incurred. Conversely it's curious that the author (having written the book shortly after the dot-com bubble crash) is bearish on the stock market in the foreseeable future, something that didn't materialize (with the strong bull market after the 2008 crash). All in all a very good read on investing - there's certainly some depth to the book, so it may be worthwhile to revisit it in the future.
  • "Starship Troopers" by Robert Heinlein - Very nice science fiction about a mobile infantry fighter in a futuristic interstellar setting.
  • "1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2–12" by Thomas W. Phelan - I very rarely read parenting books, but this one had such stellar reviews that I decided to try. Besides, I've noticed other parents "counting" their kids and was curious what it's all about. I wasn't disappointed - the book is excellent. Not only the main thesis - which is the why and how of counting, but also some "secondary" chapters on developing healthy relations with your children, are great. Just the chapter that talks about listening skills and overparenting is worth reading the book for, in my opinion, in addition to all the other great material. One small criticism is that the handling of "start" behaviors, though addressed in depth, felt somewhat weak compared to the other parts. But it may be because there's just no good solution, I'm not sure.
  • "The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management" by Tom DeMarco - an unusual book - hybrid between a weird pseudo-scifi novel and a "best guidelines for project management" book. There are some good ideas w.r.t. project management here, but also some weird ones. The preaching is very waterfall-oriented - meticulous collection of requirements, followed by very detailed design, followed by a very short period of coding. Leaving only 1/6th of the duration of the project for coding, because the design is so spotless? That's kinda weird. Getting rid of code inspections/reviews because, again, the design is perfect? You've got to be kidding me. Maybe this part of the book is a joke, who knows. Also, the super-detailed models they build to very accurately describe the project and all kinds of processes involved in developing it... Perhaps this would work for some very boilerplate projects, but I don't see its general applicability. This criticism notwithstanding, overall the book is pretty funny and not a bad way to teach some interesting lessons.

Re-reads:

  • "The soul of a new machine" by Tracy Kidder
  • "The rational optimist" by Matt Ridley

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