• "The Red Queen - Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature" by Matt Ridley - a book about evolutionary psychology, focused on sexual selection. Ridley discusses the effects of sexual selection on human physiology and psychology, with a lot of supplementing studies of other animals - from close relatives like chimps to somewhat farther species like peacocks. This book is fairly dense for a popular science work, and shouldn't be the first book about evolutionary psychology one reads, IMHO. Also, as the author himself admits, the hypotheses presented within are mostly opinions and attempts of explanations, not proven theories.
  • "Big History - The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity" by David Christian (audio course) - a long, thorough and ambitious course on world history that tries to encompass the whole history of the universe and humanity in one fell swoop. I'd say it's a very good first course on world history for persons not too familiar with the matter, but if you do have some background knowledge already, it would be much more useful to read two other books that cover most of the same material and much more - "The Big Bang" by Simon Singh and "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond.
  • "Killer Angels - The Classic Novel of the Civil War" by Michael Shaara - a very detailed historic novel describing the battle of Gettysburg. The whole book covers just the 3 days of the battle. Extremely well written - no wonder this book won its author the Pulitzer prize.
  • "The Victorian Internet" by Tom Standage - a pretty good book about the history of the telegraph and its various applications and implications on the world in the second half of the 19th century. I wish the first part had a bit more beef in it, though. For instance, the author spends very little time to explain how a telegraph works (even though he mentions it took years to overcome some of the initial technical problems). Not even a table describing the Morse code or its interesting mathematical properties!
  • "Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications" by David Sadava (audio course) - great introduction to genetics and its uses in the modern era. It's hard to get deep into scientific theory in an audio-only course, and I can't really judge how well the lecturer did this here since I was familiar with the material already. But all the stories around the discoveries, and about how genetics are used in medicine and agriculture are fascinating.
  • "The Path Between the Seas" by David McCullough - a very detailed "biography" of the Panama Canal. Although I liked the book overall, I would prefer it focused more on engineering and geography than politics and personalities. I feel some details about the canal's construction and workings were left unexplained, while the accounts of the personalities involved could be made less detailed without real loss in useful content. Still, it's awesome to read a well-written non-fiction book about a topic you know very little about it (I didn't even know about the French involvement!)
  • "Effective Modern C++" by Scott Myers - the long awaited C++11/14 version of the popular "Effective C++" series. My main impression from the book is - gah, C++11 is complex. Yes, a lot of features were added that make C++ more pleasant to write; but on the other hand, some new features like move semantics and forwarding are so complex that Myers dedicates 20% of the book to them. One nagging feeling I couldn't get rid of while reading this book is that, in contrast to the original Effective books, which focused on best practices, this one spends a good chunk of its time explaining the language, which leaves less room to best practices. All in all though, this book is important and very useful for getting acquainted with the new features of C++11. I can think of no better single resource for answering the common question "so, what does C++11/14 bring to the table".

Re-reads:

  • "Norwegian Wood" by Haruki Murakami
  • "Big Bang" by Simon Singh
  • "The Man Who Changed Everything" by Basil Mahon

Comments

comments powered by Disqus