• "1776" by David McCullough - on one hand I'm a bit disappointed, but on the other I'm not. And to be honest, my disappointment has only myself to blame. I should've researched better. I was looking for an introductory popular history book about the American independence war, and hey presto - here's a Pulitzer prize winner! I figured the name is 1776 because that's the year the declaration of independence was signed, but not so. The name is 1776 is because the book only tells about what happened in... that's right, 1776. Which is a tiny sliver of the actual story of the American revolution. To be sure, the story is very well told and enjoyable to read... but, this is not what I was expecting. It would be really awesome if this would be part of an 8-volume series (1775, 1776, 1777 etc.) but to the best of my knowledge it's not. A more to-the-point disappointing fact that the book spent very little on the actual declaration of independence, the process leading to it, and so on. Which is surprising, right? The book instead covers, in excruciating detail, the battle of New York / Brooklyn and the ensuing flight of the continental army to Philadelphia (with some coverage of the siege of Boston in the beginning). So if these specific events interest you in depth, the book is great. Otherwise, this would definitely not be the first (or second, or third) book I'd read on the topic of the revolutionary war.
  • "The Worst Journey in the World" by Apsley Cherry-Garrard - a semi-autobiographic account of Scott's expedition to reach the South Pole in 1911. This book was written in 1922 by one of the expedition's team members, and collects his own diary entries with selected entries from other members (including Scott himself). Overall well written and told - fascinating insight into early Polar exploration. One thing I think was lacking is some more context on how and why certain things were done (i.e. setting up rations, depots and so on) - these things would certainly be very interesting from an engineering/planning point of view.
  • "The Achievement Habit" by Bernard Roth - a huge disappointment. I've fallen for an overly pompous short description and not reading the reviews carefully enough on Amazon. The author of the book is certainly an impressive individual, but instead of a systematic approach I expected, this book is just a biographic diary of a guy reminiscing on his life experiences. Sure, as a general feel-good book it has the usual set of good ideas - but nothing special or insightful.
  • "Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery" by Henry Marsh - an auto-biographic account of a senior neurosurgeon in the UK about his work experiences, focusing on dealing with patients and with inevitable mistakes. Extremely well written in an emphatic and thoughtful voice. The British directness and sense of humor is also much appreciated. I also think his notes on the difference between public healthcare (NHS in the UK) and private care (in the US and the UK) are poignant. Highly recommended overall, with a word of caution for hypochondriacs - the book describes quite a few very scary medical conditions in gory detail.
  • "Diaspora" by Greg Egan - a "hard science fiction" book (meaning - strong emphasis on scientific detail) following the quest of humanity's descendants (conscious software, what else...) to better understand the universe and probe beyond the edges of known physics. Pretty heavy reading, replete with hard-core physics and mathematics to such extent that it makes one wonder whether the information is real or the author is making it all up. One of the weirder books I've read in a while, for sure.
  • "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era" by James McPherson - an amazingly thorough and well-written history of the American civil war. At almost 1000 pages this book is very long and dense, but totally worth it. The author spends a lot of time on all the important aspects surrounding the war - including the political situation that led to it, the economical situation in both South and North before and during the war, the personalities involved and of course all the major battles of the war.

Re-reads:

  • "Dreaming in Code" by Scott Rosenberg
  • "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" by Richard Rhodes
  • "Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki Murakami

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