• "The Man" by Ilan Heitner (read in Hebrew) - the Hebrew name of the book is "The Man who didn't want to be small" so I'm not entirely sure why the recommended English name was shortened this way. It tells the story of a novelist who's living through a writer's block, and on the way tells the reader about his childhood, early adulthood and family. The focus is his weird relationship with his wife, shaped by a problematic pre-marital life. Though the book is an entertaining quick read, I enjoyed it less than the author's earlier books. Overall it's quite predictable both in terms of content and its ending - full of modern Israeli folklore on a relatively superficial level.
  • "The Elephant Vanishes" by Haruki Murakami - a collection of short stories, some of which feel like incomplete drafts of longer novels. As usual, Murakami is fun to read though I enjoyed his other collections of short stories (like "After the Quake") much more.
  • "Code" by Charles Petzold - Starting with Morse code and Braille, and moving through telegraph wiring, relays and basic electronics, Petzold slowly and surely develops a whole functioning computer on paper. As an experienced HW engineer in my past, I found less of this book novel than I'd expect to be the case for the average programmer. That said, parts of the book still were lots of fun - like the first part dealing with relays and telegraphs. The control and data logic of a basic CPU is also a fun reminder of the simple things that lay in the foundation of our profession. About the last third of the book I found to be not so interesting, as it's a broad overview of the personal computer industry in the late 1990s, which now in 2016 reads a bit archaic.
  • "Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future" by Ashlee Vance - even if one tries to avoid hype, it's hard to not be impressed with Elon Musk's accomplishments in the past two decades. This book does a good job describing the biography of Musk in detail, from his ancestors to very recently (~2014). I was sort-of admiring Musk before reading the book, and I have to admit I admire him even more now. He has incredible vision and execution capabilities, probably unmatched by anyone else today. I've long been lamenting that today's brightest minds spend their time agonizing over social networks, myriads of redundant messaging apps and how to micro-optimize ad revenue instead of focusing on the world's real problems. It turns out that Elon Musk's vision started from exactly the same point of view, and he's been able to execute on it amazingly well - making real progress in several important areas of technology at the same time. It's also very sobering to read this biography right after I re-read "The Fountainhead", since it's easy to draw a lot of parallels, especially w.r.t. overturning existing dogmas and dedication to a clear vision.
  • "HTML & CSS" by Jon Duckett - A beginner's guide to fairly modern HTML and CSS techniques for website design. This book has a very unusual layout - it's made of glossy magazine-like paper full of color. Very unusual for a technical book, and very apt for this particular topic. The presentation is flashy and full of images, so the content density is low. Even though the book looks very big (over 400 pages in fairly thick color paper), the actual amount of content couldn't span more than 100 pages in a regular book - so it's a quick read. Being so quick it doesn't go very deep, but does provide a good introduction and a bunch of interesting examples.
  • "The Go Programming Language" by Alan Donovan and Brian Kernighan - full review.
  • "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott - a two-volume book covering about 15 years in the life of the March family in Concord MA, roughly from the mid 1860s to the late 1870s. The protagonists of the book are the four daughters in the family, each on its own unique life path. I have a feeling that had this book been written today it would be received very cynically; for sure, the overly saintly and sweet portrayals of some family members are something out of this era. Nevertheless, the book is written very well and a pleasure to read. In addition to its historic value, it also contains multiple insightful observations on human nature, relationships within families, among friends and between couples, as well as the value of money.
  • "Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution" by Nick Lane - the author is a professor of biochemistry focusing on evolution. In this book he goes in depth on topics ranging from sight, to breathing, to death - and I mean in depth. The book is extremely heavy on detail, and each chapter feels like a mini-book in itself, completely packed with biological and chemical details, speculations and updates on recent research. Indeed, it took me several months to finish the book in installments because I felt I can't digest too much of it at a time. Also, it's fairly obvious that much of the book is speculative - the author tackles topics we don't really have a full understanding of, and in many places he proposes his opinions and predictions that may or may not be true. As the author himself admits in the epilogue, the book "is full of judgements that stand on the edge of error". That said, overall the book is very interesting, insightful and extremely well written. It certainly leaves me with a curiosity to read more of the author's books.
  • "The History of the United States" by A. Guelzo, G. Gallagher, P. Allitt (audio course) - a comprehensive, 43-hour introductory course to the history of the USA, with special emphasis on the Civil War era. Almost certainly the longest audio book I've ever listened to, and yet the course can cover but little of the subject, of course, mostly serving as a taste of many topics readers can later delve into in more specific courses and books. I liked how the course was put together overall, and learned a lot. Of the three parts, I liked the third one least - both because the lecturer seems to be less savvy in continuous audio speaking, and because I felt many things were left uncovered. That said, even the third part in itself is a pretty good course on the history of 20th century USA.

Re-reads:

  • "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
  • "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand

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