• "Neuland" by Eshkol Nevo (read in Hebrew) - a fast-paced novel taking place mostly in Israel and in South America. The plot is very ambitious, with a lot of motives. Not all are handled perfectly, but eventually the author manages to steer the book to a safe haven.
  • "Azazel" by Boris Akunin (read in Russian) - this book's English translated name is "The winter queen". The first in the Fandorin series, a fast-moving detective story. Although enjoyable overall, I found this book a bit chaotic, with a lot of events happening too quickly.
  • "The Little Golden Calf" by Ilf and Petrov (read in Russian) - another satirical novel by these authors, somewhat similar to the "12 chairs" (and featuring the same protagonist). Also fun to read, addressing pretty much the same issues of early Soviet society. Somewhere in the second half it gets a bit slow and unfocused, but eventually the ending is very good.
  • "Start-up Nation, The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle" by Dan Senor and Saul Singer - The main goal of this book is to explore the phenomenon that is Israel's technological start-up scene (Israel has by far more per-capita startups and VC investments than any other nation on earth). It appears to be very well researched (with dozens of references, with sources, for each chapter) and also is quite well written. We Israelis have a lot of self-criticism, so I was fearing this book would be romanticizing Israel too much. Well, it does romanticize, but not too much :-) The authors also succeed in staying a-political, which is very important - keeping it objective can actually reach larger audiences. Nevertheless, no matter how you look at it, the book is awesome PR for Israel, which probably explains why they got Shimon Peres writing a forward for it, and interviews with many seniors in the country.
  • "The Art of Learning" by Josh Waitzkin - an auto-biographic book by a very impressive guy who was junior US chess champion for a few years, and as an older man (in his 20s) became a world champion in the combat form of Tai Chi Chuan. His aim in the book is to explain some of the insights he gained about learning and reaching excellence. The book is very well written and fun to read. However, I didn't really find anything too profound in the author's advice. The only real lesson I learned from this book is that to be really good, in addition to talent, one needs a lot of dedication and hard work. It's incredible how much time Waitzkin was spending on chess as a child, and how much time he was spending on his martial arts training later in life, constantly striving to improve. Finishing one training day, pondering about his weak points and working for hours on each of them in the next days. It really shows you what it takes to be among the best in your craft. That's inspiring.
  • "The Young Yagers" by Mayne Reid - this was a nostalgic read for me. I fondly recall days spent engrossed in Mayne Reid's adventure books as a kid, so I decided to give it a shot as an adult. Alas, I probably picked the wrong book - this one is a loose collection of hunting stories (with apparent continuity, but really it's unrelated stories strung together). Each story in itself is fun, very well written, with a lot of interesting details about the flora and fauna of Africa. But when reading them in succession, the stories quickly become boring so I had to pace my reading (reading no more than two or three stories per day). Mayne Reid is a very good writer - I just have to find one of his better books.
  • "The Greatest Show on Earth" by Richard Dawkins - Dawkins's attempt to explain in layman language why evolution is correct and creationism is not. His style is characteristically militant towards creationism, and similarly to "The God Delusion" it's hard to envision a devoted creationist reading past the first few pages. If anything is preaching to the choir - it's this book. Not that there's anything wrong with it, and the author freely admits that the main goal of the book is to provide "intellectual ammunition" to proponents of evolution in debates versus creationists. I personally am not really into debates, but I enjoyed this book a lot. It truly has a lot of interesting scientific information in it, written in Dawkins's typical lively style; it's lots of fun to read. The parts I liked best are the one about the (non-)missing fossil record, and the one about various imperfections in living bodies and why they exist.


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