• "A Mind for Numbers" by Barbara Oakley - (A companion book to the MOOC "Learning how to learn"). A mixture of some trivial effective learning tips and general feely-goody advice. I suppose this book could be useful for high-school students, or maybe college students in the first semesters. Above that level of experience I don't think it's worth the time.
  • "Working Effectively with Legacy Code" by Michael C. Feathers - full review.
  • "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined" by Steven Pinker - a very thorough study of the steady decline in violence in the last few centuries (yes, including the world wars of the 20th). Interesting and convincing, but as is typical for Pinker, a bit too verbose. I think it would be a much better book if it dropped a bunch of marginally relevant information Pinker finds hard to stop talking about (brain structure, various social behavior studies, etc.) and as a result slimmed down from its 800+ dense pages to something like half that size. If you've never read any other books by Pinker or other authors who write on these subjects, though, you may found a larger portion of the book interesting. YMMV but recommended overall.
  • "The Tao Is Silent" by Raymond M. Smullyan - Disguised as an introduction to Taoism, this is a scattered overview of the author's philosophy of life; Taoism is a prominent part of it, but there's no real attempt made to explain it. Unfortunately, the book's writing style is of a kind I dislike - too much cleverness, going in circles and jumping to seemingly unrelated topics. It did give me a taste to learn more about Taoism, but I'll have to look elsewhere for that.
  • "Beneath a Scarlet Sky" by Mark Sullivan - a true-story novel about the Italian resistance during the final stages of WWII, focusing on a 18-year old protagonist and his role in helping smuggle Jews across the Alps and spying on a high-rank Nazi general while being his personal driver. Not the best writing, but an engaging read regardless. Very interesting story about a part of the war I haven't heard much before.
  • "The Tao of Pooh" by Benjamin Hoff - An unusual approach to teaching philosophy; the author attempts to explain some of the basics of Taoism by setting Winnie the Pooh as an example. It feels a forced at times and a bit too hippie for me (all this science is ruining the earth, let's stop doing it, stories of people living to age 260, etc.), but overall an enjoyable little book. It's certainly a vastly better introduction to Taoism than Smullyan's nonsense. Very light, entertaining quick read.
  • "The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh" by A.A. Milne - No my usual fare :) I read tons of children's books with my kids but don't really post reviews. Pooh is different because it's fairly long (comparable to adult books) and I also feel it really caters for older audiences. I was inspired to finally read it cover-to-cover after "The Tao of Pooh", being curious whether I can spot the Taoist stuff without annotation. I couldn't, and it seems like Benjamin Hoff extracted every bit of teachable Pooh moment into "The Tao of Pooh". I was surprised by the number of stories I haven't heard before - it seems that all modern depictions of Pooh focus on 3-4 of the most popular stories and leave all the rest out. Overall it's a great book as the characters all represent different human traits that are pretty easy to understand and follow.
  • "The Way of Zen" by Alan W. Watts - An very good introduction to Taoism and Zen Buddhism, inasmuch as these topics can be described in book form. I particularly liked the author's explanation of how Westerners may perceive the world a bit differently from the cultures where Zen originated, due to fundamental differences in language, and how this can make spiritual topics more difficult to understand - one of the best examples of the Sapir Whorf hypothesis I read anywhere.
  • "The Epigenetics Revolution" by Nessa Carey - A very interesting popular account of the recent advances in epigenetic research, which is anything pertaining to varying expression of genes in different cells and in the same cells throughout cellular development. Fairly well written, though occasionally it's clear the author is a biology PhD who assumes a bit too much about the readers' knowledge - I had to read parts of the book twice to understand them better. Epigenetics is an exciting field that expands our knowledge beyond the basic understanding of what genes are, and it's really cool to see how rapidly this field is advancing in the last 10-15 years.
  • "Learn You a Haskell for Great Good" by Miran Lipovaca - a Haskell book for beginners. Feels more like a collection of introductory blog posts than a cohesive book; can serve as a quick, light introduction to Haskell but not much more than that. Haskell has one of the steepest learning curves in modern languages, and this book's approach is not helpful. It rarely goes deep into the why of things, mostly a sequence of how, uses silly childish examples instead of real, useful ones, and has no exercises.
  • "NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children" by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman - presents some interesting new research about child development, with varying topics from sibling rivalry to academic success. One of the key messages is that children's brains are inherently different from adults (until they fully develop), and hence strategies that make sense for developing adults don't necessarily make sense for children. Interestingly, it seems that some of the topics the book discusses were already implemented in mainstream education (for example praising for effort and not for intelligence). On the down side I found the last third or so of the book less interesting; especially the research on speech development in babies seems very inconclusive and page-fill-ery.
  • "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea" by Barbara Demick - an awesome documentary account of the life in North Korea in the 1990s and early 2000s, recounted from interviews with North Korean defectors to South Korea. The books is written as a series of intertwined personal stories of 6 North Koreans about their life in the reclusive country. The result is an extremely well drawn portrait of North Korea - very interesting book, I learned a lot.
  • "Naked Statistics" by Charles Wheelan - A simplified introduction to statistics, peppered with many anecdotes and real-life examples of statistical studies. Nice book, but far from the greatness of "Naked Economics" by the same author. Somehow I feel that far less material has been covered here, perhaps because the author tried to go deeper in some topics. For folks not familiar with statistics at all, this book may be more insightful and enjoyable.
  • "El Prisionero del Cielo" by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (read in Spanish) - a continuation of La Sombra del Viento and Juego del ángel. Similar tone, style and beautiful writing, but somewhat short on content IMHO. There's just not much happening in this book except the story of Fermin's incarceration.
  • "Everybody's Fool" by Richard Russo - a follow-up on "Nobody's Fool", happening about a decade later. Mostly the same characters, and a very similar vibe. Amazing writing, as usual, from Russo.

Re-reads:

  • "A Random Walk Down Wall Street" by Burton Malkiel
  • "A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy" by William B. Irvine

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