• "Cuckoo's Egg" by Clifford Stoll - a detailed account of the author's following a hacker breaking into pre-internet computer networks (in the 1980s). Very interesting historical perspective on computing and early security concerns - how simple and naive those times were! I wish the book would be shorter though.
  • "Educated: A Memoir" by Tara Westover - the author grew up in a survivalist Mormon family in Idaho, with zero education until late teens, and parents who refused any formal contact with the establishment (no birth certificates, no medical care, etc). This is her autobiographic account, focusing on her quest for formal education and her complicated, corrosive relationship with her family. A rather disturbing book in many aspects, but very good writing.
  • "Docker Deep Dive" by Nigel Poulton - an overview of using Docker, detailing many advanced features in addition to the simple things. While I think this is a good reference book, I'm less sure about its value as a tutorial. Similarly to my complaints about the author's Kubernetes book, too much is spent on the how and too little on the why. This book feels like a certification exam preparation text (which it is, to some degree). Since Docker as a technology is not hard to understand this is less of a problem for this book, but still something that could be improved.
  • "Designing Data-Intensive Applications" by Martin Kleppmann - an extensive overview of modern data-processing and distributed systems - databases, stream processing, distributed locking/concensus, and so on. Hard to do this book justice in a single reading - I'm pretty sure its main utility is as a reference. It's a truly massive book, and quite a test to read cover to cover. As opposed to most programming books it doesn't have many diagrams, and almost no code snippets - it's all walls of text, page after page. The author has spent 4 years researching and writing the book, and it shows. Overall I thought it's really good and am looking forward to using it as a reference. Much of the distributed systems literature is dated, and this book serves as an excellent bridge from theory (textbooks, Lamport papers, and so on) to modern applications.
  • "Your Money or Your Life" by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez - the classic bible of the FI/RE (financial independence / retire early movement), originally published in 1992 and revised in 2008 with some more modern material. The basic premise is "strictly track your earnings / spending, minimize spending through frugality to get out of debt / earn enough to live off interest, investments as early retirement". It was probably easier to achieve when the book was originally written and treasury bonds had double digit % returns :-) It's interesting to see where the modern FI/RE movement came from, but otherwise I didn't find much new in this book. Even if you don't really intend to retire early, the ideas in the book are interesting. I'd think it would be very useful to read for folks who feel they don't have a good control of their finances, and if they haven't heard of these ideas before the book is a reasonably good introduction.
  • "Comet" by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan - everything you wanted to know (and probably more than you imagined there is to know) about comets - their history, properties, future. Great Carl Sagan writing as usual, though a bit outdated now, having been written in 1985. I wish Sagan would live to see all the recent advances in astronomy and space exploration - the comet landing mission for example (Rosetta).
  • "Dismantling America" by Thomas Sowell - a collection of Sowell's essays on various issues in the USA circa 2008-2010. Very good writing as usual - it's interesting how I agree with Sowell on many financial topics, but not so much on the topics of human rights. Sowell seems to be taking a Republican view with a more radicalized laissez-faire bend in economics. Many of the essays are repetitive, and some of them are not really on topics that are interesting outside their immediate time frame (for example the Duke Lacrosse team rape trial, to which several chapters are dedicated). Overall an interesting read, no matter which side of the political divide you are.
  • "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho - a re-read, but the first time I read this book was before 2003 so there's no review on record. I think I'm completely missing the point of this book - it's so highly acclaimed, yet I totally fail to get all the mysticism, spirituality and applicable life lessons here. Didn't enjoy it at all.
  • "Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams" by Matthew Walker - this book will certainly give serious food for thought to many people. It tries to explain why the natural sleep period of 7-9 hours is critical for health and mental development in humans. The author makes a convincing case, though I found a book a bit too preachy at times. It reminds me of all the other books talking about X and presenting X to be the source of all good, while lack of X is the source of all evil. Moreover, it's disappointing how little we really know about sleep - most of the cited research results are circumstantial evidence at best; this is not much different from other medical research, unfortunately. In any case, these shouldn't detract from the value of reading this book. Especially if you believe you "don't need much sleep", it's a very important read.
  • "How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life" by Massimo Pigliucci - another modern take on stoicism. The book is not too bad overall, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you're really into the ancient sources - especially the writings of Epictetus. For a guide to stoicism, Irvine's book is much superior to this one.
  • "Seven Databases in Seven Weeks" by Perkins, Redmond and Wilson - a quick comparison and overview of PostgreSQL, MongoDB, CouchDB, Redis, Neo4J, HBase and DynamoDB. The book's subtitle is "A guide to modern databases and the NoSQL movement", and one of the things it tries to uncover is how the new "NoSQL" databases are different from established RDBMSs like Postges. A nice book overall, though IMHO it lacks depth. About 90% of it is spent on simple tutorial-level introductions to the databases, and the examples are mostly toys. I suppose it's understandable since the differences between such tools are rarely easy to define very accurately.
  • "Digital Minimalism" by Cal Newport - a manifesto of reducing social media consumption and other modern distractions. Although the book is chatty, it's definitely useful - especially for people who spend a lot of time daily consuming information on their phones.
  • "Walden, or Life in the Woods" by Henry David Thoreau - a classic of American literature published in 1854. The main theme of the book is praise of "simple living", one of the earliest insiprations of modern frugal living movements. Thoreau describes the several years he spent living in a self-constructed wooden cabin next to the Walden pond (on the outskirts of Concord, MA). As usual for me, it's not very easy to read books from so far back - the writing style is very unfamiliar. It's part autobiography, part economics, part essays on human nature and the beauty of the natural world.
  • "Get Well Soon: History‚Äôs Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them" by Jennifer Wright - a quick and enjoyable read, despite the grim topic. The writing is very good, but a bit too fluffy with a lot of detours to unrelated stuff. It's almost as if there wasn't that much to write about the plagues themselves - which is a good sign, I guess? Seriously though, it would be better to get some more medical details about the diseases and their cures, and less background historical information.

Re-reads:

  • "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt
  • "The Price of Privelege" by Madeline Levine
  • "The Pastures of Heaven" by John Steinbeck