ifdown.net

Reading List

2017

Reading Summary

Reading List

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger - Marc Levinson

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger - Marc Levinson

Finished on 2017-01-11

Lots of small interesting bits tied together with tedium. Worth finishing, but the core message was repeated way too often.

The Queen of the Tearling - Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling - Erika Johansen

Finished on 2017-01-13

Fun, easy reading with a clever mix of sci-fi and fantasy. Traditional story where everything goes just as necessary for the " good guys ". Read it pretty quick, so it can't have been that bad.

The Invasion of the Tearling - Erika Johansen

The Invasion of the Tearling - Erika Johansen

Finished on 2017-01-15

Much better than the first book. Couldn't put it down. Dark and confusing towards the second half.

The Fate of the Tearling - Erika Johansen

The Fate of the Tearling - Erika Johansen

Finished on 2017-01-19

Still a fun, easy, read. The ending was really disappointing.

Red Rising - Pierce Brown

Red Rising - Pierce Brown

Finished on 2017-01-22

Riveting in the style of Hunger Games, but without as much ridiculous teenage angst. One of the best sci-fi books I've read in the last several years.

Both the world building, and the science are expanded on just enough to give the world some mystery. The characters, by and large, make rational decisions and have really human problems. Can't wait to finish the rest of the series.

Golden Son - Pierce Brown

Golden Son - Pierce Brown

Finished on 2017-01-27

Way too many rollercoasters throughout the book and not enough, proper, character development. In the second book of the series, Brown expands the scope of the battle to the solar system but the relationships between characters continues to defy reasoning.

While Darrow's powers of invincibility in Red Rising bordered on parody, the double-double-double-double crossings going on throughout the story of Golden Son became tiresome.

Morning Star - Pierce Brown

Morning Star - Pierce Brown

Finished on 2017-01-31

Solid ending to the series. Drawn out at the beginning, but eventually goes back to the style of the first book; action and plotting.

The ending was "bittersweet" enough that the whole story didn't feel tied together with a bow. Definitely the best sci-fi I've read in awhile. Here's hoping for a television adaptation.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari

Finished on 2017-02-15

Terrible book. All the worst things about the social sciences and pop science rolled into a repetitive package.

Leviathan Wakes - James S. A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes - James S. A. Corey

Finished on 2017-03-02

Good, but not particularly fantastic. Much more interesting than the book, but the plot moves along almost too fast. The main characters are paper thin, and largely unlikeable.

The sci-fi component is interesting, though. Good world building.

Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman

Finished on 2017-03-19

Really well written and cleverly laid out. Good short read, and with some unexpectadly fun stories.

Caliban's War - James S. A. Corey

Caliban's War - James S. A. Corey

Finished on 2017-03-21

Much better than the first book. Way less cheesy, much more interesting story telling. I'm back into the series.

Abaddon's Gate - James S. A. Corey

Abaddon's Gate - James S. A. Corey

Finished on 2017-04-01

Series continues to get better.

Cibola Burn - James S. A. Corey

Cibola Burn - James S. A. Corey

Finished on 2017-04-10

Action is starting to get a bit contrived, but I'm too deep on the series now to stop. At least ghost-Miller is no more.

Nemesis Gate - James S. A. Corey

Nemesis Gate - James S. A. Corey

Finished on 2017-05-01

Series continues to get better.

Babylon's Ashes - James S. A. Corey

Babylon's Ashes - James S. A. Corey

Finished on 2017-05-14

Straying perilously close to boring-middle-book territory, but the ending and political intrigue are enough to carry it. I shouldn't have started a series that's not concluded. The wait for the remaining books is going to be painful.

The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson

Finished on 2017-05-21

The start is a bit rocky. Really annoyed to find out that the books are split into two parts each (book one is actually two physical books!?).

The characters have really started to grow on me. The world is interesting, and the magic/mysticism is present but not the focus of the storytelling.

Can't stand the interludes. Can't stand the flashbacks.

Words of Radiance - Brandon Sanderson

Words of Radiance - Brandon Sanderson

Finished on 2017-05-28

So much boring filler, but the action and overall story are enough to keep it moving forward. I can't believe the third book is going to be even longer.

The Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb

The Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb

Finished on 2017-06-11

Lovely writing, though a bit slow to grab my attention. Great characters, with complex motivations, and just enough mystery.

Python for Data Analysis - Wes McKinney

Python for Data Analysis - Wes McKinney

Finished on 2017-06-24

Intro to numpy/pandas. Learned a few things, but not as useful as I'd hoped.

2016

Reading Summary

Read 28 (2.33 / mo.) books total
20 fiction 8 non-fiction

Reading List

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

Finished on 2016-01-11

While the convergent storylines were clever, and didn't feel forced or unnatural as often happens, they also were ultimately banal and predictable. The post-apocolypse society wasn't fleshed out or particularly believable either.

The rest of the novel was a bore. Rich people doing rich people things. Oh no.

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America - Jill Leovy

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America - Jill Leovy

Finished on 2016-01-26

Fascinating look at homicide in under-represented communities of South L.A. Frustratingly long winded at times, though the main story thread was gripping. One of the most thought provoking theses is that over-policing blacks (and other poor/minorities) for minor crimes, while simultaneously under-policing for serious crimes such as murder is partially what led to fear and hatred of the LAPD amongst these communities.

The epilogue seemed divorced from the narrative of the rest of the book. That is to say, murder rates are dropping precipitously in South L.A. even without drastic change in policy. This is ascribed to better social security and health care, but that seems too simple to me.

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship - Robert Kurson

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship - Robert Kurson

Finished on 2016-02-08

At times, eye-rolling-ly contrived. The characters portrayed in the book are far too larger than life to be accurately represented. Much of the book felt like padding to get to page-count. The best bits were about the history of pirates, but they were few and far between.

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman - Jon Krakauer

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman - Jon Krakauer

Finished on 2016-02-20

As detailed and well written as most Krakauer, but lacking in focus. Lots of meandering around the pschye of the nation post-9/11 and of the Bush administrations criminality.

The way the army handled Tillman's death was, of course, literally criminal. However, I struggled to find meaning in searching out his real cause of death. After all, he was killed — like so many others — in an unjust war, in a foreign land, following orders he didn't believe in. No matter what the reason, he remains dead.

Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchett

Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchett

Finished on 2016-02-28

Clever, and funny. Fantastic writing. The phonentic spelling got tedius, and led to a lot of confusion. The lack of chapters and constant switching of settings was hard to follow in an e-book where the separation wasn't clear enough.

Good enough to keep me reading the Discoworld series for at least a few more books in the night's watch thread.

Men at Arms - Terry Pratchett

Men at Arms - Terry Pratchett

Finished on 2016-03-25

Phonetic spelling got much better in this book, and the political overtones (herein: racism/discrimination) come to the forefront. The characters continue to flesh themselves out, both Vimes and Carrot being the most interesting.

Better than the first, definitely carrying on with the Watch thread. How had I not read Pratchett before? I really see how it's classic.

Feet of Clay - Terry Pratchett

Feet of Clay - Terry Pratchett

Finished on 2016-03-25

The Watch thread definitely coming into it's own. Just as good as the last (better?) and will keep me going.

Jingo - Terry Pratchett

Jingo - Terry Pratchett

Finished on 2016-03-30

Too much binging on Pratchett at this point, I think. Not really a fan of this one. Didn't feel as magical or interesting as the first books in the watch thread.

Off to Be the Wizard - Scott Meyer

Off to Be the Wizard - Scott Meyer

Finished on 2016-06-25

Lots of "nerdy" pop culture references that don't really click with me. Quick and easy read, though. Interesting concept, but the hero's journey and the bad guy really felt forced.

All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque

Finished on 2016-06-27

It took over a year to finish, but finally happened. One of the saddest and most uncomfortable things I've ever read. Glory, honour, pride are irrelevant. The war of the anyman is pointless trauma and meaningless sacrifice. Where Catch-22 treated it with humour, Remarque treats it with brutal realism.

The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Carribean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down - Colin Woodard

The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Carribean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down - Colin Woodard

Finished on 2016-07-21

For the life of my I cannot figure out why this book got such rave reviews. I could not imagine a more boring book about pirates.

The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America - Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America - Erik Larson

Finished on 2016-07-31

Beautiful writing, and a very interesting parallel set of stories. The beginning of the fair thread, in particular, was incredibly interesting.

Even the murder "mystery" was excellent, though it certainly made me grateful for modern policing.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance - Angela Duckworth

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance - Angela Duckworth

Finished on 2016-08-05

The underlying message of; "hard work and perserverence are the biggest predictors of success" is something that ultimately is difficult to argue with.

The book fails to address the difference between extreme performers, do some of them really just outwork the others? The interlude about smarter, intentional practice, was particularly infuriating since the unstated premise is that knowing how to do so isn't a problem in its own right.

Eventually, the number of anecdata and interviews with successful individuals becomes tiresome. The core take away was the goal setting approach that Duckworth advocates for — Maintain high-level goals and validate them with mid-level goals.

The Quantum Thief - Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum Thief - Hannu Rajaniemi

Finished on 2016-08-20

Gibsonian sci-fi. Lots of jargon and slang. I loved the weapons concepts, and the "twist" at the end was unexpected. I'm not sure I'm inspired to read the remaining books in the trilogy, but I should follow up with more from the author.

The Last Continent - Terry Pratchett

The Last Continent - Terry Pratchett

Finished on 2016-09-10

More Pratchett. Forgettable. The Australian humour was fun at first, but quickly gets old.

Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival - Peter Stark

Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival - Peter Stark

Finished on 2016-09-28

The best adventure book I've read in ages, with the exception of an ending that fizzles out (one can hardly blame the author for the history, but the ending still felt rather abrupt).

The accounts of interaction with Native Americans/First Nations is deepling interesting, as was imagining the wearwithall that must have been required to survive either the overland trek or the sea voyage.

The Fifth Season - N. K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season - N. K. Jemisin

Finished on 2016-10-01

Finally! Some original fantasy that doesn't involve thousands of pages of world-building snoozefests. More than anything the series reminds me of the Avatar series; part magic, part coming of age, and part political intrigue and mystery. Weaving all three plots together was a satisfying, and mostly unexpected, twist.

The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass - Philip Pullman

Finished on 2016-10-04

Haven't read this for a decade. Strong beginning and middle, and a very weak ending. Excellent audio book production.

The Obelisk Gate - N. K. Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate - N. K. Jemisin

Finished on 2016-10-08

Much slower than the first book, but the story progresses and the world building never feels overbearing. Ultimately the story was only enough to whet my appetite for the third book, and I was left unsatisfied.

The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman

The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman

Finished on 2016-10-29

Same as The Golden Compass.

The Fractal Prince - Hannu Rajaniemi

The Fractal Prince - Hannu Rajaniemi

Finished on 2016-11-03

Better than the first book, though the gap between reading them made the jargon often confusing. The play on " Arabian Nights " was fun, but ultimately the most unsatisfying part of the book.

The series really strikes me as, unfortunately, needing a second read to fully appreciate all that's going on.

The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman

Finished on 2016-11-04

So much exposition! This book has so many pointless storylines that could have been completely omitted without affecting the outcome.

The ending of the series was excellent, and didn't fall into the happy-ever-after trope that one might think.

The romance is just as cringe-worthy as real, actual, adolescent romance.

The Call of the Wild - Jack London

The Call of the Wild - Jack London

Finished on 2016-11-06

After many years, reading a London story feels like returning home. The vibrancy and vivid detail that he uses to describe the settings is gripping.

Still a book that inspires me.

The Causal Angel - Hannu Rajaniemi

The Causal Angel - Hannu Rajaniemi

Finished on 2016-11-08

Best book of the series, and I remain impressed that all the loose ends managed to get tied up. I love the different descriptions between the Zoku and the Sobernost.

Perfect ending. Can't wait for more from Rajaniemi.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging - Sebastian Junger

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging - Sebastian Junger

Finished on 2016-11-11

Less focus on the anthropology and psychology than I would have expected. Way too much time discussing communal treatment of PTSD, and PTSD in general. Generally disappointing.

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits - David Wong

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits - David Wong

Finished on 2016-11-12

Terrible, nonsensicle, plot. Stupid characters. None of the humour of David's previous books makes it through. Just a terrible book from start to finish.

Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson

Finished on 2016-12-11

A re-read after many years. Absolutely fascinating how much Neal got right, but also the things that he missed. Hopefully not a prescient view of the future of governance.

The Diamond Age - Neal Stephenson

The Diamond Age - Neal Stephenson

Finished on 2016-12-22

A re-read after many years. Remains as I remember: a brilliant first half, and a totally uninspired ending.

2015

Reading Summary

Read 31 (2.58 / mo.) books total
23 fiction 8 non-fiction

Reading List

Acceptance - Jeff VanderMeer

Acceptance - Jeff VanderMeer

Finished on 2015-01-10

A disappointed end to a great trilogy. The mystery of Area X continued without any real answers that were forthcoming. At the same time, the character development stalled completely.

By the end, not much had really happened. There were many more story threads than in the other two books, but only Saul's (the lighthouse keeper) resonated in any way, and then only a bit.

Peripheral - William Gibson

Peripheral - William Gibson

Finished on 2015-02-10

Very dense. Scott mentioned that he thought it was crazy-super-dense even for Gibson, but I thought Neuromancer was harder to get a grasp on. I really like the idea of the past being a communicable place that rich plutocrats from the future pillage. I thought the tech was mostly unimaginative, but maybe that's my cynicism.

The “romance” between Flynn and Netherton was boring. Most of the characters were underdeveloped. The ending happened too abruptly (And then… everything worked out happily ever after!), and the mystery and motivations of the bad guys was completely undeveloped.

The House of Silk - Anthony Horowitz

The House of Silk - Anthony Horowitz

Finished on 2015-03-01

Brilliant new and riveting Holmes story. Nothing not to like other than it ended. I'm hopeful that Horwitz's other Holmes books are as good.

The twist of how things connected at the end was unexpected, including the wife-cum-killer and the husband pedophile. Watson's internal narrative set the stage brilliantly. The only thing that could have been added was more of an insight into Holmes himself. But maybe that's the charm of the Sherlock stories?

The Martian - Andy Weir

The Martian - Andy Weir

Finished on 2015-03-07

Interesting take on the classic survival story. Mark Watney is a bit of a campy character. Too much “lol'ing”. The survival bits are fascinating, and the maths is cool. However, it dragged on a bit longer than was necessary - and at every turn something going wrong was tiresome. None of the other characters were ever really explored (perhaps that was the point).

Overall, it was a page turner. I finished it fast, unable to put it down.

Moriarty - Anthony Horowitz

Moriarty - Anthony Horowitz

Finished on 2015-03-15

Excellent twist, kept mostly hidden until the end (though at the point the reader is surely starting to guess).

Moriarty himself describes Holmes as bumbling and childish never really a rival at all shattering quite a lot of the illusion. Especially since... if he was really all that brilliant - How did Devoreaux start to take over across the pond to begin with?

Overall, a good book but disappointing following on the heals of the first. Here's hoping Horowitz makes a return to the Holmesian style in the next edition.

The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James Brown

Finished on 2015-04-05

Fantastic story. I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed it. The era when sports meant heart and not dollars is sadly past. The back drop of the depression along with the coming tide of WWII cast against west coast blue collar workers was fantastic.

It's hard not to be inspired by the story of Joe Rantz and the other boys. It's hard not to be jealous of the kind of comradery shown by the crew.

Grippingly written. Not a book to be put down.

Solaris - Stanisław Lem

Solaris - Stanisław Lem

Finished on 2015-05-20

A psychological thriller throughout. The first half or so was extremely good, the explanation of the living planet and the confusion oozes through the pages.

As the book procedes, though, it shifts its gaze increasingly towards its navel. Pontificating on all kinds of probably-philosophical-but-ultimately-boring existentialism. Should have powered through the final half, but found it extremely difficult. Not as clear a sci-fi statement on the real world as most classics.

I Am the Messenger - Markus Zusak

I Am the Messenger - Markus Zusak

Finished on 2015-06-06

Strong beginning, but wavers heavily towards the end. The message that “normal” people have the opportunity to be great, all they have to do is pay attention was paper thin. The romance coming together at the end was cheesy.

However, being set in Sydney there was lots of interesting Australian-isms. Zusak, just like in The Book Thief, wrote engagingly. I didn't really put the book down once I started, but felt unsatisfied at the end.

Where'd You Go Bernadette - Maria Semple

Where'd You Go Bernadette - Maria Semple

Finished on 2015-06-09

Charming story, and a very interesting concept. Throughout the book the only character that I didn't think was a total jerk was Bee (the girl writing). Bernadette was a prima donna, too focused on herself and judgemental of others. The dad, out of nowhere, went from foundation solid to off the rails crazy.

All of the other women were catty and gossipy, complete stereotypes. Only once in the book did Bee finally recognise the privilege that she was born into.

I loved the way the characters were explored, and the ending was about as good as it possibly could have been.

Call for the Dead - John le Carré

Call for the Dead - John le Carré

Finished on 2015-07-16

Completely forgettable.

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

Finished on 2015-07-20

Filled with irrational people and their problems. The way the story unfolded was well executed, but the “twist” felt forced.

The characterisation of alcoholism was, I think, the best part of the book, and Rachel's character kept me the most engaged. Definitely an improbable amount of fucked-up people in such a small vicinity of one another, though. The epilogue felt as if the book had to have a happy ending.

Armada - Ernet Cline

Armada - Ernet Cline

Finished on 2015-07-24

Pretty awesome. A self-aware novelisation (/s) of “The Last Starfighter” with a twist of Star Trek. The writing, as with Ready Player One, was informal and funny.

The 80's trivia/pop-culture was a bit much, this time around though. In Ready Player One it felt like it was taking a bit of the piss, but here it feels forced.

A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

Finished on 2015-08-06

What's to say here that hasn't already been written. ASOIAF is a fantasy epic, mostly readable series, and after spending a bunch more time understanding the lore and history of Westeros is even more interesting. The books start to slow as they get deeper into world building, but the eschewing of fantasy tropes keeps them engaging enough to continue.

A Clash of Kings - George R.R. Martin

A Clash of Kings - George R.R. Martin

Finished on 2015-08-16

(see - A Game of Thrones)

A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin

A Storm of Swords - George R.R. Martin

Finished on 2015-08-27

(see - A Game of Thrones)

The Phoenix Project - Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford

The Phoenix Project - Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford

Finished on 2015-09-10

The first time I've read a “work” book and not just learned something, but enjoyed the ride. Obviously a parable, but well written enough that I didn't care. Has inspired me to read “The Toyota Way” and perhaps pursue more thinking about manufacturing approaches.

When Google Met Wikileaks - Julian Assange

When Google Met Wikileaks - Julian Assange

Finished on 2015-09-10

Julian is such an inspired thinker. Both the interview and his polemic against Eric Schmidt as commentary of the aftermath is particularly insightful. The footnotes were often such a distraction that I had a hard time following the thought train.

Assange's insights into Namecoin and Bitcoin were especially interesting. I wish I would have read this interview years ago. Where was this when I was a kid?

A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin

A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin

Finished on 2015-09-15

(see - A Game of Thrones)

A Dance With Dragons - George R.R. Martin

A Dance With Dragons - George R.R. Martin

Finished on 2015-09-28

(see - A Game of Thrones)

Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie

Finished on 2015-10-13

Interesting story, that takes until about halfway through to really come together. I love the play with languages and the broader themes feel very much like the The Foundation series.

The inner monologue of Justice of Toren made him the most sympathetic character in the book. So many of the other characters left me wondering about their motivations. Like a William Gibson novel, the depth of the vernacular left me confused for large portions "-" especially when talking about gender.

Shakespeare: The World as a Stage - Bill Bryson

Shakespeare: The World as a Stage - Bill Bryson

Finished on 2015-10-26

Typical Bill Bryson wit can't rescue a topic that is relatively devoid of factual information. The book can basically be summarized as "- We don't know much".

I appreciate that the book did a good job of addressing some of the more pernicious of Shakespearean myths (he was multiple persons, he was Lord Byron, etc). Some of the history of London itself was interesting, and especially with respect to what I know about Elizabethan society, some time was spend not just on the court and the nobles, but on daily life.

Overall, not a disappointment, but not the best of Bill's work.

One Bullet Away: The making of a US Marine Officer - Nathaniel Fick

One Bullet Away: The making of a US Marine Officer - Nathaniel Fick

Finished on 2015-10-27

A thought provoking foray into the pleasures and sorrows of the military. Fick, as an ivy-league liberal, is convinced by the ROTC recruiter to try a 10-week summer intro to the Marines (pre-September 11th). In this he gets the itch of comraderie and challenge.

One quote from the recruiter, in response to a comment from a student about how having ROTC on campus went against the morals of the school (paraphrased) "- It's good that the ROTC is on campus because the university needs to liberalize the military"

The middle of the book is largely a recounting of the 2002 invasion of Iraq from the perspective of a ground soldier, and from a bloodthirsty American public. Ultimately I found this part of the book too procedural, and found my interest waning.

As the book progresses towards the end, Fick becomes more and more conservative. By the end (once he's finished his 4-year stint) he's alienated his friends and family. They're unable to understand his perspective, and he theirs.

Altered Carbon - Richard Morgan

Altered Carbon - Richard Morgan

Finished on 2015-10-31

Film noír cyber punk, what's not to like? Slightly longer than I thought necessary, and more than a little formulaic, nevertheless "-" a guilty pleasure.

The premise of digitised humans, where the limiting factor is cost, paints a world where only the rich can be both immortal and all powerful.

The sex scenes were written for 14 year olds, and the hand to hand combat references to karate and other Japanesisms were eye-roll inducing. The who-done-it and raw grit of the story, while predictable, did the genre justice in the future-tech world.

Daemon - Daniel Suarez

Daemon - Daniel Suarez

Finished on 2015-11-07

Surprising and twisting thriller. The book starts off as your standard who-done-it thriller with a hard-boiled detective. Eventually it departs from that and turns into more of a sci-fi-cum-political story in the vein of Doctorow.

Some sections drag on, and the " Bad Guys " seem unflinchingly successful or foiled only by a new technological (literal) Deus Ex Machina.

Freedom (TM) - Daniel Suarez

Freedom (TM) - Daniel Suarez

Finished on 2015-11-09

A much more politically-centric continuation of the first book. Largely I felt that Suarez didn't tackle the hard questions, leaving the reader to suspend a substantial amount of disbelief to arrive at the distributed utopia created by a machine AI gone wild.

Ultimately I felt that the augmented reality & gamification ideas were fun, but derivative.

The series as a whole was fun, and engaging enough, but ultimately lacked substance.

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World - Edward Dolnick

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World - Edward Dolnick

Finished on 2015-11-13

Amazing! I've never been so engaged with a book about the history of mathematics. Dolnick spreads the context of the age of discovery over every one of the unique personalities involved. From Kepler & Brahe to Newton & Leibniz, the transition from the classical world to the modern one is told in fascinating detail.

Not only does Dolnick describe the how and why, but delves deeply into their relationships and interactions. Has there ever been a group so vain and so righteous in that vanity than the early Royal Society?

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden - Jonas Jonasson

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden - Jonas Jonasson

Finished on 2015-11-16

Beautiful novel. I loved all of the characters and the writing was superb. The comedy style reminded me of the style in Catch-22, though certainly less dark towards the end. The book drags on a bit towards the end, but ultimately wraps itself up nicely. Will be looking at more books by Jonasson.

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt - Michael Lewis

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt - Michael Lewis

Finished on 2015-12-15

Interesting view from some Wall Street insiders about how technology has changed trading in the modern era.

I was unimpressed with much of the description of technologists and their ethics, capabilities and responsibilities. Describing shipping proprietary code owned by your employer offsite against both criminal law and contractual obligations as something many Wall Street techies did can be viewed either as a gross misunderstanding or a depressing view into vocational ethics.

The total lack of input from the side of HFT throughout the book is a bit deafening, especially since the deeper an understanding Brad Katsuyama and IEX get of HFT firms, the more they realise that the bigger banks are the ones enabling many of the more complicated trading strategies that favour HFT. Despite this, HFT remains the villain throughout.

Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig - Mark Essig

Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig - Mark Essig

Finished on 2015-12-20

Some really interesting history about the pig, especially the role it played in westward expansion and exploration. By the end, though, the book was dragging on and had gotten quite repetitive.

One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway - Asne Seierstad (Author), Sarah Death (Translator)

One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway - Asne Seierstad (Author), Sarah Death (Translator)

Finished on 2015-12-22

A humanising look at one of the right-wing monsters of the post-9/11 era. Breivik's life is explored from beginning to end, engagingly written and darkly fascinating.

One of the most interesting books of the year, to be sure. One of the most interesting things to take away from this is how little the extreme right's message has changed over the years - Women are objects, brown people are fine as long as they don't mix with whites or " white culture ", men should be men and other toxic masculinity tropes.

I can't help but be left wondering how much impact the slaughter of so many soon-to-be politicos has had on Norway's future. Has Breivik's attack had a similar effect as Yitzhak Rabin's assassination did in Israel?

Definitely one to recommend.

The Sellout: A Novel - Paul Beatty

The Sellout: A Novel - Paul Beatty

Finished on 2015-12-31

Less satire and more memoir than expected. The navel gazing was a bit much at times.

The beginning set a brilliant tone, but the ending left something to be desired. Nevertheless, the best book on race that I've read in a long while.