This year I read 40 books. I’m almost done with a few more really long books but I’m saving them for next year. My goal was to read only 25 books — I think I figured that my reading would drop off with trying to work on creating practical blocks of code and learning algorithms, but I also did a bit of traveling up and down the coast, so that allowed for more reading time.
They are rated from 1 to 10. I rated 10 of the 40 books this year a 10. As always, the books I think are absolutely worth reading and which I think say something profound or new are rated at a 10. Rarely do I rate below a 6, just because I wouldn’t have chosen to read the book anyway if I knew it was that bad. 9’s and 8’s are usually solid books, but not must-reads. 7’s I appreciated the content and was satisfied with my choosing to read them.
This year I added very very brief comments giving my 2-second gut review.
- (6) The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney – Michael Barrier (ended up disliking Disney/Walt more after this, for no reason)
- (10) Jim Henson: The Biography – Brian Jay Jones (Henson was a genius; can’t imagine a better book)
- (7) Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate – Rose George (reveals overlooked industry)
- (10) The C Programming Language – Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie (the definitive beginner with tedious examples that help you learn C the established way)
- (8) Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove – Ahmir Questlove Thompson (dude loves music but perhaps too early for his autobio to be written)
- (9) Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War – Robert Gates (a true man of service and a realist)
- (8) Epic: Form, Content, and History – Frederick Turner (should be required reading for lit students)
- (8) Rod Laver: A Memoir – Rod Laver (you have no idea how tennis used to be before the modern era)
- (9) Influx – Daniel Suarez (great author but silly floaty bubble things)
- (10) Red Sparrow: A Novel – Jason Matthews (wonderful tradecraft & professional characters)
- (10) Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness – Susannah Cahalan (fascinating & revealing for future diagnoses)
- (7) Introduction to Algorithms – Corsen, Leiserson, Rivest, Stein (dense; requires multiple readings)
- (9) Cracking the Coding Interview: 150 Programming Questions and Answers – Gayle Laakmann McDowell (required reading for interview prep & CS studies)
- (8) The Go Programming Language Phrasebook – David Chisnall (concise, explains key perks of Golang)
- (6) Chinese Intelligence Operations – Nicholas Eftimiades (better guides online)
- (7) The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas (long as fuck)
- (8) The Spy Who Came in From the Cold – John le Carré (not as good as people make it out to be)
- (9) Scaling PHP Applications – Stephen Corona (easy-to-read, great overview!)
- (10) Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed – Ben Rich (fantastic read w/ insights into real engineering)
- (10) Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftmanship – Robert C. Martin (must-read from a coding great)
- (6) Object-Oriented Data Structures Using Java – Nell Dale (tough to follow)
- (8) All Eyes East: How Chinese Youth Will Revolutionize Global Marketing – Mary Bergstrom (good primer on Chinese youth)
- (6) C++: Effective Object-Oriented Construction – Kayshav Dattatri (really thorough but too high-level for me right now)
- (10) Ready Player One – Ernest Cline (awesome metaverse)
- (6) Five Points: The Nineteenth-Century New York City Neighborhood – Tyler Anbinder (Scorsese exaggerated)
- (7) Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants – Robert Sullivan (a little bloggy)
- (10) My Life in France – Julia Child (a singular individual)
- (8) Alif the Unseen – G. Willow Wilson (unique! Middle East + code)
- (9) Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty – Elizabeth Mitchell (well-written & thorough)
- (8) Fools Rush Inn: More Detours on the Way to Conventional Wisdom – Bill James (very Bill Jamesy and sabermetricsy)
- (10) The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon – Brad Stone (comprehensive look at relentlessness)
- (10) Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction – Steve McConnell (comprehensive look at coding)
- (8) Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare – William McRaven (uses a model for optimizing specops missions)
- (9) Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World – Mark Miodownik (good primer for material science)
- (9) Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) – Christian Rudder (this guy’s actually been in the shit (of data))
- (5) The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives – Leonard Mlodinow (only read if you’ve never read a probability book before)
- (6) The Logstash Book – James Turnbull (wanted more why’s)
- (8) The Docker Book: Containerization is the New Virtualization – James Turnbull (a go-to tutorial)
- (4) The GM: A Football Life, A Final Season, and a Last Laugh – Tom Callahan (writer’s style made me feel thousands of miles away from the story)
- (9) The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars – Joel Glenn Brenner (read this and Candy Freak)
This year, my emphasis has been on deepening my understanding of code quality, algorithmic efficiency, and runtime speed as I try to become a more seasoned programmer. My goal has been to practice more C and C++ to learn from a sound fundamental base. I also tried to become stronger in devops-related topics.
I think this has been my best year for reading books written by women. In the past I had read the Hunger Games, The Giver, and Harry Potter series, and those shouldn’t all count as uniques. But this year I was delighted to read some fascinating investigative journalism books (on chocolate, Chinese consumerism, and shipping) and a couple amazing memoirs (Julia Child and the woman with the brain on fire).
In the coming year I’m going to try to read 40 books. In particular, if you have suggestions for investigatory journalism books, I’d love to read them! I also love books with biographies on great persons or great projects.