A List of Books I Read in 2015

In 2015 I read 29 books.  My goal was 40 books.

Near the beginning of the year I decided to focus more of my time on coding for my ongoing personal project, Galapag.us.  That project is still in need of reaching a point of critical mass.  It’s scaled up as I’ve learned more about how to develop an application from top to bottom, but it’s still in need of a lot of work, with an ever-increasing scope.  In calculating the amount of time to push the ball forward for Galapag.us, I realized that time spent on the train, plane, subway, or waiting room could be spent figuring out the next crucial pieces for that project, instead of reading.

Hence the dropoff.

The books:

  1. (7) The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made – Walter Isaacson (Isaacson is a great biographer; starts off slow)
  2. (10) @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex – Shane Harris (hard to find anything as thorough these days that isn’t also screechy about Snowden)
  3. (10) The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York – Robert Caro (exhaustively comprehensive)
  4. (7) Bad Luck and Trouble – Lee Child (my first Reacher book)
  5. (7) Rocketeers – Michael Belfiore (good primer on private outer space efforts)
  6. (10) The Martian: A Novel – Andy Weir (MACGUYVER IN SPACE)
  7. (7) Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace – Leon Panetta (latter half is just a timeline basically)
  8. (8) The Hacker Playbook: Guide to Penetration Testing – Peter Kim (solid broad coverage)
  9. (10) Slash – Slash, Anthony Bozza (read this and Reckless Road for full GnR)
  10. (10) Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity’s Chief Engineer – Rob Manning (invaluable engineering insight)
  11. (10) Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of NYC – Robin Nagle (ethnography of most important civic workers)
  12. (10) Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground – Kevin Poulsen (best book on carding black market out there; read along with Mitnick)
  13. (9) The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing: Ethical Hacking and Penetration Testing Made Easy – Patrick Engebretson (best book I’ve found for how to start out pen testing)
  14. (8) Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century – Michael Hiltzik (comprehensive look at project which changed modern west)
  15. (8) Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money – Nathaniel Popper (background into original players behind bitcoin’s rise)
  16. (8) Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs – Ken Jennings (Jennings is funny but Word Freak is a better book)
  17. (8) The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate – Robert Kaplan (gift from Colin Nagy; Kaplan & George Friedman the best on geopolitics, despite his neoliberal leanings)
  18. (10) Primates of Park Avenue – Wednesday Martin (delicious ethnography of the Manhattan elite)
  19. (10) Palace of Treason – Jason Matthews (sequel to Red Sparrow, tons of tradecraft by ex CIA case officer)
  20. (8) Armada: A Novel – Ernest Cline (next novel after Ready Player One; same themes, more scifi, seems tailored for film rights)
  21. (10) It’s So Easy: and other lies – Duff McKagan (this is like Andre Agassi’s bio — the later phases of his life somehow transcend the flashy beginning)
  22. (6) The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever – Teri Agins (a now-outdated dryly written history of mass-marketed clothing trends)
  23. (10) Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates (I avoided this book for too long because of hype, but the most insightful experience about being a modern black person that I’ve ever read)
  24. (5) Slice Harvester: A Memoir in Pizza – Colin Atrophy Hagendorf (heavy emphasis on memoir, not pizza — you will not learn much about NYC pizza from this book)
  25. (10) The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State – William McCants (best primer for what ISIS is about from one of the most knowledgeable in his field)
  26. (8) Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker – Molly Bloom (fun insight into private celeb poker games in NYC, Vegas, and LA)
  27. (7) Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command – Sean Naylor (comprehensive from early days till post-Afghanistan)
  28. (8) Building the H-Bomb: A Personal History – Kenneth Ford (some good explanation of nuclear physics but also fuzzy-headed academics going camping)
  29. (10) The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win – Gene Kim (recommended at Container Days, helps understand continuous integration)

Anyway, the good part of this year was that I absolutely loved the books that I did read!  My 1-10 scores tend to skew above 6, but that’s mainly because I’m not forced to read terrible books.  I think I’ve only given a few 3s over the years.

I rated 13 books this year a perfect 10, which is absurd.  I rate a book a 10 if not only do I think it’s well-written and authoritative in its research or access, but I also think it’s important that others read the book.  A 9 is a book that I loved reading and that I think is important, but I took more personal satisfaction in it.  An 8 is a solid book, a 7 is one that I probably felt like I had to read for my own education, and 6 and below is mostly just poorly-written fluff.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book: I really wanted to not like it, but it challenged me like few books I’ve read have.  It pissed me off, made me uncomfortable, but also made me feel love, and loved.  Definitely the most influential book I’ve read in a few years.

This year I do plan to continue putting more time into Galapag.us.  I’m still trying to get it to a point where I love to use it, use it for everything, and even stop needing to use other sites.  It’s getting closer.  So let’s say my goal in 2016 is to read 20 books.

As always, I am in search of new books that cover subject matter that I don’t know much about so I can get a baseline sense of the insider baseball within.  Subculture books are always fun.  I prefer nonfiction and I generally enjoy reading journalists’ work since they can balance efficiency with fascination, discipline, and exploration.

I tried to read more fashion books this year to get a sense of that industry, but most are garbage or write of segments of time with designers who have long since been relegated to the dustbin of history despite their meteoric rises.  What does longevity mean in that industry?

I felt like cyber and hacking storytelling has finally reached a point where the stories are amazing to read, but are also true.  It’s been the stuff of cheesy plot lines in the past but now we regularly read highwire stories of law enforcement chasing unknown online criminal enterprises.  That world has matured into reality, is basically what I’m saying.

Here’s my previous years’ lists of books.

Got any book ideas?  Leave a comment.