A quick and dirty mini-review of all the books I finished in 2015:
The Power of Habit
Psychology books written for laymen can be tricky to find since a lot of them tend to be of the self-help variety. The Power of Habit, though, is more about real examples and practical applications of our psychological understanding of habitual behavior. It’s not meant to help you develop good habits and eliminate the undesirable ones (though an application of the principles in this book could help you do that). Mostly, it’s an interesting and well-laid-out guide to how habit works. Anything that can give you new tools to interpret behavior – your own and others’ – is worthwhile in my book. Plus, it might help you get close to the truth that we are not not as in-control and rational as we would like to think.
We Should All Be Feminists
A very personal tale in support of feminism with the added bonus of coming from outside the world of white America. It’s an easy and worthwhile read. You should also check out her TED Talk.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Atwood creates a chilling and disturbing world. It’s a page-turner with beautiful prose and I consider it a must-read. They should be assigning this book in High School english classes.
A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire)
After slogging my way through A Feast For Crows, this was much easier to read. If you’ve gotten this far in the series, you already know whether you want to read this.
The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
Another good read for those interested in the inner-workings of the brain. This was a longer book, but very enjoyable and the individual sections stand up pretty well on their own. One of the most important principles laid out in this book is to off-load as many mental tasks as you can using other people or the outside world. You’ll free up lots of mental energy if you don’t have to rely on your brain to remember everything or constantly make decisions.
Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader
There have been numerous books, movies, and articles created about Steve Jobs and Apple since Jobs’ death in 2011. Many of them suck, but this one doesn’t. Several people who were close to Jobs participated in the creation of this book while they heavily criticized the official Walter Issacson biography. In fact, many have said that Jobs’ choice of biographers was his last big mistake. However you feel about him, Jobs was a fascinating person and this is the first book I’d recommend reading about him.
The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition
I dragged my heels and read this book over the course of 3 years (not because it’s difficult to read, I just get distracted). In the meantime, they released a revised and expanded edition which I intend to read. Even the older edition makes some surprisingly accurate predictions about the technology we use today. It’s an amazing look into the world of designed object – not from the point of designers who might argue over font or color choices, but from the perspective of people who just use stuff. If you’ve ever been frustrated by how difficult it is to set the refrigerator temperature correctly or you keep pushing on doors when you need to pull, it’s not your fault and this book explains why. I highly recommend this book even if, and maybe especially if, you are not interested in design.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
Some have criticized the appropriateness of the author’s methods, but this book does what it set out to do: expose the middle and upper classes to the lives of people who struggle to get by in the US. This is one of those world-expanding and potentially heart-wrenching books that will change the way you look at things if you’ve never been in the position of trying to support yourself as an adult on minimum wage.
Jurassic Park: A Novel
Holy crap does Michael Crichton not like scientists. This is a darker, more in-depth look into the mind and philosophy behind the story that became Jurassic Park the movie. And just like the movie, this is a story of scientists getting blamed for really, really terrible engineering. It’s a fun and easy read as long as you don’t spend too much time raging at Crichton for his absurdly cynical treatment of science.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition
I actually listened to the audiobook for this one which I really enjoyed. The narrator was very good and I think I would have taken a much longer time if I had tried to absorb all this information in text form. This was another really fascinating book that might pull the rug out of your feeling of stability and security in the modern-day first world. Even with our technology, economy, and government being what it is, there are a few critical things we have to get right in order keep a society going. And surprise, we’re not doing a very good job of it. Read this and you might end up feeling like our world is being held together with gum and duct tape.
OSPF and IS-IS: Choosing an IGP for Large-Scale Networks: Choosing an IGP for Large-Scale Networks
This is a really great look at what are probably your two best choices for implementing an IGP. I probably wouldn’t recommend this unless you have a few years of networking under your belt, but it does a great job of explaining both protocols in detail – functional, philosophical, and historical.
This was quite the IPv6 crash course. Read Planning for IPv6 if you want a shorter introduction to why you should implement IPv6 and how to get the ball rolling. It’s essentially “How to convince the managers, the engineers, and yourself to use IPv6.” IPv6 Address Planning also has some tools for convincing others to use v6, but it goes a lot further into the actual transition into v6 from designing a plan for your address space, to requesting an allocation from ARIN, to deciding which parts of your network to upgrade or transition first.
DNS and BIND on IPv6 is a stop-gap companion to Cricket Liu’s DNS and BIND until he gets around to writing the 6th edition. If you’re already familiar with DNS and BIND and just need to supplement with some IPv6 knowledge or are currently working through Liu’s 5th edition, pick this up, otherwise, it doesn’t stand well on its own.
There were MANY other networking books I dug into this year, but didn’t include because I didn’t read them all the way through (and probably won’t ever).
I suppose this book isn’t really for everyone, but The Martian is one of the most fun books I’ve ever read. If you didn’t get caught up in the hype from the Matt Daemon movie, this xkcd comic is probably the easiest test for whether or not you’ll enjoy this book. If you saw the movie, go back and read the book. It’s like the movie, but with more cool engineering, more jokes, more swearing, and a slightly different ending.
I picked this up on recommendation from an Internet friend. It’s an interesting puzzle set in gold-rush-era New Zealand. I loved reading the different internal musings of all the characters and by the end, I was speed-reading because I didn’t want to wait to see the mystery solved. There’s also an astrological aspect woven throughout the whole book. I’m sure I only understood half of the book because I know next to nothing about astrology (except that it’s hokum), but I still enjoyed the book.
The Maze Runner (Book 1)
I’ll say that I can see the appeal this book has to young boys, but man, I did not enjoy it. It seems like most of the exposition is either the main character’s internal struggle and failure to not repeatedly put his foot in his mouth or an attempt to build suspense and mystery for the reader by having the characters refuse to tell each other a god damned thing about what’s happening.