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(Last updated December 8, 2018)

I've often thought that one of the best ways to know a person is to know what they've read. That probably tells you something about me right away. So, in the interests of edification, here is the "things I've read" list going back to 1997 or 1998. I also tend to read several different books at once, alternating between them, and try to fill in the ones I've finished on a regular basis. I'm also an avid reader of The Week, National Geographic, and CIO (one of those crappy trade journals for IT executives), as well as a number of online sources.

Title Author(s) Comments
Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
(Kindle Edition)
Eric Maisel Spoiler #1: because we seek meaning in almost everything we do. Spoiler #2: meaning is at a premium in everyday life. Spoiler #3: you've got figure it out on your own. Not that you have to figure out the spoiler, I mean, that's really what it is. Sounds a lot like existentialism.
It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work
(Kindle Edition)
Jason Fried Fried? Is that really his name? It's appropriate for the author of a book targeted to people who may be feeling -- fried -- in their professional lives. A good dose of sanity for an insane business world, although not as much substance as I would have liked for the price.
How to Find Fulfilling Work (The School of Life)
(Kindle Edition)
Roman Krznaric Mr. Ker... uh... Krizn... the author provides a good variety of perspectives on finding (or optionally, not finding, for good reasons) "fulfilling work," although a lot of it seems targeted more towards those who are looking for a career initially, rather than those who are looking for a change. Still a good read.
Bright Light: Star Carrier Book Eight
(Kindle Edition)
Ian Douglas Despite their flaws, these books do have a certain appeal, mostly just to find out what bizarre aliens humanity will encounter next, or what secrets of the multiverse will be revealed. This one honestly had a somewhat disappointing ending, and certainly did not close the book (so to speak) on the story. Will there be a book nine?
Dark Mind: Star Carrier Book Seven
(Kindle Edition)
Ian Douglas ...and going, this is it right? I mean, seven books, the story must be coming to an end soon... wait, there's a book eight??? No!!!!!
The Passive Income Myth: How to Create a Stream of Income from Real Estate, Blogging, Bonds, and Stock Investing Basics
(Kindle Edition)
Joseph Hogue Somewhat helpful guide to exactly what it says. Blogging? Really? No, think REITs, bonds, and dividend stocks, e.g., normal investment stuff. Shocking!
Deep Time: Star Carrier Book Six
(Kindle Edition)
Ian Douglas ...and going, okay, this is a little more interesting...
Dark Matter: Star Carrier Book Five
(Kindle Edition)
Ian Douglas ...and going, let's just get this over with...
Deep Space: Star Carrier Book Four
(Kindle Edition)
Ian Douglas It just keeps going...
The White Nile Alan Moorehead I found this book as an original 1960 edition at a vacation villa, and it turned out to be a fascinating history of European exploration and exploitation of central Africa in the second half of the nineteenth century, starting with the expedition by Burton & Speke (subject of the excellent 1990 film Mountains of the Moon) and ending with the British campaign by Kitchener in the early 1900's. One particularly interesting detail was the way the political situation was portrayed, with the British fretting about Islamic "terrorists" in the Sudan and sending a series of military expeditions to deal with them. The parallels with the 21st century "war on terror" are sadly all too obvious. The history also goes a long way in explaining why this region of the world continues to be riven with strife and the subject of continued military intervention today, given its history of European exploitation and control, tribal conflicts, and slavery.
You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself
(Kindle Edition)
David McRaney Am I? I'm really not that sure, after reading this mildly amusing but tepid treatise on several different psychological foibles to which humans are prone. A few I didn't know about, a few I did, and a few were pretty obvious, and the detailed descriptions of psychology experiments on college students got tiresome. There was a description of one such experiment at Princeton in which I may have even taken part.
Singularity: Star Carrier Book Three
(Kindle Edition)
Ian Douglas More of the same, again, with the most interesting plot so far of the series, but a lot of the same foibles, like repeating background information from previous books and even from previous chapters. If anything, I thought this one brought the three-book story arc to a close too quickly, but since there are four more books to go, I guess it can't be that simple.
Center of Gravity: Star Carrier Book Two
(Kindle Edition)
Ian Douglas Part 2 of the pulpy sci-fi series I started with book one. More of the same, basically.
Earth Strike: Star Carrier Book One
(Kindle Edition)
Ian Douglas Pulp science fiction full of warp drives and space battles. Alternately well done (for what it is) and annoying in some of the flaws, like repeating information virtually word-for-word from earlier chapters, almost as if the author forgot that he had written it already. Interesting enough to get me to at least start the second book in the series.
The Meaning of Human Existence
Edward O. Wilson I'm a fan of E. O. Wilson, given that he is both an entomologist and holistic systems thinker when it comes to evolution and the natural world. This book sounded intriguing but didn't quite deliver the profundity I was seeking; I'll summarize it in one sentence: multilevel selection is the dominant force driving human evolution and behavior. That much was indeed of value, since it makes one consider the ways that multilevel selection apply to any individual/group dynamic, from small teams to corporations, governments, and entire civilizations. It also goes a long way in explaining the personalities of many senior executives.
World War I: The "Great War"
(The Great Courses)
Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius My latest Great Courses lecture series was on World War I, which I've always wanted to study more because of its impact on the rest of history through the 20th century and into our day. This series delivered on exactly that promise, with good background on the geopolitical situation leading up to the war, not too much time spent on the war itself, and a solid discussion on the societal impacts and post-war situation leading to World War II and beyond.
First and Last Contacts
(Kindle Edition)
Stephen Baxter I've always been a fan of Baxter's short series, and this collection related to (literally) first and last contacts with alien life and the universe as a whole was no exception. A quick read and very enjoyable.
India - Culture Smart! The Essential Guide to Customs
(Kindle Edition)
Becky Stephen A good read that I skimmed on basics about visiting India, in preparation for an upcoming business trip.
Enjoying India: The Essential Handbook
(Kindle Edition)
J. D. Viharini A good read that I skimmed on basics about visiting India, in preparation for an upcoming business trip.
Physics of the Future
(Kindle Edition)
Michio Kaku Kaku is one of my favorite current authors; he's a futurist (among other things, including theoretical physicist) who has a knack for communicating exciting possibilities with great enthusiasm and energy. When I am feeling especially pessimistic about the future of humanity, finding and reading a new Michio Kaku book is usually a good cure. This one covers his view of technology and civilization over the next 100 or so years. Philosophically he is certainly an optimist, but is also balanced enough to cover many things that could go wrong with his utopian vision.
History of the Ancient World: a Global Perspective
(The Great Courses)
Gregory S. Aldrete Another fascinating foray into ancient history (literally), this lecture series indeed had more of a global perspective and covered the, ah, latest breakthroughs in early civilization in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, with an understandable focus on the Mediterranean and China. If nothing else I appreciated the new theme music, but really, it was quite a good series.
(Kindle Edition)
Voltaire There's not much to say about masterworks of western literature that hasn't already been said. Think of this one as the original diatribe against positive thinking.
Conquest of the Americas
(The Great Courses)
Marshall C. Eakin This was the first of three lecture series in my recent dive into products from the Teaching Company. I have to admit that listening to such lectures during my commute is a very reasonable way to spend the time. This course provided a very good overview of the conquest and colonization of the Americas, with some good background on how this half of the world got the way it is today. There was some repitition and I must have heard about twenty times how Brazil was his favorite country.
Great Battles of the Ancient World
(The Great Courses)
Garrett G. Fagan While I wasn't sure quite what to expect from this series of lectures on ancient military history, the course was a winner thanks to the content (overviews of "big moment" battles and military technology in the ancient world) and the very engaging and often humorous Professor Fagan. Nothing quite like having an Irishmen with dry wit trying to convince you (successfully) that an explanation of the hacking and mauling on an ancient battlefield is both interesting and important.
No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life
(The Great Courses)
Robert C. Solomon The second of my Teaching Company lectures was about half the length of the philosophy survey lectures, and probably about half as intellectual as well. Many parts were clearly targeted to undergraduates and just not as beefy in academic depth, but it was still a decent listen.
The Science Fiction Megapack: 25 Science Fiction Stories by Masters
(Kindle Edition)
Various This collection of short science fiction stories, including a novella called Monsters of Moyen, offers an interesting perspective on science fiction as it existed over the years of the 20th century, mostly in the 50's and 60's but going back to 1930 and up to 1994. Some winners and some losers, predictably.
Wake Up! Survive and Prosper in the Coming Economic Turmoil Jim Mellon & Al Chalabi Written in 2005, this book accurately predicted the mortgage meltdown and some of the short-term woes facing modern industrial nations, as well as discussing long-term risks such as resource limits, debt, and demographics. The authors fortunately also avoid the cabin-in-North-Dakota survivalist mentality.
A People's History of the World: From the Stone Age to the New Millenium
(Kindle Edition)
Chris Harman I'm a big fan of grand "history of the world" type books. This is an excellent example of that genre, although it's written from primarily class- and economics-based perspectives (really from a Marxist perspective). The workers revolt, they either win or lose, if they win they become powerful and corrupt. Rinse and repeat. I wonder what happens when "the workers" are mostly computers and robots, or what place there will be for humans in that scheme? He doesn't get into speculation of that type, but I do.
Great Ideas of Philosophy, 2nd Edition
(The Great Courses)
Daniel N. Robinson While this was a series of recorded lectures rather than a book, 30 hours of philosophy lectures should count for something! Although I wasn't transfixed by every single lecture (Immanual Kant was certainly dense, and I failed to really see why Robinson got all excited about William James), there were some very good ones and the whole series fit into my penchant for "grand sweep of history" type education.
Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines
(Kindle Edition)
Richard Heinberg Following up The Party's Over, Heinberg talks more about "Peak Oil" as well as production peaks in other natural resources, this time with the extended economic malaise of the past few years still going. He seems to believe that humanity is headed towards a major global crisis and likely population crash, and his arguments are quite convincing. As long as our goal is infinite growth, mainly in population but also in economics, we're doomed to run up against the limits of finite resources. I personally can imagine a future where low-energy automation (computers and robots) provides a very high standard of living for a small and affluent human population, but getting there might be extremely difficult. Plenty of civilizations throughout our history have collapsed after running out of resources to fuel their growth, and it happens all the time in biological systems.
The Party's Over: Oil, Water, and the Fate of Industrial Societies
(Kindle Edition)
Richard Heinberg See Heinberg's other book, above.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
(Kindle Edition)
Robert M. Pirsig My wife suggested this book to me long before I read it, and after some initial skepticism, I began reading and eventually found it to be one of the most insightful statements on the human condition I've come across. I devoured the philosophical discussions and finished the last quarter of the book (including the coverage of ancient Greek philosophy) at the same time that I was listening to a long series of lectures on philosophical ideas throughout history. In my less humble moments I do think of myself as positioned between art and science; my interests are usually in disciplines where a blend of art and science is needed (like music, photography, and software), and I try to bridge the technical and non-technical divide professionally. I'm sure I will read this through completely again: it does too good a job explaining why reductionism in any field (including science and business) is insufficient to produce anything of intrinsic value.
Steve Jobs
(Kindle Edition)
Walter Isaacson How could I not read it? Predictably successful thanks to the high profile and success of Apple in recent years, this book is still quite decent and appears to provide an insightful and well-founded profile of Jobs.
Questions of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership Through Literature Joseph L. Badaracco A holiday gift from the CEO and COO of my company, this book examines various personality and character traits in leaders by analyzing examples in literature, from Death of a Salesman to Antigone. It's a relatively quick read, with some of the chapters being rather basic and others quite insightful. The same author wrote Leading Quietly, which I appreciated when I read it several years ago.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't
(Kindle Edition)
Jim Collins One of the standard business library books from more than a decade ago, I read Good to Great mainly to see what all the fuss had been about and whether there were some applicable tidbits. What I found is what I'm finding with most such books that I read these days: it's all about fundamentals and doing everything right, as long as you understand what's right. I bet a lot of people read this book too literally and started spouting Three Circles and Hedgehog and Flywheel as if they were "the answers," without realizing that they are merely Jim Collins' metaphors for getting his points across.
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
(Kindle Edition)
Tony Hsieh Recommended by my wife, this book is basically about the principles behind one of the most successful retailing companies of recent years, Zappos, and the background of its CEO. I was surprised at the number of similarities between the two Tonys (Hsieh and me), including that we graduated college the same year from similar schools and share the same interest in electronic music. Although the positive thinking gets a little over-the-top, it's yet another good read in the "why most people are wrong" management library.
2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America
(Kindle Edition)
Albert Brooks An unusual choice for me, this book is a future socio-political-economic thriller of a science fiction story, or at least it would be if the writing were not so mediocre, the characters developed rather than wooden, and the extension of 2010 economic and political trends into the next 20 years not quite so predictable. I read it through to the end to see how it would all come together, but it wasn't worth it.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
(Kindle Edition)
Daniel H. Pink A quick read (I finished it in a day) that provides a great deal of research backing for many of my thoughts about how any organized endeavor (such as a company) should be run, as opposed to how they are usually run. Good stuff.
Why the West Rules - for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future
(Kindle Edition)
Ian Morris This was very nearly a perfect book for me, combining world history from the beginning of hominid evolution, a highly analytical approach, and technological futurism to explain the patterns of global domination by east and west and speculate on a future of post-humanism or apocalypse. If nothing else, it certainly yields an appreciation of how easy we have it these days compared to most of our ancestors.
Digital Landscape Photography: in the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters Michael Frye I have a lot of photography books, many sitting partially read on my shelf. This one I nearly read through cover-to-cover. It's one of the first books I've encountered that really spoke to the post-processing I use to create my own landscape images, vigorously using Lightroom and Photoshop.
The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story
(Kindle Edition)
Michael Lewis I appreciate Michael Lewis as an author, and The New New Thing was his take on the dot-com boom, written essentially as a biography of Jim Clark, founder of companies like Silicon Graphics and Netscape. Unfortunately, the book was completed before the true dot-com collapse, and so lacks the insightful yet humorous disaster postmortem feel of Liar's Poker and The Big Short.
Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future
(Kindle Edition)
Robert Reich This is another book by quite a rarity, an economic and political commentator I can abide. Reich provides, in extremely reasonable terms, an explanation for the current economic malaise and a path to ensure the long-term prosperity of the country. I pretty much agree with everything he writes.
Man's Search for Meaning
(Kindle Edition)
Viktor Frankl A short but meaty classic on the topic of meaning, really on the meaning of meaning. I don't know whether Frankl coined the term "existential vacuum" but his discussion of it is excellent.
(Kindle Edition)
Sam Landstrom A strange, strange science fiction book. The story is midly interesting, but the future described is a combination of advertising gone crazy, ubiquitous religious computer gaming, and extreme genetic engineering. Whether it is utopian or dystopian I'm sure depends on your point of view.
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
(Kindle Edition)
Michael Lewis Although not as good as the bitingly sarcastic and funny Liar's Poker, Lewis' book about the subprime mortgage crisis is a great read, and does a very good job explaining the underlying causes of the huge financial crisis of 2008.
Why Does Software Cost So Much? Tom DeMarco A collection of essays from a highly respected author in software, Why Does Software Cost So Much includes a mix of gems and duds, but the gems are worth the price, and most of the duds are still amusing. Lots of insight on the software business, or, for those of us who know it, Things That Should Be Obvious Which Most People Don't Get And Never Will.
Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America
(Kindle Edition)
Barbara Ehrenreich The subtitle pretty much says it all. Although evidently well-researched, Ehrenreich's book is somewhat preachy and probably not that helpful to someone who is a critical thinker at the core. I'm not sure why I got it; I was pretty sure I would agree with everything, and I was right.
Time's Eye
(Kindle Edition)
Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter Interesting story by two of my favorite "second tier" science fiction authors (sorry, Clarke is no Vonnegut), and fairly well-written. The ending did feel somewhat incomplete and without explanation or resolution. In the liner notes it seemed like this book was going to be part of a series, so perhaps that was intentional.
Stumbling on Happiness
(Kindle Edition)
Daniel Gilbert I'll summarize the book in five words: "people are stupid and irrational." The sample I read on Kindle seemed quite humorous and very well written, but the clever humor just became oddly random, forced, and interpersed with umpteen descriptions of clinical studies and odd experiments on college students. The book by Jonathon Haidt (below) was much better. Ultimately the book did little more than emphasize the degree to which "average" non-scientific people are not objective in their analysis of the past or predictions about the future.
(Kindle Edition)
Joe Haldeman Another quick-reading but unsatisfying example of the science fiction pulp genre. All the women are sluts, the characters are shallow, and the ending was predictable and crass. The story is one of good vs. evil, in a mildly interesting but very obvious way. Reading through it made me think that the author was really trying to land a movie deal.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
(Kindle Edition)
Oscar Wilde A reasonably well-known story, but one I had never read in the original. Interesting premise but uneven narrative, overly elaborate and very Victorian in its depth of description and stilted one-way dialogs.
The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression Eric Maisel Although the writing is a bit dry in places, I did enjoy this book. It's one of the first books that really spoke to me about creative temperaments and existential meaning, not with a lot of psychobabble but with straightforward statements of indisputable facts - like the conflict between the urge to create and the realities of existence.
The Camera Ansel Adams Of course the proper way to read a trilogy is part 3, then 1, then 2. That's what I'm doing with the Ansel Adams photography series. Book 1 had a lot of good detail about view cameras, but otherwise not much new to offer for someone who has already read quite a bit about the field.
The Print Ansel Adams I finally bought the books in Ansel Adams' well-known and well-regarded photography series, and decided to start at the end, with book 3. About a third of the book is generally relevant information on the aesthetic processing of final output images and their display; the other two-thirds is all about black and white chemical print developing, not that useful but actually quite interesting as a comparison to today's much easier "digital darkroom" processing in Photoshop.
The Tao of Warren Buffett: Warren Buffet's Words of Wisdom
(Kindle Edition)
David Clark & Mary Buffett Prior to reading this book, I'd run across several good quotes from Warren Buffet which generally led me to believe that he had some good things to say. Unfortunately, the book overwhelmed these nuggets of wisdom with repetition both in the quotations themselves and in the simplistic accompanying commentary from the authors. Skip it.
Waltzing with Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects Tom DeMarco & Timothy Lister You may have noticed by now that I am a fan of "the PeopleWare guys." Concepts like probability and measurement error are common sense to me, thanks to my science background. Over time I have learned that this far from the case with most people in the business world. Those fundamental concepts and how they apply to managing software projects are at the heart of this concise but excellent book.
Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency Tom DeMarco Another book from the PeopleWare guy, Slack describes the numerous ways that companies make short-term decisions on cost savings and efficiency that hamper effectiveness and otherwise cause longer-term problems. A great read.
Agile Estimating and Planning Mike Cohn Highly recommended by a former colleague, I read this one to see what mysterious secrets of agile estimating and planning I was missing, with the general answer being... none. Maybe it's just me, but this all seems like common sense for those experienced in estimating and valuing projects.
Firmin Sam Savage An unusual and wonderful book - the autobiography of a literary genius of a rat, eccentric and neurotic.
50 Best Short Hikes in Utah's National Parks Ron Adkison Pretty much what it says, but a well-written and informative source.
Photographing the Southwest, Volume 1 Laurent Matrès Another book that is pretty much what it says. A guide to the stuff everyone photographs (less interesting) but also some of the principles and tidbits of working in the area (more interesting).
The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom Jonathan Haidt An extremely well-written book that tries (and pretty much succeeds) to bring together ancient and modern philosophy, psychology, and elementary neuroscience to explain the human condition and different ways of dealing with it. One of the more thought-provoking and useful books of its type that I have ever seen. Highly recommended!
The Conquest of Happiness Betrand Russell A short book by the famed 20th century philosopher on happiness in everyday life. Written in 1930, it carries many of the anachronisms of the time, but those are also valuable in seeing a different perspective on the same issues. Some very insightful chapters and overall a good read.
Armor John Steakley Another of my typical vacation pulp science fiction forays. This one was highly rated and recommended on Amazon, and I'm not really sure why. The first quarter of the book suffers from atrocious editing, with lots of punctuation mistakes and missing words. That gets better, but not completely. The book also has two independent stories running concurrently, which are finally brought together in a rather sloppy and unsurprising way at the very end of the book. I will grant that some of the action sequences are very good, but that's about the only redeeming quality.
Evolution Stephen Baxter After a quick start, it takes some patience to wade through the trials and tribulations of a stream of small rodent-like human ancestors, but eventually it's worth it. Baxter's vision of the past and future is interesting, and at times all too reasonable, with some peaks of truly fantastic imagery.
The Last Colony John Scalzi The sequel to Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades, this one was a quick read and a little different from its predecessors. It had the usual M. Night Shyamalan-like plot twists, space battles, and fair share of strange aliens, but also a surprising lack of suspense. Entertaining, but would a novelist really kill off the human race? Probably not.
The Ghost Brigades John Scalzi The sequel to Old Man's War, which I shockingly read shortly after the first book. It was not as good, or perhaps I was out of my vacation mood for appreciating pulp. Middling sci-fi, although the author has been widely acclaimed, following a standard formula: interesting use of technology, good action, lack of character development, interesting but not unexpected plot twists.
Old Man's War John Scalzi Another in the pulp sci-fi series that I get for pleasure reading on vacations. This one was quite good, and reminded me quite a bit of The Forever War. Mankind battles aliens in space, etc. Still not quite up there with Ray Bradbury or Kurt Vonnegut, though. I will probably read the sequels.
Peopleware Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister The classic people-oriented book about managing software projects and running software companies (and by extension other organizations focused on the output of knowledge professionals). I had heard about it previously, and it was recommended by a colleague. Good insight.
The Human Fabric Bijoy Gaswami with David K. Wolpert Another book that categorizes people and talks about how the different categories interact; this one focuses on the three main core motivators for people, knowledge (Mavens), relationships (Relaters), and action (Evangelists). Concise and well-written, I rather liked it, and it nailed the personality of my aging Evangelist company. I am a strong Maven with a streak of Evangelist, which is probably why I thrive but am somewhat uncomfortable in a strong Evangelist organization.
Smart & Gets Things Done Joel Spolsky A quick read by a leading software development blogger about how to find, hire, and retain the best and brightest technical people. Some repetition from his blogs and earlier book, Joel on Software, but overall pretty good.
Cross James Patterson For a few years my wife and I rented a specific beach house in Avalon, NJ, and the beach house had a collection of James Patterson novels piled up in the living room. This is one of those novels. I get the sense that James Patterson is an industry unto himself, manufacturing pulp thrillers for consumption at summer beach homes and possible acquisition by movie studios for conversion into screenplays. There's not much more to say about it.
Welcome to the Monkey House Kurt Vonnegut A collection of some of Vonnegut's earlier shorter writing, mostly articles and short stories. It's a bit uneven and honestly I do not think it's his best work, but there are a few good ones in the collection.
Galapagos Kurt Vonnegut An interesting exploration of the future of mankind by one of my favorite authors. I actually consider this to be one of his best books. There is a story behind me finishing it -- I started reading it on vacation almost a year before finishing, because I wound up leaving the book on a plane. Several months passed before I got another copy of it and finished it on a second vacation. Quite a story, eh? I should write a book just about that!
The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less Barry Schwartz I read an article by the author of this book in Scientific American a while back, and spotted the full book on Amazon. A good read on how people make choices, different types of choice-making personalities, and who suffers from the plethora of choices available in modern society.
Speaker for the Dead Orson Scott Card The sequel to Ender's Game, I didn't like this one was much as the original. It was not too bad, but the Portuguese cultural references were more stilted than authenticating, and the whole thing wound up with too much of a fantasy feel for my tastes. Portuguese explorers, smart pygmies, super-intelligent wasps? Unicorns, anyone?
What Is Your Life's Work? Bill Jensen One of those supposedly pithy books about meaning in work and life, as a collection of letters from people. It didn't really connect with me, perhaps most of the letters were from people who were workaholics and took too long to figure that out. A few of the letters were interesting, but not many.
The Forever War Joe Haldeman An interesting and gritty sci-fi war novel, in places amusingly anachronistic on topics relevant to someone writing in the 70's. It does redeem itself by not focusing on such issues and in the breadth of time covered in later chapters. It is also one of the few sci-fi novels I've read that has truly developed characters.
Ender's Game Orson Scott Card Another of my typical vacation books, this sci-fi classic was written in the 70's and still seems current and prescient. As is often the case, the wide-ranging, speculative epilogue-style final chapter was my favorite part.
The Productive Narcissist: The Promise and Perils of Visionary Leadership Michael Maccoby An insightful read about "real leaders," people who are driven by vision to change the world. According to the little quiz I am an obsessive narcissist, meaning I have many narcissistic traits but that I am also driven to systematically manage and execute things. According to Sigmund Freud these are the best leaders, although in my case that remains to be seen. It gets old after a while with a lot of repeated concepts and examples, but overall is definitely above average in the realm of leadership books.
Digital SLR Pro Secrets David D. Busch A good techniques book on digital SLR photography that gets past the elementary stuff covered in most similar books. Contains some genuinely insightful advice and covers some fundamental issues in good detail.
An Anthropologist on Mars Oliver Sacks I originally purchased this book after reading a reference to it in an article about Temple Grandin, an autistic Ph.D. studying animals. It took a long time to read, not because it was written poorly (just the opposite), but because the neurological case studies can be a bit dense and are not high on my interest list. The two chapters on autism and Asperger's Syndrome were the most interesting part and the real reason I bought the book.
The Effective Executive Peter F. Drucker A classic in the field of organizational management, this book was a gift upon my promotion to corporate officer (although I already had a copy that I had not read). It alternates between insightful observations and a recapitulation of common sense and "no brainers," although I suppose the insightful parts have been useful.
The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People David Niven, Ph.D. I saw this book out shopping once with my girlfriend, and she got it for me as a birthday gift. There are some insightful things in here -- such as how bad TV really is -- but also a lot of "people who don't worry about things are happier" type of advice. A quick read and of marginal value.
Ringworld Larry Niven Typical science fiction pulp that I sometimes read for fun. This book apparently won all sorts of awards when it was published in 1970, but frankly I don't know what the fuss is about. It is typical science fiction: interesting ideas combined with bad characters, sexism, a lackluster story, and stilted dialog. Perhaps that is my 2005 perspective judging a book written 35 years ago, but Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut don't seem to have problems like that.
Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut Alternately funny and disturbing mixture of a science fiction story and a war memoir, about the Allied bombing of Dresden during WWII. Did you know that the Dresden air raid, using conventional bombs during a single night, killed more people than either of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan? Probably not.
John Shaw's Landscape Photography John Shaw I didn't really need this book, but I really enjoy reading Shaw's prose and I had a bonus coupon from Amazon. The requisite section on exposure was getting a bit old, since it was virtually a word for word copy of the same section from his other books, but other advice is solid and the pictures are inspiring.
John Shaw's Closeups in Nature John Shaw The definitive classic on nature macro photography by one of the masters. While Shaw's Nature Photography Field Guide includes a very solid section on macro photography, this book has a lot more detail and very practical suggestions, even if it is a bit more outdated than Paul Harcourt Davies' book (which does cover digital photography to a limited extent).
John Shaw's Nature Photography Field Guide John Shaw Fantastic overview of nature photography by one of the best in the field, who also happens to be a wonderful writer. Lots of pretty pictures, too, which never hurts.
The Complete Guide to Close Up & Macro Photography Paul Harcourt Davies My first more in-depth photography book, which I read following my purchase of the D70. Provides a lot of solid information and includes a decent amount of good reference data.
John Hedgecoe's Complete Guide to Photography John Hedgecoe (duh) The first photography book I read when I decided it was time to get a digital camera. Decent if shallow overview of a lot of basic concepts, with many pretty pictures, as might be expected from this type of book.
When Genius Failed Roger Lowenstein Fascinating story of the rise and fall of Long-Term Capital Management, the archetypical hedge fund of the 1990s. It's very well written, plus it showcases the failure of greedy, self-important Wall Street types, which is always good.
Manifold: Time Stephen Baxter Another sci-fi book, part of my recent re-discovery of the genre. This one is pretty good, although it is strictly technical, since the characters are as flat as the proverbial Euclidian plane.
Childhood's End Arthur C. Clarke Although I wasn't very happy with the ending, which seemed, for all intents and purposes, somewhat anticlimactic, this nevertheless is a truly remarkable book. It was written in 1953 and reads as if it were written yesterday. Fifty years of hindsight has shown Clarke's grasp of future technology and societal evolution to be amazingly accurate, and my respect for him as an author and a thinker has gone up considerably.
The Sirens of Titan Kurt Vonnegut A futuristic, philosophical tale that is equally comfortable with humorous details and wide-ranging questions. What do you want, it's Kurt Vonnegut!
Starfish Peter Watts A dark, atmospheric story about the deep sea of the future. Unfortunately, the ending turns out to be rather simplistic and cliched, but it's a good read nonetheless, and there is actually character development (a rarity for sci-fi, it seems).
Vacuum Diagrams Stephen Baxter Basically a "best of" compilation of many of the short works of this noted science fiction author, covering 5 million years of future human history. A few hiccups here and there, but overall a very impressive body of work, and also a quick read. One of my favorites of the genre, thanks to the immersion (anthropomorphic, perhaps) into totally alien worlds and biology.
The Money Game "Adam Smith" (George J. W. Goodman) A Wall Street classic, this collection of essays was written in the 60's and seems just as relevant today.
A Random Walk Down Wall Street Burton G. Malkiel An excellent and clear-headed history and overview of market investing. The author's wife is the dean of Princeton, by the way.
The Illustrated Man Ray Bradbury A great collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories. Bradbury makes most science fiction writers look like rank amateurs.
The Light of Other Days Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter Some pulp I bought to read on vacation. Some interesting ideas and cool imagery, but the characters are bad caricatures.
Zen and the Art of Making a Living Laurence G. Boldt Can you tell I dig this guy? A long and well-written book about personal and career development.
The Tao of Abundance Laurence G. Boldt Thoroughly excellent book that examines modern global society and some of its downsides, with a look towards Taoism and Zen Buddhism for guidance and precedents in dealing with a complex commercial culture.
How to Find the Work You Love Laurence G. Boldt A short but very well-written primer on some of the less tangible aspects of career development.
Computer Science: an Overview J. Glenn Brookshear Exactly what it says, and fairly well written. Since I'd never taken a "real" computer science course, I wanted to make sure I hadn't missed anything.
The Truth About Managing People, and Nothing but the Truth Stephen P. Robbins A short but effective book that cuts through the BS and provides 63 fundamental issues in managing people. I don't usually go for this type of book, but this one was pretty good.
How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie There are a few good points in here, but I would like to suggest some alternate titles. "How to Become a Sleazy Manipulator" is one. "How to Be Patronizing and Treat Other People Like Children" is another. How about "The Practical Guide to Being a World-Class Demagogue?" Your mileage may vary.
The 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back James Waldroop and Timothy Butler Interesting book about 12 common personality traits (fatal flaws, as Shakespeare would say) that cause otherwise highly competent people to be less successful.
The Future of Success Robert B. Reich Alternately insightful and tepid examination of the larger forces shaping today's society.
Liar's Poker Michael Lewis The classic true story of one man's experience on Wall Street in the 80's. By the way, he went to Princeton.
Discovering Your Career in Business Timothy Butler and James Waldroop A book about personality, MBA's, and jobs, by the directors of the career development program at Harvard Business School. As such it is one of the more relevant career books I have read. I discovered that I have a very unusual combination of talents and I should be leading projects at a cutting-edge research institution.
Please Understand Me II David Keirsey Good reference about temperament, character, and intelligence based on the Myers-Briggs personality types. Better as a reference since it is rather long-winded and redundant.
When Elephants Weep Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy Interesting treatise on the emotional lives of animals.
Immortality Ben Bova Well-written exploration of trends in medicine and biology that may extend human lifespans indefinitely.
The Art of Happiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler Not my usual kind of book. Recommended by someone I met in the Bahamas. Very bland. If this is Buddhism, then McDonald's is gourmet cuisine.
On the Road Jack Kerouac Not as good as The Dharma Bums but still a good travel book.
Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury It's not just about burning books, but about where society is going. Excellent read.
Harvard Business Review on Change Various Probably what you'd expect given the title. Some good stuff in here but rather dry.
Beyond Humanity: CyberEvolution and Future Minds Gregory S. Paul and Earl D. Cox Interesting if somewhat wandering treatise on the future convergence of biology and artificial intelligence.
Rapid Development Steve McConnel Very good book on how to build good software quickly.
The Mythical Man-Month Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. A classic in the field of software engineering and project management. Much is no longer relevant, but some is intensely so.
Great Mambo Chicken & the Transhuman Condition Ed Regis A bit uneven, but an interesting walk through future directions in today's technology.
The Elegant Universe Brian Greene A very good, fairly deep but not very mathematical treatment of quantum mechanics and the emerging field of superstring theory.
Visions Michio Kaku Not as good as Kaku's other book (see below), but still a fairly thorough and interesting look at logical trends in different technologies and their possible implications.
Data and Databases Joe Celko Good solid introduction to the fundamentals of databases, by one of the leading experts in the field.
The Fabric of Reality David Deutsch Fascinating but sometimes dry look at how disparate fields of science may combine to give us a much better understanding of the universe and how it works.
The Matter Myth Paul Davies and John Gribbin A somewhat standard if well-written review of modern theories in physics.
The Demon-Haunted World Carl Sagan Very good, if somewhat preaching examination of man's embrace of irrationalism in the past and present.
Pale Blue Dot Carl Sagan Well-written exploration of what may lie ahead for the human race as it explores outer space.
Engines of Creation K. Eric Drexler The classic manifesto on nanotechnology and its potential by its leading proponent. Gets a little long-winded towards the end.
Cat's Cradle Kurt Vonnegut Great book. A story about hubris and how things can go wrong unexpectedly. Vonnegut is the man.
The Age of Spiritual Machines Ray Kurzweil Great book on the potential of artificial intelligence and the rapid advances in computational technology that could make it a reality.
The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway I think this is the book that won Hemingway the Nobel in literature. What do they say -- short and sweet?
The New Pioneers Thomas Petzinger, Jr. A Wall Street Journal columnist collects his thoughts on an emergent business model based on evolutionary theory. Kind of bland but better than the average business book.
Death March Edward Yourdon Great book about why software development is difficult, why lots of projects fail, and I suppose why software professionals deserve their lofty compensation.
Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand For quite a while this was my favorite book. Speaks to anyone who has ever fought against mediocrity and apathy.
Dynamics of Software Development Jim McCarthy Varied discourse on some of the intricacies of programming, by an old gunslinger in the field.
Reengineering the Corporation Michael Hammer and James Champy Better than average business book about process engineering and efficiency. I eat this stuff up.
Software Project Survival Guide Steve McConnel Rather long-winded but thorough guide to succeeding in software projects.
The Ten-Day MBA Steven Silbiger A lot of good basic information, but maybe not the best writing. Pretty much what I expected.
Managing for Dummies Bob Nelson and Peter Economy It's... a dummies book about managing people. Some good tips but also a lot of the same old stuff.
What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School Mark H. McCormack Interesting business book with a lot of varied material. Some of it useful, some of it seems like rubbish, but there you go.
The End of Science John Horgan Very interesting book postulating that most of the basic knowledge about the universe is already known, which is kind of a pessimistic view when you think about it.
Debugging the Development Process Steve Maguire Great book about software development and project management. Lots of relevant and very true examples.
The E-Myth Manager Michael E. Gerber I don't remember why I read this. I think it was referenced in some other book. "Motivational" garbage from some business consultant, and the writing sucked.
The Portable Nietzsche translated by Walter Kaufmann Either you like the philosophies of Nietzsche or you don't. I do.
In Search of Schroedinger's Cat John Gribbin Very good overview of quantum mechanics.
Theories of Everything John D. Barrow Kind of a bland catch-all book about competing theories of... yes, everything... in physics.
Hyperspace Michio Kaku Optimistic, wonderful, almost breathtaking book about advances in superstring theory and its potential applications by humans. Read it and you will wish you lived a thousand years from now.
Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers S. E. Frost, Jr. It's a book... about... basic... teachings... of the great philosophers. Kind of like Encyclopedia Britannica.
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