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Ask HN: Books you read in 2015?
171 points by dbalan on Dec 23, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 164 comments
I'd like to know which books HN read this year. Did you like them or hate them?

Some of the books I enjoyed the most and found most helpful:

- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain - Helped me better understand myself and others, highly recommend

- The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey - Advice on mastering the mental part of doing anything, not just tennis

- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo - actually maybe the most important book I've read in a while, helped me throw away a lot of stuff I didn't need

- Models by Mark Manson - very helpful and ethical advice on attracting women for people like me who never really quite figured it out

- A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine- discussion of a philosophy of life that seems like it would work well for modern living

I can vouch for two of these. I read "The Inner Game of Tennis" last year, because it was recommended to me. It is the kind of book that I would never pick up on my own based on the title. Luckily, the book contents has almost nothing to do with the title :)

Marie Kondo's book on tidying up is also of delightfully broader utility than the title implies. I just recently finished it - it is a surprisingly insightful book and a real pleasure to read. Highly recommended!

Kondo's book is definitely amazing - a very important book, like you say. The system behind it is extremely simple and quite powerful.

I read all these books this year too, except for Models.

Mostly kids books. These stood out - I've read each of these at least 30 times.

This is not my hat: http://www.amazon.com/This-Is-Not-My-Hat/dp/0763655996

Smelly Louie: http://www.amazon.com/Smelly-Louie-Catherine-Rayner/dp/14472...

WOLVES: http://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Emily-Gravett/dp/1405053623/

Gorilla: http://www.amazon.com/Gorilla-Anthony-Browne/dp/0763673668/

Goodnight, goodnight, construction site: http://www.amazon.com/Goodnight-Construction-Sherri-Duskey-R...

The Promise: http://www.amazon.com/Promise-Nicola-Davies/dp/0763666335/

Some of these won the Kate Greenaway Award - an award for excellent illustration. I've made a partial list here (this is an ugly list because I just needed a list of all the books in one place, with links to amazon, and I'm too lazy to do more now it works): http://danbc.neocities.org/index.html

The official list is here. http://www.carnegiegreenaway.org.uk/greenaway/

Have you seen The Boy Who Loved Math? It's a bio of Paul Erdos written for kids, and we've really enjoyed it.


Meditations - Marcus Aurelius -- A fine classic I enjoyed.

Might count, might not, since it finished in March but was going on before. I loved Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality - Eliezer Yudkowsky - http://hpmor.com/

Loved Masters of Doom - David Kushner

I liked Worm - Wildbow - https://parahumans.wordpress.com/table-of-contents/ -- but it falls short of overall greatness and I don't think it's worth its 22-average-books length if I were to go back in time and decide on rereading...

Learn to Play Go: A Master's Guide to the Ultimate Game (Volume I) - Janice Kim -- I've been learning Go and thought this book was particularly excellent for beginners.

There are at least 4 other books I'm close to finishing and I might get one done before the end of the month... Volume 2 of the above Go series, Mythical Man-Month, A handbook of traditional living, or The Waking Dream.

HPMOR was fantastic - very well done re-imagining of Harry Potter with Harry as a rationalist, challenging long-held beliefs about magic. Plot, pacing, etc. were great. Really influenced how I think about my own beliefs as well.

> Meditations - Marcus Aurelius -- A fine classic I enjoyed.

Which version did read, and where did you get it? The translation I found on Gutenberg was too archaic and hard to understand.

Sorry, missed this. For Meditations I actually listened to it on audio book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXcmkSqAqTI I'm not sure which translation it is, looks like George Long's from http://www.amazon.com/Meditations/dp/B004INMVDY but I also remember browsing http://www.bartleby.com/2/3/ a few times afterwards and thought it was readable (much better than the Gutenberg one).

The Gregory Hays translation is by far the best out there.

There are several books I read, still want to increase my reading amount:

1. "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!", nice bio about Feynman

2. "Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future", inspiring biography and business book.

3. "Apollo" by Catherine Bly Cox. Awesome book about Apollo Programm. Goes even in some technical details.

4. "Mastering Bitcoin: Unlocking Digital Cryptocurrencies". Very good and thorough book about bitcoins, the author implements most import concept in the book.

5. "F'D Companies: Spectacular Dot-com Flameouts". I seldom don't recommend a book, but this one is hard to tell. It is interesting read about a lot of failed dot-com era companies. But the layout and writing style looks like an automatic rip-off of some blog articles (I read on kindle). It's not totally bad, but be warned before buying. Try some free chapters.

6. "Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down", good layman general introduction into static. Nice overview why all the buildings/bridges etc around you don't fall apart.

7. "Never Eat Alone", Classics of networking. Actually basic stuff that people probably already know about networking. But still good to read, and author always shows examples on successful persons or himself.

8. "The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory", reading this at the moment. Very nice and simple introduction to relativity theory and quantum mechanics. I finished around 100 pages and like it.

I read 8 books this year. My aim is around 2 books/month.

Reading can make difference.

Good luck. I was just getting back into regularly reading a couple years ago. Tried for 1/month. Then it was 1-2. Now it's 3-4. Feels great - although I have to remind myself that it's okay if I don't reach some sort of quota each month.

Very nice. How many hours per day do you read for 3-4 books/month?

About 30-60 minutes per day. Every couple of weeks I'll hit a point in one of the books where I'll just read the rest of it in a couple hours. Of course these numbers all depend on the books - this year did not include anything longer than 500 pages.

Also, don't get too hung up on the numbers. The past couple months were hectic and my pace has really slowed down, and that's totally fine.

Aha I get that way with the end of most books. I just power through the last 20 percent of it in one sitting. Must... have... closure...

I can vouch for the first two of these books: 1. "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!", fun bio, made me buy the Feynman lectures as well. Really glad I did. 2. "Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future", Very inspiring indeed.

For those on a limited budget: you don't need to buy the Feynman Lectures if you are willing to read in a web browser.


Fyi, F'D Companies looks like a bunch of blog posts b/c that's exactly where it came from, the notorious dot-com era blog fuckedcompany.com chronicalling the flameouts of the era. Sadly now defunct as a blog.

"Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future" - lots of lessons and an inspiring read.

#8 is the only one I've read on that list. Thanks! I look forward to reading the rest!

reading will make difference

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown - discussion of shame culture, its effects on people, and how to combat it - pretty good book about a topic that doesn't get raised often enough, even if I don't agree with everything the author says.

The Sports Gene by David Epstein - how genetics may affect sport performance (and not only that); a bit of a counterpoint to Gladwell's Outliers - probably my favorite book this year.

The Martian by Andy Weir - a guy tries to survive on Mars - found this one rather bland. I would have liked to see more psychology and less calculations, and I am not sure how I feel about its presentation of the scientific community.

you found The Martian bland ?! That's...I am...speechless. It is an amazing book. The characters are superbly fleshed out and Andy Weir's humour is par excellence. The calculations were not tedious at all. LOL - if you stuck on Mars, calculations are you best friend. I think the author has actually dumbed it down quite a lot TBH.

I also found it bland; it became repetitive and dull. Problem, exposition of solution, repeat. The character interaction, by the nature of the plot, was pretty minimal and almost all the problems were technical - there was very little inter-character conflict or character development. At the end of the novel, everyone was pretty much the same as they were at the beginning. The journey was entirely physical, and the dangers were personal.

I am befuddled that you say the characters were superbly fleshed out; I found them rather two-dimensional, and some of them clearly existed only because there needed to be more people hanging around.

I completely agree – very unrealistic characters (maybe that's why there was no character development). Also there was a lot of exposition about how extraordinarily 'funny' the main character was and I didn't get that at all, it felt very heavy handed with the jokes. Also, the bit about cannibalism made no sense whatsoever.

While fairly engaging until the end, the characters in the book were pretty shallow and the story itself wasn't really that special. "Amazing" is extremely heavy praise for what is a decent airport sci-fi page turner.

I'll skip some mentioned already by others. Books I really enjoyed this year:

The Wright Brothers, David McCullough - wonderful book on the Wright Brothers, easy to read, shows that persistence and logic thinking pays out. 5/5

The autobiography of Malcom X, Malcolm X - Nice bio, a bit repetitive sometimes. 3/5

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand - Although the book has more than 1200 pages it really kept me going. I read this book to get a better understanding of the ideology of some republicans. Fun read. 4.5/5

Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt - Levitt studies all kind of different everyday questions using economics. 4/5, short, easy to read

Guantanamo Diary, Mohamedou Ould Slahi - Diary of a Guantanamo prisoner who has been imprisoned since 2002. The US has never charged him with a crime. Profound and disturbing. 5/5

No place to hide, Glenn Greenwald - Story on Edward Snowden, probably read by most of HN. Enjoyed it, that's it. 4/5

How to lie with statistics, Darrel Huff - Short book on statistics, easy to read and fun. 4/5

Atlas Shrugged needs to come with a warning label.

"If you are male and between the ages of 13 and 21 this book should be considered harmful and potentially dangerous. If you are high achieving academically but socially awkward you should not read this book as it may exacerbate anti-social personality disorders."

Well... yes and no... Rand divides all the characters into two groups, to put it simple into the socialists and the capitalists. The capitalists get the virtues of honesty, integrity and are rational and so on, while the socialists are depicted as dishonest, corrupt, irrational etc.

If you fail to understand these characteristics are not necessarily tied to either of the groups, yes the warning label is appropriate. If you do understand this - and I hope some males between the ages of 13 and 21 do - this book can help you improve your attitude towards work. After reading Atlas Shrugged I must say I'm more eager to get things done and ignore pessimistic people who think things simply cannot be done because it is a lot of work.

It definitely helped me.

"Shopgirl" - Steve Martin - short and poignant. Recommended.

"Madame Bovary" - Gustave Flaubert - Considered to be one of the masterpieces of literature, but it's so long that I can't really recommend it.

"The Sales Acceleration Formula" - Mark Roberge - I'd recommend this to any entrepreneur.

"Status Anxiety" - Alain de Botton - A pretty good pop scienc-y psychology book.

"Zero to One" - Peter Thiel - A philosophy book imo.

"Tokyo Vice" - Jake Adelstein - A look at the underbelly of Japanese society.

"Capitalism and the Jews" - Jerry Muller - A very good overview of the intersection of the Jewish faith and culture with their business success.

"The Richest Man in Babylon" - George S. Clayson - A personal finance parable. Recommended.

"The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" - Marie Kondo - A philosophy book. Worth a look even if you don't ascribe to its teachings.

Just curious why you found "Zero to One" to be a philosophy book? Despite its academic approach, it was surprisingly practical even if not many startups/entrepreneurs would find it accessible right away in their first venture.

I think the book is predominantly about Thiel's view of the world, which in turn is his philosophy.

>it's so long that I can't really recommend it.

Tell that to the teacher who made us read it at the age of 14. A masterpiece nonetheless.

Yeah I think it's a book that you pick up when the time is right for you. Thus, I too think it is a great book, but at the same time, I wouldn't exactly "recommend" it to anyone. Same with Great Expectations.

I had read zero books by April 2015. Have read the following since then.

1. 1984 by Orwell

2. Animal Farm by Orwell

3. 40 Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

5. The Man in the high castle by Philip k Dic

6. Tuesdays with morrie by Mitch Albom

7. Broken Verses by Kamila Shamsie

8. The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell

9. Veronica Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

10. The Little Prince by antoine saint exupery

11. A Monster calls by Patrick ness

Books that I am currently reading very very slowly ( 1-3 chapters per week )

1. The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking

2. The Wind Up Bird Chronicles by Murakami (I am really enjoying the slow reading here)

3. Zen and art of motorcycle by Robert Pirsig

Edit: Formatting

Absolutely amazing, changed the way I look at the society, will re-read:

- George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying


- Alastair Reynolds, House of Suns

- Andy Weir, The Martian

- Neal Stephenson, Seveneves

- Greg Egan, Teranesia


- Arthur C. Clarke, 3001: The Final Odyssey

- Arthur C. Clarke, 2061: Odyssey Three

- Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Laws

- Richard Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

- Jonathan Slack, Stem Cells: A Very Short Introduction

- John Scalzi, Fuzzy Nation (bought the audiobook for Wil Wheaton's narration)

- Ray Monk, Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center

- Alastair Reynolds, Revelation Space

- David C. Cassidy, Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and the Bomb

Found full of BS, did not finish:

- Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power


- order of 10^3 pages of Open University textbooks

- Klauber, Student Friendly Quantum Field Theory

- Feynman & Hibbs, Quantum Mechanics and Path Integrals

- Wald, General Relativity (5 chapters)

- Peskin & Schroeder, An Introduction to Quantum Field Theory (5 chapters)

Not as bad as I felt before making the list, but underwhelming in terms of quantity. I intend to read a whole lot more in 2016.

I just bought "Understanding Power". Why do you think it's BS?

Overall, I think the views presented in the book are superficial and do not give significant insight into power relations underlying the decision making. The wider context is often ignored. A lot of bold, unjustified statements that sound like a piece of propaganda. I just opened the book at a random page and found this: There are lots of planned economies-the United States is a planned economy, for example. I mean, we talk about ourselves as a "free market," but that's baloney. The only parts of the U.S. economy that are internationally competitive are the planned parts.

For example, his treatment of the Cold War. Like many people whose countries fell on the dark side of the Iron Curtain, I am grateful for all that the US did to contain and defeat the Soviet Union. When countries like Poland were oppressed under the communist rule which was in some ways more destructive than the second world war, Chomsky would have liked to let a large chunk of the third world fall under the same yoke just to avoid confrontation and casualties. This is a view that I find dangerous, ignorant and BS.

One could get a much more objective, fuller and clearer picture of things as well as appreciation of the complexities involved by getting an international relations textbook such as International Relations Since 1945 by Kent or a lighter read, The Global Cold War by Westad.

Leave it to Psmith - 10/10 Anna Karenina - 8/10 The Code of the Woosters 8/10 Fooled by Randomness 7/10 Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life 8/10 How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia 9/10 Reluctant Fundamentalist 9/10 The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes 8/10 The Last Question - Asimov - 9/10 The Magic of Thinking Big - 6/10 The catcher in the Rye 8/10 Models 7/10 High Fidelity - Nick Hornby 8/10 The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman 7/10 The Surrender Experiment - 10/10 Untethered Soul - 9/10 The Autobiography of a Yogi - 7/10 Raja Yoga - Swami Vikekandanda - 7/10 Something Fresh, something new - 7/10 Karma Yoga - Swami Vikekandanda - 8/10 Thinking, Fast and Slow - 9/10 Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates 10/10 The Pearl by John Steinbeck 7/10

Leave it to Psmith - 10/10

Anna Karenina - 8/10

The Code of the Woosters 8/10

Fooled by Randomness 7/10

Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life 8/10

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia 9/10

Reluctant Fundamentalist 9/10

The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes 8/10

The Last Question - Asimov - 9/10

The Magic of Thinking Big - 6/10

The catcher in the Rye 8/10

Models 7/10

High Fidelity - Nick Hornby 8/10

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman 7/10

The Surrender Experiment - 10/10

Untethered Soul - 9/10

The Autobiography of a Yogi - 7/10

Raja Yoga - Swami Vikekandanda - 7/10

Something Fresh, something new - 7/10

Karma Yoga - Swami Vikekandanda - 8/10

Thinking, Fast and Slow - 9/10

Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates 10/10

The Pearl by John Steinbeck 7/10

I read quite a few others that have been mentioned here, but I finally read two that hard sci-fi books that should appeal to the Hacker News crowd

Permutation City: People can run simulations of themselves or entirely migrate their consciousness into computer programs, but existence is often limited to the amount of computation that you can afford, leading to slow existences that stretch time into fractions of realtime. That premise had me hooked, but the book has fantastic thought provoking plot points throughout. Highly recommended. http://www.amazon.com/Permutation-City-Novel-Greg-Egan/dp/15...

Blindsight: Amazing first alien encounter book that should be read by everyone that is a fan of the genre. Memorable cast of characters...the Vampires are really interesting. All kinds of introductory scientific concepts throughout. Entertaining and educational. http://www.amazon.com/Blindsight-Peter-Watts/dp/0765319640/r...

Permutation City has a brilliant premise but I found sections of it mostly unreadable and I can't say I enjoyed it very much. Egan would have been better served presenting the content in an essay format.

Egan's more unforgiving stories are an acquired taste IMO. I started out with his short stories and found them enjoyable when there wasn't so much pretentious info-dumping and preaching. Permutation City felt like one of his harder to parse short stories stretched to the length of a novel.

Blindsight is on my Kobo right now, but after reading Permutation City I'm scared to start reading it because I don't want to reach halfway and want to chuck it like I did Permutation City.

On a more positive note, I just want to say that I liked how prescient the novel was in foretelling AWS.

> Blindsight is on my Kobo right now, but after reading Permutation City I'm scared to start reading it because I don't want to reach halfway and want to chuck it like I did Permutation City.

I read Blindsight before Permutation City. The way he describes the situations and the way his characters are often extremely confusing. But you get used to it at some point along the way. The story line itself and the Aliens are somewhat off the left field which makes the story very interesting. I personally liked it.

Permutation City is, on the other hand, simply boring as hell. Drier than ye olde Abstract Algebra textbook.

"Leaving Orbit - Notes from the last days of American spaceflight" - pleasantly sentimental view of the wind down of the shuttle program.

"The Dark Forest" 2nd installment in Three Body Problem series. Quite clever.

"This Changes Everything" - triggered by a quote from the doc on the radio about trying not to think about climate change and whether it's possible to be bored by the end of the world. Lots of good info (including a visit to a climate deniers conference), bit long winded.

"The Princeton Companion to Applied Mathematics". If I read only 10% still worth it. Lots of things to dip into.

"The Astronomer and the Witch" Kepler fights to save his mother from persecution.

I loved the Dark Forest. The whole series is awesome.

"The Magicians", "The Magician King", "The Magician's Land" - Lev Grossman. 4/5

"Inside Job" - Connie Willis. 4/5

"Norwegian Wood (Tokio Blues)" - Haruki Murakami. 4/5

"Old Man's War" - John Scalzi. 5/5

"Persepolis" - Marjane Satrapi. 5/5

Non fiction:

"The 10,000 year explosion" about recent evolution. 3/5 ton of evidence for their thesis, but lacks predictions.

"What if" well known by HN. 5/5

"The nurture assumption" about education, 2/5. Maybe a 4/5 when it was published, but now their ideas are in the water supply.

"The man who mistook his wife for a hat", by Oliver Sacks 4/5. Several stories about neurological deficits.

Here are all the ones I read this year

  A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R. R. Martin
  A Feast for Crows: A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) by George R.R. Martin
  The Confident Speaker: Beat Your Nerves and Communicate at Your Best in Any Situation by Harrison Monarth
  House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewsk
  To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War by Jeff Shaara 
  Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
  Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender
  George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade
  Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt
  Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
  Finders Keepers: A Novel by Stephen King
  The Guns of August: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Classic About the Outbreak of World War I by Barbara W. Tuchman
  The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
  Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson
  The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
  Hitler's Last Day: Minute by Minute by Emma Craigie
  The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  Robopocalypse: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) by Daniel H. Wilson
  Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson
  In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

My 5 favorite ones from that list are

  In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
  Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
  To the Last Man: A Novel of the First World War by Jeff Shaara 
  Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
  The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

What is your opinion on The Guns of August? I'm still looking for a good book on World War I.

I liked it a lot, it is really good. I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about WW I. Also highly recommended is Dan Carlin's 6 part podcast series Blueprint for Armageddon Here is the link to episode I http://www.dancarlin.com/product/hardcore-history-50-bluepri...

Thanks for the info, I've added it to my to-read list.

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark already seems to be a classic. Didn't read it yet, though.

How about All Quiet on the Western Front.

On my list for next year as well.....

> Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Second this one. Larson can really write history to be a page turner.

"Chasing the Scream" - a timely and interesting summary of the war on drugs and its (in)effectiveness.

"Mr. Bloomfield's Orchard" - a fun book about fungi from a mycologist with a solid sense of humor.

"On the Move" - Oliver Sacks's biography. Insightful and uplifting, especially if you enjoy writing.

"Ready Player One" - a dystopian cyber thriller. Reminded me of Snow Crash. Good stuff.

"The Last Place on Earth" - a good (if labored) summary of the races to the north and south poles and their geopolitical impacts.

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" - been on my list for years. Long but good.

"Steve Jobs" - needs no introduction. Got me interested in Isaacson's other books.

"Hallucinations" (Oliver Sacks) - insightful analysis of the prevalence and for-reaching effects of hallucination. It's a lot more common (and puzzling) than most of us realize.

Traction by Justin Mares, Gabriel Weinberg - would probably reread

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

How to Fail at Almost Everything by Scott Adams - great read Scaling Up By Verne Harnish

Great By Choice by Jim Collins - love the whole series

The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes - probably worth a reread

How to Win at the Sport of Business By Mark Cuban - good read

Elon Mush by Ashlee Vance - need I say more

The Hard Thing about Hard Things By Ben Horowitz

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg - probably need to deeply absorb this - a lot of good stuff

Copy This! By Paul Orfalea - another good "small business" entrepreneur book

The E-Myth Revisited By Michael Gerber - 2nd time read. Got more out of it this time.

The People's Tycoon (Ford) by Steven Watts - I love reading about businessmen from this age

Scrum by JJ Sutherland Jeff Sutherland - good read for development teams

I re-read Dune for the first time since I was a kid. Boy that did not hold up well. The world and lore building, which is what I guess I fondly remember, were still fantastic. The constant inner dialogues, not so much.

I finished "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Kahneman - A slow read, but a good one. He talks about the intricacies and surprising observations about how me take decisions.

"Logicomix" - A brief "history" of logic, its not always historically accurate. Did I tell you its a graphic novel?

"Show Your work" - Aston Kleon - A short motivating read about sharing ones work, he makes some good arguments for sharing the process as well, not just the product.

Picked up "Coders at work" - read two chapters, a great read so far (I know its pretty popular one amoung HN)

"Thus Spoke Zarathustra" - Nietzsche (French Translation) - 5/5 An absolute Must read.

"1984" - Orwell - 5/5 French law on surveillance made me want to read it again

"Fahrenheit 451" - Ray Bradbury - 4/5

"La zone du dehors" - Alain Damasio - 4/5

"The name of the wind" - Patrick Rothfuss - 4/5 A great fantasy story. It's a big book, there is a lot of details, but very well written.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" - Robert A. Heinlein - 3/5 Awesome concept, but very slow

"The Inverted World" - Christopher Priest - 4/5 Great short book

Robert A. Heinlein, not Valentine Michael Smith (although he features heavily in the story).

Haha sorry! Edited

Philip K. Dicks's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?": Liked the movie (Blade Runner) better, but not bad.

Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms": While reading it I found it extremely boring, though there was this feel to it that still made it pleasant to read. I can't really describe it.

Plutarch's "Lives" from the main figures from the end of the Republic (Penguin Classics collection): By far the best books on Roman history I've ever read.

Livy's books on the Second Punic War (Penguin Classics collection): A bit extensive, very detailed. I liked Plutarch's better (even though he's a bit more imaginative according to modern historians), but nevertheless a great read.

Various books by Machado De Assis (Quincas Borba, Helena, among others): National author, I just love his books, even though they all share a common plot.

A book on Alexander the Great. Can't remember the author. It was a summary of his life and conquers, very short but entertaining reading.

This year I'm planning to read some more Ancient History narrated by the classics, some Shakespeare and maybe Nietzsche or Dante (heavy reading I guess). I'm just as fond of history as of fiction, as Livy puts it:

I shall find in antiquity a rewarding study, if only because, while I am absolved in it, I shall be able to turn my eyes from the troubles which for so long have tormented the modern world...

That's exactly how I would describe my experience reading a Hemingway book.

Reading "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" was such a disappointment to me because I loved the movie so much. I would like to revisit it - maybe I would understand the parts about the empathy boxes and the wife's mood thing better now.

I think it's important to recognise there is a minimal relationship between book and movie. If one keeps them mentally discrete it is much easier to enjoy both. Do Androids Dream... is a very spiritual book. The movie doesn't / can't capture that element and wisely creates a totally different experience from the same elements...

From the other side, having read the book first, the movie was weird and boring, which was disappointing especially given the hype around it.

I switched it off around halfway into it and never got back to giving it another try, so this is not really meant as a fair assessment of its quality, just sharing a very different experience from yours.

Read Nietzsche! It's not that hard, and Zarathoustra is a must.

The Sun Also Rises - Hemingway ( great book )

Hooked How to Build Habit-Forming Products - Nir Eyal ( great book very insightful )

The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg ( interesting topic, long book )

Bandit Algorithms - John White ( great book, very short and easy to get through )

Ask - Ryan Levesque ( interesting ideas on sales funnels for websites )

Predictable Revenue - Aaron Ross ( so so, I liked some of the sales ideas but I see them used too often now )

Sherlock Holmes Adventures - Mike Ashley ( good book if you like the original and want some fresh material )

Dune by Frank Herbert- I'm one of the few people on Earth who enjoys the David Lynch adaptation so I finally had to get around to reading the book. Kind of awkward stylistically and structurally but a lot of fun.

Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen - It's seemed to me that there are political philosophies that focus on economic needs and those that focus on personal freedom. This is the best I've read at uniting those concepts.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! - A blast to read and great insight into the thinking of a great mind.

The LA Quartet by James Ellroy (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential, White Jazz) - Really the pinnacle of dark gritty noir. If you like that I can't recommend highly enough.

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett - I like a lot of Hammett's other work but this seemed to have a lot of wheel spinning.

City of Quartz by Mike Davis - As an Angeleno this gave me so much insight into the city I love. I have no idea if it would be of any interest to an outsider.

Antifragile by Nassim Taleb - Nassim Taleb is great and I've definitely been influenced a lot by his ideas, but he's getting too in love with the smell of his own farts.

Various books/textbooks on programming and databases - Nothing thrilling in this category. Gotta eat your vegetables.

agree on Taleb Antifragile and it is an awesome book but oh man what an angry person to follow on twitter or facebook. he is really becoming annoying and breeds the same character in his followers which is quite a shame considering the potential of his ideas.

absolutely agree, in fact, for me I need to look beyond his constant anger to not lose the value of his ideas. I also read "Bed of Procrustes" which I couldn't finish.

I read a lot this year, so I'll just point out some highlights:

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante - The highlight of the year. I'm now partially through the 3rd book in the series. And amazing portrait of the friendship between 2 girls as they grow up and try to escape the violence and poverty of their small town in Naples.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - My guess is that plenty of people here have read it. Great read about the fall of civilization due to a massive flu outbreak.

Room by Emma Donoghue - Beautiful, heartbreaking, troubling and uplifting.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - A classic, glad to finally read it.

The Room by Jonas Karlsson - Absurdist take on corporate life about a man who finds a room in his office building that shouldn't be there.

Welcome To Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor - For fans of the podcast. I highly recommend both.

Uglies/Pretties/Specials by Scott Westerfeld - YA trilogy about a future in which everybody is made pretty once they reach a certain age. Not great literature, but a fun read. Although the second one is a little blah.

Get In Trouble by Kelly Link - Excellent collection of fantastical yet mundane short stories.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine - Powerful exploration of race in America. I feel like I need to read it a few more times.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - Still one of my favorite authors. Story of a baby whose family is brutally murdered and ends up being raised by spirits in a graveyard.

One of the most interesting books I read was mentioned here on HN early this year: A Thread Across the Ocean


It covers the beginnings of one of the most important historical legs that most of our amazing technology rests on.

The Baroque Cycle - Neal Stephenson - It was 3000+ pages all told, and I LOVED it. His writing has always enthralled me, and I was hooked from the start

Every Discworld Novel - Terry Pratchett - Not much can be said that hasn't already been said a million times over. If you haven't read them yet, start now

The Theory of Poker - David Sklansky - Helped out my poker game tremendously. I'm much more ev+ now

Baroque Cycle, for sure.

And I'm stuck in a loop where I continue to read all the Discworld novels, over and over…

I can see that being an issue. I'm in the same habit with LOTR, ASOIAF and Harry Potter, reading each series once every two years or so, and it crushes my ability to read a lot of new books. I've avoided rereading Discworld so far because I know that it will never be as magical as the first read through.

But oh god, Baroque Cycle was unparalleled from a character-building perspective. I loved every second of it.

Fifteen Dogs: an apologue of rare insight. Apollo and Hermes make a wager that if dogs were given human intelligence they would die miserable, not happy. This was my favorite this year.

The End of Vandalism: a tale of a love triangle in a small mid-western town. Funny, dark, and a vivid portrait of that kind of town. A huge cast of characters, some only on stage for a moment or two and yet each integral and colorful.

The Annihilation Score: I love the series but this wasn't my favorite despite starring one of my favorite characters for the first time.

The Rhesus Chart: Another of the Laundry Files series. A sanguinary disease nearly brings down the Laundry. This one was snarky, good fun. One of my favorites from the series.

Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A creepy masterpiece of haute fan-fiction.

Without Their Permission: The tale of a privileged, mediocre man extolling the Libertarian virtues of the Internet. Anyone can open a laptop and get super rich! Without anyone's permission! Because that's why we're not all rich yet.

The Internet Is Not The Answer: A counter-point from Andrew Keene to Alexis Ohanian's unbridled optimism. Decent but not strong enough.

21st Century C: Amazing! Finally a practical book about C. The modern tool-set available, the notable language features of C99 and C11, and a few in-depth projects to pull it all together. Great book.

On Numbers And Games: A fabulous book by one of my mathematical heroes. Well worth getting through it.

Frankenstein: Mary Shelley's classic. I started collecting the new Penguin Classics line and the introductions are really insightful. These are well-researched and produced editions.

The Nature of Things: The epic from Lucretius. It was really eye-opening to finally read this book. Atomism, psychology, and poetic metaphors... from thousands of years ago.

... probably more I'm forgetting.

The Memory Book - Fantastic, maybe not always practical unless you have a lot of practice, but extremely useful to at least understand some of the strategies to memorizing strings

Understanding Weatherfax - for an attempted (and failed) circumnavigation

Sail Power

Kon Tiki


Art of the Sailor

Business Adventures

Metamorphoses (by Ovid, not Kafka)

Guns, Germs, Steel

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - this book had so many rave reviews. it has a tremendous hook and style for the first 50 pages, but overall I thought it was terrible

Cryptonomicon -- fantastic

Simulacra and simulation -- started, but I need to start over. this is not an easy read...

Predictably Irrational -- another book with great reviews, but reading this book was not time well spent. the author just summarizes psychology experiments with pages of dumbed down explanations and tedious anecdotes

The Alliance -- read this on my last day at my old job, a good reminder on the social contract between you and your employer and how it should be mutually beneficial, lots of boring filler though

Triple your reading speed -- I wanted to take a speed reading course when I was in elementary school, but my dad thought it was a waste of time. I think I really missed out on something, but late is better than never.

Siddhartha -- rereading of one of my favorite books of all time

The Alchemist -- rereading of one of my favorite books of all time

Jazz (by Leveaux)

The Jazz Piano Book

Mastering the Piano

Big Blue Book of bicycle maintenance

Probability (by Pitman) -- its embarassing statistics/probability isn't a required course in many programs

Elements of Statistical Learning

Advanced Analytics with Spark -- feels like this book was published only 80% done

Optimization Models (by Calafiore and El Ghaoui) -- going to finish this is 2016

Functional Programming with Scala -- going to finish this is 2016

Linux Programming Interface -- going to finish this is 2016

Finished 18 books cover to cover in 2015, 6 of which were textbooks/academic texts. Currently have 7 in progress, 2 of which are piano workbooks and 3 are textbooks.

Goal for 2016 is 30 books cover to cover, at least 8 textbooks/academic texts.

Could you expand a bit on your inclusion of 'Elements of Statistical Learning'? That book is essentially the holy grail of ML understanding and I find it difficult to believe you were able to grasp any meaningful proportion of it in what must have been a very condensed span of reading/study time. But maybe you're some kind of genius, in which case pardon me.

No you're right, I read/skimmed it cover to cover, but that doesn't do that book justice. I didn't do a single exercise and I really focused on the sections that were relevant to what I was doing (Random Forests, testing/validation). The author recommends maybe 4 or 5 chapters as required reading in the forward so I read those much more thoroughly, but again, skipped all of the exercises and the appendices. At the end of the day though, I'm not going to be implementing these algorithms, I'm just using existing libraries so I couldn't really justify the year+ of effort to go in depth on everything. That book is also a summarization of a lot of techniques. If you wanted more depth, I wouldn't think Elements of Statistical Learning is the book for it. I'm hoping to get fill in some of those gaps through reading Optimization Models a bit more closely.

Forgot about Dancing Naked in the Mindfield -- similiar to Surely You Must Be Joking. the author is the inventor of PCR and has some pretty outlandish stories fueled by hallucinogens

Also going to read Infinite Jest while I'm traveling the next few weeks.

These are the ones I've liked best

Neal Thompson - "Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR"

Dee Brown - "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"

Nicholas Johnson - "Big Dead Place" - about living in Antartica

Mark Noll - "The Civil War as a Theological Crisis"

David Halberstam - "The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War"

Stanley Karnnow - "In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines"

Esmerelda Santiago - "When I was Puerto Rican"

Lara Pawson - "In the Name of the People" (about Angola)

Marc Benioff - "Behind the Cloud" (surprisingly good for a business book)

Keith Anderson - "The Digital Cathedral" (book a friend of mine wrote, hard to describe, but suprised me at how good it is)

Adam Hochschild - "King Leopold's Ghost" (how the Congo became a colony)

Jessica Livingston - "Founders at Work"

"The Singapore Story: The memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew" (a little dry / long at points, but otherwise very instructive)

"Listening spirituality, Vol. 1: Personal Spiritual Practices Among Friends" (a book about Quakerism that was surprisingly good)

Michael Fogus - "Functional Javascript"

David Shi - "The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture" (traces the historical movements in the U.S. that value "simplicity" as a virtue, this was an interesting way to look at history)

A.J. Swoboda and studies, "Blood Cries Out" (recommended to me by someone I know who is in seminary, this is Pentacostal theologians writing about ecology)

Frank Moraes - "The Importance of Being Black" (an Indian journalist in the 60s who took a tour of Africa and wrote a book; his books are hard to find though)

"Debt - Updated and Expanded: The First 5,000 Years" - David Graeber - Bit of a slog, but worth it for an in depth look at the historic mechanisms of debt that are inexorably tied to violence and control

"Confessions of a Venture Capitalist" - Ruthann Quindlen - Peak into the world of VC, mostly interesting bc it was written in 2001 and her expertise was in tech. Not much has changed in that world it seems.

"One Plus One Equals Three: A Masterclass in Creative Thinking" - David Trott - Pithy treatment of design thinking from a writer with a staccato style.

"The Best Interface Is No Interface" - Golden Krishna - The best book on design out there IMO. Make it invisible. Plus the dude's name is fucking GOLDEN KRISHNA. Winner.

I had a weird year, reading no new 2015 books. Here's a handful I enjoyed the most:

"Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynmann" - probably needs no introduction here on HN, but some wonderful anecdotes by Richard Feynmann.

"Red Plenty" by Francis Spufforth. Enjoyable (and apparently thoroughly well researched) depiction of life in the Soviet Union during its rise and decline

"My Ten Years Imprisonment" by Silvio Pellico. An autobiographical account of an Italian revolutionary during the times of the Austro-Hungarian empire, he was imprisoned in a castle I live next to.

"Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer - luckily a couple of months before Everest was released (it was recommended in an HN discussion)

"The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared" by Jonas Jonasson (Love it -- hilarious, witty, a pleasure to read)

"Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki Murakami (Strange good -- but I'm not sure if I liked it as much as liked "The Wild Sheep Chase")

"One hundred years of solitude" by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez (Very slow, had a hard time honestly)

"Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn (A fast, exciting read but found the ending unsatisfying. But would recommend)

"Still Life with Woodpecker" by Tom Robbins (Fantastic prose, fantastical characters and situations. Will read more from him)

And for technical books, I read "The Art of Agile Development". Was alright.

This will be an unlikely HN entry, but as there was not pre-requirement, I thoroughly enjoyed a French book named "Peste et Cholera" by Patrick Deville, about Alexandre Yersin [1]. Yersin is mostly known for identified the bacillus responsible for the plague [2]. Not that it relates to our field, but the guy's dedication and hard-work was inspiring (similarly, Pasteur's life is quite interesting to read about).

Also out of our usual targets here, though somewhat more related, I enjoyed "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" [3] by Haruki Murakami. I found the universes interesting and enjoyed the setting of a world were programmers learn to compute and encrypt things in their brains (even if it's a small part of the story).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandre_Yersin

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yersinia_pestis

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard-Boiled_Wonderland_and_the...


"The World's Toughest Endurance Challenges" - Very nicely illustrated

"Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words" - Extremely enjoyable. People here certainly are aware of xkcd and it's type of humor.


"Functional programming in Scala" - good read for Scala beginners, especially after "Scala for the Impatient"

"Learning Spark" - the best book on Spark so far

"Assessing and Improving Prediction and Classification" - couple of interesting ideas for ML and Data Science

"Neural Network Design" - Quite basic, but I like the flow and introducing mathematical concepts just before they're needed.

"The Long Earth" - Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter - First in trilogy about parallel worlds; the combination of those two authors makes it both fanciful and grounded, which is a bit odd.

"Clockwork Rocket" - Greg Egan - First in the Orthagonal trilogy; An alien story where physics is different.

"Seveneves" - Neal Stephenson - Goes great with the recent hard sci-fi space movies.

EDIT: "What-if" - Randall Munroe - Saw this on another list and need to make sure is shows up as often as possible. This is the thing to hand every kid as part of their back-to-school pack.

The other Books that are not so live changing this Year: - "Fitness für den Kopf mit Superlearning" - Sheila Ostrander, Lynn Schroeder (not much news, but good)

- "Menschen lesen" - Joe Navarro (not much news, but good)

- "Intros und Extros" - Sylvia Löhken (now I'm clear - I am an Intro" :)

- "Lassen Sie Ihr Hirn nicht unbeaufsichtigt" - Christine Strenger - (nice book about how to remember things, but I decided that it is not my way to remember. Need to fix my memory to real things)

- "Thinking, Fast and Slow" - Daniel Kahneman - ( something about thinking I descoverd 20 years ago by my selve)

- "Assertiveness at work" - Ken Back, Kate Back ( The way I walk now to Hack passive agressive behavior )

- "Emotional Vampires at Work" - Albert J. Bernstein - (Helped me to discover the passive agressive behavior I never noticed as what it is before.)

- Profile Books about: 1. Michel Foucault, 2. Jacques Derrida, 3. Villém Flusser

- "Theorie des kommunkativen Handelns Band1" - Jürgen Habermas (started Band 2 Book 2 month ago)

- "Super-Brain" Deepak Chopra, Rudolph E. Tanzi - ( uhhh... you need to find a better book, but easy to read)

- "Der Pychopath in mir -engl.:The Psychopath Inside" - James Fallon (nice Book - found some Psychopath around me and give them hinds now not to stumble)

I've read 33 books so I'm not going to publish the list here, but i blogged about it: http://blog.habrador.com/2015/12/books-ive-read-in-2015.html

The books I liked the most were:

- The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why

- On Intelligence

- The Martian

- The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

- Einstein: His Life and Universe

- Alan Turing: The Enigma

- Neuroscience for Dummies

- Thunder Run - (which is about the battle of Baghdad in 2003)

A few books I read for fun this year:

- Armada: Ernest Cline - Very disappointing and predictable

- Library of Souls: Ransom Riggs - Easy but engrossing book

- Ruby Under a Microscope: Pat Shaughnessy - I find his style of explaining things very accessible

- Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End: Atul Gawande - It's a hard subject to think about but helped me to understand that prolonging life and continuing treatment shouldn't necessarily be the end goal for every case.

- Go in Action: William Kennedy - A must if you're learning Go lang

- Armada: Ernest Cline - Very disappointing and predictable ... but much improved (although still bad) if you take the interpretation that everything that happens after he almost beats someone's head in with a tire iron happens inside his head during his full-on psychotic break. You can push some of the earlier events into being clues towards that, mix in his father's conspiracy theory insanity for a genetic component, and then view everything that happens as purely a story he tells himself, fuelled by his obsession with eighties sf. It's a push, but it makes it a better book (although still pretty bad) :)

Hey, just a heads up, that the first link on Goodreads links to each Goodreads user's own book list. Can get the correct link by clicking "share on Twitter" and copying the link from there. E.g. mine is https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2015/3669238

Good stuff, though, thanks for sharing your highlights!

Looking at back my own list, a lot of good, but few if any great books on it... The good effect is more in the aggregate learning than any one of them in particular.

Ah, thanks for the heads up! Doesn't look like I can edit my post anymore, but the proper link is: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2015/1363537

Books I'm glad I've read:

The Inner Game of Tennis

Impro by Keith Johnstone

Seeing Like a State

The Timeless Way of Building

Linear and Geometric Algebra by Alan Macdonald

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (read this one thrice)

The Tao of Pooh

Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd

The Drama of the Gifted Child

Interaction Ritual

What Do You Say After You Say Hello?

Of niche use:

Mathematics: its Content, Methods and Meaning - mostly useful for figuring out what math you don't know. I recommend reading it at a fairly decent pace, and noting what subjects don't sound like an overview of something you've already learned.

What did you think of MacDonald's book? Did you feel the content could have practical use to you? I'm intrigued, but reluctant to invest the time/effort if the topic has only theoretical implications.

It's the kind of book that lets you solve the same amount of problems with much more concise mathematical knowledge and structure. I didn't have a pressing need for linear algebra, so I didn't get everything out of it that I could have, but overall it helped clarify the way I thought about many math concepts. For example, in two dimensions there is one direction for "sideways", so complex numbers have a one-dimensional vector `i`. In three, there are three coherent directions for "sideways", so quaternions have a three-dimensional vector `i`. If you have coordinate-free ways of thinking about linear algebra, you can treat both complex numbers and quaternions as "the same kind of thing" in many ways.

I especially recommend this book if you need mathematical elegance in order to learn things and have a low tolerance for explanations that amount to "that's just how things work, go memorize stuff".

Impro! Is incredible.

If you liked the Tao of Pooh, you may enjoy The Te of Piglet

Got a new job in May so slowed me down, but got through around 8 this year.

I'm a Lencioni fan:

Death by Meeting -- Describes 3 types of meetings

Getting Naked -- Describes how to consult

I'm also a Marshall Goldsmith fan:

What Got You Here Won't Get You There - Once you get beyond a Director level with some mistakes, read this book

Mojo, How to Get It, How To Keep It - Another "look yourself in the mirror" book


21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership - John Maxwell. A little prod to act more like a leader.

Ready Player One -- Ernest Cline, Great Young Adult Book. Escapist fantasy.

Every Shot Counts -- Mark Broady, Statistical Look At Golf, but has some smell of Kahnemann

To Kill A Mockingbird -- Timeless Classic I Never Got To. Loved Atticus. I won't read a Watchman if it spoils my view of what Atticus was all about.

Started But Not Finished:

Business Dynamics Thinking -- Sterman (out of MIT). I need to take off work to read this 'cause it is so massive. Basically it is control theory applied to business modelling. However, I am convinced if somebody can apply these models, it really is the best competitive advantage. However, too people willing to stick with it.

How to Measure Anything -- Douglas Hubbard. Sort of makes me mad because it is so commonsense, yet most businesses don't apply this commonsense approach.

I broke all my records for reading in 2015. I set off to read 12 books and ended up reading 49. You can see them at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/15981902-emad-ibrahim

There were some helpful books but a ton of fiction. I got hooked on Mitch Rapp and Jack Reacher series and couldn't stop :) Not educational but lots of fun.

All consumed as audiobooks.

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America - Colin Woodard; I learned much about early US history.

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

Find Me - Laura van den Berg

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

The Dog Stars - Peter Heller

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage - Alfred Lansing; I was fortunate enough to read this right before Seveneves, so the references made immediate sense. Endurance looks to be popular on this list/this year. How many were inspired by Seveneves?

Seveneves - Neal Stephenson

The Years of Rice and Salt - Kim Stanley Robinson

Crystal Fire: The Birth of the Information Age - Michael Riordan, Lillian Hoddeson; I highly recommend this book. Like The Making of the Atomic Bomb, but for the transistor. Lots of background on John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain. I was unaware of the great legacy of John Bardeen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bardeen

The Making of the Atomic Bomb - Richard Rhodes; If you have not read this book, read it, just for the summary of discoveries that lead to the atomic bomb.

Alas, Babylon - Pat Frank

The Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage - Anthony Brandt

The Worst Journey in the World - Apsley Cherry-Garrard

The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen - Stephen R. Bown

I am looking for other books similar to Crystal Fire and The Making of the Atomic Bomb, that cover the history of scientific and technological discoveries. Any recommendations?

Would you like to share your experience about audio books?

I listen as I drive to and from work (25-30 mins each way) and over lunch (~40 mins). For a little while this year I had a <10 min commute, which was too short to start listening, and thus I missed my longer commute. I did Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney drives a few times this year, but usually mix it up with some podcasts rather than a single 8 hour session.

When you start an new audiobook, I find it takes time for me to warm to the narrator. Initially, some narrators can be quite grating, but eventually I get used to them.

I find I have to look out for when my mind wanders. The 30 second rewind button gets used a lot, though sometimes when I am still thinking about things from work on my drive home, I need to relisten to the entire 30 mins again. Its as if I paid no attention at all. The same for any driving that is not autopilot driving, e.g. to new places/complex traffic-an audiobook is too distracting so I turn it off.

I wish the Audible app would put the 30 second rewind button on the lock screen rather than next/previous track. Having to unlock just to rewind whilst driving sucks. The audible widget does not consistently appear on the lock screen.

The Hobbit - Liked, classic.

How Ideas Spread - It was decent, I feel like it could be condensed into an infographic after the fact, and hold great value.

The Lean Startup - Excellent. Changed the way I do business.

A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1 - Great book, wonderful universe. Apparently Martin loves himself a good descriptions of clothes.

A Clash of Kings: A song of Ice and Fire, Book 2 - Great book.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Good book for a kid, pretty irritating kid though (the kid in the book, not mine).

The Andromeda Strain - Excellent!

Christ the Sum of All Spiritual Things - Great book! Very healthy view of a Christocentric theology.

Dracula - Sleeper hit of the year. This book was awesome.

Pippi Longstocking - Read this to my son, and we really enjoyed it.

The Secrets of Power Negotiating - Helped me out during the process of buying a house by understanding various negotiation gambits. Would recommend.

Scrum - Another book that changed the way I work. Would absolutely recommend it.

The Wizard of Oz - Much better than the movie.

The 4-Hour Workweek - .... It was "okay". I don't know. I'm still torn.

The Swiss Family Robinson - Awesome book, full of fun things to talk about with your kids.

The BFG - This was the start of the Roald Dahl stage for bedtime reading.. It's a great book, one of my favorite Dahl books.

Matilda - Reading this as an adult, it was not nearly as fun as when I was a kid, however my son loved it.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox - Fun and easy read for the kids.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Pretty decent book.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator - Terrible. Absolutely terrible.

I was on a sf kick this year apparently.

Full list (why can't amazon show me the read dates of my kindle books?!):

- Ancillary Sword

- The Magician's Land

- The Three Body Problem (incomplete)

- Libriomancer, Codex Born, Unbound

- Thank You, Jeeves

- Omon Ra (incomplete)

- Stations of the Tide

- 1Q84 (staggeringly incomplete)

- The Desert Spear (incomplete)

- The Lost Fleet: {Dauntless,Fearless,Courageous} (third one incomplete)

- Superintelligence

- Nexus, Crux (incomplete)

- Another Fine Myth

- The Annihilation Score

- The Man with the Golden Torc, Daemons are Forever

- The Fractal Prince (incomplete)

- Crooked

- Ancillary Mercy

- The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

- The Traitor Baru Cormarant

- Excession

- Hive Mind

- Seveneves

Riyria Revelations trilogy - quite good. Follows two thieves for hire. Read the books in publication order

Ready player one - liked it

samurai's garden

Expanse series by James Corey entertaining

Steelheart and Firefight by Sanderson- good but like Mistborn better

Worm online serial parahumans good

Nonfiction I read: Delivering happiness, Drive, Power of Habit, Power of full engagement

Freedom - Daniel Suarez - Follow up to "Daemon". https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7132363-freedom

Old Man's War - John Scalzi - My first Scalzi book and won't be the last. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51964.Old_Man_s_War

Red Rising / Golden Son - Pierce Brown - I'm a sucker for these YA SF series. Lots of fun. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15839976-red-rising

Check out the books i read in 2015 (16 books or 5309 pages or 14 pages/day) https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2015/9692204

Books this year that I loved:

"A Place of Greater Safety" - Hilary Mantel [French Revolution - Danton, Robespierre, Desmoulins ...]

"One Summer: America 1927" - Bill Bryson

"Napoleon the Great" - Andrew Roberts

"Seveneves" - Neal Stephenson

Reading "The Box" at the moment which is pretty interesting.

Just started Seveneves (still in part one), and, as usual, I am blown away by Stephenson's world-building and character development. I freaking love his stuff.

Do audio books count? If so my favorites from this year would be Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson, and Armada by Ernest Cline.

Books I actually read which were good: The Informationist by Taylor Stevens Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Was light year for me:

Confessions of a D-List Supervillain - Jim Bernheimer

Origins of a D-List Supervillain - Jim Bernheimer

The second is a prequel of the first. I haven't read the third in the series. Light reading about a guy's descent into villainy.

Yes Please - Amy Poehler: I love memoirs. I just didn't love this one. It read a lot like Leslie Knope was the author, but there was an obscene amount of name dropping that kept interrupting the flow of the book for me.

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir - Eddie Huang: Like I said, I'm a sucker for these things. Picked it up, because the series reminded me of a 90s Asian version of Everybody Hates Chris. The absurdity and random profanity was a little off-putting at first. Remembering how I felt as a black boy doing some of the same dumb things in the 90s really put it into perspective though.

The Serpent of Venice: A Novel - Christopher Moore: The follow up to Fool. It's a different take on Shakespearian story-telling. I can't recommend his novels enough.

Quantum Lens - Douglas E. Richards: I read this solely because I liked Wired and Amped. No-frills action with a sci-fi element. You probably won't get engrossed, but you will be entertained.

Spell or High Water & An Unwelcome Quest - Scott Meyer: Books 2 & 3 in a series about a group of guys who can manipulate reality through writing scripts. Good, but not my favorite.

Armada: A Novel - Ernest Cline: Ah yes. The long awaited sophomore effort from the author of Ready Player One. This book fell harder than it deserved to, because people where expecting it to be analogous to Ready Player One. Spoiler: it's not. The novel does have its short-comings. Repetitive dialogue, shoe-horned classic pop-culture references and shallow writing plague this book. If you've got time for a short novel, give it a whirl, but don't expect anything amazing.

Words of Radiance - Brandon Sanderson: Book 2 of the Stormlight Archives. If it's an epic by Sanderson, do yourself a favor and board the hype train. You won't be disappointed. It's everything you want in a long fantasy novel without being bogged down with side-plots and details.

Warbreaker - Brandon Sanderson: This is a standalone novel with a tie-on to Words of Radiance. I'm only halfway through it. Would recommend so far, especially since it's free from the author.

Pretty terrible data viz of everything I read this year: http://ruparel.co/book-viz/

TL:DR is I read too many comic books.

nice !

I've started keeping a file on my GitHub account where I'm listing every book I have read (or at least remember reading). Most of those listed there I have read in 2015 (there's also a score next to each one): https://github.com/aleksandar-todorovic/notes/blob/master/00...

Unfortunately I am quite a bit behind the goal I gave to myself (14/25 at the moment).

I started doing something like this, but then I discovered goodreads.com. I use it to not only keep track and rate what I have read, but to keep a list of books I want to read. It's probably nearing 300 items by now.

- Make me a German(great read, even if you aren't into germany, nice read/comedy).

Still reading "Meditations" from Marcus Aurelius, definitely a must read. You can easily see why he was an imperator and can probably guess how much far a human can get even in today's society with the mindset he provided in the book. Maybe it's a good idea to finish this up this xmas.

It was a very poor year in reading for me, but compensated by the fact I've moved to Germany.

Ready Player One. by Ernest Cline. Brilliant geeky read (fiction) :)

I haven't read it, but it was featured on I Don't Even Own A Television with hilarious results: http://www.idontevenownatelevision.com/2014/06/19/010-ready-...

Two great books:

- "Functional Programming in Scala" by Paul Chiusano and Rúnar Bjarnason

- "Big Data: Principles and best practices of scalable realtime data systems" by Nathan Marz and James Warren

I just looked over the first chapter or so of "Big Data" that's online with the intent of purchasing it yesterday. It seemed decent enough.

What were you general thoughts on it?

Would be interesting to have kind of a poll with HN top recommended books. If somebody as a good idea on how to make/implement it.

edit: not only programming oriented books

My reading slowed to a crawl this year. Here were a few:

- Chronicles Vol 1, Bob Dylan. Inspiring, I felt very open to the world after. I loved his descriptions of Dave Van Ronk: "No puppet strings on him ever. He was big, sky high, and I looked up to him. He came from the land of giants."

- Peregrine, J.A. Baker. Intense, spiritual, like some sort of modern Moby Dick, but sparse, focused, elemental.

Next year I hope to read more Roberto Bolaño and start Elena Ferrante.

"The Righteous Mind" - Jonathan Haidt. This book helped me understand conservative thinking, made me less heated in my opinions, and provided a convincing framework for me to understand moral arguments

"Emperor of All Maladies" - Siddhartha Mukherjee. An excellently written history of cancer.

"Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage" - Lansing Alfred. A true story of one of the last great explorations man has taken

I just want to add that for a cross country drive, there is no better audio book than "Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage". The audio version is absolutely gripping; the suspense is incredible, more so because of the strict linearity of the story as audio (no peeking ahead). I also liked "Into Thin Air" on audio.

"Debt: The First 5000 Years" David Graeber

"Kokoro" Natsume Soseki

"The Politics of Dialogical Imagination" Hirano Katsuya

"History and Repetition" Karatani Kojin

"The Structure of World History" Karatani Kojin

"Anti-Oedipus" Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari

"Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors" Nicholas Wade

"Capital, Volume I" Karl Marx

These books have been the most informative and thought-provoking for me this year.

I've been trying to up my game on reading:

- Founders at Work: Jessica Livingston. Good. Less repetitive than Coders at Work.

- Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage. Awfuly boring. But I don't care at all about sailing (it was a gift).

- Terre des Hommmes: Antoine de St Exupéry. Brilliant, the chapter with the 2 girls made me decide to read all his work in 2016.

- Practical Common Lisp: Peter Siebel. Had to start Lisp!

Not including technical books

"The Four Steps to the Epiphany" - I got a very detailed view on customer development.

"Zero to One" - got some fresh ideas on how to think differently wrt business.

"Dhandha: How Gujaratis Do Business" - collection of stories , which highlight why/how Gujaratis are so successful in businesses.

Best books I have read this year:

- Shareholder letters of Warren Buffett: http://amzn.to/1OgZVh9

- Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage: http://amzn.to/1Oh09oz

"Chance: The science and secrets of luck, randomness and probability" It's a collection of New Scientist essays based around probability. Well worth reading, and because it's just short essays it's easy to pick up for just a few minutes at a time.

Oh where to start... too many to name of course. But several new favorites of mine from this yewr would have to be: Blindsight, Essentials of Programming Languages, Welcome to Nightvale, Glasshouse and finally after puttering around it for three years, Accelerando.

"Cryptonomicon" - Neal Stephenson

"Expecting Better" - Emily Oster

"The 9/11 Commission Report" - National Commission on Terrorist Attacks

"Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS" - Joby Warrick

"Power Wars: Inside Obama's Post-9/11 Presidency" - Charlie Savage (not finished yet)

I can strongly recommend The Baroque Cycle - the loosely connected "prequels" to Cryptonomicon:


[Jack Shaftoe is probably my favourite fictional character]

german translation to "the Blank Slate. The Modern Denial of Human Nature." -Steven Pinker - opens me a new view into Hell of Live

german Book "Darm mit Charm" - Giuelia Enders - Never laught so often by reading a Science book about my bowel.

"The angry Smile" - Jody E. Long, Nicholas J. Long, Signe Whitson - in 2014 i discovered passive agressive behavior arround and against me. But all Books I found since, had the one solution "get around them - do not talk to them - get rid of them" but if you need to work with passive agressive behavior, that isn't what you need. So this book gives me the hinds to hack this behavior.

1) Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree - Rating 3/5 - Got an idea about the times in receding Muslim powers, at the end of the 15th Century, in Spain - The author is an historian so positive point is that fiction rooted in history. But some of the fictional narratives could have been better, as he was not a fiction writer when he started out.

2) Zero to One - Rating 4/5 - Thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. Insights into and anecdotal examples of Paypal mafia, among the numerous over there.

3) Liar's Poker - Rating 4/5 - The first of several best seller's by Michael Lewis, gives insights into the working of Investment Finance business, and in a very interesting way (lots of humor)

4) Devotion of Suspect X - Rating 4/5 - Work of fiction by the Japanese best seller author Keigo Higashino. Enjoyable read - contrasts a Physicist and a Mathematician trying to out think each other in a crime context (reference to Maths/Physics are just pop-level so don't expect too much)

5) 'Digital Gold...' by Nathaniel Popper - Currently reading (very enjoyable at around 41%) - Captures the history of evolution of Bitcoin. Also made me sad for various people for different reasons, e.g. Hal Finney, who was the first adopter of Satoshi Nakamoto's idea. Reading this book made me appreciate why not knowing who is SN is important. I am no longer curious.

6) Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond - Rating 5/5 - A perspective changing book, if there can be one. Had picked it up from Gates notes' reading list couple years back. After reading this, my entire perspective on religions, politics, culture changed and I view everything from the reference point of when we started to do agriculture some 20,000 years ago, and of course geographical perspective.

Some others in my to-read list (hope to pick one before the turn of the year):

1) Emperor of all maladies - book on cancer research

2) Ashley Vance's book on Elon Musk

3) 100 years of solitude

4) The selfish gene

5) The hard thing about hard things

6) Or, if I see any other book: either on this page, or on Gates Notes or on HN reading share the other day. Am a big fan of exchanging/sharing reading lists.

Edit: Formatting. HN post editor needs two new lines ('\n') to display one

Edit 2: Had wrongly named book #4 as Salvation of a saint (which is another book, I read earlier by the same author)

Off the top of my head: reread "The Left Hand Of Darkness", "The Mythical Man-Month", and the end of "A Mote In God's Eye"; read "A Night In The Lonesome October".

All worth reading, the last probably the least enduring.

This year's finished reading so far https://gist.github.com/adrianh/f6aca0e6ac3b2e9aec94

(doesn't include stuff skimmed or unfinished)

I re-read all the Akady Renko books by Martin Cruz Smith, and the Harry Bosch by Michael Connolly. I enjoyed both very much, but I would say the Cruz Smith books edge it.

Thoughts on Design - Paul Rand, Design as Art - Bruno Munari, Meditations - Marcus Aurelius, Ways of Seeing - John Berger, The War of Art - Steven Pressfield

1- The Emperor's Handbook by Marcus Aurelius. Jan, 10th 2015 2- The crowd, a study of the popular mind by Gustave Le Bon. Jan, 10th 2015 3- Remote by Jason Fried. Jan, 11th 2015 4- The shape of the world to come by Laurent Cohen-Tanugi, Jan, 20th, 2015 5- Post office by Charles Bukowski. Jan, 23rd 2015 6- Gang leader for a day by Sudhir Venkatesh. Feb, 6th 2015 7- Zen mind, beginner's mind by Shunryu Suzuki. Feb, 8th 2015 8- The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Feb, 23rd 2015 9- Darkness Visible by William Styron. March, 1st 2015 10- Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters. March, 9th 2015 11- The Kaizen way: One small step can change your life by Robert Mauter. March, 11th 2015 12- Time by Alexander Waugh. March, 12th 2015 13- Max and the cats by Moacyr Scliar. March, 14th 2015 14- Scattered by Gabor Mate. March, 20th 2015 15- East of Eden by John Steinbeck. March, 30th 2015 16- Crossing the unknown sea by David Whyte. April, 7th 2015 17- Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. April, 13th 2015 18- The World beyond your Head by Matthew Crawford. April, 22nd 2015 19- How to Think about Exercise by Damon Young. April, 23rd 2015 20- Solitude by Anthony Storr. May, 8th 2015 21- Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. June, 10th 2015 22- The bastard of Istanbul (in Arabic) by Elif Shafak. June, 21st 2015 23- L’ordre libertaire: la vie philosophique d’Albert Camus by Michel Onfray. July, 7th 2015 24- Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. July, 10th 2015 25- The arab uprisings by James Gelvin. July, 13th 2015 26- How to worry less about money by John Armstrong. July, 13th 2015 27- Self comes to mind by Antonio Damasio. July, 31st2015 28- Muhammad: The First Muslim by Lesley Hazleton. August, 4th t2015 29- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. August, 15th 2015 30- Heidegger's Being and Time by William Blattner. August, 18th 2015 31- Heidegger and a hippo walk through those pearly gates by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein. August, 19th 2015 32- Why nations fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. October, 3rd 2015 33- Charlie Munger: the complete investor by Tren Griffin October, 9th 2015 34- The selfish gene by Richard Dawkins October, 23rd 2015 35- The philosophical baby by Alison Gopnik October, 28th 2015 36- The three-body problem by Cixin Liu November, 1st 2015 37- Open letter to a young man by Andre Maurois November, 13th 2015 38- Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman November, 16th 2015 39- What do you care what people think by Richard Feynman November, 18th 2015 40- When the body says No by Gabor Maté November, 29th 2015 41- The truth will set you free by Alice Miller. December, 5th 2015 42- The shallows by Nicholar Carr. December, 7th 2015 43- What matters most byJames Hollis. December, 14th 2015 44- Finding meaning in the second jalf of life byJames Hollis. December, 20yh2015

My favourite has been "Industrial Applications of High-Performance Computing: Best Global Practices", CRC Press, April 2015.

Non-fiction, best to worst:

Henry Marsh, Do No Harm. A brilliant memoir by a neurosurgeon about his work, the nature of his profession, successes and mistakes (especially the latter). Frequently touches or verges into the personal. Not morbid, but often sad.

Keith Johnstone, Impro for Storytellers. Viola Spolin, Improvisation for the Theater

Two very good books about improvisation, although Spolin's is too dry and theory-laden for me (it's meant for teachers more than practitioners). Both, however, pale compared to Keith Johnstone's earlier Impro: Improvisation and the Theater, which is a life-changing book about what improvisation can teach us about spontaneous creativity and relationships between people. I recommend that one first and foremost if you know nothing about improvisation and are curious.

Martinus J G Veltman, Facts and Mysteries in Elementary Particle Physics. A readable account - necessarily simplified, of course - of the current state of affairs in elementary particles and much of the last 50 years of history, by one of the participants (a Nobel prize winner). Not as organized and methodical as I thought it would be, and half a year later I forgot most of the physical explanations, but it was an interesting read.

Robert B. Edgerton, Sick Societies. A thorough examination of the hundreds of horrible examples when "natural" societies studied by anthropologists have customs that are not only bad from our modern Western point of view, but arguably fail in achieving their own objectives. The whole book exists to counter lazy cultural relativism of the "maybe we don't like X, but if they do it, it must be for a good reason and it must be a useful adaptation for them" kind.

Michael Harris, Mathematics Without Apologies. A very eclectic and idiosyncratic book by a mathematician on the sociology and epistemology of mathematics as a discipline. To be appreciated for its wealth of ideas and references to other interesting books and theories, rather than for any particular argument or thread.

Milton Rokeach, The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. A story on what happened when a psychologist tried to bring three psychiatric patients, each believing themselves to be Christ, together and to talk it out amongst themselves. Happened in the 1960s. The idea is more interesting than the outcome.

Fiction, best to worst:

Patrick O'Brian, The Hundred Days. The penultimate book in the series of the best historical novels (the Aubrey-Maturin series) ever written, by a huge margin. The series transcend the genre and I count the Aubrey-Maturin books among the very best books I read in the last decade.

Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle. A brilliantly written coming-of-age story about a girl growing up in an impoverished family occupying a decaying castle in the English countryside, set in the 1930s. Reminded me in many ways of Rebecca West's The Fountain Overflows, a novel in the similar genre (but with a younger protagonist) that's known much less than it deserves.

Juan Rulfo, Pedro Paramo. If you read and liked Garcia Marquez's A Hundred Years of Solitude, this one is shorter, darker, involves many more dead people, and you may want to give it a try.

Alfred Hayes, In Love. A story of a man obsessed by love in a mid-century NYC. Unexpectedly touching, very convincing psychologically.

Iain M. Banks, Against a Dark Background. SF, a grand heist novel set in a advanced civilization living in a star system located unimaginably far away from any other stars and galaxies, and so doomed to a lone struggle with its own long history. A wealth of technological and social ideas you'd expect from Banks. The ending felt a bit forced.

Gene Wolfe, There Are Doors. Gene Wolfe, Nightsite of the Long Sun/Lake of the Long Sun.

Gene Wolfe is the best writer American science fiction produced in the last half-century. "There are Doors" is a pretty weird fantasy novel about an alternate world where men die after their first intercourse (as some spiders do in ours), and the hero travels back and forth between that world and ours. It's good, but not as strong as Wolfe's best, which to my taste is the Book of the New Sun tetralogy, the novellas in the Fifth Head of Cerberus collection, and many of his short stories (well-collected in The Best of Gene Wolfe). The other two are the first half of the "Book of the Long Sun" series that I'm still reading through.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed. Superb political SF about an imagined anarchist [anti-]utopia. A serious attempt to describe a human society with no central power structures and no ownership. The hero is a physicist born and raised in that society who escapes to a sibling planet with the more typical modern states. This novel took all the awards in the 1970s when it was published, and deservedly so.


In the past couple of years I've read through the entire Aubrey/Maturin series, and I totally agree that they are some of the best books ever. I've never been into historical fiction but it was a great decision to make an exception in this case. Highly, highly recommended. There is also a very nice (though extremely simplified) movie adaptation.


Michael Frayn, Democracy. A compulsively readable play about an episode in the politics of West Germany in the 1970s, a subject I didn't know could be made so interesting to me. Superb.

Michael Flynn, Eifelheim. Excellent and profound SF/historical novel about aliens crashing in the Germany of the Middle Ages, and how that would work out. Avoids cheap tricks, very strong on historical research and verisimilitude.

Ross Thomas, The Cold War Swap, Cast a Yellow Shadow, Chinaman's Chance. Very well-written thrillers, typically stories about spying or political corruption. I'm usually bored by this genre, couldn't put these down. Will read more by this (hitherto unknown to me) author.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wizard of Earthsea. (reread) Still as good as I remembered it to be.

P.K.Dick, The Man in the High Castle. (reread) Very inventive and weird in a good way, but I wish the characters would be a little different (everyone is the same highly neurotic mouthpiece for the author), and the obsession with I Ching does nothing for me. Still worth reading.

Robert Ryan, Dead Man's Land. A Sherlock Holmes novel in which 90% of the action is with John Watson rejoining the Army to help in World War I at his late middle age, and Holmes appears only briefly. Works quite well. Very detailed on day-to-day trench warfare and medicine at the front.

Michael Frayn, Noises Off. A funny short play, very meta, not as good as his "Democracy".

Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Better than his two long novels of the 2000s. A self-contained fairy tale, fun to read and well-written, but not beyond that. Gaiman's unsurpassed masterpiece, to me, is still The Sandman.

Michael Swansick, Chasing the Phoenix. SF, set on a future Earth where computers and electronic communication are outlawed following problems with runaway AIs, but there's lots of high technology (e.g. genetics) otherwise. Funny and amusing, a light read.

[edit: deleted about 20 books I didn't like or hated]

Since you liked Gene Wolfe's work, have you read R.A. Lafferty?

I have, actually this year too (missed it in the list because it didn't come from Amazon). I read the collection Nine Hundred Grandmothers. I thought it was pretty uneven, but the highs were very high. There were 4 or 5 stories in that collection that were just amazing, of the "how the hell does he DO that" kind. Some others were kind of preachy, or little more than sketches.

Going to read more Lafferty next year, I'm pretty sure.

Lafferty has his own niche ... some of his stories won awards, http://www.ralafferty.org/works/collections/honors/

I'm going to follow your recommendation on "Impro: Improvisation and the Theater" I've always wanted to learn more about that subject. Thanks!

Here are the ones I'd be willing to recommend, in reverse chronological order of when I read them. I read 59 total. Listen to books on tape while working out has maybe doubled my reading rate.

Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy - Great book on how the Mongol Empire came to be, who Genghis was, and it put the whole thing in perspective for me in a useful way.

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch - What it says on the tin. Actually a good overview how some important technologies interrelate.

Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction - How to be wrong less often. Based on the Good Judgement Project results.

The Three-Body Problem - Decent enough science fiction but extra interesting because it's science fiction from a different culture.

Ignition!: An informal history of liquid rocket propellants - A history of things that go boom. Engaging writing and I learned things about chemistry.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant - I'm nominating this for a Hugo. It tells you it's going to stab you in the gut but when it does you don't see it coming. Plus high quality scheming and speculation on economics, society, and empire.

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps - Excellent use of voice and an overall good book.

Bloom - Made my skin crawl in places and also was good at making you feel a radical change in perspective.

Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed - An interesting perspective on certain aspects of government. A bit too negative for the topic, the factors outlined are also why commercial economies were able to develop more centralized economies than agrarian ones in the early modern era.

Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy - Quite good book on bureaucracy though not as excellent as the previous book on the origins of states.

Last First Snow - It's always great to read books about the struggles between people with sympathetic motivations.

The Unwelcome Warlock - The latest in a series of fantasy books where people use magic in creative and sensible ways.

Asteroid Mining 101: Wealth for the New Space Economy -Mostly about all the different sorts of asteroids.

Seveneves - Neal Stephenson's latest. If you like his books read it but maybe skip the last 1/3 after the timeskip.

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future - Wow he did a lot of cool stuff.

Stories of Your Life and Others - Brilliant and poetic short stories.

Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life - Some interesting perspective on materialism.

Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life - Best science book I've read in a while! Shows why mitochondria matter, the fundamental limits of prochariotic life, and several important ways mitochondria influence again and evolution.

Blue Remembered Earth - Awesome near futureish book that does well at imagining a future that isn't just a linear extrapolation but is still believable.

A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark - Not enough pacifist badass grandmothers in urban fantasy.

Quantum Computing since Democritus - I understand QM much better now.

The Child of Time : Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg

Liked it.

Disclaimer: I am a manager.

No Hero - M. Owen; Zero to One - P. Thiel; The 7 Principles of Professional Services - S. Anastasi.

I would add Poverty Creek Journal by Thomas Gardner

I really enjoyed Kevin Kelly's 'What Technology Wants'.

1. This is a title that demonstrates I'm much smarter than everyone else.

2. A book that shows I am destined to be a successful entrepreneur.

3. How to recover from a childhood of being bullied.

i read a shit ton of books, but only keep the ones i'd like enough to read again. New to my library this year:

the checklist manifesto


the left hand of darkness

banker for the poor


the pragmatic programmer

star diaries

cat's cradle

the dead mountainer's inn

spanner darkley

to kill a mocking bird: it was refreshing, looking for more simple books like this one

Here is my list from 2015:

1. Mark Derby: England my England

2. Bill Messenger: Elements of Jazz [great courses]

3. David Mamet: GlenGary Glen Ross

4. Neil deGrasse Tyson: The Pluto Files

5. Elizabeth Vandiver: The Illiad by Homer [great courses]

6. Elizabeth Vandiver: The Odyssey by Homer [great courses]

7. Elizabeth Vandiver: The Aeneid by Virgil [great courses]

8. Robert Greenberg: Great Masters: Liszt - His Life and Music [great courses]

9. David Christian: Big History [great courses]

10. Robert Greenberg: Great Masters: Robert and Clara Schumann - Their Lives and Music [great courses]

11. Steven Novella: Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills [great courses]

12. Ramesh Menon (Veda Vyasa): Mahabharatha

13. Mark W. Muesse: Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation [great courses]

14. J.K. Rowling: Book 1: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

15. J.K. Rowling: Book 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

16. Steven Pressfield: The War of Art

17. Barnaby Conrad, Monte Schulz: Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life

18. J.K. Rowling: Book 3: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

19. Ramesh Menon (Veda Vyasa): Siva Puranam

20. Professor Allen C. Guelzo, Professor Gary W. Gallagher, Professor Patrick N. Allitt: The History of the United States, 2nd Edition [great courses]

21. Robert Greenberg: Great Masters: Brahms - His Life and Music [great courses]

22. Robert Greenberg: Great Masters: Tchaikovsky - His Life and Music [great courses]

23. Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni: The Palace of Illusions

24. J.K. Rowling: Book 4: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

25. Austin Kleon: Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

26. Stephen King: On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft

27. David McCullough: 1776

28. Prof. Roy Benaroch: Medical School for Everyone [great courses]

29. J.K. Rowling: Book 5: Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix

30. Siddartha Mukherjee: The Emperor Of All Maladies

31. J.K. Rowling: Book 6: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

32. Robert Greenberg: Great Masters: Shostakovich - His Life and Music [great courses]

33. J.K. Rowling: Book 7: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

34. Neil deGrasse Tyson: The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries [great courses]

35. Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli: Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader

36. Shurnyu Suzuki: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

37. William Shirer: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

38. Jhumpa Lahiri: Interpreter of Maladies

39. Stephen Greenblatt: The Swerve: How the world became modern

40. Professor Andrew R. Wilson: The Art of War [great courses]

41. Prof. Jennifer Paxton: 1066: The Year That Changed Everything [great courses]

42. Prof. Sherwin B. Nuland: Doctors: The History of Scientific Medicine Revealed Through Biography [great courses]

43. Sun Tzu: The Art of War

44. Prof. Robert Greenberg: Great Masters: Mahler - His Life and Music [great courses]

45. Prof. Seth Lerer: The Life and Writings of John Milton [great courses]

46. Prof. Robert Greenberg: Great Masters: Stravinsky - His Life and Music [great courses]

47. Stephen Guise: Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results

48. J.R.R. Tokien: Hobbit

49. George Orwell: Animal Farm

50. Prof. Seth Freeman: The Art of Negotiating the Best Deal [great courses]

51. Ram Dass: Be Here Now

52. Prof. Gregory S. Aldrete: The Decisive Battles of World History [great courses]

53. Conn Iggulden: Conqueror Series Book 1: Genghis: Birth of an Empire

54. Conn Iggulden: Conqueror Series Book 2: Genghis: Lords of the Bow

55. Prof. Frederick Gregory: History of Science 1700-1900 [great courses]

56. Prof. Indre Viskontas: 12 Essential Scientific Concepts [great courses]

57. Conn Iggulden: Conqueror Series Book 3: Genghis: Bones of the Hill

58. Conn Iggulden: Conqueror Series Book 4: Khan: Empire of Silver

59. Conn Iggulden: Conqueror Series Book 5: Conqueror

60. Prof. Robert Hazen: Origin and Evolution of Earth [great courses]

61. Mark Forsyth: Elements of Eloquence

62. Prof. Patrick Allitt: Industrial Revolution [great courses]

63. Ramesh Menon (Valmiki): Ramayana

64. Prof. John McWhorter: Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths of Language Usage [great courses]

65. Dava Sobel: Longtitude

66. Prof. Robert Hazen: Origins of Life [great courses]

67. Prof. Daniel Robinson: The Great Ideas of Psychology [great courses]

68. Tracy Kidder: The Soul of a New Machine

69. Prof. Garrett Fagan: History of Ancient Rome [great courses]

70. Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five

71. Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

72. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby

73. Kalki: Ponniyin Selvan: Book 1: Pudhu Vellam [apple music]

74. Upton Sinclair : The Jungle

75. John Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath

76. Kalki: Ponniyin Selvan: Book 2: Suzhar Kaatru [apple music]

77. Karl Marx, Friedrich Engles: Manifesto of the Communist Party

78. Kalki: Ponniyin Selvan: Book 3: KoduVaal [apple music]

79. Kalki: Ponniyin Selvan: Book 4: Mani Magudam [apple music]

80. Kalki: Ponniyin Selvan: Book 5: Thiyaga Sigaram [apple music]

81. Kalki: Parthiban Kanavu [apple music]

82. Hugh Howey: Wool [Silo Series : Book 1 of 3]

83. Kalki: Sivagamiyin Sabatham: Book 1: Boogambam [apple music]

84. Kalki: Sivagamiyin Sabatham: Book 2: Kanchi Mutrugai [apple music]

85. Kalki: Sivagamiyin Sabatham: Book 3: Bhikshuvin Kadhal [apple music]

86. Kalki: Sivagamiyin Sabatham: Book 4: Sidhaindha Kanavu [apple music]

87. Thomas Sterner: The Practising Mind

88. don Miguel Ruiz: The Fifth Agreement

89. Prof. Jonah Berger: How Ideas Spread [great courses]

90. Prof. Robert Sapolsky: Being Human [great courses]

91. Michio Kaku: Einstein's Cosmos

92. Guy Kawasaki: Art of the Start 2.0

93. Edward Dolnick: Clockwork Universe

94. Prof. John Medina: Your Best Brain [great courses]

95. Sherman Alexie: Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

96. Prof. Thad Polk: Addictive Brain [great courses]

97. Jeff Kinney: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

98. Prof. Scott Huettel: Behavioral Economics [great courses]

99. Rob Walling: Start Small, Stay Small

100. Ernest Hemmingway: Old Man and the Sea

101. Prof. Robert Greenberg: Brief History of Holiday Music [great courses]

Wow, that's quite the inspiring list. I've been thinking about creating a list of 52 books to read for 2016 (one per week), and I think I'll be stealing a lot from your list here.

I'm a big fan of Ponniyin Selvan, how do Parthiban Kanavu and Sivagamiyin Sabatham compare to it?

Here's the 52 I finished this year: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2015

Happy my list will cons new lists. :)

PoSe is by far the magnum opus. PaKa was written first and SiSa was written a dozen or so years later but historically SiSa happens about a decade or two before PaKa. PaKa is short (one-fifth the size of the other two). I liked the story of PaKa a lot. [although the movie version was totally butchered]. And just like how PoSe (which happens about 300 years after PaKa/SiSa) is all about Chozhas, the other two are about Pallavas. Very fascinating reads - will totally recommend it.

If you like Science and Music (in this case, western classical music), and biographies/history related to the science/music characters, then you will like my list a lot. Please feel free to get in touch offline - can share more details. [I have the same id as the hn id in google/gmail as well].

PS: the goodreads link you posted takes me to my year_in_books page - can you please share your public url? Would love to see your reading list. thanks.

I've just updated my list of books I read this year. Scores are out of 5. If there is a + it means I found it to be extra special for some reason or other.

= Jan =

Smarter Than You Think - Clive Thompson 3

The positives of tech and the internet.

= Feb =

Super Sad True Love Story - Gary Shteyngart 4

Science fiction set in the not too distant future. Main themes include life extension and surveillance.

= Mar =

The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams 4

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams 3

Had never read this series, thought it might be about time.

= Apr =

What does it all Mean? - Thomas Nagel 2 (though it is kind of meant for people who have never done any Philosophy, ever, so would recommend to someone like that. Will pass it on to someone taking an interest in the subject)

An introduction to Philosophy.

Earth - David Brin 5+

Science fiction set in the not too distant future, written in the 90s. Really interesting themes / vision of post climate change world.

SlaughterHouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut 5

Semi autobiographical account of the bombing of Dresden in WW2. Really funny and clever ideas. Very good.

= May =

Nick Cohen - What’s Left? 4

Account of how the left has degenerated since the collapse of the hard left and the winning of liberal battles e.g. LGBT rights. Basic premise is that those on the left hate the West and the status quo so much they stoop to allying themselves with anyone who also opposes the status quo.

= June =

Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy won’t go away - Rebecca Newberger Goldstein 5+

Plato has somehow appeared in the 21st century and is doing a talk at Google! A really enjoyable account of how Plato’s philosophy could be applied to modern issues. Really good. I want to go to Athens.

= July =

The Mind Body Problem - Rebecca Newberger Goldstein 4

Novel about a female philosophy student shagging around and philosophising about it.

Believing Bullshit - Stephen Law 4

Book detailing the various tricks / schemes played by charlatans and how to avoid being taken in by them.

= August =

36 Arguments for the Existence of God: a work of fiction - Rebecca Newberger Goldstein 3

Novel about an academic and his mentor. It was ok.

= September =

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams 3

Think I’m done reading these for now, don’t feel the urge to finish the set.

Kafka - The Trial 5

Really good. Love the surrealism - the nightmarish / dreamish-ness of it. Saw it in the Theatre as well after reading it, thought that was great too.

= October =

= November =

Existence - David Brin 3

Not as good as Earth. Glad I read that first. Interesting imagining of what form contact from alien life could take though. Also interesting look at existential risks. The main part I didn’t like was how it skipped forward in time 3 decades about 3/4s of the way through, I had thought the characters were a little weak in general up until then anyway, and then they were pretty much gone entirely at that point.

= December =

Alone Together - Sherry Turtle 4

The negatives of tech, robotics and the internet. Interesting and important read.

Imperium - Robert Harris 5

First in the semi-fictional trilogy accounting the fall of the Roman Republic, told through the eyes of Cicero’s secretary, Tiro. Really good. The politics, the corruption, the ancient city really brought to life. Enhanced by having visited Rome in the Summer.

Also currently reading ‘Reclaiming Conversation’ by Sherry Turkle, an account of the negative affect being permanently tethered to the internet has on our conversations, our capacity for empathy and our relationships, and Nietzsche’s 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra'.


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