Books, 2019.1

Strongly Recommended Fiction

  1. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (C North). Really fun, great premise, had a hard time putting it down. Just yay.
  2. Artemis (A Weir). Flat out fun read, much more than just good. The essay at the end about the author’s pre-work on the local economics of a moon settlement is worth the price of the book.
  3. Genesis (B Beckett). Solid, enjoyable. Academic defense as a reveal was new to me.
  4. All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault (JA Gardner). I think some YA books should get more respect or at least acknowledgement for being unpretentious.
  5. All the Birds in the Sky (CJ Anders). Damn that was good.
  6. This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (T Borowski). Author was Polish, not Jewish, and in a Nazi concentration camp… first time I’ve read stories from that point of view on this era.
  7. The David Story (R Alter). New translation from respected scholar of David, from pre-Goliath to the aftermath of his death… very much about people and politics, not religion at all.

Distressing Reality

  1. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (J Carreyrou). I think I’m the last person to get around to reading this. So well done.
  2. Red Notice (B Brower). Uh, rule of law is a good thing. Great exploration of what happens in its absence with contemporary Russia. Felt as if I was sitting down with the author, listening to someone super interesting tell his story, with context.
  3. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (R Perlstein). I know that politics today seems really messed up. This is a great prequel. By great, I mean that I found myself in the fetal position trying to self-sooth while taking breaks from the text.
  4. The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage (C Stoll). Such a classic. Lot of the people interviewed in Tribe of Hackers (link) mentioned this book, and I realized that I’d never read it.
  5. Travels with Herodotus (R Kapuściński). Had heard about this for years and finally got around to it. Author’s backstory makes Herodotus a really interesting lens on seeing the world. Getting out of China just ahead of the Cultural Revolution, or out of ‘interesting’ places in Africa during revolutions, or even surviving the post WW2 regime in Poland… wild.
  6. Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest (W Davis). So, there’s this empire, there’s horrific war, there’s a need for heroes and a great quest, and there’s bizarre worship of gentlemanly amateurism. More than I ever wanted to know on the topic. Wild story I didn’t know anything about.

Distressing Novels

  1. Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey (C Palahniuk). Yeah, Fight Club author. Friend recommended it. Dark.
  2. Darkness at Noon: A Novel (A Koestler). I’m surprised this book isn’t paired with 1984 and Brave New World all the time. Really tight exploration, using the show trials of the 1930s as backdrop.
  3. The Border of Paradise (EW Wang). So, I read a review of her new book (The Collected Schizophrenias) and thought “I’ll try her first book, an award winning novel.” So. F’g. Dark.
  4. Sharp Objects (G Flynn). In response to my venting about the previous book, family member recommended this. Daaark.
  5. The Mirror Thief (M Seay). Fun read, three stories about three different Venices in three different eras, wrapped around each other.
  6. Fatherland (R Harris). Detective story in alternative future (UK dropped out of WW2, leaving Germany to do its thing). Trying things outside my typical areas of fiction.
  7. Burmese Days (G Orwell). Early novel, dark and angry, probably not as “good” or “developed” as his later work. BTW, Myanmar/Burma has an incredibly messed up history.
  8. We (Y Zamyatin). I don’t think it aged well, “DNF.”

Bio and Bio-esque

  1. Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond (G Kranz). Yeah, that guy. OMG so good. So much went into making these missions happen, and it was all so fragile. SimSup was such an interesting invention, up there with modern testing and red teams. So many other great stories and incidents as well — ex discussion of figuring out the need to adjust terminology to “stay / don’t stay” from “go / no-go” while practicing the act of leaving the moon. (If you don’t want to geek out on how to run an unimaginably complex operation, there are parts you might only skim.) Was great to get another point of view — if you like this topic, another great book is Deke Slayton’s.
  2. American Lion: Andrew Jackson (J Meacham). Those editorial pieces that compare the current US president to Jackson? No, they’re specious.
  3. The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End (G Pomerantz). Really thoughtful presentation of the stories of two teammates who were, in ways, on different planets while on the same team. Reminder about ‘banality of evil’ and Louise Day Hicks.
  4. Lessons from Lucy (D Barry). I’m a sucker for dog stories, and still laugh out loud at some Dave Barry stuff.
  5. His Ownself (D Jenkins). A sportswriter of a different era.
  6. Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe (M Massimino). Reading about a nice guy who doesn’t finish last is, in today’s world, a delight.
  7. Enough: True Measures (J Bogle). Yeah, the finance guy. Trying to read outside of my usual. Interesting life and point of view.
  8. The Company (Micklethwait & Woolridge). Two folks from The Economist on how we ended up with the ‘the company’ as we know it today. Fascinating history.
  9. The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine (L Fitzharris). Wow surgery used to be brutal. No, even more brutal than that. Keep going. Detailed write up of how this “germ theory” thing, and, oh, washing hands became mainstream. Fun given current arguments about certain things scientific.
  10. Agent M: The Lives and Spies of MI5’s Maxwell Knight (H Hemming). Point of view on 1930s reality on the ground in the UK between Communism and Fascism, and the shearing forces on a free, democratic society.
  11. But Enough About You (C Buckley). Witty and entertaining (in small doses) as always. Reminiscences about Joseph Heller and others were fun.

Other recommended (and just other) books

  1. The Fuller Memorandum (A Laundry Files Novel) (C Stross). I like his other stuff, thought I’d try this series.
  2. The Jennifer Morgue (C Stross). Another in the Laundry Series.
  3. Ordinary People (J Guest). I hadn’t read it before. For all the changes in society, still a great read.
  4. A Fire Upon The Deep (Zones of Thought series Book 1) (V Vinge). Enough friends said I had to read Vinge. Check.
  5. Down and Out in Paris and London (G Orwell). Really, being poor sucks, and not clear our society has ever really done well on that front.
  6. Draft No 4: On the Writing Process (McPhee). Lots to learn.
  7. Do I Make Myself Clear?: Why Writing Well Matters (H Evans).
  8. The Warriors: Reflections of Men in Battle (Gray). This aged well (from 1970).
  9. Casualties of War (D Lang). So, the US still has at least two shooting wars going and can’t remember how or why it got into them or figure out what it will take to get out of them. I wonder if enough people try to understand the human costs of war.
  10. War (G Dyer). More of the above.
  11. Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: or, How Capitalism Works — and How It Fails (Y Varoufakis). Set aside the title… pretty thoughtful take about how the current system falls short.
  12. Everybody Lies (Stephens-Davidowitz). Good overall, slow start.
  13. What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars (Moynihan). Hubris. Hubris continues to be the basis of so many good stories.
  14. Dying Well (I Byock). Yeah, dark topic, and still good stuff to learn from.
  15. How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life (R Robert). This was one person’s interpretation… I get how that’s useful when the original is in, say, ancient Greek. This one didn’t do much for me.
  16. Happiness of Pursuit (C Guillebeau). Good collection of stories and personal reflections on figuring out / finding what’s worth pursuing.
  17. Happier Endings (E Brown). More patterns around “dying well.”
  18. Everyday Survival (L Gonzales) OK, meandered from main topic after an interesting start.
  19. House of God (Shem) Groan. A classic that has not aged well.
  20. Infinite Ascent (D Berlinski). A history of mathematics. Didn’t click for me… I feel bad saying this: I’m not sure why it was recommended.
  21. Common as Air (L Hyde). Clearly clever, more legalistic thinking than I was capable of. I didn’t connect with it the way the friends who recommended it did.
  22. The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (W Easterly). Strong point of view… hard for me to totally buy in.




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Dean Hachamovitch

Dean Hachamovitch

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