Book Reviews 📚
Review - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
I love the Blade Runner movies — seeing BR 2049 in IMAX is possibly my favorite cinema experience of the 2010s. Going into this, I expected to read the original Blade Runner plot but told in a different medium and with extra detail. Although Deckard is still killing the same set of replicants (Zhora, Leon, Pris, Roy) the focus of this book is in a completely different place, and it...
Review - The Little Prince 👦✨
This is a children’s book that you can almost finish in a single bath session before the water’s too cold. I definitely knew of the book before I picked it out from my family home’s bookshelf, but I did not realize it was so shockingly popular in the 20th century. Only The Bible has been translated more than this book.
I intend this to be a short review, and so...
Review - Project Hail Mary 🧑🚀
(This review contains spoilers)
I read most of Hail Mary between the hours of 2am and 9am, having most uncharacteristically woken up in the middle of the night and failed to get back to sleep. I’m not sure if this unusual reading situation made me like the book more or less than I should have, but I did overall like this book and find it entertaining the whole way through...
Review - The Call of the Wild 🏔🐕
It’s possibly a bit embarrassing how much art, literature, and poetry I’ve become engaged with because it was feature in a James Bond movie. Well, I’m sorry, but I finally got into Jack London after one of his quotes was used at the end of No Time To Die:
“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to...
Review - Zen in the Art of Writing
I’m not a great fan of Bradbury’s writing, but I’d like to one day write science fiction short stories and Bradbury is the only science fiction author that I know to have written a book about his science fiction writing process.
Well, in this short book Bradbury is wonderfully energetic, enthusiastic and humble. He made me feel more that writing should be fun — it should! — and that I...
Review - The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle #6)
A wonderful book. Science fiction has made be laugh (Douglas Adams) and thrilled me (Herbert, Stephenson) but this book by Le Guin is the first to really wrest out my feelings. Reading Le Guin’s beautifully complicated and honest accounting of a anarchist society was eye-opening in exactly the way science fiction should be. She put our old and terrestial political strife on far-future planets and helped me see better what...
Review - The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #4)
Le Guin was out there in the 60s putting radical gender politics into a science fiction genre that more often was concerned with using aliens and future-tech to construct elaborate and self-excusing rape fantasies. I agree with Harold Bloom that this book of Le Guin’s elevated the entire genre, and is possibly the best written and most imaginative novel in a genre of exceedingly imaginative novels.
Review - Snow Crash 👾🗡
This novel is probably the most venerated in the software industry and I’m glad to say it actually lives up to its reputation. It’s a wild, ridiculous ride, full of ideas that you know the author thinks are really interesting but also often worthy of ridicule and satirizing. Snow Crash must have been a real shot in the arm when it was read in 1992, before a lot of the...
Review - Steppenwolf 🐺
I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend. It was a strange and challenging read, and I most appreciated the ambiguous treatment of the narrator protoganist. At several places in the book I hit a moment of identification with the old steppenwolf, and I wasn’t sure whether these identifications meant I was being indirectly condemned and mocked by the author. Is the steppenwolf and admirable man,...
Review - An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management
I’m giving this book three stars because I can see myself returning over and over again to this book to sanity check my thinking about something at work. It’s got a lot of simply written, simply structured ‘how to do this’ type sections.
I wanted to give it two stars though, because on the whole I didn’t really like it. To summarise, its worst features are:
- Incomprehensible diagrams. Some...
Review - The Psychology of Computer Programming
I’d maybe recommend skimming this book, or reading the intro, which is great, but I wouldn’t bother reading it carefully and for a long time. The insights have aged poorly over the decades; they’re either banal or probably invalidated by changes in software development practices. The writing is kind of tedious, and the personality of the author that comes through is a little unpleasant.
I can believe that this book...
Review - Debt: The First 5000 Years 🧾
Alongside Understanding Power as the book that has most blown my mind. After reading Debt I don’t know how money, debt, and economics should work, but I do know now that they don’t work at all like the dominant cultural narratives say they do, and that is an incredible valuable lesson.
Thank you, David Graeber.
Review - Beautiful World, Where Are You?
Not much to say about this one. I enjoyed it, but it hasn’t stayed with me. I got a bit sick of the two main characters by the end. Despite basically agreeing with everything they write in their emails to each other, it was all a bit too much whinging about the dis-empowered, dissatisfying life of a contemporary progressive.
Review - The Medium is the Message
Review - Showstopper! the Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft
Review - Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
Read this book and be furious. If you hear “billionaire” and think “that pleasant, helpful, Bill Gates guy” and not the Koch’s or Richard Mellon Scaife, read this book.
Review - Neuromancer
Review - The Cathedral & the Bazaar
Review - Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age
This is a collection of essays from the tech industry famous Paul Graham. If you frequent Hackernews you’ve very likely read some of them before.
In short, the essays that a focused predominantly on software are great, and the essays that see Graham offering his opinions on culture and politics are bad. At times he’s downright insufferable. He calls Noam Chomsky a “professional controversialist”. What mate? The father of...
Review - Flowers for Algernon 🐁💐
This book is a remarkable journey. The author, Daniel Keyes, does a wonderful job using prose to track the increasing and decreasing intelligence of the protagonist, and the central theme of the book, I think about the relationship between kindness, intelligence, and loneliness, is a knockout.
I’d heard that this was a top-tier tear-jerker, so expected to be a weeping mess at the end, but I may have spent all...
Review - Red Mars (Mars Trilogy, #1)
Review - The Grapes of Wrath 🍇👩🌾
Review - The Nickel Boys
I could barely read the last page; the epilogue put tears in my eyes, and almost broke me down. There’s something special in this story.
Review - A Visit From The Goon Squad 🎸🤘😕
This is one of the most recommended books by Ezra Klein Show guests, so I picked it up. Overall, I thought it was great. Its central theme is growing old about being ‘beaten up’ by time. The book follows a number of characters, some over decades, and I loved when Egan smashed some character’s hopeful, expanding youth by neighbouring it on the page with their horrible future. I remember her...
Review - Little Women 👧🏼👩🏼👩🏼👩🏻🦰
Adorable, warm, restorative. David Foster Wallace is possibly the person most associated with calling out how irony-poisoned and insincere contemporary 21st society has become, and I’d bet he’d prescribe a dose of Little Women is you’d finished all of Cheers and still found you’d couldn’t really believe in yourself, love, and others.
Review - Jazz 🎺🗽
Review - The Quiet Revolution
Review - The Age of Spiritual Machines
Review - The Song of Achilles
Review - 100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, from Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith
I picked this book up because it was recommended, directly or indirectly, by Peter Thiel. I’ve been interested in his life philosophy for a while, and life extension is a topic worthy of more attention.
Unfortunately this book sucked. The structure of the book is awful. It meanders about in a ‘and this, and this, and this’ kind of way. The prose is awful, reading like a something a B-average...
Review - The Old Man and the Sea 🦈
I loved this Southpark bit about The Old Man And The Sea before I came to love this short novel, and the bit partly convinced me that I was old enough to read the novel. I can believe that if I had to read this book in school when I was around 13-15, I may have been like the Southpark kids who listened to the heartfelt recounting of the...
Review - Tender Is The Night 🌃
The Great Gatsby (written earlier in 1925) is probably my favourite fiction novel. The only good piece of art I own depicts the Penguin Books cover of the novel. So I had high hopes for this last novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is The Night.
I thought it was great, but I did not love it. It’s maybe twice the...
Review - Heart of Darkness 🖤
This book's vibe is not like anything else I've read. I'd describe it as brooding and disturbed. The main character's journey is like a cursed pilgrimage or something. I've read that this book has been super influential, and I think I can see why. ✭✭✭✭
Review - Foundation 🪐
I had no idea what Foundation by Isaac Asimov would be like; I just knew it was regarded among the greatest science fiction novels ever written.
I bought it in Bryon Bay alongside the book I entered the store for, Dune Messiah, and read them both on the same trip. They are quite different science fiction books. The Dune series is much more introspective, psychological, and heroic.
Overall I thought...
Review - Between The World And Me
I’ve been a huge fan of Ta-Nehisi Coates essays for years, so it was about time I read a book by him.
I didn’t love it nearly as much as his essays I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye and The Case For Reparations, but it was valuable read.
Review - The Manager's Path 🧗♂️
I approach the whole ‘how to be a better manager’ genre as if it’s going to bore me and maybe provoke an early mid-life crisis, but I’d just been given manager duties at my company so felt I had to read something or else accept the possibility of wilful ignorance.
As far as management books go, this was solid. It’s only a little fluffy, and you do get a sense...
Review - Dune Messiah 🏜
Dune Messiah is the 2nd book in the six-part Dune series by Frank Herbert. I planned to just read the first book in the Dune series,Dune, before watching the Denis Villeneuve film adaption that was going to arrive in November 2020. I figured that having read the book would help me enjoy the movie. Hell, I eventually found out that having read the book was essential for deriving any pleasure...
Review - The End of Policing 🙅♂️👮♂️
Somehow this book got on my ‘Want To Read’ list, and was then gifted to me for my birthday in 2019. It became a ‘must read’ during the June 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, and I eventually finished it later that year.
Overall it’s a well done argument that lays out USA police forces’ incredibly racist origin stories, their current ineptitude at fulfilling their stated social function (“the best kept...
Review - A Clockwork Orange 🔪
Great book. The liberal use of unique slang language, called Nadsat, was initially frustrating, as without a glossary the first few pages were only half comprehensible, but after reading the whole thing I’d say that the use of Nadsat elevates the book from good to great.
The dystopia of this novel’s world is right in your face. The language is ugly. The characters are awful, pointless people, and just kids!...
Review - Dune
I’m one of the Dune newbies that picked up the book because they got hyped by the 2020 movie adaption trailer. “I better read this before the movie comes out in November 2020!” I thought. Well, COVID fucked that all up and now I’ve got time to read the whole series about ten times over before the film comes out. Anyways, reviewing the book…
Dune is bloody amazing. I wouldn’t...
Review - Constructing The Political Spectacle
Of all the books I read this year, Goodreads tells me this book on politics was least read by others on the site. I have no idea why this ended up on my ‘To Read’ list, but I’m glad that it did.
It’s a difficult-ish read. It’s academic in tone and structure, and I found that I occassionally had to re-read passages two or three times to make sure I’d...
Review - Evicted 🏚
My favourite podcast is The Ezra Klein Show, and at the end of each episode Klein gets his guest to give three books that they’d recommend to the audience. u/PossionsRevenge posted on Reddit a spreadsheet counting the mentioned books, and Evicted was easily the most recommended book from guests.
I saw this and was like, “damn, I’ve got to read this book.”
I have now read the book,...
Review - The Pearl
Not much to say about this one. I picked it up because I wanted a short read and I’d really liked Of Mice And Men. It was worth the ~90 pages, but I didn’t find it especially memorable.
Review - The Uninhabitable Earth 🔥🌏🔥
What Wallace-Wells puts down in this non-fiction story about our climate future properly disturbed me. While reading it, and for a little while after finishing it, I was noticeably a little more stressed, pessimistic, and tense. Only a little, but it’s really the only book besides Understanding Power that’s produced any sort of similar reaction in me.
In The Guardian’s review subheading is:
Enough to induce a panic attack...
Review - The Innovator's Dilemma
This book is a business management classic, and I’d say has been incredibly influential in the corporate technology sector. I’d read the Wikipedia page for Clayton M. Christensen’s “Disruptive Innovation” which details breifly most of the ideas contained in The Innovator’s Dilemma but wanted to go to the primary source.
I didn’t love reading this book. It’s detailed, methodical, and sober. But it’s ideas are so influential and I...
Review - The Road 💀
This was very interestingly written and the subject matter was more dreadful and bleak than anything else I’ve read. By the end of it I felt like it had taught me a lesson about the fragility of our world and shown me that commonplace imaginings of personal and societal disaster are not even close to contemplating the full existential and psychological horror that’s possible. Living in the middle panel of...
Review - Designing Data Intensive Applications
This is a technical book on software engineering, so it won’t bother to review it beyond saying it’s the best educative software book I’ve ever read and I think it’s required reading for software engineers.
I plan on reading it a third time this year.
Review - The Undoing Project
Before I found this in the office of a place I was staying in, I’d seen reviews that this was Michael Lewis’s best book yet. After having read it, I wouldn’t disagree with them. I always put the book down wishing I could read another chapter, and felt that Lewis did an awesome job of making the lives and careers of two famous psychologists seem exciting and dynamic.
Review - Why We're Polarized
Ezra Klein authored this book, and he hosts my favourite podcast, The Ezra Klein Show, in which he regularly discussed the ideas that appear in this book. A surprising amount of his podcast guests actually feature in the book, even those you’d think have little to do with USA politics.
The book is competently written and thoroughly researched. You certainly get the impression Klein has done his homework and knows...
Review - Normal People
Read it basically in a single sitting. I don’t read too many love stories, but it was a nice read, and I particularly like how the author ends it.
Review - Silent Spring
Review - Cat's Cradle
For context, Slaughterhouse Five is possibly my favourite novel, and Kurt Vonnegut is tied with George Orwell as my favourite writer (which makes some sense because Vonnegut called Orwell his favourite writer).
Right after finishing Cat’s Cradle, I had the impression “that was fun, and curious, but not as immediately wonderful and impactful as Slaughterhouse 5.” The plot is whacky, going all over the place so that Vonnegut can make...
Review - Down Girl
Very well organized and written. Probably the first out-and-out ‘Feminist Theory’ book that I’ve read, so I won’t comment too much on whether it distinguishes itself within the genre, but I found it a really useful read.
Review - Zero To One
Being Trump’s most prominent billionaire booster in 2016 makes you a massive dickhead in my book, so it’s fair to say that I do not like Peter Thiel. Politically, he’s a right-liberatarian and is well known for his willingness to screw minorities and abandon democracy in the pursuit of capitalist profit-ventures.
That said, this book is great. It’s markedly better than I expected it to be, containing sharp,...
Review - Liar's Poker 🃏
I wanted to read this because I’m a big fan of the movies adapted from Michael Lewis’s work (The Big Short, Moneyball) and because I really liked The Big Short (book) and thought it was important work. Liar’s Poker is the breakout first book by Lewis, and I definitely enjoyed it less than the three other books of his that I’ve read.
I was certainly curious about the 80s investment...