Books Review 2018

January 5, 2019

After reading 27 books in 2016 and 30 books 2017. I decided to take it a little easier this year by not setting a specific goal. I managed to read 19 books this year and I am pretty happy with it.

Compared to last year, this year I read a lot more nonfiction books. Last year I read 10 nonfiction books (out of 30) and this year I read 14 (out of 19). Interestingly the number of non-tech related nonfiction books remains the same at 7. I just managed to read a few more tech related books. Perhaps because the Safari subscription from work makes it so much easier to do so.

In fiction, I continued making progress with the Discworld series and read 3 more in the series.

A good thing about reading fewer books is that I can list them all! Below are all the books I read in 2018 divided by type. I have added additional comments for anything I wanted to highlight in particular.

Fiction:

I always had a strong preference for books with humor but I don’t think I ever had a year when I only read humor books. Though Amulet of Samarkand is hardly a light humor read. I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking for fantasy and humor with a more intense plot than what Discworld usually provides.

Speaking of Discworld, Moving Pictures was one of my favorites this year, almost entirely because of the jokes and references it makes to the real world. The reverse King Kong scene had me grinning the whole time.

R&G Are Dead was the first play I have read in a few years. I really enjoy reading scenes where two characters are having a quick back and forth and this play is full of those scenes. The style of the play reminds me a lot of Waiting for Godot. I think I am going to try to read more plays this year.

Non-fiction (Tech):

I started off the year by wrapping up Applied Cryptography. The book is divided in three parts and I would highly recommend the first part titled “Cryptographic Protocols”. It covers many problems that can be solved with clever arrangement of various cryptographic protocols. The rest of the book is a more practical guide to the known cryptography algorithms of the time and, due to the age of the book, are mostly useful as historical context.

Language Implementation Patterns is a very to-the-point and practical guide to parsing and static analysis problems. I only appreciated the value of the book when I started reading a compilers textbook afterwards. Language Implementation Patterns does a wonderful job of showing you how to tackle real-world problems without getting bogged down in theory.

This year I started exploring game development a little bit. In particular, after playing some Rocket League I started wondering how multiplayer games managed to work at all. Multiplayer Game Programming was a perfect book to answer this question. It covered many different challenges and solutions that have been used historically and are used currently. The book can overexplain at times but that is probably better than a book that underexplains things. Game Programming Patterns was a fun book to read as well. It’s like the Gang of Four Design Patterns book but with a focus on challenges of game development.

Non-fiction (Non-tech):

This year I started getting interested in the Supreme Court more. Law always fascinated me as it has a lot of similarities to a mathematical system. You begin with a set of constraints that you can see as axioms and make logical deductions from there. Of course, in reality its messier than that but legal arguments have to be presented as if the messiness isn’t there. So this year I decided to read more about the Supreme court and Dissent and the Supreme Court was a great choice! It covers the long history of the Supreme Court through the lens of dissent opinions and in particular dissent opinions that have had a lasting impact. Dissents are the vehicle through which it tells the story of various periods of the Supreme Court. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Supreme Court.

Financial Shenanigans was an impulse read. I didn’t know much about it but I gave it a shot and it was great! The book covers various tricks companies can play to fool investors. It gives many examples of real companies that were caught doing these fraudulent things. Since I don’t know much about accounting, this read was great because it taught me about what financial reports usually contain, how they can be manipulated and how the manipulation can be identified. While the book can be dry at times, the real life examples kept it interesting enough.

As someone who enjoys hip hop music, I was always a bit embarrassed by my lack of knowledge of its history. Hip Hop Family Tree was a gift I got and it is a great start towards learning the roots of hip hop.

After reading Death of American Cities last year, I wanted to continue reading about things at the city level. Homelessness is one of the issues that are present in all cities and are usually the most visible. So I started wondering what strategies cities employ to help with the issue. I found Homelessness in New York City that covered this topic and was floored by how complex the history on this topic is. The book covers New York City’s policies towards the homeless through 5 mayoral administrations beginning in 1977. I was surprised to learn how heavily the Court system was involved in something I would have guessed would be a primarily an executive branch issue.

Abandoned:

Three years ago I impulsively bought three books on the topic of fluid dynamics. I guess I have finally admitted defeat as this is the last of those books to be started and abandoned.

Looking forward

Since I managed to read 19 books this year, I think going forward I will set 20 books as my normal annual target. Going into the year, I didn’t have a particular strategy about topics or genre and I am still happy with the results. So I think I am going to continue with the strategy of reading whatever interests me at the time.