A notch above a monkey » The books I read in 2011

The books I read in 2011

I’m not sure how many years are necessary to call something annual, but three are probably enough. So here’s my annual list of books I read in 2011. I typed “this year” first. Obviously celebrating new year is not enough for my mind to completely switch and I’ll probably be in danger of writing 2011 where I shouldn’t for another fortnight or so.

This year I stopped striving to read a certain number of books and I’m happier for it. Looking at the list I am mostly happy with my choice of fiction and seriously question my choice of books related to my career. It’s not that books themselves would be that bad (most weren’t), but why on earth did I spent so much time reading things tangentially related to what I do?

I linked every book I liked and bolded those I heartily recommend. To safeguard from my tweaking of this blog’s theme, here are recommended spelled out: Eating Animals, Herztier, Skylight and The Unfolding of Language. I also want to specifically mention Copper and Atlas of Remote Islands both great in their own way which are not bolded but maybe they should be.

Last year’s disclaimer is also still valid. Most links point to Amazon and include my affiliate ID meaning if you buy them after following these links, I get few cents that might eventually lead to purchase of another book. It was easier to copy this paragraph than fix my scripts that generate links to books, but I should probably do later. I promise to fix it for next year’s list, especially since I’ve never earned enough to buy even one book.

Without further ado here is the list:

  1. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Great book that you should read even if you have no plans to become a vegetarian (or vegan).
  2. The Cello Suites: J. S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece by Eric Siblin. Who knew there is such a fascinating story behind cello suites and Eric tells it very well.
  3. Hardboiled Web Design by Andy Clarke. I wish I didn’t have to read word hardboiled so many times, but otherwise a must-own book for every web front-end developer.
  4. The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany. I read this at the end of January, when Egypt was engulfed in protests against regime and it provided an excellent background to why protests were happening. A truly captivating look at modern Egypt society.
  5. Buying a Fishing Rod for my Grandfather by Gao Xingjian. Six beautiful vignettes.
  6. Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler. I don’t read many mystery books, but I read this one with pleasure. It aged remarkably well.
  7. Introducing HTML5 by Bruce Lawson, Remy Sharp. A good, hands-on introduction to HTML5 and related technologies that occasionally forgets to mention browser support and is already somewhat out of date. Luckily second edition is out (or should be soon).
  8. Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky. A beautiful book. A delightful way to spend a day reading about mostly unknown islands.
  9. HTML5: Up and Running by Mark Pilgrim. I read this one almost back to back with Introducing HTML5 and there is surprisingly little overlap between them. It can feel too geeky and repetitive in places, but it has best treatment of data-* I’ve seen so far.
  10. Life Nomadic by Tynan. A book of anecdotes and lots of practical advices aimed at digital nomads, which has surprisingly large amount of useful tips for us who don’t travel as light or for as long.
  11. Herztier by Herta Mueller. Without a doubt one of the best books I read in years and also one of the most heart wrenching. Literature at its best.
  12. Skylight by David Hare. Great drama with amazing amount of substance. Probably not for you if you are politically right (wrong) leaning.
  13. The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane. Good overview which confirmed it’s not a problem I’d have. Or career I’d choose.
  14. EffectiveUI by EffectiveUI. Overview with some concrete propositions written for audience that doesn’t include me.
  15. 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know by Kevlin Henney. Mostly uncontroversial and insightful often enough to be worth at least a quick browse.
  16. 97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know by Richard Monson-Haefel. Kind of like the previous one, only for software architects.
  17. Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun. A fun book with lots of good tips which still can’t make you a good speaker without practice.
  18. Think Stats by Allen B. Downey. I read this book too soon, before it was published. Content was promising, but code was sloppy and buggy. Most useful to (Python) programmers who want to learn basic statistics.
  19. Dry Side Up by Martin Ony. I know Martin so I may be biased, but I also don’t like travel literature. This is the book I would get if I wanted to know how it FEELS like to raft through Grand Canyon. Fun to read even if you don’t have such plans.
  20. Snuff by Terry Pratchett. Felt a bit sentimental and certainly not among his best, but I nevertheless enjoyed it as I’m sure most fans will.
  21. The Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance by Philip Marsden. Interesting, insightful, fluid, but still travel literature. I liked it as much as I can like travel literature.
  22. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. A rather uneven book that doesn’t quite live up to praise it received. Sometimes brilliant, often not, but almost always tragic.
  23. Copper by Kazu Kibuishi. A melancholic comic about a boy and his dog that fits my temperament perfectly. Most, but not all, cartoons can be found on web, yet book is still worth buying.
  24. The Unfolding of Language by Guy Deutscher. Fascinating and well-written book about how human languages did and might have developed. Can’t recommend highly enough.
  25. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang. A must read for free-market proponents and less so for well-read people. It contains some surprising information for everyone and is easy to read. I wish though there were more links to data in notes.

This year I plan to finish a few tomes I already started but for one reason or another put off. I find I read too much from “Anglo-Saxon” authors so I want to read even more books from, at least to me, less known places and cultures. Also more directly work-related books would be great too. Any recommendations of books you liked are most welcome.

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