The books I read in 2012

  • Written by: Marko Samastur
  • Published on:
  • Category: Catchall

So I am not much of a planner. I didn’t read tomes and I read few work related books, but on the other hand I really enjoyed most of those I did read. Still it seems to be a challenge for me to really dive into world literature. I purposefully slowed my reading in second half of the year with aim of getting work done which didn’t pan out that well either.

I suspect I also didn’t read as many tech books as I wanted because I mostly buy them in electronic form and don’t enjoy reading books on computer screens including tablets. E-ink readers are nicer, but underpowered and have issues displaying code samples well. Postponing decision is not working out, but I’m not happy with existing choices. Not sure how this will be resolved or when.

Links in the list still point to Amazon, but without affiliate IDs and are as always present only for those that are at least fine. Bold is reserved for those I found best: The White Tiger, Safe Area Goražde, Bright Earth, Next World Novella, Behind the Beautiful Forevers and The Sense of Ending . If you are a web front-end developer, then you should also look at Undercover User Experience Design and SMACSS .

The list:

  1. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. I bought this book by mistake and don’t regret it. An astonishing and brutal portrait of India’s underclass that grips you and doesn’t let go even after you finish its last page.
  2. Undercover User Experience Design by Cennydd Bowles & James Box. Excellent guide on doing UX on the cheap that is also a good introduction to UX. There are few people who couldn’t learn something from this book.
  3. The Redbreast by Jo Nesbø. Gripping enough if you don’t mind in-text ads for previous books or genre tropes. A good book for beach, if you are into that sort of thing. I don’t see myself reading another one from this series.
  4. Safe Area Goražde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995 by Joe Sacco. Certainly one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read which can teach something about conflict even those who have been following it closely. Deserves all awards it got.
  5. Object-Oriented Javascript by Stoyan Stefanov. An introduction book to Javascript (in browsers) best suited to programmers of other languages. Chapters about classes and inheritance are good reminders of less often used parts for intermediate Javascript developers.
  6. The Habit of Art by Alan Bennett. Multi-layered drama with much humor. I saw its original production and I still think of it often.
  7. The Stone by Marius von Mayenburg. A recurring motif of modern German literature – doubtful memories of recent past. I would love to see it on stage.
  8. We’re with Nobody: Two Insiders Reveal the Dark Side of American Politics by Alan Huffman & Michael Rejebian. An interesting first-person look at how background researchers work in US politics without sordid details.
  9. In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut. A book about traveling, un-articulated rootlessness and failed human connections that switches remarkably well between first-person and third-person narrator. It brought up some of my own almost forgotten memories and I would recommend it without hesitation.
  10. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I don’t really know what to think of this book. It’s well written, engaging and reading it I do not not feel like time was wasted. On the other hand I don’t see depth others see or a master writer others describe. Still not a bad book to pick up.
  11. Bright Earth by Philip Ball. I bought this book after I heard his talk on the same subject but still missed that it is foremost about painting colors. It is an amazing book which has significantly changed my perception and understanding of paintings and I would recommend it to anyone remotely interested in colors or visual arts.
  12. Tempo by Venkatesh Rao. Venkatesh’s blog is among the most interesting ones I follow, but I was less impressed with this book on role of tempo in our lives and ways to work with it. There are certainly interesting ideas in it, but it often felt disconnected and too full of new jargon. I suspect I need to read it again with more focus and fewer interruptions.
  13. The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter. The first book in upcoming trilogy. Fun to read and well thought through look at what could happen if we suddenly had infinite natural resources.
  14. Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos. Easy and interesting read, but it’s not clear to me what the purpose of the book is. It’s unlikely to be read by those who need it most or offer much in ways of tools and techniques. It is more of a cautionary tale of mistakes and lament about state of affairs which is still the same.
  15. How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, and Vanish without a Trace by Frank M. Ahearn & Eileen C. Horan. A warning book for those who are not particularly paranoid and less useful as a how-to. The rest of us largely won’t be surprised although you might find out a thing or two. I hated author’s voice.
  16. Next World Novella by Matthias Politycki. A beautifully written multi-layered book about death, marriage, loneliness, memories… One of those rare books that not only can be re-read, but should be.
  17. SMACSS by Jonathan Snook. A guide to writing modular CSS that should be easier to maintain and more reusable. A must read for web developers even if they don’t agree or use all described techniques.
  18. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. A devastating, uncompromising and well-researched look into life in an Indian slum. Together with White Tiger it significantly influenced and informed my view of India and I wholly recommend it.
  19. Dodger by Terry Pratchett. An enjoyable and informative recreation of Victorian London with a story a bit too predictive, straight-forward and far fetched for adult readers. Read only if you’re Terry’s fan or not an adult.
  20. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Opinions may vary, but I recommend it without reservations. Really well written and was able to evoke memories of my youth without really describing it. I enjoyed reading it till the surprising and devastating end. Doubtlessly I will read it again.

This year? More useful education, more foreign literature and hopefully one or two longer ones that have been on the shelf for a while.

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