The books I read in 2019

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

The last catalog post in the series of what occupied me last year, but this one has a lineage. I’ve been writing about the books I read annualy since 2009. I was young back then.

Links still lead to Smile Amazon. Those without them are not terrible (like previous years), just without an entry there and I was too lazy and tired from hiking to find a different link. Book titles are in the languages in which I read them. I recommend those in bold. Those wanting to improve their focus may want to check Deep Work.

The list:

  • Securing Angular Applications by Ryan Chenkie. While it covers all important bits it is too full of unrelated fluff and could be edited to a quarter of its length. Best for those new to Angular and web development.
  • Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life by Peter Godfrey-Smith. I love this book, but not everyone does. A fascinating look at development of intelligence and cephalopods for those interested in both and I was not bothered too much that author occasionally wanders a bit.
  • Security and Frontend Performance: Breaking the Conundrum by Sonia Burney & Sabrina Burney. A short focused book on improving website's security and performance mainly through better use of HTTP, improving delivery of 3rd party content and use of service workers. A bit aged after 2 years, but still provides a good overview for those using 3rd party resources.
  • Chess by Stefan Zweig. A novella about chess, human need for stimulus and psychological torture.
  • Schachnovelle by Stefan Zweig. Same as previous one, except without minor translation errors. Figured out I could read it in original German and liked it enough to do so.
  • The Arab of the Future 3: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1985-1987 by Riad Sattouf. Third part of trilogy that will have at least 4 parts. Highly recommended for those who liked first two.
  • My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. A crime novel by a Nigerian author about two sisters, one of which with a penchant for dead now ex-boyfriends. Not my usual fare, but I enjoyed this quick-to-read book a lot.
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Recommended by Tomaž. I was not bothered by it being somewhat predictable, as I don't think author generally tried to or needed to surprise reader, but I think the book would be better if author didn't use future to somewhat sentimentally resolve some narrative threads. Otherwise well written engrossing story with rare off note and I really enjoy reading it.
  • The Train Was on Time by Heinrich Böll. A German soldier boarding a train to the front in Poland has a premonition of his impending death (train ride not incidentally following route of millions of European Jews). A meditative mostly first-person account on war, life, loss and historical disgrace. The kind of book that changes you.
  • Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. I'm ambivalent about this book since I am definitely in its target market, think it has some solid advice and writing itself isn't bad. However, I also mind that much of it is poorly sourced or supported, some clearly coloured by author's prejudices (matching mine) and all of it too closely shaped as self-help genre these days demands.
  • Springtime in a Broken Mirror by Mario Benedetti. A book about a political prisoner in Uruguay and his family in exile written by Benedetti when he was, too, in exile. Wise, witty, moving, profound book is certainly one of the best I read in the last decade and deserves to be read slowly and more than once.
  • The Beautiful Summer by Cesare Pavese. A short novel about a girl’s loss of innocence in 1930’s Turin. Another take on a familiar story which is neither good enough to recommend nor mediocre enough to complain. Translations occasionally felt dated and to me difficult to understand.
  • Becoming Functional by Joshua Backfield. “ Java move to Scala.” OK, but with annoying boss examples and cumbersome language pick.
  • The Little Failure by Gary Steyngart. Generally not a fan of autobiographies, but I read this one because I like his writing and do not regret it. It is not only a seemingly very honest assessment of his life, family and relationships so far, but it also provides an interesting view in being Russian Jewish immigrant in USA.
  • Functional Thinking by Neal Ford. Similar to Becoming Functional with more emphasis on how to think “functionally” then what functional programming is. Also very focused on Java developers and diluted by involving too many alternatives and not enough focus. Still, better than Becoming Functional.
  • Functional Programming in Python by David Mertz. A short introduction to functional programming with Python3. Liked it better than the other 2 as it felt more on point. Again wished it touched also on architecture parts of development.
  • Node for Front-End Developers by Garann Means. Read to kill time on a flight since it is already very old (2012). Basic enough for examples to mostly still work, but not sure who the audience is. Useful information could be condensed to quarter of its already meagre size.
  • Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. A dramatised story about last woman to be executed in Iceland, picked while we were there. I got progressively more interested and by the end could hardly put down this well written story.
  • Levels of Life by Julian Barnes. A book about finding and losing love, especially tragically by the author. Or as Independent put it better: "Anyone who has loved and lost can't fail to be moved by this devastating book."
  • Running Blind by Desmond Bagley. I rarely read crime novels, but I enjoyed this one visiting so many Icelandic tourist spots. Written well enough and certainly surprising enough to keep my attention until its end.
  • A Cat, a Man, and Two Women by Junichiro Tanizaki. A novella about a love triangle with a true feline rival. Enjoyable.
  • The Lady and the Little Fox Fur by Violette Leduc. Almost poetic and most truthful description of poverty and loneliness which demands to be read slowly as every sentence is rich with meaning.

I expect 2020 to be busy so I’ll be happy if I manage to read as much as passed year. I hope to keep my fiction and non-fiction selection varied and keep trying to avoid Anglo-Saxon authors.

This year I enjoyed almost everything I read purely for my own pleasure and almost nothing I read for work. My work-related reading will likely be directed by work circumstances and hopefully less frustrating.

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