The books I read in 2013

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

My plan for 2013 was to read more foreign literature which I guess I did since I read no Slovenian author. However that was not what I meant. I meant more books from authors translated into English (so not “Anglo-saxon”). I did a few, but not as many as I thought. Still, it was a very gratifying reading year with no real misses and only few less satisfying picks.

I read fewer than I hoped and more than I expected even few months ago when I noticed how poorly does my reading mix with my programming. Nexus 7 tablet I bought in the beginning of the year certainly helped with reading electronic books, but I still enjoy it less than paper. The upside is the ease of finding notes which would be even better if they were easily exportable and creating them wasn’t such a hassle.

As always unaffiliated links point to Amazon and are there only for those that are at least fine. Bold is reserved for those I found best: This House, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, Embers, River Town: Two Years on Yangtze, Chimerica, Decline and Fall and The Fall of the Stone City .

  1. Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas by Seymour Papert. A book on constructivist approach to learning written for educators which for me was sometimes a bit of a challenge. Makes a persuasive case for at least a modified approach to learning (wasn’t won over completely) and did provide some intriguing possibilities for my work.
  2. Midnight in Peking by Paul French. Similar to The Suspicions of Mr. Whitcher . A gripping, well researched story about an “unsolved” horrendous murder that vividly brings to life Peking long gone.
  3. This House by James Graham. Great and very funny drama about 1974 UK hung parliament that I wish I could see in theater.
  4. The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces by William H. Whyte. I bought this book because I wanted to understand why some places in my neighborhood work so much better than others. The book is easy to read, short, but packed with useful information and I can’t recommend it enough.
  5. Django 1.1 Testing and Debugging by Karen M. Tracey. Book has some flaws: 50$ price on Amazon, sometimes too much details, obsolete Django 1.1. Nevertheless I would recommend it since it does provide a very good and mostly still relevant introduction to this topic.
  6. My Brother and His Brother by Hakan Lindquist. A warm and sad love story about a boy discovering life and personality of brother he never knew. Recommended.
  7. Two Scoops of Django: Best Practices for Django 1.5 by Daniel Greenfeld, Audrey Roy. I read this book in alpha and beta form, but can nevertheless heartily recommend it to every Django developer. It gives you something to think about even when you disagree, but you’ll learn plenty too.
  8. Embers by Sándor Márai. An engrossing book about passion and betrayal for those drawn more to meditations on nature of human life than surprising turn of events. A masterpiece even in double translation (from Hungarian via German).
  9. Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art by Steve McConnell. A must-read book on software estimation for every developer. I just wish it had more to say about challenges of estimation in agile environments.
  10. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. A witty book about pleasures and downsides of reading. Good fun for bookworms.
  11. Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer. Investigative journalism at its best. Look at (mal)practice of Central Asia Institute and its founder. Unlikely to be interesting to those who’ve never heard of it.
  12. The Accessibility Handbook by Katie Cunningham. This fairly short book has a few minor errors, but it is packed with information and should be required reading for every web developer.
  13. Bandit Algorithms for Website Optimization by John Myles White. If you do A/B testing, but don’t know what bandit algorithms are, then this short, practical and well-written book will noticeably improve your work.
  14. River Town: Two Years on Yangtze by Peter Hessler. A wonderfully alive and sensitive depiction of life in small China town that might change how you see China. Couldn’t put it down.
  15. The Misunderstanding by Irene Nemirovsky. I completely disagree with the review on Amazon. This would be a very good book even if its author wasn’t 21 when she wrote it. Certainly not sentimental, but also not a overly judgemental look at life of a doomed affair.
  16. PADI Open Water Diver Manual by . Lots of good information, but poorly organized with bunch of infomercial crap at the back. Still much better than cretinous videos and definitely helps to pass the exam.
  17. The Radiance of the King by Camara Laye. If you have a literal sort of mind, then don’t skip Toni Morisson’s introduction. Beautifully written, still relevant and not completely understood by me.
  18. What Happened to Art Criticism by James Elkins. Book that reads like listening to dinner polemic. Still insightful look into why modern art criticism satisfies few, but a bit evasive at times. Did not resolve my problems with modern art.
  19. Porting to Python 3: An in-depth guide by Lennart Regebro. An encouragingly short book on the topic that still feels complete. Made me want to make my code Python3 compatible.
  20. Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Read it after I accidentally saw the movie which I surprisingly (to me at least) liked a lot. The book and the movie are really two takes on the same story, both standing on their own, but I liked the movie a bit better. The book is much darker and not for the squeamish.
  21. Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood. I bought this book after I’ve seen this remarkable play and it is equally impactful when “just” read. Can’t recommend strongly enough.
  22. Monsters by Niklas Radstrom. Short drama about unfathomable tragedy when children kill a child and the complicity of non-involvement we are guilty of.
  23. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh. 85 years old satire of British society that is sadly relevant and very funny.
  24. Testable Javascript by Mark Ethan Trostler. A book with (I think) slightly incorrect title. I wish ratio between explaining how to test Javascript and how to set up environment was more in favor of the former, but still good book to read on the subject.
  25. The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare. Complex and rich tale of power, dictatorship and integrity. Just read it.
  26. Books by Charlie Hill. Satire on literary culture and modern art which would be better if characters were not simply 2D archetypes (as I am certain author intended). Often really funny if you share author’s view (which I do).
  27. Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett. Does not have subtlety and surprise of his best work, but still funny and enjoyable especially for long time fans with tons of references and favorite characters (not granny though).

This year I expect to read fewer than 20 since I would really really like to build a couple of things I’ve been postponing for years now. Hopefully it will be a good mix of foreign literature and tech books and is also about time I read something substantial in Slovenian.

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