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Boone Putney

Software Development
Random Musings
Austin, Texas

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2014 Reading list

I saw a recent blog post where the author outlined their previous year’s accomplishments. I decided it would be a good idea to do something similar, and figured I would start with a list of books read. This list is mainly just from memory, because the Austin Public Library doesn’t provide a way to access checkout logs, which is probably good for privacy, but makes it a little harder to recall all the books I’ve read. The list below is a bunch of works of both fiction and non-fiction that I consumed in the last year (as far as I can recall, several of these might have been from 2013).

In alphabetical order by title…

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine

Intriguing and quick introduction to Stoicism. While I haven’t adopted the stoic philosophy, I’ve found negative visualization to be interesting.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Like all Hosseini books I’ve read, an eye-opening look into life and culture in Afghanistan. People can be terrible.

And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails by Wayne Curtis

Entertaining mixture of the early days of The States mixed with various booze histories.

Blackett’s War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare Warfare Paperback by Stephen Budiansky

Excellent telling of the influence of mathematics and science on the outcome of WWII.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Decently funny with some good lessons.

Brilliance (The Brilliance Saga Book 1) by Marcus Sakey

A Better World (The Brilliance Saga Book 2) by Marcus Sakey

Great reads. Applicable cultural allegory. Looking forward to part 3.

Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street by John Brooks

This book was hard to find, because it was famously recommended by Bill Gates, and enjoyed a recent resurgence. Interesting case studies.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Stephenson does a great job intertwining factual/plausible science with storytelling.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Ridiculously repetitive and monotonous. I usually like Gladwell’s stuff. Disappointed.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Wow. Epic (in the denotative sense, not as the kids use it) novel supposedly based on the book of Genesis. Thought provoking and well written spanning the lives of three full generations. Classic that would be up there with his other works if it weren’t for its length.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

One of the few plot twists that has taken my breath away. Really entertaining. Sent me on a Orson Scott Card tangent, but I wasn’t as impressed with his subsequent works.

EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey

Good information. Almost all business books I’ve read are 95% common sense, and 5% interesting insight that could probably be boiled down to a 5 slide PowerPoint. This is no exception.

Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem by Simon Singh

Taking the quest to solve a centuries old theorem and making the information both accessible and entertaining. Recommended for anyone with interest in Math/Science.

Flowers for Algernon by Keyes, Daniel

Simple, yet life changing. One of the greats.

Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson by Corey Seymour and Jann S. Wenner

Hunter S. is the consummate Anti-hero, such an intriguing character with absolutely unique qualities and critically fatal (literally) flaws.

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

A laborious epic that reminds me of a more technical and erotic Infinite Jest in its detail and verbosity. Fairly humorous and illuminating at times. Interesting, but probably won’t read it again. Not for the fully committed.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s by J.K. Rowling

What can I say? Well developed characters, good plot line. I’m surprised I made it through 2014 without reading any more of the Harry Potter series. I’m sure that will change next year.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution - and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman

Thought provoking and thorough in its theses and defense. Should be required reading for elected officials. It’s been interesting to see the recent drop in oil prices and subsequent geopolitical consequences proposed by Friedman.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

Malala! She deserves all the accolades she has been getting. What a strong young lady, and perfect role model for women and men around the world.

I’m Staying with My Boys: The Heroic Life of Sgt. John Basilone, USMC by Jim Proser

Impressive tale of a true American hero. The telling of the story is average.

In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy

Convinced me to invest in GOOG, and look into Montessori schooling for my daughter :) Data will be the commodity of the future, and Google is the De Beers of data.

Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History Paperback by Erik Larson

I love Erik Larson’s ability to portray historical events. Galveston is my birthplace, so I had to check this one out. The wife and I actually took turns reading this to each other. Recommended.

Leaving Cheyenne by Larry McMurtry

No Lonesome Dove, but not bad.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Spot-on dialogue. Great story, well told.

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz

Fairly entertaining pre/early Civil War non-fiction. Actually got my newborn son’s name from this book.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Interesting. Well written.

Not Taco Bell Material by Adam Carolla

I wasn’t expecting much… maybe because someone told me once upon a time that Adam Corolla had an IQ low enough to qualify him as handicapped. Evidently they were wrong. Definitely not politically correct, but very entertaining nonetheless.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Dickens is one of the all-time greats for a reason. Great story, well written, surprisingly ironic and humorous at times.

One Summer: America, 1927 - by Bill Bryson

Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Al Capone – one amazing summer.

Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene

Quick, entertaining novel.

Scrum: a Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction by Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson

Basic, simple, no extra fluff. Well done.

Sh*t My Dad SaysMay by Justin Halpern

Brief. Hilarious. Not much you can’t get from the internet for free, but worth supporting the author.

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Alright. Readable, but often monotonous and obscure.

Startup Growth Engines: Case Studies of How Today’s Most Successful Startups Unlock Extraordinary Growth by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown

Decent read. A few useful tidbits.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Powerful and “thorough” (as the librarian warned me).

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau

Alright. Lots of fluff, a few useful insights.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

One of my employees said this was her favorite book, so I checked it out. Pretty good. Not my favorite, but glad I read it.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Teamwork, perseverance, and the days leading up to WWII.

The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh

Singh does it again, and takes complex technical/theoretical concepts and packages them in a simple, entertaining package.

The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life Paperback by Joseph Ledoux

I’m a big fan of evolutionary psychology. This didn’t bring a lot of new theory to the table, but would probably make a good beginner introduction to the subject.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Exceptional. I can’t believe it took me this long to finally read it.

The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

Dry British humor. Entertaining.

The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

Great, timeless ideas. More applicable to large businesses, but useful to keep in the back pocket.

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry

Decent modern(ish) story by Larry McMurtry. Convinced me for the first time that a private indoor pool could be useful. You’re probably not missing anything if you don’t read this.

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

One of the important business books of the last few years. Has probably become slightly cliché. Speaks to my lean/bootstrap philosophy.

The Luck of the Bodkins by P. G. Wodehouse

I bought this book after seeing its first line listed as one of the all time greats: “Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.” Didn’t disappoint.

The Mongoliad (The Mongoliad Cycle Book 1) by Neal Stephenson and Erik Bear

The Mongoliad (The Mongoliad Cycle Book 2) by Neal Stephenson and Erik Bear

The Mongoliad (The Mongoliad Cycle Book 3) by Neal Stephenson and Erik Bear

Enthralling fictional tale mixed with historic references. Typical well done Neal Stephenson.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Paperback by Stephen Chbosky

Surprisingly touching and thought provoking coming of age tale.

The Psychology Of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Much more interesting than the title would lead you to believe. Should be required reading for modern UI designers and developers.

The Stranger Hardcover by Albert Camus

I’m a huge Hemingway fan, and Camus’ style was eerily similar (in a good way). Frustrating situation, but well done.

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey

Alright. Not on the level of his Brilliance Series.

Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Typical Levitt – simple, interesting.

Thunderstruck Paperback by Erik Larson

Another good Larson mixture of murder and history.

True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author’s Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil’s Paradise Paperback by Terence McKenna

Terrible. Dumb. As a wise hippie once told me “you don’t do enough drugs to understand.”

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbelievable tale. You couldn’t make this up. Read it!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Well done. Intriguing. A little heavy on the self-pity and angst, but good read.

Xenocide by Orson Scott Card

Thinly veiled and poorly constructed allegory. Disappointing. I chuckled when I saw a review on Amazon calling this “Ender’s Lame.”