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103 Books in 2008 – A Retrospective

Jan 5, 2009

2008 was a very strange year. Aside from the birth of my second child, I was somehow struck with an unquenchable desire to read. I have always been a heavy reader, but never like this. 103 books? It seems excessive but somehow I managed to pull it off. In addition to the books listed below, I should mention that I also read the same 7 Dr. Seuss books to my first boy a combined 643 times, but I didn’t think it was worth adding them to my list. What did reading 103 books teach me? The short answer is, I will probably never do that again. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy doing so, but in order to read 103 books in a year one has to spend an inordinate amount of time reading dreck, and after doing so for so many hours in the past year I am determined to never repeat it… if I can help it. I resolve to do better at choosing my reading in the future (and in all likelihood, I will be writing more code in my free time). Therefore, 2009 will likely pale in comparison in sheer numbers; although I hope to read more life-changing material. That being said, let me list a few high (and low) points of my reading last year:

Best book


Grendel Truly a fantastic book. It was the kind of beautifully written book that shames me that I ever had the gall to try and put pen to paper.

Worst book

Monster Nation

Monster Nation I think I have worn out the novelty of the Zombie fiction book. In reality, it was probably not as bad as I remember, but it just happen to be the last zombie book that I may ever read.

Hidden gem

The Survivors

The Survivors I picked up a really old copy of this book at a local used book shop for two-bits and really didn’t expect much from it. However, it was a very pleasant find and is a gritty story way ahead of its time.

Biggest disappointment


Anathem I was really psyched about Stephenson’s latest book and for the first 150 pages I enjoyed it thoroughly; unfortunately the book is 937 pages. I think that XKCD summed up my qualms with the book:

Best tech book

Programming Collective Intelligence: Building Smart Web 2.0 Applications

Programming Collective Intelligence A really good technical book that talks about how to apply “machine learning” 1 to “Web 2.0”. It contains just enough detail without inundating the reader with material more appropriate for a PhD dissertation.

Books read in 2008

The Stranger
Dickinson: Poems
The Night Stalker
No Country for Old Men
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-believer
Blake: Poems
Programming Collective Intelligence: Building Smart Web 2.0 Applications
Nine Princes in Amber
Apple I Replica Creation: Back to the Garage
The Nudist on the Late Shift: And Other True Tales of Silicon Valley
Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age
A Storm of Swords
The Practice of Programming
The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Right Ho, Jeeves
The Handbook of Programming Languages (HPL): Functional, Concurrent and Logic Programming Languages
Clan Apis
The Turn of the Screw
The Bell Witch: An American Haunting
A Feast for Crows
Heart of Darkness
The Bill James Gold Mine 2008
RESTful Web Services
Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government--Saving Privacy in the Digital Age
Castle Waiting Volume 1: Lucky Road
Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai
Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects
The Survivors
The Ghosts of Virginia
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
A Briefer History of Time
The Bad Popes
Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think
Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995
Castle Waiting: The Curse of  Brambly Hedge
The Screwtape Letters
The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition
The Color of Magic
28 Days Later: The Aftermath
Gardens of the Moon
The Old Man and the Sea
Why Orwell Matters
Childhood's End
Being There
Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame
The Road
Children of Dune
The Forever War
Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity
Fight Club
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
Life in a Medieval Castle
Shelley: Poems
The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell
Fungi from Yuggoth
The Third Policeman
Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham
Rogue moon
The Day of the Triffids
God Emperor of Dune
The Devil's Dictionary
C: The Pocket Reference
Night Shift
Nodame Cantabile 1
Nodame Cantabile 2
Monster Nation
Nodame Cantabile 3
Nodame Cantabile 5
Nodame Cantabile 6
Commodore 64 Users Guide
Whalestoe Letters
Nodame Cantabile 7
The Blade Itself
Einstein: His Life and Universe
Lex & Yacc
The Children of H�rin
What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule
Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History
From the Land of Fear
How to Read Music: Fundamentals of Music Notation Made Easy
Modern Classics Midwich Cuckoos
The Code of the Woosters
The Sailor on the Seas of Fate
Carry On, Jeeves
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
Transmetropolitan Vol. 1: Back on the Street
The Inimitable Jeeves
WOLFSHEAD: The Black Stone; The Valley of the Worm; The Fire of Asshurbanipal; The House of Arabu; The Horror from the Mound
My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla
Bacchus, Book 1: Immortality Isn't Forever
Algorithmic Information Theory
Confusion Is Next: The Sonic Youth Story
Pride and Prejudice

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  1. Machine learning was once equated with complex knowledge systems crammed with all nature of common sense knowledge but has since been replaced by statistical techniques. 

3 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. F_D

    Nice write-up. Two things:

    (1) Totally agree with you about Grendel. It really stands the test of time and consistently remains in my Top 10 of All Time lists as I make them up in my head throughout the years.

    (2) I’m still going to read Anathem.

  2. F_D

    ALSO: 103 books is a ridiculous quantity. You truly shame my pathetic showing of 50.

  3. Nah, I have learned my lesson on trying to read 103 books. That is, while I may have read 2x the quantity, I think that my overall rating is probably much lower. I am better served by emulating your approach. -m

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