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Books 2013

I made it through more books this year largely because I read a lot of epic fantasy, which I can plow through quite fast. In 2014 I hope to increase my audiobook listening and utilize the library more.

Books

# Title Author Pages Start Date End Date
1 Alif the Unseen G. Willow Wilson 433 2012/12/28 2013/01/03
2 The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t Nate Silver 544 2013/1/6 2013/01/19
3 Knife of Dreams (Wheel of Time, #11) Robert Jordan 814 2013/1/19 2013/01/26
4 The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time, #12; A Memory of Light, #1) Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson 1120 2013/1/27 2013/01/29
5 Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time, #13; A Memory of Light, #2) Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson 865 2013/1/30 2013/02/01
6 A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time, #14) Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson 909 2013/2/1 2013/02/02
7 C++ Concurrency in Action Anthony Williams 528 2012/12/9 2013/02/02
8 Legion Brandon Sanderson 88 2013/2/16 2013/02/16
9 Debt: The First 5,000 Years David Graeber 534 2013/2/3 2013/02/21
10 The Mongoliad: Book Two (Foreworld, #2) Neal Stephenson, Erik Bear, Greg Bear, Joseph Brassey, Nicole Galland, Cooper Moo, Mark Teppo, Mike Grell 464 2013/2/22 2013/03/03
11 The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York Deborah Blum 336 2013/3/3 2013/03/10
12 The Mongoliad: Book Three (Foreworld, #3) Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo, Mike Grell 804 2013/3/12 2013/03/21
13 Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time Jeff Speck 320 2013/3/24 2013/03/29
14 The Stockholm Octavo Karen Engelmann 432 2013/3/31 2013/04/08
15 Mistborn Trilogy (Mistborn, #1-3) Brandon Sanderson 2307 2013/4/14 2013/04/29
16 The Lives of Tao Wesley Chu 464 2013/5/1 2013/05/04
17 VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good Mark Bittman 288 2013/5/13 2013/05/13
18 The Emperor’s Soul Brandon Sanderson 167 2013/5/10 2013/05/17
19 RabbitMQ in Action: Distributed Messaging for Everyone Alvaro Videla 314 2013/5/13 2013/05/19
20 The Warded Man (Demon Cycle, #1) Peter V. Brett 434 2013/5/9 2013/05/27
21 The Desert Spear (Demon Cycle, #2) Peter V. Brett 674 2013/5/24 2013/06/03
22 The Modern Web: Multi-Device Web Development with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript Peter Gasston 264 2013/5/29 2013/06/08
23 The Daylight War (Demon Cycle, #3) Peter V. Brett 768 2013/6/3 2013/06/08
24 City 2.0: The Habitat of the Future and How to Get There TED Books 119 2013/5/27 2013/06/10
25 Elantris Brandon Sanderson 508 2013/6/9 2013/06/16
26 The Prisoner of Heaven (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #3) Carlos Ruiz Zafón 279 2013/6/13 2013/06/22
27 Lexicon Max Barry 400 2013/6/16 2013/06/26
28 Effective C++: 55 Specific Ways to Improve Your Programs and Designs Scott Meyers 318 2013/6/22 2013/06/28
29 The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4) Brandon Sanderson 333 2013/6/15 2013/07/01
30 Neptune’s Brood (Freyaverse #2) Charles Stross 336 2013/6/29 2013/07/07
31 Bad Data Handbook: Cleaning Up The Data So You Can Get Back To Work Q. Ethan McCallum 264 2013/7/4 2013/07/10
32 Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1) James S.A. Corey 561 2013/6/29 2013/07/15
33 City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age P.D. Smith 400 2013/7/11 2013/07/23
34 Caliban’s War (Expanse, #2) James S.A. Corey 595 2013/4/9 2013/07/23
35 The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer Gretchen Reynolds 257 2013/7/16 2013/07/27
36 Abaddon’s Gate (Expanse, #3) James S.A. Corey 566 2013/7/15 2013/08/03
37 The Dragon’s Path (The Dagger and the Coin, #1) Daniel Abraham 555 2013/7/24 2013/08/17
38 The King’s Blood (The Dagger and the Coin #2) Daniel Abraham 517 2013/8/18 2013/08/20
39 Interactive Data Visualization for the Web Scott Murray 272 2013/7/27 2013/08/21
40 Terra Nova: The New World After Oil, Cars, and Suburbs Eric W. Sanderson 352 2013/8/11 2013/08/23
41 The Tyrant’s Law (The Dagger and the Coin, #3) Daniel Abraham 512 2013/8/24 2013/09/06
42 Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate Rose George 304 2013/9/8 2013/09/17
43 Introduction to Tornado Michael Dory, Adam Parrish, Brendan Berg 138 2013/9/12 2013/09/18
44 The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1) Philip Pullman 399 2013/9/15 2013/09/24
45 Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation Tyler Cowen 304 2013/9/21 2013/09/29
46 The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2) Philip Pullman 326 2013/10/1 2013/10/11
47 Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy Christopher L. Hayes 2013/10/11 2013/10/24
48 The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3) Philip Pullman 518 2013/10/14 2013/11/04
49 The Incrementalists Steven Brust, Skyler White 304 2013/11/6 2013/11/21
50 The Deaths of Tao Wesley Chu 464 2013/12/3 2013/12/17
51 Steelheart (Reckoners, #1) Brandon Sanderson 384 2013/12/23 2013/12/28

Audiobooks

# Title Author Length Start Date End Date
1 The Mark of Athena Rick Riordan 15:08:00 2013/12/01 2013/12/21

February Media Consumption

Now that March is more than halfway over, I suppose I should get around to
reporting on my February media consumption. I made several long trips in
February, which greatly increased my reading for the month. It also made me
very glad to have a Kindle, as several of the books I read were large fantasy
tomes that would have been otherwise inconvenient to lug across the country.

Books

  • Neal Stephenson, Reamde

    Stephenson is one of my favorite authors, and I look forward to his new releases with great anticipation. Reamde is something of a departure from his previous work, in that it takes the form of a present day thriller and doesn’t introduce any substantially new technologies other than a particularly sophisticated MMO. Many people found this disappointing (Tyler Cowen called it “devoid of interest”), but I still thoroughly enjoyed the novel as a slightly nerdy action-packed page-turner.

    Stephenson is very good at writing characters that, for lack of a better term, are extremely competent. In Reamde, the characters, good and bad, collectively manage to track down a terrorist on the other side of the world, hack a major virtual currency, commandeer a rogue fishing vessel, steal and fly a plane into the Canadian wilderness, and perform numerous other feats of strength, endurance, and mental agility. This could easily seem ridiculous, but for whatever reason I find Stephenson’s characterizations compelling enough that they seem aspirational rather than annoying. You can almost believe that a slacker drug runner could invent a brilliant MMO, or than an obese writer could lose weight and make millions by working while walking on DIY omnidirectional treadmill, and somehow it makes you want to be more creative and ambitious in your own life. Or at least it does for me.

  • Robert Jordan, The Eye of the World

    I’m not sure how wise it was to start rereading a 14 volume, 4 million word series, but the final volume is coming out this year (written by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s untimely death), so I suppose it’s as good a time as any. I was also somewhat inspired by the Wheel of Time reread at Tor.com, which includes lots of description about the entire series.

    I was pleased with how well this book held up. Last year I reread the first Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy, which is another fantasy series I enjoyed as a kid. While I still had fun with that, I was struck by how bad the writing was, which I guess means that my tastes have improved somewhat since middle school. I had no such problems with the Eye of the World, and I’m looking forward to continuing the series.

    I was reminded how similar this first book is to the Lord of the Rings. From the Ent-like Ogier to black riders who dislike water, Jordan clearly borrowed some of his ideas from Tolkien, but I’m inclined not to be too critical since he has another 10,000 pages to differentiate himself.

  • Robert Jordan, The Great Hunt

    I reread this on my second cross-country flight this month, and I enjoyed it just as much as TEotW. Jordan hasn’t yet succumbed to the overwhelming number of subplots that characterize the his later books, but the series starts to move beyond the Tolkien-esque confines of the first book. I’m looking forward to book 3.

  • Chris Martenson, The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future of Our
    Economy, Energy, and the Environment

    In some ways this is a standard “we’re all doomed” book about the environment, but I thought it did a better than average job of linking the environment with the economy and discussing some of the economic challenges we will face due to resource scarcity. I appreciated that Martenson took the time to go over the math of exponential growth and work through things like the impact of inflation in some detail.

    I was less impressed with the solutions section of the book. Martenson’s suggestions — buy gold, move to a semi-rural community, etc. — sound a bit survivalist, and his self-promotion heavy website doesn’t help. This may just speak to the magnitude of the problem. There are many clear presentations of the challenges we face, but relatively few simple solutions that can be realistically implemented.

TV/Movies

  • The Vampire Diaries, Season 1-2

    I’m a bit embarrassed to admit to this, but I found The Vampire Diaries to be extremely addictive. The easiest way to describe is really True Blood lite. Even though it is based on a different series of books, the similarities are striking. Both series feature young female protagonists in small southern towns that become involved in love triangles with two vampires, one of whom is brooding and reformed. They both have an African American “best friend” who gets involved in all sorts of supernatural drama. They both introduce werewolves and include at least one sympathetic werewolf struggling with his identity. They both feature a slightly irresponsible brother who is initially unaware of all of the supernatural happenings. And so on. In other words, you should not watch this for originality.

    Nevertheless, the characters have good chemistry and the plot moves fast, and while I don’t expect The Vampire Diaries to win many awards, it is enormously fun to watch.

Articles

  • David Foster Wallace, The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys and The Shrub, Rolling Stone, Apr. 2000

    This is a long, brilliant, and exhausting account of the 2000 Republican primary by the late novelist and essayist David Foster Wallace (DFW). As a political outsider, DFW travelled with the McCain campaign and reported on the exhausting and bizarre world of the campaign trail during the period in which McCain was making waves as the “maverick candidate”. DFW is hardly a traditional journalist, and this is hardly a traditional profile. It’s full of fun quirks — George W. Bush is referred to as “the Shrub” throughout, for instance — but it also provides an excellent behind-the-scenes look at the strategy and process of running a campaign. It is also a profound meditation on politics as advertisement and the challenge of determining when candidates are being honest and when they are being strategic. Finally it is a surprisingly human portrayal of McCain, who the otherwise progressive DFW seems to develop a healthy respect for. Highly recommended.

  • Adam Gopnik, The Caging of America, The New Yorker, Jan. 2012

    The U.S. puts a larger fraction of its population in prison than any other country and this is a travesty just about any way you look at it. Gopnik surveys the problem and makes some interesting connections to the surprising drop in urban crime since the 80s.

  • Matt Chaban, Terminal Condition: How New York’s Airports Crashed and
    Burned Can They Soar Again?
    , New York Observer, Jan. 2012

    New York is one of the most important cities in the world, but its airports are old, crowded, and inefficient. Much of this is due to the dramatic increase in air travel since they were built, but some is also due to the effects of 9/11 and increased security. For example, transit between terminals that requires you to exit security is now much less useful than it was in the decades prior to 2001, leading to the unpleasant necessity of inter-terminal shuttles. This was an nice followup to Aerotropolis, which I read last year, and should be of interest to anyone who has to travel to or through any of NYC’s airports.

January Media Consumption

I’ve decided to try something new this year and post monthly updates about my media consumption. I haven’t quite decided exactly how this will work, but I hope to give an overview of the books and magazine articles I read, the audiobooks I listened to, and the movies and TV shows I watched. While the list of books will be fairly complete, as I track that information already, I will probably just include a selection of the articles and TV shows I consumed. This may or may not last for the whole year (and I’m already off to a somewhat late start), but we’ll see how it goes.

Books

  • Tyler Cowen, The Great Stagnation

    This was a quick read, and worth the $3.99, but I’m not sure how much it changed my thinking. Cowen’s basic premise is that the rate of technological growth has slowed in recent years, and that this is one of the root causes of our economic slowdown. The Internet is an obvious counterexample, but Cowen argues that it hasn’t generated jobs or economic activity at the same rate as previous innovations (like automobiles). These points are worth making, but not particularly surprising, and Cowen’s solution, more eduction, is similarly obvious.

    I think this book succeeds as a succinct outline of some of the economic challenges we face, but those looking for radical new ideas may be disappointed.

  • Ernest Cline, Ready Player One

    This was the most fun I’ve had with a sci-fi novel in a long time. I’m a bit young to appreciate all of the 80s trivia, but it was fast paced and engrossing and includes all sorts of geek wish-fulfillment. There was an interesting conversation on io9 regarding the somewhat problematic representation of the real world in the novel (as opposed to the virtual world in which most of the book was set). I tend to agree that Cline doesn’t develop his dystopian world as much as he could, but for pure entertainment value, Ready Player One was hard to beat.

  • Ryan Avent, The Gated City

    Like the other Kindle single I read this month (Tyler Cowen’s The Great Stagnation), I found The Gated City to be interesting and well-written, but ultimately redundant for those who have read more broadly about the issues. Avent’s main thesis is that outdated zoning laws have led to low density American cities and extracted high economic, social, and enviornmental costs. While this is now fairly well understood, widespread NIMBYism has consistently thwarted attempts at reform. This topic is one I find particularly important and interesting, but I would recommend Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City as a better and more thorough introduction.

  • Amy Cortese, Locavesting

    Locavesting surveys a number of different financial mechanisms for local investing and discusses the advantages and disadvantages to both investors and companies seeking capital. I learned something reading this, particularly about the challenges that small companies outside the tech sector face when raising capital. I was a bit worried that the author would sacrifice data and detail for a sort feel-good advocacy, but in the end I thought she did a fairly good job of focusing on the practical and regulatory challenges faced by some of these new investing models.

Audiobooks

  • Rick Riordan, The Red Pyramid

    I enjoyed Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, and I started listening to the Red Pyramid on Divya’s recommendation. I find this type of young adult fiction to be ideal in audiobook form as the narrative structure is simple enough that I can follow along without having to flip back for reference, even when I’m periodically distracted by traffic or other noise.

    I thought Riordan did a particularly good job in this book with the interaction between the siblings, and the two narrators of the audiobook do a great job. On the other hand, I found the description/modernization of the mythology to be somewhat less successful than in the Percy books. This may be due in part to the nature of Egyptian mythology. The gods are less associated with specific phenomena than in Greek mythology, so there are fewer opportunities for clever updates (like the wind god weatherman in the Heroes of Olympus). Still, I can imagine this would be a great way to introduce Egyptian mythology to kids.

TV/Movies

  • White Collar, Seasons 1-3

    I started watching this on Netflix and plowed through the first two seasons in short order. It falls into the “quirky police procedural” model that is so popular these days, but I find the characters charming, and white collar crimes are refreshing after so many shows built on week after week of grisly murders. According to IMDB, the show is actually filmed in NYC, and I enjoy the portrayal of upper-crust Manhattan.

Articles

  • Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class, NY Times

    There’s a follow-up article dealing with the condition of the workers in Foxconn factories, but this one did a good job covering some of the macro-level forces affecting the migration of high-tech manufacturing. Surely it’s partially about cost, but I thought anecdote about Corning moving its production to China simply to be nearer to customers was worth thinking about.

  • Marc Ambinder, Inside the Secret Service, The Atlantic

    This was a fun read after watching so many movies and TV shows about law enforcement agencies. A usual, the truth seems to be both more and less interesting than fiction.

  • Adam Davidson, Making it in America, The Atlantic

    This is another article about American manufacturing, and everybody has heard the basic story, but I thought this article did a good job drilling down and discussing different types of manufacturing jobs, some of which are safe in the U.S. for the moment.

  • Bryan Gruley, The Man Who Bought North Dakota, Bloomberg Businessweek
    Eric Konigsberg, Kuwait on the Prairie, The New Yorker

    As most of the country struggles with recession, North Dakota has been having a huge oil-fueled boom. These articles give a good overview of the major players and the effect of the boom on the local economy.

Books 2010

Once again I’ve compiled a list of my reading from the past year. This year I split up books and audiobooks rather than using “page equivalents” like I did last year. I also haven’t compiled as many graphs as I did last year, but I may add these over time. See also my reading lists from previous years (2008, 2009)

Statistics

  • Total # of books: 23
  • Total length of books: 8250 pages
  • Total # of audiobooks: 17
  • Total length of audiobooks: 6 days, 8:49:32

Books

I reread the books highlighted in yellow.

# Title Author Pages Start Date End Date
1 Downbelow Station C.J. Cherryh 426 12/26 01/04
2 Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell 270 01/05 01/20
3 Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou 344 01/23 01/25
4 Accelerando Charles Stross 415 01/26 02/07
5 The Lost City of Z: A Deadly Obsession in the Amazon David Grann 284 02/07 02/23
6 Beautiful Testing Tim Riley and Adam Goucher (eds.) 322 02/27 07/24
7 Singularity Sky Charles Stross 337 03/10 03/23
8 Studs Terkel’s Working: A Graphic Adaptation Harvey Pekar 191 03/28 04/03
9 Stone’s Fall Iain Pears 594 04/05 05/09
10 Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The Secret World of Corporate Espionage Eamon Javers 288 05/10 05/22
11 Snow Crash Neal Stephensen 470 06/12 06/24
12 Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do Tom Vanderbilt 383 06/29 07/08
13 Gentlemen of the Road Michael Chabon 206 07/08 07/10
14 Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning Abhijeet Chavan and Christian Peralta and Christopher Steins 178 07/11 07/24
15 The Windup Girl Paolo Bacigalupi 359 07/24 08/03
16 River of Gods Ian McDonald 599 08/15 09/05
17 The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Stieg Larsson 576 09/23 09/28
18 Zero History William Gibson 404 09/30 10/02
19 Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman Richard Feynman 317 10/10 10/22
20 The Dervish House Ian McDonald 358 10/24 11/26
21 Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop–from Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication Neil Gershenfeld 264 11/27 12/05
22 Thinking in Systems: A Primer Donella H. Meadows 185 12/10 12/20
23 The Half-Made World Felix Gilman 480 12/21 12/26

Audiobooks

# Title Author Length Start Date End Date
1 What the Dog Saw Malcolm Gladwell 11:36:15 01/10 01/18
2 The Whole Earth Discipline Stewart Brand 13:04:57 01/25 02/09
3 Born to Run Christopher McDougall 11:07:26 02/12 02/15
4 Outliers Malcolm Gladwell 7:17:51 02/21 02/27
5 The Irrational Economist Erwann Michel-Kerjan and Paul Slovic (eds.) 10:35:20 03/01 03/27
6 The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book 1 Rick Riordan 10:01:00 03/24 03/28
7 The Big Short Michael Lewis 9:28:08 03/29 04/10
8 Freefall Joseph Stiglitz 13:23:37 04/16 05/04
9 The Great Reset Richard Florida 6:49:44 05/05 05/12
10 The Sea of Monsters: Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book 2 Rick Riordan 7:55:04 05/31 06/17
11 The Upside of Irrationality Dan Ariely 8:18:17 07/16 07/18
12 The Man Who Loved Books Too Much Allison Hoover Barlett 6:03:57 07/18 07/30
13 Cognitive Surplus Clay Shirky 6:50:11 08/04 08/19
14 The Titan’s Curse: Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book 3 Rick Riordan 8:48:30 08/12 08/15
15 Plenitude Juliet B. Shor 7:10:11 08/23 09/12
16 The End of the Free Market Ian Bremmer 7:10:53 09/28 11/02
17 Burning Chrome William Gibson 7:08:11 11/16 12/13