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Ilya Tulvio

Books I’ve read

  • Beyond the Light Horizon Ken MacLeod

    Final book of the Lightspeed trilogy.

  • Fourteen Days (Multiple)

    A collaborative novel — written by many authors — set in New York City during Covid. Mildly interesting but a bit of a slog.

March 2024

  • Metaplanetary Tony Daniel

    Very imaginative hard sci-fi.

February 2024

  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead Olga Tokarczuk

  • Marauder Gary Gibson

    A standalone-ish sci-fi novel set in the Shoal Sequence universe.

January 2024

  • War & Peace & IT Mark Schwartz

    The counterpart to A Seat at the Table, written for business leaders (as opposed to IT executives).

  • Marauder Gary Gibson

    A standalone-ish sci-fi novel set in the Shoal Sequence universe.

November 2023

  • Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel

    Literary post-apocalyptica.

October 2023

  • On Writing Stephen King

    Part memoir, part writing guide.

  • Use of Weapons Iain M. Banks

    The third Culture novel I’ve read. As with the previous ones, I can’t really decide if I like them or not. I found the flashbacks/flipping all over the place of the alternating chapter structure hard to get into. There is a payoff if you can make it to the end.

September 2023

  • Vagina Naomi Wolf

    A damning indictment of modern medicine’s gaps in understanding basic female physiology and a comprehensive cataloging of the detrimental effects that Western culture has on female sexuality. The mind-body-spirituality-mysticism angle was a bit woo-woo.

  • I Think Therefore I Play Andrea Pirlo with Alessandro Alciato

    Italian football maestro Andrea Pirlo talks about his career. But in what a way: the twenty short, unconnected chapters are told in the first person, using language that ranges from florid to something lifted out of a 1920s hardboiled novel.

August 2023

  • The Unicorn Project Gene Kim

    Having read The Unicorn Project, which I enjoyed, I’m struggling to recall how it differs from The Phoenix Project (though admittedly it’s been years since I it).

  • Beyond the Reach of Earth Ken MacLeod

    Book two of the Lightspeed trilogy.

July 2023

  • Beyond the Hallowed Sky Ken MacLeod

    Socialism: check. Scotland: check. The classic MacLeod tropes are present and put to excellent use in this nearish future sci-fi trilogy.

  • Measure What Matters John Doerr

    We adopted OKRs at work and faced some challenges with them. Wanting to read more about OKRs, I picked up Measure What Matters. Written pleasantly enough, it deals more with why one might want to adopt OKRs, and less with how to roll them out or how to deal with teething issues.

  • Empire of Light Gary Gibson

    Part three of the Shoal Sequence. I got bored reading book two, so took a break from the series (which could have easily meant I’d never return to it). But nearly a year later I found myself thinking about some of the characters and scenes and felt excited to pick up Empire of Light. I’m happy to say I didn’t get bored in book three (though I am taking a break before starting the final book in the series).

June 2023

  • Ghost in the Wires Kevin Mitnick

    The memoirs of America’s most wanted hacker. While pleasantly enough told, it turns out that hearing the various ways that telephone company employees are talked into giving up information and access gets a bit boring.

  • Inspired Marty Cagan

    While I’m a big fan of Marty Cagan’s product writing, I prefer his blog posts to the form that Inspired is written in, as more of a manual of product management. If you want a comprehensive overview of product management, this is your book.

March 2023

  • The Advice Trap Michael Bungay Stanier

    The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious & Change the Way You Lead Forever is a book on coaching. The clever use of metaphors — advice as a trap, your inner advice monster — help you spot and check your urge to jump in with advice.

February 2023

  • High Output Management Andrew S. Grove

    High Output Management, written by former Intel CEO Andrew S. Grove, is the management classic of the tech industry. Published in 1983, it has inspired generations of Silicon Valley startups. But is it one of those works that was revolutionary in its time but is now of interest only as a curiosity of Silicon Valley history?

  • Agency William Gibson

    Sequel to The Peripheral.

January 2023

  • Artemis Andy Weir

    An easy sci-fi read about the capers of a young smuggler living in a colony on the Moon.

  • Termination Shock Neal Stephenson

    Set in the very near future, Termination Shock is typical Neal Stephenson — a doorstop of a book that braids together interesting bits of history and novel ideas, this time centered around the climate emergency, geoengineering and confrontational geopolitics just short of war.

November 2022

  • Guns, Germs and Steel Jared Diamond

    Guns, Germs and Steel is subtitled “A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years”. Not gonna lie: it took me quite a while to finish this book. It’s approachable enough but it’s also very repetitive.

October 2022

  • Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters Ryan Singer

    Shape Up describes Basecamp’s product development methodology. One of my tech leads has been singing the methodology’s praise, so I finally got around to reading it. While the book is delightfully brief and well-written, I found several parts of the methodology problematic. Further thoughts and critique to follow. Available free online.

  • The Ministry of the Future Kim Stanley Robinson

    Robinson has portayed post-capitalist futures before — I’m thinking of the California trilogy, or more specifically Pacific Edge — but this is the first novel I’ve read describing how we might get from here to there.

July 2022

  • Hidden Figures Margot Lee Shetterly

    A history of the black women who worked as computers during the second world war and then at NASA during the space race.

  • Nova War Gary Gibson

    Book two of The Shoal Sequence, it didn’t really introduce anything new to the world (which was what I liked about the first one).

June 2022

  • Stealing Light Gary Gibson

    Book one of The Shoal Sequence, Stealing Light is decent space opera with plenty of action and some tickling notions. Particular highlights:

    An alien hegemony holds a monopoly on superluminal (faster-than-light) travel, and leases out the use of advanced technology to their “client species”.

    Despite much effort, humans find true AI unachievable so develop brain-machine implants to allow superhuman computation.

    The Catholic church’s priests are “metal-skinned” cyborgs, which makes “them free of sin because they are free of incorruptible flesh.” I also chuckled at the idea of a Pope Eliza and the Saints Presley and Autonomous Ethical Device Model 209.

    The Fermi paradox is central to series, featuring a progenitor species leaving caches of high technology as traps for developing species (to keep check on the “rats in the basement”).

    An alien species for whom eating in public is taboo and as repulsive a notion as excrementing in front of others is to western cultures.

    Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure Stealing Light fails the Bechdel test. This says a lot, given the protagonist is female.

March 2022

  • Bone Silence Alistair Reynolds

    Part three of the Revenger trilogy. It got better than the second one, though the ending was very rushed.

January 2022

  • Shadow Captain Alistair Reynolds

    Part two of the Revenger trilogy. Easily my second-least-favourite Reynolds novel.

December 2021

  • Showstopper! The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft G. Pascal Zachary

    The story behind how Windows NT was created, as told by Wall Street Journal reporter G. Pascal Zachary. Beyond finding glimpses of what was the technical state of the art at the time interesting, I found it fascinating to see how a mammoth software project was run at Microsoft.

  • Catalyst Gate Megan E. O’Keefe

    Book three of the space opera trilogy The Protectorate.

September 2021

  • Chaos Vector Megan E. O’Keefe

    Book two of the space opera trilogy The Protectorate.

  • Accelerate: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, Gene Kim

    Survey-based research into commoninalities and causal relationships of structures and behaviours of high performing teams. Persuasive but not exactly a joy to read.

August 2021

  • Endless Loop: The History of the BASIC Programming Language Mark Jones Lorenzo

    The first programming language I ever used was BASIC. I was twelve or thirteen when a classmate introduced me to it. The first thing I tried making was a text-based choose-your-own-adventure game. Little did I know that even in this first exposure to code I’d form conclusions that have stayed with me throughout my life.

  • The Limits of Software Robert N. Britcher

July 2021

  • Velocity Weapon Megan E. O’Keefe

    Sci-fi set in a stellar civilization. Velocity Weapon stands out as... something different. Highly recommended.

  • Hatching Twitter Nick Bilton

    Backstabbing and drama galore behind the scenes of early Twitter. Compellingly told and a quick read.

  • The Stone Sky N. K. Jemisin

    I found part three of the trilogy quite hard going.

June 2021

  • Ten Drugs: How Plants, Powders, and Pills Have Shaped the History of Medicine Thomas Hager

    Penicillin was famously discovered by accident, but it came as a surprise to me how often accidents, serendipity and unintended side effects have played a significant part in developing new medicines. And in learning from Hager’s Ten Drugs how drugs were and — to an extent — still are researched, it becomes clear why this is the case. While theories of how the body works have always driven the prescription and research of medicines, these theories can be wrong. When the first use of inoculation as a method to prevent small-pox was introduced to England by a noble woman who had seen it practiced in Turkey, the medical profession rejected it. Not only because it came from a “barbaric” culture via a woman who was not a doctor, but also because it did not fit the prevailing theory of how illness is caused. Empiricism had not yet won the day, so proscribed wisdom trumped evidence.

    Even when when a more methodical approach to developing drugs was developed by Bayer in the 1930s, the belief that dye chemicals could be effective medicines almost blinded the researchers from realizing that sulfa, an “extra” part they were adding to the dye, was, in fact, the active molecule with antibiotic properties.

May 2021

  • The Effective Engineer Edmond Lau

April 2021

  • Barking Up the Wrong Tree Eric Barker

    Evidence-based self-help. Eric Barker examines the extremes of success and failure and draws on scientific research to reveal what predicates success and why it might come at too high a price to pay.

  • Good to Great Jim Collins

    I have a rule: don’t read books about running companies. I made an exception for Good to Great, published in 2001, and a best-selling classic in its field. Jim Collins and his team try to find the secret recipe for building a great business by analysing eleven companies that have gone from good to great and identifying the key commonalities between them.

    Level 5 leadership, getting the right people on bus, the hedgehog model and turning the flywheel are all concepts that make up parts of Collins’s secret to corporate success.

    The book is written in a conversational tone and makes good use of vivid anecdotes to illustrate its concepts. This makes the occasional repetitiveness tolerable (“this company outperformed the market 27-to-1 between the years 19XX to 19YY”).

    “Good to great” is defined as 15 years of “okay” financial returns followed by 15 years of outperforming the market many times over. I find the notion of measuring success solely based on shareholder value a bit galling, but Collins does make the point that without the information that is available on publicly traded companies, the evaluation of greatness would hardly be possible. As a sop to someone with my delicate sensibilities, the book does examine how the “good to great” framework applies to a successful high school running program.

    Some have argued that it’s time to retire Good to Great from the leadership canon:

    “Good to Great is a classic from a period when all business books were required to be upbeat, flattering their readers. Publishers didn’t expect to sell books that even suggested doubt or failure. […] The belief on which the book relies, that stock price alone anoints the great, makes reading it today feel inadequate, ideological, and naive. Good in parts perhaps, but not great.”

March 2021

  • The Art of Raising a Puppy The Monks of New Skete

    A holistic but practical guide to choosing and raising a puppy. The narrative of the life breeding German shepherds in a monastery is alternated with canine developmental theory and guides on how to train yourself and your dog.

  • The Obelisk Gate N. K. Jemisin

    Book two of The Broken Earth trilogy.

January 2021

  • The Fifth Season N. K. Jemisin

    A very different kind of fantasy.

December 2020

  • Thinking in Systems Donella Meadows

    A primer to systems thinking, Thinking in Systems is a staple of lists of books recommended to software engineers looking to improve their craft. Deservedly so, though I won’t lie: I found it a bit difficult to get into. Once beyond the basics of systems thinking, the book picks up.

    As tends to happen when exploring a new discipline, I was surprised (and somewhat depressed) by the timeliness of Meadows’ application of systems thinking: criticism of GDP as a measure of society, the effectiveness of environmental regulations, the problems of media control. Remember, Meadows died in 2001.

    If your interest has been piqued, Savikas’ review is good.

  • A Memory Called Empire Arcady Martine

    A political space opera murder mystery spy thriller. With musings about how certain technological advances would affect the concept of self and the notion of a culture defined and driven by poetic narrative thrown in for good measure.

November 2020

  • Developer Hegemony Erik Dietrich

  • The Last Emperox John Scalzi

    Part three of the Interdependency series. Fast paced and a quick read.

October 2020

  • Fish! A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, John Christensen

    Inspired by the Pike Place Fish Market, Fish! is a business novel in the vein of The One Minute Manager. Coming in at 100 pages, it’s a pamphlet of a book. The four principles of Fish! are:

    1. Choose Your Attitude — while you can’t change work (or other circumstances), you can change the attitude you bring to it
    2. Play — playfulness energises and stimulates creativity
    3. Make Their Day — engage your customers
    4. Be There — really hear your colleagues and customers

  • Utopia for Realists Rutger Bregman

    A well-written and easily approachable argument for universal basic income. Bregman contends that utopias are necessary vehicles for society to progress, while hammering home the point that the left is — and has long been — utterly bereft of a vision to which aspire to.

  • The Art of Business Value Mark Schwartz

    The first principle of the Agile Manifesto is: “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” But who defines what’s valuable? ...

September 2020

  • The Art of Leadership: Small Things, Done Well Michael Lopp

    Managing Humans is one of favourite books on engineering management. Short on structured, practical advice, it’s long on humorous stories and memorably named perspectives of situations you come across in worklife. Lopp’s latest book on management, The Art of Leadership is like a cross between Managing Humans and Camille Fournier’s The Manager’s Path. Split into three parts, the book covers behaviours needed by managers, directors and executives, respectively. While told in Lopp’s recognisable voice, it lacks the raw storytelling oomph of Managing Humans.

    My favorite chapter is The Culture Creek. Built around a central metaphor, it revisits Lopp’s earlier thesis that origin stories are the bedrock of company culture.

  • Brushback K.C. Constantine

    Small town police noir told mostly and masterfully through dialogue.

  • First, Break All the Rules Gallup

    A very different take on people management. The result of tens of thousands of surveys into workplace performance, the book’s central theme is that great managers avoid seeking uniformity. Build on an individual’s talents, not their weaknesses. Lead by outcomes, not by rote scripts or SOPs. Spend more time with your best performers than your worst. I also found the Q12 to measure a workplace particularly insightful.

August 2020

  • Recursion Blake Crouch

    I quite enjoyed Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter, so was happy to pick up a copy Recursion. Quick to read and gripping, it has some fresh ideas. However, true to its title, it has plenty of recursion, which gets a bit tiring towards the end.

  • The CTO|CIO Bible Rorie Devine

    A self-published little pamphlet that apart from production issues — spelling mistakes, awful typography, layout issues — is refreshingly to the point and coherent.

  • Echopraxia Peter Watts

    The hardest of hard scifi, Echopraxia gives no quarter in terms of exposition. My favorite section is the appendix where the author explains the science and origin of the various concepts explored.

  • Team of Rivals Doris Kearns Goodwin

    Immensely enjoyable biography of Abraham Lincoln masterfully told with excerpts of contemporary writing. As someone who reads very little history, I am in awe of the volume of research that must have gone into this book.

July 2020

  • Coders: Who They Are, What They Think and How They Are Changing Our World Clive Thompson

June 2020

  • Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box Arbinger Institute

May 2020

  • A Philosophy of Software Design John Ousterhout

  • Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices Christopher Locke

    I picked up this book in the early Aughts, read two-thirds, and finally finished it, some 15 years later, during lockdown. I can’t really recollect what I made of it when I first read it, but this time it was certainly a different experience, reading someone trying to describe how and why traditional forms of mass marketing wouldn’t work online, and what to do instead. Written in Locke’s characteristic, expletive laden voice (the author also has an alter ego called RageBoy), Gonzo Marketing is both punchier and more erudite than most business books. Sentences like: “As more companies graze their products on the pastures of civic concern, that concern is proportionally diminished,” made me smile with joy. But apart from a stroll down memory lane or a historical curiosity, I wouldn’t say the book is worth reading in 2020.

  • Drive Daniel H. Pink

    The carrot and the stick drives only extrinsic motivation, which can work for routine, unrewarding work, but fails in triggering intrinsic motivation. Tapping into intrinsic motivation requires autonomy (to decide how to tackle a task), mastery (to give pleasure of a flow state and gradual improvement), and purpose (to give your effort meaning). Drive is clear, persuasive and, at around 200 pages, commendably to-the-point.

  • An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management Will Larson

    I found it difficult to write up my thoughts on An Elegant Puzzle. On the one hand, the book is gorgeous: it’s a beautiful hardback volume, printed in colour on thick paper. On the other, it’s not a very enjoyable read: it’s dense with prescriptive advice, interspersed by mostly superfluous diagrams. Larson does do a difficult and rare thing: he tells you exactly what he recommends to do.

April 2020

  • Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers: How Agriculture Really Began Colin Tudge

    A persuasive essay on the origins of agriculture. The author suggests hunter gatherers the world round likely practiced occasional “hobby farming,” which ultimately led to it being possible to over-hunt species to extinction. He further suggests that environmental changes in a specific region made hunting and gathering unviable, which led to a reliance on arable farming — after which there was no turning back.

March 2020

  • Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time Jeff Sutherland

    A well written and rounded explanation of Scrum, the agile methodology.

  • Conversations with Friends Sally Rooney

    Contemporary fiction, flawless prose and a dazzling portrayal of youth.

February 2020

  • Why Does Software Cost So Much? And Other Puzzles of the Information Age Tom DeMarco

    I like reading “old” books on software design and engineering because it helps show me that despite the seemingly relentless pace of change, many of the problems we face (as individuals and as an industry) have, in fact, existed for decades. It lets me better see my technology biases; that even though it can seem like “everyone” is doing this or that, it’s not actually true.

    Why Does Software Cost So Much?, published in 1995, is a collection of Demarco’s essays, some of which stand the test of time while others don’t.

  • How To Be a Woman Caitlin Moran

    Funny and breathless but also in a way that reading too much in one sitting got a bit rich. Originally given to me as a gift by Vanessa years ago. When Kasia’s six-year-old daughter saw me reading it, her eyes got wide and she whispered to her mother: “Why is he learning how to be a woman?”

January 2020

  • Untying the Knot — Feminism, Anarchism and Organisation Jo Freeman, Cathy Levine

    Two brief essays on organising from the women’s movement of the 1970s. Jo Freeman’s The Tyranny of Structurelessness outlines how the lack of a formal structure does not mean there isn’t hierarchy, just that it’s informal, thus harder to resist. Cathy Levine’s response, The Tyranny of Tyranny, is a more impassioned argument against turning to formal structures and instead developing alternative ways of organising and living.

  • The Quiet War Paul McAuley

    Scarred by the traumas of ecological collapse, Earth takes a conservative view on technological and social progress. Earth’s former colonies, tiny oases of direct democracy and genetic wizardry, dot the moons of Saturn, Jupiter and outer planets, feel differently. Hard sci-fi with political intrigue that spans the Solar System.

  • The New One-Minute Manager Kenneth Blanchard, Spencer Johnson

    A strange little book, The New One-Minute Manager is a lightly revised version of the 1982 original. Criticised as derivative, at least it aims to be approachable and simple — unlike many other pseudo-scientific management theories. While in narrative form, the pamphlet is essentially plotless, and uses a small cast of characters as ciphers who converse entirely in exposition.

November 2019

  • The Demon in the Machine Paul Davies

    How could life spring from inanimate material? Can you bridge physics to biology? Starting from Maxwell’s demons — a 1850s thought experiment involving the nature of the second law of thermodynamics and entropy — Paul Davies examines how energy-efficient processes from cells to genes link fundamentally with information processing.

  • The Manager’s Path Camille Fournier

    An engineer’s guide to grow from mentor to manager to CTO. The chronological structure works nicely, and is supported by personal experiences of the author and other professionals. However, the scope of the book also means that each level is fairly brief, I would have loved reading more “war stories” and challenges that managers at different levels face.

October 2019

  • Emergence Ken MacLeod

    The third volume of The Corporation Wars trilogy carries on directly from where part two leaves off. A few novel concepts are introduced but all in all, the action is wrapped up rather hastily and none too soon — all the factional jostling and fighting in frames action was getting a bit tired.

  • Insurgence Ken MacLeod

    Volume two of the Corporation Wars trilogy reads as a continuous experience. More of the same, not much more to say.

September 2019

  • Dissidence Ken MacLeod

    Spontaneous consciousness as an infestation in exoplanetary mining robots, accelerationism as as political movement, earthlike lifeforms replicated from alien multicellular via directed evolution… Dissidence is the first volume of the Corporation Wars trilogy, and signature MacLeod.

  • Lean from the Trenches Henrik Kniberg

    A practical explanation on how a large software development project was run using using kanban.

  • Bully for Brontosaurus Stephen Jay Gould

    An even more eclectic collection of essays from the inimitable Stephen Jay Gould. I picked this one up four years ago, and — despite enjoying it every time I picked it up — took this long to finish. Notable essays include “matching to type” (on human’s inability to think statistically), on the number of chromosomes and haplodiploidy, and loads of reinterpretation of historical record.

  • The Uplift War David Brin

    The third and by far the longest novel of the original Uplift trilogy. This one has neochimp protagonists.

August 2019

  • Good Strategy/Bad Strategy Richard Rumelt

    A well-written primer on what business strategy is (and what it isn’t). Illustrated by real-world case studies and personal experience.

  • Startide Rising David Brin

    The second novel of the Uplift universe, the first starship crewed by neo-dolphins makes a discovery that has half the universe chasing them. More fun in an interesting universe where humans appear to be the exception to the rule of the evolution of intelligence.

July 2019

  • Uplift David Brin

    A whodunit in space with humanity just having joined the ranks of the galactic society of races.

  • Command and Control Eric Schlosser

    Phenomenal piece of nonfiction that weaves together the hair-raising accident of a Titan 2 missile silo with the history of nuclear weapons and the Cold War.

June 2019

  • Stand Out of Our Light James Williams

May 2019

  • Primary Inversion Catherine Asaro

    Space commandos with telepathic powers in an intergalactic war between two empires. The heroine is the heir to the Skolian empire who suffers from PTSD from being held as a psychic sex slave by the enemy Aristos. Yes, I know you’ll likely not be sold by this description.

April 2019

  • The Checklist Manifesto Atul Gawande

    Engagingly written and persuasive, this quick read will convince you of the value of using checklists to help manage complexity. A major theme, though little related to checklists themselves, is the value of building team cohesion (i.e. dealing with the different levels of power within a group of professionals), which reminded me a lot of Humble Inquiry (though through a very different approach).

  • Managing Humans Michael Lopp

    The third edition has some new chapters and still is funny and captivating and sometimes even useful.

March 2019

  • Thunderhead Neal Shusterman

    Sequel to Scythe, this YA sci-fi adventure novel has twists and turns but the only new examination of a post-scarcity society is through the internal monologue of a near-omniscient AI.

  • Humble Inquiry Edgar H. Schein

    Social norms and power dynamics can hamper effective collaboration. Schein argues that humble inquiries, in which the inquirer puts themselves in a position of vulnerability, can build better relationships. The book is short, but it could be shorter.

  • Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management Johanna Rothman, Esther Derby

    Short, readable and loosely framed as a “business novel” (Sam, the protagonist, has just started a new job as a director of a software engineering group), BCD covers many key concepts and techniques of management.

  • Scythe Neal Shusterman

    Young adult scifi; eminently readable and interesting imagination of a post-mortality world.

February 2019

  • The Power Naomi Alderman

    If one day women woke up with superpowers, how would the world change?

  • Homo Deus Yuval Noah Harari

    Sequel to Sapiens, Homo Deus starts off slowly, sort of repeating Sapiens. I’m glad I persisted to the end, though, as the characterisation of modern Western ideologies as religions (liberal humanism, socialist humanism, evolutionary humanism) and the prediction of the rise of “Dataism” (which sees evolution as ever more complex data processing) are fascinating.

  • Lost Connections Johann Hari

    A well written, persuasive (if at times a bit formulaic) account of how depression and anxiety is misunderstood, mistreated and directly fed by our modern ways of living.

January 2019

  • Elysium Fire Alastair Reynolds

    Set in the Revelation Space universe, Prefect Dreyfus returns in this space opera detective story.

  • Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking Jeff Gothelf

    A pamphlet that introduces the three titular methodologies and how they fit together.

  • The No Asshole Rule Robert Sutton

    You can tell that this book originated as an article for HBR; while long passages of evidence from related studies bolster the case of the author’s titular argument, if you already buy it, it makes for a tedious read. Thankfully, it’s only 200 pages, and the latter half, less bogged down by citations of tangential research, picks up pace.

  • Sleeping Giants Sylvain Neuvel

    A sci-fi novel told entirely through interview transcripts and journal entries.

December 2018

  • The Bug Ellen Ullman

    A literary novel that describes the act and nature and feel of programming like nothing else I’ve ever read. Something like Lorrie Moore’s Anagrams meets J. G. Ballard’s High-Rise.

  • Reamde Neal Stephenson

    What can I say… Reamde bears all the hallmarks — both good and bad — of a Neal Stephenson novel. Gripping plot and interesting obsessions while overly long and descriptive in places.

  • The Consuming Fire John Scalzi

    A competent second novel of a space opera-esque series set in an intergalactic empire with politics and schemes galore.

  • The Collapsing Empire John Scalzi

    A competent first novel of a space opera-esque series set in an intergalactic empire with politics and schemes galore.

November 2018

  • Becoming a Technical Leader Gerald M. Weinberg

    A guide to recognising the different styles of technical leadership and how to overcome the challenges one faces.

  • Bad Blood John Carreyrou

    A compelling investigative telling of the story of Theranos, the Silicon Valley biotech startup built on an audacious vision, deceit and dysfunction.

  • Adapt Tim Harford

    An eminently readable history of how trial and error — the evolutionary process — powers innovation.

October 2018

  • Dark Matter Blake Crouch

    Gripping and inventive. A quick read somewhat let down by the writing and the cloying pathos.

  • The Big Disruption Jessica Powell

    A satirical novel of the excesses of Silicon Valley. I don’t know if I’m too close or too far from this culture for the satire to hit home for me; as with Dave Eggers’s The Circle, I found the exaggerated start-up tropes unfunny and the jeopardy of the plot unmoving. You can read The Big Disruption online for free.

September 2018

  • The Last Wish Andrzej Sapkowski

    A loosely joined collection of fantasy short stories about a “witcher,” a sword for hire exterminator of supernatural pests. The stuttered, sparse exposition is reminiscent of the fairy tales that it borrows elements from.

  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things Ben Horowitz

    The meat of The Hard Thing About Hard Things is made up of Ben Horowitz’s republished blog posts, sandwiched in some life lessons and narrative of his experiences founding and managing Loudcloud and VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. Written in a conversational tone, it’s a smooth read throughout, but the central “how-tos” of doing things that a CEO does are more hard going. While interesting as a glimpse into the problems faced by a CEO of a publicly traded company, the bulletpointy advice pieces lack any momentum to carry the reader on.

  • A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility Mark Schwartz

August 2018

  • The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future Kevin Kelly

    After reading What Technology Wants, I was looking forward to reading The Inevitable. As a long list of categorised trends, I found it hard going. My favourite parts were the couple of pages at the end of each trend, where Kelly imagines a possible future that trend could lead to.

July 2018

  • The Haystack Syndrome Eliyahu M. Goldratt

    The Haystack Syndrome starts promisingly with a scathing damnation of classic accounting practices and how short it falls in helping a business measure its productivity. (This is the classic Goldrattian argument of cost world vs. throughput world.) The philosophical examination of the difference between data and information is fascinating if somewhat of less practical use. The next topic, how to meet market demand with production capability is also interesting. Skip the rest of the book: how to create an information system to schedule manufacturing is just abstruse.

  • 1Q84 Haruki Murakami

    Japanese magical realism, I guess. Long, sometimes longwinded. And I’m not convinced by the author’s portrayals of women or sex.

  • Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life Peter Godfrey-Smith

    A fascinating premise but despite the great individual ingredients — evolutionary theory, theory of intelligence and personal experiences — this (fortunately) short book strikes flat a note.

June 2018

  • House of Suns Alastair Reynolds

    Space opera, huge timescales.

  • Gridlinked Neal Asher

    Special agents in space. Combat preparation and armament descriptions get tedious.

April 2018

  • The Three-body Problem Liu Cixin

    A sci-fi novel that very obviously has been translated from Chinese — giving it all the more character.

February 2018

  • Bit Rot Douglas Coupland

    An odd collection of essays and stories. Coupland’s signature tone of voice and observations but not his finest work.

  • Dreaming In Code Scott Rosenberg

    While aimed at non-programmers, I found the exploration of why software is the way it is fascinating.

  • 2312 Kim Stanley Robinson

    Intriguing yet infuriating. The language in places is clunky and the descriptions long and plodding, yet the political landscape of an inhabited solar system and individual ideas of art and culture shine brightly.

  • MaddAddam Margaret Atwood

    Book three of MaddAddam trilogy.

  • Year of the Flood Margaret Atwood

    Book two of MaddAddam trilogy follows the God’s Gardeners, a environmental revivalist movement. The religion — along with the sermons and songs — are particularly striking.

January 2018

  • Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood

    A well-written and intense apocalypse tale.

  • Turn the Ship Around! L. David Marquet

    A book on leadership that sucks you in by its first-person narrative and sense of peril and progress. Delightfully light on exercises or morals. The leader-leader model springs fourth from many familiar sources — the same that have inspired agile, lean and devops. It finally made it clear why “empowerment” always felt so hollow to me.

December 2017

  • Ready Player One Ernest Cline

    Effortless geek-fi. Fun and fast-paced technothriller sprikled with 80s nostalgia for music to video and role-playing games to films.

  • Marooned in Realtime Vernor Vinge

    The human race has disappeared with lone survivors emerging from time-stopped stasis fields. Did humankind wipe themselves out or fall into the singularity? How many humans are needed to rebuild the human race and achieve technological critical mass? Stasis-field technology allows for a different kind of time travel narrative: by skipping forward unlimited periods of time, humans can live in geological time.

  • The Peace War Vernor Vinge

    Post-apocalyptic world, authoritarian peace enforcement, stasis-field technology.

  • What Technology Wants Kevin Kelly

    Fascinating book positing technology as a product and continuation of evolution. Highlights include how Amish evaluate and select technology, how inventions happen independently, many times, and how the size of the rockets in our space program has been dictated by requirements of extinct technology.

November 2017

  • Eric Sink on the Business of Software Eric Sink

    The collected blog posts or MSDN columns from Eric Sink on running an indie software business.

  • Revenger Alistair Reynolds

    Space pirates. Okay, but hardly vintage Reynolds.

October 2017

  • Made in Japan: Akio Morita and Sony Akio Morita, Edwin M. Reingold, Mitsuko Shimomura

    Memoir of Sony co-founder Akio Morita with interesting views on product development.

  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Patrick M. Lencioni

    Management as a business novel. Quick read, convincing points.

September 2017

  • The Golden Notebook Doris Lessing

    Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook is a deserved classic. With over fifty years since its publication, for the contemporary reader, the setting reads as period; but the ideas are as milestones for just how far we haven’t come. While not exceptionally long, the novel is broken up (on multiple levels) and is, like life, without plot, which can make it hard going at times.

August 2017

  • A Primer on Jungian Psychology Calvin S. Hall, Vernon J. Nordby

    A short but not very well written introduction to Jung’s work that — having been published in 1973 — relentlessly shows it’s age.

  • The Gene Siddartha Mukherjee

    An eminently readable and fascinating history of genetics.

  • We Should All Be Feminists Chimmanda Ngozi Adichie

    Well-illustrated presentation on the lack of gender equality. Adapted from a TEDx talk.

  • Void Star Zachary Mason

    Gibsonesque sci-fi in a literary vein. Takes on the daunting task of imagining self-aware AIs as independent actors.

May 2017

  • As I Lay Dying William Faulkner

    Written in the vernacular, I found this short novel challenging to break into. I persevered and by the end I found myself chilled and shaking with macabre pleasure.

  • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics Carlo Rovelli

    Mildly interesting, the lessons are disappointingly varying in quality.

  • Poseidon’s Wake Alastair Reynolds

    Part three of a scifi series. Tedious, long and boring.

March 2017

  • On the Steel Breeze Alastair Reynolds

    Second volume of the Poseidon’s Children trilogy. Space opera with themes of speciation of AI, elevated cognition in elephants, extraterrestial species. Some surprisingly boring bits.

  • Blue Earth Remembered Alastair Reynolds

    Total surveillance society, voluntary non-surveillance zones, human-animal mind links, commercially viable space launches.

  • What You Make It Michael Marshall Smith

    Twilight Zone-like short stories. I liked that many of the stories take place in London and in the late 90s when you can still smoke everywhere.

  • Nonviolent Communication Marshall B. Rosenberg

    A hippy-ish classic on understanding that our reality is interpreted (stimulus—interpretation—response). Demonstrates how taking responsibility for your own emotions and providing feedback for others is crucial — for example, in self-organising teams and agile working.

  • The Sellout Paul Beatty

    Ever so cleverly written satire of “post-racial” America. Didn’t really get it, didn’t really find it funny. Must not be black or literary enough.

  • The Information James Gleick

    The fascinating history of information from jungle drums to Shannon’s information theory, from France’s proto-telegraph system to quantum computing.

  • The Management Myth Matthew Stewart

    An enthralling takedown of management theory as a science, from Taylor’s jawdropping fabrications to Tom Peters’ inane business-self-help gurudom. The historical critique, which can get a bit heavy, is carried along very cleverly by the author’s own hilariously narrated experience as a management consultant.

February 2017

  • A Grain of Wheat Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

    The interweaving lives of villagers days before Kenya’s independence.

  • It’s Our Turn to Eat Michaela Wrong

    Nonfiction narrative of John Githongo, a whistleblower on Kenyan government corruption. But more than this, it’s also a wide-ranging introduction at the history and culture of Kenya.

  • Snows of Kilimanjaro and other stories Ernest Hemingway

    Early Hemingway short stories; the voice is there but not his greatest work.

  • Creation Steve Grand

    Part pondering meditation on reality and consciousness, part recipe for creating artificial life.

  • I Love Dick Chris Kraus

    I struggled to get into this novel, the first half is composed mainly of letters. By the second half the author finds her voice and the narration blooms to include art criticism.

January 2017

  • Talking with Tech Leads Patrick Kua

    Imagine reading a three–four page interview on the role of tech lead. Now imagine repeating this another 34 times.

  • Pre-suasion Robert Cialdini

    An academically cited look at what influences our thinking (the titular tenet being that scene-setting factors have significant impact). Interesting and somewhat incredible.

  • Antifragile Nicholas Nassim Taleb

    Big thoughts and little thoughts presented and then polished in meandering essayistic prose. Irritating and brilliant, I put it down for a few months only to pick it up and finish it with gusto.

December 2016

  • Seveneves Neal Stephenson

    Hard-cum-epic scifi starting from the present day and ending 5000 years in the future. I’m struck by how much Stephenson has matured as an author.

November 2016

  • Disrupted Dan Lyons

    Funny and fast-paced experiences of 50-something journalist trying to reinvent himself as a marketer at HubSpot, a dysfunctional startup.

  • A Fire in the Sun George Alex Effinger

  • The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood

October 2016

  • Sapiens Yuval Noah Harari

    A history of the human species, Sapiens is compelling, intriguing and aimed at a mass audience. It’s examples and elaborations are a bit repetitive.

August 2016

  • Origin Stephen Baxter

    Evolution of homo sapiens with a scifi treatment with a solution to the Fermi paradox. Great treatment of non-human characters.

  • The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business Duff McDonald

    An eminently readable history of McKinsey & Company.

  • A Deepness in the Sky Vernor Vinge

    Much more enjoyable plot that Vinge’s earlier Zones of Thought novel. Great treatment of non-humanoid aliens as protagonists.

July 2016

  • Digital vs Human Richard Watson

    A essayistic overview of how new technologies might evolve and change our society. The first-person tone helps make the density and breadth covered manageable.

  • Counterstrike Joshua Dalzelle

    Military space scifi. Part three of the Black Fleet Trilogy.

  • Call to Arms Joshua Dalzelle

    Military space scifi. Part two of the Black Fleet Trilogy.

  • Warship Joshua Dalzelle

    Military space scifi.

May 2016

  • Terminal World Alastair Reynolds

    Steampunkish and original, yet I struggled to finish it. The only Reynolds novel I’ve not liked.

  • The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future Steve Case

    Part memoir, part musing of how the “third wave” of the Internet will play out, the Third Wave is confusing in structure and slim in practical prediction.

  • Geek Mafia: Mile Zero Rick Dakan

    A sequel and much worse for it; it’s devoid of everything that made the first novel somewhat interesting.

March 2016

  • Geek Mafia Rick Dakan

    Hero gets unfairly fired from his own company and gets helped up a beautiful geek-chic goddess; obviously he gets the girl. Pure comic book fantasy from start to finish.

  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold John le Carré

    Cleverly structured and sparse writing; a spy classic with literary oomph.

  • Industries of the Future Alec Ross

    A shallow look at how the world is changing and how robotics, software, big data and genomics are the future. I don’t think I learned anything new.

February 2016

  • A Fire Upon the Deep Vernor Vinge

    Some fantastic sci-fi ideas, the main plot gets rather boring. Rare exploration of non-humanoid races and explanation of the Fermi paradox.

December 2015

  • The Circle Dave Eggers

  • Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro

    A haunting dystopian novel that sets the reminiscence of growing up in an English boarding school in sharp contrast of the looming, terrible truth.

November 2015

  • Annihilation Jeff VanderMeer

    Short and strange.

  • Didn’t See It Coming Marc Stoiber

    A brief, interesting take on how advertising and marketing has changed.

October 2015

  • The Peripheral William Gibson

    Even more difficult to get into than usual for Gibson.

September 2015

  • Calculating God Robert J. Sawyer

    The only good thing about this “scifi novel” are the explanations of how DNA and the fundamental forces work. I’ve read business novels with more thrilling narratives.

August 2015

  • Pacific Edge Kim Stanley Robinson

    Melancholy, sweeping and so literary that it feels odd to call it scifi.

  • Crossing the Chasm Geoffrey Moore

    How to bring technology products to a mainstream market. While somewhat dated — it was published in 1991 — it still has plenty to offer.

  • High-Rise J. G. Ballard

    The second novel that reading as an ebook didn’t do justice.

June 2015

  • Life Before Man Margaret Atwood

    Lyrical and sometimes poignant, the story of a married couple whose field of gravity pulls and swings other lives into their wake.

  • Makers Cory Doctorow

    A rambling near-future novel filled with interesting little gems of technological innovations. Flat on plot and characters. Makers is available online for free.

April 2015

  • Pushing Ice Alastair Reynolds

    An enjoyable standalone scifi novel that explores the notion of starfaring sentience in a vast universe and the effects of relativistic faster-than-light travel.

  • Century Rain Alastair Reynolds

    A standalone parallel worlds novel. Very enjoyable.

January 2015

  • Redshirts John Scalzi

November 2014

  • For Whom the Bell Tolls Ernest Hemingway

  • The Broom of the System David Foster Wallace

    Breathless and absurd. I didn’t really enjoy it.

  • East of Eden John Steinbeck

    All too often, I find the best books I’ve read the least possible to summarise.

October 2014

  • Pitch Anything Orren Klaff

    Reading Pitch Anything at the same time as Non-Violent Communication definitely added to the sleaze factor. But it’s an interesting formula/theory of influencing people.

  • Non-Violent Communication Marshall Rosenberg

August 2014

  • The Deadline Tom DeMarco

    Despite the totally unrealistic plot and clunky and contrived characters, I enjoyed this business novel about software development.

June 2014

  • The Everything Store Brad Stone

    A readable company biography of Amazon. Paints a picture of a company moulded very much after the image of its founder, Jeff Bezos.

May 2014

  • The Hidden Family Charles Stross

April 2014

  • The Family Trade Charles Stross

March 2014

  • The Gold Coast Kim Stanley Robinson

    Life in pre-apocalyptic Orange County, CA.

February 2014

  • The Wild Shore Kim Stanley Robinson

    Life in post-apocalyptic Orange County, CA.

  • The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow Cory Doctorow

    A short piece of science fiction. The free-to-download ebook comes packaged with a talk on how DRM hinders creators and an interview of Doctorow.

January 2014

  • Built to Sell John Warrillow

    Yet another cheesy “business novel.” A guide on how to make your business sellable with a light narrative veneer. A quick read and I liked it!

December 2013

  • The Red Men Matthew De Abaitua

    Literary scifi set in Hackney, London. The fantastical sometimes obscures the plot. Interestingly, upon republishing the novel, the author cut back heavily on the “literary bits.”

November 2013

  • Creative Mischief Dave Trott

    Funny if peculiarly simplistic tales of advertising.

  • Wireless Charlie Stross

September 2013

  • The Quantum Thief Hannu Rajaniemi

    After starting the sequel, I decided to reread this. Enjoyed it perhaps even more than the first time!

  • The Petrified Ants Kurt Vonnegut

    Unpublished, rather unremarkable collection of short stories.

  • Bounce Matthew Syed

    Fascinating yet repetitive exposition on how innate talent is overrated, and mindset can dictate your chances to succeed.

August 2013

  • Cat’s Cradle Kurt Vonnegut

    Classic Vonnegut, if less lyrical than some of his novels.

  • Red Mars Kim Stanley Robinson

July 2013

  • Necessary But Not Sufficient Eliyahu M. Goldratt

    In one sentence: a limitation cannot be diminished by technology without an accompanying cultural change.

  • Superfreakonomics Steven Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

  • The Post Man David Brin

June 2013

  • The Player of Games Iain M. Banks

  • Woken Furies Richard K. Morgan

  • Lean Startup Eric Ries

  • Peopleware Tom DeMarco, Timothy Lister

  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Stieg Larsson

May 2013

  • The Girl Who Played with Fire Stieg Larsson

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson

  • The Phoenix Project Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford

    The Goal for devops. Easy to get into and hard to put down. Not as fundamental as The Goal.

  • Shift Hugh Howey

    As the sequel to Wool, it lacks much of the ambiance.

April 2013

  • Wool Hugh Howey

    Great scifi despite the language being a bit too descriptive.

  • Broken Angels Richard K. Morgan

March 2013

  • Altered Carbon Richard K. Morgan

  • The Technician Neal Asher

  • Pygmy Chuck Palahniuk

February 2013

  • Paul Graham: The Art of Funding a Startup Mixergy

    An interview packaged into an ebook, each section foot ended with links to related articles.

January 2013

  • The Restoration Game Ken MacLeod

    Modern spook-thriller sci-fi with MacLeod’s trademark scenes of Edinburgh and a tapestry of political theory and history.

December 2012

  • Critical Chain Eliyahu Goldratt

November 2012

  • It’s Not Luck Eliyahu Goldratt

    The sequel to The Goal, it reads well and offers tantalizing methods to analyze and plan for action.

  • Newton’s Wake Ken MacLeod

    Space opera in a human-seeded, post-Singularity universe where backups and resurrection are everyday technology.

October 2012

  • The Goal Eliyahu M. Goldratt

    The Goal is a business book written as a novel. And while yes, the characters are incessantly conversing in exposition and consequently paper-thin, the format succeeds in making it an absorbing read. I guess we just can’t help how our brains are wired.

  • Engine City Ken MacLeod

    Final in a trilogy that I found started slowly but picked up momentum as it went on. The philosophical undercurrents were interesting if a little shallow.

September 2012

  • Dark Light Ken MacLeod

    As in the original Star Wars trilogy, the middle one is the best.

August 2012

  • Cosmonaut Keep Ken MacLeod

    With the narration split between two corners of the universe and 100K years, it starts slow. But as the first of an excellent scifi trilogy, stick it out.

July 2012

  • The Fall of Hyperion Dan Simmons

    Abandons Hyperion’s frame story structure while employing an unique twist on a omnipotent narrator. The full scale of the Hyperion universe blooms.

  • Hyperion Dan Simmons

    Classic sci-fi with a literary bent. Resurrected 18th century poets meets religious ethics meets Canterbury Tales.

April 2012

  • Neverwhere Neil Gaiman

    Very English, and kinda fun if you know London.

January 2012

  • Binary Michael Crichton

    A poor thriller notable only for being one of Crichton’s pen-named earlier novels.

December 2011

  • What the Dog Saw Malcolm Gladwell

    An eminently readable collection of Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker articles.

  • Under the Banner of Heaven Jon Krakauer

    An exposition of Mormonism, its bloody history, and the extremism of its breakaway fundamental sects.

November 2011

  • Big Short Michael Lewis

    An illuminating and enthralling investigation into how the credit crisis came about and a look at the rare and colorful personalities who recognized the lunacy of it as it was happening.

October 2011

  • Consider Phlebas Iain M. Banks

    Highly recommended, proportionately disappointed. As the first of a very successful sci-fi series, I can only hope it gets better.

September 2011

  • Managing Humans Michael Lopp

    An immensely readable digest of the wisdom of a veteran of development better known by his online nom de plume, Rands (of Rands in Repose).

August 2011

  • Singularity Sky Charles Stross

    Hard science sci-fi, a bit heavy on military jargon.

July 2011

  • Zero History William Gibson

    Marketing, sercret brands; nice ideas yet ultimately flat.

  • Anathem Neal Stephenson

    Ambitious, heavy, neolexic, ontological.

June 2011

  • The Quantum Thief Hannu Rajaniemi

    Long-future scifi. Fast-paced, great tech, doesn’t explain a thing (this is a good thing). Interesting concept of how sensory filtering technology can reimpose privacy.

  • Confessions of an Ad Man David Ogilvy

    Ad legend Ogilvy’s rules of the trade. Written as if dictated. Interesting and mostly relevant, but amusing and quaint even when dated.

May 2011

  • Life, Inc. Douglas Rushkoff

    A searing, overwhelming, and suspiciously plausible take on how corporatism took over the world.

  • Imperial Bedrooms Bret Easton Ellis

    Brooding and ominous, dulled only by its opaqueness.

February 2011

  • Absolution Gap Alastair Reynolds

    A bit more character-drive, it ends smack-bang up against a wall.

  • Redemption Arc Alastair Reynolds

    Book three is the turn of the Revelation Space series.

January 2011

  • Chasm City Alastair Reynolds

    Not as good as the Revelation Space series’ eponymous first novel.

  • Revelation Space Alastair Reynolds

    Fantastically complex far-future scifi.

  • Galactic North Alastair Reynolds

    Classic sci-fi short stories skipping along the future history of the Revelation Space universe.

December 2010

  • Footnotes in Gaza Joe Sacco

    Beautifully drawn and studiously researched, wish the topic hadn’t been so extremely specific.

  • How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional World Charles Yu

    Intriguing notions of the nature of time, nice writing, some great sci-fi concepts and terminology, but way too long.

  • When Gravity Fails George Alec Effinger

    Classic cyberpunk set in the Middle East. Written in 1986, the style is concise and nearly perfect.

  • City of Ruin Mark Charan Newton

    Standard fantasy gets even weirder with vampires, transmogrifying human-spiders and flying monkeys.

October 2010

  • Nights of Villjamur Mark Charan Newton

    Only so-so fantasy.

  • Bombardiers Po Bronson

    Who knew finance was so violently hilarious?

September 2010

  • Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell

    A fascinating look at how little changes can have large-scale social effects. Covers most of psychology’s most interesting 1960s experiments. Definitely better than his later books.

August 2010

  • True History of the Kelly Gang Peter Carey

    Posited as Ned Kelly’s journals written for his daughter. Exceptional tone, vivid exposition.

  • Haunted Chuck Palahniuk

    A Canterbury Tales-esque knitwork of horrid little stories based on urban-legend-worthy facts, fears and freak accidents.

July 2010

  • The Informers Brett Easton Ellis

    Fragments of the lives of disaffected LA rich. Unremarkably classic Brett Easton Ellis.

  • The Steel Remains Richard Morgan

    A strangely “small” fantasy epic. Enjoyable and above most of the dreck, yet not great. (BTW, I recommend reading the hilarious Amazon reviews moaning about the main characters are gay.)

  • The Alienist Caleb Carr

    A fascinating imagining of the birth of profiling as a technique to catch a serial killer in 1890s New York.

June 2010

  • Vellum Hal Duncan

    Some great myth and language-to-godhood ideas, but ruined by the painfully choppy flashback-narration.

May 2010

  • The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas

    A very long, quixotic revenge story.

April 2010

  • Assassination Vacation Sarah Vowell

    Vowell as a tour guide to American history, pointing out strange, amusing and poignant connections.

  • The Passionate Programmer Chad Fowler

    While its first edition title, “My Job Went to India (And All I Got Was This Lousy Book): 52 Ways to Save Your Job,” is still recognizable, The Passionate Programmer contains sound advice and perspective for programmers. The practical exercises may be helpful to some.

  • The Road Cormac McCarthy

    The bleakness of the milieu accentuates the beauty of the characters and the language. Unasked questions left unanswered.

March 2010

  • The Devil in the White City Erik Larson

    An awesome non-fiction novel intertwining the World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893, and the story of H. H. Holmes, one of America’s first serial killers.

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll

    Not nearly as absurd as popular recollection would have it.

  • The Metamorphosis Franz Kafka

    Man turns into bug, freaks out family, dies in allegory of alienation.

  • Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

    Pre-Victorian society is surprisingly alien. But then so are most religions.

January 2010

  • The Raw Shark Texts Steven Hall

    Brilliant concept, passable writing.

  • The Damned Utd David Peace

    A violent and foreboding paen of hubris and despair, The Damned Utd fictionalizes, in parallel, the rise and fall of football manager Brian Clough.

  • The Gum Thief Douglas Coupland

    Definitely a Coupland novel.

December 2009

  • Here Comes Everybody Clay Shirky

    A fascinating look at how communication tools have and continue to change society. Much is familiar from Shirky’s talks at various conferences (Aula, Gel).

  • Juliet, Naked Nick Hornby

    Doesn’t really stand out, though has it’s moments.

November 2009

  • The Fourth Hand John Irving

    Certainly not one of Irving’s best.

October 2009

  • Red Seas Under Red Skies Scott Lynch

    Not as good as the first Gentlemen Bastards novel, but enthralling nonetheless.

September 2009

  • The Brooklyn Follies Paul Auster

    Gentle and Irvingesque, a temperate Auster.

  • The Lies of Locke Lamora Scott Lynch

    What sold me was the blurb on the cover by George R. R. Martin. Fantasy, yet eminently readable.

  • Black Man Richard Morgan

    Standard fare for Morgan’s near-future scifi action.

August 2009

  • A Million Little Pieces James Frey

    Forceful, yet overshadowed by its infamy.

July 2009

  • A Widow for One Year John Irving

  • Market Forces Richard Morgan

    A cyberpunkish, somewhat unbelievable novel of hypercapitalism and the falling apart of a marriage.

  • The Prestige Christopher Priest

    The Prestige’s finest merit is that it inspired a great (eponymous) film. Otherwise the broken up narrative is contrived and dull.

  • Woken Furies Richard Morgan

    Morgan’s third Takeshi Kovacs novel, Woken Furies is cyberpunk in the classic vein.

June 2009

  • Stand on Zanzibar John Brunner

    Published in 1968, Stand on Zanzibar is experimental, prescient, and way too long.

May 2009

  • Daemon Daniel Suarez

    Daemon has some great ideas, uses existing yet fantastic technology brilliantly. While it reads smoothly, the excitement and characters are rather lackluster.

April 2009

  • Polttava tie Veijo Baltzar

    Puhekielellä kirjoitettu romaani mustalaisperheestä 60-luvulla. Lopussa pikakelataan 15 vuoden yli ja päädytään ihmeelliseen mustalaisväestön integrointiprojektiin, joka huipentuu hämmentävään mustalaisten pelastukseen.

  • The Fifth Child Doris Lessing

    Stylistically unremarkable, socially unfamiliar, yet haunting.

  • Snuff Chuck Palahniuk

    Flips between several points of view of people at a gangbang. Short and a quick read, but not Palahniuk’s finest work.

March 2009

  • Karl Marx Francis Wheen

  • Eastern Standard Tribe Cory Doctorow

    A quick jaunt in a scifi tomorrow. My first ebook. You can get Eastern Standard Tribe online for free.

February 2009

  • Axiomatic Greg Egan

    A collection of Egan’s short stories. The tagline says it best: ”science fiction for people who like science fiction.”

  • The Last Colony John Scalzi

    Still true to his Heinleinian roots, Scalzi’s The Last Colony is a quick and fun read with a cast of rote characters in sticky pickles. While better than The Ghost Brigades, I now wonder if there wasn’t something in my tea when I so highly appreciated Scalzi’s debut, Old Man’s War.

January 2009

  • White Noise Don Delillo

    Like the Salt Plains, White Noise is breathtaking in its beauty, deft in its bleakness, and unrelentingly flat.

December 2008

  • Next Michael Crichton

    A chillingly paranoid novel dealing with genetic research. Both absurd yet based on thinly fictionalized true stories.

  • Miss Wyoming Douglas Coupland

    One of Coupland’s better novels, Miss Wyoming is especially reminiscent of both Chuck Palahniuk and Brett Easton Ellis. Are we sure these guys aren’t just one guy?

  • Anansi Boys Neil Gaiman

    Gaiman returns to gods and myths his second adult novel, a tangled yarn of characters that finally find resolution in the center of a spider’s web.

  • Blindsight Peter Watts

    First contact in a scientifically plausible future world where vampires are an extinct subspecies of humans.

November 2008

  • Forever Free Joe Haldeman

    A sequel of Forever War, the origins of the universe turn out to be a scifi writer’s joke.

  • The Ghost Brigades John Scalzi

    Though fast-paced and enjoyable enough, still a somewhat disappointing sequel to the fantastic Old Man’s War.

  • Diaspora Greg Egan

    Heavy on math, imagined physics and what-if evolution of human society, Diaspora is an episodic novel short on characters and, well, traditional plot devices.

October 2008

  • Accelerando Charles Stross

  • Android’s Dream John Scalzi

    Interstellar intrigue and some nifty gadgets, Android’s Dream is a runaway-thriller in a lo-sci-fi setting.

  • Worlds Joe Haldeman

    It is interesting to note that Haldeman’s novels have not recurring themes, but recurring settings and backstories.

  • Altered Carbon Richard Morgan

    Richard Morgan’s debut novel is a solid cyberpunk thriller. Rather low on the exploration on the effects of tech advances, it nevertheless is introduced Gibson-like and deftly. When the richest individuals can extend their lifespans indefinitely, how does this affect their minds? Interplanetary travel is possible through “needlecasts” in which consciousness is transferred into bodies (e.g. of convicts), called “sleeves”.

  • The Forever Peace Joe Haldeman

    Haldeman revisits the themes of his most successful novel, The Forever War.

  • The Forever War Joe Haldeman

    A crisply written classic scifi novel originally published as short stories in scifi magazines. The author, a Vietnam veteran, envisions a future where interstellar war is the only constant. Fighting for control of wormholes, single military missions last centuries, and the world they return to is never the same.

September 2008

  • Old Man’s War John Scalzi

    A deftly written piece of science fiction with a great nod towards Robert A. Heinlein.

  • Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town Cory Doctorow

    What if your mother was a washing machine and your father was a mountain? And what if the brother you’d killed came back with nothing on his mind except killing you and your all your other brothers? You get Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town online for free.

  • Glasshouse Charles Stross

    Set in the far future and endowed with some great technological suppositions and a nicely developed “future history”, Glasshouse (like all too many scifi novels) is short on stylistic or artistic merits. Blobby characters with adolescent emotions and sex scenes. Maybe futurepeople never grow up?

  • Lunar Park Brett Easton Ellis

    Compared to Ellis’s earlier works, Lunar Park feels like a smaller novel. The style also feels more mature. Unfortunately, neither of these notions struck me as an improvement.

August 2008

  • Rant Chuck Palahniuk

    I enjoyed Fight Club (though, seeing the movie first, I thought it was better). Lullaby and Diary were basically entertaining, if repetitive.

    So my expectations weren’t high for Rant — but boy, was I in for a treat. The first portion reads as a story of a strange kid-cum-cult-figure. And from there it goes totally off-the-hook scifi.

    Palahniuk’s cultural research and signature observations on modern life aren’t as rough on the surface, the repetition’s been curtailed, and the writing is quicker, smoother, and more outside than inside.

July 2008

  • Shiny Adidas Tracksuits and the Death of Camp Might Magazine

  • You Shall Know Our Velocity Dave Eggers

June 2008

  • Last Exit to Brooklyn Hubert Selby, Jr.

May 2008

  • Hunger Knut Hamsun

  • I Was Howard Hughes Steven Carter

April 2008

  • The New York Trilogy Paul Auster

March 2008

  • The Long Tail Chris Anderson

    The second book I’ve recently read that’s been expanded from a single article, The Long Tail suffers from repetition and circuitous treatment of the main themes. While the concept of long tails is fascinating, I found it hard to keep interested and finish the book.

February 2008

  • jPod Douglas Coupland

    Like most of Coupland’s other novels, jPod was a quick read. Better than some, though not as good as maybe Generation X and Shampoo Planet. I especially enjoyed the humorous references to and appearance of the author.

  • Freakonomics Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

    I great read, well written and fascinating. There was some repetition due to the book’s structure, but it didn’t distract too much from the whole.

December 2007

  • Spook Country William Gibson

    Another great novel by Gibson. I think I will end up missing some of the future in Gibson’s work, but I totally agree with Gibson’s notion that “the future” is already here.

September 2007

  • The Constant Gardener John le Carre

August 2007

  • Duluth Gore Vidal

    Turned onto the Washington trilogy by my sister, I thoroughly enjoyed the surprising satirical nature of Duluth. Great intertextualism and wonky takes on literature theory. Funnily enough, my sister couldn’t get into Duluth at all, and abandoned it after chapter two.

May 2007

  • How to Lose Friends & Alienate People Toby Young

    After finishing the book (which was a quick read, and okay), I googled some of the main characters’ names. As I had presumed, others had done all the sleuth work for me.

March 2007

  • Interface Stephen Bury

February 2007

  • Zodiac Neal Stephenson

December 2006

  • Mainosvalokuvauksen ABC Jukka-Pekka Asikainen, Tarja Ranninen

  • Paris to the Moon Adam Gopnik

November 2006

  • Adiós Hemingway Leonardo Padura Fuentes

  • The Partly Cloudy Patriot Sarah Vowell

September 2006

  • The Grail Tree (Lovejoy) Jonathan Gash

    The third and final volume in the Lovejoy At Large omnibus, I was glad to be done with it. As much as I liked the Lovejoy TV series, the lonewolf, womenizing and women-striking Lovejoy of the novels just isn’t the same.

  • Gold from Gemini (Lovejoy) Jonathan Gash

August 2006

  • Judas Pair (Lovejoy) Jonathan Gash

  • The Last Tycoon F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • Eleanor Rigby Douglas Coupland

  • Bright Lights, Big City Jay Mcinerney

  • Washington, D.C. Gore Vidal

July 2006

  • 1876 Gore Vidal

  • Burr Gore Vidal

  • Cod Mark Kurlansky

  • The Wayward Bus John Steinbeck

June 2006

  • Tortilla Flat John Steinbeck

  • The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown

  • The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing Melissa Bank

  • Oracle Night Paul Auster

  • Born Free Laura Hird

  • Insanely Great Stephen Levy

May 2006

  • American Psycho Bret Easton Ellis

  • The Plot Against America Philip Roth

  • Chump Change Dan Fante

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain

April 2006

  • A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving

March 2006

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie

  • The Dean’s December Saul Bellow

February 2006

  • The Secret History Donna Tartt

  • Coin Locker Babies Ryu Murakami

  • American Gods Neil Gaiman

January 2006

  • Porno Irvine Welsh

December 2005

  • Gary Benchley, Rock Star Paul Ford

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay Michael Chabon

November 2005

  • Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom Cory Doctorow

  • To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

  • Crypto Steven Levy

  • God Emperor of Dune Frank Herbert

October 2005

  • Children of Dune Frank Herbert

  • Lake Wobegon Days Garrison Keillor

September 2005

  • Dune Messiah Frank Herbert

  • Dune Frank Herbert

  • Book of Illusions Paul Auster

August 2005

  • This Side of Paradise F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • System of the World Neal Stephenson

July 2005

  • The Wine of Youth John Fante

  • Deadeye Dick Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

June 2005

  • The Confusion Neal Stephenson

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

  • Dr. Bloodmoney Philip K. Dick

  • Genius — The Life and Science of Richard Feynman James Gleick

  • Helsinki 12 Tuomas Vimma

  • Palm Sunday Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

February 2005

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick

  • Darwin’s Radio Greg Bear

January 2005

  • The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • My Life and Times Henry Miller

  • Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation Noel Riley Fitch

  • Glamorama Bret Easton Ellis

December 2004

  • Ever Since Darwin Stephen Jay Gould

  • Grand Central Winter Lee Stringer

  • Kitchen Confidential Anthony Bourdain

November 2004

  • Kil’n People David Brin

    Detective novel set in a future with some great technological advances. What if you could copy yourself and send this copy to work instead? What would you do if physical danger wasn’t a risk, just have a copy take the risk and download the experience afterwards? But what if you wake up and you’re the copy?

  • Neljä päivänlaskua Mika Waltari

October 2004

  • Hey Nostradamus! Douglas Coupland

  • Aiotko kirjailijaksi Mika Waltari

  • Diary Chuck Palahniuk

  • Maria & José Erlend Loe & Kim Hiorthøy

  • Hand to Mouth Paul Auster

September 2004

  • Megakesä Katri Manninen

  • Bombardiers Po Bronson

  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Hunter S. Thompson

  • Jack Kerouac: Angel-headed Hipster Steve Turner

August 2004

  • Snow Crash Neal Stephenson

  • The Autograph Man Zadie Smith

  • Kentucky Ham William S. Burroughs, Jr.

  • Tender Is the Night F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert

  • The Human Comedy William Saroyan

  • Dharma Bums Jack Kerouac

  • Speed William S. Burroughs, Jr.

July 2004

  • A Moveable Feast Ernest Hemingway

  • Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

  • Jack Frusciante Has Left the Band Enrico Brizzi

  • Wasted Krissy Kays

  • Fast Food Nation Eric Schlosser

June 2004

  • Muistikirjasta Anton Tšehov

  • On the Road Jack Kerouac

  • True Romance Quentin Tarantino

  • Atomised Michel Houellebecq

May 2004

  • The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway

  • Lullaby Chuck Palahniuk

  • All Families Are Psychotic Douglas Coupland

  • Rules of Attraction Bret Easton Ellis

April 2004

  • Pattern Recognition William Gibson

  • Mockingbird Wish Me Luck Charles Bukowski

  • Crossroads of Twilight Robert Jordan

March 2004

February 2004

  • Herzog Saul Bellow

  • A Signal Shattered Eric S. Nylund

  • Signal to Noise Eric S. Nylund

January 2004

  • Shampoo Planet Douglas Coupland

  • Galapagos Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

December 2003

  • Less Than Zero Brett Easton Ellis

  • Sad Movies Mark Lindquist

  • Women Charles Bukowski

  • Take the Cannoli Sarah Vowell

  • Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell

  • Septuagenarian Stew Charles Bukowski

November 2003

October 2003

  • A Man Betrayed J.V. Jones

  • The Baker’s Boy J.V. Jones

  • Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason Helen Fielding

  • The Road to Los Angeles John Fante

  • An Outline History of Denmark Helge Seidelin Jacobsen

  • Microserfs Douglas Coupland

  • Ask the Dust John Fante

  • Populäärimusiikkia Vittulajänkältä Mikael Niemi

September 2003

  • An Underachiever’s Diary Benjamin Anastas

  • Ham on Rye Charles Bukowski

  • Sieppari ruispellossa J.D. Salinger (suom. Pentti Saarikoski)

  • Winner Take Nothing Ernest Hemingway

  • Ghost of Chance William S. Burroughs

  • Henry & June Anaïs Nin

  • A Tapestry of Lions Jennifer Roberson

  • The Flight of the Raven Jennifer Roberson

August 2003

  • Birds of America Lorrie Moore

  • Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit Charles Bukowski

  • Screams From the Balcony Charles Bukowski

  • We Ain’t Got No Car #7 Jack Saturn

  • My Name Is Aram William Saroyan

  • Post Office Charles Bukowski

July 2003

  • Factotum Charles Bukowski

  • Nälkä Knut Hamsun

  • Welcome to the Monkey House Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

  • Franny & Zooey J.D. Salinger

  • The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills Charles Bukowski

June 2003

  • Hot Water Music Charles Bukowski

  • Bukowskin elämä Neeli Cherkovski

  • Tropic of Cancer Henry Miller

May 2003

  • A Word in Time Philip Howard

  • Like Life Lorrie Moore

  • Sam the Cat Matthew Klam

  • Elämäni ja rakkauteni Frank Harris

April 2003

  • Fight Club Chuck Palahniuk

  • Candide Votaire

  • Hell’s Angels Hunter S. Thompson

  • Naked Lunch William S. Burroughs

March 2003

  • Aleksis Stenvallin elämä Veijo Meri

  • Isännät ja isäntien varjot Pentti Haanpää

  • Underground: The London Alternative Press, 1966-74 Nigel Fountain

  • The Victim Saul Bellow

February 2003

  • Winesburg, Ohio Sherwood Anderson

    Oh man, I liked this book! I’d never heard of Sherwood Anderson before (being the literary ignoramus I am) but this book totally made me a fan. The introduction was also pretty funny. It explained who Anderson was and how he never knew how to write a novel. The writer of the introduction, Malcolm Cowley, suspected Anderson didn’t quite grasp time and this is why Anderson’s stories sometimes jump, without warning, decades forwards or backwards in time.

  • Yhden yön pysäkki Rosa Liksom

  • Queer William S. Burroughs

  • Lounaalla Charles Bukowski

    I read this book in Finnish. A diary of sorts (Buk says plainly that he wrote it because he was contracted to do so), it was a quick read. Buk’s day to day life is similar to the world of his “fiction”, but his active presence in the narrative has a definite quality of banality to it (as do all diaries, I suppose). He talks about his death often, he can’t get over the fact that he has lived into his seventies. (March 2003)

January 2003

  • White Teeth Zadie Smith

  • Who Will Run the Frog Hospital Lorrie Moore

  • Kuviteltu kuolema Veijo Meri

  • All Tomorrows’s Parties William Gibson