Books Read December 2014

It was a busy month for reading. Lots of good stuff!

Dracula Chronicles: Son of the Dragon by Victor Foia. An interesting retelling of the life of Dracula. This book, the first of three, tracks Dracula in his teenage years as he makes his first kill. The book was really good, but I was looking for more fantasy.

Spellbound by Larry Correia. Correia has the fantasy adventure story down. Very entertaining. I look forward to finishing the series (Grimnoir Chronicles) soon.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. A slice of life in the alternate reality where the cold war ended with nuclear war. I could see this book as the precursor to The Road by McCarthy. I liked it.

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft. Beware the elder things buried in Antarctica.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. Scott Adams is the creator of the workplace comic, Dilbert. In this book Adams lays out his lessons on life. Some of the high points: eat well, exercise, get into a routine, optimize your personal energy, learn as many different skills as you can (because success is likely to come from some combination of your skills), and passion is just a fancy way for successful people to say they got lucky. I really liked the book; I thought it was funny and informative, and I loved the humility with which the story was told. Where many books and life stories rewrite history and show how one success begot another, Adams instead talks about how his failures lead to success. The anecdotes were modest and on-point, which I found refreshing and brave.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. A Jewish psychiatrist’s Holocaust story helps explain his world view and motivate his psychotherapy approach, Logotherapy. I appreciated that the book was honest without dwelling too much on the atrocities: rather than recounting every terrible thing that happened, Frankl picks a few key events that provide a broad understanding. Remarkably, Frankl does something constructive with his grief. In the book he mentions that Logotherapy might ask a patient why that patient does not commit suicide because the answer reveals your meaning, which you can then work with to heal. One of the most disturbing parts of the book for me was Frankl’s account of returning home to a nation that ignored the concentration camps or downplayed their significance; he writes that for many survivors life after the camp was harder than life in the camp.

Futures and Frosting by Tara Sivec. Futures and Frosting tells the story of how a single-mother is reunited with the father of her child; after a lot of confusion, the couple gets married and has another kid, then lives happily ever after. Without the humor, it would read like an angsty young adult love story.

Apprenticeship Patterns by Dave Hoover and Ade Oshineye. This was probably the most accessible technical book I’ve read. The application of pattern language to a career is really clever and worked well. As with software patterns, it’s nice to see the path.