Books - 2011

Books I Have Read In 2011

The Trick To Money Is Having Some
by Stuart Wilde

This is a book I have owned for years and picked up to re-read. It is a guide to the metaphysical aspects of making money and contains little in the way of hands on practical advice. Nonetheless, I still found it a worthwhile and entertaining read. I’m sure the principles inside could be applied in many areas other than making money.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I downloaded this for free to test the Kindle application for my iPhone and enjoyed the first chapter so much that I decided to read the whole book. The book is split into chapters which form self-contained little stories about the great detective, so it was nice and easy to read on the underground.

Cat’s Cradle (Penguin Modern Classics) by Kurt Vonnegut

Last year I got back into classic sci-fi, so this is a book I requested as a Christmas present. It’s a strange tale about the end of the world, with strange characters and featuring a bizarre religion called Bokononism. I recommend you postpone reading the introduction until you’ve finished the book.

The Secrets of Female Sexuality Be the Masterful Lover Women Crave by David Shade

I’m onto my third re-read of this book and keep finding new bits of information every time. David’s views may be controversial and they are certainly very direct but I find myself agreeing with a lot of what he writes. The book is full of example letters from David’s readers which back up his findings.

The Fall of Hyperion (Gollancz S.F.) by Dan Simmons

Another book on my quest to read more of the science fiction classics. This is the sequel to Hyperion which I read last year. Although there are four books in the epic Hyperion Cantos, this one comes to a satisfying end, whilst still leaving room for further galaxy spanning developments. Books I and II are a beautifully written and imaginative vision of the future of man, and his possible downfall.

Wolfgang Tillmans Photobook by Wolfgang Tillmans

Unusual photography by German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. Strange but I liked it!

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

More classic sci-fi! A political/moral tale told through the career progression of a space cadet through bootcamp all the way to commanding a regiment. Featuring battles against space bugs and amusingly out of date descriptions of the technology behind futuristic military equipment.

Nikon D5000: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Jeff Revell

Essential reading to partner my new Nikon D5000 Digital SLR Camera (18-55 mm VR Lens Kit). My pictures are looking better already!

The 4-Hour Body: An uncommon guide to rapid fat-loss, incredible sex and becoming superhuman: The Secrets and Science of Rapid Body Transformation by Timothy Ferriss

Borrowing liberally from other people’s works Tim (of The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich fame) introduces us to a range of body improvement ideas. This book has inspired me to get back into exercise and diet and maybe try out a little self-experimentation of my own. I’d come across most of the content before (eg Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week) but it is nice to see that it is now becoming more accepted mainstream information.

Transition by Iain Banks

I always look forward to getting my teeth into a new Iain Banks novel. Well, not literally, of course! This one struck me as a very “standard” Iain Banks book, if there is such a thing. A little too close to his regular template of mysterious organisation, corrupt on the inside and also a lot of similarities with some of his other books, such as The Bridge. Nonetheless it has plenty of inventive ideas and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Planet of Adventure: City of the Chasch / Servants of the Wankh / The Dirdir / The Pnume (4 books in 1 volume) by Jack Vance

Ripping late 1960’s/early 1970’s science fiction yarn. A tall tale of a man stranded on a strange world fighting for his return to Earth. Adam Reith stumbles repeatedly from frying pan to fire to industrial blast furnace sized peril but there’s no doubt he’ll make it in the end. I may be making this novel sound incredibly cheesey but nonetheless I enjoyed every page of it. Got to pity the poor alien race who go by the unfortunate moniker, The Wankh!

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Second time I’ve read this book as I felt I needed a refresher. It contains all sorts of interesting mathematical ideas and explanations as to why we may not all be quite as smart as we think we are.

Forex Patterns and Probabilities: Trading Strategies for Trending and Range-Bound Markets (Wiley Trading) by Ed Ponsi

Following nicely on from the financial theme set by my previous read, this one goes into detail about trading the foreign exchange markets. I felt that I learned some interesting ideas from this book but at the same time had the nagging impression that it was perhaps over-simplifying things a little.

When Money Dies: The Nightmare of the Weimar Hyper-Inflation by Adam Fergusson

A grim look into the realities of post World War I monetary inflation in Germany. Our government would never do something so dumb as printing huge quantities of fake money, would they?

Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities
by Professor Ian Stewart

A light discussion of various mathematical areas such as Fermat’s Last Theorem, plus lots of mathematical puzzles.

Surface Detail by Iain M Banks

Iain Banks’ latest Culture Sci-fi novel - very like his other Culture novels. He’s probably one of my favourite authors, so it was a pleasure to read this book. Great epic space-saga stuff.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

It’s hard to believe that this genre defining novel was written over twenty five years ago. It still seems to me to be a thoroughly up to date science fiction story. I really love the way Gibson describes the world he has created, giving it a dark, gritty feel.

Tricks Of The Mind by Derren Brown

Derren’s book talks about an assortment of topics loosely related to the areas of mind and mystery that he specialises in. Nothing that really seemed all that new to me, and a lot of it felt like it may have been copy and pasted from other books on the subject. Still, it was nice to be reminded of some useful memory techniques that I’d … err … forgotten.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

I was inspired to read this classic after going to see Apocalypse Now again, which is loosely based on this book. The original is set in an unspecified jungle continent and well before the time of the Vietnam war in the film. Have to say I found it a little unimpressive and can’t see what all the fuss is about. Much preferred the film.

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Canongate Myths) by Philip Pullman

A pretty quick and light read giving an alternate re-telling of the story of Jesus from the point of view of his twin brother, Christ. So, not quite like the version in the bible, although that discrepancy is one of the central themes of the book. I liked the simple writing style, which clearly is intended to resemble the language of the bible. However, I felt that the book wasn’t as clever as I’d hoped it might be and that I could see quite a lot of the plot coming well in advance.

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

I found a treasure trove of free old science fiction classics here. They’re old books whose copyright has expired, hence they are now public domain. I’ve downloaded a whole pile of them to read on my iPhone’s Kindle app. The Demolished Man was a title I found whilst searching for recommended sci-fi books. I’d not heard of the author before. It’s actually a really fun read - a cat and mouse game between a murderer and a telepathic detective.

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (S.F. Masterworks)
by Philip K Dick

I enjoyed reading this book but really felt like I was missing something a lot of the way through.

Out of the Silent Planet (Cosmic Trilogy) by C. S. Lewis

This book is what I think of as quaint “old-fashioned” sci-fi. It felt very like reading an H. G. Wells novel, although it was actually written in 1938, 40 years after War Of The Worlds was first published. It wasn’t until writing this entry that I realised where I’d first heard the author’s name and why it seemed so familiar. He is, of course, author of the Narnia series of books.

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Another public domain science fiction novel. I remembered reading the excellent Day of The Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos but couldn’t recall having read this book, so I was pretty excited to find a free copy online. I really loved this book. It gives an imaginative vision of a post-apocalyptic, presumably post-nuclear apocalyptic, society. The ending manages to be both upbeat and positive, yet with sinister undertones that are so subtle I wondered whether I was just imagining them.

The Day of the Triffids (Penguin Modern Classics) by John Wyndham

I read this one, starting immediately after finishing The Chrysalids. I remember reading this as a child. It’s an excellent book - much better than the rather strange BBC adaptation made a year or so back which did bizarre things with the plot.

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham

I just know I’ll end up reading all of Wyndham’s books - especially as they are now public domain and free to read on my iPhone Kindle app. I knew the story line beforehand, but still found it an enjoyable read and missed the plot twist near the end.

The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas

I’ve owned this book for a few years and this is at least the second time I have read it cover to cover. I think it is an excellent guide to writing high quality computer programs. I don’t get so many opportunities to try the techniques out at work but spent a recent coding session attempting to apply what I had learned and was very impressed at the results.

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham

Another excellent public domain John Wyndham classic. I found this book very similar to the others I’ve read recently. However, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing. The book presents a chilling description of an unusual kind of alien invasion by sea.

Extreme Money: The Masters of the Universe and the Cult of Risk by Satyajit Das

This book gets quite complicated in places explaining the ins and outs of the various complex trades that banks structured to get themselves into trouble. Blame for the global credit crisis seems to be placed mostly at the banks’ doorstep, with a nod to government for keeping interest rates low in the first place.