Tag Archives: Leo Janos

My 2018 reading list

In this post I wanted to share the list of books I read along the year (1) with a small comment for each one and links to some Twitter threads where I shared some passages that caught my attention while reading the book. I have also included a small rating from one to three “+” depending on how much do I recommend its reading.

2018_reading_list

  1. Dom Juan” (by Molière) (+++): Molière wrote this play for his theater group in 1665 when he faced troubles with Le Tartuffe and inspired by the work of Tirso de Molina. It tells the story of Don Juan, an unscrupulous adulterer who finds a counter point in his servant Sganarelle, with the action taking place in Sicily. I found in the book a good critique of hypocrisy and defence of good morals. [I leave here a Twitter thread with some passages that caught my attention while reading the book]
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird” (by Harper Lee) (++): Written in 1960 and winner of the Pulitzer prize, this novel tells the story of Atticus Finch, widower lawyer and single parent who is raising his two children in a principled way in a setting that does not help: segregationist Alabama in the 1960s in the midst of a trial in which Atticus is defending the weaker part, a black man who has been accused of raping a young white woman.
  3. Aeneid” (by Virgil) (++): the book tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan character mentioned in the Iliad, who travels to Italy and becomes the ancestor of the Romans. I found the book a good epic legend for Italy, I liked that it mixes the adventurous side of the Odyssey and the cruelty and violence of the combats of the Iliad. However, I found it a bit tedious compared to the other two. [Twitter thread]
  4. Caligula” (by Albert Camus) (++): This play, published in 1944, and part of the cycle de l’absurde, is centered around the Roman emperor Caligula, who following the death of Drusilla engages in different dialogues, at times humorous, absurd or abusive, where he experiences and plays around the impossible, power and finally plots his own assassination. [Twitter thread]
  5. L’Étranger” (Albert Camus) (++): in this novel written in 1942, the main character, Meursault is an French Algerian, who epitomizes indifference. The novel starts with the death of his mother, which already does not move him much. Later, he sees himself hanging around with friends when they are assaulted. Without much thought he finds himself committing a crime, poorly defending himself in court and seeing life go by in front of him in the death row. [Twitter thread]
  6. Skunk Works” (by Ben Rich & Leo Janos) (+++): This book, the biography of Ben Rich (coauthored by Leo Janos, coauthor as well of “Yeager”), tells the fascinating story behind great engineers and legendary airplanes such as P-38, Starfighter, U-2, SR-71 Blackbird or the F-117 Nighthawk. The book includes some insight of the struggle of engineers and managers in developing those programs with the pressure from the authorities and the bureaucracies linked to them. It includes as well some light insight into the engineering innovations behind the successes of those aircraft, mixed with many witty remarks and plenty of humour and passion for aviation, It’s definitely a must read. [Twitter thread]
  7. Juan Belmonte, matador de toros” (by Manuel Chaves Nogales) (+++): I had come across the book as being referred by Spanish author Perez Reverte as the best biography in Spanish language, no less. Written by the journalist Chaves Nogales, it tells the life of Belmonte, a bullfighter from the beginning of the XX century, who had a close “rivalry” with Joselito. From the stories of his childhood in Seville (sneaking naked with friends in the night into the properties of bulls’ breeders to practice the fight), to his becoming a figure of bullfighting (his great days, the times he was injured), to his trips to Latin America (where even he got married by power of attorney as he found ceremonies rather dull!), the life of Belmonte is the life of character to be found only novels. [Twitter thread]
  8. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” (by Yuval Noah Harari) (++): written in 2014, I quickly saw this book being very positively referred to in multiple publications, thus I had marked it in my to-read list. I finally did it this year. I was disappointed. The author, a historian, covers in this book the different revolutions of human kind, which he classifies in: cognitive revolution, agricultural revolution, unification of humankind and scientific revolution. It is an entertaining read, with a few original ideas and provoking questions at the end. Otherwise, I found that 70% of the content of the book must have been in my high school history/biology courses’ content. Highly overrated. [Twitter thread]
  9. War and peace” (by Leo Tolstoy) (++): With almost 1,500 pages in the Spanish version that I read, this master piece from Tolstoy is according to him neither a novel, nor a poem, essay or chronicle, but a mix of all those genres. It is a monumental and historical piece, where the author mixes real characters and situations (e.g. battlefields) with fictional (or masked) ones. It chronicles the Napeoleonic wars with the campaigns in Austerlitz and Russia, it describes the life of Russian nobility and bourgeoisie, the missery of the war. This one is definitely a must read. [Twitter thread]
  10. Checklist manifesto: How to get things right” (by Atul Gawande) (++): Gawande, a surgeon at a Boston hospital and professor at Harvard, wrote this book in 2009 and since years ago I had been wanting to read it. It includes a compelling message: use of checklists to improve safety, mainly in operations related to healthcare in general and in operating rooms worldwide. He approached the subject following requests from the World Health Organisation to find ways to drastically improve safety. And he found in check lists, like the ones used in aviation since the 1930s (when Boeing developed the B-17 Flying Fortress, much more complex to fly than previous aircraft), a cheap and effective way to improve operations. There are other lessons to be drawn from the book from the importance of preparation, communication, rehearsing or visualizing in advance the critical steps to be performed, etc.
  11. Apology (of Socrates)“, “Meno“, “Cratylus” (by Plato) (++): Apology is the Socratic dialogue which describes the defence that Socrates made of himself in the trial that that condemned him to death. I especially liked that dialogue and the high moral status that portrays of Socrates. In Meno, Socrates tries to define what is virtue and whether it can be taught. In Cratylus Socrates discusses the nature of the names given to concepts and whether they are linked to them, digging into their etymology. [Twitter thread]
  12. Protagoras“, “Gorgias“, “Seventh Letter” (by Plato) (++): In Protagoras Socrates takes on Sophists and further discusses about virtue, what it is and whether it can be taught. In Gorgias Socrates takes again on Sophists and the use of rhetoric for persuasion. The Seventh Letter is an autobiographical account by Plato of his activities in Sicily and his exchanges with Dion. [Twitter thread]
  13. Ion“, “Timaeus“, “Critias” (by Plato) (+): In Ion Socrates takes on a rhapsode and discusses about skills in different fields of work. Timaeus is a kind of text about physics, chemistry and biology, a kind of genesis… which I absolutely recommend not entering into it. In Critias Plato tells the story of Atlantis and its attempt to conquer Athens. I would not read it either. [Twitter thread]
  14. Normandy 1944” (Remy Desquesnes) (++): During our visit to the Normandy coast in the month of May, I purchased this book to complement what I had learnt through the reading of the panels, the monuments, and the museum at Vierville-sur-Mer. The book in itself is easily read. It covers the preparation, previous attempts by the Allies to land in continental Europe, the refinement of the strategy and the Operation Over Lord itself from different points of view. It includes several maps of the theatre of operations, pictures, figures. Even if the edition of the book (by Ouest France) is not very good (some paragraphs are uncompleted), the reading of the book did provide a good complement to the visit. [Twitter thread]
  15. Fahrenheit 451” (by Ray Bradbury) (++): written in 1953, it presents a future society in which books are forbidden and firemen are employed to search and burn books or the houses in which they are stored. The main character is Guy Montag, on of such firemen. The story shows him troubled by getting in contact with a neighbor who secretly reads or a woman who choses to burn herself rather than parting ways from her books. This makes Montag question some aspects of his society. [Twitter thread]
  16. The Whistler” (by John Grisham) (++): the nth book from Grisham that I read. In this one the plot has a mafia taking benefit of a casino handed to the Native American tribe living in an area in the north of Florida. A team of three lawyers from the Board of Judicial Conduct start investigating the conspiracy with almost no means and serious risk to their lives until late into the story when they manage to get the FBI onboard. Thrilling and engaging as always.
  17. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” (by Robert Cialdini) (+++): written in 1984, the book is today a classic of influence, persuasion or negotiation. It introduces what he calls the six weapons of influence and in different chapters he explains how they work in the setting of a negotiation or a sale, providing real life examples and, in the edition that I read, feedback from readers of the previous editions. The six weapons being: reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity. A very good read. [Twitter thread]
  18. Hergé, Tintin et les avions” (by Jose Miguel de la Viuda Sainz) (+++): this book, written in 2018 by a work colleague, is a compilation of the airplanes that appear in the different books of Tintin by Hergé. The book was edited in parallel to an exhibition about Tintin and airplanes at the Aeroscopia museum in Toulouse Blagnac. For each of those planes, the author reviews the plot of the Tintin book, the setting of the airplane(s) that appear in the book and discusses some technical features of the plane, whether in the book they are adapted from the real plane, whether those planes were marking a moment in aviation history at the time, etc. It is a rather short book (65 pages) but highly enjoyable. [Twitter thread]
  19. Why Nations Fail. The origins of power, prosperity and poverty” (by Daren Acemoglu and James A. Robinson) (++):  The thesis of the book is that the main driver determining whether countries follow a path of prosperity or the reverse is whether they have inclusive (vs extractive) political and economic institutions, i.e., democratic institutions, checks and balances, separation of powers, but as well respect for private property, contract law enforcement, etc. The book is well written, reads easily, and have quite a few facts that I discovered while reading the book, but I found it too long, as once the idea has been transmitted, the book becomes repetitive. [Twitter thread]
  20. Les Fleurs de Mal” (by Charles Baudelaire) (+): The most famous volume of poetry by Baudelaire, published in 1857, it was a must read if I wanted to venture into French poetry. With it Baudelaire tried to extract beauty from decadence, evil, mal. I especially liked the following poems: “La mort des pauvres”, “L’horloge”, “L’homme et la mer”, “Les Phares” and “Spleen”. [Twitter thread]
  21. Le rouge et le noir” (by Stendhal) (+): I took on this book, regarded as one of the best novels from the author, looking for a similar read to Les Miserables (by Victor Hugo), i.e. the struggle of a character from the lower ranks of French society of the XIX century. I was disappointed with the book. The book tells the story of Julien Sorel from his village Verrières to the Parisian society, the jobs he has to take, the relationships he entertains, the parties of the nobility… but I found too much storyline around his love affairs with Madame de Rênal and Mathilde de la Mole and I found the narrative very slow. [Twitter thread]
  22. Le Cid” (by Pierre Corneille) (+): I learned about Corneille and its Cid in one diagram about French literature included in the dossier of one of the Moliere’s books that I had read. Being the Cid a legendary Spanish knight about which I had recently read, I quickly put it into the to-read list. Whereas the Spanish “Cantar del Cid” is an epic poem, this “Le Cid” is a tragedy play for theatre. It confronts the hero Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar and his father with Ximena and her father. Ximena’s father offended Rodrigo’s one and this forces Rodrigo to search vengeance to save the honour of the family. Once that is settled, the course of action for Ximena is in question: whether to follow is loved one or not, once he has killed her own father. [Twitter thread]
  23. Captain of Hungary” (by Ferenc Puskas) (++): Ferenc Puskas was a great football player in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1954, at age 27, after having won a Olympics in 1952 and finishing second in the 1954 World Cup, he wrote this autobiography, when he still had ten years ahead as player and his best pages as club football player to be written. In the book he covers from his first games in the fields of Kispest during his childhood, to being called for the local club junior categories, to his promotion to the first league and national team. He very much focusses on his exploits with the national team with the other big teams of the time: England, Austria, Yugoslavia, Germany, Brazil. His passion for the sport, his dedication to the training and self-improvement and the importance of the tactical innovations, including the playing as a team and sacrificing oneself for the team, are constant themes along the book. [Twitter thread]
  24. Vingt ans après” (by Alexandre Dumas) (+++): “Twenty Years After”, published in 1845 as a serialized novel, is a sequel to the  “The Three Musketeers” and precedes “The Vicomte de Bragelonne”. The main characters are the same (i.e. D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis) though after 20 years their personal situation has changed. The France in which the live has also changed. Now the setting is the Fronde, with cardinal Mazarin and Anne d’Autriche in France, and Cromwell and Charles I in England. The book is as entertaining as the first book of the series, with continuous plots, adventures, surprises, fights, witty dialogues and gasconnades from D’Artagnan. [Twitter thread]
  25. The Sun also rises” (by Ernest Hemingway) (+): After a few visits to the fiesta of San Fermin in Pamplona, Hemingway published in 1926 this book, which has become possibly his most popular work. The plot portrays a group of American and British friends that organize a trip to Pamplona passing by Bayonne, San Sebastian and a few days in the mountains. I did not like much the half of the book that runs the lives of rather decadent characters in Paris, I did not like the intricated relationships among them, but I did like the way the bullfighting (corrida) and the bull run (encierro) are explained. Pamplona’s encierros have world fame, and even if not thoroughly described in the book, they do get a few pages of fast, intense narrative. The corridas get a longer share of the book as they include a fictional bullfigher, Romero, and Belmonte. There is a delicious full page describing the final moments of a corrida, when the bull’s ear is finally handed to Romero. I definitely recommend reading the last ~ 40 pages. [Twitter thread]
  26. Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder” (by Nassim Nicholas Taleb) (++): With this book written in 2012, Taleb built on concepts exposed its previous books to offer a new main idea: antifragility, as opposed to fragility and to what would be a midway concept  of robustness. He invites the reader to look for situations in which one can gain from situations of disorder, crisis, uncertainty.  Some steps in that direction would be to reduce the exposure to situations in which he is fragile, to question calls for action when inaction might be more appropriate (via negativa), to question third party forecasts, to pay attention to the effect of low probability risks (fat tails), etc. [Twitter thread]
  27. The first 90 days” (by Michael Watkins) (++): published in 2006, this book is a useful guide about how to face the transition into a new job position. It helps to focus on some aspects of the business, the processes, the relationships involved, questions to be made, the learning process to be had, etc. The book does not bring any breakthrough idea, but it’s a useful reminder of some basic and common sense elements to keep in mind during the transition.

During this year again, I have been able to read at a higher pace than years ago, before I adopted a more rigorous approach following these two tips:

  • a blog post from Farnam Street blog “Just Twenty-Five Pages a Day“, which was published well after I had adopted such an approach to reading but captures it very well,
  • the Wikipedia article about the Pomodoro Technique, which enables you to efficiently use the last hours of the day.

I wish you all very interesting reads in 2019!

(1) You can find here: my 2012 reading list2013201420152016 and 2017 ones.

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Filed under Books

My 2016 reading list

In this post I wanted to share the list of books I read along the year (1) with a small comment for each one and links to some articles in this blog where I wrote a book review for a few of them. I have also included a small rating from one to three “+” depending on how much do I recommend its reading:

books

  1. Reales Ordenanzas” (by Carlos III, King of Spain 1759-1788) (+): these are the set of rules for the Spanish Armed Forces issued in 1768 under the rule of the king Carlos III and which were kept in use until 1978. They are structured in titles and articles, quite like a legal text. Some of the main values conveyed through the rules are respect for the orders received and education in the dealings with subordinates. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  2. Cronica de una muerte anunciada” (by Gabriel Garcia Marquez) (+++): in this book Garcia Marquez explores a mix of styles between journalism and crime fiction to cover the plot of the murder of Santiago Nasar, and how despite being widely announced, as the time of the death approaches it cannot be prevented by the people who try to do so. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  3. The Capital in the XXI century” (by Thomas Piketty) (+++): arguably the economics book of 2013, it is a review of the evolution and distribution of wealth and income from the XVIII century till today mainly in Europe and the United States. It discusses how in times of small growth the rate of return of capital becomes the main source of wealth increase and how that contributes to the increasing and maintaining of inequality. A follow-on conclusion is his call for a global tax on wealth.
  4. Common Sense” (by Thomas Paine) (+): published in 1776, it is one of the best selling books in America of all time. The book is a short treatise on the government, democracy, monarchy and a call for the freedom of independence of the American colonies from England.
  5. Pilote de guerre” (by Antoine de Saint-Exupery) (++): published in 1942 while he was living in New York, this book describes Saint-Exupery’s experiences during the battle of France (1940) when he flew aboard a Bloch MB.170 reconnaissance missions over Germany. The English version of the book was published under the title “Flight to Arras”.
  6. Club Dumas” (by Arturo Perez-Reverte) (+++): this novel is centered on Lucas Corso, a fictional book dealer specialized in finding collectors items. Corso is commissioned to find copies of a book and that will take him to travel between Spain, Portugal and France living situations that resemble very much to those of The Three Musketeers, the novel by Alexandre Dumas. The book in itself is an invitation to read other books and to cultivate a passion for reading.
  7. Gray Mountain” (by John Grisham) (+++): published in the fall of 2014, this legal thriller by Grisham tells the story of the lawyer Samantha Koffer, on leave from a big law firm in NY due to the Great Recession, she joins the practice of a small firm in Virginian Appalachia region where she will defend the victims of big coal mining corporations.
  8. quijoteEl ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha” (by Miguel de Cervantes) (+++): Cervantes published the two books that have become the masterpieces of literature in Spanish language between 1605 and 1615, since then, they have become two of the most sold and read books. They cover the stories and encounters of the hidalgo (knight) Don Quixote with Sancho Panza as his helper. Those adventures are used by Cervantes to reflect by way of the characters on different aspects of life, pose rhetorical questions, criticize institutions, etc. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  9. El sol de Breda” (by Arturo Perez-Reverte) (++): this book is the third one of the series of the fictional Captain Alatriste. In this book, the story is framed around the siege of Breda (1625). The book covers extensively the detail of life at the trenches, the feelings of some of the characters and how they face the uncertainty of the war. He also reflects on the Spanish history and some features that he sees as part of the national character. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  10. Terre des hommes” (by Antoine de Saint-Exupery) (+++): this is a compilation book of some memories of the aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry of his time at the airmail carrier l’Aéropostale.The book was published in 1939, two years later he received the US National Book Award for it. In the book, Saint-Exupéry pays tribute to some of his colleagues, mainly Henri Guillaumet and Jean Mermoz, and he shares some experiences which today seem unbelievable. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  11. La falsa bonanza” (by Miguel Sebastian) (+++): Miguel Sebastian is an economist who served in the cabinet of Spanish prime minister as economic adviser and as minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism from 2008 to 2011. Those were the years following the financial crash and in which the bubble who had been going on for years in Spain finally exploded. In this book, Sebastian intends to find the causes that fuelled that bubble, the policies that helped it, the actions that were not taken, the institutions that failed at stopping it, etc., with the aim of being better equipped to avoid a similar development in the future. The book is written in a very readable fashion, provides plenty of tables, graphics and references, and at the same time is very synthetic.
  12. Le Tour du monde en 80 jours” (by Jules Verne) (++): Willeas Fog, a character about whom not much is known, bets with his colleagues of the Reform club in London that he is able to travel around the world in 80 days, and so he does embark himself in such endeavor with his assistant, Passpartout. A the same time, there is an ongoing investigation of a robbery of the Bank of England which makes a police investigator, Fix, to follow Fog all along the trip (as he is a suspect), waiting for an authorization coming from England to arrest him before he evades justice. The reader is conflicted by the suspicion laid upon Fog, as all the acts of the character in the story describe an orderly, integer, compassionate person, even if not much is known about him, his profession, origins or his past. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  13. Les Parisiens comme ils sont” (by Honoré de Balzac) (+): I approached this book, part of the large series “La Comédie humaine“, as a first encounter with the work of Balzac in advance to a trip to Paris. The style of Balzac in this book is very readable, light, direct. I would even say opinionated. I did not particularly like the book very much, especially the chapters referring to how women should behave, dress, and the comparisons between women of Paris and the provinces. It may reflect a view of his time and class, but did not resonate with me today.
  14. keynesThe General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money” (by John Maynard Keynes) (+++): this book, published in 1936, is considered the magnum opus of Keynes, a character whose contribution to the development of economics and politics cannot be overstated. The book pointed to some of the shortcomings of the classical theory (lack of competition) and introduced some key concepts such as the propensity to consume, the multiplier, the consumption function, the marginal efficiency of capital, etc. The book was not intended for the general public and I must say that it has been one of the most difficult reads I have encountered so far. Nevertheless, I consider it a must read for those having an interest in economy. I may write a dedicated post reviewing it at a later point in time.
  15. El Junkers Ju-52/3m CASA C-352” (by Luis Gonzalez Pavon) (+++): this is a book written by a colleague from CASA (the former name of the Spanish part of Airbus) where he dives in great detail into the history of the aircraft Junkers 52, from the origins of his designers to its production in Germany and under license in Spain. He collected plenty of information on the aircraft from different sources, serial number by serial number, recording the changes of tail numbers, registry numbers, the roles played by each and every aircraft, and in particular the crucial mission they played during the first stages of the Spanish Civil War on the Nationalist side. The book includes at the end charts, drawings and tables with the technical data of the aircraft.
  16. What I talk about when I talk about running” (by Haruki Murakami) (++): Murakami is a quite accomplished runner since the beginning of the 1980s. In this book, published in 2007, he described what running means and has meant to him. Personally, it was very easy to relate to him, sharing not only his passion for running, but a bunch of experiences, from having run marathons in New York or Athens, to having completed a 100km ultra marathon, to 6am morning runs. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  17. Man’s search for meaning” (by Viktor E. Frankl) (++): Frankl was a psychiatrist who developed a therapy called logotherapy based on the will for meaning. He later became prisoner at several concentration camps during the second world war, which he survived. He described in this book the experiences he and some of his fellow prisoners endured during those years and how that will helped them to survive. That accounts for about two thirds of the book; the remaining third is dedicated to further explanations and clarifications of his therapy.
  18. Poema del Cid” (anonymous, Pedro Abad) (+++): this is oldest epic poem of Spanish literature, which tells the history of the Castilian knight Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, better known as Cid Campeador. The story goes from the loss by the Cid of the favor of the king Alfonso VI to his leaving of Castile, his continued profession of allegiance to the king, the fights and the conquest Valencia (where he settles), the coming closer againt to the king via the marriage of his daughters with Castilian noblemen and the following vengeance against his sons-in-law.
  19. Voyage au centre de la Terre” (by Jules Verne) (+): this is a science fiction novel centered around the figure of the fictional professor Otto Lidenbrock who has studied the works of the 16th-century Icelandic Arne Saknussemm and believes that getting into the Snæfellsjökull volcano he will be able to reach the centre of the earth. He is accompanied in his trip by a local guide and his nephew, with whom he discusses the scientific implications of such a trip and the features of the landscape they encounter as they travel downwards.
  20. Exploradores: La historia del yacimiento de Atapuerca” (by José María Bermúdez de Castro) (++): this book is a very informative and fascinating trip into archeological science, the different theories within it, the evolution and the discarding of some of those, the relevant place of the archeological site of Atapuerca in the recent developments in the science, etc.; all described by José María Bermúdez de Castro, one of the co-directors of the site since over 20 years ago and one of the persons who have seen all those developments first-hand, coined some of the theories and wrote the papers.
  21. hamletHamlet, Prince of Denmark” (by William Shakespeare) (+++): one of the best known plays by Shakespeare, the plot can be summarized (without spoiling it) as follows: Hamlet’s father, the previous king, has recently died and Hamlet is profoundly affected by his death. A ghost of his father appears to him and this sets Hamlet into the search of who has killed his father. The play takes place at the Kronborg castle, in Helsingør (Denmark), which we visited in August, take a look at the post about that visit here.
  22. American Capitalism, the concept of countervailing power” (by John K. Galbraith) (++): the American economist explains in this book, published in 1952, the concept of countervailing power, necessary to balance in favor of the weaker part situations in which imperfect competition is established, creating oligopolies or monopolies which otherwise would enjoy an extremely powerful hand against individual wage owners or small (farm) producers. The book is a critique to the classical theory, in that it shows that it assumes perfect competition, a kind of competition which in real life very often it is absent.
  23. Dubliners” (by James Joyce) (+): I came to reading this book ahead of a trip to Ireland and Dublin without knowing about it. The book, published in 1914, is a collection of short unconnected stories of the everyday life of common Dubliners. The book has some importance in the frame of the then-high momentum of Irish nationalism, but I particularly did not like it very much. However, apparently some of the characters and stories appear again and are continued in Ulysses, thus the groundwork of having read it may pay off at a later time.
  24. Yeager” (by General Chuck Yeager & Leo Janos) (+++): Chuck Yeager was the US Air Force flight test pilot that broke the sound barrier for the first time on October 14, 1947, flying on board of the rocket-propelled Bell X-1. Reading his autobiography you discover that he went from being an uneducated child in rural West Virginia to retiring as a general of the US Air Force, acquainted with several US presidents and other dignitaries, he was the first pilot to become ace in a single day by shooting down 5 German fighters at World War II. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  25. goriotLe Père Goriot” (by Honoré de Balzac) (+): this book, published in 1835 and part of the large series “La Comédie humaine“, is considered to be the most important novel of Balzac. The story is centered around some characters who live in the boarding house of Mme. Vauquer, mainly the young Eugène de Rastignac, who is coming from a rural background and trying to reach the upper levels of Parisian society (initially at the cost of his family), and father Goriot, who had spent all his fortune on his daughters in order to marry them to wealthy individuals. Their lives are intertwined in a quite sad plot in which the daughters ignore the father when he is dying and Eugène befriends them and unsuccessfully tries to get them closer to the father.
  26. Candide, ou l’Optimisme” (by Voltaire) (+): this book, published in 1759 by the French philosopher François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire), follows Candide from the time when he is expelled by his uncle when he declares his love to his cousin Cunégonde. The story then takes Candide through Spain, Lisbon, South America, the Ottoman empire, etc., in a sequence of events in which Candide is confronted by situations and characters that put to the test his innate optimism.
  27. Metamorphosis” (by Franz Kafka) (++): this fiction novel, published in 1925, starts with the transformation of the salesman Gregor Samsa into a large vermin (insect-like creature). As the story goes, Gregor gets to learn how to live in his new condition and so does his family, which initially is profoundly impacted. The state of denial of the parents, the disgusting sight and smell of the creature, added to the discomfort of the new situation take a toll in the mood and relationships within the family.
  28. Romeo and Julliet” (by William Shakespeare) (+++): this play, published in 1597, tells the story of the love of two youngsters from rival families of Verona (Italy). This rivalry causes that both Romeo and Julliet have to hide their love and engage in secret with a priest of their confidence, while the family of Julliet wants her to marry a local nobleman, Paris. The bad timing of different events, miscommunications and bad chance steer the story into a fateful ending.
  29. Rogue Lawyer” (by John Grisham) (+++): published in the fall of 2015, this legal thriller by Grisham tells the story of Sebastian Rudd, a lawyer which does not hesitate to take the cases that nobody wants to take, providing a defense to people convicted for the worst kind of crimes. Working in the dark side of the legal system puts him in the situation to negotiate obscure arrangements with the federal institutions.
  30. The Importance of Being Earnest” (by Oscar Wilde) (+++): The play, a critical satire of some of Victorian England social institutions and values (in particular marriage, literary press, religion, honesty, punctuality), is centered around two friends, Algernon and Jack (John Worthing), who go about from criticizing each other’s habits, to sharing each other’s faked relatives, to proposing to each other’s cousin and ward. After drawing several parallels between the two characters and their fiancées, and going about several absurd situations, the play unravels in the most unexpected way. Find a post with the book review I wrote about it here.
  31. The picture of Dorian Gray” (by Oscar Wilde) (++): this book, published in 1890, created a great controversy at the time due to the backwards morals and social conventions of the time. The use of the language and the style of the novel are impressive. The story itself is centered around Dorian Gray, how he is influenced by Lord Henry and his focus on beauty and pleasure, and the painter Basil, who captured in a portrait of Dorian his essence, to the point that Dorian’s life will be very much influenced and even dominated by his relationship with the painting.
  32. mosqueterosLes Trois Mousquetaires” (by Alexandre Dumas) (+++): published in 1844, this masterpiece of Dumas, recounts the story of d’Artagnan, a real character of the XVII century, even if many of the facts of his life are twisted or made up for the novel. The plot includes several real life characters of XVII century France and some of the events taking place during 1625-28 (such as the siege of La Rochelle, the death of the Duke of Buckingham, etc.), though the plot in itself and the explanation of the causes intertwining the events are fictional. The over 800 pages (of the edition I have) read in a frantic pace thanks to the easy style of Dumas and the parallel progress on the different sides to the story.
  33. Wait” (by Franck Parnoy) (++): in this book the author studies the decision making process in situations that range from super fast trading, to the milliseconds before bating a baseball, to the longer term decisions involved in innovation. From the different stories covered in the book the lesson to be taken is the need to take some pause, to wait, to observe, process the information and orient ourselves before taking action.

During this year and the last quarter of 2015, I have been able to read at a higher pace than during the previous ones. I would suggest the reader of this post, if interested in reading more, to check out the following two tips:

  • a blog post from Farnam Street blog “Just Twenty-Five Pages a Day“, which was published well after I had adopted such an approach to reading but captures it very well,
  • the Wikipedia article about the Pomodoro Technique, which enables you to efficiently use the last hours of the day.

I wish you all very interesting reads in 2017!

(1) You can find here: my 2012 reading list, 20132014 and 2015 ones.

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