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 books. I have also included a small rating from one to three “+” depending on how much I do recommend its reading.
- “La Biblia blanca” (by Ángel del Riego Anta and Marta del Riego Anta) (+++): this is a great book mainly for Real Madrid supporters. It provides a good overview of the history of the club with plenty of stories and anecdotes, adopting a curious structure: that of the Christian Bible with its old and new testaments, and drawing parallels between many of the chapters of the Bible and that of Real Madrid’s history, and between the main characters in both. I enjoyed it and learnt quite a few things from the football club.
- “Limpieza de sangre” (by Arturo Perez-Reverte) (++): This book is part of the series of books about the character Captain Alatriste. In this one the plot takes place in Madrid and includes some real historical characters such as the writer Quevedo, an acquaintance of Alatriste. The plot of the book starts with the murder of woman and Alatriste is involved in its investigation which involves the Inquisition. [I leave here a link to the Twitter thread with some quotes or passages that captured from the book while reading it]
- “Buying the big jets” (by Paul Clark) (+++): This is a great book about the processes and methods involved in the decision-making of buying large commercial airplanes. The book is a great tool to understand some key concepts of fleet planning, network planning, aircraft performance and economics, etc., and how they influence the investment decision of acquiring airplanes. This was a great recommendation from my colleague Peter. [Twitter thread].
- “Le Misanthrope” (by Moliere) (+): I read this play after having read three others from Moliere (École de femmes, Tartuffe, Don Juan) and this is the only one I didn’t really like, while the three others were very engaging and entertaining. In this one, Moliere criticizes society’s hypocrisy by portraying the different personalities of Alceste and Célimène along other of her lovers. [Twitter thread]
- “Une ville flottante” (by Jules Verne) (+): Published in 1871, this book covers the trip from Liverpool to New York of the Great Eastern, a large ship transporting thousands of travelers. The book mixes some technical descriptions and explanations about the boat, the navigation or other engineering works, with the day to day life of the passengers, very much in Verne’s style. However, I must say that I found it quite dull at some times. [Twitter thread]
- “Leonardo Da Vinci” (by Walter Isaacson) (+++): This book was a present from my mother in law and I read it in this 2019 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo, well ahead of our summer trip to Italy where we saw some of his greatest paintings and where we visited is birthplace in Anchiano, close to Vinci. The biography is great. It takes you through the life of the artist, showing and explaining his personal struggles at the same time that it offers an insight into the techniques he developed (smufato, sketching, use of light…), an analysis of his works and possible interpretations. A great painter, even if not constant with completing the works he was commissioned, a frustrated military engineer, a complex character and without a doubt a very talented and innovative individual. [Twitter thread]
- “Straight & Level, Practical Airline Economics” (by Stephen Holloway) (+++): This is a detailed review (over 600 pages in the edition I read) of the airline industry economics, operating revenue and cost (traffic, price and yield, output and unit cost), capacity management (network management, fleet management and revenue management) and the relationships between all those concepts. The book is extremely thorough in the presentation and discussions of the different concepts and the variables influencing them. Not for the faint reader. [Twitter thread]
- “The Customer Rules” (by Lee Cockerell) (+++): I had this book at home after having received it from the magazine The Economist following a response to one of their surveys. I decided to read it thinking it would be good fit with the new job I was about to get, closer to the customers. Written by Lee Cockerel, a former Disney executive VP, the book is structured along 39 tips to improve customer service. With plenty of anecdotes, experiences, very short chapters with no nonsense, the book is an enjoyable fast read. [Twitter thread]
- “La Chanson de Roland” (possibly by Turold) (++): This is a French epic poem written in the XI century describing the battle in Roncesvalles (Roncevaux) in 778 between Spanish Muslims of the king Marsile, based in Zazragoza, and the army of Charlemagne. The main character, Roland, Charlemagne’s nephew, antagonizes with his stepfather who sets him up to cover the rear of the Franks’ army and is then fatally attacked by the Muslims. His call for help, sounding his horn, comes too late to be helped by Charlemagne and he dies in Roncesvalles along with his companion Oliver. I found it especially interesting 1) the outcome that the book gives to his sword in comparison with the many legends about it that have reached our days (Rocamadour, Gavarnie, church in Roncesvalles…), and 2) the many references to Spain and the kingdom of Spain. [Twitter thread]
- “La Republica o El Estado” (by Plato) (+++): In this book of dialogues, Plato portrays Socrates discussing about justice (giving what’s due and appropriate), education, virtues, the arts… but what I liked the most was the book (chapter) in which he discusses the different forms of government, what defines them and how the abuse of some aspect in them leads to the adoption of another subsequent form of government. I loved to discover that among the different models he presented, the one presented as the ideal one was aristocracy and not democracy. So much for… [Twitter thread]
- “Etica a Nicomaco” (by Aristotle) (++): Aristotle’s text book on ethics, possibly compiled from the notes he used in the Lyceum. Where he defines and discusses virtues, distinguishing from virtues of character and moral virtues. Then he discusses happiness to end with the need for education.
- “Nuts! Southwest airlines…” (by Kevin & Jackie Freiberg) (+++): Great book about the airline Southwest. The authors had been consulting for Southwest before they decided to write the book and they are a couple of cheerleaders of the airline (they even include such a disclaimer at the beginning), and despite of that the book is very enjoyable with an extremely positive note. There is no criticism to the airline in the book but plenty of details and anecdotes compiled from dozens of interviews with employees. It is written as a kind of business management book which can also be applied for personal development, with a sort of reference check list at the end of each chapter. If I had to highlight a single takeaway from the book it would the going the extra mile by the individual employees to provide what they call positively outrageous service, and only afterwards thinking about who will pay, what the procedure says, what their boss would say… [Twitter thread]
- “Primo Viaggio intorno al Globo” (by Antonio Pigafetta) (++): I decided to read this book on the first circumnavigation of the Earth to celebrate the 500th anniversary of their departure from Sevilla and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The author, the Venetian Antonio Pigafetta, was one of the few survivors that completed the round the world trip that lasted three years. He started as a secretary to the expedition commander, the Portuguese Magellan. He describes with detail the adventures they went through, the navigation, what they ate, the illnesses they suffered, the landscapes, how they procured food, gold, silver and other materials. He described the exchanges with the different local rulers, which surprisingly were mostly delighted to enter into commercial terms with the king of Spain. It is interesting to note that even though after the death of Magellan in Mactan (which is described in the book) the Spanish Elcano became the commander of what was left from the original expedition, Pigafetta does not mention him not even once in the book; plausibly due to differences with him, as he described tensions and rivalries between the captains of different nationalities taking part in the expedition.
- “The Reckoning” (by John Grisham) (+): In this book Grisham shows very early the facts: the victim, the killer, the sentence. What is left unknown is the motive. Most of the book then is dedicated to backtrack the life of the killer, from rural Mississippi to West Point, his marriage and family building, life as a farmer, his participation world war II and the sequels that it brought… However, I must say that I found it too long, though I confess that I loved the final twist.
- “Skygods. The Fall of Pan Am” (by Robert Gandt) (+): This book about the rise and fall of the airline Pan Am is very easy to read, a bit repetitive with some expressions, not very elaborate, but entertaining. I found interesting in it the explanations about the many things that didn’t work and didn’t make sense in the operation of Pan Am: from not having a domestic network to feed their international destinations, to being politically denied one time after the other the possibility to develop or acquire such network, the madness surrounding it (seeking super sonic trips, trips to the moon, the NY headquarters, keeping the 747 flying empty to the most exotic locations…). At the same time, Pan Am was a pillar of the American landscape of the time: flying the Berlin service, its standards of service (including its lounges around the world, more like embassies), its support to the military by flying troops as part of the civil reserve fleet, etc. [Twitter thread]
- “Camino Island” (by John Grisham) (++): Interesting novel in which Grisham deviates from the legal world and dives into characters of the book industry: writers, editors, sellers, dealers, collectors. The story runs along the robbery and placement in the black market of some manuscripts of Scott Fitzgerald novels, in parallel with the investigation to find the manuscripts and the people involved in the crime. A nice read.
- “Cinq semaines en ballon” (by Jules Verne) (+): This book describes the journey of doctor Ferguson and his two companions from Zanzibar to Senegal in a balloon, in their quest to find the sources of the river Nile and confirming many of the discoveries in Africa of previous explorers of their time while avoiding many of the dangers of traveling in Africa by doing so through the air instead of on the ground. On the positive side of the book are the technical descriptions of the physics behind the balloon, the devices they use and may the operations and maneuvers they perform. That is a mark of Jules Verne. A negative note is the language used to describe Africans in general, black people or Arabs, clearly a language that may have passed in 1863 when the book was published but not today. [Twitter thread]
During this year, I have been able to read at a good pace during the first and last quarters (not so during the middle months while switching jobs and going through training) thanks to the 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 2020!
(1) You can find here: my 2012 reading list, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 ones.