Books of 2020

  1. Hippie- Paolo Coehlo (****) 200p
    A short new book by Paolo Coehlo that is part fiction but a memoir of his time traveling in South America and Europe and Asia. It’s a pretty captivating read that I didn’t realize was about him until the end. It’s a coming of age but also as usual for Coehlo’s books, about a man who is finding his way. Not his best, as the dialogue, doesn’t feel natural, but it reads well and I still enjoyed it.

  2. The Prophet– Khalil Gibran (****) 100p
    I’ve wanted to read this book for a long, ever since I heard the poem On Marriage read at a wedding. I found an old hardcover copy with Gibran’s drawings at a coffee shop in a small town on Hwy 101. I gave the owner of the book shop my list of “books to read”, but even though Gibran was not on that list, I knew I had to buy it. As I read the book I realized that Paulo Coehlo ripped off Gibran in one of his books. Coehlo does not come close to the wisdom of this writer. Every line has to be read twice. It is of a person who is about to leave a place where he lived for over a decade. He is about to go home. The people loved him in this place, he became one of them. But he must go and they ask him to give them some words of wisdom. He speaks on love, on duty, on commerce and god, and everything in between. It feels true and it feels new and it comes to mind, how did Gibran come to these thoughts, the genius and wisdom in them seem simply godly. I’m glad I waited to read this book so long, and I will read it many times again.

  3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas– Hunter S Thompson. (****) 200p
    One of my favorite books now and I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time. It’s strange how we want to read books and we have to get to them, unlike a movie which you just sit and watch and you’re done. This is a book about a journalist who reports on the “American Dream” and the American dream is so fucked up that people are gambling and drinking and doing drugs to ignore just how horrible of a nightmare the American dream is, how selfish it is, and how shallow and empty that dream truly is. The book is just an amazing piece of writing, helped me be a better writer and now

  4. HBR on Leadership (***) 200p
    I found this book at the airport. And usually, the advice is never to buy anything about business in an Airport. But Harvard Business Review is the gold standard on Business. The authors include all of the superstars including Peter Drucker and Collins of Good to Great and these essays are very good in my opinion. They won’t make you a good leader, but they do describe good leaders and help you understand bad leaders. I’m going to buy and read all of these.

  5. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck (****) – Mark Manson 200p
    In the words of a friend, this book is basically a regurgitation of a lot of popular psychology applied to how to live life, work, and have relationships but with a lot of “Fuck” and “shit” and personal stories thrown around. That doesn’t make it bad. Mark weaves research, stories, and his own stylistic explanations of how he believes one should live life in a rewarding and happy way. He describes how it’s not about not caring, but caring about the right things, how to set your value system according to what you need, not what others want, and how to go about saying no, and finally, how to accept death. There a lot of things that I never thought about, that I had a hard time taking from a younger guy than me. But overall, I’d say its a good book and perhaps, it might help me change myself a little bit.

  6. Do I make Myself Clear – Harold Evans p 400 (***)
    A decent book on how to not write and how to write. He goes over passive voice, and words and tests that confuse, how to get rid of redundancy and how to just get to the point. It is less about creative writing and how to get to another person emotionally, although he touches on that. In general, it is not a page-turner but I think a useful book for writers or anyone who writes.

  7. Catching Light- 50p. ()
    I have no idea what this book of 50 pages of poetry is about, as it was in Hebrew. However, it is the first book I read in Hebrew. I was able to read and follow all words, although what any of the poems say, beats me. They didn’t seem very good.

  8. Gifts of the Crow -John Mazrluff and Tony Angell 200p (****)
    Amazing book about neurobiology and the behavior of crows. This book looks at neuro research and behavioral research and well-curated anecdotes about the amazing skills, talents, and biology of crows, their effect on culture, their amazing skills, and brains that compare to humans like no other animal. I was amazed to learn all that they do and have a much bigger respect for them than I did before and now observe them with much greater curiosity and understanding.

  9. The White Gauntlet- Mayne Reid (340p) (***)
    Found this book on the beach in Ashdod. The author of the Headless Horseman has this fictional book set in 1600s during the British Civil War. It follows a family that is against the King, a Captain in the King’s Army, and a mysterious man who was wealthy, went to America’s, came back with a Native American servant, and fights the king. The book is interesting because of how the author looks at monarchy and tyranny, how it behaves towards humans, its lawlessness.. Interesting to read a fictional tale with a lot of political thoughts of the time. It’s not the greatest book but I read it in Russian and it wasn’t bad.

  10. Guide to Being a Good Human for Earth– Travis Ramsey (125p) (****)
    Guide to being a good human takes together recommendations for living sustainably and combines them into one easy to read guide. This a no non-sense quick 1 hour read on how to be better considering the climate emergency. He talks about the benefits of buying local, for driving green, for eating less meat. He also goes over the various projects and international initiatives that are happening to work on the climate emergency. It is nothing fancy but there are a lot of ideas in there and a great guide on the website to calculate your “Good Human” score that you can keep track and work on. Quick read and enjoyable. I recommend it to anyone who asks the question: “But what can I do”.

  11. The Night Torn Mad With Footsteps – Bukowski (***)
    Every book of Bukowski poetry is the same: more races, more drinking, more poems on poetry. In this one, I think I got to dive into more about the structure of each poem, the playfulness with stanzas, and word choice. It is simple and yet each poem is pretty much perfect at telling you what it has to: life in America is slow, it kinda sucks and there is very little to do for a poor person who drinks and everyone is just kind of annoying. All of this, in a poem.

  12. Hebrew Text 1 (60p)
    A short Hebrew primer. I read this a few years ago when I was first learning Hebrew. Back then I knew no Hebrew so it was nice to re-read this short book to see how much I know. It’s also interesting to read the prayers and part of the Torah to actually understand it a little bit. We will see how I read it in another year.

  13. Elon Musk – Ashlee Vance (**) 311p
    Elon Musk is one of the defining businessmen of the past decade. I love to read the biographies of defining people. This one is ok. The writer Ashlee Vance is clearly is infatuated by Musk, describing how he acts and eats and how they got to talk a lot in a manner to show that she got the chance to be near “greatness”.

    Reading this you realize that he is an interesting, smart, driven, accomplished guy but he is also a man of privilege. Coming from a wealthy man from South Africa where people were killed for being black who had no rights, but his father was mean to him and his students were mean and that’s why he is so successful. Very tone-deaf.

    Other than that, it explains the overall history of Tesla and SpaceX than Musk. We don’t really learn much about him other than that he fired a woman who worked for him for 11 years without a second thought and can divorce and marry with very little emotional attachment. He seems to want to save the earth but it is hard to tell that it is for humans or for human adoration. You hear virtually nothing from people who know him best: his wives and kids and parents and siblings. You hear more from famous people who work with him as if the writer cared to get to important people through this book than to know who is this man. This book was a tough read as well, was not much of a page-turner.

  14. The Cartoon Guide to Statistics – Larry Gonick and Woollcott Smith (****)
    Simple graphic textbook on how to do statistics. It’s a quick and nice read and just so easy to understand. Loved it!

  15. ADHD Time Management – Michael Joseph Fergusen (***)
    A short little page-turner with simple but effective strategies of how to deal with time management when you have a short-term memory and not very organized. Great tips on how to not miss appointments, take notes, and create good to-do lists.

  16. California Boating Guide-140p
    These days you have to study a 140 pages. I include it because it’s a lot of reading and it is a book you have to get through and there is quite a lot of information. It was a self-study course and took about a week to get through it but I’d say I’m glad the state makes you do it. There are portions on kayaks, stand up paddle boats, sailboats, powerboats, white water rafting, and jet skis, so I’m glad I went through it.

  17. Brief Intro to Eddy Covariance (***) -235p
    Had to read this for work. It is slides with written out notes so took some time to read on a technical area but I figure I put it in here. Not much to review except for this is how we know what we know about Carbon sources and sequestration.

  18. Scarlet Plague– Jack London (****) 140p
    Randomly downloaded this book. Written in 1912 but is set in 2073, sixty years after a fast-moving and quickly killing with a slow incubation time disease kills most of the humans on earth and destroys civilization. It is uncanny how much Jack London predicted about our world today. I hope civilization does not crash, but if it does, we know what things will look like, and what it will cost and what the outcome of it will be. The book is about an old man who witnessed the plague and he tells us the story as he tells it to his grandchildren who have never witnessed technology or civilization. He describes things they do not understand and tries to describe what there was and what was lost and how they came to be.
    The interesting about this book is how he describes the different classes of people, how the poor work for the rich, and how the rich spread the disease by bringing it to every city when they fly there in planes. He describes the burning down of San Francisco by angry poor, as if he is watching CNN today. He describes the wealthy despots who were ruling before the plague and the uncultured but strong despots who rule after the plague.
    Everything he tells the kids, they don’t really understand, just as the majority of humans today, don’t seem to understand where we are headed, London only hopes that the reader understands.. We do, but what can we do?

  19. Voyage of the Beagle – Charles Darwin (****)
    One of the best books I have ever read. Darwin’s genius is on display. It was a five-year voyage where he scaled mountains, hiked hundreds through the inhospitable territory, slept outside, in jungles and deserts, came across villains and natives, and describes life and geology and topography and nature and man’s effect on nature and humans in a way, unlike anyone. He describes the horrible way that Colonialists treat the tribes, how some are advanced, other tribes are not, how the slaves are treated, how nature is treated and destroyed. He describes invasive plants, the fossils and describes his theory on Atolls, and the formation of his theory on evolution. For any naturalist or human, this is a must-read.

  20. On Love and Chocolate (in Hebrew) (75)
    A cute little book that is a part love story, and part recipes book. I understood maybe 10% percent of it but got the gist. First “official” Hebrew book I’ve read. I’ve now officially read books in six languages.

  21. Hebrew Course Book (In Progress) (200p) (***)
    It’s an old book on learning Hebrew. Nice little lessons where you learn vocabulary, explains pronunciation, grammar and pronunciation rules, and little translation exercises. The only problem is it uses the Torah as its primary source of Hebrew and thus it is quite outdated.

  22. Art of War- Sun Tzu (****)(150p)
    A book that is 2500 years old, that looks into centuries of warfare that had been going on in China. It shows the complexity of the Chinese society, of the great thought and of the their abilities to write down history and philosophy. His ideas on spies, on how to use land, on how to know your opponent, on strategy to attack or not to attack can be applied to war and life. But most surprising to me was the wisdom and history of China so long ago and how little we know about it.

  23. Walt Whitman Poems (40p) ****
    A short little booklet of five poems. Everyone knows Whitman’s poem on the two roads. I found this one and was really dazzled by it. The first is I Sing The Body Electric, which speaks of on old man’s love for the young body. It is pretty clear from it that he is gay, which all other poems in the booklet also make clear. It is impossible not to be gay and see what he writes, the feelings he expresses can’t be imagined for people in the late 1800’s. The feeling he makes for the body, body of man, and woman. He describes the body completely, from head to toe, and pays homage to it the way an old person can. The second poem is about Manhattan and a person traveling from Brooklyn to Manhattan by ferry. He connects the reader to him, through time and space, he sees me, and yet he does not seem to see the future progress, that bridges will span the Hudson, that no one will take the ferry, no one will see the river clean, that people will pass on cars and will look at a skyline of buildings instead of ship masts. How time changes things and yet, you seem him looking at you over the ages through the poem. The last poems speak of love for a person, of a young man being listless and wanting to feel affection, promising everything to the lover. We overlook poetry, focus on prose in America, but a poem can say so much, in such a short time.

  24. Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great by Carmine Gallo (**)
    I basically read this book twice, because after the first one I realized I remembered nothing, and so I thought I’d read it again, and realized there was nothing there. A book assigned to me by my MBA professor on how to sell and present yourself. It’s a 300-page gook that really can be told in 50. It talks about the importance of stories and berries the fact that it is short on content by burying you in stories. At the end of it, you have read many stories but you have no idea how to actually present. You have learned about a lot of successful people who are great communicators, but you have no capacity to be a better communicator. I’m sure there are much better books than this. There are no secrets here, just common platitudes buried beneath a lot of anecdotes.
  25. I Ching by Susan Stephenson (****) 146pages
    A 3000-year-old text that tells that which we learn from “Gurus” of today and philosophers who were thousands of years after this book came out. And it still surpasses them. It’s the third ancient text from China I read this year and it did not disappoint. Susan Stephenson gives her interpretation of these texts, she puts things simply with idioms that we often use from Western thought. We look for answers in new books, but most of the answers we seek, are questions that man has asked since language was invented. The problems rarely change, only the technology around us, but that is but a skin that caters to the human mind.

  26. Environmental Instrumentation – Frichten and Gay (200p)
    1979 text on various instruments and methods used for detecting temperature, humidity, pressure, light incidence etc. Well written text that goes into physics and engineering and outlines the pros and cons of various instruments.

    Total pages read 5000

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