These are the books that I have read in 2021.
Caroline Criado Perez. Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men (2019)
A lot of the structures in society seem to have been formed with only typical male behavior in mind. This leads to a systematic discrimination towards most women, most kids and also a few men. I had a feeling for a few of the places where structures discriminate, but the sheer extent of it has really left me with a sad and frustreated feeling. At least I am more aware now, and I also see how my behaviors which are atypical (like not driving a car) discriminate me. Therefore I am also much interested in eliminating these biases.
Hermann Knoflacher. Zurück zur Mobilität!: Anstöße zum Umdenken (2013)
Das ist das zweite Buch, das ich von diesem Autor gelesen habe. Das erste Buch (»Virus Auto«) hat mich etwas ernüchtert zurückgelassen, da er zwar ausführlich das Problem und seine Sicht zur Entstehung geschildert hat, aber nicht so richtig konkret darstellt, wie man es jetzt besser machen könnte. Es ist sicher richtig, dass sich alles anders entwickelt hätte, wenn man damals andere Entscheidungen getroffen hätte. Durch die Pfadabhängigkeit würden aber die gleichen Umentscheidungen heute nicht mehr die gleichen Wirkungen haben.
In den letzten Seiten dieses Buches beschreibt er ein paar Ansätze, aber auch eher vage und nicht so konkret. Dafür unterstellt er aber sehr vielen Leuten Dummheit. Ich bin ja durchaus für die Idee zu haben, dass Autoverkehr unseren Städten keinesweg gut tut; ohne einen realistischen Plan zur Änderung kann es aber auch nicht realistisch gegen die bestehenden Widerstände und Strukturen umgesetzt werden. Mir hat in dieser Hinsicht »Invisible Women« mehr konkrete Ideen für die Verkehrsplanung gegeben, als es dieses Buch zu dem Thema.
Mark Uwe Kling. Qualityland 2.0 (2020)
Ich hatte vor einiger Zeit den ersten Band gelesen und ihn sehr gut gefunden. Dann habe ich entsprechend auch den zweiten Teil gelesen und bin ziemlich begeistert. Das Ende ist irgendwie etwas merkwürdig, aber wahrscheinlich soll es eben auf einen dritten Teil vorbereiten.
Fred Vargas. Bei Einbruch der Nacht (1999)
Ein sehr spannender Krimi aus der Adamsberg-Reihe. Wie schon im ersten Band ist der Mörder die ganze Zeit dabei, man kommt aber nicht darauf. Das Ende war wieder ziemlich überraschend, wirkte jedoch sehr stimmig.
Philipp Koehn. Neural Machine Translation (2020)
It is a book about the state of neural machine translation and I found out very nice to read. The author seems to have a good choice of topics, a good level of detail and I like the writing style. Also it seems to be rather up to date. One fixable issue are the frequent spelling mistakes, it feels like one round of proof-reading was skipped. Also the code formatting is not consistent, which is a pet-peeve of myself.
Craig Scott. Professional CMake: A Practical Guide (2021)
Finding a comprehensive account of CMake was rather hard. Most tutorials on the web are outdated and not cohesive. A few years ago I watched the Effective CMake talk by Daniel Pfeifer, which completely modernized my understanding of CMake. This book, written by a lead contributor, also gives a lot of structure for a recent version of CMake. It is nicely written and is full of examples.
Robert C. Martin. Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship (2008)
This book has been on my reading list for quite a while. I found it a good read, especially since it has in-depth code examples. Some people argue that his style is too extreme and creates too much boilerplate. I can see where this comes from, and I would likely not push it as far. But still I see the value in most of it.
Martin Fowler. Refactoring (2018)
Leslie Kern. Feminist City (2019)
After reading Invisible Women and liking the city planning aspect of it more than what I read in Virus Auto, I was really happy to see that “feminist geography” is a thing. And the book listed all the bad things that make cities not worth living for men that I already knew. On top of that I got some insights how women and other people feel in cities and now even hate the car and male dominated environment even more.
Hans Mogel. Geborgenheit (2016)
Der Psychologieprofessor beschreibt das Geborgenheitsempfinden in verschiedenen Kulturen und wie wichtig es für ein glückliches Leben ist. Dabei beschreibt er auch einige typische Emotionen und Reaktionen, die Geborgenheit abträglich sind. Mit diesem Wissen kann man sich im Alltag nicht mehr so leicht aus der Ruhe bringen lassen.
Robert Kiyosaki. Rich Dad Poor Dad (2015)
Somebody had recommended this book to learn more about cash flow. I tried it, but I was already put off in the introduction. The author says how his educated father with leftist views was basically an idiot for paying taxes. And his mentor was a genius for exploiting everything he could. Being a stubborn reader I continued a bit further, and there were some sensible guidelines, like putting money away in investment, not buying liabilities with dept and so on.
But the author basically blames poor people for not buying assets that generate cash flow. So everyone should own a couple of houses and live off other people's rent payments? Who is going to earn the rent? And also everyone should have a shell corporation to evade taxes, because taxes are bad. It reads like an FDP dream manifesto. I made it halfway, but then I just couldn't take it any more.
David Goggins. Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds (2018)
The former Navy SEAL writes about childhood with domestic violence and how he eventually took responsibility of his life and turned it around big-time. He shattered all limiting beliefs that held him back. He achieved multiple hard military feats, became an ultra-marathon runner and much more. I found it a very interesting read because I felt a sliver of his obsession for self-improvement and advancement during my master and PhD theses. I had the habit of self-exploitation at the beginning and was happy to curbed that habit and let go on occasion. This is what Goggins describes as “becoming soft”, but rather see it as a balance. He is right in not wasting time doing meaningless things, but always pushing doesn't feel right either.
Michael Feathers. Working Effectively with Legacy Code (2004)
Books like Clean Code tell you what you should do to improve the code. Refactoring gives a catalog of incremental changes that you can do to code without changing what it does. But these books build on the premise that you can put your code under test in some way. In reality, this isn't always the case. One university project didn't have any tests, and all one could do is to start a six-hour production run. This book introduces a concept called “seams”, locations in the code where one can carefully split it open and introduce tests. From there on, one can start to incrementally improve the code without breaking it. After reading other books painting the goal for the code, this book really helped getting started with the process in untestable code.
Gabriel Kuhlman. GIMP Bible: Great for Beginners — 40+ Tutorials (2019)
I have been using GIMP to edit photos for a while, know some of the tools, but didn't have any meaningful intuition in what to do. I for instance want to know how to apply the levels and curves in sensible ways, what to look out for. This book was a disappointment. In the tutorial about contrast and brightness adjustment, the author showed all the details about opening menus and panels, but then just said to adjust the sliders to liking and that was it. So I didn't learn anything from it.
Sabine Hossenfelder. Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray (2018)
Theoretical physics has the purpose of developing theories and models that explain existing experimental data and make predictions for future experiments. These predictions can then falsify a theory and serve as an additional constraint for new ones. Lately there isn't much new data which theorists could use. Theories are cheap, experiments are expensive. Without any emperical guidance, high-energy theorists (especially string theorists) tend to depart from physical reality and seek out beautiful math. Their conviction is that nature must have chosen beautiful math. The author calls this lost in math and fears that the scientific method is no longer used properly.
String theory and other parts of high-energy physics have locked themselves in an ivory tower where they do not want to be disturbed by data. Supersymmetry predicts a plethora of new particles, but none have ever been measured. The theorists save the “beautiful math” by just tuning some things such that the mass of the new particles is out of reach of current particle accelerators.
While I was studying physics, I eventually got the same impression. I am quite happy that I went into lattice QCD where we have tried to reproduce measurements from like 1970 using state-of-the-art computer simulations of the fundamental theory. It felt like honest work because we were trying to see whether the theory actually predicts the same as was measured already. No inventing new particles, no tuning of parameters to escape reality.
The author has a really dry humor, which I quite like. I can really feel the frustration with certain parts of research. And she is quite right to note that it doesn't change because people who are fed up just leave (like me) or adapt to the system in order to get funding.
Maxwell H. Irvine. Nuclear Power: A Very Short Introduction (2011)
Although I have studied in an institute with nuclear physics in its name, I only looked into hadron physics and had no really sensible idea about the ramifications of nuclear power. From various discussions I knew that waste storage is the biggest issue, then major accidents and also the cost. Yet nuclear power doesn't produce CO₂ but can supply the base load, which wind and solar cannot.
This book looked like a sensible overview, but I am not really smarter than before. Nuclear plants are getting safer, and the Chernobyl incident supposedly was an illegal test in a reactor without built-in safety mechanisms. The Fukushima incident allegedly wasn't that bad after all. And compared to the other risks in life, nuclear power isn't the top one.
Regarding nuclear waste the hope could be the next generations of reactors. They convert their waste into more fuel such that the total amount of waste is drastically reduced. And some even has only short-lived waste products which are much easier to handle. One downside is that some produce weapon-grade plutonium, and some need arcane sounding cooling with liquid salts.
The book concludes that there is no way to go without nuclear power unless we want to drastically change the way that we consume energy, unless we want to use coal. And we cannot use coal (although earth has enough for the next 200 years) due to the climate impact. So I guess I'm happy that far away nations use nuclear power instead of coal because climate is global but accidents and waste storage are not? I still don't know.
Dietmar Kettler. Recht für Radfahrer: Ein Rechtsberater (2014)
In diesem Buch werden die für Radfahrer wichtigen Gesetze und Verordnungen durchgegangen. Das Niveau ist für juristische Laien, jedoch werden trotzdem immer Urteile zitiert. So konnte ich es gut verstehen, habe aber auch direkt Anhaltspunkte, sollte ich irgendwann etwas begründen müssen. Für meine aktuelle Arbeit mit der Stadtverwaltung ist das Kapitel über Verwaltungsrecht und die Pflichten der Stadtverwaltung sehr interessant. Dies hilft mir zum Beispiel dabei, bei linken Radwege die unsinnige Benutzungspflicht entfernen zu lassen.
Howard P. Lovecraft. The Color Out of Space (1927)
I heard many things about Lovecraft's stories and finally wanted to read one. Somebody suggested to start with this one. I have read it in one afternoon, it was enthralling but not as scary as I expected. Interestingly this color out of space reminded me of the Protomolecule from The Expanse. I wonder if the writers have gotten their inspiration from Lovecraft.
Steven Pinker. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (2018)
The cognitive psychology professor makes the case for Enlightenment in today's language: data. In the first part the ideas of Enlightenment are described, in the second part he shows ample evidence that it has brought us many very good things. In the last part he makes the case that we should continue with reason, science and humanism into the future.
Progress has happened on in so many different areas that the middle part of the book is quite extensive. Sometimes I had the feeling that it was too much in depth, yet I really liked to have this comprehensive account of progress. He writes with a lot of wit, reason, and nuance. And in addition to all the good arguments for Enlightenment, he tackles the counter arguments and debunks them. He invites to follow the arguments, gives credible reasons and makes the book really thought-provoking.
Liv Larsson. Wut, Schuld und Scham: Drei Seiten der Gleichen Medaille (2010)
Dieses Buch stellt sich als sehr hilfreich im Umgang mit als negativ empfundenen Gefühlen heraus. Die Autorin beschreibt, wie man diese Gefühle als Einladung nehmen kann, mit seinen Bedürfnissen in Kontakt zu treten. Dadurch werden sie zu etwas, das man mit offenen Armen empfangen kann, und eine langfristige Verbesserung für sich ziehen kann.
Im Buch enthalten sind einige praktische Anleitungen, mit denen man erlebte Situationen noch einmal neu bewerten kann. Diese Übungen geben einem konkrete Einblicke in Situationen, bei denen man die eigenen Bedürfnisse nicht hinreichend wahrgenommen hat.
Robert C. Martin. The Clean Coder: A Code of Conduct for Professional Programmers (2011)
In this book the author focuses on the behavior that a developer should have in order to be a professional. There are guidelines for communicating estimates and commitments, for not compromising on testable and correct code when due dates are near. It is much shorter than Clean Code and seems to include more personal anecdotes.
It still has the somewhat dogmatic tone that the books by Martin have, some things sound more absolute than they might should. I do find it a bit more nuanced and less self-contradictory than Clean Code.
Annalena Baerbock. Jetzt: Wie wir unser Land erneuern (2021)
In ihrem Buch beschreibt sie ihre politischen Ziele und ihren Werdegang ein bisschen. Insgesamt liest es sich sehr gefällig, was aber auch meine Erwartung für eine Eigendarstellung ist. Interessant ist das Zugehen auf die Leute, die vom politischen Gegner besser abgeholt werden, zum Beispiel die Arbeiter in der Kohleindustrie. Sie scheint mit ihnen in Kontakt und Austausch treten zu wollen, um ihnen eine sinnvolle Perspektive geben zu wollen.
John Ousterhout. A Philosophy of Software Design (2018)
The focus in this book is complexity. In contrast to other books, it doesn't give that many concrete guidelines like having short functions or only a small number of function parameters. Rather it focuses on the concepts of shallow and deep. The author argues that it is totally okay for a function to be very long, if it does one task and does it completely. The guidlines of Clean Code suggest that functions should only do one thing; but they don't state that it should do that thing completely.
Instead of creating a bunch of unrelated shallow functions, one should provide focused little helper functions, and deep main methods. Classes can be merged, if they lack sufficient depth. The guidelines is not lines of code in the class, but rather whether the ratio of interface and implementation complexity is high enough.
Rafael Eigner. Globuli und Gummibärchen: Benny Brandstätter 4 (2018)
Ich hatte vor Jahren den dritten Teil als erstes gelesen und fand das Erkunden der Stuttgarter Großstadt von Notarzt Benny mit seinem kleinen Sohn Tobi ziemlich amüsant zu lesen. Ich habe dann noch den ersten und zweiten Band gelesen, die waren aber nicht so gut wie der dritte.
Im vierten Band sind wieder alle in Costa Rica, dem Schauplatz des zweiten Bandes. Tobi ist wieder sehr witzig, die Verstrickungen der Charaktere teilweise zum Fremdschämen. Wie auch den dritten Band kann man es wahrscheinlich einfach so lesen; Referenzen auf vorherige Bücher werden ein bisschen erklärt, sodass man sich die Vorgeschichte zusammenreimen kann.
Robert Ludlum. The Bourne Identity (1980)
I've bought and read this novel in the USA in 2007, together with the other two volumes of the initial trilogy. At the time I enjoyed reading them very much. Later I watched the movies and found that they have little in common with the books.
So now I wanted to enjoy them again, and just after turning the first pages I admired the beautiful und vivid writing, as well as the consistent and exciting story about the CIA special agent who has lost his memory and tries to piece it all back together while being hunted for not checking in for so long.
The author is advertised as a writer of superthrillers. Given the other books of the kind that I've read, I find this a very fitting predicate.
Chris Bruntlett, Melissa Bruntlett. Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars in our Lives (2021)
The authors have grown up in Canada, became bike advocates and eventually landed a job with the Dutch Cycling Embassy. They moved to Delft and have grown to love the city. They describe their own journey and discovery of the city, as well as Dutch traffic planning in general. It is a first-hand account of the life changing experience that they had. They make the case for fewer cars in many dimensions, like mobility of kids, the elderly, less noise pollution, more walkable spaces to meet other people. It is very nice to read and packs many very convincing points.
William Gibson. Mona Lisa Overdrive (1996)
I have read the first two parts of the Sprawl trilogy. The first book was a bit hard to read, and somehow I eventuelly read the second one. That one left me a bit clueless about the story, so I put off reading the third one. And I tried to read this one, but somehow I just didn't get into the story. I've eventually just quit, it just isn't my type of book.
Titus Winters, Tom Manshreck, Hyrum Wright. Software Engineering at Google: Lessons Learned from Programming Over Time (2020)
The authors define the difference between programming and software engineering; the former being the task of typing code, the latter being the work of maintaining this code over a long time, dealing with environment changes like updated libraries or requirements. They share their view from a very large organization which produces code that is used for decades.
The main theme is scaling up in terms of developers. Most policy decisions are weighted against the scaling, the goal is to have sub-linear scaling for as much as possible. This directly leads to automation, and they have chapters covering automated testing, automated large-scale refactoring, and automated compute clusters.
Although the average project in the average company likely is smaller, the idea of automation can already reep benefits at small scales. Also very interesting are their takes on dependency management, diamond dependencies, their rationale on using a monolithic repository and their build system.
Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph E. Johnsson, John Vlissides. Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software (1994)
This is a classic book, and it is referenced in many other works. The authors (“Gang of Four”) have provided a good account of common design patterns. I hadn't read the book until now, but seen a lot of references to it in other books. Now I have a good idea about the design patterns that I didn't know before, like the Bridge or the Visitor.
Like with a lot of books with US authors, there is a lot of redundancy in it. One can skip the summaries, or skip a lot of description of each design pattern. I think that I have skipped more than half of the book and still don't feel that I have missed much.
Robert C. Martin. Clean Architecture: A Craftsman's Guide to Software Structure and Design (2017)
I have read a bunch of books which covered the lower levels of programming, what is usually referred to as the “design” of software. The SOLID principles are a good example for this. In this book the author shows higher level principles, which are to decouple components of the system. It has been very thought-provoking and it is very likely to improve my software engineering work.
There is an interesting contrast to the “Software Engineering at Google” book in the sense that the author here recommends to decouple modules and also have them released independent. At Google everybody works with the latest version of everything, and myriads of tests ensure that it all works together. But surely Google also has the components decoupled, they just do the integration much more frequent.
Robert C. Martin. Clean Agile: Back to Basics (2019)
The term Agile has been thrown around a lot, and there are various related buzzwords like Kanban, SCRUM, Extreme Programming (XP) and so on. To me it wasn't clear how they related. This book, written by one of the founders of the Agile Manifesto, clears up the relations between: Agile is a principle, Kanban, SCRUM and XP are practices which try to implement the principles. In either case, the goal of Agile is to provide more transparency into the development process, not necessarily making it faster. It is about clear communication between management and developers.
Especially interesting is the Craftsmanship Manifesto and the “bill of rights” for management and developers. The management for instance has the right to change scope after every iteration (one or two weeks), can stop development after each iteration and always has the right to have a deployable product. The developers always have the right to do good work, so management cannot compromise on quality, but only on scope. Management has the right to obtain transparent status updates, but they must not micro-manage the developers. All this sounds like a professional way of working with software.
Josh Wright. Scrum: The Complete Guide to the Agile Project Management Framework that Helps the Software Development Lean Team to Efficiently Structure and Simplify the Work & Solve Problems in Half the Time (2020)
The book does contain a treatment of Scrum, but it doesn't really present alternative implementations of Agile, like Extreme Programming or Kanban. That is fine for a book about Scrum, but a mention of other implementations would have been nice.
Then it is really repetitive, I had the feeling that each chapter covers the same things, just with slightly different priorities. And a lot of the details were skipped over. I took much more from “Clean Agile” than from this book.
The writing style also isn't that nice to read, it was rather tedious to read. I would not recommend this book.
Robert Ludlum. The Bourne Supremacy (1986)
This is the second part of the Bourne trilogy. This one plays in Hong Kong and China in the 1980s. It is really interesting to read with the recent events in Hong Kong in mind. The story arc again is very thrilling to read, with a lot of turns. Sometimes one has figured it out, but then something completely new happens. It was very enjoyable to read.
Adam Grant. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know (2021)
The organisational psychologist describes how people often get too invested into their opinions and defend them with various patterns: The preachers tell others to believe in their opinions, the prosecutors find flaws in the arguments of others to take them apart, and the politicians try to gather support groups. He proposes to be more like scientists, separating opinions from the people and discussing them openly, honestly and with all complexity. This way one can be more convincing to oneself and to others.
This book has opened up my capacity for rethinking a bit more, and I also understand better why certain ways of lobbying don't work, while others are more effective. He also introduces a technique of active and open listening to help people make up their minds without forcing them in any direction.
Thomas Mann. Tonio Kröger (1902)
In der Schulzeit konnte ich mit Klassikern wenig anfangen. Ein die deutsche Literatur schätzender Norweger war etwas erstaunt, dass ich dieses Buch nicht kannte. Also habe ich es einmal gelesen.
Der namensgebende Protagonist wird in verschiedenen Phasen der Kindheit, Pubertät und jungem Erwachsensein beschrieben. Er erlebt immer wieder neue Facetten eines Konfliktes; er möchte dazugehören und sein wie die anderen, jedoch fühlt er sich nicht, wie die anderen. So wandert er durch die Welt, versucht sich als Literat, und verurteilt sich gleichzeitig dafür, nichts »anständiges« zu machen. Erst gegen Ende des Buches wird er langsam milder mit sich und scheint anzukommen.
Jürgen Hellbrück, Rainer Guski. Lauter Schall: Wie Lärm in unser Leben eingreift (2018)
Das Buch behandelt Schall aus verschiedenen Blickwinkeln: Physik, Psychologie, Medizin, Geografie und Soziologie. Es hat mir ein paar interessante Einblicke in die Wirkweise von Schwerhörigkeit, der Wirkung von Lärm auf Menschen und das mangelnde Bewusstsein in der Bevölkerung gegeben. Auch bei der Physik der Schallpegel waren noch neue Dinge dabei, schließlich gibt es neben der physikalischen Messung der Schallenergie auch noch Bewertungskurven für das menschliche Gehör.
Liv Larsson. Relationships: Freedom without distance, connection without control (2012)
This is a rather short book, and it is more a guide to talk about a given relationship with the other person. It is also based on non-violent communication and puts the basic needs into the center of each interaction. Based on the assumption that all humans share the same basic needs, but then differ in the actions to fulfil them, many conflicts can be resolved by communicating about needs and asking for support to have them fulfilled.
Fränzi Kühne. Was Männer nie gefragt werden: Ich frage trotzdem mal. (2021)
Der Autorin wurde nach ihrer Berufung in einen Aufsichtsrat in Interviews immer wieder Fragen gestellt, die nie einem Mann gestellt werden würden. Sie hat daraus ein Projekt entwickelt und erfolgreichen Männern (u.A. Heiko Maas, Gregor Gysi, Joe Kaeser) genau diese Fragen gestellt. Daraus ergaben sich teils skurrile Situationen, die meisten Fragen haben die Männer jedoch überraschend offen beantwortet.
Für mich war der Kern im Buch der Widerspruch in zwei Fragen. Auf die Frage, ob sie ihre Karriere dem Mann-Sein zu verdanken haben, antworten die meisten Männer verhalten. Sie sehen nicht direkt, dass sie aufgrund ihres Geschlechts einen Vorteil hatten. Die andere Frage ist, ob sie irgendwas für ihre Karriere opfern mussten. Und da sind dann viele ihrer Frau dankbar, dass sie eigentlich nichts opfern mussten. Die wenigsten ziehen dann eine Verbindung und sehen, dass letztlich ihre Frau ihnen die Karriere parallel zur Familie mit Kindern ermöglicht hatte. Sie kratzen höchstens an der Oberfläche des Themas Vereinbarkeit. Die Autorin setzt das am Ende schön in Kontext.
Im Vergleich zu anderen Büchern, die ich zum Thema Feminismus gelesen hatte, fühlt sich das hier ziemlich freundlich ein. Ich konnte mich als Mann ziemlich gut fühlen, weil ich mir bei den meisten Dingen schon Gedanken gemacht hatte. Bei »Feminist City« hingegen fühlte ich mich noch mehr als Teil des Problems, das hat bei mir mehr Denken angestoßen. Vielleicht ist dieses Buch hier ein gutes Einstieg für Männer in das Thema Feminismus.