These are the books that I have read in 2020.
Aldous Huxley. Brave New World (1932)
I had already read Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm and 1984 and wanted to read the fourth dystopian novel of that era. It seems to provide the most foresight for today's world. Everything is driven from economic motivations and a productive society. Humans are produced in a factory according to economic needs, everybody gets their job assigned at birth. In order for the society to be stable, there needs to be increasing consumption. For instance no sport will be allowed which does not use more ressources and equipment than the existing ones. This reminded me of our transportation, where cars only get bigger and more wasteful.
Edward Snowden. Permanent Record (2019)
The autobiography of the person who made the public aware of the capabilities of intelligence agencies. I found it very relatable as I myself had a computer early on and spend quite some time in the early non-commercialized internet. The technical details of what the agencies do did not really surprise me, I already read and watched a lot of his talks. The personal story was the really interesting one.
William Gibson. Neuromancer (1984)
A coworker recommended this book to me. The story and characters are a bit hard to follow, one is thrown into the shady world of a drug trafficer who seems to have made enemies with quite a bunch of people. The world seems to be very divided in the rich and poor, and there are many extremes. For instance the poor sleep in 3 m² “coffin” rooms, whereas the super rich have their own space station. After a while I got to grasp the story, though I certainly need to read it again to fully understand what has really happened.
Rutger Bregman. Utopien für Realisten (2014)
In dem Buch werden diverse Studien vorgestellt, zum bedingungslosen Grundeinkommen, offenen Grenzen und anderen auf den ersten Blick linken Ideen. Dabei stellt sich häufig heraus, dass beispielsweise Obdachlosen einfach Geld geben günstiger ist als die ganzen Folgekosten für Gesundheitsvorsorge, Polizei und ähnliches.
François Chollet. Deep Learning with Python and Keras (2017)
My first real account of machine learning. The book is really nicely written for novices. It does not require any mathematical background, the author for instance introduces the scalar product not with an equation but with Python code. I found this really nice for teaching. Also there is a hands-on example with the MNIST digits dataset where in the first iteration he just uses a plain dense net and evaluates it. Only later a convolutional net is introduced and used. This way the introduction is very gradual. It only covers deep learning (as promised in the title), so one has to also read other books to learn about other techniques.
Fred Vargas. Es geht noch ein Zug von der Gare du Nord (1996)
Ein sehr schöner Krimi, mit vielen unerwarteten Wendungen. Die Charaktere sind wirklich vielfältig und -schichtig. Ich hatte mehrfach geglaubt den Mörder identifiziert zu haben, jedoch kam es dann wieder anders. Ich bin sehr gespannt auf die weiteren Teile der Reihe!
Aurélien Géron: Hands-On Machine Learning with Scikit-Learn, Keras, and TensorFlow: Concepts, Tools, and Techniques to Build Intelligent Systems (2019)
This book also wants to be an introduction to machine learning, and it certainly seems to cover various unsupervised, supervised and semi-supervised algorithms. There is an end-to-end introductory project where the author tries to do everything properly. I do not have a problem with this as I already do statistical projects as my work. But for somebody without a background in mathematics and statistics it is pretty tough. So before even the regression algorithm is introduced, there is talk about truncated levels in the data, the need for stratified resampling and representation errors. Sure, all that needs to be taken into account in a good project, but I wouldn't want it to be the introductory chapter. Otherwise I found it a good reference as the chapters are written somewhat independently.
Bruce Schneier. Click Here to Kill Everyone (2018)
I've already read Beyond Fear and Liars and Outliers by Schneier, and I enjoyed both of them. This is a more recent book by him, and it is about how everything is vulnerable and everything gets put on the internet. Therefore everything can be hacked and there will be physical consequences of that. The title contains “Security and Survival in a Hyper-connected World” and I expected that there would be something to take away. But the book mostly paints a dire reality about everything being rather insecure as security is not a selling point at the moment. As I have expected, the author has appealed to government regulation, but also states his pessimism about this being a good reality in the future. I did not take much away from this book, it is as dire and frustrating as I thought before.
Guido Knopp. Die Geschichte der Deutschen (2006)
Irgendwie habe ich in der Schule nicht so viel aus dem Geschichtsunterricht mitgenommen, daher habe ich das jetzt mit dem Buch ein bisschen nachgeholt. Es ist leicht zu lesen, und geht nicht so wirklich tief. Aber als schnelle Übersicht schon interessant.
William Gibson. Count Zero (1986)
After reading Neuromancer, I wanted to continue this Sprawl Trilogy. It has completely new characters, I just have found one side character from the first book in the first half of this second book. And there are many characters, I started to keep a note with them. Just as in the first book, the author does not introduce anything, but just lets the reader figure it out from cues. I really like that. And the story has three different lines of action, and at half of the book they haven't even touched each other. The merging of the story lines were a little disappointing, though. There were a few characters that joined these lines, but it wasn't really dwelled on. I felt left hanging without the story completely resolved.
Hermann Knoflacher. Virus Auto: Die Geschichte einer Zerstörung (2009)
Der Wiener Verkehrsprofessor beschreibt die Abhängigkeit der Autofahrer vom Auto. Er beschreibt das Auto als einen Virus, der die Menschen befällt und sie dazu bringt noch mehr Autos zu produzieren und dem Auto mehr Lebensraum (Fahrbahnen, Parkplätze) zu schaffen. Der Autofahrer verteidigt den Lebensraum des Autos gegenüber anderen Menschen. Die Reichsgaragenordnung, die in der heutigen Stellplatzordnung weiterbesteht, schreibt eine bestimmte Menge an Autoparkplätzen pro Wohneinheit vor. Die Anzahl der Kinderzimmer ist aber nicht festgelegt. Und die Menge an Spielplatz auch nicht.
Insgesamt führt es deutlich vor Augen, wie sehr das Auto unsere Gesellschaft zerstört. Und die vom Virus befallenen Autofahrer denken für das Auto, und nicht mehr für sich selbst. Ich habe das Buch in drei Tagen verschlungen, einiges war mir schon bewusst, aber jetzt ist das Entsetzen über den aktuellen Zustand umso größer. Absolute Leseempfehlung!
Oscar Wilde. The Picture Of Dorian Gray (1891)
I've read a bunch of quotes that were attributed to Oscar Wilde. I wanted to find his writings where they originate from. So I have started with the only novel of Oscar Wilde and found out that the quotes that I found were actually mostly from the character of Lord Henry Wotton, who seems to be the personified bad influence. I have collected the quotes in a blog post.