» mid year book review

Sunday, 5 July A.D. 2009 @ 2:29 PM

I try to read a book a week. Doing so this year has become easier with the local library. I initially thought the limit on number of simultaneous checkouts (125) was rather high, but I can see myself approaching 10 or 20 percent of that--at least in the number of books I'm putting on reserve. Thankfully, the library lets me suspend the reserve requests until a particular date, so I can stagger when the books come in somewhat.

I usually do this list at the end of the year, but I need something to write about and this seems like a good thing to break radio silence with. Forthwith, the list, in roughly chronological order:

I've been trying to choose topics on which to read, rather than grabbing anything that sounds good. Reading about the modern-day economic situation (House of Cards, Meltdown, Panic!, etc.) has been informative. I am in-process of figuring out exactly what improvement as a software developer means, especially in what feels like a static field, and books like Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance, Shop Class as Soulcraft, How Doctors Think, The Essential Drucker, and To Do, Doing, Done! have been a helpful part of that. Reading books about the medical profession provides a lot of insight into what debugging should look like.

I still entertain the idea of teaching something at some point, so that's why Whatever It Takes and The Street Stops Here made the list. In Spite of the Gods was an excellent look at modern-day India and Postwar was a good 800+-page summary of the forces shaping Europe since WWII. I try to make a little room for fiction and looking back on the list, I see that I've read more than I realized (about 15%, more if I were to double-count each Gene Wolfe “book”).

The library has also helped relieve me of the habit of buying moderately weighty religious tomes and then having them collect dust on my bookshelf. But a steady diet of lighter fare is not good either, so that's where How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth (whose title suffers from poor editing, unlike its predecessor How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth), Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity (HPKP), and Primeval Saints and so forth come in. I've previously commented on how much I liked Culture Making. HPKP is packed with both relevant information about first-century culture and how that culture shapes reading both the Gospels and Paul. Primeval Saints is a similarly dense book concerning Genesis, although it is written in Jordan's typical direct style. How to Choose a Translation was helpful for pointing out a variety of inconsistencies/issues with the ESV and being a decent introduction to the issues, although the authors state their own preferences quite clearly (hint: not on the side of the ESV).

Finally, for pure fun, nothing beats Moneyball. If you or someone you know likes baseball and has not read this book, retire posthaste and rectify that situation. Even if you don't like baseball, there are plenty of lessons about management/leadership/personal dedication/etc. packed in around the core baseball message. Hacker Crackerdown was a fascinating look into what Hackers was trying to tap into, minus the hacking-into-the-Gibson-and-virtual-worlds bit.

If I had to pick my favorties thus far, my list would be:

I am a little reluctant about the last one, as I think it's going to take reading The Book of the Short Sun to really finish it off.