Friday, December 25, 2009

2009 in Books, with reviews

Following up from last year, here are the books I read (or in a few cases, listened to) this year.

First, a few thoughts:

This year I got through 25 books. Up from last year, and I beat my goal of 24 for the year, but it's still lower than I'd like. Next year I'd like to beat that.

There were a few books from last year that I found myself loaning or recommending to others several times over. In particular:
  • Little Brother: Cory Doctorow's distopian sci-fi teen-fic romp that I described last year as 'just close enough to the present and just close enough to reality to scare you like hell'.
  • Halting State: Charles Stross' heist-meets-sleuth-meets-virtual-worlds story was probably my most recommended book of last year, when I called it 'one of my top 5 recommendations for those looking to understand the future of games'.
  • Inventing the Movies: I found this history of film medium and business has a lot to teach us in the games industry.
  • Losing Faith: How the Grove Survivors Led the Decline of Intel's Corporate Culture. I found myself loaning/recommending this to a number of co-workers.
One more thought before the list: I found myself teetering on the edge of buying a Kindle a number of times through the year. I like technology, I beleive it might let me get through more books over the course of a year, and I like the idea of annotating the books in an electronic (and thus integrated with other apps/etc). I haven't bought one yet, for the following reasons:
  • Closed, vertically integrated business model. There's an opportunity for someone to disrupt here by integrating with multiple stores, etc,
  • All features that detract from time spent buying and reading books seem to be secondary concerns, and therefore are poorly implemented (browser, pdf functionality, and where is a decent RSS aggregator?)
  • The biggest reason is that books are social objects for me. I like to loan them to friends, propogate ideas, etc, and this is lost with the existing business model. Longer post on Kindle and Nook coming later...
Anyhow, here's the list of books from this year:


  1. Reality Check: Guy Kawasaki's compilation of loosely related essays on evangelism, venture capital, running a startup, etc. Recommended. My review here.
  2. Outliers: Malcolm Gladwell makes the case for why some people are special :-). My review here.
  3. Arcade Mania: Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft's quirky look at Japanese arcade machines, culture and history. My review here.
  4. Business Stripped Bare: Richard Branson's follow on to Losing My Virginity. Not quite as good, but still useful. My review here.
  5. Ten Foot: R Dale Chandler's teen-fic fantasy novel that I described as 'Lord of the Rings with an American Indian flavor'. Recommended. My review here.
  6. I Will Teach You To Be Rich: Ramit Sethi's practical approach to saving money and building wealth. Pretty straight forward, and aimed at younger folk than I, but I still picked up a thing or two. Recommended for some (if don't have at least a year's salary squirreled away, and/of if you ever carry a monthly balance on your credit card, then this is you.). My review here.
  7. Longitude: An educational and entertaining read about the X-prize-like competitive race to solve the longitudinal navigation problem, and the amateur clockmaker who schooled the scientific establishment. My review here.
  8. Edison: His Life and Inventions: An interesting, if dated and biased, look at Edison's life's work. My review here. Audio version of book available here.
  9. Ignore Everybody: Hugh MacLeod's Gaping Void blog style, in print form. My review here.
  10. Racing the Beam: Ian Bogost's fantastic start to his 'platform studies' series, in which he looks at the history of the Atari VCS, and how the platform's architecture shaped the games built on it. Recommended. My review here.
  11. Meatball Sundae: Seth Godin's take on what happens when marketers of everyday products say "I can haz facebuk?!". My review here.
  12. The 4 hour workweek: Get-rich-quick snakeoil that I'd love to urge you to stay away from, except that there are some useful nuggets in there. More detail in my review here.
  13. Following Through: What it aims to teach is indicated by the title. How much I disliked it is indicated by my review here.
  14. Small is the New Big: A collection of Seth Godin's essays and blog posts. My review here.
  15. Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars: Bill Patry's book on how and why copyright lost its way and has since gotten out of control. My favorite book of the year. Highly Recommended. My review here.
  16. Batman Arkham Asylum: I found this highly-rated graphic novel to be good, but not necessarily deserving of the hype. My review here.
  17. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: Allison Hoover Bartlett's accounting of her investigation into the world of an obsessed thief of rare books and the book dealer turned gumshoe who helped bring him down. My review here.
  18. On Writing: Stephen King's only non-fiction book. One part autobiography, one part practical guide to the art and craft of writing. Recommended. My review here.
  19. Seize the Daylight: David Prerau's surprisingly colorful look at the history of daylight savings time, and the madness that lies in trying to convince the world to get it's collective butt out of bed a little earlier. My review here.
  20. How the Mighty Fall: Jim Collins, author of the popular Good to Great, looks at the other side of the coin: What makes great companies fail. Fascinating and terrifying. Highly Recommended. My review here.
  21. Good Video Games and Good Learning: James Paul Gee's look at video games and their ability to teach. I found myself disagreeing with some of his biases and approaches, but mostly agreeing with the ideas and conclusions. My review here.
  22. What the Dog Saw, and Other Adventures: A collection of Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker pieces. Best taken as provocative ideas and not science. My review here.
  23. The Post-American World: Author. Highly Recommended. My review here.
  24. Circles: James Burke's collection of brief whirlwind tales of invention through history. My review here.
  25. Permanent Death: An e-book chronicling Ben Abraham's efforts to play through Far Cry 2 on a single life. It's free and thought provoking. My review here.
That's it. Currently working my way through both Starbucked and The Whuffie Factor, but they'll likely make next year's list. Reviews up as soon as I'm finished them.

1 comment:

william said...

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