20111211

Good Books I've Read in 2011: Perfect Gifts for Geeks!


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The links to books in this post are affiliate links! Beware :)
In case you have not realised it yet, I'm a pretty prolific reader. Online reading (and having an iPad) have slowed down the number of books I read in a given year, and I don't go to the lengths of my girlfriend (who is about to reach her goal of reading 102 books in this year,) I'm nevertheless a frequent reader.

This year I've read several good books that I'd like to share with you, after all, if you are reading this probably our tastes overlap. And then these books will be perfect for you (or for some geek in your life). The books I've selected range from programming, sports and non-fiction. Oddly enough, I don't remember any fiction book I've read this year (not counting some book by Raymond Chandler, which I can recommend each year). Let's go!

Born to Run A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen: I reviewed this book in a previous post here. I found it very good, and urged me to get running. My running frequency is (to put it softly) awful, but I'm trying to improve. If you want to start running or recover some lost motivation, give it a shot, it's a very good read. You can read my review of Born to Run.

Visualize this The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics I wanted a book to help me graphing things in my future work as a freelancer, and after looking around a little I found this *great* book by Nathan Yau, the blogger behind Flowing Data. It's an awesome book, which will help you start kicking around the graphs and tables.

Confessions of an advertising man: An almost autobiographical book by famed ad-man David Ogilvy, if you are anything into copywriting, advertising or marketing, you have to read this book. Not only will it help sharpen your ideas, but it is also a very good and entertaining read.

Moonwalking with Einstein The Art and Science of Remembering Everything: A New York Times best-seller by Joshua Foer. After reading his interview-article there, I decided to buy it (pre-ordered it!), and it was very worth the money. An entertaining read of how motivation can get you a long way, and how some memory techniques work. I have not written a review of it, but you can read my own explanation of the memory palace technique.

Even a geek can speak Low-Tech Presentation Skills for High-Tech People: The best book for anyone in need to give a presentation. Clear, concise and to the point, this should be a forced reading for all technically minded people. You can read my review of Even a geek can speak.

Mining the social web Analyzing Data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Other Social Media Sites: If I had to try the book I enjoyed the most reading this year, it is this book. Seriously. Even awesome comes short of what I think about this book. I plan on reviewing it, but I've got not enough time yet... With it you'll learn how to mine twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and whatnot. And then process all this data. Easily. Yes!

The AdWeek copywriting handbook The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Advertising and Marketing Copy from One of America's Top Copywriters: Your deep entry into copywriting, from a master copywriter. You'll learn how to shape your online copy, from headline to action. It's very well written in an understandable fashion. Keep in mind that if you buy the Kindle edition, the provided checklists are not that useful.

Thinking Forth: I've had this book for a long, long time and I finally got to read it. I used a simple method for getting me to read it: I left it in the bathroom. When I had to spend some time there (for example, shaving with an electric machine!) I read a few pages. And in no time, I had finished. You don't need to have a computer close to read it, but a little knowledge of Forth is quite useful. It is a clean book, introducing some concepts like orthogonality and testing without even trying.

Power Sleep The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance: A best-seller book focused on mental abilities and how sleep affects it. Packed with research results and advice, it was a very interesting book, although a little too long. After all, the best suggestion is to go to sleep each day at the same time and keep adding 15 minutes (weekly) to your sleep until you stop feeling sleepy. Now that you have the spoiler, buy it.

Crush It! Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion: One of these self-help books that will get you pumping ideas and rocking you off the sofa. According to Gary, now it is time to crush it. And probably it is. If you are a little low on motivation, read this book. Don't expect it to teach you how to do things, just read it as experiences to think about.

What I talk about when I talk about running: Another running book, this time an autobiographical piece by one of my favourite writers, Haruki Murakami. I was expecting a little better from him... But of course, not every book can be Hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world. An interesting read about Murakami's running experiences, and how he got to run a 50 miler and the "original" marathon in Greece (under a scorching sun).


This month I've started several books that I'm sure would have make this list, and will probably be delayed until next year:

Steve Jobs: I will remember how and when I found out Steve died, and will still be inspired by his commencement speech for a long while. I've gone through almost one fifth of the book (a very thick one,) and it is one of the best biographies I've read (the other is John Nash's). Brilliantly written, it reads like a novel with a fast pace.

1Q84: the recent best-seller by Murakami was the gift from my girlfriend for this year's St. George day, and I've only been able to read a few pages. From the raving reviews, I assume I'll like it (I was deceived by Kafka in the shore).

The memory palace of Matteo Ricci: A classic book for memory techniques lovers, I've only got to read the first 20 pages or so. So far, very interesting and well edited.

Guns, Germs and Steel The fates of human societies: A book recommended by my thesis advisor, dealing with why Europe invaded America and why it was not the other way around. Of course, all is theoretical, but it is amazing nevertheless.

If you find some broken link, please let me know!

Written by Ruben Berenguel