Books - July 2015

This July 2015 I travelled to the Red Hat office in Brno, Czech Republic to spend some time with my teammates there, and I managed to get a lot of reading done between long plane rides and being jet lagged for many nights :) So I finally managed to finish up some of the books that had been lingering on my ToDo list and even managed to finally read a few of the books that together make up the Chronicles of Narnia, since I had never read them as a kid.

Read

Out of all the books I read this month, I feel that All Quiet on the Western Front and The October Country were the ones I enjoyed reading the most, closely followed by Cryptonomicon, which took me a while to get through. The other books, with the exception of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, helped me pass the time when I only wanted to be entertained.

All Quiet on the Western Front takes the prize for being one of the best books I have ever read! I felt that the way WWI was presented through the eyes of the main character was a great way to represent all the pain, angst and suffering that all sides of conflict went through, without catering for any particular side or having an agenda. Erich Maria Remarque's style had me some times breathless, some times with a knot on the pit of my stomach I as 'endured' the many life changing events that took place in the book. Is this an action-packed book about WWI? Will it read like a thriller? In my opinion, even though there are many chapters with gory details about killings and battles, the answer is a very bland 'maybe'. I think that the real 'star' of this book is its philosophical view of the war and how the main characters, all around 19-20 years of age, learn to deal with its life lasting effects.

Now, I have been a huge fan of Ray Bradbury for a while now, and when I got The October Country for my birthday last month, I just knew that it would be time well spent reading it. For those of you who are more acquainted his science fiction works, this book will surprise you as it shows you a bit of his 'darker' side. All of the short stories included in this collection deal with death, mysterious apparitions, inexplicable endings and are sure to spook you a little bit.

Cryptonomicon was at times slow, some other times funny and, especially toward the end, a very entertaining book. Weighing in at a hefty 1000 pages (depending on the edition you have, plus/minus 50 odd pages), this book covers two different periods in the lives of a number of different characters, past (around WWII) and present, all different threads eventually leading to a great finale. Alternating between past and present, the story takes us to the early days of how cryptology was 'officially invented' and used during the war, and how many of the events that took place back then were affecting the lives of some of the direct descendants of the main characters in our present day. As you go through the back and forth you start to gather bits and pieces of information that eventually connects all the dots of an interesting puzzle. It definitely requires a long term commitment to go though it, but it was enjoyable and, as I mention before, it made me laugh at many places.

The verdict is still out for Armada, maybe because I had very high expectations for it after reading Ready Player One last December. You still see a ton of references to the 80s but the main focus seems to be dedicated to videogames, old and new, and how the main character, Zach Lightman, learns that all the numerous hours he spent in front of his computer pays off when a bunch of aliens one day decide to visit Earth with not so friendly intentions. The book reads a lot like Enders Game, which I didn't quite enjoy to be honest. I just can't relate to books where the main character is a very young and immature person who all of a sudden has these 'mad skills' that puts them in a position to take charge of whole armies! Now, I understand that this is a work of science fiction and that it is not supposed to match reality, etc, etc, and I tried to keep this in mind all the while I read the book. But things happened way too quickly and without having more information (chapters?) showing how a kid who only plays videogames 'for a living' can acquire the skills and experience required to get to where he got, the whole story felt too... artificial? Anyhow, even with all these issues I still managed to enjoy the book, mostly because of the 80s references. I gave it 3 (out of 5) starts.

Reading

Both S and Fluent Python are books that I have been chipping away for close to two months now... the real reason why it is taking me a while to get through them is two-fold:

  • S reads like a huge puzzle/detective board game and it really requires a lot of work to get through. For every actual page of story, there are dozens of messages and notes scribbled on the side and in the margins which, once you put them together, should guide you to the solution of a mystery hidden underneath it all. It is slow reading, and since I usually read to relax after a long day of work, I find myself shying away from it.
  • Fluent Python is a great technical book. I use Python at work. See my point above about reading to relax :)

Bought

I found myself with about US$100 left in credits for my Amazon account, which is always dangerous with me... and to make things 'worse', two promising books were released this July 14th: Go Set a Watchman and Armada. Up until then I was doing pretty good actually, only buying three used books... but then, on the 14th, BOOM! Since I bought Armada I figured I just had to also get Ready Player One (which I read last December and loved it)... and my GoodReads list happened to be open too, so I went ahead and got The War of the End of the World, not to mention that I pre-order another book and a magazine!!! However, and I am proud to say this, I still managed to get around US$17 left... which is still very dangerous :)

What about you? What kind of interesting books have you read this past month???


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