Books - June 2015

Those of you who know me know that I am a huge book reader and spend most of my free time reading several books at the same time. One could say that reading is one of my passions, and having wasted so many years after high school completely ignoring this passion (in exchange for spending most of my time trying to learn about Linux, get an education, a job and, let's be frank, chasing after girls), I decided that something had to be done about it, and starting around 2008 I 'forced' myself to dedicate at least one solid hour of reading for fun every day.

I find it funny to say that I had to force myself, but this statement is very much true. Being so used to spending all of my time sitting in front of a computer and getting flooded with information every single minute of the day (IRC, Twitter, Facebook, commit emails, RSS feeds, etc), I found it difficult to 'unplug' and spend time doing nothing but focusing on only one thing. I was so used to multitasking and being constantly bombarded with lots of information that sitting quietly and reading didn't feel very productive to me... sad but true.

Anyhow, after several 'agonizing' months of getting up from my desk and making a point of turning off my cel phone and finding a quiet place somewhere in the building (or at home during the weekends), I finally got into the habit of reading for pleasure. I actually looked forward to these reading periods (imagine that, huh?) and eventually I realized that if I skipped this 'ritual' even one day, my days felt like they got longer and I felt stressed out and irritable for the remaining of the day. Reading became not only a good habit but my mechanism for relaxing and recharging my energies during the day!

Well, this passion and appetite for reading has only gotten bigger, and with time I have to say that it has become a pretty big part of who I am today! In a way I am happy that it took me this long to get back into the habit of reading... I mean, I feel that getting older was an important part of preparing myself so that I could really appreciate John Steinbeck, Ray Bradbury and the likes of them! Would I have truly appreciated The Grapes of Wrath when I was younger? Perhaps... but it took me around 40 years to get to it and I'm happy that when it did I was able to appreciate this amazing piece of art!

These last few months I decided that I wanted to start tracking all the books that I read, buy or receive as a gift every month (see my reading progress on GoodReads and add me as a friend), and jot down some of my impressions and motives for reading or buying them. Those familiar with Nick Hornby will probably associate this post (and hopefully others that will surely come) with the work he has done writing for the Believer Magazine ... and this would be correct. My intention is not to copy his style or anything like that, but I thought that the format he chose to report on his own reading 'adventures' would fit in quite nicely with what I wanted to get across to my readers... and I'm sticking with the format as long as it works for me :)

Since June was a very busy book buying/getting month for me (mostly because it was my birthday and I used that as an excuse to go overboard and get lots of books), here is my summary for everything that happened on the reading front. By the way, if you want to get me a book from my Amazon Wish List, by all means, do so :)

Read

Compared to last month (and I did write a post about it, but only in Portuguese), it may look like I didn't get a lot of reading done in June, but that is not quite true. Further down you'll see that I've been reading a pretty thick book with around 910 pages and, as usual, I am also reading several books at the same time... and did not finish them before the end of the month.

The book The Open Organization by Jim Whitehurst, current CEO for Red Hat (where I work since 2011), I got when the book was launched a few weeks ago. The reason why I chose to put it at the top of my reading list had nothing to do with the fact that it was written by my boss' boss :) but mostly because it talked about certain topics which are very close to my personal interests. The topics discussed are not necessarily new to me, but they are part of my day-to-day routine and I get to practice a lot of them every day. The concept of meritocracy is embedded into the DNA of everyone who works at Red Hat and it was very interesting to see how this culture affected and shaped Jim Whitehurst's career when he joined this company after joining us from Delta. The cultural shock through which he went through reminded me of a similar experience I had when I moved to North Carolina and joined rPath. Many of the names cited throughout the book are people that I have met and worked with in the past almost 4 years, which lent to the reading experience a feeling of closeness and being part of a bigger entity.

Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor was recommended by my wife, and since I had already read other stories by Flannery O'Connor (and was deeply impressed with the very story I read, A Good Man is Hard to Find) I figured that it was a good opportunity to read a bit more of her stories. As in most of the her previous work (that I read), there is a very strong theme around religion present that permeates and affects, not always in a positive manner, her characters. The scenery and characters are also based in the southern region of the United States, and it's really amazing how well she manages to capture the essence of the south! Unfortunately I felt that the book's plot didn't always make a lot of sense, oftentimes with events that did not seem to add anything to the main story and characters that simply disappeared from the book without a trace or impact on the story itself. It was only after I took some time to research a bit that I learned that this book seems to have been made by several other stories that the author wrote earlier in her career, and were "hammered" together to create a book. Anyway, I recommend this writer if you haven't already read her, and I strongly recommend A Good Man is Hard to Find for being very "dark" and a perfect example of her style!

Reading

To be honest, I barely touched in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes this month, especially since, as I said in a previous article, I was not impressed with the stories and found them to be mostly super dull. Let's see if I will finish it ...

Luciano Ramalho's Fluent Python was another that I barely opened, but for much different reasons. The problem was finding free time to read a technical book, after spending the entire month solving problems at work. All my spare time was spent reading things that relaxed me and I made a great effort to disconnect myself from any issues that were related to work. But the book is great and I'll finish it for sure!

Cryptonomicon is the book that I mentioned before to be huge (910 pages in the edition I have) and has taken much of my reading time. I usually read it at night and before going to bed. The story is very interesting and it is easy to see why so many people suggest it for those who love science fiction. Mixing a little history of World War II, with characters from real life, and technologies that are part of our life today, I have read this book slowly, enjoying each chapter and revelations. I'm almost on page 600 :)

S by J. J. Abrams has been the most difficult book to read! Not that it is annoying (as The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes) but it requires a lot of time and "work" to read it. Let me explain. The book has a very interesting story about a person who one day finds himself in a completely strange place... with his clothes soaked with seawater ... and with amnesia! But throughout the book, the margins of the pages are completely filled with comments and handwritten messages (pen, pencil, etc.). When you start reading these messages, you discover that two complete strangers (both for us, the readers, but also among themselves) began communicating casually leaving 'messages' on the margins of this book, which they borrow and return to the local library every time they want to get a response from the other. As you start reading these scribbled messages you then discover that the story described in the book may be a coded message to explain the strange life and eventual disappearance of its author. Roughly at every 10 pages you find loose notes purported to have been left by the two people who are communicating in the margins of the book, copies of documents, letters or newspapers that serve as clues and evidence that were found by them trying to unravel the mystery. For each page that you read from the book itself, you spend almost as much time reading the comments and loose papers. Super cool but a lot of work to read ;)

Bought

But among the books I bought, all used, I was very happy to have found Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis, only in English! The next time I go to Brazil I will have to bring with me an extra suitcase just to bring a ton of Brazilian books!

Well, once again I hope you weathered this monthly report and once again I ask, what have you read interesting lately? :)


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