2017 - What I've Read

2017 found my family and I finally settled, if a bit temporarily, in our new home in Cupertino, CA. We're renting and that will be the next major milestone we cross (buying a home). My son started First Grade, my wife continued her position at Cisco, and I'm still enjoying my position at ServiceNow (though I started a new role in 2018).

In reviewing the books I read this year (22 titles), they were broken down in the following broad genres:

  • Entertainment - 41% (down from 55%)
  • Non-fiction - 27% (up from 15%)
  • Computing - 5% (down from 15%)
  • Biographies - 18% (up from 7.5%)
  • Self-improvement - 9% (up from 7.5%)

In my last What I've Read post, I stated I wanted to reduce Entertainment and increase in the other genres and from the numbers above I met my 2017 Resolution! What am I going to do in 2018? For 2018, I'd like to read MORE books. Both years I've read about 22 and I'd like to do better, closer to 30.

When I started 2017, I was still reading several books I had started at the end of 2016. The ones I finished in 2017 were:

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (Audible) -- Walter Isaacson is one of the great Biographers of our time. He writes entertaining books, exploring really fascinating people. In this book he discusses a large list of people who shaped our Digital Culture. He explores and builds the story of how we ended up where we are and how innovation is truly an iterative process. I greatly enjoyed learning a lot about how the Internet (and many of the devices and websites we use today) were actually created. Most importantly the history that led to them.

To Pixar and Beyond (Audible) -- The history of Pixar shortly after Steve Jobs purchases it, as told by the CFO (Lawrence Levy). An insightful book on how Pixar became the animation powerhouse they are today, from extremely humble and often precarious beginnings. I'm only listening to this book as I take long walks, in homage to Steve Jobs (and Lawrence Levy) who both took long walks together to discuss the future. I figure I own every movie they've ever released, might as well know who I'm supporting. :)

Dead Wrong (The Rho Agenda Inception Book 2) (Kindle) - The second installment in the Rho Agenda Inception trilogy. Here we delve deep into the alien mystery that surrounds the Rho Agenda trilogies. Will Jack and Janet be able to save the world, a second time?

The following were all books I started and finished in 2017:

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds (Audible) -- Forty years ago, Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky wrote a series of breathtakingly original papers that invented the field of behavioral economics. This was a facinating book that also revealed the basis for much of Michael Lewis' own works. I plan to also read Thinking, Fast and Slow which is written by Daniel Kahneman.

Babylon's Ashes (The Expanse, #6) (Kindle) -- James Holden and his crew know the strengths and weaknesses of this new force better than anyone. Outnumbered and outgunned, the embattled remnants of the old political powers call on the Rocinante for a desperate mission to reach Medina Station at the heart of the gate network. This is the sixth book in the The Expanse series, which starts with Leviathan Wakes and is the basis of the SyFy series by the same name. If you haven't watched it you really should (read the book first).

Hunter's Moon (Doc Ford, #14) (Kindle) -- Doc Ford saves a former President of the United States from assassination-and regrets it. Months ago, Kal Wilson's wife was killed in a plane crash. President Wilson is sure it was no accident-and he wants revenge. He needs Doc Ford to spring him loose from the watchful eye of the Secret Service, keep him alive, then get him home. Read during our Spring Break Vacation, this is my "mind candy".

Black Widow (Doc Ford, #15) (Kindle) -- Doc Ford is drawn into a deadly battle when his goddaughter Shay is blackmailed. Someone filmed her at an out-of-control bachelorette party and they want big money to keep it quiet. When Ford investigates, he finds that the woman responsible is an agent of corruption unlike any Ford has ever encountered before. Boy do I enjoy these books, still have to read the original few because they aren't available digitally (I have them though).

Dead Silence (Doc Ford, #16) (Kindle) -- When a Minnesota teen is kidnapped, Doc Ford is given an unthinkable ultimatum, and only 36 hours to act on it. But there's something unusual about the boy that his captors don't even know, twisting this deadly game out of control in ways no one can imagine.

The Attention Merchants (Audible) -- Ours is often called an information economy, but at a moment when access to information is virtually unlimited, our attention has become the ultimate commodity. In nearly every moment of our waking lives, we face a barrage of efforts to harvest our attention. I suffered through this book. Much of the content, in today's world, seemed dated. It took a long time to get to the current day, and it wasn't a terribly compelling journey.

Change Agent (Kindle) -- In 2045 Kenneth Durand leads Interpol’s most effective team against genetic crime, hunting down black market labs that perform "vanity edits" on human embryos for a price. These illegal procedures augment embryos in ways that are rapidly accelerating human evolution—preying on human-trafficking victims to experiment and advance their technology. I'm not going to give you the twist, but this is a futuristic look at technology that exists today in the form of CRISPR.

Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good (Kindle) -- Kevin Smith changed filmmaking forever when he was twenty-three, and since then, he’s done whatever the hell he wants. He makes movies, writes comics, owns a store, and now he’s built a podcasting empire with his friends and family, including a wife who’s way out of his league. I've followed Kevin for a long time on Twitter and in the media, he's an interesting guy and the book provides insight into his life.

The Frontiers Saga: Episodes 1-3 (Kindle) -- What destiny has in store for the crew of the UES Aurora, is far greater than any of them could ever imagine. The beginning of a very LONG series of books that are reminisent of Star Trek. Free for Prime Subscribers on Kindle!

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future (Audible) -- Ashlee Vance provides the first inside look into the extraordinary life and times of Silicon Valley's most audacious entrepreneur. Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family and friends, the book traces the entrepreneur's journey from a rough upbringing in South Africa to the pinnacle of the global business world. Before moving to Silicon Valley I wanted a Tesla, once I got here, I wanted one even more. This guy is our modern Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, or Alexander Graham Bell, and his various businesses are much more connected than you think.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck (Kindle) -- In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be "positive" all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people. Great advice to everyone is to just do the things that you fear, that's what taking risks is all about.

Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups (Kindle and Audible) -- One of Silicon Valley’s most successful angel investors shares his rules for investing in startups. There are two ways to make money in startups: create something valuable—or invest in the people that are creating valuable things. Over the past twenty-five years, Jason Calacanis has made a fortune investing in creators, spotting and helping build and fund a number of successful technology startups Great book to learn what it takes to be a Venture Capitalist, including how to do it on the cheap!

Note: This was the first book that I used Kindle and Audible together via Whispersync, it was incredible! I found that I was able to get through the book much faster and yet my retention was the same as other audiobooks, I also found the use of Whispersync to work pretty well to keep me in the same position across the two mediums. If you link your Audible and Amazon accounts together, then you'll get a discount when you buy one after purchasing the other.

Kali Linux Revealed: Mastering the Penetration Testing Distribution (Physical) -- The Kali team has never released an official Kali Linux manual, until now. In this book, we'll focus on the Kali Linux platform itself, and help you understand and maximize Kali from the ground up. The developers will walk you through Kali Linux features and fundamentals, provide a crash course in basic Linux commands and concepts, and then walk you through the most common Kali Linux installation scenarios. In 2017, I got interested in Penetration Testing (and secured several certifications). Kali Linux is basically a Penetration Tester's dream, with a number of tools pre-built into the distribution.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Audible) -- One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?

Artemis (Kindle and Audible) -- Jasmine Bashara never signed up to be a hero. She just wanted to get rich. Not crazy, eccentric-billionaire rich, like many of the visitors to her hometown of Artemis, humanity’s first and only lunar colony. Just rich enough to move out of her coffin-sized apartment and eat something better than flavored algae. Rich enough to pay off a debt she’s owed for a long time. This is Andy Weir's follow-on to the smash hit, The Martian. If you're expecting the same type of problem-solving and ingenuity...it's not here. There's some of it, but it's layered underneath multiple sub-plots and hard to find. The book isn't bad, it's just not The Martian.

Origin (Kindle and Audible) -- Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Artificial Intelligence (AI) features heavily in this novel and of all the Robert Langdon novels, I enjoyed this one more than all the others, with the exception of The Da Vinci Code.

The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus: How to Get Big Things Done in YOUR "Workshop"...All Year Long (Physical) -- One of the most powerful and entertaining business books available today, The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus is a clever and compelling resource for leaders at all levels. Need a role model for effective leadership? Try Santa Claus! This is one of only 2 physical books I read in 2017 (twice as many as in 2016!) It was given it as a Christmas present by a co-worker (very thoughtful) and while it was a short read, I really enjoyed it.


At the end of 2017 I was again in the middle of several books:

Pandora's Star (The Commonwealth Saga Book 1) (Kindle) -- This book was also on my 2016 end-of-year list, yes I've been reading it for over a year. It's good, but it just doesn't hold my interest so I'm using it as filler in-between other books. I can't imagine I won't finish it in 2018! It kind of feels like The Fellowship of the Ring. You had to get about 1/2 way through it before the story took off.

American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road (Audible) -- In 2011, a twenty-six-year-old libertarian programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the ultimate free market: the Silk Road, a clandestine Web site hosted on the Dark Web where anyone could trade anything—drugs, hacking software, forged passports, counterfeit cash, poisons—free of the government’s watchful eye. They left out, "all in Bitcoin". I was an early miner of Bitcoin (I didn't get rich, long story) and so this book had immediate appeal, oddly my 74 year-old father is who turned me onto it.

Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government--Saving Privacy in the Digital Age (Kindle) -- Crypto tells the inside story of how a group of "crypto rebels"—nerds and visionaries turned freedom fighters—teamed up with corporate interests to beat Big Brother and ensure our privacy on the Internet.

iOS Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide (Big Nerd Ranch Guides) (Kindle) -- Updated for Xcode 8, Swift 3, and iOS 10, iOS Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide leads you through the essential concepts, tools, and techniques for developing iOS applications. After completing this book, you will have the know-how and the confidence you need to tackle iOS projects of your own. The Big Nerd Ranch team does incredibly good programming course books. I'm again trying to come up to speed on iOS programming. I haven't done this type of programming in a number of years (though I did have an app in the App Store a long time ago).

Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War (Kindle) -- In June 1983, President Reagan watched the movie War Games, in which a teenager unwittingly hacks the Pentagon, and asked his top general if the scenario was plausible. The general said it was. This set in motion the first presidential directive on computer security. They had me at "War Games".

Black Hat Python: Python Programming for Hackers and Pentesters (Kindle) -- When it comes to creating powerful and effective hacking tools, Python is the language of choice for most security analysts. But just how does the magic happen? In Black Hat Python, the latest from Justin Seitz (author of the best-selling Gray Hat Python), you’ll explore the darker side of Python’s capabilities—writing network sniffers, manipulating packets, infecting virtual machines, creating stealthy trojans, and more. Part of my Pentesting education.

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