Guus Bosman

software engineering manager

You are here

Here I keep track of some of the books that I've read, often with a short review and some personal thoughts. These are only a selection since I read a lot more books for work.

I like to read book in their original languages where possible: French, German, Dutch, English and I even read three books in Bulgarian. Here is the list of books I'd like to read. See also books about technology or management, and my all-time favorite books.

I'm an engineer, and enjoy science fiction novels. Some of my favorite authors are Vernor Vinge, Terry Pratchett and LE Modesitt Jr. No overview of my reading habits would be complete without mentioning The Economist -- I love that magazine.

Books below are in order of date read; this overview starts in October 2002.


Tough Choices

Carly Fiorina

This is the ninth book I read in preparation for the 2016 Presidential Elections.

When I set out to read all books by Presidential candidates this year, the library turned out to be a wonderful resource. But unfortunately our library doesn't carry Carly Fiorina's latest book Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey.

I knew very little about Mrs. Fiorina, so decided her 2006 book Tough Choices would as good a start as any. It describes her career at AT&T and Lucent, and later her work as CEO of HP.

Obviously, this was a period in her life that was about running companies -- not running for office -- so it didn't tell me much about her political ideas or ambitions, but it was a good book. I have worked with several people who were AT&T and Lucent, mostly technology folks, so I feel some affiliation with those companies. It was very interesting to read about the work of a CEO.

Throughout the book I started to like Mrs. Fiorina. She seems like a good manager. Cares about people, knows her stuff... At the same time, it is very hard to judge her performance from her own memoir, and in particular the final fight with the Board at HP was hard to gage. That's fine, this is an autobiography not a journalistic work. Clearly, Mrs. Fiorina has been a trailblazer as a female in big corporate tech businesses.

The book tells me little about her quality as political candidate. The little I've read about her so far seems to indicate she has not been very successful as a Republican candidate and she is struggling to make the threshold for the first TV debate. On social issues and foreign policy her ideas are fundamentally different than mine. The beauty about reading books like these is that you get to know and respect a person, even if their ideas and experiences are vastly different.


Immigration Wars

Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick

This is the sixth book I read in preparation for the 2016 Presidential Elections.

I found myself agreeing with many proposals in this book, which doesn't happen often when I read books by Republican candidates. That's caused by two things. First, I'm probably a little more in favor of labor market liberalization than many Democrats are, and I feel the current system is working against highly skilled immigrations. Secondly, and this is surely an interesting problem for Mr. Bush, he is much more centric than the current Republican party is when it comes to immigration. That will be problem for him in the primaries, but will help him in the general election.

And, should he become President, we'll have someone in the White House who truly understands immigration which is great. Mind you, I won't vote for a Republican -- but Mr Bush definitely seems to be the least bad from the bunch.

Mr Bush co-wrote the book with Clint Bolick, a conservative lawyer. The basic tenets of their immigration proposal? First, reduce family-based immigration. Only allow people to petition for their spouse and children, no longer for siblings or parents. Secondly, the amount of immigrants will be kept roughly equal but there will be many more work permits available and sponsoring someone for citizenship will no longer require family ties (but have presumably huge waiting lists).

The hardest part of any immigration policy is to decide what to do with people here illegally already. Their proposal is surprisingly generous: they recognize that deporting people is not a true option. So they propose that those people will have to pay a fine and get permanent residency -- but never citizenship. So far, so good -- it sounds like a possible compromise. But at the same time, later in the book they say that "millions of people have overstayed their visa illegally and should all leave the country" -- which rather contradicts that earlier plan. Strange.

But to be fair, immigration is a hugely complex issue -- intellectually as well as politically -- and these types of inconsistencies are pretty rare in the book. Overall, the authors provide a very coherent, very humane set of proposals that would significantly improve the immigration system and increase the economic benefits for the US.

So how do I interpret this in light of my quest to read all books by Presidential candidates? It confirms my earlier idea that Mr. Bush will be a formidable opponent to Mrs. Clinton, should he become the candidate (which I find likely). He is not your average white-male Republican and has a genuine passion to make immigration work better. He believes in the benefits of a multicultural society and a economy that is improved by immigration. In his book he denounces many on the right side of the Republican party (the "secure the borders first" crowd) and he establishes himself as a center-right, reasonable politician.

Mark my words -- it will be a Clinton-Bush line-up again -- and Bush is a very strong candidate.


Hard choices

This is the fifth book I read in preparation for the 2016 Presidential Elections.

Hillary Clinton's book is much more upbeat, much more hopeful than Mike Huckabee's, Rand Paul's and even Marco Rubio's. At times it feels like the Democratic Party is the party of the future, while the Republican Party wants to go back to an earlier time (in particular after reading Huckabee and Paul).

Of course I'm biased. If the purpose of reading these books was to truly change my mind the exercise failed -- but I never really expected that. Nevertheless reading the various types of conservative views has given me more respect for the Republican candidates. I would not vote for them, and think voting for a republican president would make America worse off but I understand better what their values, concerns and solutions are.

Mrs. Clinton's book makes a powerful statement. She doesn't boost but clearly shows what an incredible experience she has and how many tough choices she has made. The book implicitly makes a strong case for Hillary as President. It was also interesting to read again about America's most recent foreign policy crises and events.

Hillary Clinton

God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy

Mike Huckabee

This is book number three I read in preparation for the 2016 Presidential Elections.

Mike Huckabee is an interesting figure and with this book I got to know him better as a person. He is a pretty smart guy and even though I don't agree with some of his philosophy, he is likeable and I was surprised to see that there are actually quite a few areas where we agree.

Interestingly, both Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee are very much against the current implementation of the TSA and both called for it to be privatized -- they basically want the airlines to take responsibility for security screening, with the understanding that airlines have more incentives to be customer friendly.

I found myself liking Huckabee. I still think his policies are the wrong ones, and I'm glad he won't be our President, but this book made me like him better than I expected.

Huckabee doesn't really seem to be interested in running for President. From reading this book it feels as if he is missing the drive, the passion.


Government bullies

Rand Paul

This is the second book I read in my effort to learn more about all major candidates for the Presidential elections.

I'll be honest -- Rand Paul was never going to win me over, our differences are too big. But this was an interesting read.

Sometimes it is as if Mr. Paul is just willfully ignorant of the whole story. Many of the cases of "EPA overreach" where he described "a landowner moving some soil from one side of his property to the other" are much more complicated then that. I found myself searching the names of these "victims" on Google and every time it is clear that there is much more to the story than what's described in the book.

I do understand his mindset, but he is taking it way too far. There are clear examples of grievous violations of the law and environmental rules in his book, for example by the Dutch immigrant who blatantly ignored the warnings and orders by the EPA and Corps of Engineers not to build on wetland. That's not government bullying: that's government doing its job.

Mr. Paul is also disingenuous about what he wants. He'll say that the definition of "wetlands" is unclear, and "wants to clarify it". Yet the proposal that he offers don't just "clarify" the definition -- they severely tighten the restriction and just majorly reduces the power of the Clean Water Act. Abolishing the EPA, as he wants, won't be very good for the environment either.


License to Pawn

I came across an older interview with Rick Harrison on, by chance. It sounded like an interesting book and I borrowed it electronically from our library.

The book is about the owners of a big pawn shop in Las Vegas. It describes their business and rise to fame after they became subject of a TV show.

It's an entertaining book. I wasn't sure what to expect, honestly, but the guys running the store and very smart and great observers of humanity.


The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings

By the end of November, when we were scared about a possible premature birth of the boys, I badly needed a good book to read. On November 30rd I borrowed The Hobbit from the library, and yesterday I finished the final book of the Lord of the Rings. Two solid months of wonderful reading -- and of wonderful progress with the pregnancy, now at 35.5 weeks.

There is not much too say about these books: they are phenomenal. My father read them to me when I was a child -- something that must have taken several years -- and I read them again in high school, even used them on my literature reading list. I think Sasha and I saw one or two of the LOTR movies also. Definitely not the third one -- and I enjoyed that the most of all actually. Very satisfying ending.

This was the first time I read the books in English, interesting enough. But I kept hearing my father in my mind, talking about "Sam Gewissies".


Wat ik nog weet

A sweet little book. Memoirs by a highly acclaimed Dutch children's book author, describing her life until the 1950's and in particular her childhood in Zeeland.

She was born in 1911 and World War I even plays a small role. One of the events is a visit to Den Haag by the family where they see electricity-powered lights and appliances for the first time. While she is growing up, she's looking forward to wear the traditional costume but once she turned 16 it had completely gone out of fashion.

She is a very gifted author and this is a lovely book. My grandmother grew up in Zeeland -- she was born in 1926 -- and it was nice to read about that area.

This was one of the books I bought in October 2014 from the Netherlands.

Annie M.G. Schmidt

A fighting chance

This is the first book I read in my effort to learn more about all major candidates for the 2016 Presidential elections.

I don't often read autobiographies but this book came up in a conversation over the summer and Ginny kindly lent me her copy.

Ms Warren is passionate, down-to-earth yet very knowledgeable. She is probably not going to run for the presidency yet -- but who knows? After Tuesday's mid-term elections she might think a little more about giving it a try -- her main potential competitors Clinton and Biden didn't do very well with their endorsements. At the other hand, she is really focused on financial reform and consumer protection but doesn't have much of a reputation in other fields. I don't mean to diminish that: her role is very valuable, but she is less of a politician and more of an expert. Probably not the most logical match for running for President.

In any case, I enjoyed reading this book.

Elizabeth Warren

De dokter en het lichte meisje

The main character is interesting. A world-wise, almost cynical young doctor at the start of his career in the 1950's.

The book is obviously well written but lacks the brilliance of some of other Vestdijk's works.

Simon Vestdijk


Recent comments

Recently read

Books I've recently read: