Guus Bosman

software engineering manager


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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.


Topic: 

Meneer en mevrouw zijn gek

Interesting book about live in a mental institution in Bloemendaal, the Netherlands. The author spent many months with real patients and weaved their real stories into fictional narratives. Gripping.

I bought this book at a flea market at the Dutch school. I didn't realize this is the author of a book that made a big impression on me when I was younger: het verrotte leven van Floortje Bloem, about a young drug user. Mrs Keuls was famous when she wrote this book and several times characters in the book treat her differently because of who she is.

The author has a talent for telling deeply personal stories. It is scary to read about these people's inner-lives -- some seem almost normal, but with deep and sad problems. The last few chapters, about patient with depression, are particularly tough.

Dutch
Yvonne Keuls
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Topic: 

Out of Order

This is a short book by the first female Judge on the Supreme Court. It was interesting to read a little bit how things work behind the scenes, and to read more on the Court's history.

I read this book on the flight from DC to San Francisco.

English
Sandra Day O'Connor
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Topic: 

Tension City

I borrowed an electronic book from our library this weekend when I was waiting for Nora to fell asleep in the other apartment.

English
Jim Lehrer
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Topic: 

De Koperen Tuin

When I was in my last year of highschool, or the year before that, I read De Kellner en de Levenden. I was very impressed by the book and the author.

A few years ago I brought a pile of second-hand books from the Netherlands in my luggage; mainly Vestdijk novels. I just finished De Koperen Tuin and I loved it.

Made me nostalgic for a time I never knew. Very impressive.

English
Simon Vestdijk
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Topic: 

The Big Roads

English

Recently I've been reading about the history of Arlington and specifically about traffic calming. I saw reference in a newspaper article to this author, who said that he expects that Arlington will regret its refusal to allow HOT lanes through the county (Arlington preferred the real HOV). Turns out that he wrote a book on highways.

There was even a reference to Arlington in the book:

Topic: 

A Universe from Nothing

English

It has been a few years since I've been reading about physics and boy, a lot has happened since I read Hawkings popular books.

I'll be honest -- A Universe from Nothing was something hard to follow and I don't pretend to fully understand everything that the author explained. I sort of get the proof that we live in a flat universe, but the multi-verse and "creating something from nothing" are truly weird. Very interesting to read to.

On the last day I was reading the book, news broke that gravity waves were detected.

Topic: 

Cosmos

Terrific book. When I was a kid, I read Contact from the same author. I still remember the location of the book in the library in Middenmeer, just around the corner from the main hallway.

Cosmos is a terrific book, very energizing and hopeful.

English
Carl Sagan
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Topic: 

The Adventure of English

The Adventure of English is an enjoyable book about the history of the English language. It gives a good summary of the main events that shaped English.

It is written from a British perspective. The anthropomorphism by the author of treating English as a "person" is a little weird but doesn't interfere too much with the text: "But English was too smart to be pinned down, even by the English".

Author loves language but has a survivors bias in claiming that English was uniquely adapteble and therefore strong.

This book was recommended by Eric.

English
Melvyn Bragg
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Topic: 

The IDA Pro Book

Chris Eagle

Inspired by the course I took on malicious software, I spent some more time learning about disassembling and analysis executables.

I used IDA Pro as editor and the IDA Pro Book was a great manual.

I was using a trial version of IDA Pro which does not allow you to save your work. But it does allow you to run macro's, so I created scripts like these that allowed me to persist my comments and observations:

#include 

static main() {	
	rename_safely(0x0804896E, "main");
	rename_safely(0x0804892E, "disable_ptrace");
	rename_safely(0x8048AD6, "exit_program");

978-1593272890
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English for work
Topic: 

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

Charles C. Mann

After reading a great book on the experiences of Lewis and Clark, where the Indian population played a very important role in keeping the expedition alive, I wanted to know more about life in the Americas before Columbus. This book came highly recommended from a list on reddit; perhaps not the most reliable source but this book was terrific and I can't wait to read the follow-up, 1493.

1491 makes three big statements about Native Americans (or Indians, the nomenclature is fraught with peril but these are the names used in the book). First, Indians have been in the Americans much longer than what is usually depicted in older history books. Second, Indians were much more populous than previously thought -- perhaps close in population to Europe around that time and third, that Indians had a very active role in shaping their environment.

These three statements, which point to incredibly rich cultures and civilizations, are based on recent scientific insights. The book does an excellent job in describing what modern scientists think about these issues, and what the consensus is. The author gives descriptions of the political and scientific "battles" that took place in academia over the past hundred years or so.

It's a great book, but the story it describes is a tragedy. The introduction of smallpox and other European diseases had a horrific effect on the Indian civilizations. Over the course of a hundred years, more than 90% of people died, possibly as many as 97%. In the author's words: the Columbus Exchange where goods and ideas transferred between the New and the Old World, resulted in a calamitous death toll. The people in the Americas who died made up as much as 20% of the entire world population.

It's a tragedy, even many generations later. It's also a shame that we know so little about those great civilizations.

978-1400032051 (I read the second edition)
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English

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