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.


The Big Roads


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:


A Universe from Nothing


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.



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.

Carl Sagan

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.

Melvyn Bragg

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:


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

English for work

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.

I read 1493 a few weeks later. Great read too.

978-1400032051 (I read the second edition)

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West

Stephen Ambrose

This was a terrific book, and what a story! I didn't know anything about Lewis and Clark, except the fact that they made a big journey to the West Coast. This book does a great job bringing that experience to life, and place it in its historic context. Highly recommended.



Neal Stephenson wrote some of my ever favorite books -- and a few that I didn't care for. It took me a while to figure out which category Reamde falls in. I like the book, though it took me a few hundred pages to get into it.

I guess the biggest thing is not to except too much depth, but just to except a nice action-packed story. The book certainly delivers that and it is nicely up-to-date with technology.

Neal Stephenson

The old man and the sea

It's one of those famous titles that I've always wanted to read, and this book didn't disappointed. I enjoyed this short story of a man who goes out fishing -- and the risks he took. Beautiful prose.

Ernest Hemingway

The Signal and the Noise: why so many predictions fail-but some don't

Nate Silver

This was an entertaining book by Nate Silver, who I got to know during the 2010 and 2012 elections as a insightful commentator. His background in statistics and love for numbers gives a nice dose of realism to the superficial world of political commentary.

This book describes Mr. Silver's eclectic career so far and dives into several separate subjects where he beliefs his data-based analysis are useful. From climate change to the stock market, his point of view as statistician is valuable and he does a nice job explaining Bayesian logic to the general public.

The book is a little repetitive at times, and could have been 20% shorter, but this is not big deal.

Big Data, over-fitting

He is skeptical of the Big Data 'movement' which sometimes seems to imply that "if we only capture enough data, insight will follow automatically". Mr. Silver has a lot of experience with large data sets and convincingly shows the dangers of over-fitting and emphasizes that human research and insight is no substitute for large amount of data. This is a refreshing counter-argument to some of the hype in the commercial data-gathering world.

English for work


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