Guus Bosman

software engineering director

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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 meaning of human existence

Interesting collection of essays on human evolution and related subjects.

I bought this book in a nice bookstore in Palo Alto while waiting for my coworkers for dinner.

Edward O. Wilson

Sophie's World

This book combines a history of philosophy with a novel. Both are quite interesting and while written for young adults, this was an enjoyable book.

I got this book in paperback but I read it mostly on my phone. I think I started reading it once, many years ago. The first 50 pages were a little dry but it got better later in the book. The last half was the most interesting.

Jostein Gaarder

The American future: a history

I received a book by Simon Schama for my birthday, but it is difficult to read a physical book while feeding a baby a bottle so I looked for an electronic version. I didn't find the exact same book but instead I read "The American future" and it was a great read.

Simon Schama

A time for truth

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

The first half of the book is a nice autobiography. Mr Cruz is a law-geek, and behaves quite similarly to the tech-geeks that I'm well familiar with. He clearly thinks high of himself -- and he truly seems a smart person -- but also knows that pride can be his weakness and he is nicely self-deprecating at times.

In the last 100 pages, when he is a Senator, the book changes its tone and it became harder to sympathize with Mr. Cruz -- his ideas and comments are just too different and in my opinion completely wrong.

The Benghazi/IRS nonsense overshadows his arguments when he points out legitimately dubious elements of the Obama administration's actions such as the wiretapping of journalists


Tough Choices

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.

Carly Fiorina

Immigration Wars

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.

Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick

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

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.

Mike Huckabee

Government bullies

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.

Rand Paul

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.