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.



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

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");

Chris Eagle
English for work

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

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.

Charles C. Mann
978-1400032051 (I read the second edition)

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

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.

Stephen Ambrose


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

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.

Nate Silver
English for work

The World America Made

This book talks about the unique role of the United States over the past century, and what it would mean if the role of the U.S. in the international system would decrease in the future.

The author makes a good case that the influence of the U.S. has been largely positive, certainly compared to the alternatives. He also decries the commentators who say that America's influence is on the wane -- in his view, America's influence since WW2 has always been a decidedly mixed story, with many failures and humiliations in the international arena -- and that this is nothing new.

"when American power declines, the institutions and norms American power supports will decline too."

The author is not starry-eyed or naive about the real-politik the U.S. has often played, but convincingly makes the argument that it is better for the world if the U.S. is powerful and engaged.

This was an interesting book to read. It's good that it's short -- the argument becomes a little repetitive -- but it was a convincing read.

Robert Kagan

Reizen zonder John

A historian writing a book about current affairs is a risky proposition but for the well-known Dutch author Geert Mak it turned out to be a temptation too great to resist. This is unfortunate since his book about the current state of the United States is deeply flawed, even though it is well written and beautifully combines Mr. Mak's sharp eye for the human aspect of history, a story of a road trip through the USA in 2010 with his deep knowledge of John Steinbeck.

Geert Mak