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Books I've Read

By Jimmy Longley on July 23, 2016pile of books

When I left home in February, I had lots of big ideas about what I wanted to get out of my travels. I should write a whole post about what I’ve learned, but one part of it was the dream and ambition of being able to devote all of my energy to learning, which I found difficult when I was working full time. I don’t even remember how it started, but I got the idea in my head that I wanted to read 100 books. At the time, I didn’t consider how big a number this was: that’s two books a week! Basically, I’ve been reading my ass off. Here’s my running list and my thoughts on the journey.


The few people who know my plan have given me mixed reactions. While traveling, should I be spending so much time reading instead of doing? Still, the process of reading has been self-reinforcing and I feel more motivated now than ever. As with my larger approach to getting the most out of my experience, I'm not over thinking it.

Obviously, I like reading books. I took on this goal because it is something that I enjoy and value. At the same time, the engineer in me can’t help but wondering, what is the point? Knowing I’ll forget the vast majority of the things I read, is it worth investing such a huge amount of time and effort?

"I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The notion that I forget so much of what I read really bothered me. In my haste to reach my goal, I found I was finishing one book and immediately diving into the next, and preventing myself from really understanding and internalizing as much as I could. I was losing the forest for the trees. I decided that I wanted to become a better reader, and became much more intentional in my process. Since then, I’ve iterated many times on how I approach a book, and part of that has led me to create this wall of text. I doubt many people will read it (hey good job!), but the process of writing it has been invaluable to me.

My Books

Full disclosure: if you follow a link on this page and purchase a book, I may earn a small commission for my recommendation at no additional cost to you. Thanks for the support!

The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2)

Liu, Cixin - Finished Mar 30, 2017

More Chinese hard science fiction goodness.

Full Review

Shit my History Teacher DID NOT tell me!

Wiggins, Karl - Finished Mar 28, 2017

I was hoping for an irreverent and fun look at history, but “Shit” is so poorly written and inaccurate that I could barely slog through half of it.

Full Review

Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

Hari, Johann - Finished Mar 26, 2017

Johann Hari’s expose of the drug war is a page turner because it focuses more on crafting compelling narratives than giving unbiased dispassionate information.

Full Review

Make It Stick

Brown, Peter C. - Finished Mar 23, 2017

No summary yet. Book reports are hard. Maybe I’ll actually come back and do these some time.

Full Review

Flowers for Algernon

Keyes, Daniel - Finished Mar 17, 2017

Happily mentally disabled Charlie Gordon is given a medical procedure that elevates him to genius level intelligence, giving us insight into the human condition through his trying intellectual and emotional transformation.

Full Review

The Metamorphosis

Kafka, Franz - Finished Mar 08, 2017

Kafka’s classic absurdist novel about poverty and existential despair through the lens of a man suddenly transformed into a bug.

Full Review

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Harari, Yuval Noah - Finished Mar 04, 2017

“Sapiens” author Yuval Noah Harari’s new futurist novel feels more provocative than convincing.

Full Review

How Not To Die

Greger, Michael - Finished Mar 03, 2017

Eat a whole-food, plant based diet or die.

Full Review

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)

Liu, Cixin - Finished Feb 21, 2017

Hard science fiction and Chinese philosophy: what’s not to love?

Full Review

When Breath Becomes Air

Kalanithi, Paul - Finished Feb 15, 2017

A successful neurosurgeon’s short memoir exploring what gives life meaning, written desperately in his final years after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at age 40.

Full Review

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

Pinker, Steven - Finished Feb 13, 2017

An entertaining and nontraditional style guide that teaches you how to use common sense and principles of cognitive science to improve your writing.

Full Review

Rationality: From AI to Zombies

Yudkowsky, Eliezer - Finished Feb 08, 2017

Rationality, a long and meandering collection of posts from the blog Less Wrong, purports to instruct people how to leverage probability and and understanding human biases to be better but squanders the premise digressing and bashing religion.

Full Review

The War of Art

Pressfield, Steven - Finished Feb 02, 2017

Stop procrastinating, go do that thing!

Full Review

In Patagonia

Chatwin, Bruce - Finished Feb 02, 2017

Bruce Chatwin’s strange, one-of-a-kind account of his adventures through Patagonia.

Full Review

The Girl on the Train

Hawkins, Paula - Finished Jan 19, 2017

The Girl on the Train, one of those page turner pulp thrillers that I read because everyone else is reading it, uses its gimmick of a neurotic unreliable narrator to play on fantasies of bored housewives.

Full Review

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language

Pinker, Steven - Finished Jan 16, 2017

A fun, accessible, and thorough introduction to linguistics.

Full Review

Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David

Wright, Lawrence - Finished Jan 06, 2017

A compelling piece of historical journalism covering the Camp David Summit, which forged Carter’s landmark 1977 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, the most significant peace treaty since WWII.

Full Review

Of Mice and Men

Steinbeck, John - Finished Jan 04 2017

Classic little novella about hopelessness and the American dream.

Full Review

The 7 Day Startup: You Don't Learn Until You Launch

Norris, Dan - Finished Dec 25, 2016

A little startup book that stresses the importance of getting in front of customers as soon as possible.

Full Review

El Principito

Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de - Finished Dec 23, 2016

La fábula clásica sobre el dolor de crecer, y que tan difícil es guardar la inocencia y creatividad cuando llegas a ser un adulto.

Full Review

All the Light We Cannot See

Doerr, Anthony - Finished Dec 21, 2016

Masterfully written story of a blind French girl and German orphan boy swept up in the currents of the second world war.

Full Review

Because We Say So

Simmons, Dan - Finished Dec 10, 2016

The USA is seriously the worst.

Full Review

Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #1)

Simmons, Dan - Finished Dec 10, 2016

Hyperion is a smart, sprawling space opera entwining the stories of seven pilgrims in a series of novellas that construct a huge and compelling universe.

Full Review

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics

Hazlitt, Henry - Finished Dec 03, 2016

A simple intro to libertarian economics that lacks enough nuance or evidence to be persuasive of anything.

Full Review

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Vance, J.D. - Finished Nov 28, 2016

An Appalachian hillbilly passionately paints the struggles of the middle class through his personal story of battling adversity and barely beating the odds.

Full Review


Moore, Alan - Finished Nov 26, 2016

The ultimate classic in graphic novels.

Full Review

It Gets Worse: A Collection of Essays

Dawson, Shane - Finished Nov 23, 2016

A collection of humorous essays by a Youtube star about growing up as a bisexual millennial and an outsider.

Full Review

Whiskey Words & a Shovel II

Sin, r.h. - Finished Nov 21. 2016

A small poetry collection centered around getting over a breakup that didn’t reach me.

Full Review

Why Don't Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom

Willingham, Daniel T. - Finished Nov 21, 2016

An approachable summary of the lessons of cognitive science applied to learning in a K-12 classroom.

Full Review

Down the Rabbit Hole

Villalobos, Juan Pablo - Finished Nov 08, 2016

A sad little story of a boy growing up as heir to a Mexican drug cartel.

Full Review

Dark Matter

Crouch, Blake - Finished Nov 08, 2016

This alternate realities science fiction thriller takes a great premise and squanders it on pandering, one dimensional characters.

Full Review

Information Theory, Inference and Learning Algorithms

MacKay, David J.C. - Finished Nov 04, 2016

A fresh and entertaining textbook that walks through the fundamentals of information theory and machine learning.

Full Review

The Comedy Bible: From Stand-up to Sitcom--The Comedy Writer's Ultimate "How To" Guide

Carter, Judy - Finished Nov 02, 2016

Guru Judy Carter gives a step by step 26 day plan for writing your first formulaic stand-up routine.

Full Review

Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality

Dalrymple, Theodore - Finished Oct 29, 2016

In this short, stuffy intellectual book, Psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple argues that modern psychology teaches people to think of themselves as victims and undermines accountability and morality.

Full Review

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Harari, Yuval Noah - Finished Oct 24, 2016

An ambitious attempt to concisely explain the progress of human history from the dawn of man to the present day, all in 500 pages.

Full Review

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal

Moore, Christopher - Finished Oct 24, 2016

A unique and irreverent humor book about the life of Jesus before the stories in the bible, told from his best friend Biff’s perspective.

Full Review

Invisible Cities

Calvino, Italo - Finished Oct 13, 2016

The ultimate philosophical travel book, in which Calvino blurs genres by describing fantastical cities in a series of poetic vignettes.

Full Review

Zen in the Art of Writing

Bradbury, Ray - Finished Oct 10, 2016

In a series of short essays, Ray Bradbury reflects on his career and how to nurse one’s creativity.

Full Review


Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi - Finished Oct 07, 2016

This story of a Nigerian woman moving to America for opportunity and losing herself in the process is a beautiful meditation on race, culture and identity.

Full Review

The Tao of Pooh

Hoff, Benjamin - Finished Sep 30, 2016

Some guy in Oregon attempts to explain the philosophy of Taoism through Winnie The Pooh.

Full Review

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Thompson, Hunter S. - Finished Sep 29, 2016

A gonzo journalist and his ‘attorney’ go on an outrageous drug fueled bender through Las Vegas, capturing the disillusionment of the 70’s in his hunt for the American Dream.

Full Review

Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It

Wyner, Gabriel - Finished Sep 26, 2016

A popular recent book explaining a strategy for learning a new language quickly and easily.

Full Review

A Brief History of Time

Hawking, Stephen - Finished Sep 24, 2016

Classic popular science book in which the legendary Stephen Hawking gives approachable explanations for the science and theory of the big bang, general relativity, black holes, quantum physics and more.

Full Review

The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Raymond, Eric S. - Finished Sep 20, 2016

Eric Raymond, creator of SendMail and unofficial figurehead of the open source movement, explains the phenomenon in a series of classic essays.

Full Review

The Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway, Ernest - Finished Sep 19, 2016

Hemingway’s literary classic about a man and his struggle to catch a marlin, allegorically exploring themes of manhood, obsession, humility and identity.

Full Review

Cloud Atlas

Mitchell, David - Finished Sep 18, 2016

David Mitchell shows off his remarkable writing talent by weaving together six short stories into a book that is more than the sum of its parts, musing on human nature, destiny and the fate of humanity.

Full Review

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Ariely, Dan - Finished Sep 14, 2016

The famous Behavioral Economics professor, Dan Ariely, explains his research on different quirks of human psychology, such as getting better pain relief from brand name drugs than identical generic versions.

Full Review

Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained

Lin, Derek - Finished Sep 08, 2016

The book behind the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism, which preaches humility and simplicity.

Full Review

The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)

Tolkien, J.R.R. - Finished Aug 26, 2016

Frodo and Sam bring the ring closer to destruction while the rest of the gang introduces us to the wider world of middle earth and the first major battles.

Full Review

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Yudkowsky, Eliezer - Finished Aug 22, 2016

A Harry Potter fan fiction that explores an alternate reality where instead of being a bumbling idiot, Harry Potter is a young rationalist boy genius who wants to discover the inner workings of magic using science: basically, Ender Wiggin goes to Hogwarts.

Full Review

The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined

Khan, Salman - Finished Aug 20, 2016

No summary yet. Book reports are hard. Maybe I’ll actually come back and do these some time.

Full Review

The Art of War

Sun Tzu - Finished Aug 19, 2016

Hipster entrepreneur wisdom from an ancient chinese general.

Full Review

A World Without Islam

Fuller, Graham E. - Finished Aug 16, 2016

Despite the books provocative title, rather than exploring some alternate history, this book is more of a long form essay arguing that the clash between islamic peoples and the west is deep seated in history and has more to do with geopolitics than religion.

Full Review

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens

Carey, Benedict - Finished Aug 13, 2016

Benedict Carey argues we should all chill out with our learning styles by giving a rundown of the surprising benefits of distractions, forgetting, sleep, etc. as he explores the psychology of learning.

Full Review

Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts

Dehaene, Stanislas - Finished Aug 08, 2016

Neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene gives a broad overview of the leading science behind consciousness research and explains his theory of how consciousness manifests itself in the brain.

Full Review

A Short History of Nearly Everything

Bryson, Bill - Finished Aug 06, 2016

Humorist Bill Bryson gives a broad overview of science and its history from the perspective of an amateur enthusiast.

Full Review

A History of Western Philosophy: And Its Connection with Political and Social Circumstances from the Earliest Times to the Present Day

Russell, Bertrand - Finished Aug 03, 2016

Bertrand Russell’s tome of a textbook provides an overview of the most important western philosophers and schools of thought since the dawn of civilization.

Full Review

The Stranger

Camus, Albert - Finished Jul 23, 2016

In The Stranger, Camus creates a character that is a true existentialist and explores the consequences.

Full Review

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading

Adler, Mortimer J. - Finished Jul 21, 2016

To be a better reader of expositional literature, read actively instead of just passively or linearly: change the speed at which you read the book and searching for underlying structure and key ideas.

Full Review

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

Liu, Ken - Finished Jul 21, 2016

Several science fiction short stories by acclaimed author Ken Liu, including his Paper Menagerie which won tons of awards.

Full Review

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)

Tolkien, J.R.R. - Finished Jul 17, 2016

This classic tale of Frodo and the ring needs no introduction.

Full Review

The Lessons of History

Durant, Will - Finished Jul 15, 2016

Will and Ariel Durant, some of the best scholars of modern times, expound on the lessons they’ve learned by composing their massive 11-volume tome, “The Story Of Civilization.”

Full Review

Einstein's Dreams

Lightman, Alan - Finished Jul 10, 2016

While working on his theory of relativity, Einstein dreams of a series of worlds in which the altered physics of time lead to contrived and overly romanticized scenarios.

Full Review

The Hobbit

Tolkien, J.R.R. - Finished Jul 6, 2016

The tale of Bilbo and the ring is a true literary classic and one of the greatest fantasy books ever written.

Full Review

Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup

Walling, Rob - Finished Jun 23, 2016

A short, no-nonsense guide to starting a small niche business online that clearly comes from experience.

Full Review

American Gods

Gaiman, Neil - Finished Jun 18, 2016

The story of Shadow, an ex con who, after his wife is killed, gets sucked into a criminal underworld and discovers that the gods from stories and legends are real.

Full Review

The Art of Travel

Botton, Alain de - Finished Jun 03, 2016

Alain De Botton quotes a series of famous travelers and then compares it to his own traveling experiences, waxing poetic on topics such as “On the Exotic” and “On Anticipation.”

Full Review

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Adams, Douglas - Finished Jun 03, 2016

A stupid British everyman is sucked up into an insane adventure across the universe and gradually and hilariously comes to understand how it is all one big absurd joke.

Full Review

The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

Hunt, Andrew - Finished May 26, 2016

This classic, aging, non-technical programming self-help book is full of a hodgepodge of opinionated ideas and anecdotes about how to improve at the general skills of being a software developer.

Full Review

The Theory of Poker

Sklansky, David - Finished May 16, 2016

The ultimate classic text explaining the ins and outs of good poker strategy.

Full Review

Eating Animals

Safran Foer, Jonathan - Finished May 16, 2016

Jonathan Safran Foer confronts the reader with the brutal truths about the devastating ethical and environmental problems with factory farming in a bid to get people to become vegetarians.

Full Review

Everything Is Bullshit: The greatest scams on Earth revealed

Mayyasi, Alex - Finished May 16, 2016

A series of articles from Pricenomics, an economics blog, converted into a book about weird behaviors of our society, such as how nobody can tell the differences between cheap and expensive wine.

Full Review

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Finnegan, William - Finished May 14, 2016

With remarkable detail and lucidity, William Finnegan chronicles his life’s adventures as he surfs his way across the world.

Full Review

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

Quinn, Daniel - Finished Apr 30, 2016

A man seeking seeking a teacher receives a set of philosophical lessons from the caged gorilla Ishmael, which ultimately amount to a bunch of overly simplified and lame anthropology lectures.

Full Review

The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation: As Taught by S. N. Goenka

Hart, William - Finished Apr 25, 2016

A brief introduction to Vipassana meditation, and a guidebook for a popular 10 day retreat.

Full Review

Stories of Your Life and Others

Chiang, Ted - Finished Apr 25, 2016

A phenomenal series of science fiction short stories.

Full Review

Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience

Gothelf, Jeff - Finished Apr 18, 2016

A short manifesto on how to integrate design work with a software team employing the lean strategy.

Full Review

Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Revised)

Norman, Donald A. - Finished Apr 16, 2016

The bible of product design.

Full Review


King, Stephen - Finished Apr 16, 2016

A group of outcast kids in a small town grapple with the horrors of bullies, growing up, and a killer clown.

Full Review

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (Voices That Matter)

Weinschenk, Susan M. - Finished Mar 27, 2016

A list of 100 takeaways from modern psychology relating to how people think, and their implications for design.

Full Review

Between the World and Me

Coates, Ta-Nehisi - Finished Mar 27, 2016

No summary yet. Book reports are hard. Maybe I’ll actually come back and do these some time.

Full Review

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3)

Sanderson, Brandon - Finished Mar 27, 2016

Somehow, after twelve hundred pages, Vin and Elend are in even deeper shit than they’ve been in up until now, and they’ll need to come together and trust each other if they want to defeat evil and save the world.

Full Review

Into the Wild

Krakauer, Jon - Finished Mar 20, 2016

No summary yet. Book reports are hard. Maybe I’ll actually come back and do these some time.

Full Review

Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Steinbeck, John - Finished Mar 10, 2016

No summary yet. Book reports are hard. Maybe I’ll actually come back and do these some time.

Full Review

Into Thin Air

Krakauer, Jon - Finished Mar 08, 2016

No summary yet. Book reports are hard. Maybe I’ll actually come back and do these some time.

Full Review

Modern Romance: An Investigation

Ansari, Aziz - Finished Mar 08, 2016

No summary yet. Book reports are hard. Maybe I’ll actually come back and do these some time.

Full Review

The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2)

Sanderson, Brandon - Finished Mar 04, 2016

After doing the impossible and defeating the Lord Ruler, Vin struggles to come in to her own identity as a Mistborn hero, and hold together her fledgling empire.

Full Review

The White Tiger

Adiga, Aravind - Finished Feb 27, 2016

No summary yet. Book reports are hard. Maybe I’ll actually come back and do these some time.

Full Review

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Krug, Steve - Finished Feb 25, 2016

No summary yet. Book reports are hard. Maybe I’ll actually come back and do these some time.

Full Review

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Pirsig, Robert M. - Finished Feb 25, 2016

No summary yet. Book reports are hard. Maybe I’ll actually come back and do these some time.

Full Review

The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)

Sanderson, Brandon - Finished Feb 24, 2016

A young girl struggles in a dystopian alternate reality until she discovers her mentor, a criminal mastermind named Kelsier, who helps her unlock her magical powers of allomancy, and involves her in a plot to overthrow the tyrannical Lord Ruler.

Full Review

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

Sedaris, David - Finished Feb 23, 2016

David Sedaris relates a series of funny anecdotes from his life, exploring his familiar themes of family and being an outsider.

Full Review

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Covey, Stephen R. - Finished Jan 08, 2016

No summary yet. Book reports are hard. Maybe I’ll actually come back and do these some time.

Full Review