2020 Book “Reviews” – Part Two

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife – Mary Roach
I was going into this expecting Mary to rip apart all the famous (or infamous) “ghost photos” and whatnot with some behind-the-scene knowledge and a little common sense. Instead it covers a select few “paranormal” and unknown scientific-ish topics, sighting research, and covering some anecdotes and research of the authors own. All this is done with smile-inducing witty comments and a constant sense of “get a load of this guy”. I’m looking forward to reading more of Mary Roach’s books.

Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground – Kevin Poulsen
This was a deep dive into Max Ray Butler’s life in the cybercrime world of carding. I really enjoyed this over Brian Kreb’s Spam Nation, which covered a similar topic. Kevin Poulsen focused on the subject at hand, not really getting into morality or any personal anecdotes about the story, like a real journalist. It is an interesting story of the early days of the carding scene and the ease of cybercrime in the days after the dotcom bubble. A very good read if you are interested in infosec.

The One-Straw Revolution – Masanobu Fukuoka
I want to start off with saying I know very little about farming. However, this book is just as much about philosophy as it is about farming. As much as I enjoyed this, I do feel that while the farming technique explained in this book (a natural way to farm a handful of grains), it is extremely specific to the authors location. Regardless, there is a lot of thought provoking ideas in this book.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex – Mary Roach
Where to start with this one. I guess the first thing to get out of the way is that it is all about penises and vaginas, for the most part. Following the style of the previous Mary Roach book I read, it digs into the history of the science and research of sex, sprinkling in humor here and there. I enjoy the structure of the two I have read so far, so I think I’ll end up reading the rest of this authors library.

Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now – Jaron Lanier
The first thing I want to say is, this is what I expected of “How to Do Nothing”. In comparison, this book is a much faster read and has actual content, not just anecdotes and excessive depth into unrelated topics. Jaron touches on the effects of social media on himself and others, the business model behind social media companies, and the potential dangers of allowing them to continue to operate how they currently do. His view and perspective due to his history in “tech” makes a lot of these concerns and points a bit more impactful to me personally. I look forward to reading more from him.

The Coddling of the American Mind – Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
First and foremost, parents of non-adult children, read this book now. Read the whole thing. This book covers some pretty big issues still going on in 2020. It covers some pretty scary-when-you-think-about-it patterns arising in the past 5-8 years in schools/children and how they are impacting society as a whole. Additionally, it offers resources for further reading and potential solutions for these issues.

1984 – George Orwell
So, this is a re-read. I am going to make this an “every five year” read, I think. There isn’t much to say about this book that hasn’t been said or thought already. I feel that it is still just as important to read today as it was the last time I read it, which was maybe 10 years ago. If you haven’t read this, read it. Then read Brave New World and Animal Farm.

Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World – Joseph Menn
This was a really fun read into the history of the cDc and other associated groups of the time. While there was a lot of cool stories and information to read, I felt it was really scattered. I often asked myself “wait, when is this happening?” while reading through it. If you exclude the first and last parts of the book, it feels like a solid retelling of history. With those two parts taken into account, it somewhat feels like a “coming out” story for Beto O’Rourke. I’m not sure if I’m reading an advertisement or not. Regardless, if you have any interest in the cDc, it is worth the read.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth – John Marco Allegro
Preface: I know nothing about Christianity or much about religion in general. To me, this book points out that the bible is made up of several games of telephone, a bit of bad translation, and a sprinkle of tweaks to control the populous. I did have a hard time deciphering some of the language used in excerpts of various religious texts, mostly due to lack of motivation to reread them. The commentary by the author is much more the focus of my purpose for reading this. I am impressed by the work put into the translations of the scrolls/texts the author had access to and the analysis and comparison of all the religious texts cited. I feel that it is a net positive for the world to have someone who will put the effort into working with artifacts like the Dead Sea Scrolls and actually publish his work.

And with that, I finished my previously posted list of books, as well as an additional few. Since it is early October as I’m writing this, I guess there will be a part three to this series. Extra credit, so to speak.

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