The Martian

The Martian - Andy Weir Probably the most enjoyable book I've read in years, possibly ever. I loved the humor, loved the plot, loved the main character. There were long chucks of some what unaccessible science-y talk, but being an Electrical Engineer, I know just enough about the other engineering/science fields to find the long diatribes about oxygenators and water reclamation equipment accessible and interesting, yet I don't know enough to know whether Weir was just pulling it all of out his ass. I started off being slightly annoyed that the Mars mission didn't follow the plan laid out in [b:The Case For Mars|20053272|The Case For Mars|Robert Zubrin||27735947], but if he had, there wouldn't be too much drama.

Watney's wry, irreverent tone had me from the start, and kept me reading despite initially being slightly put off. I took him more as the NASA version of Capt. Reynolds, rather than an annoying "bro", which he might have come off as to others. I laughed out loud at his quips more times than I could count.

More in the spoiler zone...

Some of the plot points got a little over the top, but most were believable, with a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. The final rendezvous was a bit too over the top for me. I found Watney's log to be far more enjoyable to read than anything else back on Earth or Hermes, though the moment when the girl discovered that Watney was still alive was magical. I can see why the Earth chapters were included, but they aren't nearly as good as the mission log ones.

My only real complaint is that the book is over. Such a fun, engaging reading. I do feel like it was light on the denouement. I had a feeling it would be light on the wrap-up, which was confirmed when I looked down and Watney was still on the MAV at 97%. I really wanted to know how Watney adjusted to life with other people, and back on Earth. I suppose that wasn't the story Weir wanted to tell, which is understandable. Wouldn't want the book to drag on, but maybe he'll write The Earthling. Probably not, but a guy can hope.

Ancillary Justice

Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie Two straight 5-stars? What is the world coming to?

I do have some complaints, mostly that the switching perspectives were slightly too confusing at times, and that some of the back story and motivations weren't 100% fleshed out. But, I liked it. A lot. Very original and engaging. I think that some of the moral ambivalence between choosing a side wasn't a flaw, but rather a commentary on the fact that neither side is good or bad, that the world is grey, and One Esk is a part of that greyness.

My only real complain is that it just sort of ends. I think it is a series, and I hope the series continues to follow these characters...


Embassytown - China MiƩville Very unique, yet quite entertaining. Things got weird, yet were still accessible enough to ultimately be rather beautiful.

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God - Timothy Keller, Kathy Keller While he makes many very good points, it is clear that much of the book is indeed adapted from his sermons to his church, of which ~80% are singles. Much of the advice is in the realm of selecting a good spouse, and that advice is very much spot on, if you are looking for a spouse. The book is rather light on how to actually "face the complexities of commitment" aside from make good choices before marriage.

I would definitely recommend this to any singles looking for a solid marriage book, but it is lacking in detail for those who already took the plunge and want to try to save it.

Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage

Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage - Stephanie Coontz Quite a fascinating read. If you have ever wondered what "traditional marriage" even means, read this book. It culminates with a discussion of the current state of marriage, which I am still grappling with, but that I think was mostly spot on.

Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street's Post-Crash Recruits

Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street's Post-Crash Recruits - Kevin Roose It was an enjoyable read because Roose has an engaging, yet easy-going writing style, though the content was somewhat lacking. He admits himself multiple times that his "study" suffers from selection bias. It is likely that it was only the outsiders, the people who were likely to be more critical or to wash out that were willing to speak with him in such detail. It paints a somewhat biased picture of the life of young money.

He also admits (with anecdotes to back it up) that he became personal friends with many of the "subjects". Not that this is bad, per-se, but the book can't seem to figure out whether it is a full blown critique of Wall Street as a whole from an objective position, or if it is a memoir detailing how 8 of his buddies who were predisposed to have a shit time on Wall Street in fact had a shit time on Wall Street.

These issues aside, it was interesting, and parts were informative, especially the critique of the Wall Street recruiting process at the big name schools, Worth a read, if the subject sounds interesting.

A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations

A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations - Daniel Fleisch A decent review, but had I not had physics 2 previously, I would have been completely lost. I had a really great professor for Physics 2, so I found myself wishing the author would have made similar points.

Overall, a good review and a good quick guide for when I don't want to go through my old lecture notes.

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt - Michael Lewis Fascinating read. I could read Lewis write about paint drying and be engrossed. Actually, Lewis, how about it? I've always kinda wondered what exact happens there.

Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way

Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way - Walter Wink Short and "sweet", but packs quite a punch. While I had the main thrust of the argument "spoiled" for me at a Q&A with Rob Bell, this is very much a must read. It was quick, took only several hours, which might be my one complaint. It focused mostly on Jesus' teaching on turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, etc, as well as many examples from history. I would have preferred a bit more rigorous examination of the biblical text (or at least the NT, or at the very least more on how the nonviolent worldview culminates in the cross) but I can extrapolate and/or wait for Boyd's forthcoming "Crucifixion of the Warrior God" (for which I can't wait!)

The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles - Karen Thompson Walker The prose was beautiful in most spots, but the story was very flimsy, and the science was even more so.

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly - Anthony Bourdain Very interesting and entertaining. He's a better writer than I expected. Some of the long lists of french food terms got tedious, especially since they were never defined, but there was enough other stuff to keep me interested

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1 - Zack Whedon, Georges Jeanty, Karl Story, Laura Martin, Michael Heisler I have a hard time getting into comics (graphic novels?). I consider it a personal deficiency and not an issue with the genre. I tried to give this one a go, since, ya know... Firefly... I am intrigued, I guess. I'll probably read the rest of the series, since, ya know...

Early Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial Independence

Early Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial Independence - Jacob Lund Fisker First off, I want to say the low rating is not due to a disagreement about the concept of early retirement via extreme savings and pared down lifestyle. I am very intrigued by this concept, and thus wanted to read this book to get a better grasp on it. Unfortunately, the first half of the book is entirely him pontificating about his particular world views on work and economics. It drags on for 100 pages, and is neither original nor interesting. The second half actually addresses some of the concepts of early retirement. He talks about strategies rather than plans, as plans break down when the specifics fall out of line, where as strategies hold up to changing specifics (one of the few redeeming points to be gleaned here). His concept of the Renaissance Man is mildly intriguing, if it weren't for the fact that the entire book reads as the ramblings of someone trying to be the next Joseph Campbell.

So, unless you like the pontifications of a underdeveloped pop philosopher, I'd recommend other resources on early retirement that don't read like a manifesto on the new man. Stick with the blogs of Mr. Money Moustache or MadFIentist, or JH Collins, or others.

Child 44

Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith Good, but not great. The mystery was given away about 2/3 through and it wasn't as great of a mystery as the book wanted it to be. Character development felt forced at times, and much of the dialog was on the nose. There were some interesting and redeeming aspects, like the setting/world. A decent read overall

The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing

The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing - Taylor Larimore, Michael LeBoeuf, Mel Lindauer Very much a general overview. I don't think I learned or encountered any topics that I haven't from cursory reading on various blogs and forums. The information was solid, but not terribly in depth. I'm not sure I would recommended it over other resources I've come across.

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time - Jeff Speck I debated about the number of stars to give this; I typically only give 5 stars to books that change the way I view the world. This book did that. I have read a lot of books about the green revolution and how to reshape the economy for a more sustainable world, but most of them leave me feeling more helpless than hopeful about the future. Thankfully, this isn't one of those books.

If we want to have a more sustainable world, we need to drive our cars less, and this book gives me hope that that may be possible. As a non-city-planner myself, I'm not really sure what any next steps would be for me personally, but I can see a lot of his suggestions being implemented in Grand Rapids, which gives me hope. I would have liked a bit more practical info on how to help for the general public, which is why I debated about 4 stars, but it still fits my 5 star criteria.

Currently reading

Mere Christianity
C.S. Lewis