Table of Contents
With 2022 coming to an end, I thought I’d share a list of some of the books I enjoyed during the year and that I recommend reading. I grouped them by category (in no particular order,) and, since there are quite a few, I just wrote a short comment for each to avoid writing an overwhelmingly long article.
I’m quite happy with the number of books I managed to finish this year (more than fifty.) This is partly due to the realization of how much using Audible to consume books while doing something else is convenient and efficient (although I only found it suitable for non-technical books.)
IT Related #
- Building Secure and Reliable Systems: Best Practices for Designing, Implementing, and Maintaining Systems (Heather Adkins, et al.)An insightful book written by Google engineers on systems design strategies, coding/testing/debugging, and incident management.
- Container Security: Fundamental Technology Concepts That Protect Containerized Applications (Liz Rice)A well-written book with good practical advice.
- Practical Monitoring (Mike Julian)I needed to do some work related to monitoring this year, and I found this book helpful.
- Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking (Christopher Hadnagy) An entertaining read, but doesn’t good very in-depth.
- Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World (Bruce Schneier)A book on privacy, data collection, and surveillance. Still relevant despite being seven years old.
- Learn Wireshark: Confidently navigate the Wireshark interface and solve real-world networking problems (Lisa Bock)Nice introduction if you want to learn how to use Wireshark. Otherwise, you might just learn a couple of tricks.
- The Gene: An Intimate History (Siddhartha Mukherjee) “Reading The Gene is like taking a course from a brilliant and passionate professor who is just sure he can make you understand what he’s talking about… Excellent.” - Seattle Times
- The Art of Statistics: Learning from Data (David Spiegelhalter) “In this wonderfully accessible introduction to modern statistics, David Spiegelhalter has created a worthy successor to classics such as Mooney’s Facts from Figures. Using many real examples, he introduces the methods and underlying concepts, showing the power and elegance of statistics for gaining understanding and for informing decision-making.” - David J. Hand
- Brief Answers to the Big Questions (Stephen Hawking) “Brief Answers is effortlessly instructive, absorbing, up to the minute and - where it matters - witty.” - The Guardian
- Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (Dan Ariely) “A marvelous book that is both thought provoking and highly entertaining, ranging from the power of placebos to the pleasures of Pepsi. Ariely unmasks the subtle but powerful tricks that our minds play on us, and shows us how we can prevent being fooled.” - Jerome Groopman
- Thinking, Fast and Slow **** (Daniel Kahneman)Took me a long time to read. The premise of the book is interesting, and the examples it is giving are enlightening, but I’m not too fond of the writing style and it could be shorter.
Biography Books #
- Next Stop Execution: The Autobiography of Oleg Gordievsky (Oleg Gordievsky) The history of the highest-ranking KGB agent that ever worked for the UK, from his early life to his crazy escape from the USSR.
- The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal (David E. Hoffman)The story of Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer in a Soviet military design bureau that shared a tremendous amount of information with the CIA that contributed to making the USA achieve military dominance during the cold war.
- The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz (Erik Larson)“Through the remarkably skillful use of intimate diaries as well as public documents, some newly released, Larson has transformed the well-known record of 12 turbulent months, stretching from May of 1940 through May of 1941, into a book that is fresh, fast and deeply moving.” - Candice Millard, The New York Times Book Review
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike (Phil Knight)How Nike was created and grew to what it is today
- L’éclaireur (Sergueï Jirnov)The autobiography of an ex-KGB agent that was on the path to infiltrating the top of the French administration before the collapse of the USSR and leaving the service. Most of the book is related to how the author came to become an illegal and was trained (In French only)
- Profession espion (Olivier Mas)An ex-DGSE agent speaking about his years in the service. A good read, but don’t expect to learn anything ground-breaking (In French only)
- Rogue Heroes: The History of the SAS, Britain’s Secret Special Forces Unit That Sabotaged the Nazis and Changed the Nature of War (Ben Macintyre) The brilliantly narrated story of the creation of Britain’s Special Air Service, and some of their operation during world war 2.
- Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS (Joby Warrick) “A revealing, riveting and exquisitely detailed account of the life and death of Zarqawi, the improbable terrorist mastermind, and the rise of the movement now known as the Islamic State (also known as ISIS).” - San Francisco Chronicle
- Les espions de la terreur (Matthieu Suc) An investigation on ISIS’ secret services (only available in French)
- Prisoners of the Castle: An Epic Story of Survival and Escape from Colditz, the Nazis’ Fortress Prison (Ben Macintyre) Another great book by Macintyre that was released this year. (“The spy and the traitor” and “Agent Sonya” are still my favorites though; definitely recommend)
- The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West (Christopher Andrew)A book based on exfiltrated KGB archives. A lot of interesting information but a good part of the reading can be pretty laborious as it feels like you are just thrown a ton of names and dates at. I probably won’t read the second volume (“The KGB & the Battle for the Third World”) right away.
- KGB - La véritable histoire des services secrets soviétiques (Bernard Lecomte)A story of the KGB from its creation to its death (only in French.) Less information than the Mitrokhin archive, but a lot more enjoyable to read.
As I’m lucky to see some career progression lately, I found these two books to give useful pointers.
- Staff Engineer: Leadership Beyond the Management Track (Will Larson)
- The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change (Camille Fournier)
- Central Banking 101 (Joseph J. Wang)This book offers some clear explanations to help understand how the financial system and money creation work
- The Millionaire Fastlane: Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime! (M.J. DeMarco)Despite what the title can suggest, not a scammy book on “how to get rich quickly and effortlessly.” The author makes some good points but is a bit too repetitive at times
True Crime #
- Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath (Bill Browder)A book uncovering financial fraud that can be tied to Russian officials, and the fight that ensued to freeze related assets
- Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime - from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door (Brian Krebs)“A fascinating and somewhat disheartening look why spam is so common… readers of Spam Nation will never look at the spam in their inbox the same way again.” - USA Today
- Chinese Espionage: Operations and Tactics (Nicholas Eftimiades)I usually don’t read a lot about Chinese espionage, so I found this book interesting, albeit fairly short.
- Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (Oliver Burkeman)Was pleasant to read a book speaking about time management which is not throwing toxic or meaningless productivity “advice” one after the other.
- 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (Yuval Noah Harari)“In Sapiens, he explored our past. In Homo Deus, he looked to our future. Now, [Harari] turns to the present.” All three books are great, but my favorite stays the first one.
- Cover picture by Dmitrij Paskevic