Books I've recently read / 2

Posted on Feb 10, 2023

My new review of books I’ve recently read.

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About 3 months ago I already wrote a similar post. Here is the link to it:

Books I’ve read in the last couple of months

Since then, I have read several more books, and here I want to write about them. I think I will continue to make such posts from time to time and I will have something like a thematic series of these posts.

Below I will briefly write my thoughts on each of these books. There is no some special rating and books are sorted in reading order. Here is just a list of them:

  1. “City” by Clifford D. Simak
  2. “The Compleat Ankh-Morpork” by Terry Pratchett
  3. “Sarmatia” by Maria Martysechich
  4. “When the sun was a God” by Zenon Kosidowski
  5. “Python Tricks: A Buffet of Awesome Python Features” by Dan Bader
  6. “Don`t make me think! A common sense approach to web usability” by Steve Krug
  7. “Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death” by Caitlin Doughty
  8. “The Last Continent” by Terry Pratchett
  9. “The Locals” by Yanka Kupala
  10. “Pinsk’s nobility” by Vintsent Dunin-Martsinkyevich
  11. “The Fall” by Albert Camus
  12. “Web Application Security: Exploitation and Countermeasures for Modern Web Applications” by Andrew Hoffman

“City” by Clifford D. Simak

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The novel “The City” was one of the most unusual and interesting books that I read in the past 2022. This is a science fiction written in the form of individual stories. Each story is framed as an old legend with a preface from the dogs-scientists (!).

The novel tells about the decline of human civilization over several centuries, as well as the emergence of a new race of intelligent dogs, which eventually replaced people.

The story is told from the perspective of representatives of this canine race, who over time are not even sure if humans existed at all in the past or it’s just a legend.

The novel asks questions - what are the ways of development of human civilization in the future and what problems and challenges can be on these paths? Although the reader will still have to look for answers to them himself.

In general, I can classify this book as one of the best representatives of classic science fiction and recommend it to all fans of this genre.

“The Compleat Ankh-Morpork” by Terry Pratchett

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This book is a tourist guide to the streets of Ankh-Morpork, the largest and most amazing city in Discworld! As a big fan of Terry Pratchett, I couldn’t get past this book. And although it does not have any plot or history, but is really a guide to a fictional city, I was very interested to learn more about the life of this city.

Reading all these descriptions of such familiar places, and seeing mentions of some heroes of the Discworld novels - it’s all very fun and pleasant when this is one of your favorite fictional universes!

This is one of the few books that I have purchased in paper form and I can say that the quality of the illustrations, design, and printing also adds to the pleasure of reading.

“Sarmatia” by Maria Martysechich

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An interesting modern Belarusian poem about love and self-determination. A lot of vivid poetic images and allusions to some current Belarusian (?) realities create a very unusual atmosphere.

By the way, I first knew about this work from one of the best Belarusian-language podcasts - “Belarusian literature with beer” (Белліт пад піва).

I won’t say that I fully understood all the meanings and references, but as is often the case with poetic works, this requires reading it more than once. And I think that in the future I will return to Sarmatia again.

“When the sun was a God” by Zenon Kosidowski

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Quite an interesting book by a Polish author about the history of the formation of archeology as a science. It tells how European countries discovered the history and culture of ancient peoples, such as the Sumerians, Egyptians, and ancient Greece.

The book tells the stories of the discoverers of ancient treasures, adventurers, and passionate people who, often without the necessary education and opportunities, carried out complex research and made amazing discoveries. I think it was such people who were the prototypes of Indiana Jones.

But in addition to praising the persistence and success of these people, the author often rightly criticizes their methods of research. It was often based not on a scientific approach, but on a thirst for fame and fortune, which often led to the frivolous treatment of ancient artifacts found, many of which were destroyed or stolen and sold on black markets.

And although I liked the book, sometimes it was difficult for me to agree with the author, especially when he tried to describe ancient societies and cultures from the height of a person of the 20th century, and in particular a person of socialist views. This is often seen in the critical description of the scenes of the reign of the ancient rulers. The author tries to correlate these ancient social arrangements with modern concepts of morality, and also often slides into open criticism of capitalism and its comparison with socialism. This looks a little strange.

But if to forgive the author for these ideological moments, on the whole, the book is a pretty interesting read.

“Python Tricks: A Buffet of Awesome Python Features” by Dan Bader

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This is a collection of interesting python code examples. Because the last time I write a lot in this language, I try to learn something new about it.

Some things were interesting to me, although, for experienced Python developers, this is most likely something obvious.

“Don`t make me think! A common sense approach to web usability” by Steve Krug

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Although I am working on the development of web applications and services, I am not a big expert in creating beautiful web pages and user interfaces. However, lately, I have had tasks related to this at work, and also as part of the work on my blog, I now have things related to this topic. So I decided to read something about this and chose this book.

The author shows with simple examples how to do it right and how to not do common mistakes. In general, everything somehow comes down to ensuring that the pages of the site or web application are relatively simple for user orientation and do not overload with unnecessary information. The idea is pretty obvious, but in the book, the author draws attention to various interface elements and parts of web pages and expands this idea in relation to these specific elements. It was convenient for me to correlate this with something similar that I did at home, and I even collected some list of notes about what I can improve in my case.

I liked this book also because it is quite short and easy to read. The author writes that he wanted to achieve such a format that it could be read during an average flight in an plane. Summarizing, I can recommend it.

“Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death” by Caitlin Doughty

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I don’t know what prompted me to read this book. Perhaps all this endless news, when daily tragic deaths become something ordinary and natural (how terrible and crazy it sounds).

Anyway, I read this book and I liked it and found it quite fun and interesting! The topic of death, burial, and all this stuff is taboo and not very popular in our society, although death is as much a natural part of life as birth.

In the book, the author answers many questions related to death, sometimes quite stupidly or childishly naive. The book describes in some detail all sorts of things related to the physiology of human bodies and decomposition processes, so I would not recommend reading it to squeamish or impressionable people. But the language of the book is quite cheerful and funny, and the author constantly jokes and does not allow the reader to plunge into a gloomy state, although the humor is, of course, rather black (which is not surprising with such a theme of the book).

In general, if you are not disgusted with reading about all sorts of anatomical things and you are not offended by jokes about dead relatives, then you will most likely like the book. And you might even learn something new.

“The Last Continent” by Terry Pratchett

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This is another book about the adventures of wizards in Discworld! This time the action takes place on the territory of the mysterious continent XXXX, which is very reminiscent of Australia. Much of the humor in this novel is built around various jokes, features, and stereotypes associated with Australian culture, history, and nature.

The author also considers the theory of the evolution of living beings in an interesting and fun way. And, of course, it is very pleasant to watch the old familiar characters of Pratchett - the wizards of the Unseen University.

A light, fun book to take your mind off the problems of the real world.

“The Locals” by Yanka Kupala

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The famous play by the Belarusian classic Yanka Kupala. It was written about 100 years ago, but in many ways has remained relevant in our time. The play raises topics of the future of Belarus and its place between Russia and Poland with their imperial ambitions. Also, the author very clearly shows the problem of the lack of national self-consciousness of Belarusians, and in his interpretation, the word “locals” is rather negative.

As I mentioned, the play remains relevant in our time. From what is no longer relevant - Poland was successfully able to cope with its imperial complexes (which cannot be said about Russia).

“Pinsk’s nobility” by Vintsent Dunin-Martsinkyevich

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Another play from another classic of Belarusian literature is on this list. Here, as well as in the play of Yanka Kupala, the characters are representative of the local Belarusian people, but this time the aristocracy.

Unlike “The Locals”, this play is lighter and more comedic and, in my opinion, does not delve so deeply into the political, social, and cultural reasons why Belarusians are the way they are.

Also, it seems to me that, unlike Kupala’s play, this one has not retained its relevance so well and can rather be perceived now more as a humorous sketch of that period of time and that society.

“The Fall” by Albert Camus

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This story is written as a confession of the person in his vices and sins. He is aware of his baseness and hypocrisy but does not try to somehow fix it. He accepts himself and continues to live the same way. The book raises the themes of freedom, guilt and innocence, duplicity, and the true motives of virtuous deeds.

In general, the philosophy of existentialism is not very close to me, therefore, I am skeptical about many conclusions that the hero of the book comes to and they seem to me to be youthfully maximalist. But the questions that the author asks, and the level of reflection of the protagonist are very conducive to thinking about my convictions and the true motives of my actions. This is undoubtedly the great strength of this story.

“Web Application Security: Exploitation and Countermeasures for Modern Web Applications” by Andrew Hoffman

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The book with an interesting title that has the potential to touch on a very broad topic. And in general, the author tried to reveal different aspects of web application security, described possible attack vectors, and how these attacks can be dealt with.

I think that the book can be useful and interesting for novice web developers, but I didn’t find anything new in it for myself, because one way or another, I encountered all these things on my path as a software developer. But again, I want to repeat - if you are a novice specialist in the field of web development or web application security, then it can be quite useful for you.

In the end

In the coming months, I will most likely read fewer books (although I’m not a very active reader even now as you see) because I’m going to spend more time on my study. However, I think I can make up for this by listening to audiobooks on my way to work or while walking with my dog. Let’s see what comes out of this.

However, the list of what I would like to read later is growing so far, so in the future, I plan to write a new similar post again after some time.

And for now, that’s all.