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2013 Reading in Review

I was planning on taking a very, very long road to assembling the graphic below, but I am glad I did some research first. It saved me from learning how to create WordPress plugins, or toying around with the Goodreads API, which I will most likely still do at some point. It was a great year for my reading. 89 books, graphics novels, Audible, etc. I plan to bump it up even more in 2014. Below the image, I have pulled in the more in depth reviews of the books in descending order based on my star ratings.

Books2013


Read in 2013

Best Served Cold
5 of 5 stars
I think I enjoyed this Abercrombie effort the most. Red Country was pretty awesome, but this was also a great book. It’s a bit dark, and dark deeds get done – reader beware.

The Art of War
5 of 5 stars
This is a book that clearly stands the test of time. Great read. Depends on the translation though.

Gutenberg the Geek
5 of 5 stars
I usually find the pundits of the net to be insufferable self-promoters, but in this instance Jarvis has delivered a well written piece on historical technology, but assigned it with a modern day pundit’s view, while at the same time lea…

Band of Brothers
5 of 5 stars
Second time reading this book. I watch the HBO series every Veterans Day. Love Ambrose as a writer. The story is well told, and the characters come alive.

American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company
5 of 5 stars
A great, great business book. I will read this again sometime in the next 2-3 years.

Shantaram
5 of 5 stars
I loved the story. I hated how long it took to finish. The story is a great one, though it plays out like a chapter in a man’s life, and not a beginning-middle-end sort of story. The characters are great, the settings used to draw in the…

Caliban's War
5 of 5 stars
The start of this book is crazy. What a great way to grab your reader by the throat. The rest of the story ends up falling a little flat, and I wish they had done more with the female lead.

Leviathan Wakes
5 of 5 stars
One of the best "first in a series" books I have ever read.

Ender's Game
5 of 5 stars
It has been close to 20 years since I read this book the first time. I suspect I have a very different point of view about the story arc and the use of children as tools now that I am a parent. I still very much identify with wanting to …

Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior
5 of 5 stars
What I liked most about this book is that it walked through the mind and days of an operator. Instead of focusing on well worn paths like Hell Week and BUDS training, this book covers some new ground and treats the reader to insights abo…

Madame Mirage, Vol. 1
4 of 5 stars
Interesting premise for a comic, and the execution was decent. I wish there was more of the back story of the world these folks inhabited prior to the government condemnation of the human augmentation program. That, to me, would be a ver…

Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment
4 of 5 stars
I read this book on a recommendation from someone. I don’t think I would have read it otherwise, as the music industry has never really interested me. Glad I took the recommendation. What a great read – in depth analysis of how different…

Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10
4 of 5 stars
I had this one on the shelf for a long time. Worth the read, though I have enjoyed other Navy SEAL accountings better. I read this ahead of viewing the movie.

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture
4 of 5 stars
I read and listened to (Audible) this book. Wil Wheaton makes the audio so much more entertaining. Great history of one of the greatest game creating teams ever to exist. The pioneers and originators. I lost many hours to Doom, and I don…

Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World
4 of 5 stars
Not nearly as entertaining as "Dark Pools", though this gives a great glimpse into the electronic trading that has taken over Wall St.

The Battle of $9.99: How Apple, Amazon, and the Big Six Publishers Changed the E-Book Business Overnight
4 of 5 stars
Read this more for work than anything else. The 4 stars are about how applicable this title was for me specifically. I doubt my wife would give it the same. Great material given my current role. Seemed well researched.

Abaddon's Gate
4 of 5 stars
Aside for the "clearly there is going to be a book 4" ending, this was a nice ending to the series. I enjoyed the start of the second book the most. I liked the first book overall the most, simply because of the originality of the story…

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: Best of the Best
4 of 5 stars
I had never read any of the Ms Marvel content. This was a good set of books compiled into one volume. I was hoping that there was more in ebook for, but sadly, there isn’t.

A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy
4 of 5 stars
A good read. Great historical context. A glimpse into true bad-ass-ery. This book won’t appeal to everyone. Can be a bit difficult to parse.

Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration
4 of 5 stars
Interesting ideas for me. I sought this title out as I was going through a small renovation project in the house to create a make space for my family.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
4 of 5 stars
I am too new at the company to know how much of this is legend and how much is fiction. What I do know is that there are many kernels of truth in what I see going on everyday at the company, and in how some of the more senior leaders beh…

Last Argument of Kings
4 of 5 stars
A decent finish for the series, though the very end of the book was a serious WTF moment. Not as bad as Stephen King, in that it left with a whimper, nor Lindelof of Lost in that it wasn’t rage inducing. I am not sure who Abercrombie in…

The Death of Kings
4 of 5 stars
Iggulden keeps pulling me in. Like Joe Abercrombie, he does a good job of mixing the personal stories and battles. The historical context is nice, though he certainly takes some liberties. Same rating as previous book in the series, but …

Red Country
4 of 5 stars
As a standalone unit, I think this work is better than the 3 part series from which it was spawned. At the time of reading this one, I hadn’t read book 2 of the First Law series. I have since. I have not read book 3. Abercrombie does a g…

The Gates of Rome
4 of 5 stars
I loved the series Iggulden did for Ghengis Khan. I knowingly suspend all disbelief at the overall historical accuracy of the tale. With that said, he’s a master story teller, and I can’t wait to read the next installment.

Killing Floor
4 of 5 stars
This is not my usual gene, and I admit that I started with the series because of the movie. The story tells like it could be real, which is to say that at no point did I feel that I was reading about some super human detective or some ri…

The Kings of Cool
4 of 5 stars

The book was fun to read, though a bit schizo (intentionally so). I have to agree with one review I saw which opined that this book was written in a hurry to capitalize on the success of "Savages." Great read, but too much intertwining of the story lines, across time spans, for my liking.

The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel
4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed it the negative reviews gave me pause and concern that this would not be a good effort. it felt a bit long given the story arc and what was covered, but I appreciated having the graphic novelization of this work. it lef…

The Pioneer Detectives: Did a distant spacecraft prove Einstein and Newton wrong?
4 of 5 stars
Great read. Very nerdy, but approachable. I love the enduring science project and commitment to the project by the leaders.

Before the Swarm
4 of 5 stars
This was not a normal topic for me, but the Atavist has produced some interesting work, and I am busy exploring Kindle singles as a form of media consumption in an effort to explore more ideas in long form narrative in less time than onl…

Attack on Titan, Volume 1
4 of 5 stars
Interesting story, though the art made it hard to discern what was happening at times, and there were story arc jump cuts which were confusing. Not enough back story to understand the extent of the destruction by these beings, and whethe…

Once a Runner
4 of 5 stars
Great book about running. It went too long, but the final 20% of the book totally makes it worth it. If you are not a runner and want to get a glimpse into the mind of an athlete who suffers when they compete, this is a good place to start.

Saga, Vol. 2
4 of 5 stars
Vol 3 needs to come out…soon. I am enjoying this series. Not *loving* it, but enjoying it.

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman
4 of 5 stars
Not my favorite Krakauer effort, but that’s really splitting hairs. He’s a great author, does his research, and doesn’t allow himself to get in the way of the story or the players involved.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
4 of 5 stars
Sinek does a good job, and I enjoyed the book, though have found myself physically recoiling any time I have heard an interview candidate quote any of the work. Not sure why that is…

Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War
4 of 5 stars
A by the numbers retelling of a battlefield situation, but a very enjoyable read.

The Son
4 of 5 stars
I upgraded this to 4 stars on reflection. The story is still sitting with me, and I have gained appreciation for the way in which the author wove the tales together.

The Impossible Manifesto
4 of 5 stars
Read this if you want to get super pumped up about some thing you have to start or finish.

The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever
4 of 5 stars
So much goodness in here for the TV junkie. It was impeccably researched. Made for some quick reading about shows that I loved.

Old Man's War
4 of 5 stars
Made my way through this much faster than Red Shirts. I like the concepts, though it did feel like it just kind of ended. Will be interested to read other content from this universe.

Nexus
4 of 5 stars
Downgraded to a 3 star. Why? Because I don’t want to read the sequel. That’s telling. The book had some amazing ideas, but the execution failed to deliver. Daniel Suarez did much better with Daemon and Freedom in terms of possible near f…

Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek
4 of 5 stars
I loved the reporting that went into the recounting of this tragic set of events which took place in the mountains very near to my home. My first interaction with this content was on the web, where the author and his creative team master…

David and Goliath
3 of 5 stars
Entertaining pop-sci from Gladwell. You know what to expect.

President Shimon Peres: The Kindle Singles Interview
3 of 5 stars
I liked this one better than the Obama single. I enjoyed the historical context of the interview. The editing was such that the reader is left feeling that something was lost in the transposition process.

The Suitcase Entrepreneur
3 of 5 stars
There was some content to like in this book, but the writing style was too immature to be considered an authoritative text. That likely wasn’t the intent of the author. I read a lot (A. LOT.) of business books, and there are many more be…

Inferno
3 of 5 stars
It’s a Dan Brown book. You get what you pay for, and you know ahead of time what you are getting into. The use of locations and history is in line with what you expect from Brown. His story, at least in this instance, seemed very much a …

Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters
3 of 5 stars
The author gets points for his framework as presented in the book. Sadly, his ego gets in the way. There is too much time spent on how “awesome” (read the book, you’ll get the joke) he is, and how awesome his life has become, and how awe…

How Did You End Up Here?: The Surprising Ways Our Questions Connect Us
3 of 5 stars
Fun questions to entertain the mind, but nothing to get terribly excited about

The Sociopath Next Door
3 of 5 stars
I really don’t know how this book ended up in my queue, but it was a fascinating read to say the least. I have never taken a psychology class, so it’s hard for me to evaluate the level of rigor involved here. However, the use of amalgama…

Navy SEAL Training Guide: Mental Toughness
3 of 5 stars
Good lessons to be had in here, and glad to see the author took a point of view of making this content accessible for everyday folks looking to accomplish big goals, and not getting mired in military life or combat ops. What took the st…

Matterhorn
3 of 5 stars
This is a well written tale of the Vietnam War. I can’t speak to the authenticity of the situations and characters, but it felt very forced – “Hollywood” even. While you get the sense that the main character grows, there is this overwhel…

Django Unchained
3 of 5 stars
To steal a phrase from the book – “the [value] is silent.” I am all for graphic novel representations of movies, but this piecemeal delivery feels like readers are getting nickel and dimed. The first issue was meaty, but volumes 2 and 3 …

Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale
3 of 5 stars
See previous Serenity review. The story here could have been so much more, but it just had a bunch of semi-complete thoughts.

Serenity: Those Left Behind
3 of 5 stars
I’m a sucker for Serenity, but I always feel like I am missing something when I read the comics or watch the episodes. That there is some cache of content somewhere that explains other things that I am simply not getting.

Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere
3 of 5 stars
Gave me plenty to think about in terms of the challenges which await me as a parent of school age children. Having kids in public school, but having been brought up in a private school system, there are parts of me that want to scream ou…

The Massive, Vol. 1: Black Pacific
3 of 5 stars
Tough story to follow at first. Jumps around a bit too much, and there is clearly a back story which needs to be told earlier. Will probably read the second installment.

48 and Counting
3 of 5 stars
I would have given this 4 stars, but unfortunately the characters are a bit one dimensional and the story feels a bit too forced. Bring a recovering finance guy and cyclist, I can appreciate the mixing of the life experiences. The auth…

Here's the Deal
3 of 5 stars
This single starts in with what appears to be a non-partisan view of what is going on with our economy. Unfortunately it ultimately ends up being somewhat left leaning, which is fine, but not as advertised. The analysis is hitting the r…

Guns
3 of 5 stars
A thoroughly well-reasoned piece by Stephen King on the nature of gun violence, its perpetrators, and how to think about solutions. While I believe in the 2nd amendment, I also believe that a doctrine of reasonableness need be applied to…

The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire
3 of 5 stars
Matt is a great story teller, but his lack of maturity gets in the way too often. He lashes out like a petulant teenager, mistakenly assuming that rage and frothing vitriol is a necessary and required step to convey his opinion and obser…

Before They Are Hanged
3 of 5 stars
I wrote this review a few weeks after reading the book. Not much stuck. It progresses the story a bit, but whereas the first iteration pulled me into the universe, this one felt like one giant tease, setting everything up for the third v…

The Second Ship
3 of 5 stars
What started out as a promising topic for a science fiction story turned into a YA story with tired high school antics. Phillips makes up for it in the last 50 pages, but this story took me way too long to finish. I would have rather he …

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
3 of 5 stars
Hard to read as a parent. Tough to connect to the material as someone who has very little exposure to, and experience with, autism. It’s not something I would normally read, but was worthwhile nonetheless.

Superman: Red Son
3 of 5 stars
I enjoyed the retelling of the origin story, and there was certainly an interesting premise. Though the writing seemed muddled at times, to horrible at others.

Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself
3 of 5 stars
Ultimately this is an egotistical journey of self-importance, but I cannot take away from the author all that he has accomplished. I read this and want to go race in this race.

Start a Freedom Business
3 of 5 stars
I am not sure why I keep reading "business" books by people who have been in business a shorter amount of time that they were in high school and college.

The Warrior Ethos
3 of 5 stars
I loved "The Hot Gates" but Pressfield misses on this one. It’s OK. Not terrible, though my expectations of the author have been raised.

Pole to Pole: One Man, 20 Million Steps
2 of 5 stars
A bit of a slog. It really did feel like reading an unedited blog at times. The adventure is, hands down, the most incredible I think I will ever bear witness to. That is, unless we send humans to Mars during my lifetime. Writing aside, …

Wave
2 of 5 stars
My heart goes out to the author, and the story is an incredible one, but I simply couldn’t get past the unevenness in the relating of the story. It starts out in a very gripping narrative, but then diverges into a series of rants and rev…

How to Archer: The Ultimate Guide to Espionage, Style, Women, and Cocktails Ever Written
2 of 5 stars
All kinds of disappointing for this massive Archer fan. The only saving grace is that while reading it, I hear Archer’s voice, and not my own.

Happy, Happy, Happy
2 of 5 stars
Given all the hype of the show, I had hoped a ghost writer could have done a better job with the source material. This wasn’t a complete waste of time, but I am sad I can’t have the time back.

The Silver Linings Playbook
2 of 5 stars
This is an overly simplistic plot with excruciatingly annoying characters. The protagonist male is comically self-absorbed in a post-traumatic state. It is hard to understand what that must be like, but as it is written, it is hard to se…

Shibumi
2 of 5 stars
Upon reflection, I downgraded this to a 2 star. It was just brutal to get through. Trevanian’s protagonist has the worst parts of the "Last of the Breed" and "Atlantis Gene" in terms of luck, bad-ass-ery, and ability to come out ahead. J…

Finding the Future of Digital Book Publishing: "Interviews with 19 Innovative eBook Business Leaders"
2 of 5 stars
A decent read, and an appreciated set of reviews from varying players in the publishing industry. The interviews themselves felt incredibly superficial. In some cases, they felt like self-promotion vehicles instead of an opportunity to t…

Do Cool Sh*t: Quit Your Day Job, Start Your Own Business, and Live Happily Ever After
1 of 5 stars
Terrible, terrible writing. Awful. Bad. I could go on, but why? I am sure the author is a nice person, but reading this book was like listening to 19 year olds talk. If I were 19, it probably would have rocked. I am not 19.

The Atlantis Gene
1 of 5 stars
I had a very very hard time getting through this book. I am sure that the movie (when and if it is made) will make a ton of money. It will star Matt Damon or Jeremy Renner. Great ideas. I wanted to love this book, but it was really bad w…

Quicksilver
1 of 5 stars
I hate to 1 star Stephenson, but I couldn’t get through this effort. Toughed it out, but it was pretty bad.


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Brandon Watson is Director for Windows Phone 7. He specifically focuses on developers and the developer platform. He rejoined Microsoft in 2008 after nearly a decade on Wall Street and running successful start-ups. He has both an engineering degree and an economics degree from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an MBA from The Wharton School of Business, and blogs at www.manyniches.com.