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Book roundup, part 13

Some solid reading awaits you in this installment. Includes The Outpost, Masters of Doom, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, The Everything Store, Bomber Command, Gods of Guilt, and Low Town.

Non-fiction

The Outpost, by Jake Tapper ★★★★★

Enormously important reporting about the policy failures in the war in Afghanistan and the soldiers who attempted valiantly to carry out their mission, ending in heartbreaking disappointment. Tapper’s reporting is first-rate and he treats his subjects with respect.

It is an important, frustrating and ultimately deeply sad book, with the outpost a microcosm of all the failures of the war in Afghanistan, where understrength divisions struggled with fuzzy objectives, lack of intelligence and changes in strategy.

Required reading.

Masters of Doom, by David Kushner ★★★★☆

The inside story of the beginning of the first-person shooter era, focused on the “two Johns,” Carmack and Romero, and how id software got its start.

Masters of Doom is a compelling read even for non-gamers, in that it covers the company’s struggles to figure out its business model—how to make money off of a project that depends on being free to spread around BBS systems and the nascent Internet—but for anybody who experienced the terror of running through the levels of Doom it’s also interesting to get the back story of how id’s games came to be and to appreciate John Carmack’s genius.

For any younglings out there, yes, Doom was terrifying back in the day. I’ve seen grown men jump out of their seats when a hidden demon suddenly attacks.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, by Scott Adams ★★★★★

Fun, uplifting and actionable, Adams’s view of your brain as a moist robot that can be reprogrammed if you only understand which buttons to push is a great framework to think about life.

Highly recommended.

The Everything Store, by Brad Stone ★★★★☆

Fascinating history of Amazon from its beginnings during the dot-com boom to where it stands today. Paints a not very flattering picture of Jeff Bezos as a brilliant tyrant—it’s easy to understand why Bezos’s wife left a one-star review on Amazon. (Which is amazingly meta.) It’s easy to see Bezos as a CEO much in the mold of Steve Jobs—for better or for worse.

The early chapters are riveting, especially how many times Amazon almost went out of business while clawing its way up the retail ladder.

Bomber Command, by Max Hastings ★★★★★

The Royal Air Force received a lot of criticism after World War II for their relentless campaign of ‘area’ bombing, or as it can also be called, terror bombing, which wiped out large parts of many German cities including most notoriously Cologne and Dresden—ravaged by horrific fire storms casued by incendiary bombs.

Bomber Command examines the origins of Britain’s bomber fleet and the thinking, personalities and operational realities that brought about the terror campaign and shows without being an apologist how Bomber Command realistically couldn’t have operated any other way.

As you’d expect from Hastings, it’s a masterful, definitive work that sheds ample light on that part of World War II.

Fiction

Gods of Guilt, by Michael Connelly ★★★★☆

Mickey Haller (of The Lincoln Lawyer movie and book fame) is back in another solid courtroom thriller. A client from Haller’s past is found murdered and her killer becomes Haller’s client, but it turns out (of course) the case isn’t as simple as it seems. And naturally there is drama in his personal life.

As usual in a Mickey Haller novel, there are twists and turns, but less so than in the past, and the ending is signalled a bit too obviously. But Gods of Guilt is nevertheless a solid thriller and worth picking up if you’re a fan of the series. Though as with any series, you should start at the beginning with The Lincoln Lawyer.

Low Town, by Daniel Polansky ★★★★☆

Low Town is the slum underbelly of the city of Rigus, and the Warden is its king, wrestling a living from selling drugs and information. A former soldier and cop, he is a man tormented by his memories. This is dark fantasy with a heavy dose of noir.

When a Low Town child is found murdered it is up to the Warden to find the killer. Sorcery, thuggery and violence follow in his wake.

Low Town is an impressive debut novel and a given for anybody who enjoys their fantasy gritty and raw.

Note: There’s something odd going on and the novel is also available under the title The Straight Razor Cure, but that version is not available for the Kindle.

(DISCLOSURE: Links go to the Amazon Kindle store and are affiliate links. If you buy one of the books through a link here I get a tiny kickback from Amazon without it costing you anything extra. Be a mensch, eh?)

Posted Friday, 13 December 2013 by

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