Books in 2014


This is a quick recap of the books I have read in 2014 (in the order in which I read them).

Hermann Hesse — Steppenwolf
Classic. Finally took the time to read it whilst travelling in early 2014. Wasn’t disappointed at all.

Wie war es möglich? Wie hatte es mit mir dahin kommen können, mit mir, dem beflügelten Jüngling, dem Dichter, dem Freund der Musen, dem Weltwanderer, dem glühenden Idealisten? Wie war das so langsam und schleichend über mich gekommen, diese Lähmung, dieser Haß gegen mich und alle, diese Verstopftheit aller Gefühle, diese tiefe böse Verdrossenheit, diese Dreckhölle der Herzensleere und Verzweiflung?

(p. 83)

Xenocide, Children of the Mind
Finally took time to read through the Ender’s Game sequels. I liked Ender’s Game and Speaker of the Dead a lot. Sadly, I found the other two sequels lacking this quality.

Stefan Zweig — Schachnovelle
Very good (and short) read.

Friedrich Dürrenmatt — Die Physiker
Wanted to read it since a long time. Found it quite funny and entertaining. 80 pages, very short read as well.

Glenn Greenwald — Nothing to Hide
Very interesting read. Greenwald chronicles all events surrounding and concerning the Snowden leaks in detail. As much as I was shocked by the leaks themselves I found it equally shocking to see how the majority of the US press handled the leaks.

John Markoff — What the Doormouse said
Interesting read on the influence of the 60/70s counterculture movement on the development of the computer industry and the Internet. Basically the book is a collection of anecdotes. If you are familiar with the history of the personal computer you will surely recognize a lot of the names (Douglas Engelbart, John McCarthy, …).

Engelbart’s view was that if people were willing to spend three years learning how to speak a language and ten years learning mathematics and years learning how to read, they should be willing to spend six months to learn how to use a computer.

(pp. 244-245)

Stefan Tilkov — Rest und HTTP
A technical read. For a university project I wanted to design a REST API, which was a nice occasion to finally read the book. The book deepened my existing knowledge on web-technologies and served as a helpful counselor.

Tony Buzan — The Mind Map Book
Tony Buzan came up with a lot of ideas on how to improve structuring ideas, learning new things or making notes. In this book he describes his ideas as mind-mapping techniques. The book has over 200 pages and from my point of view a lot of the content could have been shortened.
What I found interesting is how Buzan came up with these techniques: as a young man he wanted to get a manual for his brain. He found that everything came with a manual: videorecorders, cameras, etc.. Only your brain does not come with a manual. So he set out to find such a manual, but couldn’t. That’s why he attempted to write one :-).

Even though the book was too bloated for me, I took some things from it. Mainly to use colors, highlights, icons and different letter sizes in a mind-map. He describes in a comprehensible way how this eases the consumption of the mind-mapped information in your brain and helps you to remember things you wrote down better. After the book I started to use mind-maps a lot more and in a more systematic way (especially for learning on exams). My (school-shaped) somehow negative view of mind-maps as the teachers solution to everything was somehow pushed in a more positive direction.

Christiane Florin — Warum unsere Studenten so angepasst sind
I read a small note on this book in the newspaper “Der Freitag” and it got me interested. The book itself is a short read, with around 80 pages. It is written by an university lecturer on the change in mindset of students after the Bologna reform. The book is based upon her own observations and discusses her personal experiences. I found the book to be painfully true and could relate my own observations to a lot of the stuff she describes.

Es gibt Gymnasien, an denen die Hälfte eines Abiturjahrgangs eine Eins vor dem Komma erreicht. Schülerinnen und Schüler wiederholen lieber eine Klasse in der Oberstufe, als mit einem Durchschnitt von 2,8 abzuschließen.

(p. 28)

“Intellektueller” wird in dieser Atmosphähre zum Schimpfwort.

(p. 20)

Hermann Hesse — Siddharta
Read the book for the second time in 2014. Awesome book. A lot of wisdom in there. I find it remarkable how Hesse achieves so much empathy with the character in so little pages.

Robert Bringhurst — The Elements of Typographic Style
The “typographic bible”. I read the book accompanying the lecture “Digitale Typografie” at Ulm University. Well, the book itself is a typograpic classic. There is a lot I took from it. Less technical stuff, more a conceptual understanding of the way Bringhurst sees typography. I found the book to be a joy to read. This is to some parts not only due to the content, but also due to Bringhurst’s view, that one does not choose the format of a book by chance. Instead one should carefully select (or design) a fitting format for the book. He chose a custom format, which I found very appealing — the haptic, the paper, everything works very nice together. The book itself is a masterpiece example of typography as well.

A book is a flexible mirror of the mind and the body. Its overall size and proportions, the color and texture of the paper, the sound it makes as the pages turn, and the smell of the paper, adhesive and ink, all blend with the size and form and placement of the type to reveal a little about the world in which it was made.

(p. 143)

(…) typography should perform theses services to the reader:

  • invite the reader into the text; reveal the tenor and meaning of the text;
  • clarify the structure and the order of the text;
  • link the text with other existing elements;
  • induce a state of energetic repose, which is the ideal condition for reading.
(p. 24)

F. Scott Fitzgerald — The Great Gatsby
First time I read Fitzgerald. As with Hesse, I find his biography very interesting as well. The book was quite enjoyable as well.

Lewis Dartnell — Handbuch für den Neustart der Welt (How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch)
I stumbled upon this book in a small bookshop in Ravensburg, read the two sentences on the back and immediately bought it :-). I had been looking for such a book in a long time. Dartnell bascially describes how one would go about rebuilding our world. For that purpose he gives a crashcourse through human knowledge.

I found it very interesting to see what obvious ideas had taken thousands of years to be developed: the wheelbarrow for example! Such a simple, yet helpful, invention — it took a couple of centuries from the invention of the wheel and the lever until somebody came up with the idea of combining them. Dartnell makes a point in highlighting some of those very simple ideas or phenomena. He argues that a lot of improvement can already be done by conserving such simple ideas — like the wheelbarrow or the possibilities of conserving food or the base of modern disesase prevention: washing hands with soap whilst not bringing sewage/drinkwater near each other, etc.. This was really interesting to see.

Der eigentliche Ursprung der Wissenschaft ist daher die sorgfältige Planung und Konstruktion von Instrumenten zur Durchführung von Messungen sowie die Festlegung von Maßeinheiten.

(p. 308)

Das Wesen der Wissenschaft besteht demnach darin, immer wieder zuzugeben, dass man sich geirrt hat, und ein neues umfassenderes Modell zu akzeptieren. Im Unterschied zu anderen Glaubenssystemen sorgt die wissenschaftliche Praxis also dafür, dass unsere Geschichten mit der Zeit immer wirklichkeitsgetreuer werden.
So gesehen listet die Wissenschaft nicht auf, was wir wissen; vielmehr bringt sie uns bei, wie wir Wissen erzeugen können. (…) Und aus diesem Grund ist die wissenschaftliche Methode die bedeutendste Erfindung überhaupt.

(p. 317)

Herman Hesse — Narziß und Goldmund
Started reading it for the second time. The first time I just didn’t get into it. This time I got hooked and couldn’t stop reading.

Das Urbild eines guten Kunstwerks ist nicht eine wirkliche, lebende Gestalt, obwohl sie der Anlaß dazu sein kann. Das Urbild ist nicht Fleisch und Blut, es ist geistig. Es ist ein Bild, das in der Seele des Künstlers seine Heimat hat.

(pp. 276-277)

John Green — Looking for Alaska
Liked it a lot. I needed some time to get into the book, but then it got me hooked. Had a heavy day with four flights in a row and read the book on that day during the flights.

I am mainly looking forward to complete reading the Kornshell Manual. Have already started in late 2014, but not yet made it to the end. If I just achieve completing this book I will be happy :-).

Category: Life itself, Typography


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I am a 32 year old techno-creative enthusiast who lives and works in Berlin. In a previous life I studied computer science (more specifically Media Informatics) at the Ulm University in Germany.

I care about exploring ideas and developing new things. I like creating great stuff that I am passionate about.


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