My 2015 Book Reviews


A year ago, I started a Goodreads challenge of reading 12 books throughout the year. Unfortunately, with the current workload and commitments, even 12 was a stretch, but the 2015 target has been met, though with a tweak as you will see at the end of this “report”. Below you can find my spoiler-free impressions and recommendations (out of 5 maximum stars) for the books read in 2015. Looking forward to where I will be taken in 2016 through the awesome books I have selected for the year!

The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology is Rewriting our Understanding of Genetics, Disease and Inheritance by Nessa Carey. A necessary bird’s-eye view on the recently emerged/reinstated branch of science. The book digests and overviews the most important discoveries done in the area during the past 20 years, and, along with the references, would satisfy even the acting professionals in the field. Epigenetics develops at an incredible pace now, hence I would not recommend this book as a starting point after another 5-10 years, unless as a historical-remark type of book. But for now, this one seems to be one of the best there is. (★★★★★)

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbot. A classic from the dawn of sci-fi that I always wanted to read in its original language. Minus one star for some of its oldish aspects, otherwise a nice and thought-provoking read. (★★★★)

Letters to a Young Scientist by Edward O. Wilson. A good read. The content is perhaps not as general as one would expect from the title. The book is packed with examples and stories from the author's personal journey in the area of population / ecological / evolutionary biology of insects, which might seem relatively boring (not for me though) for the readers from the other domains of science. Also, part of the pureness and ease of reaching a merit-based recognition in science reflected throughout the book is, sadly, lost in the 21st century. (★★★★)

Gateway by Frederik Pohl. Pohl clearly had everything set up for an excellent sci-fi: humans find abandoned alien shipyard with ships that could take them to pre-set unknown (for humans) destinations, leaving no choice for the human passengers. I was thrilled with anticipation of what was to come. What came after, was my conviction that the author was not able to use that strike of idea he had, reserving and ruining a great set-up in the most pointless plot imaginable. This is my first and last book of the legendary (how come?) Frederik Pohl. ()

Permutation City by Greg Egan. This novel cleverly blends all the theories (alas untestable) that question reality. What if the standard model in physics is nothing more than a revealed rule-set postulated for the simulation that has generated our universe? I really liked the used concept of relativity in the reference point for defining the "reality". (★★★★★)

The Cathedral & the Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond. A must read for anyone interested in an open source development. However, since the book claims to be the bible of the open source community, it could have been so much better with the author's personal memoirs and self-praise bits collected in a separate chapter, rather than distractingly interspersed throughout the book. (★★★)

The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang. The first one of Ted Chiang that I have read, which certainly paves the way of exploring some more of the Chiangverse. The novel made me think about AI in new ways, which means the mission of a good sci-fi, that this novel certainly is, is accomplished. (★★★★★)

Axiomatic by Greg Egan. A true hard sci-fi author whose stories feature triumphant ideas, not pointless "triumphant writing styles". Each story in this collection is a proof of the above. For the best effect, I recommend to take one mind-expanding pill (story) per day, before sleep. (★★★★★)

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Corey. Every simple point made here is preceded by a much longer and decorative "preparation" of the reader's mind on how important the upcoming point is. I will just stay effective and not waste any more time on reviewing this book. ()

The Martian by Andy Weir. This is a 21st century survival (on science steroids) adventure/sci-fi novel soaked in wit and optimism. A highly recommended light read with a lucid window to have a quick peek at Mars and the NASA operations headquarter. (★★★★★)

Candid Science III: More Conversations with Famous Chemists by Istv├ín Hargittai. The third book of its series (pleasantly featuring several scientists I had a chance to know personally). The author, a famous structural/physical chemist himself, did an excellent job of conserving the personalities and insider stories of other famous scientists for the history, through direct and friendly interviews. This series, with its adopted style, shows the inseparability of scientific discoveries and scientists' lives, presenting the scientific process in the most natural and realistic way possible. (★★★★★)

The Egg by Andy Weir. This short story is a real gem, comparable to "The Last Question" by Isaac Asimov by the level of "whoa" it will make you experience at the end. (★★★★★) And yes, I have put this 4-page story in the list to cheat and reach my annual 12-book goal.


This is a blog entry in my personal blog page where I try to gather my notes, thoughts and tutorials on science, IT etc., after making them more readable. All the PDF versions of the notes deposited here can/will be available through my home page (http://www.epigenomedynamics.org/onscience.html). In case the blog entry is of general interest and you would like to include that in your medium (journal, blog, web-page etc.), feel free to do so, given that you do not alter the content (unless correcting typos) and authorship.

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