Getting Clojure by Russ Olsen

This is maybe the best programming book I've ever read. Not sure I've ever read one front to back as I did with this one.

I started out at Clojure for the Brave and True which on first glance seemed similar to Learn Python the Hard Way. I have completed LPTHW previously and found it very effective.

Clojure is so different however, that understanding it more conceptually is very helpful. Brave Clojure includes some functions and aspects of Clojure in early examples that are not explained well off the bat - the early section on 'let' lost me initially. All that said, now that I've finished Getting Clojure, I will probably go back to Brave Clojure for the more LPTHW experience.

Other books I tried are Living Clojure by Maier and Programming Clojure by Miller -- however I abandoned each after ~25% in favor of Getting Clojure because they had the same conceptual issues as Clojure for the Brave and True.

On Grand Strategy by John Lewis Gaddis

Rating: [2 - history/philosophy] (see explanation of ratings here)

I listened to this book while driving so was unable to make highlights / take notes. I liked his definition of grand strategy - the alignment of unlimited aspirations with finite capabilities. It was especially interesting to hear his perspective on Machiavelli (improperly villified), Lincoln (widely revered but very Machiavellian), Napoleon (gifted in tactics, blind in strategy) and the others. All that said, the book could have easily been a third to half as long and would not have lost any substance. I especially didn't follow or understand his focus on religion at various points, it didn't seem to line up with the topic of the book. I also didn't feel he did a great job summarizing some of his points about key wars or leaders in history as they tied to grand strategy.

Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger by Peter Bevelin

Rating: [3 - life] (see explanation of ratings here)

This book is true to it's name - it is in my pantheon and will join Meditations, Lessons of History and How To Win Friends and Influence People as the books I would give any high school graduate looking to better themselves. Filled with great summaries of cognitive fallacies and biases, math, physics and systems thinking - a fantastic overview of models and concepts that can be applied throughout life to great benefit.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Rating: [3 - literary fiction] (see explanation of ratings here)

I have not read a lot of literary fiction, but that said, East of Eden will stick with me and is one of the best books I've ever read, in that genre or otherwise. Steinbeck strikes a balance between the concise style of Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy (which I love) and the more typically wordy language you find in most literary fiction (which I like much less) and overall it was very enjoyable to read. I pushed through the first 20% (which in hindsight did a great job setting up everything else) and the rest was easy. I think most people will find this book deep and thought-provoking, which appears to have been his intention. I would recommend to anyone (probably most relevant to people that grew up in America vs. elsewhere), though I think people would appreciate it the most after their twenties, when they've gotten over any teen angst and early twenties naivete, and become more attuned to the reality of the world. Towards the end, provides as perfect a description of Americans as you could find.

On Trails by Robert Moor

Rating: [2 - philosophy/history/nature] (see explanation of ratings here)

"Every step, we push forward into the unknown, following the path, and leaving a trail."

In the end I'm not sure the content was groundbreaking, but the writing was an easy 10/10 and made up for anything lacking in philosophical insight or the overall purpose of the book. Part of me is not sure what I learned, (I did learn about trails, but why?), but it is beautifully written.

Book Rating System

I am attempting to start a new practice of writing down some notes for books that I really enjoyed or found particularly insightful and have changed how I think about the world.

My current system of assigning some number of stars is arbitrary and does not really convey my thoughts about the book, most importantly to myself when I look back at the list and can't remember reading a book or why I gave it the rating I did. Moving forward, here's my legend:

  • DNF = did not finish, will include some kind of qualifier like "lost interest" or "terrible"
  • 0 = anything from meh to awful, bottom line: not recommended
  • 1 = enjoyed
  • 2 = recommended if you like the genre
  • 3 = top book I've read all time (see:

In general, I will also note the genre, e.g. literary fiction, business non-fiction, et cetera.

I will use this system moving forward, and will back-rate as many books as I feel confident I remember well.