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Atomic Habits
 320 Seiten
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James Clear describes how habits work in your brain (4 stages: cue, craving, response, reward) and how you can use that knowledge to build good habits and break bad ones.

The framework makes sense and it's clearly laid out in the book. His examples gave good context and made the text enjoyable and quick to read.

One thing I didn't like were the many pointers to the website and newsletter. There are even two chapters in the end which are "bonus chapters", meaning you can get them if you sign up for the newsletter. The recommended reading at the end is... a pointer to the newsletter. Would have preferred to have this book be a bit separate from online growth strategies.

In any case, the content was really good and I'm sure I'll make use of this. I've already started implementing some strategies in my life.

 320 Seiten
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I just finished the Von Braun biography 2 weeks ago and stumbled on this book in a book store around the same time. It had just come out in mid September. This is a fictional account the V2 rocket during WW2, told from two perspectives. It's a good story and particularly interesting to read briefly after the Von Braun biography. Naturally, there are many overlaps when it comes to fact-dropping. I went for the audio book, which was a good choice. The narrator's voice is very pleasant.

The Psychology of Money
 256 Seiten
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I don't know how exactly to categorize this books. It's not exactly a personal finance book, but kind of. It's not exactly a book about the foundations of behavioural finance, but kind of. I think the best way to describe it is that it's a collection of essay-form chapters loosely following a few central concepts: - It's better to be reasonable in investing than it is to be perfectly rational - Aim for a large margin of safety -- in investing but also in any life decisions - Saving is worthwhile without having to save "for something" - Accept that randomness is part of reality - View "risk" as the normal fee to pay for achieving high returns and don't even attempt to escape it (= don't try to time the market)

I think Morgan Housel did a great job with this book. He didn't craft a whole new framework like many business book attempt to do. He didn't try to, and I think this was exactly right. This is a book that connects the dots, so to speak. It was short, to the point, and a breeze to read.

NSA – Nationales Sicherheits-Amt
 800 Seiten
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Solider Thriller (?) slash Roman. Moderne Technologie wurde auf das Deutschland der 30er und 40er Jahre übertragen. Die Konzepte haben gut gepasst und waren teilweise gut erklärt. Selbst wenn es nie zur Sprache kam, war viel von den Beispielen etwas, was wir "Data Science" nennen würden. Sprachlich teilweise etwas sperrig, aber auch ulkig: Programmieren wurde zum Beispiel zum "Programme stricken".

Das Hörbuch war super gelesen.

Von Braun
 624 Seiten
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A remarkable biography about one of the most interesting characters of the twentieth century: Wernher von Braun. He infamously was the chief rocket engineer in the Third Reich, and after 1945 lived in the USA, eventually becoming one of the leading managers behind the US space program.

I learned a lot about the entrepreneurial rocket boom of the early 20th century, the development of the V-2 rocket, and the Saturn program. The book goes into a lot of detail, in some places maybe even too much so, but overall all of it seemed important to understand von Braun's life.

Something remains unresolved for me personally: Really understanding von Braun's role and responsibility in the crimes of the V-2 production and the treatment of KZ prisoners. There appears to be very little hard evidence to come to a clear judgement on these questions. I don't think this is a shortcoming of the biography. It's more the ambiguity of the character Wernher von Braun and his role and standing in the history of the world.

A meticulous biography. Highly recommended to anyone who's interested in the detailed history of early space exploration.

Forces of Nature
 288 Seiten
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This book lays out a scientist's view of the world, ranging from the history of important scientific findings to research papers from just a few years ago.

Brian Cox (professor, educator, enthusiast) writes beautifully and tells compelling stories about the wonders of science. As I've learned in this book, he actually spent the years of his PhD in Hamburg, being no stranger to the Reeperbahn and other attractions. High five, Mr. Cox. ✋

This is neither a text book, nor one cohesive story, which is maybe something to criticise. However, I didn't mind at all and liked the book a lot.

As a reader, I felt encouraged to ask questions with the curiosity of a child's mind and to look for the answers through the eyes of science.

As a bonus, the text was set with pretty typography.

Radical Candor
 272 Seiten
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I have to stay, I initially got off on the wrong foot with this book. The subtitle reads "How to get what you want by saying what you mean", but in my mind "getting what you want" isn't at all what this book is about.

Also, after the first 1-2 chapters, I thought I had in my hands what is so common for many business books: One core idea (here: "care personally, challenge directly") being re-iterated over the course of an entire book.

But then, Kim Scott caught my attention. More and more anecdotes resonated with me, and I realized she lays out a full management philosophy, in addition to actionable things to try. In particular the second half of the book ("Tools & Techniques") helped me understand how to apply her ideas.

Some things I learned:

  • Ruinous empathy: Presented as a common attitude of (new) managers, I can relate: You don't want to hurt the other person, so you avoid giving criticism altogether. Turns out: This doesn't help anyone and you are failing on a core responsibility: Giving meaningful guidance to people who want to improve.
  • Career Conversations: Life story; dreams; 18-months plan. A structure on how to have guiding conversations with the people on your team. Help understand values and put the current position of the person in perspective to their larger career and life vision.
  • Separate debate meetings from decision meetings, or at least be explicit about it. In addition, I think you could further separate the ideation phase, so that ideas aren't shot down early by (well intended) debates.

I can't and won't apply everything that's in this book. Some aspects simply don't apply. "Firing people" as described in the book just isn't legal in Germany. Other things are in fact already implemented in one way or another in the agile practices we try to live in my current team. But some concepts, while not being completely "new" perhaps, are now a lot clearer to me because Kimm Scott has given me the vocabulary to talk and think about.

How To Be A Stoic
 288 Seiten
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I’ve had a little knowledge of stoicism - or what I thought stoicism was. This book helped me put some of my preconceptions in their right place and gave me a foundation. The chapters were a bit dense for me to digest every single thought while reading, but I feel I have a better understanding now than I had before.

Here’s my rough takeaway: Like any philosophy, Stoicism is a school of thought on how to live a good life. Some central concepts are:

  • The dichotomy of control: Don’t worry about things you have no influence on.
  • Virtues above pleasure: It is not bad to lead of good life of earthly delights, as long as you never betray your fundamental virtues.
  • Mindfulness and mental awareness: Plans don’t work out perfectly; negative things happen - but you are still in control of how you react to these external influences and the curveballs life throws at you.

I don’t think the author explicitly mentions “happiness” all too much in the book, but to me, Stoicism is a tangible mindset to create happiness from within. Then again, “happiness” could also be a “preferred indifferent” according to the stoic idea: Great if you have it, but not worth trading your virtues for. Hm. Food for thought.

Overall, very glad I read this. Good book. May need to revisit some years in the future.

Dino Park
 533 Seiten
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Die Deutsche Version von Jurassic Park, in einer angenehmen und leicht von den 90ern angehauchten Übersetzung.

Spannend geschrieben. Insgesamt mag ich es, dass sich "die Katastrophe" mit wenigen Beteiligten auf einer kleinen Insel abspielt. Ein Thriller, der aber nicht plakativ "globaler Weltuntergang" schreien muss, um packend zu sein.

Was ich im Lesen manchmal verwechselt habe, waren die männlichen Charaktere. Hammond, Harding, Malcolm, Grant. Irgendwie alles mit "a". War aber nicht so wild, und kurz vor dem Ende hatte ich es dann fast komplett verstanden.

Ich zitiere aus dem Klappentext: "ein schaurig-faszinierender Technothriller mit Biss". Ja, stimmt schon.

The Data Science Design Manual
 445 Seiten
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Read this as part of our "Data Science Study Group" that friends and I have been organising for the past three months. This book lends itself quite well to this kind of format: A broad overview of everything that Data Science entails. However, the book also stays at that high level.

While Steven Skiena goes into detail on some of the algorithms, that level of detail really isn't the focus of that book - and that's okay. Having read it, I now feel like I have a good grasp of the field, but to really cater to my personal learning style, I will have to read something else in addition. I personally learn best when there is practical coding work happening. We used our group discussions to work on some examples ourselves (Kaggle competitions and similar), which added a good amount of depth to the pure text book.

The book itself can be found as a free download on Springer ebooks, and if you want a broad overview of Data Science, I can recommend it. If you want to be a full data scientist after having read the book, you will need to put in some more practical work yourself.

Your Money or Your Life
 368 Seiten
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A classic from the personal finance community. Vicki Robin, who appears to be an interesting and caring woman living somewhere on an island in the US, shares her philosophy on... well money and life.

In her framework, money equates 'life energy'. Every dollar you spend was earned with a certain number of minutes of your life. One interesting method she presents is calculating your 'real hourly wage'. Basically, take your 'official' hourly wage, but subtract any costs you have that simply support you working in the first place, and account for the additional time you actually spend to support your job. Your real hourly wage may be disappointingly low.

In some places, I couldn't completely follow the line of thought. Simply put, one chapter went something like this: "Stop pretending your job is what fills you with purpose and joy, it's a lie constructed by society. Instead, become financially independent so that you don't need to work for money. Find your passion, and you may even turn that passion into something that earns money". Okay... but then you are where you started, aren't you? You work to earn money and tell yourself that it's what you're passionate about. I don't know, but this bit confused me.

Still, I really liked the book. She constructs a holistic approach to money and offers tools to find out if your money spending is is really aligned with your values. Vicki Robin is a sincere and warm voice in a space often occupied by mostly technical approaches to thinking about money. This is a classic for good reason.

City of Glass
 203 Seiten
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A short read. Actually just one story of the "New York Trilogy". I'm still not sure what to think. It was a quick and nice read, for sure. And then it turns weird. Post modernist kind of weird. Gets you thinking, which is a plus. Leaves you hanging as a reader, which is a minus (for me, that is). Yes, it's great if an author can build up something and then not deliver on a tangible resolution at the end. Still, my naive self would have liked a more specific outcome.

You Can Be a Stock Market Genius
 304 Seiten
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A bit of a cringy title. But actually an amusing read. Not my style of investing, still some interesting examples. Bottom line: Invest when companies have restructurings, spin-offs or something similar. Mostly everything was explained with examples (or "case studies" as he called it). I'm always looking for data on "many" or "all" examples of that category, though. These case studies always appear cherry-picked - examples where his strategy just happened to work out. Anyways, it was a fun read.

The Way of Kings
 1008 Seiten
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200 pages to get into the world. Then 600 pages of very good story that made me get to know (and love) the characters. And then, 200 pages of epic showdown.

I'm hooked. Let's see how it continues. Brandon "master of world-building" Sanderson, bring it on!

↑ 2020
2019 ↓
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
 296 Seiten
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Cal Newport defines deep work as the activities performed in distraction-free environments and argues that this is what's necessary to really make use of your full intellectual capacity.

The table of contents pretty much sums up the essence of Newport's line of argument: Deep work is valuable, but it's rare. And then he goes on to lay down some rules, some of which include quitting social media, structuring your day better and saying "no" to things than do not significantly help towards reaching your professional goals.

My favorite piece of advice was his suggestion on how to schedule your day: "Give every minute a job". Being an avid budgeter of money, I've always been looking for good advice on how to budget time. What he suggests is pretty simple, and won't surprise anyone, but I'll give it a go.

Overall, I think the book was good. He argued both with individual stories but also by citing relevant studies. I think Digital Minimalism was argued even clearer, but Deep Work was still a good read.

Schach mit Karpov
 145 Seiten
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Aus irgendeinem Bücherschrank mitgenommen, weil "man könnte ja mal was über Schach lesen". Und wenn es auch ein vergilbtes Unikum von 1978 ist. Vielleicht lernt man ja was.

Und ja, irgendwie habe ich jetzt einen Einblick in die Schachsubkultur in der UdSSR der 70er Jahren. Vor allem habe ich aber gelernt, dass Langeweile mehr als eine Dimension hat: Das hier war vielleicht prinzipiell interessant, aber null packend.

Egal, ging schnell.

Permanent Record
 432 Seiten
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It was a pleasure to read Snowden's own account of how he ended up being what he is now - the world's most well-known whistleblower (I suppose).

At times, in the chapters about his childhood, I caught myself thinking "huh, so you really have to describe how clever and smart you were as a kid, did you". But then, maybe he simply was, and also what does it matter. This is his version of his story. The actions he took stand for themselves.

All in all, I really really enjoyed this. I have always found his story fascinating before. And to find his own writing to be this clear and engaging was a pleasant experience.