just a place to keep track of my current and recently read books

And give you a chance to Amazon them up if you like

I try, and often miserably fail, to keep booklists of what I've been reading. Making another stab at it in 2019.


The main thing I read is my Bible. I try to spend time in it every day. For the last several years I've been using the ESV (English Standard Version). Strongly recommend the UVersion Bible App! Check it out!

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SciFi, Action and Thrillers, Politics, Poetry, Assorted Non-Fiction, Computers, Business, Religion / Philosophy

Science Fiction Books / SciFi Books

The Deaths of Tao: Tao Series Book Two My Amazon review was entitled "Saving the world is rough on the marriage!" -- In the first book, Chu does what scifi authors do best. He offers an alternative to the reality we know. In this case the Prophus and the Gengix are both nearly eternal aliens that are residing on earth by dwelling in hosts. In order to return to their home world they have been helping humans advance and develop the science they will need. After reading "The Lives of Tao" I was pretty excited to jump to the sequel, but really didn't think the author could sustain his amazing momentum. He did. In book one the focus was on the development of an out of shape slob programming into a "super agent". In book two the focus is on how that same super agent has to balance his love for his wife and son with the whole "let's save the world" mission that he has come to excel at. Chu gets that balance JUST RIGHT!
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (book 1 of 3)
The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth's Past) by Cixin Liu (book 2 of 3) My Amazon review was entitled "Future alien threat spurs technology explosion" -- In book two of the trilogy that began with the "three body problem" the alien threat looms ever closer, but humans are confident that their technological blooming has reached a stage where they can confidentially expel the invaders. When they are proven wrong a humble astronomer, hibernated in the 21st century and recently awakened, may be earth's only hope!

Book two opens with what I believe were some translation issues -- the book seemed very slow to start for me, and this may be cultural differences. The early pages are filled with political and philosophical debate that seemed slow and awkward. However, once past that, the reader is rewarded with a true scifi philosophers concept of the intergalactic universe, tragedy at a global scale, and finally, Hope.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang An excellent collection of Nebula award winning stories, including the story that became the new movie: Arrival!
Nexus: Nexus Arc Book 1 by Ramez Naam Go ahead and buy all three. You aren't going to want to wait TWO WHOLE DAYS for the next one to arrive after you spend all night reading the first one. Remember the mind-expansion you felt after watching the first The Matrix movie back in the 90s? Get ready for that times ten. When open source developers create a chemical matrix that allows an Operating System to be laid down on the human brain, then any Neuro-developer can write code that builds upon that matrix to expand the capabilities of the human mind programatically. Mix that with a BRILLIANT treatment of the arms race of a citizen-dominating China vs. a corrupt surveillance state USA, and have it imagined by a brilliant software engineer who really works at Amazon. PHEW! Mind blown!
Crux: Nexus Arc Book 2 by Ramez Naam
Apex: Nexus Trilogy Book 3 (Nexus Arc) by Ramez Naam
Armada: A novel by the author of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline OK, so it wasn't "Ready Player One" -- how could it be? Ernest Cline's first novel was custom-made to be the perfect read for this 70s/80s childhood Dungeons and Dragons Video Gamer. But it was still a strong read and quite a fantastic finish!

Thrillers / Action Books / Spy Books

The Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander novel, continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series by David Lagercrantz Did you love the original Trilogy and just can't bring yourself to imagine Lileth in the hands of another author? Put your fears aside. This one is just as great as the original three! Read on!

Political Books / World Politics

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan
Radical: My Journey Out Of Islamist Extremism by Maajid Nawaz Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism, by Maajid Nawaz - tells a fascinating tale of the radicalization of a young Canadian muslim, who learns about true Islam when his attempts to commit jihad introduce him to the lies being fed by the jihadis. He now tries to help other young men not fall into the same traps that almost consumed him. Follow him on Twitter! @MaajidNawaz
Joby Warrick: Black Flags : The Rise of Isis (Hardcover); 2015 Edition by Joby Warrick Joby Warrick is first a Pulitzer winning author, and second an expert in Jihad. This matters to create the most readable of all the ISIS-related books I've read so far.
The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency by Charles Lister Charles Lister's book on the Syrian Jihad has more first person interviews and accounts than any of the other books. Lister spent the time to get to know the people and now he has the ability to give us the guided tour of all the personnel and factions that you MUST know to understand what's going on in Syria. My Amazon Review:

I read quite a bit of middle eastern politics and especially terrorism. Lister's book is the best treatment I've seen of the situation in Syria. Nothing else even comes close. Despite a hundred pages of references, notes and index, the truth is that Lister knows so much because he has exclusive interview access with hundreds of sources who have trusted him to tell their story. If you want to know what is happening in Syria, read this book. HOWEVER, the book comes with a high standard of expectation on the reader. If this is a new topic area for you, you will want to keep a Syrian map at your side and a notepad for sketching out the many dozens of jihadist groups that are mentioned.

Lister's book really points out the hypocrisy of our undeveloped policy in Syria. Do we want the regime gone? Yes. But are we willing to spill our own blood to accomplish that? No. So how do we do it? Well, we could partner with the Saudis to fund jihadi organizations to fight the regime. Wait - didn't we try that in Afghanistan already? What was the result? Oh yes, the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Lister's book has all of the raw data necessary to understand the delicate framework of the on-again off-again alliances of the Free Syrian Army, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and of course the Islamic State. We say we are only funding and providing weapons to the "moderate" jihadists, but those weapons are being traded and bartered among groups with great liquidity as those and dozens of smaller organizations attempt to protect their families and towns from the Regime and to stave off the new pro-Regime forces from Russia, Iran, and Lebanon (Hezbollah). Each of the major players seems to have fought both with and against the others. Jabhat al-Nusra has been called al-Qaeda's branch in Syria by our own state department, and yet we simultaneously treat them as our great hope in defeating the Islamic State.

Thank you, Charles Lister, for spending so much of your time and energy getting this story out to the rest of us!

Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror by Michael Hayden From my Amazon.com review: Great intelligence Leadership Bio devolves into angry partisan hate leaving many unanswered questions -- I bought this book and dove into it, having heard Hayden in interviews and in lectures and believing he would address the top challenges of our day. It started out strong and there were some amazing insights. I did truly admire what Hayden accomplished and his character, leadership style, and life story. Unfortunately the book devolved into a partisan rant about how horrible the Democrats in the Senate and the administration are, with regards to handling intelligence. Snowden, which one would think would take significant role in a book about the Intelligence community published in 2016, gets a small mention in the final chapter in a quite dismissive way. Stuxnet is also almost entirely ignored, although there is a great chapter on policy setting with regards to Iranand their nuclear program. Very glad I read it. I feel that I truly learned more of the functions of government decision-making with regards to the process of intelligence. But I certainly was expecting more, and was disappointed by the way the book devolved into bickering and name-calling.
And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East by Richard Engel I entitled my Amazon review "The story of the Middle East Conflict by one who went there" -- Richard Engel decided as a boy to become a journalist and foreign correspondent. Settling in Cairo in 1996, unemployed, and living among the people to learn the language and the culture, gave him a sense of what the Middle East was in the time of the Big Men. With that as a base, and a bit of perhaps foolhardy bravery, Richard stayed when everyone else fled. He smuggled himself in and was there in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria, and anywhere else where there was a story he felt the world should know. Now moving his life on from the Middle East, Engel has the freedom to tell what he saw, and what he believes happened, with the clarity of one who was there first-hand. An important story for every American to read.

Haiku Books / Poetry Books

General Fiction

Thin Blue Smoke: A Novel About Music, Food, and Love by Doug Worgul A entitled My Amazon Review "Lake Woebegone, only in a Kansas City Barbecue" -- A family member had mentioned a book Thin Blue Smoke by Doug Worgul a while back and I put it on my kindle. Over the next couple months it was sort of my "backup book." I normally start and finish books in a day or two, but this one just didn't read that way for me. It was more like if Garrison Keeler was telling Lake Woebegone stories, only they were focused on the lives of people who worked and frequented a small barbecue restaurant in Kansas City. I loved the stories, and, just like Pastor Inkfest, I actually enjoyed checking in with them periodically to see what was new in their lives, but I didn't want to spend my whole day with them.

The characters came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and Worgul did a great job of building deep portraits, little by little, over the course of several dozen vignettes -- often with deep flashbacks, sometimes related as stories being told to another character, and sometimes in the voice of an omniscient narrator, but each detail held back until such a time that when they were revealed the behavior of that character suddenly took on a new and deeper meaning.

Perhaps it was because I've listened to blues and eaten barbecue in St. Louis and Memphis, or maybe because I related to the character of the seminarian writer, but by the end I really found myself caring about what was happening to these small town barbecue aficionados and their friends and families. I would NEVER have picked the book myself, but I'm so glad I read it.

Assorted Non-Fiction Books

All the Rave: The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning's Napster by Joseph Menn This should be part of the "Essential reading" series for people trying to understand the history of the Internet, the laws around early tech, and the entrepreneurs who chose to totally ignore them.
Jallad: Death Squads and State Terror in South Asia by Tasneem Khalil Not all governments have the best interests of their citizens in mind. Tasneem Khalil, who lives in exile after being arrested and tortured by his government in Bangladesh, reveals the dark side of South Asias governments.
American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales This book was far too "gossipy" for my tastes, but if you are like me, you would be shocked to learn what America's teenage girls are actually doing and talking about on Social Media.
Hate Crimes in Cyberspace by Danielle Keats Citron
How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg My Amazon review is entitled "Smart Creatives concept is awesome..." -- But then the book decided it was necessary to tell every Google story, whether interesting or not, and along the way it began to feel like the authors just threw the "smart creatives" catch phrase in to remind us they had a great concept when they started the book.

Computer Books / Computer Security Books / Network Security Books / Hacking Books

Computer Forensics and Digital Investigation with EnCase Forensic v7 by Suzanne Widup This is the one book that every EnCase Examiner needs to have. What a great overview of the capabilities of the product, especially with regards to the changes in version 7! As someone who has been teaching EnCase for five+ years, I love this book!
Open Source Intelligence Techniques: Resources for Searching and Analyzing Online Information by Michael Bazzell Michael Bazzell's Open Source Intelligence book is the training book that every new analyst should start with. Great way to accelerate the introduction to the field.

Management Books / Leadership Books / Business Books

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently by John Maxwell

Religion / Philosophy / Spiritual

Learning from the Giants: Life and Leadership Lessons from the Bible (Giants of the Bible) by John Maxwell I loved Pastor Chris Hodges' sermon series based on this book when he preached it at Church of the Highlands. I knew I had to get the whole set of books. Basic premise: what would the all-stars of the faith have to say to you if they could step into your life and share something they have learned that would be helpful to you in your life.
Running with the Giants: What the Old Testament Heroes Want You to Know About Life and Leadership (Giants of the Bible) by John Maxwell
Wisdom from Women in the Bible: Giants of the Faith Speak into Our Lives (Giants of the Bible) by John Maxwell continuing the "Giants of the Bible" series - with wisdom from female figures of faith.
Grace Grows Best in Winter by Margaret Clarkson This book was helpful to me as I worked through part of the grieving process after losing my 19 year old daughter.
Destined for Glory: The Meaning of Suffering by Margaret Clarkson
Dangerous Surrender: What Happens When You Say Yes to God by Kay Warren This book walks through the process that Kay Warren (her husband Rick Warren is the "Purpose Driven Life" guy from Saddleback Church) went through as she began to learn about the African AIDS crisis and began to explore the idea that perhaps God's plan for the rest of her life was different than her own plan for the rest of her life.