The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914

David McCullough

1977


The long, twisted history of the Panama canal told with a wonderful eye for detail,. both personal and political. It's hard to imagine that that a work of construction was considered so vital that it survived the changes of engineering direction, political about-turns, and financial upheavals that bedevilled Panama. It left me wanting to transit the cabal for myself, just to see it and imagine its tortuous construction.

Finished on Sat, 17 Nov 2018 06:53:21 -0800.   Rating 4/5.

Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity's Chief Engineer

Rob Manning

2014


A boy's-own adventure in space travel. Howe do you design, build, fly, and debug a rover the size of a bus that'll have to endure a landing more fraught than any other vehicle ever constructed – and then operate completely remotely, without repair, for years? That this happened at all is a tribute to NASA's planning and management skills; that Curiosity has lasted years longer than ever anticipated is nothing short of spectacular. The book gives as much technical low-down as any space-obsessive could want, with pointers to more.

Finished on Sat, 17 Nov 2018 06:50:32 -0800.   Rating 5/5.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Carlo Rovelli

2014


"Brief" they are indeed: this is not Feynman's Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics By Its Most Brilliant Teacher in any respect, rather it's a popular-science description of some of the currents in modern physics. And it's amazingly well-done, making the concepts understandable as only someone immersed in them and gifted both in the science and in literature can possibly make them.

Finished on Sat, 17 Nov 2018 06:47:48 -0800.   Rating 4/5.

Command and Control

Eric Schlosser

2013


History at its most nail-biting. This should be read as a counterpoint to Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, a description of the military plans that led to the need for the nuclear materials.

Many of the anecdotes are terrifying, and make one wonder how we managed to to survive the Cold War – and how we'll survive the current era too, given that the systems are all still in place with their existing faults.

Finished on Sat, 17 Nov 2018 06:45:49 -0800.   Rating 5/5.

The Forever War (The Forever War, #1)

Joe Haldeman

1974


A classic of science fiction with a "hard" premise: how can one fight a long-distance war in the presence of relativity? Haldeman's conclusion is insightful: in travelling to battle your technology becomes old compared to those you'll fight when you arrive, which given the speed of technological advance places the attacker at a huge disadvantage. He gives his physics human scale and a prosaic, if perfectly believable resolution.

Finished on Sat, 17 Nov 2018 06:42:55 -0800.   Rating 5/5.

Four Fields

Tim Dee

2013


A lyrical, poetic tale of rural life. The writing is wonderful, if perhaps a little drawn out: a book to be tackled in short doese for the beauty of the imagery.

Finished on Sat, 17 Nov 2018 06:40:15 -0800.   Rating 3/5.