books I read 2009

Once when I picked up a book from the local library, the librarian asked to tell her what I thought about the book when I would bring it back. Well, why not write a few lines about all the books I read so everybody could see what I thought about it? I'm often also happy to have friends recommend a certain book or tell me this and that is not really worth reading. I won't comment about the tons of books I have read so far, but about books I read from now on.

1-star recommended not to read it empfehlung das buch nicht zu lesen
2-star not too interesting nicht allzu interessant
3-star average durchschnittlich
4-star good reading gutes lesematerial
5-star highly recommended sehr empfohlen

Overview of all Books

Overview of all Books

titleVersteckte Botschaften
authorKlaus Schmeh

Steganographie kannte ich bis anhin nur aus der Computerwelt. Diese Art des Botschaften Versteckens nimmt in Schmeh's Buch nur einen kleinen Teil ein. Mit zahlreichen zum Teil humorvollen Beispielen wird in den ersten drei Teilen aufgezeigt, was Steganographie ist und was für verschiedene Methoden über die Jahrhunderte angewendet wurden um Nachrichten zu verstecken. Jargon Codes, Semagramme, Zinken, Akrostichen sind nur einige der zahlreichen Techniken, auf die im Buch eingegangen wird.

Im vierten Teil räumt der Autor gnadenlos mit Steganographie-Scharlatanerei auf und zeigt wiederum anhand etlicher Beispiele, dass noch lange nicht hinter jedem vermeintlich gefundenen Code auch wirklich ein Code steckt.

Dieses Buch gibt auf humorvolle Art und Weise einen Ueberblick über die vierschiedenen Arten, wie Nachrichten versteckt werden können. Wer jedoch eine wissenschaftliche Abhandlung erwartet wird enttäuscht sein. Der Leser, der eine technische Anleitung zur Steganographie sucht findet auch nicht, sehr wohl aber vielfältige Ideen und Anhaltspunkte.

titleLife Support
authorTess Gerritsen

Toby Harper is a doctor at a hospital. She usually works the night shift at the ER. One night the cops bring in a completely disoriented elderly man who unfortunately leaves again some time later without a proper diagnosis. This already turns her live somewhat upside down, but things start to really go wrong when a few weeks later another man comes in with the same symptoms.

The story starts out rather slow but picks up speed after some time and gets really fast moving towards the end. The author was a doctor herself and surely knows what she is writing about but from time to time there is an overload of medical expressions which might be interesting to people who actually did study medicine, but not to others. Neither are these special terms a necessary part of the story, so if you don't understand them, simply skip them. And if you are the type of person who can't close an eye after seeing a mild horror movie, you should keep your fingers off this book. It is not horror, but in my opinion it is neither for the fragile.

titleHow to Win Friends & Influence People
authorDale Carnegie

Many of these self improvement books are completely exaggerating and talking about methods which are simply not applicable. This is, I feel, one of the books which actually are on track and give advice which is useful.

There are three parts in this book: how to make people like you, how to win people to your way of thinking and how to change people without arousing resentment. Actually, most of the people will actually know about most of the things the book suggests, but often we "know but do not realize". Ever so often I had to say to myself "Well, that's actually the way to do it and if I think of it, I somehow knew it." But these things have never before been laid out in front of me so openly. Some of the principles described in the book I already used consciously, some of them unconsciously and some where new ideas to me.

The book is not a manual giving concrete steps to take or phrases to use, but rather a guide to show you the direction to follow. The steps used to walk into the given direction must be found and taken by yourself, as they are very much dependent on the situation at hand. But there are numerous examples of how people applied the principles in certain situations. Actually most of the book consists of such examples and what the result was. Sure, Dale Carnegie uses positive examples with incredible results for illustration in his book, basically he shows the tip of the iceberg. The reader must realize that not every time one of these principles is being applied such a huge gain can result. So don't expect immediate radical changes once you start following the advice in the book, but I'm sure the general idea is correct and will yield results finally.

titlePandora's Daughter
authorIris Johansen

When she was a child, Megan Blair heard voices. Sometimes they drove her almost crazy. Her mother always insisted that Megan does not need to see a doctor about it and that the voices will go away when she grows up.

As a grown up, Megan indeed does not hear voices any longer. Until the day she is almost murdered and Neal Grady appears in her life, again. Megan must learn to accept the shocking news, that she does have a very special gift. A gift which can also be a curse. That gift is valuable to some and it makes others want to eliminate her. A cat and mouse race begins.

Iris Johansen has written a real page turner. The prologue is short, leaves many questions open, but it is a necessary part to avoid lengthy explanations inside of the main story; thus, right from the first chapter, the action can and does start.

titleSAP on Linux
authorW.Nüßer, M.Stein, A.Hass, T.Kugelberg, F.Kley

Das Buch gibt eine sehr gute Vogelperspektive über SAP und wie es auf Linux zu betreiben ist. An manchen Stellen geht es vom Höhenflug in rasantem Sturzflug in die Tiefe und es werden Dinge wie Speicherverwaltung unter Linux oder IO unter Linux in einem Detailgrad erklärt, der ansonsten nur in spezialisierten Kernel- oder Performance-Tuning-Büchern zu finden ist. Auch bei einigen nicht-Linux Themen, wie Datenbanken (MaxDB, DB2 UDB, Oracle) oder Starten und Stoppen von SAP wird zum Tiefflug angesetzt.

Obwohl der Inhalt des Buches wertvoll und informativ ist, macht es doch sehr stark den Eindruck eines unvollendeten, unter Termindruck erstellten Werkes: Für einen allgemeinen Ueberblick werden zu viele Details in einer zu grossen Detailtiefe besprochen und als tiefgehende technische Dokumentation zu SAP ist die Breite der Themen nicht ausreichend. Eine spätere Auflage dürfte hier wohl Abhilfe schaffen und die Breite der Themen erweitern. Auch orthographisch und grammatikalisch ist dringend eine Ueberarbeitung nötig (wurde das Manuskript vor dem Druck korrekturgelesen?); die vielen Fehler beeinträchtigen zwar den Inhalt nicht, wirken aber dennoch störend.

titleThe Postman always Rings Twice
authorJames M. Cain

Frank Chambers is a vagabond, here today and somewhere else tomorrow. When he tries to cheat a Greek restaurant owner for a meal he is unexpectely offered a job. But in this job he stays much longer than usual, the reason being the pretty wife of Nick, the Greek. Frank and Cora fall in love and are looking for a way to get rid of Nick.

This is a rather old book and no doubt had the stuff to be scandalous in its time. But more than seventy years later it is rather tame. Interesting, however, some of the wording used. Good I did not study English from this book or my marks for grammar would have suffered.

titlePulling Strings with Puppet
authorJames Turnbull

Puppet, being a great tool for system administrators, unfortunately suffers, at least in my opinion, from a lack of good documentation. Sure, the wiki at has a good amount of information, but it is neither easy to read, nor complete and the structure is not suitable for learning the ropes.

Does this book fill the gap? Only partially. What struck me at first was the complete lack of an index. The index in 'Red Hat RPM Guide' is of poor quality, but still better than none at all. Very often the author references to the wiki at for further reading and more details. I really would have liked more depth in the book. Especially a more extensive coverage of the various types, functions and configuration items used by puppet, including samples, would be in order, possibly in a separate chapter. Even if this meant duplicating much of the information in the wiki, it would avoid having to switch back and forth bewteen the book and the online reference.

On the bright side, Turnbull's writing style is easy to read. What is covered in the book mostly is explained by showing a sample followed by text explaining what's going on in the sample code. This makes it easy for newcomers to follow along. This covers mainly the basics plus some first steps beyond. I'm sure with puppet you can do much more, but here we're on our own again.

If you are new to puppet, get the book; it will help you get up to speed more quickly than the wiki. If you have puppet up and running with basics only, you might get some ideas from the book on how to get beyond the basics. If you are a slightly advanced puppeteer already you'll probably not gain anything from reading this book.

I'm still waiting for a good book on puppet, but meanwhile this is probably the best you can get and thus it gets a small bonus in my rating simply for the fact of being available.

titleThe First Counsel
authorBrad Meltzer

Michael Garrick is a young lawyer at the White House. And he is a very lucky man, because he is asked for a date by the First Daughter, Nora Hartson. Nora is a real daredevil getting rid of the Secret Service tailing them to sneak into a bar incognito and without being watched. There they spot Simon, Michael's boss, who seems to be handing over something. Secret information? Money? Nora convinces Michael to follow Simon and this is where Michael's life starts to go upside down. Within hours he is not only lying to the police, but also investigated by the FBI as a prime suspect in a sudden death case.

This is one of the few books written in present tense, which needed some getting used to on the first few pages. The story is well told with a number of unexpected twists and turns. Good enough, but nothing which kept me up at night reading till dawn.

authorTess Gerritsen

Jordan Travistock is a real British gentleman and aristocrat. And he is there for his friends when they need his help. So in the end he agrees, when Veronica Cairncross pleads "A small burglary. That's all I'm asking for." in order to help her out of some trouble. However, during this small and relatively harmeless burglary, Jordan stumbles upon another burglar at the same site. And this is when his own trouble starts.

At the beginning of the book, there are several odds and ends which, at first, seem to be completely self contained and not interwined with each other; especially if you also read the prologue, which you should do. But at the latest from the middle of the second chapter, some connections between the different stories become obvious. The whole story is very well constructed, every then and when the reader, together with the main figures, learns something new about how the events and characters are connected. It definietely is not one of those stories where you know all about the plot after reading the first twenty pages.

titleVersion Control with Git
authorJon Loeliger

Git is a very powerful, but also a very complicated Version Control System (VCS). I have experience with Subversion and for sure subversion was much easier to understand and learn. Also the documentation available online for subversion I think is better. So I was looking forward very much to this book, hoping it would finally jumpstart me on understanding and using git.

Jon Loeliger definitely does a better job with his book than the online documentation to give the reader an understanding of git. But even after reading the book I still feel somewhat like a toddler, wobbly on my feet when walking on the git-road. Partially this definitely is due to the complexity of git and its (seemingly) dozens of sub-commands and possible ways of doing things. However, I would have preferred fewer references to the manpages. The various commit graphs used throughout the book are a big help to understand what is going on, but a consistent example repository which is used from begin to end for all the examples might make things easier. On the upside, Jon does usually show how the sample repository he is using in each step is created, so you can follow along quite easily. With some of the later chapters I felt a bit lost. For example at the end of chapter 12 'Repository Management', I really thought I had a misprinted book with some pages missing; a few possibilities on how different repositories could theoretically be connected are mentioned, but there is no information on actually how to do it, not even a hint that such information can be found further on in chapter 15 'Combining Projects'.

If you need or want to use git and are dissatisfied with the usage information you can find on the web, Version Control with Git is probably worth buying and reading, it will remove some of your struggle, but don't expect you will be proficient in git after going through this book.

titleThe Charm School
authorNelson DeMille

Gregory Fisher is a young American travelling with his Trans Am in Russia. Major Jack Dodson is an army pilot who has been missing for years. Lisa Rhodes works as a public affairs officer at the US embassy in Moscow. Sam Hollis served as a pilot in Vietnam and now as military attaché in the US embassy of Moscow. Finally, Seth Alevy is the top CIA guy in the same embassy. In one or another way they are all involved in a breathtaking discovery: Mrs. Ivanova's Charm School. A school unlike any other. A school, which threatens to refreeze the thawing relationship between Russia and the United States. A school which is hidden and well protected.

The Charm School is a cold war spy story. It is written very well. The first two chapters are promising and the remaining forty chapters fully make up on that promise. This book is not only full of action, it also is done in a way so the reader never knows too much. Sometimes the main characters know or suspect more than the reader, not vice versa as it is with some other books. DeMille also does a good job of creating the appropriate moods with his writing. Adrenaline when things move fast, fear and a sense of disorientation when held and tortured in prison...

titleA Walk in the Woods
authorBill Bryson

Bill Bryson describes his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail, an old and famous trail in the US stretching over more than 2000 miles. Not only is Bryson's writing style entertaining, he also adds quite some facts and figures about the trail itself, how it came to be or various areas through which the trail passes.

This non-fiction book is for entertainment and would not be useful as preparatory lecture for doing the Appalachian Trail.

titleGünter lernt verkaufen
authorStefan Frädrich

Eigentlich hatte ich garnicht vor, dieses Buch zu lesen, aber es lag da auf dem Tisch, ich guckte einfach mal rein und schon war ich mitten drin. Der Schreibstil ist sehr locker, leicht zu lesen und gut verdaulich. Aufgeteilt in 100 mundgerechte Häppchen, kann man seinem innern Schweinehund namens Günter beibringen, wie man erfolgreich Geschäfte abschliesst.

Die präsentierten Häppchen sind keine Hexereien und auch keine hochgeheimen Rezepte, sondern ganz normale Verhaltensweisen, denen manch einer automatisch folgt. Dennoch ist es hin und wieder garnicht schlecht, wenn einem diese klar aufgezeigt werden. Und mit diesem Buch macht das sogar Spass.

titleThe next accident
authorLisa Gardner

Whether he knew it or not, Pierce Quincy was a legend around the Bureau. A highly skilled profiler, having studied psychology and criminology, one of the best people the FBI had for predicting crimes and moves criminals would make. But one day somebody equally skilled in understanding the mind of others starts to play games with Pierce. A terribly skilled and enormously motivated opponent wanting to do Quincy as much harm as possible, taking away all he has left in life.

From the prologue to the last chapter, this thriller is loaded with action. Just as the main characters themselves, the reader does not really know who the culprit is till the very end. An addictive book.

titleManche mögen's gleich
authorSydney Biddle Barrows & Judith Newman

Wie kommt ein Kerl dazu ein Buch zu lesen, das für Frauen geschrieben wurde? Nun, ganz einfach: dieses Buch soll Frauen zeigen, was Männer mögen, warum sie zuweilen für Sex bezahlen, weshalb sie fremdgehen. Da besteht doch auch für Mann die Chance, etwas mehr über sich selbst zu erfahren und vor allem interessiert auch, ob die Autorinnen uns Männer wirklich gut genug kennen, so dass sie auch imstande sind Ratschläge zu erteilen.

Nun, ich muss eingestehen, dass ich mich zum Grossteil mit dem Bild, welches von der männlichen Bevölkerung gezeichnet wird und mit den Erklärungen, welche abgegeben werden, identifizieren kann. Die Damen, welche das Buch verfasst haben, verstehen wirklich etwas von dem, was in den Köpfen der Männer (und weiter unten) abgeht. Der Damenwelt werden hier auch keine abwegigen, sondern durchaus sinvolle und angemessene Ratschläge erteilt, wie sie vermeiden können, ihre Ehe- und anderen Männer zu verlieren oder unbewusst fast schon mit Gewalt von sich wegzustossen. Es wird nicht nur aufgezeigt was Mann mag, sondern auch was es für Gründe geben kann, die ihn in die Arme einer Anderen treiben können. Mehr sogar, Dame erfährt auch Dinge, die Mann sich nicht getraut zu sagen.

Durchaus ein lesenswertes Buch, dass sicherlich dazu beitragen kann, das Verständnis zwischen den Geschlechtern etwas zu verbessern. Das Theama ist enger gefasst, aber die Beispiele und Erklärungen sind sehr viel besser als im Klassiker "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus". Ein ähnliches Buch über Frauen für Männer wäre sicherlich auch sehr interessant.

titleJust one Look
authorHarlan Coben

Grace Lawson, a happily married mother of two, picks up a pack of freshly developed photos from the Photomat. Between the shots recently taken there is a single old picture. She does not know the picture or how it came there, but one of the five people in it might be her husband at a time before she met him. When her husband has just one look at the odd photograph, he makes a call, gets into his car and disappears. She does not know what might have happened to him, but the police assumes he simply ran away due to some marital problems or the like. Some people from Grace's own past start showing up; a past, she had hoped would be history and stay history.

The book starts out with several seemingly unconnected events and these separate lines of the story go on for quite some time. Sure, it is one book and they must somehow be connected, but it takes a long time until it becomes apparent in what way. And it is only in the very end that things start to make at least some sense. Even in the very end, all the glue to put the pieces of the puzzle together seems rather far fetched and unlikely.

titleThe Ruby Programming Language
authorDavid Flanagan & Yukihiro Matsumoto

Ruby definitely has won a firm place in the list of commonly used scripting/programming languages these days. So even if you don't want to become a ruby guru, you might want to have a good book covering the important parts of the language. And as there are differences between ruby 1.8 and ruby 1.9, your reference ideally covers both. If so, then this book certainly is a good choice, even if you decide to skip the more advanced chapters or save them for when you need them. And if you intend to become the local ruby guru, then you definitely should have this book and read it two or three times, until you also understand the more advanced topics.

If your goal is to learn programming, then this book is not for you. It is not intended for programming beginners, but assumes that you know how to program in at least one other language. You should also know at least the basics about object oriented programming.

Flanagan does a very good job explaining how ruby works, not only in words, but also with code snippets. I found the book to be very well balanced; not too much lengthy explanation but enough to make things clear; short samples of code which demonstrate just the features being explained. This style creates a book densely packed with information. The topics are presented mainly in logical order, starting with lexical and syntactic structures, explaining data types, covering expressions and operators, going on with statements and control structures before getting involved in the more advanced topics like methods, classes, modules and metaprogramming. Personally I'd have preferred to have the last two chapters "The Ruby Platform" and "The Ruby Environment" placed somewhere before the heavyweights. The more difficult chapters may well scare a lot of folks off and if they don't jump to those two chapters at the end, they'll miss some of the more important and easier information.

All in all: Definitely no easy reader, densely packed but well done and well balanced.

titlesleeping dogs
authorThomas Perry

Michael Schaeffer appears. Out of nowhere. Nobody knows him. And he stays. He's a nondescript, average guy and the only thing which one could possibly see as out of the common is that he seems not to have any past. At least he never talks about anything that was before he came to Bath, England.

Ten years later his girlfriend, the Honourable Meg drags him along to a horse race in Brighton. And there the dogs that have been sleeping for the past ten years wake up again. Two people get killed and an attempt at Micahel's life is made too. All of a sudden he is thrown back into his old life with full force. Schaeffer vanishes on a 'business trip' back to the US. His business? Clean up the mess so he can live in peace again. He is still good, one of the best, at doing what he was doing in earlier days, but there are obstacles now, which he never had to consider before. It's not only the mob which is after him now, but also the FBI...

The whole story is well told and surely worth reading, although the book was not keeping me up till late at night because I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next. A few times going on to the next paragraph felt like I had skipped some pages; new environment, new people. However, things started to fit into the big picture again after a couple of more paragraphs.

titleThe Andromeda Strain
authorMichael Crichton

After a satellite goes off course and is brought down earlier than expected just outside of Piedmont, the whole town literally stops in its track and drops dead. Four scientists are called in to a secret high security underground laboratory. Their task is to find out what is going on. What happened to the inhabitants of Piedmont, why did two individuals survive, what is causing this, how can it be stopped?

Despite of the fact that it is full of medical terms, the book reads smoothly and is interesting. For somebody who does not know about all the various advanced medical tests, the only tipoff about the age of this text (original copyright 1969) is the seemingly absurdly low cost of some of the machinery. The plot itself could well be plucked right from the present.

As with other books written by Michael Crichton, there are lots of scientific details. But the plot is not as elaborately shaped and told as with some of his other books.

Overview of all Books

Page last modified on 2008-Dec-26 17:02 GMT