2022 books in review

These are the books that I have read in 2022. I didn’t have a blog back then, meaning I couldn’t have written a separate review for each one. But I am trying to rectify it now, writing a few words about them before the year end.

Philosophy Between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing by Arthur M. Melzer

This is a deep analysis of the manner in which virtually all philosophers before the last two centuries or so engaged in esotericism to convey their teachings to their inner circle of disciples (and eventually the great public). It was very instructive to realize the difference between “theory” and “praxis”, which is the basis for the reasons why these philosophers took great lengths to conceal their true message.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Both Stephen Hawking’s life and intelligence are fascinating. The way he struggled with a degenerative neurological disease and at the same time dedicated his efforts for developing concepts so abstract about the universe are deeply noteworthy. This book is very accessible in the sense that you don’t need to know profound Calculus or Physics to understand it. You may not be able to prove the concepts there though, but it will give you a good footing on how the universe was formed (and time itself with it).

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan

Science has found a way — a method — of finding the truth, gradually, provisionally, and of correcting itself as it goes. It is the scientific method. If you stumble upon some groundbreaking discovery, you can submit your thoughts to the scientific community, and anyone in the world can try to reproduce it, either validating or rejecting it. Carl Sagan explores several myths, from aliens to witchcraft, exposing with unbeatable clarity why most of them simply cannot be true. Great for developing critical thinking.

Cain’s Jawbone by Torquemada (E.Powys Mathers)

I love puzzles and I love literature. This book is the perfect combination of both, and I will freely admit it, it is hard. All of the book’s pages are out of order, and you need to put them in their proper place. Additionally a murder has been committed (or murders) and you need to discover who is the victim, who is the murderer, what was the weapon. I have an idea of what is going on, but there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of literary references that you need to research to make sense of the plot. I will need some time until I solve the puzzle. But at least I have read the entire book (a few times, I must say).

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

This was the first full-length book published by George Orwell, which is a pseudonym for Eric Blair. He didn’t want to use his real name, out of fear of embarrassment to his family for the time he lived as a “tramp”. Well, the book was a success, the name stuck, and he used it in all of his major works afterwards.

I have already published a post about my experience reading this book, which you can find here.

I have read a bunch of technical books this year. I was feeling that I needed to improve myself in some areas, and wanted to exercise my brain in a different way, perhaps thinking more analytically. I must confess that I have enjoyed enormously doing so, and it helped me in several projects. One of them is this very blog. It all begun with the desire to learn more about Cloud Computing and get certified for AWS, which I did. It made me read less fiction books than I wanted, since part of the time was used to complete exercises and assignments. But it definitely paid off.

The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation by Bryan A. Garner

This is a reference book… and I don’t know why, but I enjoy reading them from beginning to end. I feel that if I don’t do it, some important piece of information will be hidden there and I will skip it. Besides, if I don’t read it at least once, there’s no way for me to know it. After that, I can always come back to refresh my memory about some particular item. This book, apart from being authoritative on all things grammar related, has very cool sections on Sentence Diagramming and Transformational Grammar.

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer

This book has basically the same purpose of the previous one, that is, clarity and style in writing. It even directs you to consult the Chicago Guide if you are in doubt. But while the former is very technical and serious, this one is more conversational and relaxed. It gives you a lot of real life examples and anecdotes so that you can understand why some word choices are made.

Python Crash Course: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming by Eric Matthes

A very good introduction to the Python programming language, with lots of examples and exercises. It has also 3 bigger projects where you can apply your knowledge:

Proud to say that I have completed all the exercises and projects in it.

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Study Guide: CLF-C01 Exam by Ben Piper and David Clinton

Great coverage of the subjects that are part of the CLF-C01 AWS exam. I have also done all the exercises and practice exams in this one, and voilà! I have passed the certification.

Calculus Made Easy by Silvanus P. Thompson

Calculus always haunted my nightmares since I was introduced to it in the university. I did what I could back then, learning in a rush to pass exams, but I felt that I should revisit this some time down the road. This year was it. I know that there are very good textbook options available. But I have chosen this one because it’s famous, popular, in the public domain and promises that it will teach you step by step. And it delivers. I used also the companion Librivox recording, which helped a lot, specially to know how to say in English most of the mathematical notations.

Latex in 24 Hours: A Practical Guide for Scientific Writing by Dilip Datta

Lots of information and tips on how to write scientific articles or books using LaTeX. Of course it can be applied for regular books as well. It might be useful someday…

Jacques Pépin New Complete Techniques by Jacques Pépin

Wonderfull book full of techniques and recipes, with a very definite tendency to the French cuisine. Read my full post about it here.

The Protocols and World Revolution by Sergei Nilus

Several years ago I read The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco (one of my favourite authors). The plot is a fictionalized attempt to retrace the construction of the hoax of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabricated document that did so much damage by instigating the already growing antisemitic sentiment before the First and Second World Wars. This is the English translation of one of the versions in the long list of sources used for this literary forgery.

Livro de Mágoas by Florbela Espanca

I gave this book to my mom several years back, since she likes poetry. I read it then, but this year I saw another book by Florbela Espanca at Project Gutenberg: Livro de “Sóror Saudade” and decided to read both. There is a profound sorrow and sadness in all of the poems there, which is very characteristic of Florbela Espanca, but also of the Portuguese poetry and music, as we can see in the fado. She lived a tumultuous life and showed signs of mental illness, finally dying by suicide. But she also was very progressive for her time, dealing with the themes of eroticism and feminism in her writings.

Livro de “Sóror Saudade” by Florbela Espanca

A Américo Durão

Irmã, Sóror Saudade me chamaste...
E na minh'alma o nome iluminou-se
Como um vitral ao sol, como se fosse
A luz do próprio sonho que sonhaste.

Numa tarde de outono o murmuraste;
Toda a mágoa do outono ele me trouxe;
Jamais me hão de chamar outro mais doce:
Com ele bem mais triste me tornaste...

E baixinho, na alma da minh'alma,
Como benção de sol que afaga e acalma,
Nas horas más de febre e de ansiedade,

Como se fossem pétalas caindo,
Digo as palavras desse nome lindo
Que tu me deste: «Irmã, Sóror Saudade»...

All in all, it was a good year in reading, and better yet in studying. Next year is very promising!