A non-exhaustive list of non-fiction books in no particular order I read recently, with some recommendation. This post was inspired by the similar posts of Eli Bendersky.


  • Kelly: More Than My Share of It All by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson. The autobiography of a aeronautical engineer genius, the founder of the Skunk Works. Concise and honest, inspirational.
  • Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed by Ben Rich. A story of the development the U2, Have Blue and F-117, the SR-71 Blackbird and more. Filled with personal anecdotes, not too technical but still informational. A tale of amazing engineering prowess.
  • Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity’s Chief Engineer by Rob Manning. An other story of an elite engineering group, told by a lead engineer. A super expensive project with tight deadlines, much excitement, and no ordinary problems.
  • Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age by Michael Hiltzik. The history of how the PARC research center was founded, the inventions that came out of it, and how Xerox capitalized on this precious gem. Somewhat longer, chapters dedicated to distinct researchers, management being the overarching cohesion.
  • The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder. A detailed account of how a particular computer was developed in the late 1970s in the U.S, mostly by enthusiast, young professionals – with a twist at the end. The author is a master of his craft (journalism).


  • UNIX: A History and a Memoir by Brian Kernighan. A very interesting story of how the original Unix was invented - as seen by Brian, and how now-familiar tools were developed alongside. Recommended for the users of UNIX derivative systems, and tools like bash, make, awk, etc.
  • Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary, by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond. An easy, funny, part auto-biography book about Linus Torvalds, and the early years of Linux. Not too technical, but still interesting and insightful.
  • A Philosophy of Software Design by John Ousterhout. An attempt to present abstract software design ideas, generic rules? My takeaway: shallow abstractions are wrong. Otherwise, not so much, unfortunately.


  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Written in 5th century BC, a collection of military maxims, commented by later interpreters, then again translated and commented by many, including Lionel Giles.
  • Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh. The author tells how the theorem was finally solved, starting with the ancient greeks and ending up at modern mathematics. Unfortunately, to remain comprehensible for casual readers, there are not much mathematical details. I think this is not the authors fault – modern mathematics simply transcended most of us.

Social and Psychology

  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. A collection of important psychological phenomena, that helps to understand why do we feel, think, decide, and get things wrong the way we do. Very long, but extremely insightful.
  • The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success by Albert-László Barabási. An analysis of how valuation of achievements at the highest level does (not) work. An interesting, data driven, simple message, in a bit lengthy and sensationalist form.

Money and Economy

  • A Man for All Markets by Edward O. Thorp. An autobiography telling a story of how a poor, but super intelligent boy discovers the world, and denies the “it cannot be done” sentiment. From university through Las Vegas to Wall Street. Recommended for aspiring quants and hedge fund operators.
  • Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis. A fun, easy to read, short story about high frequency trading in the US, based on actual events. Unfortunately, some argue it is incorrect, factually wrong, written in bad faith, or simply an ad of a specific exchange. There’s even a rebuttal book. Still, it is a fun read.


  • How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish. A great book with practical tips on difficult but everyday situations when dealing with children. Half of the book is tips - just the right amount, half of it is case-studies. The presented techniques do work. Highly recommended for parents with small children.
  • Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman. The author argues that understanding, reflecting and labeling the child’s emotions is beneficial in may ways. True. The book information/letter ratio is a bit low.