Things to Read

Similar to the Things To Watch series where I talk about TV shows and web videos I like, I want to formalize my book “reviews” into series I’ am going to call Things to Read from now on.

As always, I keep my LibraryThing page pretty current in terms of the books I buy and read at any given moment. But this series isn’t only about books, but occasionally also about interesting things I stumble across on the web (although I also share those on my Twitter in a more timely fashion).

Here are the highlights among the things I have read recently.

The Sibling Effect

The Sibling Effect by Jeffery Kluger talks about the special bonds we share with our siblings. They are there for us all the way from when we are little to the day we die; unlike parents, our own children or even spouses with whom we only live for a part of our live. The author explains multiple aspects of the relationships among siblings, many times drawing on his own experience of having brothers and (later in his life) significantly younger step-siblings. But the book also has a chapter on sibling-relationships in the animal kingdom, which are often less harmonious than those of humans (among sharks, for instance, the largest embryo eats his or her siblings in-utero). But of course, there are some complicated sibling-relationships among humans, too, and those are discussed as well. In the end, I think reading this book made me feel even more blessed about the wonderfully close bond I share with my sister :-)

The Pastry Box Project

This is an online project for the duration of 2013. In their own words:

30 People Shaping The Web. One Thought Every Day. All Year Round. Sugar For The Mind.

Obviously not every thing written there is something I agree with or even something I care about. But the breadth of topics – including some I would normally never think about – makes this a really interesting read and something I aim to check out every day. I can’t wait to for this to be made into a book or another medium that may last longer than a web page.

Just My Type & Thinking With Type

I am not that into typography. In fact, I am routinely annoyed when people spend way too much time looking for new typefaces to use in their stuff. It was for this reason that I bought two books to educate myself on the topic: Just My Type by Simon Garfield and Thinking With Type (2nd edition) by Ellen Lupton (I also own her excellent Design It Yourself).

I have only flicked through Thinking With Type, because as the subtitle says, it’s “A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students” and thus not something one reads before going to bed. I will have to make time to really dive into this one.

Just My Type, however, is a book that one can in fact read as bedtime stories. For instance, it tells the story of how Comic Sans and other typefaces came about. You will also learn something about Helvetica (one of the most overrated typefaces, if you ask me) and how it is related to Arial. There is also a brief introduction to distinguish the terms “typeface” and “font” which I as a layman found very helpful.

Showing Up for Life

Showing Up for Life was written by William H. Gates, Sr, father of Bill Gates and talks about his principles and values for life and particularly family life. He also uses the expression “showing up” a lot – and I mean a lot – to the point that it gets kind of annoying sometimes.

All in all, though it’s a great, very personal book. It makes it sound like Bill Gates was blessed with a wonderful childhood, which may have played a large role in where he is today. I’ve also learned that Bill Gates was called Trey (for William H. Gates III)in order to avoid confusion with his father Bill.

I also just love the foreword from his son:

Dad, the next time somebody asks you if you’re the real Bill Gates, I hope you say, “Yes.” I hope you tell them that you’re all the things the other one strives to be.


Unlike the aforementioned works, Capital by John Lanchester is a work of fiction. For a long time, I hadn’t been reading any fiction at all, but in recent months the share of fiction I read has been increasing steadily (thanks in large part to the excellent recommendations from M). As I said on Twitter the other day, Capital “with its many intersecting storylines is the most captivating book I’ve read in a while”. In fact, a large part of my time in Amsterdam last week was spend sitting in Vondelpark enjoying Capital.

I don’t want to summarize the book here in fear of giving away anything (M is still reading it, I think), so if you want to, check out the description on Amazon. It’s just wonderful. In the beginning, it reminded me sometimes of Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy which had a couple of elements occurring in more than one of the stories, linking them in interesting ways.


There are two other fiction books, I’ve read recently and would like to mention/recommend, although they are both available only in German: Bestattung eines Hundes by Thomas Pletzinger and Der Tag ist hell, ich schreibe dir by Tanja Langer.

In the non-fiction department, I am currently reading Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson, a very interesting book about maker culture. I have wanted a 3D printer for quite a while now, but they are still to expensive to buy as a toy. If Anderson is to be believed, however, they will become affordable in the not to distant future. Until then, one might want to check out Hackerspaces (there are even some in Germany).