EppsNet Archive: Books

EppsNet Book Reviews: Humans of New York: Stories

26 Nov 2015 /

I can’t say enough good things about this book. If you’re not one of the 16 million people following the Humans of New York Facebook page, take a look there to see what the concept is all about.

This book would make a great gift for anyone on your holiday gift list who knows how to read. If you’re on my holiday gift list, you’re getting this book. I wish I could give a copy to every person on Earth.

Rating: 5-stars

Happiness is Not . . .

17 Nov 2015 /
portrait of Leo Tolstoy

Happiness does not consist of the gratification of your wishes. Anna Karenina, for example, is quite illuminating on this point. Try reading a book once in a while, you’ll pick up on a lot of universal errors like that.

I Think We Are Kidding Ourselves

7 Sep 2015 /

More people have ascended bodily into heaven than shipped great software on time.Jim McCarthy


On the other hand, the number of people on LinkedIn claiming to have a demonstrated ability to lead software projects to successful completion, on time and on budget, as well as the number of companies seeking to hire such people, is infinite.

Thus spoke The Programmer.

Time is Money

13 Aug 2015 /

Short histories

Amazon sent me some book recommendations, including A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson and A Really Short History of Nearly Everything by the same author. The second book costs five dollars more. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Maybe condensing a short history into a really short history saves me some time and I have to pay more for that. Time is money . . . in this case, five dollars.

More Words and Phrases I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Before You Die

30 Jul 2015 /

50 Books You Must Read Before You Die, 100 Things You Need to Eat Before You Die, 1000 Places You Must See Before You Die, etc., etc., et goddamn cetera.

Why not simply say 50 Books You Must Read, 100 Things You Need to Eat or 1000 Places You Must See? We all understand that we won’t be reading, eating or seeing things AFTER we die. Why do you have to introduce death into the equation?

Hey Guys, I Wrote a Book!

27 Jul 2015 /

It’s called Thus Spoke the Programmer: A Fictional Memoir. (Don’t be put off by the title if you’re not a programmer. It’s guaranteed to delight both technical and non-technical readers alike. :) )

If you’re interested in having a look at it, you have a couple of options:

  1. Leanpub, a PWYW (pay what you want) platform, which means if you want to read the book for free, you can download it and read it for free.
  2. Amazon, available in paperback or Kindle format (not free).

All Joy Wants Eternity

26 Jul 2015 /

O man, take care!
What does the deep midnight declare?
“I was asleep—
From a deep dream I woke and swear:—
The world is deep,
Deeper than day had been aware.
Deep is its woe—
Joy—deeper yet than agony:
Woe implores: Go!
But all joy wants eternity—
Wants deep, wants deep eternity.

— Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Letting Go

3 May 2015 /

Let go of grief. Let go of joy. Let go of hope. Let go of fear. Let go of history. Let go of coming and going. Let go of culture. Let go of waiting. Let go of letting go.

— Rudolph Wurlitzer, Hard Travel to Sacred Places

A Lesson From the Godfather

29 Apr 2015 /

“There are men in this world,” he said, “who go about demanding to be killed. You must have noticed them. They quarrel in gambling games, they jump out of their automobiles in a rage if someone so much as scratches their fender, they humiliate and bully people whose capabilities they do not know. I have seen a man, a fool, deliberately infuriate a group of dangerous men, and he himself without any resources. These are people who wander through the world shouting, ‘Kill me. Kill me.’ And there is always someone ready to oblige them. We read about it in the newspapers every day.”

— Mario Puzo, The Godfather

See You in Hell

26 Apr 2015 /


[See You in Hell is a feature by our guest blogger, Satan — PE]

Greetings from the underworld!

I see that Pope Francis put a bee in Turkey’s bonnet a couple of weeks ago by calling the mass killing of Armenians in 1915 a genocide. According to the Turks, the Vatican should look to its own history before casting stones. Tu quoque!

On that note, the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Biography was just awarded to David I. Kertzer for The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe. Historically, popes have been far more circumspect in condemning genocide and other atrocities when committed by countries willing to aggrandize the Church (or when committed by the Church itself!)

See you in Hell, clerics of all stripes . . .


Learn How to Get a Man From a Woman With 14 Husbands

9 Apr 2015 /

Woman Married 14 Men

Bobbi Ann House

My first thought was that this woman should write a book. There are a lot of books out there about how to get a man, how to get a husband . . . how does one assess the credibility of the advice?

Normally a woman who’s markedly overweight and doesn’t have a single attractive feature can’t even get a date, let alone alone a husband, and yet this woman’s had 14 of them! How does she do it?! Who wouldn’t like to know her secret? I would!

Paste her grinning mug on the cover — the woman with 14 husbands! — and the book sells itself. Her upcoming jail term should give her plenty of time to write it.

EppsNet Book Reviews: Hotel World by Ali Smith

18 Mar 2015 /

Happy is what you realize you are a fraction of a second before it’s too late.

Hotel World takes place in and around a hotel in London, hence the title, but Hotel World is also a metaphor for life: people check in and people check out.

It’s about remembering to live, remembering that you won’t live forever . . . it’s about love, not romantic love, but a mother’s love for her daughter, sisters’ love for each other . . . and it’s about how close people come to really understanding one another, which is not very close at all.

Rating: 5-stars

Big Fishes in Small Ponds

14 Mar 2015 /

Big fish, small pond

A colleague and I are discussing an article about too many kids quitting science because they don’t think they’re smart, in which Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford, says, among other things:

Being a good parent has become synonymous with giving out ability praise. Parents still think this is the greatest gift they can give to their children, and as a child gets more and more insecure, they give more and more of it. And, by the way, a lot of employers and coaches have said, “My employees cannot get through the day without accolades and validation.” Even professional coaches have said they cannot give feedback without these people feeling that they’ve crushed them. We’ve created several generations now of very fragile individuals because they’ve been praised and hyped. And feel that anything but praise is devastating.

My colleague mentions Malcolm Gladwell‘s book David and Goliath, in which Gladwell claims that while the worst STEM students at, say, Harvard may be as smart as the top third at a lower ranked college, the Harvard kids feel stupid and unsuccessful because they compare themselves to their Harvard peers. Gladwell then goes on to recommend attending non-elite institutions — to be a big fish in a small pond — in order not to have your dreams and confidence crushed.

“Why don’t kids just forget about four-year institutions completely and attend their local community college?” I reply. “They can test their mettle against classmates with no academic qualifications whatsoever. That should provide a much-needed confidence boost.”

EppsNet Book Reviews: The Godfather by Mario Puzo

18 Feb 2015 /

Kudos to Francis Ford Coppola for making one of the most renowned films of all time out of this pedestrian soap opera.

Rating: 2 stars

Good Title for a Memoir

4 Jan 2015 /


2014: The Year in Books

31 Dec 2014 /

These are the books I read in 2014, roughly in the order listed. The ratings are mine. They don’t represent a consensus of opinion.

Books of the Year: My Antonia by Willa Cather (fiction) and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (non-fiction).

Honorable Mention: Flaubert’s Parrot, The Fountain Overflows, Nausea, Pastoralia, Revolutionary Road.

Teaching Computer Science: Those Who Don’t Like to Read

16 Dec 2014 /

Students with books

I recommended a couple of books that I’ve read recently and liked — Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman — to the class in case anyone was looking for a book to read over winter break or maybe as a holiday gift.

“What if you don’t like to read?” someone asked.

“Well, in that case you can spend your entire life inside your own head and never know or care what life looks like to other people.”

In hindsight, it occurred to me that I could have suggested audio books for people who don’t like to read, but . . . woulda coulda shoulda, you know what I’m saying?

The Hedgehog and the Fox

6 Dec 2014 /

Stuffed hedgehogs outside a store in Athens

Hedgehogs “know one big thing” and have a theory about the world: they account for particular events within a coherent framework, bristle with impatience toward those who don’t see things their way, and are confident in their forecasts. They are also especially reluctant to admit error. For hedgehogs, a failed prediction is almost always “off only on timing” or “very nearly right.” They are opinionated and clear, which is exactly what television producers love to see on programs. Two hedgehogs on different sides of an issue, each attacking the idiotic ideas of the adversary, make for a good show.

Foxes, by contrast, are complex thinkers. They don’t believe that one big thing drives the march of history . . . Instead the foxes recognize that reality emerges from the interactions of many different agents and forces, including blind luck, often producing large and unpredictable outcomes. . . . They are less likely than hedgehogs to be invited to participate in television debates.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

Art is Not a Brassiere

10 Nov 2014 /

Do not imagine that Art is something which is designed to give gentle uplift and self-confidence. Art is not a brassière. At least, not in the English sense. But do not forget that brassière is the French for life jacket.

— Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot

Whatever the Party Holds to Be the Truth

8 Nov 2014 /

“I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.”

— George Orwell, 1984

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