Dan Hough

The Books I Read in 2013

Published 27 December 2013 in London, UK

Feed: Book 1 of the Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant

The Newsflesh trilogy is a breath of fresh air for anybody interested in the Zombie Horror Subgenre, since it ignores the traditional, “All The Zombies Are After Me All The Time” approach and instead focuses on the social and political impact of a huge Zombie-esque infection event on the rest of the world. Following a US Presidential Campaign trail from the eyes of a young journalist called Georgia Mason, we watch political scandal and espionage unfold in a world barely coping to deal with an ever-present enemy which cannot be reasoned with, but merely contained.

The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne

The Mysterious Island reminds me of Minecraft. No, really. The story follows the lives of civil-war-era Americans POWs as they escape their imprisonment and end up shipwrecked on an island with little modern technology at their disposal. Verne appears to take our heroes through a sped-up version of human technological evolution, starting with basics of survival all the way to farming, sailing, mechanics and so on. With each new development we learn from the crew’s leader, Captain Harding, on how to do the same as he instructs his men. This is a fascinating read, full of excitement, joy, sadness, and tales of brotherhood. I was particularly struck by the wisdom of Captain Harding (and by extension Jules Verne), and I shall share one of my favourite excerpts from the book:

“And yet,” added Pencroft, “the world is very learned. What a big book, captain, might be made with all that is known!”

“And what a much bigger book still with all that is not known!” answered Harding.

Batman Year One by Frank Miller & David Mazucchelli

This is the graphic novel which redefined the caped crusader for a new generation, darkening his backstory and character. It forms part of the inspiration for Batman Begins. The story revolves largely around the relationship between Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon of Gotham City and their simultaneous struggles to come to terms with the problems their City faces.

If you’re as much of a novice in reading comics as I am, you’ll enjoy this as somewhere to start.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

This is an adorable, hilarious, rollercoaster ride of a novel. Quite a jovial and fairly easy read, this story reminds us to continue to stay young even when we’re getting older.

Nothing To Envy: Real Lives In North Korea by Barbara Demick

By far one of the most comprehensive accounts of any specific lives in North Korea which I’ve read yet. Demick follows the lives of six Koreans born north of the DMZ, and the lives surrounding theirs’. This is by no means a happy tale of overcoming adversity, so be prepared to read about some hard truths. A great insight into the strange and Orwellian North Korea, very well written and engaging. If you’re at all interested in the world’s strangest country, this is a very good book to read.

You Talkin’ To Me? by Sam Leith

Sam Leith’s book introduces the reader to the concept of rhetoric, and then explores a wide variety of techniques and how they’ve been used by influential and famous public speakers throughout the history of humanity. He examines the different techniques they have used in their famous speeches and dissects said speeches. It may sound dry, but actually he brings the reader in as if they are with him, working it out together. Since reading, I’ve looked at public speaking in a whole new light. Applying what I’ve learned to what I say, and using what I’ve learned to better understand what others are trying to say, I’d suggest that this is a very useful book for anybody interested in the makeup of speech, persuasion and public speaking.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This classic business/relationships book has been recommended countless times by reviewers with much more clout than myself. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be put off by the title as it sounds like a book filled with manipulative and underhanded advice. Don’t be put off by the title. What I took away from this book is a lot of advice about how to be nice to people, and how to treat them with the respect that they deserve as human beings. Carnegie’s 1936 book is just as useful now as it was when it was written, and to top it off you get to enjoy the slightly old-timey English language he uses.

Deadline: Book 2 of the Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant

The second in the trilogy, this part of the story is sadder, told from the perspective of Shaun Mason, the protagonist of the first part’s adopted brother and contemporary in the world of online journalism. A much more emotional piece than the last, and a lot more chaotic than the last.

Blackout: Book 3 of the Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant

The conclusion to the Newsflesh trilogy, while clearing up many loose ends quite nicely, does leave me wanting more. I think this is because it was a little bit disappointing in the way that it did so. Even more emotional than the last, this part of the story seems to rush through some of the plot points a little bit. Nevertheless, if you’ve gotten this far into the trilogy it is a satisfactory conclusion and it has to be finished.

ReWork by 37signals

ReWork is one of those books full of opinions that reflect what some people would say is common sense, packaged in a nice, clean, and well-defined way which makes it a real pleasure to read. Some of the points are less-obvious, though, and come from experience of trying to fix broken practices in business, and trying to optimise the process of “Getting it done”. If you’re frustrated in your job, but you don’t know why - give this a read. You may find something in here which can shed light on the situation.

Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground by Mark Mason

Too often do Londoners miss out on some of the interesting things surrounding them every day. We rarely pay attention to the fact that as we rush to the office, surrounding us are ruined buildings, abandoned railroads, dried-up rivers and the exciting tales of innumerable Londoners before us. Mason has done this paying attention for us. As he explores all of the London Underground’s 260+ stations he takes us through the history of the Underground and the areas of London that it penetrates. It’s an inpsiring tale, and a lot of fun.

Joel on Software by Joel Spolsky

Although Spolsky’s 2004 Blog-to-book publication is a little dated now in terms of the different programming languages he uses and idioms he refers to, it is still full of many great lessons about how to work in software engineering teams, from the perspective of a developer, a manager, or somewhere in between. Spolsky shares numerous stories about how he got started in the world of Software Engineering, and some honest stories about the things he learned when he started working on his own products and building his own company. I’d highly recommend this to anybody who is entering the Software world now, as it contains many useful insights as well as a small glimpse into the last couple of decades of our industry.

Casino Royale: James Bond 007 by Ian Fleming

For too long I’ve neglected the work of Fleming, and even the films which his work inspired are mostly unfamiliar to me. I was pleasantly surprised at the entertaining nature of this 1953 Spy Novel, and surprised at its occasional depth and complexity of the characters. That being said, it’s an easy read most of the time and doesn’t challenge the reader too much. I was also surprised at how offensively mysoginistic Bond is. Friends have said to me, “why would you be surprised? You’ve seen his character on the screen!” and yet everything Bond says about women is almost comically old-fashioned to the point that he seems like a caricature.

Genuinely entertaining read, though, and if you’d like something simple to get stuck into over a few days’ commute time, it’s a nice, easy read.

Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar

Imagine the story of Superman, only Superman landed in rural Soviet Russia instead of rural USA. That sentence enough should be enough to excite you if you’re at all interested in Superman. I can tell you from reading this that Millar did a bang-up job of telling that exciting-sounding story, and this is one graphic novel that should not be missed, even by people who’ve never read a Superman comic before.

Replay: The History of Video Games by Trisan Donovan

Although Video Games have only really been going on for about 30-40 years now, a heck of a lot has changed in that time. Blessed with being an industry in which innovation is part of the genetic code, we’ve seen a wide, wide varieties of genres and new features in gaming appear in that time. I missed out on most of it, being too young, but Donovan delivers an epic page-turner, a historical account of one of my favourite entertainment and story-telling mediums. Starting from the beginning, the book reads like a timeline which branches off into different sub-timelines, then backtracks quickly as Donovan expertly segues from one topic to another.

Since there’s so much cross-pollination in gaming, it’s important to make sure that developments and innovations are properly attributed, and Donovan does a great job of that. Including dozens of interviews from stars of game design, nostalgia trips and a few really great photos, Replay is a must-read for gamers interested in the history of their hobby, as well as game designers, aspiring and professional alike.


I’ve a huge list of books for next year, but if you have any recommendations, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter. I hope that you enjoy any of the books I’ve recommended here. Happy New Year!

Heckle me on Twitter @basicallydan.