The Martian is Robinson Crusoe on Mars

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Andy Weir’s book gripped me from the start. I typically don’t like books written in the first person, even more so when the entire book is a series log entries without dialogue. Obviously, I was willing to make some allowances given that he’s alone on Mars with no one to talk to. In any case, I need not have worried as his journey was thrilling and the technique surprisingly effective.

The entrepreneur in me really related to his experience. It felt he was running a startup which had taken a wrong turn, leaving him with extremely limited resources and desperate for an exit strategy. I loved how he would take a seemingly insurmountable problem, break it down in pieces to solve each issue one by one using his engineering skills. That’s the entrepreneur way!

The book is very scientific, but easily understandable by lay people. It is also much more humorous than I expected. I loved Mark Watney rants against his fellow astronaut’s music, movie and literary tastes, not to mention Murphy’s Law.

Read The Martian, you won’t regret it!

Command Authority is Tom Clancy’s best book in years

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It’s also the best book he co-wrote with Mark Greaney. I suppose the bar is not very high given the quality of their latest books, but I really enjoyed this one. The topic is uncannily timely given the current events in Ukraine. The book cleverly integrates Red Storm Rising-style sequences, like the fantastic opening passage of the book, with the Jack Ryan intelligence analyst sections. I wish there were more of the former. However, given the gimmick of having the story unfold in parallel both in the present day and 30 years ago, I was happy to see Jack Ryan Sr. back in action as his younger more active self.

I have to admit I am not sure how objective this review is. I grew up on Clancy books in the 1980s and 1990s and lamented his passing a few months ago. This book managed to hit all the right touches of nostalgia. All the characters I grew up loving make an appearance. Somehow it also felt very relevant and I was entertained throughout.

If you are an old school Clancy-fan, Command Authority is worth checking out.

50 reasons why this is the greatest time ever

In The Case for Optimism I outlined both why we are better off than we have ever been in history, especially if we live in the West, and why the future is so promising. USA Today, of all places, just published a lot of the statistics underlying the first part of my argument.

Consider that if you make more than $34,000 per year you are in the richest 1% of people in the world and that you have a standard of living unimaginable by the wealthiest people in the world a hundred years ago.

All 50 reasons are very powerful and warrant reading in their own right, you can find them at:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/02/02/greatest-period-in-history/5161935/