Berty Reads Books

2007 Reading List

I Really Loved These

Echo Park

Michael Connelly

Connelly never disappoints me and I've liked every book of his that I have read. Harry Bosch is back with the Open/Unsolved Unit in the LAPD trying to solve cases that have run cold. He gets involved in a plea bargain with a particularly nasty dude, and it ends up that the dude might be the guy who killed a woman in 1993. Bosch was the original detective on that case and has been haunted by the fact that he never solved it back then. It all looks like everyone will get what they want, but of course something goes wrong and all is not as it seems.

Bosch considered himself a true detective, one who took it all inside and cared. Everybody counts or nobody counts. That's what he always said. It made him good at the job but it also made him vulnerable. The mistakes could get to him and this one was the worst of all mistakes.

The Planets

Dava Sobel

People magazine said it "evokes a sense of wonder." Physics World reviewed this book and wrote, "Combines masterful storytelling with clear, engaging explanations of the essential scientific facts." Word. It's menthol. I'm going to read it again in a few years. I hope Dean reads it. And Luke too. Good stuff. Dava Sobel makes learning about the solar system fun. She provides facts about the nine planets that are extremely interesting and, at times, even exciting. And she also throws some good stuff in the footnotes at the end of the book. For example, former President Jimmy Carter, while serving as governor of Georgia, reported Venus to the state police. And Pluto was a name suggested by an eleven-year-old girl from England, a name that Walt Disney liked so much that he appropriated it for Mickey's dog. And best of all, I found a totally suede band name in the book…The Trans-Neptunian Deep.

Seen for the first time through a backyard telescope, ringed Saturn, icon of the otherworldy, is the vision most likely to turn an unsuspecting viewer into an astonomer forever. The spectacular Saturnian ring system spans a disk 180,000 miles wide from one ring tip, or ansa, to the other. Its vast breadth approaches the distance from Earth to the Moon, yet the average ring depth scarely exceeds the height of a thirty-story building. In Holst's day, astronomers trying to describe the rings incomparable flatness grasped at pancakes and phonograph records as metaphors, before settling on a sheet of shirt cardboard the size of a football stadium. (Improved measurements have since replaced the cardboard with tissue paper.)

25 Myths You've Got to Avoid – If You Want to Manage Your Money Right

Jonathan Clements

Clements is an award-winning financial journalist who writes personal finance articles for The Wall Street Journal. He wrote this book to debunk popular money myths, telling you why the myth doesn't work and then explaining how to do it right. I liked it. Well written, funny, with practical advice that doesn't sound wacky or faddish. And it was a fairly quick read.

The fact is, a lot of the stuff our parents told us is now dead wrong. They didn't just mess us up. They messed everything up. But they also got very, very lucky. That's why we should despise them. They came of age when it really was morning in America. Stocks went up. Gold went up. Real estate went up. Jobs were plentiful. Things were just sickeningly good. (Unless, of course, you were African-American. Or a woman. Or gay. But that's another story.)

Transcending CSS, The Fine Art of Web Design

Andy Clarke

This book is gorgeous. Not necessarily the greatest CSS instruction book out there, but a really beautiful book with tons of fabulous pictures and great examples. I really liked Clarke's suggestion for page structure, explanation of grid based design, and simple way of explaining what can be a complicated topic. Not the best how-to book for beginners, but a great book for anyone that's read a dozen or so other books about web design and CSS.

Transcendent CSS asks you to embrace the new rather than the old and to simulate new ways to find inspiration, create more agile and appropriate workflows for Web design, and encourage yourself to constantly learn more about both the design and the technical issues with which you work.

The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book for Digital Photographers

Scott Kelby

Buy it. Don't read any further. No need to. There is a reason that Kelby is the "'s number 1 best-selling author of all computer and technology books" for the past three years straight. So if you want to know how to use Photoshop CS3 to it's full potential, and you want a book that gives you tons of easy to understand tips that are presented in a non-technical and humorous way, then just go out and buy this book and feast your eyes on 465 pages of goodness. Word.

If you don't want to manually adjust these sliders (in other words, you're a total wuss), you can always click the Auto button (known in RAW circles as the "total wuss button"). It's a button that doesn't look like a button. It's just the underlined word Auto, and it appears just below the Tint slider.

I Liked These A Lot

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

J.K. Rowling

Yeah, I read it. You think it's a kid's book? Oh well. I enjoyed it. I'll say one thing for Ms. Rowling…You get some really awesome praise for writing 7 books that kept my attention. I can't remember the last time I read a series of books where I looked forward to reading the last one. Most of the time, in a series of three books, I'm fed up with the characters by the second book and just read the third to see what happens, often being dissapointed in the end. This 7th book was decent, though I thought it kind of dragged along here and there. Four stars for the sheer magnitude of the work.

The Bogleheads' Guide to Investing

Larimore, Lindauer, Leboeuf

Bogleheads are "investors who follow the philosophy and strategy of investing advocated by John C. "Jack" Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group." Vanguard is best known for no-load, low-cost, tax-efficient mutual funds. The Vanguard 500 Index fund is the largest mutual fund in the world. The Bogleheads believe, like Jack Bogle, that it can pay to be lazy–that timing the market is impossible, that most mutual funds are crap, and that you'd probably do fine if you stuck all your money in an index fund, with low administrative costs, that mirrored the entire market or the S&P 500. The book has great advice for all types of investing, from the lazy approach to picking better funds. It also has good guidance on saving for college education, and choosing insurance.

[T]he importance of asset allocation is now recognized more than ever by both professional and nonprofessional investors alike.

In 2003, The Vanguard Group did a study using a 40-year database of 420 balanced mutual funds. It found that 77% of the variability of a fund's return was determined by strategic asset allocation policy. Market timing and stock selection played relatively minor roles. The Vanguard researchers also found that the benchmark indexes had a higher return than the corresponding funds. Finally, the Vanguard researchers found that the returns of the highest-cost funds lagged those of the lowest-cost funds.


Dean Koontz

Bill Wile, a mild mannered bartender, finds a typewritten note under the windshield wiper of his car. "If you dont take this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher. If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work. You have four hours to decide. The choice is yours." [cue the ominous music] And Bill's world changes. Interesting story and a great book to read on the beach or on a plane. You want to keep reading it to see what the hell is going on. I liked it.

These Were Okay

On the Road

Jack Kerouac

You ever go to a bookstore and think you bought the book you thought you wanted to read and then halfway through the book you realize that meant to get a different book but you've invested time in the wrong book and decide to continue to read it? Well, that's what happened to me. You see, in preparation for an upcoming trip I wanted to get inspiration and meant to pick up Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck. Instead of picking up a book about a literary giant and his standard poodle traveling across and getting reacquainted with America, I find a book about whacked out druggies crisscrossing America several times in search of the next party. I think I will go look for the Steinbeck one in the library.

We all jumped to the music and agreed. The purity of the road. The white line in the middle of the highway unrolled and hugged our left front tire as if glued to our groove. Dean hunched his muscular neck, T-shirted in the winter night, and blasted the car along.

Casino Royale

Ian Fleming

Bond. James Bond. The first Bond novel by Fleming. I was a little disappointed. The movies ruined it for me. I guess this is Bond as he should be. No gadgets, mild action, and a dark feeling throughout. Fleming has an interesting writing style. For example: "Bond liked to make a good breakfast. After a cold shower, he sat at the writing table in front of the window. He looked out at the beautiful day and consumed half a pint of iced orange juice, three scrambled eggs and bacon and a double portion of coffee without sugar. He lit his first cigarette, a Balkan and Turkish mixture made for him by Morlands of Grosvenor Street, and watched the small waves lick the long seashore and the fishing-fleet from Dieppe string out towards the June heat-haze followed by a paper-chase of herring-gulls." Lots of hyphens there, eh? Since this was written in 1953 it has all the male chauvinism you would expect it to have. Interesting to read. And the martini? The shaken not stirred thing? Yeah, not at all like the movies.

A dry martini…One. In a deep champagne goblet…Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.

Flying Through Midnight: A Pilot's Dramatic Story of His Secret Missions Over Laos During the Vietnam War

John T. Halliday

Halliday was a pilot for the 606th Special Operations Squadron out of Nakhon Phanom Air Base in northeast Thailand. As a pilot for the "Candlesticks," Halliday's missions were to drop ground-burning markers along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and then guide in fighter aircraft to drop bombs on convoys of enemy supply trucks. In addition to that, the Candlesticks would orbit for hours deep behind enemy lines and drop air-burning flares over small patrols of "good guys." The candlelight was often the difference between life and death for them. The book gives a good overview of a few of the missions and shows the change a person goes through during the war as well as the actions and reactions of different officers to combat stress. Probably the best thing in the book, and the main reason why it was written, was the description of an in-flight emergency and the ensuing flight into an alternate field (an alternate that was only there to comply with Air Force that was practically impossible to use, especially at night).

I wait to hear the first impact sounding like a car crash. Next the speed will drop to 100 as the fuselage pancakes against the tower, followed quickly by a monstrous oil-canning sound of junkyard cars being crushed.

The ribbings won't withstand the collision, so the airframe skeleton will collapse upon itself like the Hindenberg. Soon after, both windscreens will shatter and launch a thousand glass missiles that, powered by a 100 mph wind, will blind us and turn our faces to hamburger.

I close my eyes and wait for the first innocent bump of our tires against the tower…hope it doesn't hurt too long.

A Long Way Down

Nick Hornby

Four people (Martin, a publicly disgraced TV personality; Maureen, a middle-aged woman with no life beyond caring for her severely disabled adult son; Jess, the unstable, punked-out daughter of a junior government minister; and JJ, an American rocker whose music career has just ended with a whimper) all decide to commit suicide on New Year's Eve. They all pick the same place. They all decide not to jump. We then read about what happens afterward, but with a twist. The events that the four go through are narrated by each characer in their own voice. It was funny at times, but overall I thought it was flat. After seeing the movie adaptations of his other books, I thought it would be better than it really was. Maybe the movie will be better.

The Fair Tax Book

Neal Boortz and Congressman John Linder

John and Neal want to eliminate income tax and the IRS. Not to mention the Social Security tax, the Medicare tax, corporate income taxes, the death tax, the self-improvement tax, the alternative minimum tax, the gift tax, capital gains taxes, tax audits, and some major headaches every April 15th. Their solution? Replace all of those taxes with a single-rate personal consumption tax–a simple sales tax–on new goods and services. It would bring in the same amount of revenue, but be much less of a headache, cost less to implement, and stimulate the economy. Check out all the arguments at

The FairTax plan is a comprehensive proposal that replaces all federal income and payroll based taxes with an integrated approach including a progressive national retail sales tax, a prebate to ensure no American pays federal taxes on spending up to the poverty level, dollar-for-dollar federal revenue neutrality, and, through companion legislation, the repeal of the 16th Amendment.

The Principles of Beautiful Web Design

Jason Beaird

I've purchased a few books from SitePoint in the past and was impressed. This one didn't really do it for me, though there were some good things here and there. It didn't live up to the hype as a book that "leads you through the process of creating great designs from start to finish." Long on theory, short on code. And the example site that was created wasn't that impressive.

Codin' for the Web

Charles Wyke-Smith

[Geek alert - skip this if you could care less about web design] I've wanted to learn PHP for some time now, so I picked this up at Barnes & Noble…mainly because it was the thinnest one there and I wanted a general overview of PHP. The book starts out real good with a basic overview of the language, describing how PHP works and then defining the different components of the language. It then kind of takes off and gets into processing forms, working with a basic database, creating cookies and using includes. The author lost me after the third chapter. I could probably learn the language better by reading the ton of information that's out there on the Internet.

I've tried to keep the book's examples as understandable as possible, while at the same time showing the reader how to create functionality that is practical and useful. This means that although we start simple, each chapter builds on the last, and by the end you will be developing some moderately complex projects.

These Were Not My Thing

Airline Without a Pilot

Harry L. Nolan

Subtitled "Lessons in Leadership, The inside story of Delta's success, decline and bankruptcy," the book should have had some real awesome stuff in it. Poo. There were some interesting insights into how the Board let the airline management team of Delta run the airline into the ground, but overall, I thought it was pretty boring. The main point of the book was that there was more than just an incompetent CEO to blame at Delta. Some of the management team were inept, and the Board basically let them do whatever they wanted while good employees got the shaft. One thing is for sure…there is a special place in Hell for a few former airline managers.

The Art & Science of CSS

Adams, Bolton, Johnson, Smith, and Snook

This will be my last purchase of any book produced by Sitepoint. So-so help with web design that you can probably get for free on the authors' web sites. Blah.