2020 was well, a shit storm. I didn’t do much of anything once the country shut down in early March. I had a semi-productive garden, and adjusted to working from home. Fortunately, and most importantly, my wife and I enjoyed good health.

One of my hobbies is reading and this year was a good reading year, all things considered. I found it difficult to concentrate and didn’t read as many books as would have liked. But the books I did read I enjoyed, for the most part.

Here is the list of them and a brief mention of the effect they had on me.

Van Halen Rising, Greg Renoff 2015
In a year that Eddie Van Halen passes away, reading this book would seem natural. I had read the book at the beginning of the year before Eddie’s passing. I must admit it was a tough read. I didn’t complete it. The author tried to make the material interesting, but in the end it was a lot of detail that was pretty boring. I may pick it back up again one day, but I didn’t feel like the material I read so far was making me enjoy the music any more or gain any insights into the band. Sorry.

The Dambusters Raid, John Sweetman 2002
A gift from my Dad, this was also a difficult read. But I did power through and read it all. It describes the activities leading up to, the execution of, and fall out from the British attempts to bomb Germany dams during World War II. I had read over half the book and they hadn’t even started the raid yet! But it was interesting to see the challenges to get people to buy-in to the concept (bouncing bombs?), accept the risks, and pull it off. A good portion of the material was based on de-classified documentation from the British government. So the dates, times and people and places were described in a lot of detail. Another story of bravery and perseverance during war that we shouldn’t forget.

The Mission of a Lifetime, Basil Hero 2019
I bought this at Christmas last year but didn’t read it unit January 2020. It is a great biography of the 24 men who went to the Moon. It is based on interviews the author conducted recently (2017-2019) with the surviving astronauts. It was fascinating to see where they ended up in life and how well they thrived after their experiences travelling to the Moon. They share a lot of good lessons on life anyone can use here on Earth.

Apollo 8, Jeffrey Kluger 2017
My favorite story from the Apollo-era at NASA is the Apollo 8 mission. NASA decided to take a huge risk and send men to Moon during December of 1968 using the yet un-proven Saturn V rocket. Their mission had a significant impact on the human race as they took the first pictures of Earth from the Moon. And let’s not forget their now-famous Christmas Eve broadcast reading from the Book of Genesis. This book was the second one I have read on the mission and it includes interviews with Jim Lovell it was a great read.

xUnit Test Patterns, Gerard Meszaros 2007
Considered by many to be “the” reference for unit testing, I found a used copy online and purchased it to help supplement my knowledge of unit testing C# code in .NET. It’s not a book you’ll read cover-to-cover but I was glad to get it in my personal library. I like to know the theory, concepts and ‘original’ definitions and this book delivered. I especially liked the explanations of some of the concepts and patterns I have been using for years. It really helps solidify things in my mind.

Lean Thinking, James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones 2003.
I read several books last year on ‘lean manufacturing’ and how I can use the concepts in my work. This book came recommended from several sources so I gave it a try. It was a good read but alas I didn’t get through it all. It too is difficult to read cover-to-cover. But the material is a good reference if you have specific questions or ideas you want to look at.

The One-Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka 1978
This is the second time I’ve read this book. It is hard to nail down. The book is written by a farmer in Japan. It is part memoir, a call to action, philosophic tales, and natural farming techniques. I find it very inspiring and think I’ll read it again and again. Starting in World War II, the book is a journey of one man’s struggle to find meaning in life and what really matters. It calls attention to the evils of Modern Agriculture and farming practices that can damage our lands and soils. The author’s passion jumps off the pages. His own cause of growing the best possible food while keeping the soil healthy is front and center. But also is his spiritual journey and teachings for people finding their way in the modern world.

Gardening When It Counts, Steve Solomon 2005
This is the first book I read from this author about his approach to growing nutrient-dense food. I was looking to reset portions of my gardening process as my ability to have consistent success in growing my own food was never quite where I wanted it. The book covered good advice for fertilizers, seeds and tools.

The Intelligent Gardener, Steve Solomon with Erica Reinheimer 2013
This was a natural follow-up to the first book that focuses more on growing nutrient-dense food. The message is delivered in a balanced way and doesn’t come across as heady-handed (ie. my way or the highway). While I try not to get caught up in any one ‘way’ of gardening, the book had some compelling ideas that seem applicable to my context. Bring the soil’s nutrients back into balance and your food will grow more healthy and taste better. I used the advice to get a soil test and adjusted my amendments based on their advice. Time will tell if it has a positive affect.

Grow Your Soil!, Diane Miessler 2020
This was an impulse buy at the local book store and I’m glad I bought it. It is a great treatment of the soil food web and how the soil is so important to humans and the food we grow. Written in an approachable format it is easily something anyone (including teenagers) could pick up and learn from.

Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast, Ira Wallace 2013
This is a useful gardening book for someone in North Florida. It provides a month-by-month guide for what to grow, when to harvest and the different varieties that grow in this part of the country.

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, Edward C. Smith 2009
This book was hard to find for awhile so I decided to get a copy when I found one on sale. It was a nice complement to the books from Steve Solomon. While the author’s experience is gardening in the northern regions of the country, I found a lot of the material applicable and useful to my context.

The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks 1977
My wife recommended this to me and I enjoyed it a lot. An adventure through a fantastical world of elves, trolls and magic. While some reviewers compared it unfavorably to “The Lord of the Rings”, I found it to be very entertaining and didn’t care that there were a few similarities.

The Bourne Identity, Robert Ludlum 1980
I loved the Bourne movies staring Matt Damon and after many years of saying I would, I actually read the novel the first film is based on. The story was significantly different from the film, but I found it to be a great spy story. The human side of a spy who has lost his memory. How would any of us react? Hopefully we all don’t have killers trying to hunt us down if we can’t remember who we are. :-)

One Giant Leap, Charles Fishman
I read an article by Charles Fishman in 1996 called “They Write the Right Stuff” and I have been a fan ever since. This book tells the story of the American race to land a man on the Moon in the 1960s. It is not the first i have read on the subject, but this is woven together with context and perspective from 50 years later. I highly recommend it to all the Space Nerds out there.