Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: Genoa and the Genoese, 958-1528

Genoa and the Genoese, 958-1528
Genoa and the Genoese, 958-1528 by Steven A. Epstein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a solid book on the Medieval history of one of the greatest naval powers of the Mediterranean in the 11-13th centuries. I read it as part of preparation for the trip to the region of Italy Liguria and did not regret it. I particularly liked the economic analysis of how Genoese managed to have quite a large scope of merchant and military activities despite coming from rather limited geographical area. Co-financing ship voyages, spreading the risks, issuing and selling shares in overseas enterprises - all these traits of the modern capitalism were already present in Medieval Genoese Republic.

It was also interesting to follow how the internal strife among various noble clans have ultimately led to demise of the Republic. At times, it was tiresome to follow all the feuds and family names involved - especially towards the end of the book. But otherwise, the book is based on a substantial research of the preserved documents of that time, is quite well-written and sets the right focus in the analysis of Genoa's history.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: Great Expectations


Great Expectations
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A story about main character, Pip, struggling with good and bad impulses within himself. This also a story about social class differences (Pip before and after and yet after-after), hopeless (or not) love (Estella, Biddy), friendship (Herbert), public and private face (Wemmick and Aged P.), simplicity versus pompous posing (Joe and Pumblechook), vengeance and disillusionment (Ms. Havisham). In addition, the book gives glimpses of England in the second half of 19th century: capitalism (Pip-Herbert-Wemmick), active international trade, colonialism, great social differences.

All in all, I liked the book's rich characters, rather interesting plot and background scenery.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Review: Pride and Prejudice


Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A psychological portrait of the 19th century's high-class society of England. A story of love, pride, prejudice, stupidity and strength.

Beautiful language. Interesting plot. The main character, Elisabeth, is a great example of a smart and strong young woman.

However, in general, book's characters do not have that much depth and are little too simplistic - either clearly good or bad. The major theme of proposals and marriage is sometimes getting dull.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Review: Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit for Software Development Managers

Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit for Software Development ManagersLean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit for Software Development Managers by Mary Poppendieck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is probably the best book on management of software development that I have read so far. I appreciate that Poppendiecks propagate the principles and certain mind-set and not some specific methods for agile development. The best of all, I see from my own work that many of these principles do work if properly followed and communicated to the rest of the team and to the clients.

Examples from the lean production are not always very illuminating, yet sometimes provoke interesting analogies.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review: The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering


The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering
The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering by Frederick P. Brooks Jr.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A book which is considered to be classics for the software development management - very much quoted and referred to. Although many of the claims and concepts are quite dated, the main principles are well adaptable to the nowadays world. I particularly liked the general discussions of what is the software engineering on meta-level - with all its joys and pitfalls. Brooks explains very well inherent complexity of managing software development projects - understanding where the complexity lies is probably the first step to effectively manage it.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Bicycle as a vehicle of urban revolution

Today I participated in a great community-driven social experiment under name Tipp d'Und. Hundreds of cyclists were riding alongside the cars in Tallinn city centre in a rush hour - in pre-agreed time and area. There were clear rules and cyclists greeted each other. After that all of these people (along with their bicycles) gathered in a single place for a short moment to celebrate it.

In these 30-40 minutes that I was riding along with hundreds of other people, Tallinn streets felt much more like some people-friendly Swedish/Swiss town. Slowly but steadily, I see Tallinn becoming more and more pleasant urban space to live (and move around) in.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Review: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This has been a very enjoyable reading. On one hand, the biographical details of Genghis Khan and his successors which are interesting to follow. On the other hand, description of broad implications of Mongols' conquest for the Eurasian history.

There are definitely plenty of things most of the readers would find enlightening, when reading this book. Novel warfare tactics and good leadership lessons, importance of commerce and cultural/religious tolerance, family intrigues and fight for power.

The only thing I did not find necessary were numerous didactic reminders of how little appreciated the true Mongols' history has been and how great was Mongol empire compared to Middle Age Europe.

And well... the book describes destruction of many historical relics from the Great Mongol Empire by Communist Soviets - why am I not surprised?..

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review: Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared

Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared
Apples Are from Kazakhstan: The Land that Disappeared by Christopher Robbins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a person who lived and travelled around Kazakhstan for a year, I found this book highly familiar, educating and hillarious. Robbins has a great talent of going from small but significant details he had observed to the broad perspective on the history, economics and societal development of the country. I particulalrly enjoyed biographical accounts of people related to Kazakhstan, such as Trotsky, Solzhenitsyn, Nazarbayev, even Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Robbins manages to bring out controversies related to both all these individuals as well as the country as a whole.

Share It