The books of 2017

Looking back, 2017 was an excellent but busy year, both professionally and personally. Luckily, I still found the time to digest some books.

Reading books is not only one of my favorite pastimes, I find it vital to keep up with different scientific fields and to learn about new topics. Biographies give me inspiration from the lives of successful and interesting people and self-help books such as ‘The Organized Mind’ give me practical tips to better do the things I want to do. I balance the usefulness of nonfiction with a healthy dose of novels and fantasy books!

These are the books I have read in 2017.



  • ‘The Circle’ by Dave Eggers. In this novel we follow Mae, a young ambitious graduates who lands her dream job in the Circle in customer services. Though the story is simple, the satire is topical and the book is worth a read. (***)
  • ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ by Neil Gaiman. Simple, but hauntingly beautiful story. (****)
  • ‘Memoirs of a Polar Bear’ by Yōko Tawada. Strange book written from the perspectives of three generations of polar bears. Did not like it as much as I thought I would. (***)
  • ‘The Story of My Teeth’ by Valeria Luiselli. The story of a charlatan. Funny at some moments, but seemed to satire some aspects of literature I am not so familiar with. (***)
  • ‘Call Me By My Name’ by André Aciman. Got this one nearly ten years ago for Christmas and finally got around reading it. A beautiful love story between two young men. (****)
  • ‘Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold’ by Margaret Atwood. First work of Margaret Atwood I ever read. Funny and engaging, though the middle and ending became a bit tiresome. Will definitely read other work of this renowned author! (****)

Fantasy and Science Fiction

  • ‘Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1)’ by Sylvain Neuvel. Top sci-fi book! Really liked the interview based narrative. (*****)
  • ‘A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)’ by Ursula Le Guin. Old-school fantasy book about young wizards and dragons. (****)
  • ‘Waking Gods (Themis Files, #2)’ by Sylvain Neuvel. Less mystery and more action than ‘Sleeping Gods’. I finished it within a day. (****)
  • ‘Ink (Skin Books, #1)’ by Alice Broadway. Well-written fantasy on society and identity. (****)
  • ‘Warbreaker’ by Brandon Sanderson. Sanderson is known for his highly enjoyable fantasy novels with interesting magic systems. This one did not disappoint. Though I read it with much pleasure, Sanderson his novels do feel a bit formalistic after a while. (****)
  • ‘The Once and Future King’ by T.H. White. The story of Arthur, Merlyn, Lancelot and Guinevere. An impressive read. (****)
  • ‘Neverwhere’ by Neil Gaiman. Adventure in a dark underworld beneath London. (***)
  • ‘Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3)’ by Brandon Sanderson. Third book of the awesome Stormlight series! Epic! (*****)
  • ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’ by George R.R. Martin. Nice novella set in the familiar world of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. The softer tone makes for a light and pleasant read. (****)



  • ‘Biopunk: Solving Biotech’s Biggest Problems in Kitchens and Garages’ by Marcus Wohlsen. A nice overview of the DIY biology movement. Made me very enthusiastic to get involved! (*****)
  • ‘Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves’ by George M. Church. The crazy world or de-extinct mammoths and mirror life concocted in the lab of the godfather of synthetic biology. (****)
  • ‘A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees’ by Dave Goulson. The fascinating complex life of bees, written by the bumblebee professor. (*****)
  • ‘Lab Girl: A Story of Trees, Science & Love’ by Hope Jahren. The autobiography a young female scientists and her difficulties to establish a lab. (****)

Self-improvement and organization

  • ‘The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking’ by Dale Carnegie. Old, but not outdated! Contains many useful tips for public speaking or generally clarifying things. (****)
  • ‘$100 Startup’ by Chris Guillebeau. Accessible book on how to ‘think small’ and start your own business. (****)
  • Algorithms to Live by: The Computer Science of Human Decisions’ by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths. This was one of the most useful and interesting books on organizing your life I have ever read! (*****)
  • ‘The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload’ by Daniel J. Levitin. Self-help book on organizing your life, time, social life and business, written from a neuroscience point of view. Practical, useful and entertaining! (*****)


  • ‘Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future: The Ingenious Ideas That Drive Today’s Computers’ by John MacCormick. Nice little book highlighting some algorithms we use every day (Pagerank, compression, encryption…) and explaining them in clear, simple language using analogies. (***)
  • ‘Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future’ by Ashlee Vance. Insights in the world of a man who wants humans to be a multi-planet species. (***)
  • ‘The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century’ by Steven Pinker. Interesting reference on good (scientific) writing. The beginning (structure) was much more interesting than the end (syntax and word use). (***)
  • ‘We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe’ by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson. The big things about the universe we do not know. Entertaining but sometimes a bit funny for the sake of being funny.
  • ‘Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum (Theoretical Minimum #2)’ by Leonard Susskind and Art Friedman. Physics remains a continuing interest of me and Susskind’s theoretical minimum series explain it with quite enough rigor. (****)
  • ‘Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension’ by Matt Parker. Parker covers things from exotic ways of cutting pizzas to making a computer from domino bricks. His enthusiasm is contagious and he always gives you the impression that you could have come up with these ideas yourself. (*****)
  • Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow’ by Yuval Noah Harari. An interesting view on the human species and its relation to animals, technology and data. (****)
  • ‘Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything’ by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith. Enjoyable popular science book. Could use a tiny bit more depth. (***)

A sketchnote of 'Soonish'.


  • ‘Algorithms in C++, Parts 1-4: Fundamentals, Data Structure, Sorting, Searching’ by Robert Sedgewick. Excellent reference on basic algorithms and data structures! (****)
  • ‘Lab-on-a-Chip Devices and Micro-Total Analysis Systems: A Practical Guide’ by Castillo-Leon, Jaime. Great reference on how to design a microfluidic/lab-on-a-chip system. Easily digestible in a short time, but packed with useful references and tables! (****)
  • ‘Graph Algorithms in the Language of Linear Algebra’ by Jeremy Kepner. Very interesting reference on dealing with graphs using tools from linear algebra. (****)
  • ‘From Populations to Ecosystems: Theoretical Foundations for a New Ecological Synthesis’ by Michel Loreau. Good references with detailed mechanistic models of ecology. (***)
  • ‘Network Science’ by Albert-László Barabási. Interesting reference for network science. Though focussed on the classical stuff, this is pleasant to read with many real-world examples. (****)
  • ‘Quantitative Viral Ecology: Dynamics of Viruses and Their Microbial Hosts’ by Joshua Weitz. The other size of viruses: keeping ecosystems in balance. Nice introduction to the topic, covers quite some theory in depth. (****)
  • ‘Mutualistic Networks’ by Jordi Bascompte and Pedro Jordano. Good review of pollination networks, but could be written a bit better and misses a general narrative. (***)
  • ‘Computational Optimal Transport’ by Gabriël Peyré and Marco Cuturi. Optimal transport is awesome and this book given an in-depth overview! (****)

Not finished (for a variety of reasons)

  • ‘Here Am I’ by Jonathan Safran Foer.
  • ‘Electronics from the Ground Up:: Learn by Hacking, Designing, and Inventing’ by Ronald Quan.
  • ‘Designing Connected Products: UX for the Consumer Internet of Things’ by Claire Rowland, Elizabeth Goodman, Martin Charlier, Alfred Lui and Ann Light.
Written on January 1, 2018