Guns, Germs and Steel

Author: Jared Diamond
Rating: ★★★★½

The author sets off to answer one of the most challenging questions about human history, why did human civilizations become so diversified in their forms, and especially why did they develop in such different pace? Why is it countries in the Eurasian continent that dominated civilizations in other region? Dr. Diamond presents a lot of researches, data and diagrams to support his conclusion, however, this is more of a logic book than a historical book to me. I have never read a book with such a rigorous reasoning that demands a vast amount of critical thinking, at the same time keep me intrigued and reading more.

The conclusions should only be applied to the large scale, the entire history of human development in the past tens of thousands of years. It is certainly tempting to derive certain explanation based on the recent history of the last several hundred years, but the results will be far less convincing.


The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union

Author: Serhii Plokhy
Rating: ★★★★☆

The author uses the first-hand materials and previous classified documents to outline a series of events between the failed coup in August 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union by the end of the year. He reveals that financial difficulties and independent movements were the major drivers that crumbled the empire in a unthinkable pace, and Bush’s administration was actually trying to keep the Soviet Union alive longer. Sometimes, the history just cannot be designed.


Silk Road

Author: Peter Frankopan
Rating: ★★★★☆

An epic view of the place between the east and the west, the place that has been the center of the world for thousands of years, connected by the trade and fought by the powers, where the civilizations met and collided. I wish the author had more materials to cover the further east where the Silk Road starts, China.


Visual Intelligence

Author: Amy E. Herman
Rating: ★★½☆☆

It’s a unique approach teaching people how to see and communicate effectively by studying works of art, and it’s practically useful to apply these skills to the everyday life no matter what your occupation is. However, the originality cannot support entire 300+ pages. In a lot of sections, the author keeps offering anecdotes as testimonials to back her lengthy advice, obviously good advice but common senses as well. I’d hope the length of the book could be cut in half or include more drawings, which are the most interesting.



Author: Cixin Liu
Rating: ★★★★★



The Martian

Author: Andy Weir
Rating: ★★★★☆

Mark Watney is left on Mars by himself due to a dust storm. For the next 550 sols, he has to find ways to survive, solving problems, beating the odds, being healthy and positive. Luckily, Watney is a resourceful and creative man, and he has whole world at his back.

Mark Watney is a Crusoe of the future, and the book is a science fiction of the future too. Lavish in meticulous technical details without losing the pace of story narrative, even for me, as a mostly non-fiction reader, find the book intriguing and inspiring.