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The following favorites are neither complete, nor systematic - but highly subjective and somewhat dynamic!

Best books

  For All The Tea In China
by Sarah Rose. Espionage, empire and the secret formula for the world's favorite drink.

  The Thrill Makers : Celebrity, Masculinity, and Stunt Performance
by Jacob Smith. The earliest stunt men (and few woman) at the beginning of the 20th century: Bridge jumpers, lion tamers, skyscraper climbers, and pilots. About adventure, fame (Hollywood!), and mostly death...

  The Disappearing Spoon
by Sam Kean. An entertaining book about the Periodic Table of Elements? Yes - and a great one. For practically each element there is a description of who found it why and what interesting anecdotes are connected with it. Not only for the hobby chemist.

  The Windup Girl
by Paolo Bacigalupi. My 2011 book surprise: A scary world, where most conventional energy sources are gone, food calories are difficult to find, genetic engineering runs amok and a war for survival rages through Bangkok. In the best tradition of William Gibson.

by Dan Simmons. A cruel half-Egyptian magician ruling the sub-terranean London ca. 1865 threatens to destroy the lives of Charles Dickens and his colleague/friend Wilkie Collins - or so it appears. Dickens' last years with a kick of suspense...

  The Power of the Dog / The Death and Life of Bobby Z / The Winter of Frankie Machine
by Don Winslow. Crime stories about the mafia in today's North-America. Full of suspense, brutality and heroic (but in the end mostly dead) characters.

  Blood Secrets - Chronicles of a Crime Scene Reconstructionist
by Rod Englert. Real-life crime stories from an ex-cop who became a renowned blood forensics expert and amongst others analyzed the O.J. Simpson case. For those who want to understand medium velocity blood spatter patterns and the like...

  Blood's A Rover
by James Ellroy. The Kennedy assassination, Nixon, Hoover, voodoo, a pile of emeralds, a communist plot, bad cops and more bad cops, ... One of the few books that has such a dense storyline that it mandates to be read en bloc in a restless night.

  Packing For Mars
by Mary Roach. Was there ever astronaut sex in space? What happens to your skin after two weeks without washing? Is throwing up in your spacesuit a killer? And many more questions that mankind has to solve before it can pack for the long journey to Mars.

by Neil Strauss. A man gets afraid of the world with its imminent armageddon. And sets out for a quest to learn everything about the art of survival. Not your typical survivalist textbook, but the seven year biography of a man trying to save himself. And a goat!

  Around The World In 80 Trades
by Conor Woodman. Experiences of a disgruntled London economist, who travelled the world to earn money the ancient way. Dealing, getting ripped off, and actually winning some in horses, camels, jade, ... Would you try to sell south African chili sauce to the Indians?

  On Killing
by Dave Grossman. In World War 2 only ca. 15-20% of US soldiers fired on their human enemy; in Vietnam it were already 95%. Man has a rightful revulsion at killing a fellow human. Why is that? And which tactics have the military and police forces applied to significantly increase the willingness-to-kill rate?

  No Angel
by Jay Dobyns. The autobiographic story of an US federal agent who went undercover for two years to become a Hells Angel and to bust the organization. He almost lost his soul...

  Pirate Latitudes
by Michael Crichton. His last book. A classical pirate story. Just exciting reading. Hopefully they make a good movie out of it.

  River of Shadows - Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West
by Rebecca Solnit. The life of the man who invented the movie camera, photographed the war against Indians, proved that a running horse has all its feet in the air at times, and killed his wife's lover, in the context of the technological development in the western US.

  Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies - Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior
by Tom DeMarco et al. Descriptions of patterns in structure and behavior of project teams. Sometimes funny, sometimes worth considering, sometimes useless. Good material to trigger some introspection.

  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson. Reserve the weekend. Buy wine. Be prepared for suspense of the best kind: A family with ugly secrets, a small island, a psychotic girl, ... and plenty of dead woman. (The movie is great too.)
Followed by The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest ... equally good!

  The Terror
by Dan Simmons. Perfect for a long winter weekend: The fate of an arctic expedition, two ships frozen for three years in the ice, tortured by hunger and darkness, and threatened by a terrible creature. Except for the monster based on a true story. Be prepared to shiver...

  The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat
by Oliver Sacks. Medical stories of bizarre mental deviations from our norm.

  Outliers - The Story of Success
by Malcolm Gladwell. Not one of those "Success for Dummies" cookbooks. Instead it explains why some people become successful and some not. Guess what: A bit of luck and 10.000 hours of effort - nicely explained.

  Moscow 1812 - Napoleon's Fatal March
by Adam Zamoyski. Generals in women's clothes, hundred-thousands of deaths, cannibalism, unbelievable suffering, incompetence and bravery. As a movie nobody would believe it...

by Geraint Anderson. The life of a stock-broker in the London finance district. In the middle of the supposed global crisis it is awesome to read how some people earn their (huge) salary - and what they make out of it.

  Bad Monkeys
by Matt Ruff. Good vs. evil. But who is who? Or not? And why? So many layers of lies, deception, imagination, illusion, psychosis, madness that David Lynch would be proud. And its fun, too.

  The Blue Death
by Robert D. Morris. An account of water-borne diseases from history to our current days. From cholera to cryptosporidium. Which means for me: From tap water better to whiskey...

  Founders At Work - Stories Of Startups' Early Days
by Jessica Livingston. 32 interviews with (reasonably) famous and (mostly) successful founders of IT-related companies. Not too exciting to read, but it offers many nice, anecdotal insights into the strategies, problems and challenges of creating a company.

  Bonk - The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex
by Mary Roach. Everything you wanted to know about the science of sex - and the associated loss of illusions. At least you will know what Alfred Kinsey did with his toothbrush!

  Spook Country
by William Gibson. Set in the same environment as Pattern Recognition (and loosely connected to it) it offers us an insight into the near future of GPS-art, advertisement and a new tribe of criminals.

  Last Night I Dreamed of Peace - The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram
translated by Andrew X. Pham. The diary of a 27 year old female doctor running military hospitals in the jungle during the Vietnam war. Hard to read because it is full of pathetic/romantic prose. But it offers a rare insight into the daily life and the cruelties in a jungle war. In the end she was shot dead...

  Mutants - On the Form, Varieties and Erros of the Human Body
by Armand Marie Leroi. The title says it all - fascinating and shocking.

  The Chemistry of Death / Written in Bone / Whispers of the Dead
by Simon Beckett. Yet another forensics medicine spin-off thriller (trilogy); but a good one. You'll never see young rabbits in the same light!

  Spook - Science Tackles The Afterlife
by Mary Roach. Ghosts, near-death-experience and the bloody ectoplasm. There seems to be no hope for a decent reincarnation.

  The Family That Couldn't Sleep
by D.T. Max. A family-borne disease that let's people die of insomnia. Cannibalism. Itching sheep: A fascinating summary of the exploration of prions and the ugly effects they cause throughout mankindŐs history.

  Stiff - The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
by Mary Roach. What happens to people after they die, and what can you reasonable do with them? Slightly morbid, but very entertaining and informative. And yes, dead people can be very productive, while having an interesting non-life.

  A History Of The World in 6 Glasses
by Tom Standage. How six popular beverages contributed to the development of civilizations and shaped the world.

  A Short History Of Nearly Everything
by Bill Bryson. The title says (nearly) everything. The details: From quantum mechanics to dinosaurs. From outer space to Mendel's backyard. From ...

  The Physics of Superheroes
by James Kakalios. Why can Superman jump so high? Is Antman blind? Why did Spiderman screw up when trying to save Gwen? Those and many more questions illustrated by a physics professor. Plus the foundation for the formula: Science Fiction + Time = Science.

  The Swarm - A Novel of the Deep
by F. Schätzing. I long resisted to read this book (hey, it's from a German author); that was stupid. A vivid view into the depths of the ocean and the things lurking there to punish us for our stupidity. Reserve a weekend for reading...

  Why Things Break - Understanding the World by the Way it comes Apart
by Mark E. Eberhart. A clever insight into material sciences, combined with many anecdotes. An an explanation why, not when, things give up their sense of cohesion.

  Set This House In Order - A Romance Of Souls
by Matt Ruff. Unlike his other books it is not funny, but very interesting to see inside someone's brain - and find a house - with many characters - and a history - a cruel one - actually twice. Opens - well ... multiplies - your mind!

by Jack Kelly. The story of gunpowder and its impact on the development of our civilization.

  The Black Dahlia / L.A. Confidential
by James Ellroy. I don't like murder novels. In general. Those two are plain brilliant, rich in story and fascinating. Stories of desperate love, madness, and (brutal) death in the Hollywood of the 1950s. Insomnia-inducing... (P.S.: The movies are nice, but nothing (!) compared to the books.)

  Live. An Unauthorized Biography. A Natural History of the First Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth.
by Richard Fortey. From the first plankton to modern mankind. A fascinating description of the development of the species; interwoven with some funny anecdotes and interesting info trivia. Looking forward to the 2nd part - due in the year 3.000.007.

  1815 The Waterloo Campaign
by Peter Hofschröer. You need some affiliation to the military to be interested in this minute description of the activities around the famous Waterloo battle. The most fascinating part for me is how the actions and decisions of individual officers in a 250.000+ warrior campaign can be traced with hourly granularity almost 200 years after the fact.

  Otherland (4 volumes)
by Tad Williams. Ca. 4.000 pages - that's a long read; and it starts to be interesting after about 500 pages. But when you have a long holiday this is a nice, twisted, complicated, very detailed, epic science fiction story.

  Pattern Recognition
by William Gibson. Not connected to his previous works it is taking place now. Like really now. Around us. Marketing, Internet, New Russia, Community, Bibendum,... Few recognize the pattern. - Did I mention that it is exciting, wonderful, great?

  Schott's Original Miscellany
by Ben Schott. A wild collection of trivia, somewhere between fascinating and totally useless. Examples: Sushi terminology, "I love you" in 40 languages (inkl. Braille, Morse and Urdu), how to bind a sari, and the essential hierarchy of devils.

  The Baroque Cycle: Quicksilver / The Confusion / The System of the World
by Neal Stephenson. He's the best SF author alive. And he has an imaginative account of the baroque times - alchemists, cryptographers, natural philosophers, Louis XIV, Isaac Newton, war, love, sheep intestines, religion - it's all there.

  Round Ireland with a Fridge
by Tony Hawks. A stand-up comedian who looses a stupid bet, has to hitch-hike around Ireland with a fridge (!) and experiences the madness of live.

  Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
by Christopher Moore. You noticed that the bible just starts when Jesus is 30? Here's the account of Jesus' turbulent youth by his best friend Biff. Not for the true believers...

  Getting Even / Side Effects
by Woody Allen. Yes, that Woody Allen. And he has a set of great and unbelievably funny short stories, like the memoires of Hitler's barber or about a remote chess duel. The first book this year that left me laughing (very) loud.

  Rats - Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's most unwanted Inhabitants
by Robert Sullivan. You don't see them. If you do, you don't like them. But its fascinating to read more about their lifestyle (aehem) and role in ancient and modern history.

  Water Music
by T.C. Boyle. Part history lesson, part imaginative epos - the quest to survive in Victorian London and to find the source of the river Niger.

  Inviting Disaster - Lessons from the Edge of Technology
by James R. Chiles. One of many disaster books, but this one with excellent analysis of the "why" and the "what to do".

  Why Smart Executives Fail
by Sydney Finkelstein. Bright managers with visionary ideas, good intentions and big budgets - and why they wreak havoc. So far my business book of the year 2004.

  Archipel Gulag
by Alexander Solschenizyn. This is reality - beyond imagination, beyond believe, beyond humanity.

  100 Suns
created by Michael Light. Actually a picture book of the 100 most fascinating (above surface) nuclear explosions out of 216 such US tests between 1945 and 1962. The perverse beauty of destruction? See also at Michael Light.

  The DaVinci Code
by Dan Brown. Just another novel of knights, conspiracy, secret sects, Leonardo, hidden codes, murder, the holy grail? Yes - but extremely clever, multi-layered, breathtaking, ... and almost plausible.
And there came Angels and Demons - even better!

  The Sword and The Shield - The Mitrokhin archive and the secret history of the KGB
by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin. 600 pages of excerpts from formerly secret and hidden KGB archives, smuggled out of Russia and brilliantly summarized and put into historical context. The recent past will never be again as it was.

  Plane Insanity
by Elliott Hester. An account of a life as a male flight attendant. Tales of madness, sex, rage and queasiness above the clouds. Think again when the nice stewardess brings the next cocktail - it could be Big Bertha.

by Michael Crichton. The next level of civilization is insects? Naaah - Nanobots - and it is scary.

  Pastwatch - The Redemption
by Orson Scott Card. How a distant future can change the course of Christopher Columbus to save mankind. And you should think how you survive reading this book without food and sleep, as you won't be able to put it aside.

  Sophie's World
by Jostein Gaarder. A novel about philosophy? Yes, and an exciting one, too. When you read through page 300 it starts to be really interesting...

  The Elegant Universe. Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
by Brian Greene. In the wake of my Feynman experience (see below) I thought it was time to catch up on cosmology and the underlying particle physics - and I found its bible.

  The Guns of August
by Barbara W. Tuchman. A historical account of the first month of World War I. Pulitzer invented a new price category just to honor this book!

  The Mummy Congress - Science, Obsession, and the everlasting Dead
by Heather Pringle. A broad look at the science, history and cult of mummification.

  Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
by Richard P. Feynman. OK - he was the best theoretical physicist since Einstein, and, Yes - he did win the nobel price. But the stories of his life are still just marvelous. In summary: After this, I bought all available books by him.

  Dead Reckoning - The New Science of Catching Killers
by Michael Baden & Marion Roach. Forensic science at its best! Or did you know how to identify a headless corpse based on its teeth?

  Danach war schon / Davor kommt noch
by Thomas Kapielski (German only). This is the most weird and funny type of autobiography you can get from a poet and artist. ROFL!

  Computer Related Risks
by Peter G. Neumann. A compilation of risks and resulting events involving computers and modern technology based on the RISKS forum. If you want to know what can go wrong (and already has ...).

  The Silk Code
by Paul Levinson. A novel describing the hunt of a Neanderthal serial killer by a New York forensics officer. Includes a conspiracy by the Amish people, an expedition from the ancient silk road via Madagascar to Spain in the year 750, and some serious genetic engineering. Levinson's first book - already brilliant.

  Failure is not an option
by Gene Kranz. The autobiography of the NASA flight director from the Mercury to the Apollo programs. You have seen the great movie "Apollo 13"? He's the guy with the white vest.

  The Club Dumas
by Arturo Perez-Reverte. Fallen angels, satanic manuals, and a passion for the works of Alexandre Dumas woven into a fascinating crime story. A book about books in the best tradition of Umberto Eco.

  Fool on the Hill
by Matt Ruff. Hobbits meets Winnie-the-Puuh meets Snowwhite meets Julius-Caesar meets Felidae - exciting, phantastic and funny. And I though my student-live was tough ...

by Neal Stephenson. The best book I read in 2000. To quote VILLAGE VOICE: "What cyberculture needs right now is not another science-fiction novel but its first great historical novel, and Cryptonomicon is it". I have nothing to add!

  Snow Crash / The Diamond Age / Zodiac
by Neal Stephenson, drawing a phantastic political, technological and ecological picture of the world in some decades.

  Ender's Game / Speaker for the Dead / Xenocide / Children of the Mind
plus the parallel story Enders Shadow
by Orson Scott Card

  Neuromancer / Biochips / Mona Lisa Overdrive
plus Cyberspace, a collection of short stories (of which "Johnny Mnemonic" is best known from the respective movie)
by William Gibson, the guy who actually invented the term "Cyberspace".
Recently he has started a new thrilling series (or better, family) of novels providing an amazing outlook on a not so unlikely future. Read:
Virtual Light / Idoru / All Tomorrow's Parties / Count Zero

  The Sheep look up
by John Brunner. In 1972 his scenario of living in a world of ecological disaster was visionary, now it looks like an excerpt from tomorrows newspaper.

by Bruce Sterling, reinventing politics in a future ruined, and rebuilt, by technology.

  Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid
by Douglas R. Hofstadter. The bible of the digerati.

  Emergency. Crisis on the Flight Deck
by Stanley Stewart is a detailed analysis of 10 airplane non-crashes. Most of them were used for horrible movies.

  Poetry of the Universe
by Robert Osserman, describes the state-of-the art in cosmology.

  Virus Hunter
by C.J. Peters & Mark Olshaker. The biography of one of the worlds top scientists battling deadly viruses and terrible epidemics. If you have seen "Outbreak" - this is the real thing!

  Dealers of Lightning - XEROX PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age
by Michael Hiltzik. An account of the most important research establishment in the history of computing.

  Sick Societies - Challenging the Myth of Primitive Harmony
by Robert B. Edgerton. Primitive societies were not as noble and nice as we might think - and ours is probably not that bad.

  Wild Duck - Empirische Philosophie der Mensch-Computer-Vernetzung
by Gunter Dueck (German only). An amusing, sarcastic, serious, exciting and critical analysis about the optimization of human desires, and how the computer could help us in achieving an objectively satisfactory life.

  Visual Explanations / The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
by Edward R. Tufte. The guru of visualization of statistical or numeric data-collections. And he proves that the Challenger disaster was predictable...

Best music

  The diva dance from the movie The Fifth Element
performed by Inva Mulla-Tchako

  Money don't matter 2 night
performed by Prince and the New Power Generation

Interesting events in my life

  05. November 1987 : Lunch with Lady Diana in Munich
  24. October 1993 : A shearwind on final approach to Aachen almost (~1 second to impact) terminated my promising flying career

Interesting sites

  My company Xenadi GmbH
  WebCam in the vicinity of my living place Hamburg Hafencity
  Mensa International
  Mensa in Deutschland
  Wired Magazine - I prefer the paper version
  My golfclub : Mergelhof/Belgium