Book Review | Countdown to Zero Day

Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon
by Kim Zetter

The Book in Three Sentences

  1. The first cyber war attack by the US targeting centrifuges in Iran.
  2. This was the first attack, but it is seen as only the beginning and shows that many systems all over the world are in danger of being exploited.
  3. Real physical destruction can be caused by a malicious computer code.


This book is not the first cyber security book I’ve read. The story telling was done well, if a little long winded, like many non-fiction books I think this book could have been condensed further. At times it read as though the author was trying to make an article into a book, but at 400 plus pages, I think there was too much repetitive content. Nonetheless, this was an interesting book and covers a pivotal part of cyber history. Stuxnet is mentioned and discussed in many of the virtual training classes I have been taking in the last few months.

Who Should Read It

I think there are two categories of people who would be interested in this book. One being history people. I fit in this category as well. This was such a pivotal part of how technology is changing modern warfare that it can’t be ignored.

The second group that will be interested in this book are those with an interest in computers especially information security folks. This is the first virus designed specifically to target a very niche device. It was purposely written to attack, just that device to accomplish political goals.

My Takeaways

  • It made me aware that governments can leverage malicious code to attack each other, minimizing human loss
  • I learned that governments is keeping zero days to themselves in order to carry out attacks against their enemies

Books about cybercrime

A guardian article was recently published covering the top 10 cybercrime books. What they didn’t do is rank them with any third-party data. Below I’m putting those 10 books plus another with their goodreads rankings (0-5 being the best), to help me, and maybe you, choose the right book to start reading first.

The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human Element of Security by Kevin Mitnick3.76
People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd3.37
The Blue Nowhere by Jeffery Deaver
I read this years ago and it is still one of my favorite books!
Impostor Syndrome by Kathy Wang3.29
Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon by Kim Zetter
This is nonfiction and has over 6,000 reviews on goodreads. It looks like a great place to start.
Manipulated: Inside the Cyberwar to Hijack Elections and Distort the Truth by Theresa Payton3.91
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow3.93
Digital Fortress by Dan Brown3.68
DarkMarket: How Hackers Became the New Mafia by Misha Glenny3.78
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes3.63
Inside Jobs: Why Insider Risk Is the Biggest Cyber Threat You Can’t Ignore by Joe Payne, Jadee Hanson, Mark Wojtasiak3.88

Exciting New February Releases

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam M. Grant

Book Synopsis: Why do we refresh our wardrobes every year, renovate our kitchens every decade, but never update our beliefs and our views? Why do we laugh at people using computers that are ten years old, but yet still cling to opinions we formed ten years ago?

This book sounds equal parts minimalist and environmentalism. Right up my alley and I’m excited to read it when it publishes on February 2. Also, it’s from the author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need by Bill Gates

Book Synopsis: Bill Gates shares what he’s learned in more than a decade of studying climate change and investing in innovations to address the problems, and sets out a vision for how the world can build the tools it needs to get to zero greenhouse gas emissions.

I may be in the minority here as I know that he created a monopoly with Windows but I like Bill Gates. I think he and his wife are truly giving back a lot of their wealth and time to try to make things better for people all over the world. In this book, I hope to gain some insight into how he thinks we can beat this thing. It releases, February 16, 2021.

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert

Book synopsis: In Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a super coral that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth.

Publishing February 9, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote The Sixth Extinction. Even though, I’m not sure I loved that book, it is wildly popular and I heard her speak on Bill Gates podcast, so I want to give this new book a chance.

Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz

Book Synopsis: In Four Lost Cities, acclaimed science journalist Annalee Newitz takes readers on an entertaining and mind-bending adventure into the deep history of urban life. Investigating across the centuries and around the world, Newitz explores the rise and fall of four ancient cities, each the center of a sophisticated civilization: the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, the Roman vacation town of Pompeii on Italy’s southern coast, the medieval megacity of Angkor in Cambodia, and the indigenous metropolis Cahokia, which stood beside the Mississippi River where East St. Louis is today.

Another book coming out on February 2, this one looks to be a lighter read, but still with an important message. I like lost city stories like Atlantis (I know fictional) and I’m looking forward to see how Annalee helps these cities of the past come alive and tell us the story of why they disappeared.

A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet

Book synopsis: Contemptuous of their parents, who pass their days in a stupor of liquor, drugs, and sex, the children feel neglected and suffocated at the same time. When a destructive storm descends on the summer estate, the group’s ringleaders—including Eve, who narrates the story—decide to run away, leading the younger ones on a dangerous foray into the apocalyptic chaos outside.

This one came out last year but still sounds very interesting to me. It’s the only thing on this list that is fiction, but it is a powerful story. The Sierra Club calls this one out as a Must-Read. That’s a strong endorsement.

The Great Purge

Goodreads site

I had around 730 books on my to-read shelf on Goodreads. Even if I read 50 books a year that’s over 14 years before I get through that list. I have been on Goodreads since 2007, that’s also 14 years. and I have read 726 books. I’ve been adding books for 14 years, but I don’t think I’ve ever done an audit of all the 700+ books on my to-read and I can’t remember why I added some that have been there for over 13 years.

So in the last few years, I have gotten better at writing notes in Goodreads as to why I added certain books, then when I come back later I can see if that reason is still enough to keep the book on my list given that I will probably have added even more books. But again, I hadn’t reviewed the list.

Now that we are up-to-speed, I’ve started to review them over the last few weeks. It’s hard. I’m afraid to take anything off my list because I assume that I had a good reason to add them in the past. Why do I think that past me is smarter than present me? So, I have to be brutal in the culling.

How I’m going about it. When I come to a book on the list…

  • If I don’t immediately know that I love the book and can’t wait to read it
  • I look to see if there are any notes on the book from myself or better yet a recommendation
  • If no recommendation then I look to see if anyone I follow has done a review
  • Lastly, I read the book description
  • If after reading the description I’m still on the fence then I look at some of the reviews

Reading the reviews is hard because everyone is so different. Many people don’t just randomly pick a book and start reading. They have an interest in the topic a reason for picking up the book in the first place, so you have to take that into account. Plus, those that write reviews are invested in the book enough to create a review.

I usually review every book, more for myself than for other readers to see if they should read the book or not, I look at it as a history or journal of what I’m reading. But we can assume that not everyone is like me and that those writing a review have strong feelings one way or the other. So you tend to get people that hated it or loved it not too much in between.

I’m still making my way through all 730ish books on my to-read, but so far I’ve already taken off 100. It’s going to take a while and I can’t be in a rush or somethings will be dropped because I’m in too much of a hurry to complete the task. I could also keep things I shouldn’t because I’m rushing.

I’m thinking this is something I should really do yearly as well. Since many times my interest ebb and flow. I may lose interest in a topic and don’t want to invest the time in a book that is on a subject that no longer interests me.

Reading More

Books, Books, Books and more Books“Books, Books, Books and more Books” by Chiot’s Run is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

8 Ways to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year is a must-read article for any bibliophile. Neil Pasricha wrote this article back in 2017, and everything in it still pertains to today. I really like a lot of the content on Harvard Business Review (HBR) and this article is no different. If you are like me you like reading about reading. It’s meta I know. Book geeks are deep man!

If you are a reader you won’t hesitate to read the article. Even though HBR has a paygate the first two are free a month, so you can read this one free! Just incase you already used your 2 freebies this month, here are some highlights.

  • Centralize Reading in Your Home – Basically, make it easy to read, keep them close, and reduce other distractions, like social media and television.
  • Make a public commitment – Like posting your challenge on GoodReads, I know, I know that’s social media, but its book geek social media so everything in moderation right?
  • Book Lists! – I love a good book list and Goodreads is full of them, but if you need more I would recommend: The New Lifetime Reading Plan, Book Lust, and More Book Lust.
  • Change Your Mindset about Quitting – No one is going to call you a quitter! Give a book a few chapters and if you don’t like it, pass it on. Slogging through a book is the quickest way to get you off reading for the rest of the year if not longer.
  • Take a break from magazines and newspapers and fill that time with reading books.
  • Churn Rate – Keep the books moving on the shelf, don’t leave the same ones on there all the time. Make changes to what is on the shelf, so you stop and look instead of passing the bookshelf again for the thousandth time.
  • A little adds up – Just because you can’t sit down with an hour of uninterrupted time and your favorite drink, doesn’t mean you don’t have time yo read. Take it short spurts if you need to. Read a little here and a little there. Something is better than nothing and all these little reading spurts will add up to books completed.
  • Change up your medium, this one is not in Neil’s article, but I listen to audiobooks, read on a kindle, and read print books. I like to read print books when the lighting is good in the daytime and I switch to the Kindle at night and don’t worry about if I’m near a lamp, as the device is backlit, this would work with an iPad too. Lastly, audiobooks help a great deal. When I’m out for a walk or during my daily commute I listen to audiobooks.

2019 Books in Review

In 2019 I read 54 books. That’s 8,579 pages. For audiobooks, I listened to just under two days of audio. 30% of my reading was graphic novels, of those mostly Star Wars comics from Marvel. Following closely was Kindle books at 28% of my reading. Followed by audiobooks and finally, hardcovers mostly form the library.

Speaking of the library, I saved $557.13 by visiting the library and not buying those books. I was gifted one book and an author reached out and gave me their book as well.

I read almost twice as many books in 2019 as I did in 2018. Most of the books I read this past year were actually published in 2016. My average book length was 209 pages. My average rating for books on GoodReads was 3.7. Overwhelmingly the books I read were written by US authors (37). And although I want to read more books by female authors, the books I read were by men (44 to 10).

My favorite books in 2019 (in the order I read them):

  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  3. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  4. Star Wars Vol.1 Skywalker Strikes by Jason Aaron
  5. The Public Library by Robert Dawson
  6. The Little Free Library Book by Margret Aldrich
  7. We are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer
  8. Tales from the Open Road: The Adventures and Misadventures of RV Living by Joe Russo

Review | Tales from the Open Road (We’re the Russos)

Tales From the Open Road: The Adventures and Misadventures of RV Living (We're the Russos Book 2)
We’re The Russos Book 2

First, a disclaimer, Joe, and Kait sent me a Kindle version of the book. They didn’t ask me to review it here and my review is my own. Tales From the Open Raod: The Adventures of RV Living is Joe Russo’s second book. The first book Take Risks: One Couple’s Journey to Quit Their Jobs and Hit the Open Road was book one. I’ve already reviewed that book here in 2018 and you can read the review by clicking on the link above.

I’m a big fan of the Russos. I’ve been a subscriber to their YouTube channel since before Joe’s first book. As you can guess from the titles of the books, they are a couple from Los Angeles that quit their jobs, bought an RV and started traveling the US. This, however, as Joe explains in the most recent book was not early retirement.

I recommend reading the books in order as the first book does a good job of covering the period when they decided to make this leap. This second book goes into how. It covers the trials and tribulations of driving and finding parking for a large RV. And it also begins the story of them looking for a smaller RV. While there is a path forward mentioned in the book, we don’t actually find out in the book what happens next, but for all the YouTube followers of the Russo’s we already know how that story ends.

Joe’s writing flows well and while simple really works for me. It’s a fun read and I really liked getting to know more of the details as a YouTube follower I didn’t see all the behind the scenes information that Joe shares in the book. My only complaint is that I wish there was more in the book. More details and more of the class B journey. That said I think it takes tremendous bravery to share your story in a book and even more to share it on a medium like YouTube where the Internet trolls will offer unsolicited feedback on everything that makes it into a video.

Regardless of what the Russo’s do next, I look forward to following their journey on YouTube and in print!