2014 Reading Summary: Biographies

I probably won’t do a detailed review of many of the books I read last year, but I did want to at least list them in some way. This is the first in a series of 6 or 8 posts about the different categories of books I read.

In my book summary I said that I read 3 books in the Biography category. Here they are in the order that I read them.


The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge, and a Small History of the Big Con. This book by Amy Reading is about J. Frank Norfleet who was swindled by a con man in 1919 in a stock market scam. Not learning his lesson the first time, he got taken again. But, then he wised up and spent the next few years hunting down the gang that had taken his money. He did this by learning how the con worked and conning other con men to give him the information he needed to get his money back and put the perpetrators in jail.

Though I like biographies, I really like ones that teach about the business the protagonist is involved with. In this case it was about con artists and the police and detective work that went into catching the criminals. I really enjoyed the book and was glad to serendipitously run across it at the library new book shelf (which is where many of the books I read come from).

If you want to know a bit more about this story, there was an NPR story about it. The host interviewed author Amy Reading.

My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon by Bart Yasso. As expected, this book was well written. The reason I expected this is Mr. Yasso works for Runner’s World magazine. Even if he didn’t know how to write, Runner’s World has a great team of editors.

This book is a chronicle of his running life up to this point. He has run over 1000 races and competed on all seven continents of the world. Like many people who take up running as an adult, he was prompted to better his life and health due to poor choices made as a younger person. Running changed his life and has given him a purpose and a job for the last few decades.

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker. I have read another book by Mitnick, The Art of Deception, which was about how social engineering works and how he used it to his advantage to hack into many companies. This newer book, Ghost in the Wires, is more about his exploits of escaping the authorities during the manhunt for him.

I am not necessarily a fan of Mitnick or his choice of occupation, but like the book about the con artist ring from 100 years ago, I love learning the tricks of the trade. Mitnick is a con artist extraordinaire.

Mitnick did the majority of his illegal hacking in the days before the Internet and Windows computers as we know them. Much of what he does is social engineering where he convinces people to give him sensitive information by posing as a friendly co-worker. However, today, instead of doing this for illegal purposes, he is paid by the companies he is hacking into for the purpose of testing their internal security protocols.