Books from Q3 2018
36. “How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking” – Jordan Ellenberg
I thought this was a good example of how STEM communication can work well. The author introduces concrete, everyday problems then provides the math and logic to work through them. That is surprisingly rare in STEM comms.
37. “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” – N. K. Jemisin
I’m on a N.K. Jemisin tear this year. It’s awesome that genre fiction is opening up to under-represented voices. The hegemony of old white dude authors needs to die.
38. “The Broken Kingdoms“ – N. K. Jemisin
39. “The Kingdom of Gods“ – N. K. Jemisin
40. “The Awakened Kingdom“ – N. K. Jemisin
41. “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty” – Daron Acemoglu & James Robinson
The core ideas of this book are very interesting but it feels very much like a research thesis stretched to book-length. The repetitive examples of how prosperity did or did not develop in different areas of the world are supporting evidence of the thesis, but become a bit of a slog. Definitely worth reading, but I’d recommend selective skimming once you get a handle on the core of it.
42. “The Stories of John Cheever” – John Cheever
Cheever’s short stories are strange in that they feel both very foreign and very familiar. The style and melancholy are modern and relatable. The settings and context… aren’t, at least to me. These are East Coast stories that take place in the 20’s-50’s. They reference household servants, wet bars, and console radio sets. Those things aren’t strange by any means, but it’s a testament to the quality of the writing that even set 70-100 years in the past, the stories themselves feel contemporary.
43. “Remote” – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
This was a re-read. I’d read it when it first came out a few years ago. It’s one of those business books that companies buy for all their employees to try to pitch a new philosophy. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, just that is it fairly light. It’s meant as a sales pitch for remote work. I dove back in to pull out some items relevant to a job I recently started.
44. “Destiny of the Republic” – Candice Millard
I started this book knowing almost nothing about James Garfield and came away with a lot of respect for him. Had he survived his assassination, I don’t know that he would have been a “great” president, but he appears to have been an incredibly decent man. His death helped bring the country together and heal some of the wounds from the Civil War. It also, at least in part, inspired Chester A. Arthur to completely turn his life around and reject the Tammany Hall corruption he had spent his career soaked in. This is a super-engaging historical narrative.
45. “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” – William L. Shirer
This is by no means a flawless book, but it is the most comprehensive history of Hitler’s empire that I have read. Granted, it is 1300ish pages. Given the subject matter, it’s not a book you can read without feeling something. The Nazis’ crimes are almost impossible to process – too terrible to fit wholly in your brain. There is so much in the history of the Third Reich to be angry about, things we should remain angry about and watchful of for as long as our species exists.
46. “Deep Work” – Cal Newport
I needed something a little lighter to recover emotionally from the previous book. The core idea here is that your time and attention are invaluable and you should viciously protect them. Also, that open offices for “collaboration” are a sham, which is no surprise to anyone who has ever worked in one.
47. “White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America” – Nancy Isenberg
Read this on the recommendation of a friend and enjoyed it, only minimally due to it being about my people. The author goes into detail about how class has been used as a weapon in the U.S. to control and divide. The history covered adds to the mountain of evidence that Southern Secession was never about states’ rights and that the possibility of upward mobility is no where close to evenly distributed.