Book Reviews 📚
Review - An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management
I’m giving this book three stars because I can see myself returning over and over again to this book to sanity check my thinking about something at work. It’s got a lot of simply written, simply structured ‘how to do this’ type sections.
Review - Debt: The First 5000 Years 🧾
Alongside Understanding Power as the book that has most blown my mind. After reading Debt I don’t know how money, debt, and economics should work, but I do know now that they don’t work at all like the dominant cultural narratives say they do, and that is an incredible valuable lesson.
Review - Beautiful World, Where Are You?
Not much to say about this one. I enjoyed it, but it hasn’t stayed with me. I got a bit sick of the two main characters by the end. Despite basically agreeing with everything they write in their emails to each other, it was all a bit too much whinging about the dis-empowered, dissatisfying life of a contemporary progressive.
Review - Showstopper! the Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft
Review - Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
Read this book and be furious. If you hear “billionaire” and think “that pleasant, helpful, Bill Gates guy” and not the Koch’s or Richard Mellon Scaife, read this book.
Review - Neuromancer
Review - Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age
This is a collection of essays from the tech industry famous Paul Graham. If you frequent Hackernews you’ve very likely read some of them before.
Review - Flowers for Algernon 🐁💐
This book is a remarkable journey. The author, Daniel Keyes, does a wonderful job using prose to track the increasing and decreasing intelligence of the protagonist, and the central theme of the book, I think about the relationship between kindness, intelligence, and loneliness, is a knockout.
Review - A Visit From The Goon Squad 🎸🤘😕
This is one of the most recommended books by Ezra Klein Show guests, so I picked it up. Overall, I thought it was great. Its central theme is growing old about being ‘beaten up’ by time. The book follows a number of characters, some over decades, and I loved when Egan smashed some character’s hopeful, expanding youth by neighbouring it on the page with their horrible future. I remember her detailing the personality and circumstances of a ~14 year old girl, and then right after offering a paragraph describing the tragedy of their 30s. It hit appropriately hard.
Review - Jazz 🎺🗽
Review - 100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, from Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith
I picked this book up because it was recommended, directly or indirectly, by Peter Thiel. I’ve been interested in his life philosophy for a while, and life extension is a topic worthy of more attention.
Review - The Old Man and the Sea 🦈
I loved this Southpark bit about The Old Man And The Sea before I came to love this short novel, and the bit partly convinced me that I was old enough to read the novel. I can believe that if I had to read this book in school when I was around 13-15, I may have been like the Southpark kids who listened to the heartfelt recounting of the book’s plot by the Hispanic fisherman and said, “that it?”
Review - Tender Is The Night 🌃
The Great Gatsby (written earlier in 1925) is probably my favourite fiction novel. The only good piece of art I own depicts the Penguin Books cover of the novel. So I had high hopes for this last novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is The Night.
Review - Heart of Darkness 🖤
This book's vibe is not like anything else I've read. I'd describe it as brooding and disturbed. The main character's journey is like a cursed pilgrimage or something. I've read that this book has been super influential, and I think I can see why.
Review - Foundation 🪐
I had no idea what Foundation by Isaac Asimov would be like; I just knew it was regarded among the greatest science fiction novels ever written.
Review - Between The World And Me
I’ve been a huge fan of Ta-Nehisi Coates essays for years, so it was about time I read a book by him.
Review - The Manager's Path 🧗♂️
I approach the whole ‘how to be a better manager’ genre as if it’s going to bore me and maybe provoke an early mid-life crisis, but I’d just been given manager duties at my company so felt I had to read something or else accept the possibility of wilful ignorance.
Review - Dune Messiah 🏜
Dune Messiah is the 2nd book in the six-part Dune series by Frank Herbert. I planned to just read the first book in the Dune series,Dune, before watching the Denis Villeneuve film adaption that was going to arrive in November 2020. I figured that having read the book would help me enjoy the movie. Hell, I eventually found out that having read the book was essential for deriving any pleasure out of the mostly incomprehensible David Lynch adaption from 1984. The Villeneuve adaption never came out in November 2020 though thanks to COVID-19, and who knows now if it’ll ever hit cinemas.
Review - The End of Policing 🙅♂️👮♂️
Somehow this book got on my ‘Want To Read’ list, and was then gifted to me for my birthday in 2019. It became a ‘must read’ during the June 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, and I eventually finished it later that year.
Review - A Clockwork Orange 🔪
Great book. The liberal use of unique slang language, called Nadsat, was initially frustrating, as without a glossary the first few pages were only half comprehensible, but after reading the whole thing I’d say that the use of Nadsat elevates the book from good to great.
Review - Dune
I’m one of the Dune newbies that picked up the book because they got hyped by the 2020 movie adaption trailer. “I better read this before the movie comes out in November 2020!” I thought. Well, COVID fucked that all up and now I’ve got time to read the whole series about ten times over before the film comes out. Anyways, reviewing the book…
Review - Constructing The Political Spectacle
Of all the books I read this year, Goodreads tells me this book on politics was least read by others on the site. I have no idea why this ended up on my ‘To Read’ list, but I’m glad that it did.
Review - Evicted 🏚
My favourite podcast is The Ezra Klein Show, and at the end of each episode Klein gets his guest to give three books that they’d recommend to the audience. u/PossionsRevenge posted on Reddit a spreadsheet counting the mentioned books, and Evicted was easily the most recommended book from guests.
Review - The Pearl
Not much to say about this one. I picked it up because I wanted a short read and I’d really liked Of Mice And Men. It was worth the ~90 pages, but I didn’t find it especially memorable.
Review - The Uninhabitable Earth 🔥🌏🔥
What Wallace-Wells puts down in this non-fiction story about our climate future properly disturbed me. While reading it, and for a little while after finishing it, I was noticeably a little more stressed, pessimistic, and tense. Only a little, but it’s really the only book besides Understanding Power that’s produced any sort of similar reaction in me.
In The Guardian’s review subheading is:
Review - The Innovator's Dilemma
This book is a business management classic, and I’d say has been incredibly influential in the corporate technology sector. I’d read the Wikipedia page for Clayton M. Christensen’s “Disruptive Innovation” which details breifly most of the ideas contained in The Innovator’s Dilemma but wanted to go to the primary source.
Review - The Road 💀
This was very interestingly written and the subject matter was more dreadful and bleak than anything else I’ve read. By the end of it I felt like it had taught me a lesson about the fragility of our world and shown me that commonplace imaginings of personal and societal disaster are not even close to contemplating the full existential and psychological horror that’s possible. Living in the middle panel of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, it helps to be look at the right panel occasionally.
Review - Designing Data Intensive Applications
This is a technical book on software engineering, so it won’t bother to review it beyond saying it’s the best educative software book I’ve ever read and I think it’s required reading for software engineers.
Review - The Undoing Project
Before I found this in the office of a place I was staying in, I’d seen reviews that this was Michael Lewis’s best book yet. After having read it, I wouldn’t disagree with them. I always put the book down wishing I could read another chapter, and felt that Lewis did an awesome job of making the lives and careers of two famous psychologists seem exciting and dynamic.
Review - Why We're Polarized
Ezra Klein authored this book, and he hosts my favourite podcast, The Ezra Klein Show, in which he regularly discussed the ideas that appear in this book. A surprising amount of his podcast guests actually feature in the book, even those you’d think have little to do with USA politics.
Review - Normal People
Read it basically in a single sitting. I don’t read too many love stories, but it was a nice read, and I particularly like how the author ends it.
Review - Cat's Cradle
For context, Slaughterhouse Five is possibly my favourite novel, and Kurt Vonnegut is tied with George Orwell as my favourite writer (which makes some sense because Vonnegut called Orwell his favourite writer).
Review - Down Girl
Very well organized and written. Probably the first out-and-out ‘Feminist Theory’ book that I’ve read, so I won’t comment too much on whether it distinguishes itself within the genre, but I found it a really useful read.
Review - Zero To One
Being Trump’s most prominent billionaire booster in 2016 makes you a massive dickhead in my book, so it’s fair to say that I do not like Peter Thiel. Politically, he’s a right-liberatarian and is well known for his willingness to screw minorities and abandon democracy in the pursuit of capitalist profit-ventures.
Review - Liar's Poker 🃏
I wanted to read this because I’m a big fan of the movies adapted from Michael Lewis’s work (The Big Short, Moneyball) and because I really liked The Big Short (book) and thought it was important work. Liar’s Poker is the breakout first book by Lewis, and I definitely enjoyed it less than the three other books of his that I’ve read.