A log of books I’ve read since 2019 (with light commentary).
Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan riffing on artificial intelligence is a lot of fun. Alan Turing lives, making the world safe for the thoroughly average humans who populate it.
Exhalation by Ted Chiang
Delightfully ambitious short stories. “Exhalation” is particularly breathtaking (swish!).
Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Demons marked my first time reading Dostoevsky. I would summarize the experience as “general confusion punctuated by moments of goosepimpled awe.” People in the 1800s were smarter than we are (or at least smarter than I am).
Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Short, well-written, thought-provoking. Delivers on its central theme: “We can’t know history.” Reminded me of one of my favorites, The Remains of the Day.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Very good, especially by “buzzy novel” standards. The characters are still alive in my head.
Straight Man by Richard Russo
This might be the funniest book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of funny books. Works on multiple levels. Come for the workplace comedy, stay for the surprisingly deep rumination on meaning, aging, and family.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
An unbelievable debut novel. Covers a ton of historical ground without being overwhelming or didactic. Shows how the scar of slavery affected not just African Americans, but those left behind. What’s home?
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
This book will make you smile.
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
I read Snow Crash in high school, and I remember thinking it was a tad over-the-top. Looking at the world now, I think it was dead on. “Hyper-privatized, ethnically cloistered enclaves” seems like where the internet is taking us. Can education save us?
These Truths by Jill Lepore
Jill Lepore is the best American history teacher I’ve ever had.
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
This was my first time reading a memoir, and it might be my last. Not because it was bad, but because it was so good. I felt like a voyeur.
The Captured Economy by Brink Lindsey and Steve Teles
As good an introduction to “Liberaltarianism” thinking as any. Though I realize I’m basically the target demographic for this. Down with (most) land use and licensing restrictions!
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
I think of Cal Newport’s work like I think of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. The specific advice is less important than pushing you to adopt a particular ethos.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
I wish Postman had lived long enough to write a screed about social media. As it stands, this screed about TV is still really good. Makes televised Presidential debates understandable.
Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas
A fun screed about our consulting, banking, and philanthropic classes. Can we really do well by doing good? (More to the point: Can we afford to live in NYC, DC, SF, or LA?)
The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
Very good, especially by business book standards. A lot of actionable advice if you’re a manager.
The Revolt of the Public by Martin Gurri
Yup, this is basically what’s happening. For a good introduction to Gurri’s thinking, you can refer to this blog post he wrote.
Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World by Adam Tooze
As good a summary of the financial crisis as you’ll find. Takes a welcome international view. The interconnectedness of our global banking system is both breathtaking and terrifying.