- The Lottery And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
- The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir
Not sure what compelled me to pick this one up. It’s a short book by way of a long essay, and much more dense than I thought I was bargaining for.
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Listening to this one at the repeated suggestion of a friend. I think I’m glad I picked it up as an audio book because it paints a really rich world with character voices and whatnot.
The Manager’s Path by Camille Fournier
- The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig
- You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy
Carried over from 2021
Lives Of The Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman
Overall, this was pretty surface level and less engaging than I had hoped.
The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
Really powerful book from a pioneer in the field of trauma treatment. Significantly expanded the way I think about trauma, specifically by broadening the scope of trauma’s definition beyond the horrors of war, natural disaster, and major accidents to include smaller scale but significant events and prolonged exposures to adverse conditions. After reading this book, I now see more of the effects of trauma around and within me and it has helped me be a more empathetic and compassionate person.
What Works: Gender Equality by Design by Iris Bohnet
I forget when I first started reading this, but I finished it this year. This book has had a big influence on how we approach many structures at Test Double, so I wanted to ensure I finished it so I have a better sense of how these things are connected.
Completed in 2022
For the first time, I am adding new sections to my reading list. I want to read more fiction, especially classics and literary fiction, and poetry, and I want to better convey my mix. Maybe I’ll add a pie chart.
- Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else by Jordan Ellenberg
I picked this up because I thought Ellenberg was great on an episode of YANSS, and held off reading it until this year as the first book club reading with a friend. Overall, some really interesting things about how geometry applies in a lot of situations, but in the end, this felt like a book that Ellenberg wanted to write about the COVID-19 pandemic and maybe a little politics and he filled it out with a bunch of other moderately interesting stuff. That said, I am fascinated by things like geometry and how they can apply to so many different problems, so in that sense, it reminded me of Operations Research, one of my favorite classes from my CITE degree, which was essentially a whole bunch of applied linear algebra, which happens to impact things as wide ranging as profit maximization, network capacity, staff scheduling, and project management.
Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith
Cephalopods are interesting and super smart. This book explores the implications of the fact that evolution seems to have developed pretty sophisticated intelligence at least twice, independently. In the end, the discussion is largely anthropocentric, and I would have liked it if there was more exploration of the idea that the features of our human intelligence might be solving problems that the cephalopods don’t care about and that their particular form of intelligence might reveal more about what different kinds of things other kinds of intelligences might care about.
The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
I shouldn’t have liked this book. The title is cheesy. The cover design is atrocious. It was cowritten by Donald Trump’s “coauthor” on The Art of the Deal. And early on in talking about physical energy, the authors get pretty far out over their skis talking about diet and exercise things in a very one-size-fits-all fashion that would make the heads of the hosts of Maintenance Phase spin. And the premise of the book seems really obvious, especially because I recently read a blog post that said basically the same thing. And in the end, the book was a copyediting nightmare. (I should not have read it at the same time I was reading Dreyer’s English, so that’s on me.)
But, it was recommended to me by someone I trust in the context of a conversation about how I find myself drained at the end of a day and unable to really engage in things that are important to me. Then, I found a used copy at Powell’s for less than $10 so I snagged it. In the end it made me start thinking about connecting more deeply with my core values and paying more careful attention to my energy throughout the day. I’m still working on implementing the ideas, but it’s been pretty great mindset shift.
Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer
A delightfully pedantic and surprisingly witty book about the nuances of all manner of copyediting, style, usage, and other nits that are extremely important to pick.
Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman
This is a book with over two hundred pages of philosophy of why we are followed by five reflection questions to adjust the reader’s relationship to time and ten useful tips for dealing with the reality that there will always be too much to do and taking an proactive approach to a more sustainable approach to productivity such as “fixed volume” todo lists, strategically choosing what to neglect or fail at—generally or for a season, and embracing boring technology.
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Overall, the idea that knowing the higher reason you’re doing something should drive the activities and particular implementation is a solid one. Sinek’s terminology gets muddled along the way (Sometimes HOW and WHAT are defined nearly identically), the book is laughably repetitive (It could have probably been a hundred pages or fewer instead of 225, and the copyediting is really pretty sloppy. You can catch the drift of this whole book by watching his TED Talk or listening to the Blink.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamotte
Delightful book that’s full of advice for anyone engaged in creative pursuits or even knowledge work that requires tolerating some level of uncertainty. Anne Lamotte has a gift for vivid imagery, playful but gentle affirmation of some of our worst impulses, and tender advice delivered with love.
A good book with practical advice for negotiation situations, and many more situations are essentially negotiations than we normally think of in the narrowest definition of the term. Things like the accusation audit, anchoring, and mirroring, have been immediately applicable in both my work and personal lives.
Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller
This book was really poignant and I felt so invested in Lulu Miller’s journey. (Will she ever be reunited with the curly haired man?!) But in the end, questioning the notions of categorization and who gets to draw these grids over the world that then determine the parameters according to which things are subsequently categorized is a very powerful challenge. In less dramatic ways, I have challenged the grid in my own life and found fulfillment in ways I never could have imagined, so going on this journey with Miller and her obsession with David Starr Jordan and overall search for meaning was quite rewarding. A short and fascinating read that I fully recommend.
The Science of Stuck by Britt Frank
Another book I learned about from YANSS. I was really intrigued by Frank’s candid discussion of her own struggles and the pragmatic way she discusses complex topics. Where Bessel van der Kolk talks in depth and with great nuance about trauma, Britt Frank’s description of trauma as “brain indigestion” is so vivid and just plain useful that it brings the heady ideas of The Body Keeps The Score down to the runway level for immediate operationalizing.
Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg
Metta (lovingkindness, benevolence, friendliness) meditation is something that intrigues me greatly, so I wanted to read Salzberg’s book to get a systematic overview of the four Brahmaviharas. I’m mixing metta into my meditation practice and eventually plan to add a short lovingkindness meditation to my mornings as a tock to the tick of my mindfulness meditation in the evenings.
The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth
One of my great regrets of graduate school was not taking the class on rhetoric. This book is a nice whirlwind tour of rhetorical devices, but focused more on English poetry and drama than on classical rhetoric. Still, a very good read if you don’t have an established background in any of the rhetorical devices that make the best literature, poetry, and oratory so compelling.
Ikigai by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles
This was mentioned by someone whose online writing I respect and whose productivity advice I have at times found helpful. It’s a nice book and probably of some value to someone that has never considered the value of many of the ideas contained therein, but if you’re already a reflective person prone to thinking deeply about life and how to squeeze the most out of it, there’s not much new for you here.
Managing Humans by Michael Lopp
This book took me ages to get through due to a combination of Lopp’s writing being a bit grating and the typography. This is seriously the first book in a long time I have wished I had bought in ebook format so that I could change the font and leading. After a few pages, this book seriously gave me a splitting headache just from the typesetting.
Beyond that, I appreciate this book for pointing out to me that, contrary to my prior notion, I do indeed have some ideas about management and leadership, and they are largely very different from Lopp’s. I disagree with the flattening of team members and colleagues into types and while it’s probably necessary in big companies like Apple and Slack, the political machinations are absolutely abhorrent to me.
Where the Deer and the Antelope Play by Nick Offerman
A fun, lighter read. Continues with Offerman’s exploration of agrarian ideas that he first touched on in Gumption. Contrasting John Muir and Aldo Leopold is important, and even though Part III diverged from this contrast quite a bit, it had some useful insights like when Offerman reflects on his sibling interactions related to the Thanksgiving gathering during the pandemic and how the different realities of their respective lives set the stage for conflict and limit their ability to understand each other.
I do wish the copyeditor would have been more diligent and/or forceful on some points. After reading Dreyer earlier this year, editing misses like when Offerman mixes up a collection when he offers in serial “Minooka, Oklahoma, and Austin,” (rather than “Oklahoma City”) stand out to me as avoidable annoyances.
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
As promised by everyone I have heard mention this book, it was a paradigm altering read. I especially appreciated Graeber’s painstaking description of non-market economic activity (communism, exchange, amd hierarchy) and the various ways that markets have operated without capitalism. But the thing I valued most here was the damning case that capitalism, debt, currency, and other fixtures of our modern economic system are and have always been established on a foundation of violence amd coercion, and that for us to live in a truly just world we will have to move beyond systems that are inherently exploitative and violent.
Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison
I first encountered Christy Harrison because she led an Anti-Diet Challenge course on the Ten Percent Happier app. I found her approach really satisfying and it set me on the path to accepting and appreciating my larger body and focusing on the things I want to do in my life rather than merely what size or shape my body is.
This book is like all the best parts of Maintenance Phase collapsed into a tidy almost three hundred pages. This is both good and bad. It’s good because the work of debunking diet culture is important and zooming out on questions of health and wellness so they are framed as part of the larger problem of injustice is crucial for identifying root causes of real suffering caused by weight stigma, food insecurity, persistent trauma and adverse experiences, economic and financial stress, and other characteristic features of our contemporary society.
That said, I was a little disappointed that the book remained primarily in the realm of (justified!) polemic and did not venture into much practical application. I would have loved if the book included any of the mindfulness ideas from her meditation course or if it had more direct practical advice for how to practice body liberation while also pursuing improvement in physical pursuits such as athletics. If this book is the diet culture counterpart to Four Thousand Weeks, I feel like Harrison was missing those last several pages where Burkemann says, “OK, given all of that, what should we actually do?” The chapters on intuitive eating, Health At Every Size, and finding community are good, but they are very high level, and the practical application of those ideas remains to be found outside the pages of this book.
How to Be Perfect by Michael Schur
I really enjoyed this book. I actually remembered much of these philosophies from the Core Curriculum courses in college such as “Ethics” and “Human Knowledge”, and much of the stuff I didn’t learn in college I learned from watching The Good Place. With characteristic wit and charm, Mike Schur leads us through some pretty complicated topics related to moral philosophy and provides the reader with a toolbox of philosophical perspectives to bring to bear on just about any moral question. He also gives a small window into the ways that philosophers can expand, rotate, and otherwise mangle a philosophical question to reveal additional nuances that lead to clearer thinking or reveal hidden assumptions or inconsistencies, which I think is largely a mystery to non-philosophers.
The Next Pandemic by Dr. Ali S. Khan
- The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
- The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
This was my first time reading this. I found Holden Caulfield rather tedious but trying to read him as an extremely depressed kid due to his brother’s death makes him a little more sympathetic. I’m reminded of my own depression after my granddad died in 2003 and how I brute forced my way through my classes with shear memory power and probably some generous grading by sympathetic professors. Probably not one I will ever read again but I’m glad to say I’ve read it and I’m also glad I didn’t read it earlier, at a time when I might have found Caulfield a more appealing role model rather than a sympathetic cautionary tale.
On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu
I read this one for the Browsers July book club. It’s a beautifully and empathetically told tale about a refugee family from Afghanistan and their harrowing efforts to reach Australia. I think I most appreciated the nuance and multiple facets Yu presents of the refugee experience such as the father of the family objecting to the mother’s hospitality with the English tutor, dynamics between immigrants/refugees, particularly the group of school girls, and the subtle toll of temporary immigration statuses (TPV in Australia, TPS in the United States) on immigrants’ lives once they are here from mere bureaucratic uncertainty to difficulties obtaining employment. Most importantly, I appreciated that the focus remained on the family and their interactions rather than centering Whiteness, only once portraying a hostile encounter with an individual Australian man for instance.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
A really lovely story and the second novel I read for the Browsers book club. It sparked a lot of great discussion. My favorite question was whether Klara’s actions had any impact on Josie’s recovery, and if so, which actions in particular?
I found it fascinating how my technical knowledge, both as a software developer and as an informed consumer, influenced my comprehension of scenes such as Klara’s description of her visual processing of new situations. I also appreciated the subtlety of the world building, how Ishiguro introduces but doesn’t define terms like “AF” and “lifted” until it naturally comes up later.
Everyone Knows Your Mother Is A Witch by Rivka Galchen
- Chouette by Claire Oshetsky
- Something to Do with Paying Attention by David Foster Wallace