May 02, 2019

Books read Q1 2019

Books I finished or dropped in the first quarter of 2019:

1. Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos, Rosalind Harvey translation
Novella from the perspective of the son of a drug lord, who lives hidden away in a remote jungle palace. Pretty fun.

2. The Cosmic Serpent by Jeremy Narby
Mind-bending book by an anthropologist who spent a lot of time with Ashaninka people in the Amazon.

3. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
My second read-through. It's hard to talk about House of Leaves in a way that conveys its impact. It's like a many-legged parasite that worms into your ear, slithers around the ear drum, lodges in some ancient part of the cortex. You don't really like that it's there, but you're grateful for the things it shows you.

4. [didn't finish] The Intellectual Life by Antonin Sertillanges
Manifesto about intellectual work by a Dominican scholar. Pretty good, somewhat dated. Sexist overtones, unfortunately.

5. [didn't finish] Wittgenstein's Antiphilosophy by Alain Badiou
One of those European philosophy books where you can never tell if you're missing the point or it's just overwrought gibbering. I borrowed the philosopher-antiphilosopher distinction for my Watchmen essay.

6. The Power Broker by Robert Caro (audiobook)
Amazing book. Robert Moses, the great! Robert Moses, the terrible! I found listening to Caro on audiobook more amenable than reading him, as all his tomes are very long. On audio, they just sorta wash over you.

7. [didn't finish] Karma: What It Is, What It Isn't, Why It Matters by Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche
Flipped through this at the Spirit Rock bookshop. Helpful, though probably won't be the definitive account of karma.

8. The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin, Joel Martinen translation
Book Two of Cixin's trilogy. Fun, on a grander scale than Book One. Interesting take on the Fermi paradox, and the climatic battle scene is unforgettable.

9. [didn't finish] How to Actually Change Your Mind by Eliezer Yudkowsky
Book Two of the Sequences. Good stuff, though mostly review for me (having intermittently pecked at the Sequences for the last 5 years). Left my copy on a plane in China, so couldn't keep going. Perhaps it'll turn on some Chinese traveller.

10. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Academic historians do time travel. Fun & moving.

11. [didn't finish] Moral Mazes by Robert Jackall
On the tribalism of 1980s corporate America. About halfway through I felt like I got the point, so stopped reading. Some of my favorite excerpts: 1, 2, 3

12. [didn't finish] Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber
Flipped through this after reading Moral Mazes. Interesting stuff along the same line, in a contemporary setting.

13. Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens
Advice on how to live an upright life whilst traversing intellectual mileux. Really good.

14. [didn't finish] Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker (audiobook)
Pretty good pop sci. I'm not interested enough in sleep science to read the whole thing. tl;dr – sleep seems really important for a variety of reasons. We don't yet understand all of what's going on.

15. [didn't finish] The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov (audiobook)
Asimov sci-fi! Lovely depictions of academic motivations & structures. I lost interest when the setting changed, though.