Jan 28, 2018

Books read Q4 2017

(See also: Q1 list, Q2 list, Q3 list)

Books I finished or dropped in the fourth quarter of 2017:

1. Tribe by Sebastian Junger
Sebastian Junger does crazy things, like embedding with a platoon of marines in an Afghan outpost that's constantly under attack. I picked this up on a whim, found it to be okay but not very memorable.

2. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Really good. Shifting alliances in South Vietnam & California.

3. Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel Ingram
Read this after seeing Scott Alexander's revew. Overall good, especially the conceptual walkthrough at the beginning. The book in combination with the review's comment thread made me question whether Buddhist enlightenment is actually a good goal to aim at.

4. Win Bigly by Scott Adams (audiobook)
Apolitical analysis of the persuasion techniques that Trump deployed during the 2016 election cycle (list of tips here). I found Adams' tone grating at times, but overall an excellent book. Useful for dispelling the view that Trump was a bumbling fool who had no idea what he was doing.

5. [didn't finish] This Present Darkness by Stephen Ellis
Purports to be a history of Nigeria's fraud culture, but turned out to be an assemblage of historical facts about Nigeria.

6. [didn't finish] Be Here Now by Ram Dass
Ram Dass' masterwork. I really liked the first two parts. Got bogged down in the third part & didn't finish.

7. Avoidant: How to Love (or Leave) a Dismissive Partner by Jeb Kinnison
Overall good, though I don't know how epistemically sound its claims are.

8. Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
Short essays on physics concepts. I liked all but the seventh, which devolved into vague humanistic exhortation.

9. [didn't finish] The Attack by Yasmina Khadra
Novel about an Arab-Israeli doctor whose wife gets caught up in a suicide bombing plot. Good in the beginning, but turned melodramatic.

10. The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer
Essay about stillness. Pretty good, but I wished it engaged more with the downsides of quiet. Yes, still places can be a welcome contrast to the go-go-ness of civilized life. But they have their own challenges – they can give space for internal demons to bubble up. Also they can be boring.

11. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Novel about a teenage girl who witnesses a police shooting. Good plot, and really well written.

12. [didn't finish] Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss profiles successful people. Pretty interesting, a bit smarmy. I hear Tribe of Mentors is good.

13. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy
Critical essay analyzing raunch culture. Good, though a little dated ("Girls Gone Wild", anyone?)

14. This Is an Uprising by Mark Engler & Paul Engler
Analysis of non-violent action and what makes it effective. Very good.

15. [didn't finish] The Medical Examiner by James Patterson
Patterson is now writing "BookShots," presumably to target a market habituated to Twitter length. This one is pretty bad – shallow, clichéd, yet somehow still compelling.