Jan 28, 2019

Books read Q4 2018

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

Books I finished or dropped in the fourth quarter of 2018:

1. [didn't finish] Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove
Flipped through this late one night. Pretty interesting thesis about strategic inflection points, but very dated.

2. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
Good analysis, and at the end Harari lays his cards on the table. A rather bleak ending point though – acceptance of the current state with no possibility of transcendence.

3. [didn't finish] Seeing Like a State by James C. Scott
The first book reviewed in Lou Keep's Uruk Series, which was the impetus for reading this. See also Scott Alexander's review. Clearly written; I read about two-thirds of it and got the point.

4. [didn't finish] Stubborn Attachments by Tyler Cowen
Read about 50 pages of this, ended up giving it to a friend who I thought would benefit. Basic idea: society should focus on maximizing "wealth plus" (GDP plus other things we care about, like the environment). Following this policy will generate the most prosperity (per capita?) in the long run. See also EconTalk interview with Tyler about the book, Rob Wiblin interview with Tyler about the book, Robin Hanson's review. Maybe I'll return to this someday, but probably not. Tyler is pretty vague – it's better as an introduction to his worldview than as a careful defense of it.

5. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Angsty & beautiful, though super sexist.

6. Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer (audiobook)
There wasn't one English migration to America, there were four! The Puritans, Cavaliers, Quakers, and Borderers. Provocative thesis, well defended. If you have English heritage, it's fun to identify your group(s) and the folkways that have carried down into your own life.

7. [didn't finish] Eloquent Rage by Brittany Cooper
Good memoir of a black feminist professor.

8. The Dot and the Line by Norton Juster
Beautiful picture-book by the author of The Phantom Tollbooth.

9. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

10. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Maté
Finally finished this after a year of punching away. Probably the best book on addiction yet written (Chasing the Scream is a better intro but draws heavily from Hungry Ghosts).

11. [didn't finish] The Essential Rumi by Rumi (Coleman Barks translation)
Beautiful poems (I especially liked this one), but I got miffed when I learned that the "translator" isn't really translating.

12. Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Lovely poem about being black in America. The first few sections were my favorite.

13. [didn't finish] The Macho Paradox by Jackson Katz
Flipped through this. Pretty dated (see: long passages about Eminem) and strangely structured (see: prefatory note addressing what the "Macho Paradox" is, because it's not defined (or mentioned!) in the main text), but it's aimed in a good direction.

14. [didn't finish] On the Historicity of Jesus by Richard Carrier
Interesting premise. Gwern's review felt like the 80/20 so I dropped it.

15. you are a little bit happier than i am by Tao Lin
Angsty poems – fun to read out loud.

16. Biomega Vol. 1 by Tsutomu Nihei
Beautiful aesthetic, dark story, fast pacing.

17. Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change by Tao Lin
Tao Lin discovers psychedelics.

18. [didn't finish] The Bodhisattva Ideal by Sangharakshita
Pretty dry, I lost interest after a while. I have an intuition that there are gems here, so probably will return to it someday.

19. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin (Ken Liu translation)
Very creative hard sci-fi: interstellar communication & the Cultural Revolution. I want to read the whole trilogy now!

20. Discipline & Punish by Michel Foucault
Read about half of this. Dense & good, a lot of strong assertions. Interesting to see the natal forms of current memes being used in a very different context.