Apr 19, 2020

Books read Q4 2019

See also: Q1 list, Q2 and Q3 list.

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

1. Inside the Mind of Xi Jinping by François Bougon
Analysis of Xi by a French foreign correspondent. Interesting & opinionated (I don't know enough about China to assess the quality of Bougon's opinions). The Scholar's Stage review is good.

2. Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Beautiful, especially once you acclimate to the vocabulary. Really rehabilitated my view of grad school as a worthwhile project.

3. Be Here Now by Ram Dass
Very fresh – a good sign for a spirituality book written decades ago. I tore through the first two sections a while back but got hung up on the third ("Cookbook for a Sacred Life"). Returned recently at a gentler pace and made it through. See also Ram Dass nytimes obit, Ram Dass is ready to die.
RIP Richard Alpert.

4. Submission by Michel Houellebecq
Powerful critique of French secular decadence. My first Houellebecq.

5. Fentanyl, Inc. by Ben Westhoff (audiobook)
Good survey of the US fentanyl crisis. Westhoff's conversation with Tyler is a good overview.

6. Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream by Jay Stevens
History of 1960s psychedelia and the 1970s crackdown. Published in 1987 (i.e. before the current renaissance), which gives it an interesting perspective. Very good.

7. The Journey to the East by Herman Hesse
Postmodernism before postmodernism. My first Hesse.

8. [didn't finish] Indra's Net by Robin Robertson
One of those books that attempts to weave together complexity theory and the occult to give some new account of metaphysics and the human condition. Has the obvious problems of such a project. I gave up after my initial flip-through, didn't spend enough time with it to assess whether it overcomes those problems (priors say it doesn't).

9. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
My parents keep this graphic-novel memoir about the decline & death of older parents on their living room bookcase. I read it in 2014, and read it again when visiting for Christmas. It's good & sad, feels honest. p. 155-6 are particularly interesting.

10. [didn't finish] Zhouyi: The Heart of the Yijing Translation and commentary by Liu Ming
Super powerful. A friend introduced me to it in November, but somehow it feels like I've been in relationship to it forever. One of those books you can't really "finish."

11. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
I read most of this at the beginning of 2019 and finished off the last essays at the end of the year. Lorde is a great writer. Reminds me a little bit of Understanding Power.

12. The Wealthy Gardner by John Soforic (audiobook)
Pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps self-help book. Pretty inspiring.

13. Scott Alexander's review of "Hoover" by Scott Alexander
Technically not a book, but it feels like I read the book after reading Scott's review. Hoover was a powerful dude, also quite possibly a sociopath. Scott Sumner's review of the review is also good.