Books, 2016/7

tl;dr notes about 2016 books and early plans for 2017 reading

Some book recommendations from this year’s reading (and listening), intended as a little extra signal on top of the abundant lists that are out this time year (e.g. Wall St Journal, Economist, NYTimes, NPR).

Book suggestions and recommendations welcome :)


Gist: Short pieces from a psychoanalyst’s case histories; “patients desperate for change but not if it means changing.”

Review that made me want to read it here.

Gist: Excessive pride and the resulting military disasters. Surprisingly readable and witty, covering both “big picture” and details. So many leadership lessons; I’m looking forward to the tech industry version of this book.

Review that made me want to read it:

Gist: Drafting off the review below: this is the story, from a few different points of view, about how “a modern army, technologically sophisticated but weakly supported by public opinion at home, gets bogged down in a failed state trying to hold the line against primitive but cunning adversaries motivated by religious zeal and determined to sustain the fight for decades, even generations. It’s the kind of war the West has yet to figure out a way of winning.”

Review that made me want to read it:

Also, I recently heard this NPR bit that recommended it.

Gist: this book is really a long business magazine article. It’s not deep. It’s an airplane ride’s worth of reading. It was interesting in terms of the creation of a new program within an existing complex set organizations to make the most out of scarce smart/driven people.

Gist: a father, his expectations, and a son. Author is a reporter who covered US presidents and visits his former subjects with his son. Several friends suggested it; hard topic.

Gist: I finally got around to this, via Audible, on a long drive. Totally worth it.

Gist: I finally got around to this, via Audible on a long drive. Lots of flaws, lots of good bits. Glad I listened.


I asked a friend with a really cool degree (link) and encyclopedic knowledge of science fiction for help finding books to escape the awful that turned out to be 2016. The books here reflect how poorly read I am in this genre. Some highlights:

I liked the following one a little less than the others; I clearly need to read more to figure out a point of view here.

As a novel, Ghost Fleet has all sorts of flaws that are easy to criticize. I think it’s worth suspending lit-crit thinking and just enjoying the ride because it’s a good way to explore some genuinely nasty scenarios around technology and its vulnerabilities. The reading lists that included this book are interesting (ex: Foreign Policy: “A Novel About War With China Strikes a Chord at the Pentagon,” link); anything that gets this criticism (“Reading ‘Ghost Fleet’ is a Mistake” — link) seems worth reading to me ;)

Oh, and I finally got around to The Martian via Audible on a long drive. Related article, and I’m not taking a position in this argument, here.

Looking ahead (or, books still in the queue)

The basic approach for next year is the same:

  • Read (well, at least skim) all the book reviews I come across in Wall St Journal, Economist, NYTimes, and NPR. Maybe this is the year Farnam Street becomes a habit and not an occasional splurge.
  • Add signal from friends, esp those who know something about a topic.
  • Add samples to my Kindle queue.
  • Actually read books. Real books are a great way to keep from checking news / email / Facebook / Twitter.

This weekend I get to go through the Great End of Year Book Recommendation Issues for the sources I list above. Their recommendations get to compete with the currently unstarted or unfinished books in the queue:

As much of his writing as I disagreed with, I always learned from reading him. And wow his writing is gorgeous. The review that made me want to read this book: “Reading Bill Buckley in the Age of Trump.” And if reading obituaries is something you’re good with, please look at this: The Economist Book of Obituaries.

I like Taleb’s tweets. I get that he’s smart and brash. I really want to get through one of his books already. I think this might be the one.

I’ve liked other books from Michael Lewis. The review that made me curious about this book is here.

Good friend, super smart, recommended this book. Relevant to current events.

Good friends who are involved in education reform recommended this. The obituary books might be more cheerful.

Recommended by several friends. Again, a hard topic.

Recommended by a friend; more related to teams and leadership and education than sports. I’m not enough of a fan to understand his legacy in terms of developing coaches and players.

I used to run. A lot. I was always in awe of Zátopek. This book review made me want to read more. I haven’t started these.

Last, a book via an artist / design person. The comment that made me want to read it: the book talks “about sentence construction, not painting, but there’s a clear analogy.”

Again, book suggestions and recommendations welcome :)


Listening Learning & Writing at

Listening Learning & Writing at