My Reading List Lately

Date: 03/19/17

Title: The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence

Author: Paul Davies

Duration: 10 hrs

Review: Davies is a scientist who has been involved with SETI for decades, currently chairing the SETI Post Detection Taskforce, who now believes that SETI’s idea of what it is searching for is too anthropomorphic, too rooted in the ideas of a particular tech-fashion that was popular in the 60s and 70s and not likely to find anything meaningful without significant changes. In this book he tries to redefine the search parameters of the SETI effort. Interesting ideas, although i thought a several points in the book that Davies idea of universal, as opposed to the more limited idea that he is trying to replace, is also rooted in his own experience. Lots of very interesting ideas anyway, as well as a listing and description the contributions of the some of the most gifted and influential scientists in the field.


Date: 07/03/17

Title: Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Author: Yuval Noah Harari

Duration: 15 hrs

Review: It’s fun to read the conjecture of a very educated and smart person. This book describes the post-humanist world that Harari sees as the inevitable development of the coming separation of intelligence from consciousness. Very fun reading.


Date: 02/01/17

Title: The Sympathizer: A Novel

Author: Viet Thanh Nguyen

Duration: 14hrs

Review: Great read. Not for the faint of heart. This is the story of a double agent during and after the Vietnamese-American war. It’s a page turner which also has some beautifully poetic passages that get at the heart of the political and personal aspects of the war. Much of the story takes place in late 70s Orange County, CA, which is place I know well in terms of both geography and culture. This is the story of soldiers and refugees, honesty and corruption and the intensely human struggle for meaning in the most mundane and the most extreme of circumstances.


Date: 01/15/17

Title: Reamde

Author: Neal Stephenson

Duration: 38 hrs

Review: Man, Neal Stephenson is a master yarn winder. A thriller that manages to combine massively multi-player online gamers and coin farmers, Russian mafia, an islamic terrorist cell ready to pounce from a high-rise in an anonymous large Chinese city, and anti-government American gun-nuts living on the Montana/Canada border, all filled with elite spies, explosions, and smart references tech entrepreneur culture is pure fun to read. This is classic Stephenson thriller writing. Large, smart, action-filled, and …fun.


Date: 12/18/16

Title: Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy

Author: Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, Sangeet Paul Choudary

Duration: 11 hrs

Review: This is a text book on multi-sided technology platform strategies. Why are muti-sided platforms like Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, and Alibaba so powerful? What do the business models of these companies have in common? I have both a professional interest in the notion of technology platforms and although the platform I work on are not multi-sided like the companies mentioned above, I was hoping that getting a better understanding of more complex platforms would help me understand the simpler platform I design and manage. This isn’t really general reading, but for folks with more than a passing interest in how tech platforms work, and why they’re so effective at upending entire industries, its a worthwhile read.


Date: 12/08/16

Title: When Breath Becomes Air

Author: Paul Kalanithi

Duration: 6 hrs

Review: Great read! The true story of a gifted, and artistically sensitive young surgeon who develops terminal lung cancer and is forced to understand illness and death from the patient’s point of view. This book is a model for both how to live and how to die, well, with purpose and grace. I strongly recommend this book to anyone.


Date: 10/31/16

Title: Dark Matter: A Novel

Author: Blake Crouch

Duration: 10 hrs

Review: Fun, physics-light tech thriller/mystery. Explores the notion of the invention of a machine that allows its operator to traverse the infinite multi-verse. In an infinite multiverse anything that could have happened has happened.What if you went back in time and changed something about yourself in a world where every instant splits the universe into the forks of possible futures cascading from actions taken in that instant. Fun read.


Date: 10/25/16

Title: American Gods

Author: Neil Gaiman

Duration: 21 hrs

Review: I loved this book. What a great story! Somewhere between carnival-americana, Twin Peaksish mystery/horror, crime novel, and superhero fantasy, this very original, truly genre-defying story finds all-too-human gods, old gods and new gods, having an epic battle in modern day (1990’s) America. No explosions or any such kitch here, the battle is fought in the old school way, with basic elements of nature and mano-a-mano. The story’s mythological characters, although recognizable as iconic and elemental figures, manage to be very funny and surprising creatures. The story is a epic winding yarn, and is truly good writing (good poetry as well good ideas). My first novel by Gaiman and I’m looking forward to more.


Date:10/3/16

Title: How to Raise an Adult

Author: Julie Lythcott-Haims

Duration: 13 hrs

Review: I generally dislike parenting books but I intuitively agree with the overall message of this (parenting) book. I liked hearing an expert give me evidence for why I’m right regarding this fraught topic. Typical confirmation bias, I know :) Still, the author is smart, and makes the argument well. Not all books have to challenge us, some can reassure, … um, right?, Imean common folks, am I right?


Date:9/15/16

Title (trilogy series): Nexus, Crux, Apex

Author: Ramez Naam

Duration: 54 hrs

Review: Very entertaining science fiction. The premise/exploration is: a drug that creates a connection to, and a structure for, the brain as an operating system. Very smart, and also a good action thriller. I liked it.


Date:9/25/16

Title (trilogy series): Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End

Author: Cixin Liu

Duration: 29 hrs

Review: WOW! This trilogy is amazing. Although the writing is weak, (or maybe its the translation, but there is some pretty sentimental stuff in here, especially in the first few chapters of the first book) the ideas in this book have changed my thinking about other life in the universe, our attempts to find and communicate with it. I can’t recommend it enough! Amazing “explore big ideas” kind of science fiction. Everyone that likes to think big, should read this.


Date:7/10/16

Title: Accelerando

Author: Charles Stross

Duration: 16 hrs

Review: The post singularity world is extremely complex if you look at what’s possible all at once. This is book is very, very fun, but also intereseting (instructive) in its exploration of what will come as we refine our use of 3d and biological printing, AI, genetic engineering, bionics/wearables, and other technologies. Superfun book!


Date:6/20/16

Title: Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant

Author: W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Duration: 7 hrs

Review: Once Igot the idea, (a specific formula for defining a business) the book felt like it was repeating it over and over again. I didn’t finish it.


Date:5/11/16

Title: Behind the Cloud

Author: Marc Benioff

Duration: 8 hrs

Review: I wanted to better understand the history of Saas, and early Saas successes and failures, so Ipicked up this book. It’s the typical “well, we took lots of risks, and had lots of success” kind of entrepreneurial lore kind of story. Benioff’s wild antics in the early days of Salesforce are intersting for a bit but then get old. I guess I kind of already knew the story of Salesforce so this book didn’t really do as much for me as it has for others.


Date:5/11/16

Title: Sapiens: A Brief History of HumanKind

Author: Yuval Noah Harari

Duration: 15 hrs

Review: Man, what a book! For me, this book is an extension of Jared Diamond’s Guns Germs and Steel, which, for me represented a work of vast, VAST explanatory scope. In Sapiens: why do we believe in gods? how and why did money come about? how did small bands turn into nations? and why and how do human rights and many other values work? Amazing synthesizing work in this book. I really liked this book, A LOT.


Date:4/17/16

Title: Essentialism: The disciplined Persuit of Less

Author: Greg McKeown

Duration: 6 hrs

Review: We are successful when we say “Yes” to the right things, and in order to do that consistently we have to say no to the wrong things, of which there are many. This is hard.


Date:3/3/16

Title: Thinking Fast and Slow

Author: Daniel Kahneman

Duration: 20 hrs

Review: We have two systems for evaluating phonomena (thinking about stuff) a fast system and a slow one. Each has biases which have effects in how we percieve the world and act on it. Um…yes, a great read, with expansive explanatory scope.


Date:2/22/16

Title: The Effective Executive

Author: Peter F. Drucker

Duration: 6 hrs

Review: You have one job: get the right things done. Avoid the un-necessary, and make sure you don’t overlook important tasks: strategies and tactics for being able to do just that. I really liked this book.


Date:1/21/16

Title: Critical Chain

Author: Eliyahu M. Goldratt

Duration: 7 hrs

Review: Like The Goal, but for projects.


Date:1/12/16

Title: The Goal

Author: Eliyahu M. Goldratt

Duration: 12 hrs

Review: PLEASE READ THIS BOOK. The constraint is all that really matters. Always, protect the constraint. So simple and powerful. If you are responsible for making a complex product, for helping a team find the right process for making it optimally, or for predicting the ouput of that team, this is it. The extremely clear ideas presented in this narrative, this story, about an amazing work process transformation via lean concepts represent the best I’ve ever read for explanatory power of these ideas. Product and project people, IT people, managers of all types, PLEASE READ THIS BOOK. So much truth in here.


Date:1/4/16

Title: The Phoenix Project

Author: Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford

Duration: 12 hrs

Review: This is an AMAZING book. This is the story, you know, a fictional narrative, of how a hardware manafucturer uses lean concepts to drastically improve the work processes and to turn around and save the company. This book introduced me to the writings of Eli Goldratt.


Date:12/22/15

Title: Eating Animals

Author: Jonathan Safran Foer

Duration: 10 hrs

Review: I know that the future will condem us for how we treat the animals we eat. A crime of epic proportions, but I am not a vegetarian…sigh

Date:11/18/15

Title: Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products

Author: Nir Eyal

Duration: 5 hrs

Review: Don’t remember

Date:10/31/15

Title: Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist

Author: Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson

Duration: 7 hrs

Review: This book is SO great. If you want to know the ions and outs of getting funded, this is it. This book covers the inherent interests in all the roles involved, as well as the mechanics of venture deals. Awesome resource.


Date:10/17/15

Title: Fooled by Randomness

Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Duration: 10 hrs

Review: The black sheep that introduced the world to the Black Swan. (sorry, couldn’t resist). I enjoyed this book. The main message is: as humans we’re wired to identify meaning, and we do so, weather there is meaning or not so that lots of stuff we ascribe meaning to is random. This is a very important tool for ones cognitive tool box. I need to reread this every few years to keep this tool sharp. Taleb’s irreverence, or better, his constant goading of the established intellectuals is also fun for a while.


Date:10/16/15

Title: Critical Business Skills for Success

Author: The Great Courses

Duration: 31 hrs

Review: Don’t remember


Date:9/3/15

Title: On Managing Yourself

Author: HBR

Duration: 7 hrs

Review: Great articles on whats important, and how to make your time and efforts count.


Date:8/6/15

Author: Eric Ries

Duration: 9 hrs

Review: For students of “how a team makes web stuff”, this is a classic must read.


Date: 8/2015

Title: Good to Great

Author: Jim Collins

Duration: 10 hrs

Review: What differentiates the good from the great? This one doesn’t rise to the level of recommend, but I don’t regret having spent the time.


Date: 7/2015

Title: The Founder’s Dilemmas

Author: Noam Wasserman

Duration: 13.5 hrs

Review: Great research on all the different ways that equity and control splits go right, and go wrong. The take away: you should assume, assume that everything will change, talk through as many eventualities as you can imagine with your co-founders. Inspiring quantity and quality of research.

I really enjoyed reading it.


Date: 7/2015

Title: ZAG: The Number-One Strategy of High Performance BrandsStrategic Thinking Skills

Author: Marty Neumeier

Duration: 2 hrs

Review: I really liked this short little gem of a branding book. Your brand is your relationship to your customer, nothing less. Its what you mean to your customer. Neumeier artfully and powerfully argues for what he calls “radical differentiation” I’m sure i’ll come to this book again, it was just too fun and went by too fast. I recommend it to anyone thinking about their branding strategy.



Date: 5/2015

Title: Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

Author: Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Duration: 5 hrs

Review: I really like this book. Peter Thiel’s contrarian style, along with his successful-mans swagger make this a very fun read. What does the Don of the PayPal Mafia have to say? This book is what.


Date: 5/2015

Title: SeveNeves A novel

Author: Neal Stephenson

Duration: 32 hrs

Review: I loved this book. Especially the fist half. Stephenson, as usual, brings in all the minute technical detail, this time the domain is near-earth space survival (i loved LOVED this part). I so the encyclopedic nature of this author: science, philosophy, technology, psychology, all in stories that span millennia. So cool.


Date: 5/2015

Title: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Author: David Allen

Duration: 7 hrs

Review: I only listened to the 1.5 hours or so. This seemed like it might be good for me, but I couldn’t get into it enough to finish it. I guess ill keep being stressed out while productive.


Date: 5/2015

Title: The 48 Laws of Power

Author: Robert Greene

Duration: 10 hrs

Review: I only listened to the 1.5 hours or so. Laughably terrible, and the vilanous voice in which it is read makes it more so


Date: 4/2015

Title: Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

Author: Jeff Sutherland

Duration: 6.5 hrs

Review: I don’t recommend this book to anyone who has been doing agile scrum for a while. It’s a cheerleading collection of examples of uses where scrum saved the day, but it doesn’t have any advice for the many day to day difficulties of implementing scrum: stories routinely get carried over into future sprints, pressures to change scope mid-sprint, the tendency for testing to be back loaded into the sprint (all stories coming to a ready-for-testing-state at once, near the end of the sprint), the level of effort for developers to support their stories through testing is difficult to estimate in points, maintenance work is continuous, as opposed to periodic, and doesn’t lend its self well to time windows like sprints, product teams often need to be larger than a half dozen and many other real problems inherent in the scrum methodology. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t yet found a better way; as far as I’m concerned the agile scrum methodology is the best process framework for software development. But, it’s still very hard to develop high quality software in an efficient and predictable way, and this book didn’t offer me anything to help with the hard parts of agile scrum software development.


Date: 4/2015

Title: Fluency

Author: Jennifer Foehner Wells

Duration: 10.5 hrs

Review: I really enjoyed this page turner of a yarn. Some interesting ideas, but mostly, for me, just a good ol’ space adventure with lots of action. This story has some emotional and inter-relational human complexities and nuances that don’t usually make it into military space expedition stories. I liked it and would recommend it to anyone.


Date: 3/2015

Title: Man’s Search for Meaning

Author: Victor Frankl

Duration: 5 hrs

Review: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space…”. The incredible memoir of Victor Frankl, concentration camp survivor and founder of Logotherapy. Frankl successfully explains where resilience comes from

What a hero…truly inspirational. I loved it!


Date: 3/2015

Title: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Author: Daniel H. Pink

Duration: 6 hrs

Review: Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose…right, got it. Interesting and useful if somewhat overstated. Also, very interesting ideas regarding the motivational effectiveness of carrots; It’s not in the carrots themselves but in the way that they are offered.

Date: 3/2015

Title: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

Author: Dave Sedaris

Duration: 6.5 hrsReview: I love Dave Sedaris: Hilarious, sarcastic but not distant, personal, and very, very human.


Date: 2/2015

Title: “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything”

Author: Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Duration: 6.5 hrs

Review: More Super fun explorations and explanations of apparent paradoxes, that, once explained are revealed to be shaped by the same forces as other, less controversial reasoning for observations. Why do very successful drug dealers still live with their parents? What kind of impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime. What makes this book, indeed, this genre so fun is that the authors, in this case Levitt and Dubner, manage to find the quantifiable, which is the trustworthy explanation, for phenomena that are not readily quantified. Super fun read… I recommend it to anyone.


Date: 2/2015

Title: “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions”

Author: Dan Ariely

Duration: 7 hrs

Review: I love this “new economics” genre. Call it what you will: behavioral economics, social psycology, freakanomics, its all great. What I especially appreciate about Dan Ariely’s work though, is that he is such a prolific and inventive experimenter. The emphasis on the tools of psychology and the resulting ability to create resourceful and elegant experiments to test hypotheses, and to illustrate generalizable truths is what distinguishes Ariely and makes me love him.

I really liked this book and would recommend it to anyone.


Date: 2/2015

Title: “The Martian”

Author: Andy Weir

Duration: 11 hrs

Review: This is SUCH a great read. I loved it. LOVE IT. A perfect example of “Realistic SciFi”. The main character is a really smart and resourceful (huge understatement) engineer who is also full of pop-culture witticisms and jokes. What else could you possibly want?

I recommend this book to anyone who loves science, space, a thrilling story of survival, man against nature (martian nature).

Awesome!


Date: 1/2015

Title: “MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom”

Author: Tony Robbins

Duration: 21 hrsReview: If you can stomach the salesy style; Robins actuall says “secrets of the ultra wealthy” in the book, this book delivers A LOT of very valuable information and essential practices for getting your financial house in order. I found it very useful and Also, the hyper-optimistic “coach” style and accompanying “I can do it” emotional high is a plus for us sentimental types.

I recommend it to those with a high threshold for salesmanship.


Date: 1/2015

Title: “What Every BODY Is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People”

Author: Joe Navarro, Marvin Karlins

Duration: 7 hrs

Review: Meh! I thought this would be more interesting than it turned out to be.


Date: 12/2014

Title: “The Peripheral”

Author: William Gibson

Duration: 14 hrsReview: A master doing what he does best. Great plot, filled with interesting elements: class conflict, historical and cultural commentary, powerful technologies that are so new that the societal changes they portend are just barely beginning to be understood, amazing nuanced invention of a near and medium term future. Gibson is so good at this: simple moral situation, nuanced everything else, and truly gifted ability for extension of technological change within cultural and social constants.

I really liked it!


Date: 12/2014

Title: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change”

Author: Stephen R. Covey

Duration: 13 hrs

Review: Fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity. Got it! Thanks. No really, it turns out that good character really is the key to solving most of the personal and professional problems we’ll ever face. This self help classic is all about describing what good character is made of and how we might come to develop it by habit of thought. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any anyone. I should read this book once a year.


Date: 12/2014

Title: “Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None”

Author: Friedrich Nietzsche

Duration: 12 hrs

Review: I love reading Nietzsche for the quality and purity of the intellectual rebellion, and of course, the quality of the writing. Nietzsche reminds us that nothing, NOTHING is a given, that every single assumption, from the smallest to the deepest, from the moral to the empirical, is up for grabs. Listening to the thoughts and words of the Superman Zarathustra is nothing but pleasure. A master of moral philosophy and an AMAZING writer, reading Nietzsche reminds me of reading William Blake, but simpler, sharper and more accessible. Reading Nietzsche is fun and challenging for me in a way that I haven’t experienced for quite some time: literary greatness type of challenging. Thanks Liberal Humanities Education, you continue to have been worth it despite what everyone says.


Date: 10/2014

Title: “Atlas Shrugged”

Author: Ayn Rand

Duration: 63 hrs

Review: What can I say about Atlas Shrugged? I loved it. As literature, Atlas Shrugged is pretty weak. The characters are wooden, the dialogue is cheesy and sentimental, and the plot is conventional, but, the heros of this political distopia novel are so convinced of their rightiousness, and I am also so convinced of it, that I cant help but root for them. I love the speechifying, the grandstanding, and the moralizing. Rand would make a great political speech writer, in fact, the whole novel is a political speech, and the characters, mere mouth pieces for Rand’s moral and political views. Of course she sets up a situation in which the decisions are easy to make as the hero capitalists are honorable, humain and true to their convictions while the socialists are corrupt, nihilistic and cowardly. In this set up, its all too easy to root for the capitalists.

One thing to keep in mind is that the viewes aren’t so much pro-capitalist, though they plainly are that, as much as a reaction against totalitarian collectivesim. The novel can easily be interpreted as a reaction against the revolutioanry movement that confiscated her family’s small business and displaced them from their family home back in the old country. Rand immigrated/escaped from Russia in 1926. Although Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957, Rand started to work on the novel in 1943.

I’ve been meaning to read this book since I learned of it in my early twenties and it didnt dissapoint. It’s a wonderful self-help book filled with strong, iconic go-getters who bend the world to their noble visions. I’d reccomend it to anyone.


Date: 10/2014

Title: “Influx”

Author: Daniel Suarez

Duration: 13 hrs and 45 mins

Review: Fun techno-thriller, present day science fiction, about the struggle between a physicist inventor and a shadowy quasi-governmental organization that is charged with controlling the rate of technological change. When the Bureau of Technology Control goes rogue, using its huge technological lead to suppress emerging technologies, it’s up to our hero inventor and his friends to save the world.


Date: 09/2014

Title: “Kill decision”

Author: Daniel Suarez

Duration: 13 hrs and 6 mins

Review: What happens if you infuse a multitude of cheap, disposal, weaponized autonomous drones with the behavioral model a weaver ant colony? One hell of a page turnin’ yarn.. great tech-thriller.


Date: 09/2014

Title: “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business”

Author: Charles Duhigg

Duration: 10 hrs and 57 mins

Review: Cue, routine, reward. This is the basic formula for so much of what fills our days. In this book, the author shows us this structure in a surprisingly large swath of life, both personal life, and group and collective life including family and business activities. I liked this book. It gave me some insights into building, or at least thinking about products that emphasize this structure, cue routine, reward, and how they would be, as a result of this emphasis, more likely to take off and become consolidated in user’s lives. Also, it reinforced my belief in the very strong effect that this structure has on human beings and activities. We rely on the habit structure as a mental shortcut that allows us to not re-think the many thousands of actions, and even thoughts, that we need everyday. Many of our most basic needs, are provided for by utilizing a habit structure.

The Febreze case that Duhigg relates is really interesting and illustrative of the fact that you need the entire structure, all three elements in the right order to create a product that fully takes advantage of the habit loop.

This book inspired me to think about products from this perspective. The habit structure is neither good nor bad, and this vital mental structure can be used to sell fast food just as well as it can be used to get people to brush their teeth, or even spend more time with, or stop yelling at their kids. Those of us that think about product design, and especially those of us that try to make pro-social, “good” products should really consider this more and try to design to it. I liked this book and recommend it for anyone who wants to better understand people, especially, themselves.


Date: 08/2014

Title: “Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit”

Author: Daniel Quinn

Duration: 2 hrs and 56 mins Abridged

Review: This book uses a Socratic dialogue between a hyper-educated gorilla and his observant and nimble human pupil to expose some very interesting ideas. What is the mythological basis underpinning modern culture? Civilized people are enacting a story in which we need to destroy the earth. This story is collectively called Mother Culture in this book, and the tales that Mother Culture tells are instantly recognizable to us moderns: that humans are the pinnacle of evolution and that we were “created” to dominate the earth and other animals, that we’ll keep inventing our way to ever more resources through exercising our god-given cleverness, AKA being productive. That this productivity is moral and good, and that the opposite of this is bestial and lazy. The effects or consequences of this world view on ethics, especially in regards to ecology, sustainability, our future, and on basic justice have been building for some time and are now accelerating and quickly coming to a head. I recommend this book to anyone willing to look deeply at what s/he believes makes us human. This book is very short and dense, yet totally accessible. I liked this book a lot.


Date: 08/2014

Title: “A Hologram for the King”

Author: Dave Eggers

Duration: 7 hrs and 52 mins

Review: Dave Eggers is one of my favorite living writers. This book is ambitious in its scope and very deliberately and expertly crafted in its language. What does it mean to be an American in a globalized world? What does it mean to be past your prime as a salesperson, as a man? What does it mean to be a father, unable to make good on promises and expectations? What does it mean to be human being among strangers? This sad, very well-written, slow little novel probably won’t win any awards, but I liked it a lot by the end.


Date: 08/2014

Title: “Daemon” and “Freedom”

Author: Daniel Suarez

Duration: 27 hrs and 44 mins

Review: Superfun, near future, techno-dystopia. I really enjoyed the ideas in these books.

The dialogue is wooden, and the characters are cardboard cutouts; the writing, in general, is pretty weak. But, the ideas are amazing. The gist: a genius programmer/game designer with the engineering capability of 10,000 Googles creates a distributed program to replace a government that’s been taken over by corporate interests. In the world of this story, much like our own, corporations have government in their pockets. Unlike our own world however, corporate power, in the world of the book, is completely unchecked, used to achieve uniformly selfish and myopic ends, and is in short, always evil.

The corporations, first with the aid of government, and then on their own, battle this program for control of the masses. Aside from the very detailed and realistic illustrations of the risks posed by the hyper-connected, insufficiently diverse, overly complex, brittle systems on which we depend for our survival, the book also attempts to weave through consequences of the fragility of these systems to democracy, meritocracy, and individual and collective agency.

I loved it!


Date: 07/2014

Title: “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers”

Author: Ben Horowitz

Duration: 7 hrs and 57 mins

Review: For anyone who feels the pressure of “the struggle”.

A smart, nimble, and tenacious Silicon Valley warrior telling war stories of the 90s and 00s tech scene. Anyone who works in tech, especially in the bay area, will know the names, products, and companies that serve as the context for the illustrations of management-decision paradoxes that compose the heart of this fun, inspirational and very insightful book. I loved it!


Date: 07/2014

Title: “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”

Author: Thomas Piketty

Duration: 25 hrs and 3 mins

Review: The gist: What we think of as normal economic order, the economics of the period between 1950 and 1990 was an anomaly. The shocks of the two world wars of the 20th century basically leveled the playing field (lessened inequality) and made old money not nearly as important as it always had been previously, and, according to Picketty, will resume being starting at about the year 2000 (indeed, has already resumed being). Basically, inheritances will resume their role as the primary resting place for wealth, vast stashes of capital will once again rule the land, and extreme inequality will once again become the norm.

Extreme inequality is neither natural nor accidental and can only be addressed by intense state intervention in the form of a global tax on capital and a progressive income tax. He argues that allowing extreme inequality, particularly because vast stashes of capital just generate more wealth on their own, threatens democracy by undermining its core value, meritocracy. Rich people get richer just by virtue of having tons of capital that generates wealth on its own, disconnected from the individual effort and ability of the owner.

I liked this book a lot.


Date: 06/2014

Title: “Dune”

Author: Frank Herbert

Duration: 21 hrs and 8 mins

Review: I loved it! What an incredibly creative and spectacular yarn. Dune is a beautiful mix of boy hero tale, religious awakening, ecological awareness, epic battle between cultures, but most of all, conflict between ones life and ones Terrible Purpose. Awesome, fun, page turner of a read!!


Date: 04/14

Title: “Ender’s Game”

Author: Orson Scott Card

Duration: 11 hrs and 57 mins

Review: I’d been meaning to read this book for years, or decades really. It didn’t disappoint. A great tale of a boy hero who saves the world from the invading horrible monsters. I really enjoyed it.


Date: 04/14

Title: “The Tipping Point”

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Duration: 8 hrs and 38 mins

Review: Pretty good. I love Malcom Gladwell’s ideas and hearing him read the book himself was fun. Not my favorite of his though.


Date: 02/14

Title: “The Corrections: A Novel”

Author: Jonathan Franzen

Duration: 21 hrs and 57 mins

Review: I love this infuriatingly slow family disfunction novel. Jonathan Franzen is a master! I’ve been meaning to read The Corrections ever since I read Freedom, which I also LOVED! Incredible writer. Awesome!


Date: 01/14

Title: “The Circle”

Author: Dave Eggers

Duration: 13 hrs and 42 mins

Review: Until this book, I have really liked all of Dave Eggers’ books. This one, made an impact on me, but I just wanted to be angry at the book all the time. The ideas about privacy and social media were interesting, but in this book they were made more flat and simplistic by a context in which the society seems to have never considered privacy issues before. Also, the characters that inhabit the tech company which is the setting of the story seem to want more of what Copeland’s “Microserfs” did really well.

On the other hand: (from Interview of Dave Eggers by Tasha Robinson Feb 23, 2005 on A.V. Club http://www.avclub.com/article/dave-eggers-13916)

“What deserves that kind of bile that people throw out? Sometimes they throw it out at literary fiction, which is like dressing up in full body armor to go attack an ice-cream cone. I mean, just take it easy. [Laughs.] Back up, take a breath — it’s a novel, you know what I mean?”


Date: 01/14

Title: “The Design of Everyday Things”

Author: Donald A. Norman

Duration: 7 hrs and 58 mins

Review: I suppose that back in the day the idea that users aren’t to blame for their inability to efficiently use badly designed tools was revolutionary. For me, this book suffered from overly high expectations. Meh.


Date: 12/13

Title: “Traction”

Author: Gino Wickman

Duration: 6 hrs and 56 mins

Review: At work, my boss asked the executive team to read this. It’s good, but as is almost always the case with business books, it gives great answers, but only to the to the easy questions.


Date: 11/13

Title: “The Baroque Cycle”

Author: Neal Stephenson

Duration: 113 hrs

Review: What an incredibly prolific and talented writer and thinker. Truly, an amazing read! Epic!!!


Date: 06/13

Title: “Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships”

Author: Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jetha

Duration: 10 hrs and 57 mins

Review: Great read! It turns out that we think we’re more like chimpanzees than bonobos because we’ve been studying chimpanzees longer. I disagree with half of the ideas in this book, but they are still thought provoking and well written. I liked this book!


Date: 06/13

Title: “Life of Pi”

Author: Yann Martel

Duration: 11 hrs and 41 mins

Review: Great read!


Date: 04/13

Title: “The World until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?”

Author: Jared Diamond

Duration: 18 hrs and 31 mins

Review: Great read! Jarred Diamond knows SO much about humans. He confirms and refutes common ideas about how all humans have lived until very recently. What does “natural” mean in the context of human activity? I really liked this book.


Date: 02/2013

Title: “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t”

Author: Nate Silver

Duration: 15 hrs

Review: Interesting.