For several years I’ve tried to maintain and share lists of every book I’ve read, primarily as a personal tool to reflect but also to proselytize things written by others that I’ve found insightful. In the past, I’ve ranked the books and written detailed reviews (here are 2016, 2017, and 2018 [part 2, 3], with more full reviews here).

Since I missed posting last year and don’t maintain rankings across years, I’ll instead share short things I learned from some of the books I read the last couple of years — categorized instead of ranked. (Order within category is semi-arbitrary)…


“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” — Yogi Berra

People standing in line with face masks. Source: https://flickr.com/photos/29418416@N08/49463786343

Standing in long lines has been a new reality in our Covid world, whether for grocery stores, food banks, or voting. Is this our new reality for all shared spaces and resources for the social distancing future, from restaurants, gyms, and hiking trails, to public transportation and even our work places?

As a full shelter-in-place becomes politically and economically undesirable, and business-as-usual medically untenable, states and municipalities have started imagining what a partial re-opening looks like. The question of when to re-open what has dominated news coverage. …


Growth mindset meets baseball analytics. Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik describe the (far more advanced) successor to Moneyball, in which players and teams are not just better measuring value but also creating it. By using modern imaging technology (especially a global shutter camera called the edgertronics), for example, pitchers can precisely see how a ball rolls off their hand with various grips, enabling the learning of new pitches in a summer. They can also intelligently change pitch compositions (e.g., throw more curveballs and fewer sinkers), and batters can adjust the launch angles at which balls leave their bat. Instead of…


A book on how to engineer a company worth tens of billions of dollars in just a few years, written by the experts. I cannot doubt that the authors have the strategy right if the goal is to build such companies, but the book leaves it unsurprising that companies built in this manner often impose substantial externalities, both on their employees and on society at large.

A few pieces of advice from the book:

  1. Blitzscaling is about sacrificing efficiency in the name of speed. The goal is to scale and be the winner in a winner take all market, i.e…


This is Part 1 (ranks 1–10) of my ranking of books read in 2018. See also Part 2 (ranks 11–30) and Part 3 (ranks 31–52).

As in previous years, I resolved to briefly review books in order to ensure both close reading and a modicum of memory. In the process, I maintain a (rough) ranking, which I lightly edited recently to account for how books stuck with me even months later. For some of these books, I wrote longer reviews earlier, to which I link.

Below are the top ten books I read this year. They’re all non-fiction, though the…


This is Part 2 (ranks 11–30) of my ranking of books read in 2018. See also Part 1 (ranks 1–10) and Part 3 (ranks 31–52).

Welcome to Part 2 of my ranking of books I read this year. Upon examining my preliminary rankings, I realized that (outside the top 10) different parts of the ranking could (roughly) be categorized by book subject. The overall rankings are still (for the most part) accurate, but I did some slight tweaking to form more cohesive topics.

Perhaps unsurprisingly if you know me, this list is also almost exclusively non-fiction books (with the exception…


This is Part 3 (ranks 31–52) of my ranking of books read in 2018. See also Part 1 (ranks 1–10) and Part 2 (ranks 11–30).

Welcome to the final part of my rankings of books read this year. As in Part 2, they’re roughly organized by topic, though the overall ranking remains roughly accurate. …


This book starts with two serious, non-trivial, overarching claims: that Buddhism is correct in

  1. Its diagnosis of the human condition, that we seek, mindlessly and eternally, temporary pleasures that fail to satisfy us and thus cause suffering, and
  2. Its prescription of meditation as a way to understand this condition and to escape from it, leading to both greater happiness and more moral behavior.

In one of my favorite writing features that I wish more authors would adopt, the appendix details the 12 specific Buddhist claims the author is saying are “true,” which he often but not exclusively means in the…


A historical survey of the major developments in the world’s collection and use of energy, from coal to steam power to electricity. It contains a bunch of interesting tidbits, including a few that corrected misconceptions I had.

For example, it tells the story of the battle between AC and DC proponents for which method is better for the transmission of energy (AC having won out, of course, due to the relative ease in transforming it to high voltage/low current for transmission, and then back; this property enables efficient transmission over long distances). Popular culture tends to tell this story as…


A book that deserves a longer review than I have here. In it, journalist Franklin Foer argues, as in the subtitle, that big tech companies are an existential threat to many (good) modern institutions, and that it must be stopped. In particular, he lays out the case that big tech companies have killed journalism, our mental faculties, culture, and our society. He draws on his personal experience at the New Republic, from which he was eventually fired as editor after it was acquired by a Facebook co-founder.

The book itself is more a call to arms than it is a…

Nikhil Garg

I study CS/Econ and applications to socio-technical issues. Blog about books and technical issues. PhD Stanford, BS/BA UT Austin. gargnikhil.com

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