I started this reading list at the beginning of 2019. It includes books I've started or completed since the beginning of that year.
I prefer to read analog books, but I increasingly listen to audiobooks. Audiobooks are marked with 🎧.
“This is a book that explains the grammar that people really need to know, such as the fact that an apostrophe is the difference between a company that knows its shit and a company that knows it’s shit, or the importance of capital letters to avoid ambiguity in such sentences as ‘I helped my Uncle Jack off his horse.’”
“Kate Manne continues to be a thrilling and provocative feminist thinker, who helps readers make sense of how power and privilege is distributed along gendered lines. Her work is indispensable.” –Rebecca Traister, author of Good & Mad
“The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all over the decades to come. Its setting is not a desolate, postapocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us — and in which we might just overcome the extraordinary challenges we face.”
“Tracking an American original—from his Jewish roots to his controversial embrace of Jesus to his enduring legacy as the composer of the Tempest album—Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life delivers the story of a man in dogged pursuit of redemption.”
“In 1923, a group of young radical German thinkers and intellectuals came together to at Victoria Alle 7, Frankfurt, determined to explain the workings of the modern world. Among the most prominent members of what became the Frankfurt School were the philosophers Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse. Not only would they change the way we think, but also the subjects we deem worthy of intellectual investigation.”
“Anarchy and Beauty takes the reader through Morris’s fascinating career, from the establishment of his decorative arts shop (later Morris & Co.), to his radical sexual politics and libertarianism, and the publication in 1890 of his novel News from Nowhere, which envisions a utopian socialist society.”
“Far from displacing religions, as has been supposed, capitalism became one, with money as its deity. Eugene McCarraher reveals how mammon ensnared us and how we can find a more humane, sacramental way of being in the world.”
Mary Norris has spent more than three decades working in The New Yorker’s renowned copy department, helping to maintain its celebrated high standards. In Between You & Me, she brings her vast experience with grammar and usage, her good cheer and irreverence, and her finely sharpened pencils to help the rest of us in a boisterous language book as full of life as it is of practical advice.
“Kat Holmes shows us how to make inclusion a source of innovation. An important read for anyone who aspires to build great products for the greatest number of people.” –Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law
I joined several sessions of this year’s Plain Language Summit, and none was better than Mr. Kimble’s Flimsy Claims for Legalese and False Criticisms of Plain Language: A 30-Year Collection. I bought his book before his presentation ended.
“One in five people in the United States lives with a disability. Some disabilities are visible, others less apparent—but all are underrepresented in media and popular culture. Now, just in time for the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, activist Alice Wong brings together this urgent, galvanizing collection of contemporary essays by disabled people.”
“Drawing on Thoreau’s copious writings, published and unpublished, Walls presents a Thoreau vigorously alive in all his quirks and contradictions: the young man shattered by the sudden death of his brother; the ambitious Harvard College student; the ecstatic visionary who closed Walden with an account of the regenerative power of the Cosmos. We meet the man whose belief in human freedom and the value of labor made him an uncompromising abolitionist; the solitary walker who found society in nature, but also found his own nature in the society of which he was a deeply interwoven part. And, running through it all, Thoreau the passionate naturalist, who, long before the age of environmentalism, saw tragedy for future generations in the human heedlessness around him.”
“Learn how design engineering, an essential discipline to creating great products, brings together form and function while accelerating innovation. Written by industry leaders from Indeed, Mailchimp, The New York Times, and Minted, this book will help you connect design and engineering and work more efficiently as a team.”
I’m revisiting this fantasy fiction work with my wife as we travel for a short vacation in the forest.
I’m soon taking a short vacation in the forest, so it seems like a good time to revisit some of my favorite Thoreau essays.
“No running water, no car, no electricity or any of the things it powers: the internet, phone, washing machine, radio or light bulb. Just a wooden cabin, on a smallholding, by the edge of a stand of spruce. In this honest and lyrical account of a remarkable life without modern technology, Mark Boyle explores the hard won joys of building a home with his bare hands, learning to make fire, collecting water from the spring, foraging and fishing.”
“This friendly guide is for technology people who work, or want to work, in the public sector. In it, Cyd Harrell outlines the types of projects, partnerships, and people that civic technologists encounter, and the methods they can use to make lasting change. She focuses on principles and sets of questions to help technologists find the right way to do the most good, starting with finding the people already doing the work.”
I’m rereading this fantastic book, which acknowledges the precarity of our moment, but infuses it with hope via a study of anthropological and natural resilience…all by way of fungus.
“A Planet to Win explores the political potential and concrete first steps of a Green New Deal. It calls for dismantling the fossil fuel industry, building beautiful landscapes of renewable energy, and guaranteeing climate-friendly work, no-carbon housing, and free public transit. And it shows how a Green New Deal in the United States can strengthen climate justice movements worldwide.”
“A vital read for a nation under Trump.”—The Guardian
Nature’s New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Enviromental Movement
“Neil Maher has done us a great service by recalling the forgotten history of the New Deal’s conservation programs. His research is impressive, and he writes with clarity and grace. His study offers us valuable insights for understanding the environment controversies of our time.”—Howard Zinn
I’ve read before about the rise of Nazism, but not in the context of an aggressive fascist movement in the United States. The parallels are staggering, and it’s unlikely to end regardless of what happens in the next election.
A friend of mine suggested I read this book (which says something in itself), but it does feel timely. I’m skeptical of anyone who isn’t constantly angry right now, but perpetual anger isn’t sustainable for anybody. As the author writes, “When we lose our fucking minds on a regular basis, we are wiring our brains into a constantly heightened state that eventually fries our circuits (and pushes away everyone we love in the process).”
“In forty years, Earth’s population will reach ten billion. Can our world support that? What kind of world will it be? Those answering these questions generally fall into two deeply divided groups—Wizards and Prophets, as Charles Mann calls them in this balanced, authoritative, nonpolemical new book.”
“We humans are messy, illogical creatures who like to imagine we’re in control—but we blithely let our biases lead us astray. In Design for Cognitive Bias, David Dylan Thomas lays bare the irrational forces that shape our everyday decisions and, inevitably, inform the experiences we craft. Once we grasp the logic powering these forces, we stand a fighting chance of confronting them, tempering them, and even harnessing them for good.”
“Digital is physical. Digital is not green. Digital costs the Earth. Every time I download an email I contribute to global warming. Every time I tweet, do a search, check a webpage, I create pollution. Digital is physical. Those data centers are not in the Cloud. They’re on land in massive physical buildings packed full of computers hungry for energy. It seems invisible. It seems cheap and free. It’s not. Digital costs the Earth.”
“Chris Hedges’s profound and unsettling examination of America in crisis is ‘an exceedingly…provocative book, certain to arouse controversy, but offering a point of view that needs to be heard’ (Booklist), about how bitter hopelessness and malaise have resulted in a culture of sadism and hate.”
“The Overstory, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond.”
By way of a side project I’ve been working on (Beavercreek Portrait Library), I’ve been researching the rural community in which I live. Among its most impressive former residents is Ava Helen Pauling, whose story has been overshadowed by that of her husband, Linus Pauling. I sought out the only book about Ava I could find, with the hope of eventually adding another side project to promote her legacy.
“Across the country communities are struggling to stay afloat as blue-collar jobs disappear and an American dies of a drug overdose every seven minutes. Stagnant wages, weak education, bad decisions, and a lack of health care force millions of Americans into a precarious balancing act that many of them fail to master. With stark poignancy, Tightrope draws us deep into this ‘other America,’ and shows that if America is to remain a superpower, it must empower all its people.”
“Native is about identity, soul-searching, and being on the never-ending journey of finding ourselves and finding God. As both a member of the Potawatomi Nation and a Christian, Kaitlin Curtice offers a unique perspective on these topics. In this book, she shows how reconnecting with her Native American roots both informs and challenges her Christian faith.”
Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life
“In Palaces for the People, Eric Klinenberg suggests a way forward. He believes that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, churches, and parks where crucial connections are formed. Interweaving his own research with examples from around the globe, Klinenberg shows how ‘social infrastructure’ is helping to solve some of our most pressing societal challenges. Richly reported and ultimately uplifting, Palaces for the People offers a blueprint for bridging our seemingly unbridgeable divides.”
“This biographical study is a window into 19th-century British society and the life of William Morris—the great craftsman, architect, designer, poet, and writer—who remains a monumental and influential figure to this day. This account chronicles how his concern with artistic and human values led him to cross what he called the ‘river of fire’ and become a committed socialist—committed not only to the theory of socialism but also to the practice of it in the day-to-day struggle of working women and men in Victorian England.”
I read John Bellamy Foster’s Marx’s Ecology shortly after it was published in 2000, and it was among the most revelatory and influential books in my intellectual formation and worldview. It turns out the environmental catastrophe is the perfect lens through which to study the insatiably destructive capacity of capital.
After reading Orwell’s biography, and especially after learning that Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four from a remote farmhouse on the Scottish island of Jura, it was time to revisit this classic.
I revisit Walden every few years and decided it was time to crack it open once again.
“Authorized by the George Orwell estate, Shelden’s biography of Orwell was published in 1991 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography. Among other things, the book included the first detailed account of Orwell’s controversial list of people whom he considered politically dishonest and unreliable in British society.”–Wikipedia
“From the first violent uniformed bands beating up ‘enemies of the state,’ through Mussolini’s rise to power, to Germany’s fascist radicalization in World War II, Paxton shows clearly why fascists came to power in some countries and not others, and explores whether fascism could exist outside the early-twentieth-century European setting in which it emerged.”
“In Theological Territories, David Bentley Hart, one of America’s most eminent contemporary writers on religion, reflects on the state of theology “at the borders” of other fields of discourse—metaphysics, philosophy of mind, science, the arts, ethics, and biblical hermeneutics in particular. The book advances many of Hart’s larger theological projects, developing and deepening numerous dimensions of his previous work. Theological Territories constitutes something of a manifesto regarding the manner in which theology should engage other fields of concern and scholarship.”
Another data science book for class. This one is a relatively trim, nicely structured introduction.
When I need a break from the madness surrounding us, I often turn to Middle Earth. “Fascinating, gorgeously illustrated and thought-provoking…[A] masterful book.”—Elizabeth Hand, Washington Post
Python for Data Science: A Crash Course for Data Science and Analysis, Python Machine Learning and Big Data
Another in my data science graduate certificate curriculum.
“The co-production of oppression and our whiteness is one reason that, early in this chapter, I described as vexing the question of who we are as white selves. If you were to ask a group of white people to make a list of five characteristics unique to our racial identity that do not result from power and privilege, we, unlike our sisters and brothers of colors, will have little or nothing to offer.”
I’ve started a graduate certificate program in data science, and this book is among the recommended reading. Several similar to come.
How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution
“Tucked away in Siberia, there are furry, four-legged creatures with wagging tails and floppy ears that are as docile and friendly as any lapdog. But, despite appearances, these are not dogs—they are foxes. They are the result of the most astonishing experiment in breeding ever undertaken—imagine speeding up thousands of years of evolution into a few decades. In 1959, biologists Dmitri Belyaev and Lyudmila Trut set out to do just that, by starting with a few dozen silver foxes from fox farms in the USSR and attempting to recreate the evolution of wolves into dogs in real time in order to witness the process of domestication. This is the extraordinary, untold story of this remarkable undertaking.”
“In the United States, the income of the working class, half of the population, is $18,500 a year per adult in 2019. That’s at a time when America spends 20% of its national income on health care, or $15,000 per adult.” Sit with that. We’re here for a reason.
This Hunger Games prequel hasn’t received the greatest reviews so far, but I’m a sucker for anything from this dystopian series, having read all three books in just two days when the last in the trilogy was released.
It turns out my strategy to read fiction as an escape from reality is flawed, as the author of this book has a suspiciously complex backstory, perhaps leading to a major plot point in this novel.
“Michael Lewis’s brilliant narrative of the Trump administration’s botched presidential transition takes us into the engine rooms of a government under attack by its leaders through willful ignorance and greed. The government manages a vast array of critical services that keep us safe and underpin our lives from ensuring the safety of our food and drugs and predicting extreme weather events to tracking and locating black market uranium before the terrorists do. The Fifth Risk masterfully and vividly unspools the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works.”
“‘A book lover’s dream…an ambitiously researched, elegantly written book that serves as a portal into a place of history, drama, culture, and stories’ (Star Tribune, Minneapolis), Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country.”
“Robin Wall Kimmerer is writer of rare grace. She writes about the natural world from a place of such abundant passion that one can never quite see the world the same way after having seen it through Kimmerer’s eyes. In Braiding Sweetgrass, she takes us on a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise. She is a great teacher, and her words are a hymn of love to the world.”–Elizabeth Gilbert
“In Lessons from Walden, Taylor lets all sides have their say, even as he persistently steers the discussion back to a nuanced reading of Thoreau’s actual position. With its tone of friendly urgency, this interdisciplinary tour de force will interest students and scholars of American literature, environmental ethics, and political theory. It deserves to be read by a more general readership, including environmental activists, concerned citizens, and anyone troubled with the future of democracy.”–Notre Dame Press
“The book surveys the history of humankind from the evolution of archaic human species in the Stone Age up to the twenty-first century, focusing on Homo sapiens. The account is situated within a framework provided by the natural sciences, particularly evolutionary biology. The reception of the book has been mixed. Whereas the general public’s reaction to the book has been positive, scholars with relevant subject matter expertise have been very critical of the book.”—Wikipedia
“In this momentous book, David Bentley Hart makes the case that nearly two millennia of dogmatic tradition have misled readers on the crucial matter of universal salvation. On the basis of the earliest Christian writings, theological tradition, scripture, and logic, Hart argues that if God is the good creator of all, he is the savior of all, without fail.”—Yale University Press
I borrowed this audiobook after reading Smarsh’s compelling piece in The New York Times. (Stuck at home, I’m increasingly thankful for our local library’s ebooks and audiobooks.) Heartland offers an underrepresented perspective on our political moment.
I read this while my dog, Henry, rested his head on my thigh. We knew at that point it would be his last day with us, as his battle with lymphoma came to an end. We’ve lost two dogs in 5 months, and they were everything to us. This collection of poems had me weeping and smiling through tears over and over again. It is nearly perfect. I plan to read it again when my life hasn’t been turned upside down by loss.
“Lou Downe has been designing good services for quite a while. And they’re good at it! I can’t tell you how many times I got stuck trying to solve something and thought: ‘Well, let’s go see how GOV.UK solved it.’ If you’re looking for help in doing the right thing I have good news for you. This book is going to help. It’s brilliant!”— Mike Montiero
The sequel to the most important book I’ve read in a long time (Capital in the Twenty-First Century), this prodigious volume (1,093 pages) will occupy me for some time and may limit the number of books I read this year, but I’m certain I won’t regret it.
This book is excellent, but I wouldn’t recommend reading it during a pandemic. Oops. “Deeply melancholy, but beautifully written, and wonderfully elegiac…A book that I will long remember, and return to.”— George R. R. Martin
“Burn the Place is a galvanizing memoir that chronicles Iliana Regan’s journey from foraging on the family farm to running her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth. Her story is raw like that first bite of wild onion, alive with startling imagery, and told with uncommon emotional power.”
I’m revisiting this 2009 book on programming with Ruby. Many of the sites I’ve been working on lately are Jekyll-based, with custom Ruby plugins. I’m fairly proficient in Jekyll and Liquid, but I need to freshen up on Ruby itself.
“In Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason, David Harvey not only provides a concise distillation of his famous course on Capital, but also makes the text relevant to the twenty-first century’s continuing processes of globalization.” This is an excellent distillation of Marx’s work.
I’ve developed content evaluation metrics in the past, but I’d like to expand my toolkit (especially while I’m starting a new job). The title of this book is awkward, in my view, but I read and value Jones’s earlier work Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content. This book is largely focused on content marketing, which isn’t a discipline I particularly like, nor one I practice. But some of it is useful.
To be honest, I’ve been conflicted about Chapo. I find them cynical, often unnecessarily and unproductively ironic, and occasionally cruel. On the other hand, I don’t blame them for being angry. Things keep getting worse for almost everyone, almost everyday. Their analysis on the first page of this book is precise: “If you’re reading these words, you’re likely living in despair and hopelessness.” There are moments of earnestness, truth, authenticity, and desperation throughout this book. It’s worth a read.
“Anyone concerned about American democracy should read Andrea Bernstein’s devastating exposé of the Trump and Kushner families. With meticulous precision, she documents the pernicious effects of dynastic wealth and power, now threatening to turn the highest rungs of the US government into a corrupt oligarchy.”—Jane Mayer, The New Yorker staff writer and New York Times best-selling author of Dark Money.
“We live in a nightmare.”—me
I’m rereading this trim book, recommended by a friend, which contrasts Western and Japanese cultural aesthetics, particularly those centered around light and dark.
The author of the source material for the film Arrival? I’m in! Plus, I could use a break from the politics of it all. I don’t know how to describe this book, other than the stories vaguely remind me of the Netflix series Black Mirror, in which our lived reality is altered just enough for its essence to be conspicuously revealed. The effect, as in Black Mirror, is to expose the underlying truths and ambiguity of our existence.
“This taut and terrifying book is among the most closely observed accounts of Donald J. Trump’s shambolic tenure in office to date.” - Dwight Garner, The New York Times
It doesn’t bring me pleasure that I need this book right now, but that is, after all, the point of the book.
I don’t feel remotely hopeful about our political and social posture these days, so I’ll take a chance on a book that claims to “[help] us understand the present moment in American politics and life by looking back at critical times in our history when hope overcame division and fear.”
“Exquisitely rendered….Meloy’s gem-studded collection calls us to be mindful of the physical world, to see it—really see it—with fresh eyes.” —Los Angeles Times
This book is exquisite, indeed, so far. The revelations include, for instance, an account of how the color purple was once only accessible to humans via “milking” mollusks. Perhaps writing with vivid imagery runs in the family, as the author‘s nephew has built a musical career doing so. A line near the end of the book captures much of the book’s ambivalent essence…“I write a book about a river and cannot tell if it is a love story or an obituary or both.”
“A book of such ambition and consequence that it is almost unreviewable … the most momentous and contentious environmental book since ‘Silent Spring.’” — New York Times Book Review
“O’Neil’s book offers a frightening look at how algorithms are increasingly regulating people…Her knowledge of the power and risks of mathematical models, coupled with a gift for analogy, makes her one of the most valuable observers of the continuing weaponization of big data… [She] does a masterly job explaining the pervasiveness and risks of the algorithms that regulate our lives.” —New York Times Book Review
A gift from a friend who works at Patagonia, this hardcover book came autographed by Yvon Chouinard. I’ve rarely been more excited about a gift. My enthusiasm about the signature was quickly accompanied by adoration of the stories. In an early story, he writes, “All winter I forged gear. For the rest of the year, I continued to lead a counter-culture life on the fringes of society—living on fifty cents a day on a diet of oatmeal, potatoes, and canned cat food; camping all summer in an old incinerator in the abandoned CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp in the Tetons of Wyoming.”
“You will never look at a tree the same way after reading Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, which reveals the mindboggling properties and behavior of these terrestrial giants. Read this electrifying book, then go out and hug a tree — with admiration and gratitude.” —Dr. David Suzuki
The second volume in Butler’s terrifying and astonishingly prescient dystopian vision. This disturbingly prophetic book, along with its predecessor, topped my list of the 10 best books I read in 2019.
“[Alberto Cairo’s] book reminds readers not to infer too much from a chart, especially when it shows them what they already wanted to see. Mr Cairo has sent a copy to the White House.” — The Economist
Originally published in 1993 and 1998 respectively, this book and its sequel, Parable of the Talents, have proven to be disturbingly prescient. Climate change, crippling inequality, mass privatization, and widespread arson form the backdrop of the series, while a right-wing fanatic promises to “make America great again.” Prescient, indeed.
Homage to Catalonia is Orwell’s personal account of his experience fighting against fascists during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. It’s difficult to imagine a contemporary author of Orwell’s stature joining the front lines of such a war, but perhaps that’s why Orwell is so unique among western authors. Following the war, Orwell wrote, “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for Democratic Socialism, as I understand it.”
A friend of mine just landed a job with Patagonia, so I’m revisiting this book after several years, with this new(ish) edition. Patagonia isn’t perfect, but its business model allows the company to pursue values beyond profit to shareholders. For Patagonia’s size, it’s a rare model, making Patagonia about as revolutionary as they come these days.
An indispensable classic for writers, editors, and publishers.
“He didn’t let it go, though there were plenty of people who tried to pry him loose. In addition to the ‘all white, all male’ chain of command at NBC, there was Weinstein himself, waging a war on all fronts.” - Jennifer Szalai, New York Times
This book begins with a question: “Is it possible to explain words with words?” It’s an excellent question. Is it possible to explain with words why one would read a book attempting to explain words with words? Probably not. Even so, I found myself referencing line after line from this book, organizing quotes in my notes app. Even when focused on events from the 1930s (the decade in which this book was written), the ideas and framing feel more relevant than ever. The book’s author, Stuart Chase, combined a few words that were later adopted for a transformative socioeconomic policy: “A New Deal.” Of course, the phrase is making a comeback, accompanied by a new hue.
We’re going to need a bigger boat. Since they’re everywhere, and in our highest offices, time to dig in. “According to Karl Marx, capitalism is unstable but inevitably gives way to something better. The proliferation of assholes suggests that Marx was wrong: capitalism is unstable but can give way to something worse.”
I haven’t read this classic in about 20 years, so it was time to revisit it…even if it means, once again, confronting the fading line between fiction and non-fiction.
Each attendee of the excellent 2019 Clarity Conference received a print version of this resourceful handbook about creating, managing, and deploying design systems.
“Propaganda explored the psychology behind manipulating masses and the ability to use symbolic action and propaganda to influence politics, effect social change, and lobby for gender and racial equality.” The principles described and advocated for in this book are ubiquitous and largely conspicuous in our society. I found them distasteful, as was the experience reading this book.
I’m not going to lie: I’m concerned about the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, these fields are quickly asserting themselves as the next evolution of several existing fields, including content strategy and design. After months of trying to decide where to start exploring machine learning, I’ve landed on Natural Language Processing as the most obvious introduction. This book continues that exploration.
“The world is working exactly as designed. And it’s not working very well. Which means we need to do a better job of designing it. Design is a craft with an amazing amount of power. The power to choose. The power to influence. As designers, we need to see ourselves as gatekeepers of what we are bringing into the world, and what we choose not to bring into the world. Design is a craft with responsibility. The responsibility to help create a better world for all.”
“Franklin argues that technology is more than the sum of its wheels, gears, and transmitters. It is a system that involves organization, procedures, symbols, new words, equations, and, most of all, a mindset.” This book is prescient, profound, and deeply human. Everyone working in technology should read it.
The buzz about this memoir has been unavoidable for several months, and it’s finally climbed to the top of my queue. I grew up in a rural town in Wyoming, with Mormon grandparents and some radically conservative family members, among them my own parents. My journey to education wasn’t nearly as dramatic, but the cultural landscape was not far from the author’s. “Breathtaking, heart-wrenching, inspirational—I’ve never read anything like this.” –Amy Chua
I’m a word nerd. While this text isn’t particularly well-written, it is a competent introduction to Natural Language Processing, a branch of machine learning focused on the statistical analysis of language.
Outside magazine calls this book “the Desert Solitaire of Our Time,” and we need another Abbey right now. We’re witnessing a renewed and virulent hostility toward our public lands from elected officials, at a time when those lands are already under threat from climate change. This land is your land. This is a record of the status of your property, and it doesn’t look good.
I’ve always been a generalist, and I often feel insecure about my lack of mastery over a particular discipline. And, of course, capitalism rewards specialization, making it difficult to cultivate wide-ranging skills and knowledge. “The challenge we all face is how to maintain the benefits of breadth, diverse experience, interdisciplinary thinking, and delayed concentration in a world that increasingly incentivizes, even demands, hyperspecialization.”
After reading Politics and the English Language, I was craving more prose from Orwell, so I’m reading an essay here and there from this diverse collection.
Published back in 2012, this book has been showing up in my Twitter feed a lot lately for its prescient political commentary. “…we approach a terrifying prospect: a society that may no longer be capable of reaching the kind of basic agreement necessary for social progress. And this is happening at just the moment when we face the threat of catastrophic climate change, what is likely the single largest governing challenge that human beings have ever faced in the history of life on the planet.”
My favorite episode of one of my favorite podcasts, The Ezra Klein Show, featured a lengthy discussion with author Kate Manne. Hearing Professor Manne describe structural misogyny feels at once revelatory and obvious, a contradiction characteristic of our time. “You will understand our current moment far better and more easily after having read Down Girl,” writes Rebecca Traister.
I’m ashamed it’s taken me this long to read this trim rant. It is a gem, from a legendary writer. “What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about.” Its compendium — Review of Mein Kampf — is staggering and terrifying, because it’s relevant.
Erika Hall delivers another outstanding book about human- and conversation-driven content design, and offers up useful techniques and resources for content designers.
I’d been hearing about and seeing this book around so much lately, I figured it was time to finally crack it open. “…Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.” This book is a revelatory mindfuck that I highly recommend.
This books begins with a sobering reality, even though all thinking people understand it’s very, very bad already: “It is worse, much worse, than you think.” This is the urgency we need, even while it’s too late to prevent the onset of climate change. Despite the catastrophic future we’ve created for ourselves, perhaps we can muster the will to prevent the worst of the devastating impacts coming our way?
I can’t do better than this: “Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.”
By page 5, I knew this was a book we need right now: “Forget that 780 million people in the world, give or take, don’t have access to clean drinking water, or that more than half a million people are homeless in the wealthy United States. We moved way past ‘mundane’ social issues and collectively propelled the technology field—where disruption and innovation has a proven track record of changing everyday lives—to giving the world what it really needs: more mobile apps.”
Yes, I am exactly this nerdy about plants and Tolkien’s work.
Chapter one begins with this often ignored truth: “When we organize information, we change it. The order in which it appears, the content that precedes or follows it, the ways we expand or condense it—everything we do to arrange information will alter its meaning.”
Author Rutger Bregman first came on my radar by lobbing truth bombs at Davos, and he followed that up by further exposing Tucker Carlson’s shallow, disgusting, and hateful perspective on just about everything in an unaired interview. Both convinced me to read this book.
I’ve been a Wilco fan for many years. I saw Wilco live in Eugene, Oregon, in 2003. I saw Jeff Tweedy solo in 2006 (with a demonstrably shitty audience in Portland, captured on the Sunken Treasure DVD). I took a few years off from listening to Wilco, but I’ve been rediscovering the catalog, just in time for this book.
The translator said in a podcast (regarding Christianity in the U.S.), and I’m certain he’s correct, “America is a great gnostic adventure at the end of the day. I’m not sure Christianity will ever reach these shores, but if it does, it’s going to find a very intractable people here…very hard to convert.”
“The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power…They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest.” - Henry A. Wallace, Vice President of the U.S.
Capturing two distinct phases in his life, the author traces Nietzsche’s footsteps through the Swiss Alps. He grapples with the tension between order and chaos in his life, and its corollaries in Nietzsche’s work.
Benjamin Dreyer, copy chief at Random House, delivers a surprisingly humorous book on grammar and style. I couldn’t put this book down, partly because I’m a grammar nerd and share many of the author’s “peeves and crotchets,” but mostly because nearly every line of this book is exceptionally intelligent and funny.
I’m a sucker for dystopian scifi revolution narratives intended for teens, so I’m here for this one.
I’m re-learning Python in the context of data science and machine learning. Which is kind of weird and gross, to be honest. That said, the book is well-structured, well-written, and informative, and it surveys a discipline conspicuously on the rise.
I’m enamored with this intricate atlas of ungulate (hoofed mammals) migration in Wyoming. Not only is it a project that involved my two alma maters (University of Oregon for data visualization, Oregon State University Press printed the book), but it also features my home state and research from its university (University of Wyoming). The book’s photographs and data visualizations are beautiful. This book has all my favorites: photography, data visualization, GIS, and wildlife.
An intimate journey through the Underthing with my favorite character from Rothfuss’s excellent Kingkiller series (I read The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear in December, 2018).
A scathing and deserved endictment of how our modern capitalist economy (mis)assigns value.