Reading

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 🎧.

Book cover art is displayed only for the current year.

2021

52 books
  • Dune

    Dune

    Frank Herbert

    I’m revisiting this classic once again (I last read it in 2019), starting it on the day the new film trailer dropped!

  • The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789–1848

    The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789–1848

    Eric Hobsbawm

    The Age of Revolution: Europe: 1789–1848 is a book by Eric Hobsbawm, first published in 1962. It is the first in a trilogy of books about ‘the long 19th century’ (coined by Hobsbawm), followed by The Age of Capital: 1848–1875, and The Age of Empire: 1875–1914. A fourth book, The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991, acts as a sequel to the trilogy.”

  • Writing Is Designing: Words and the User Experience

    Writing Is Designing: Words and the User Experience

    Michael J. Metts and Andy Welfle

    “Without words, apps would be an unusable jumble of shapes and icons, while voice interfaces and chatbots wouldn’t even exist. Words make software human-centered, and require just as much thought as the branding and code. This book will show you how to give your users clarity, test your words, and collaborate with your team. You’ll see that writing is designing.”

  • Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey through Britain

    Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey through Britain

    Roger Deakin

    “With enchanting descriptions of natural landscapes, and a deep well of humanity, boundless humor, and unbridled joy, Deakin beckons us to wilder waters and inspires us to connect to the larger world in a most unexpected way. Thrilling, vivid, and lyrical, Waterlog is a fully immersive adventure—a remarkable personal quest, a bold assertion of the swimmer’s right to roam, and an unforgettable celebration of the magic of water.”

  • Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

    Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

    Suzanne Simard

    “In her first book, Simard brings us into her world, the intimate world of the trees, in which she brilliantly illuminates the fascinating and vital truths – that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complex, interdependent circle of life; that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own.”

  • Power to the Public: The Promise of Public Interest Technology

    Power to the Public: The Promise of Public Interest Technology

    Tara Dawson McGuinness and Hana Schank

    “A powerful new blueprint for how governments and nonprofits can harness the power of digital technology to help solve the most serious problems of the twenty-first century”

  • Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries

    Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries

    Kory Stamper

    “We think of English as a fortress to be defended, but a better analogy is to think of English as a child. We love and nurture it into being, and once it gains gross motor skills, it starts going exactly where we don’t want it to go: it heads right for the goddamned electrical sockets.”

  • Klara and the Sun

    Klara and the Sun

    Kazuo Ishiguro

    “A masterpiece of great beauty, meticulous control and, as ever, clear, simple prose.” - Sunday Times

  • Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell

    Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell

    Alexandra Horowitz

    “In her ‘fascinating book…Horowitz combines the expertise of a scientist with an easy, lively writing style’ (The New York Times Book Review) as she imagines what it is like to be a dog. Guided by her own dogs, Finnegan and Upton, Horowitz sets off on a quest through the cutting-edge science behind the olfactory abilities of the dog.”

  • The Premonition: A Pandemic Story

    The Premonition: A Pandemic Story

    Michael Lewis

    “For those who could read between the lines, the censored news out of China was terrifying. But the president insisted there was nothing to worry about. Fortunately, we are still a nation of skeptics. Fortunately, there are those among us who study pandemics and are willing to look unflinchingly at worst-case scenarios. Michael Lewis’s taut and brilliant nonfiction thriller pits a band of medical visionaries against the wall of ignorance that was the official response of the Trump administration to the outbreak of COVID-19.”

  • Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America

    Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America

    Douglas Brinkley

    I purchased this book’s predecessor, The Wilderness Warrior, at the FDR National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York, back in 2013. I purchased and read this book when it was released in 2016, but I wanted to revisit it, knowing that we’ll need something like the Green New Deal to have a chance at a collective future.

  • Spain in Our Hearts

    Spain in Our Hearts

    Adam Hochschild

    Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War is an account of the American volunteers who participated in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939. The story centers around several American volunteer fighters and journalists, tracing their motivations for joining the war and their experiences during the war which left many disillusioned. The book explains the involvement of foreign leaders including Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin, and explains why the Republican faction ultimately lost.”

  • The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet

    The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet

    John Green

    “John Green’s gift for storytelling shines throughout this masterful collection. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a open-hearted exploration of the paths we forge and an unironic celebration of falling in love with the world.”

  • Down the River

    Down the River

    Edward Abbey

    I’ve read Abbey’s major works, but for some reason, this collection escaped me until now. All the Wild That Remains prompted me to get to it.

  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

    The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

    V. E. Schwab

    “France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever—and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world. But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.”

  • Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America

    Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America

    Kathleen Belew

    “Belew’s disturbing and timely history reminds us that war cannot be contained in time and space: grievances intensify and violence becomes a logical course of action. Based on years of deep immersion in previously classified FBI files and on extensive interviews, Bring the War Home tells the story of American paramilitarism and the birth of the alt-right.”

  • Cultivating Content Design

    Cultivating Content Design

    Beth Dunn

    “Great content doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It gets bogged down in teams, organizations, silos, and process. Beth Dunn helps you break the vacuum seal and bring unity and joy back to content. Cultivating Content Design gives you the power to fundamentally change your organization’s approach to great content—with the tools and team you already have.”

  • The Four Winds

    The Four Winds

    Kristin Hannah

    The Four Winds seems eerily prescient in 2021 . . . Its message is galvanizing and hopeful: We are a nation of scrappy survivors. We’ve been in dire straits before; we will be again. Hold your people close.”—The New York Times

  • Mission Economy: A moonshot guide to changing capitalism

    Mission Economy: A moonshot guide to changing capitalism

    Mariana Mazzucato

    “A timely and optimistic vision. Rethinking the role of government nationally and in the international economy—to put public purpose first and solve the problems that matter to people—are now the central questions for humanity.”–Nature magazine

  • Nomadland

    Nomadland

    Jessica Bruder

    After the critical success of the film, I decided to get the story behind the story.

  • Future Histories: What Ada Lovelace, Tom Paine, and the Paris Commune Can Teach Us About Digital Technology

    Future Histories: What Ada Lovelace, Tom Paine, and the Paris Commune Can Teach Us About Digital Technology

    Lizzie O’Shea

    “There has never been a better time to pull the politics of platform capitalism into the foreground where it belongs. Lizzie O’Shea brings a hacker’s curiosity, a historian’s reach and a lawyer’s precision to bear on our digitally saturated present, emerging with a compelling argument that a better world is there for the taking.”—Scott Ludlam

  • Roads to nowhere: Kelly Reichardt’s broken American dreams

    Roads to nowhere: Kelly Reichardt’s broken American dreams

    Alex Heeney and Orla Smith

    Roads to nowhere offers the first in-depth, 360-degree look at Reichardt’s process through interviews with Reichardt herself and her collaborators on First Cow, many of whom have been working with her for years including cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt (who has worked with her on every film since Meek’s Cutoff), author Jon Raymond (who co-wrote almost all the Oregon films), and costume designer April Napier (Certain Women, First Cow).”

  • Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses

    Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses

    Robin Wall Kimmerer

    “Living at the limits of our ordinary perception, mosses are a common but largely unnoticed element of the natural world. Gathering Moss is a beautifully written mix of science and personal reflection that invites readers to explore and learn from the elegantly simple lives of mosses.”

  • Overheated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet—And How We Fight Back

    Overheated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet—And How We Fight Back

    Kate Aronoff

    “This damning account of the forces that have hijacked progress on climate change shares a bold vision of what it will take, politically and economically, to face the existential threat of global warming head-on. It has become impossible to deny that the planet is warming, and that governments must act. But a new denialism is taking root in the halls of power, shaped by decades of neoliberal policies and centuries of anti-democratic thinking.”

  • Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

    Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

    Elizabeth Kolbert

    “In Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a “super coral” that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth.”

  • The Film Photography Handbook, 2nd Edition

    The Film Photography Handbook, 2nd Edition

    Chris Marquardt and Monika Andrae

    My recent experiments developing film with instant coffee have renewed (once again) my love of film and photographic methods.

  • The Nation of Plants

    The Nation of Plants

    Stefano Mancuso

    “In The Nation of Plants, the most important, widespread, and powerful nation on Earth finally gets to speak. Like attentive parents, plants, after making it possible for us to live, have come to our aid once again, giving us their rules: the first Universal Declaration of Rights of Living Beings written by the plants. A short charter based on the general principles that regulate the common life of plants, it establishes norms applicable to all living beings. Compared to our constitutions, which place humans at the center of the entire juridical reality, in conformity with an anthropocentricism that reduces to things all that is not human, plants offer us a revolution.”

  • All The Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West

    All The Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West

    David Gessner

    “An homage to the West and to two great writers who set the standard for all who celebrate and defend it. Archetypal wild man Edward Abbey and proper, dedicated Wallace Stegner left their footprints all over the western landscape. Now, award-winning nature writer David Gessner follows the ghosts of these two remarkable writer-environmentalists from Stegner’s birthplace in Saskatchewan to the site of Abbey’s pilgrimages to Arches National Park in Utah, braiding their stories and asking how they speak to the lives of all those who care about the West.”

  • A Moveable Feast

    A Moveable Feast

    Ernest Hemingway

    I’m waiting on some library holds, so yet another Hemingway book in the meantime.

  • All Marketers <strike>are Liars</strike> Tell Stories

    All Marketers are Liars Tell Stories

    Seth Godin

    I wouldn’t choose to read this book on my own, but it’s required reading for a class I’m taking. I understand the power of a compelling story. I just don’t want to spend my days intentionally manipulating people for a living. And now that I completed this book, I can give you my take: I hated it.

  • A Farewell to Arms

    A Farewell to Arms

    Ernest Hemingway

    I’m continuing to revisit Hemingway’s classics after watching the new PBS documentary about Hemingway.

  • The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs

    The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs

    Tristan Gooley

    “The ultimate guide to what the land, sun, moon, stars, trees, plants, animals, sky and clouds can reveal – when you know what to look for.”

  • Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck

    Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck

    William Souder

    “Angered by the plight of the Dust Bowl migrants who were starving even as they toiled to harvest California’s limitless bounty, fascinated by the guileless decency of the downtrodden denizens of Cannery Row, and appalled by the country’s refusal to recognize the humanity common to all of its citizens, Steinbeck took a stand against social injustice—paradoxically given his inherent misanthropy—setting him apart from the writers of the so-called ‘lost generation.’”

  • The Midnight Library

    The Midnight Library

    Matt Haig

    “Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?”

  • The Wander Society

    The Wander Society

    Keri Smith

    “Within these pages, you’ll find the results of Smith’s research: A guide to the Wander Society, a secretive group that holds up the act of wandering, or unplanned exploring, as a way of life. You’ll learn about the group’s mysterious origins, meet fellow wanderers through time, discover how wandering feeds the creative mind, and learn how to best practice the art of wandering, should you choose to accept the mission.”

  • The Hemingway Stories

    The Hemingway Stories

    Ernest Hemingway, selected and introduced by Tobias Wolff

    More Hemingway…reading now his short stories, most of which I haven’t read before. This collection is a companion to the new PBS series.

  • Ernest Hemingway in the Yellowstone High Country

    Ernest Hemingway in the Yellowstone High Country

    Chris Warren

    Another Hemingway book, this time biographical, ahead of a new PBS documentary about Hemingway. I grew up not far from the places featured in this book. In fact, my Wyoming hometown is mentioned, as the Hemingways attend church service there on at least one occasion.

  • For Whom the Bell Tolls

    For Whom the Bell Tolls

    Ernest Hemingway

    I’m revisiting this classic ahead of a new PBS documentary about Hemingway.

  • The Name of the Wind

    The Name of the Wind

    Patrick Rothfuss

    I started re-reading this fantasy novel by headlamp when our power was out, and the second reading is at least as pleasant as the first (especially now that our power is restored!).

  • The City We Became

    The City We Became

    N. K. Jemisin

    The New York Times review stated, ”In the face of current events, The City We Became takes a broad-shouldered stand on the side of sanctuary, family and love. It’s a joyful shout, a reclamation and a call to arms.”

  • Debt: The First 5000 Years

    Debt: The First 5000 Years

    David Graeber

    “Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.”

  • A Children's Bible

    A Children's Bible

    Lydia Millet

    A Children’s Bible follows a group of twelve eerily mature children on a forced vacation with their families at a sprawling lakeside mansion. Contemptuous of their parents, the children decide to run away when a destructive storm descends on the summer estate, embarking on a dangerous foray into the apocalyptic chaos outside. Lydia Millet’s prophetic and heartbreaking story of generational divide offers a haunting vision of what awaits us on the far side of Revelation.”

  • Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North

    Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North

    Blair Braverman

    “A rich and revelatory memoir of a young woman confronting her fears and finding home in the North.Blair Braverman fell in love with the North at an early age: By the time she was nineteen, she had left her home in California, moved to Norway to learn how to drive sled dogs, and worked as a tour guide on a glacier in Alaska.”

  • How I Became A Socialist

    How I Became A Socialist

    William Morris

    “What I mean by Socialism is a condition of scoiety in which there should be neither rich nor poor, neither master master nor master’s man, neither idle nor overworked, neither brain-sick brain workers, nor heart-sick hand workers, in a word, in which all men would be living in equality of condition, and would manage their affairs unwastefully, and with the full consciousness that harm to one would mean harm to all.”

  • How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States

    How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States

    Daniel Immerwahr

    “We are familiar with maps that outline all fifty states. And we are also familiar with the idea that the United States is an ‘empire,’ exercising power around the world. But what about the actual territories—the islands, atolls, and archipelagos—this country has governed and inhabited?.”

  • Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

    Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

    Octavia E. Butler, Adapted by Damian Duffy, Illustrated by John Jennings

    Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents topped my list of my favorite books I read in 2019. Recently, my love for these books was rekindled by the amazing Octavia’s Parables podcast, through which I found out about this graphic novel adaptation.

  • The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time

    The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time

    Keith Houston

    “Everybody who has ever read a book will benefit from the way Keith Houston explores the most powerful object of our time. And everybody who has read it will agree that reports of the book’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”—Erik Spiekermann, typographer.

  • Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks

    Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks

    Keith Houston

    “A charming and indispensable tour of two thousand years of the written word, Shady Characters weaves a fascinating trail across the parallel histories of language and typography. Whether investigating the asterisk (*) and dagger (†)—which alternately illuminated and skewered heretical verses of the early Bible—or the at sign (@), which languished in obscurity for centuries until rescued by the Internet, Keith Houston draws on myriad sources to chart the life and times of these enigmatic squiggles, both exotic (¶) and everyday (&).”

  • IF THEN: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future

    IF THEN: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future

    Jill Lepore

    “The Simulmatics Corporation, founded in 1959, mined data, targeted voters, accelerated news, manipulated consumers, destabilized politics, and disordered knowledge—decades before Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Cambridge Analytica. Silicon Valley likes to imagine it has no past but the scientists of Simulmatics are the long-dead grandfathers of Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.”

  • Data Action: Using Data for Public Good

    Data Action: Using Data for Public Good

    Sarah Williams

    “Big data can be used for good—from tracking disease to exposing human rights violations—and for bad: implementing surveillance and control. Data inevitably represents the ideologies of those who control its use; data analytics and algorithms too often exclude women, the poor, and ethnic groups. In Data Action, Sarah Williams provides a guide for working with data in more ethical and responsible ways.”

  • Shuggie Bain

    Shuggie Bain

    Douglas Stuart

    “He’s lovely, Douglas Stuart, fierce and loving and lovely. He shows us lots of monstrous behavior, but not a single monster — only damage. If he has a sharp eye for brokenness, he is even keener on the inextinguishable flicker of love that remains. The book is long, more than 400 pages, but its length seems crucial to its overall effect.”—Leah Hager Cohen, The New York Times

  • Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School

    Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School

    Stuart Jeffries

    “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.”

2020

77 books
  • Materialism

    Terry Eagleton

    “In this eye-opening, intellectually stimulating appreciation of a fascinating school of philosophy, Terry Eagleton makes a powerful argument that materialism is at the center of today’s important scientific and cultural as well as philosophical debates. The author reveals entirely fresh ways of considering the values and beliefs of three very different materialists—Marx, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein—drawing striking comparisons between their philosophies while reflecting on a wide array of topics, from ideology and history to language, ethics, and the aesthetic.”

  • Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen

    Mary Norris

    Following Mary Norris’s excellent Between You & Me, I snuck in this latest effort from the Comma Queen just before the end of the year. I encourage you to listen to the audiobook. Mary Norris narrating her own books is necessary, given her style of writing, and an absolute joy to listen to.

  • Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life

    Scott M. Marshall

    “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.”

  • The Conquest of Bread

    Peter Kropotkin

    I’m not sure why it took me so long to read this classic, but I finally got around to it this year.

  • Why Marx Was Right

    Terry Eagleton

    “In this combative, controversial book, Terry Eagleton takes issue with the prejudice that Marxism is dead and done with. Taking ten of the most common objections to Marxism—that it leads to political tyranny, that it reduces everything to the economic, that it is a form of historical determinism, and so on—he demonstrates in each case what a woeful travesty of Marx’s own thought these assumptions are.”

  • Why We Swim

    Bonnie Tsui

    “Bonnie Tsui captures the joy, peril and utility of swimming, within her family and across civilizations…The breadth of her reporting and grace of her writing make the elements of Why We Swim move harmoniously as one.”—The San Francisco Chronicle

  • For Who the Bell Tolls: One Man's Quest for Grammatical Perfection

    David Marsh

    “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.’”

  • Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy, 1860–1960

    Fiona MacCarthy

    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.”

  • Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women

    Kate Manne

    “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 Enchantments of Mammon: How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity

    Eugene McCarraher

    “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.”

  • Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

    Mary Norris

    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.

  • Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design

    Kat Holmes

    “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

    Joseph Kimble

    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.

  • Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century

    Edited by Alice Wong

    “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.”

  • Henry David Thoreau: A Life

    Laura Dassow Walls

    “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.”

  • Why You Should Be a Socialist

    Nathan J. Robinson

    Obviously.

  • Design Engineering Handbook

    Natalya Shelburne, Adekunle Oduye, Kim Williams, Eddie Lou

    “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.”

  • The Scorpio Races

    Maggie Stiefvater

    I’m revisiting this fantasy fiction work with my wife as we travel for a short vacation in the forest.

  • The Essays of Henry D. Thoreau

    Selected and Edited by Lewis Hyde

    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.

  • The Way Home: Tales from a life without technology

    Mark Boyle

    “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.”

  • A Civic Technologist's Practice Guide

    Cyd Harrell

    “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.”

  • The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins

    Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

    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: Why We Need a Green New Deal

    Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen, and Thea Riofrancos

    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.”

  • How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them

    Jason Stanley

    “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 M. Maher

    “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

  • Hitler’s First Hundred Days: When Germans Embraced the Third Reich

    Peter Fritzsche

    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.

  • Unfuck Your Anger: Using Science to Understand Frustration, Rage, and Forgiveness

    Faith G. Harper

    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).”

  • The Wizard and the Prophet

    Charles Mann

    “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.”

  • Design for Cognitive Bias

    David Dylan Thomas

    “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.”

  • World Wide Waste

    Gerry McGovern

    “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.”

  • America: The Farewell Tour

    Chris Hedges

    “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

    Richard Powers

    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.”

  • Ava Helen Pauling: Partner, Activist, Visionary

    Mina Carson

    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.

  • Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope

    Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

    “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: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God

    Kaitlin B. Curtice

    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

    Eric Klinenberg

    “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.”

  • William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary

    E. P. Thompson

    “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.”

  • The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology

    John Bellamy Foster

    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.

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four

    George Orwell

    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.

  • Walden

    Henry David Thoreau

    I revisit Walden every few years and decided it was time to crack it open once again.

  • Orwell: The Authorized Biography

    Michael Shelden

    “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

  • The Anatomy of Fascism

    Robert O. Paxton

    “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.”

  • Theological Territories: A David Bentley Hart Digest

    David Bentley Hart

    “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.”

  • Data Science from Scratch

    Joel Grus

    Another data science book for class. This one is a relatively trim, nicely structured introduction.

  • The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien: The Places That Inspired Middle-earth

    John Garth

    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

    Computer Science Academy

    Another in my data science graduate certificate curriculum.

  • Disrupting White Supremacy From Within: White People on What WE Need to Do

    Jennifer Harvey, Karin A. Case, Robin Hawley Gorsline

    “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.”

  • Python for Data Science: The Ultimate Beginners’ Guide to Learning Python Data Science Step by Step

    Ethan Williams

    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

    Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut

    “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.”

  • The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay

    Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman

    “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.

  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

    Suzanne Collins

    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.

  • Where the Crawdads Sing

    Delia Owens

    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.

  • The Fifth Risk

    Michael Lewis

    “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.”

  • The Library Book

    Susan Orlean

    “‘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.”

  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

    Robin Wall Kimmerer

    “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

  • Lessons from Walden: Thoreau and the Crisis of American Democracy

    Bob Pepperman Taylor

    “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

  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

    Yuval Noah Harari

    “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

  • That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation

    David Bentley Hart

    “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

  • Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth

    Sarah Smarsh

    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.

  • Dog Songs

    Mary Oliver

    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.

  • Good Services: How to design services that work

    Lou Downe

    “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

  • Capital and Ideology

    Thomas Piketty

    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.

  • Station Eleven

    Emily St. John Mandel

    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: A Memoir

    Iliana Regan

    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.”

  • Learn to Program (Second Edition)

    Chris Pine

    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.

  • Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason

    David Harvey

    “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.

  • Does Your Content Work?: Why Evaluate Your Content and How to Start

    Colleen Jones

    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.

  • The Chapo Guide to Revolution: A Manifesto Against Logic, Facts, and Reason

    Felix Biederman, Matt Christman, Brendan James, Will Menaker, Virgil Texas

    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.

  • American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power

    Andrea Bernstein

    “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

  • In Praise of Shadows

    Jun'ichirō Tanizaki

    I’m rereading this trim book, recommended by a friend, which contrasts Western and Japanese cultural aesthetics, particularly those centered around light and dark.

  • Exhalation

    Ted Chiang

    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.

  • A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America

    Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig

    “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's OK That You're Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand

    Megan Devine

    It doesn’t bring me pleasure that I need this book right now, but that is, after all, the point of the book.

  • The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels

    Jon Meacham

    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.”

  • The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky

    Ellen Meloy

    “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.”

  • This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

    Naomi Klein

    “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

  • Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

    Cathy O’Neil

    “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

2019

44 books
  • Some Stories: Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport

    Yvon Chouinard

    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.”

  • The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from A Secret World

    Peter Wohlleben

    “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

  • Parable of the Talents

    Octavia E. Butler

    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.

  • How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information

    Alberto Cairo

    “[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

  • Parable of the Sower

    Octavia E. Butler

    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

    George Orwell

    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.”

  • Let My People Go Surfing (Including 10 More Years of Business Unusual)

    Yvon Chouinard

    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.

  • Words into Type

    Marjorie E. Skillin and Robert M. Gay

    An indispensable classic for writers, editors, and publishers.

  • Dune

    Frank Herbert

    I’m revisiting this classic after many years, ahead of the new film adaptation.

  • Catch and Kill

    Ronan Farrow

    “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

  • The Tyranny of Words

    Stuart Chase

    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.

  • Assholes: A Theory

    Aaron James

    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.”

  • Brave New World

    Aldous Huxley

    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.

  • Design Systems Handbook

    Marco Suarez, Jina Anne, Katie Sylor-Miller, Diana Mounter, and Roy Stanfield

    Each attendee of the excellent 2019 Clarity Conference received a print version of this resourceful handbook about creating, managing, and deploying design systems.

  • Propaganda

    Edward Bernays

    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.

  • Applied Text Analysis with Python

    Benjamin Bengfort, Tony Ojeda, Rebecca Bilbro

    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.

  • Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It

    Mike Monteiro

    “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.”

  • The Real World of Technology

    Ursula Franklin

    “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.

  • Educated: A Memoir

    Tara Westover

    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

  • Natural Language Processing: A Quick Introduction to NLP with Python and NLTK

    Samuel Burns

    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.

  • This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism, and Corruption are Ruining the American West

    Christopher Ketcham

    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.

  • Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

    David Epstein

    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.”

  • All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays

    George Orwell

    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.

  • Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy

    Chris Hayes

    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.”

  • Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny

    Kate Manne

    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.

  • Politics and the English Language

    George Orwell

    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.

  • Conversational Design

    Erika Hall

    Erika Hall delivers another outstanding book about human- and conversation-driven content design, and offers up useful techniques and resources for content designers.

  • Thinking, Fast and Slow

    Daniel Kahneman

    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.

  • The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

    David Wallace-Wells

    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?

  • Becoming

    Michelle Obama

    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.”

  • The Best Interface is No Interface

    Golden Krishna

    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.”

  • The Plants of Middle-earth: Botany and sub-creation

    Dinah Hazell (Contributor), Marsha Mello (Illustrator)

    Yes, I am exactly this nerdy about plants and Tolkien’s work.

  • Everyday Information Architecture

    Lisa Maria Marquis

    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.”

  • Utopia for Realists

    Rutger Bregman

    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.

  • Let's Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc.

    Jeff Tweedy

    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 New Testament

    Translated by David Bentley Hart

    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.”

  • American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America

    Chris Hedges

    “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.

  • Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are

    John Kaag

    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.

  • Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style

    Benjamin Dreyer

    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.

  • Red Rising

    Pierce Brown

    I’m a sucker for dystopian scifi revolution narratives intended for teens, so I’m here for this one.

  • Python Data Science Handbook

    Jake VanderPlas

    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.

  • Wild Migrations: Atlas of Wyoming’s Ungulates

    Matthew J. Kauffman, James E. Meacham, Hall Sawyer, Alethea Y. Steingisser, William J. Rudd and Emilene Ostlind

    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.

  • The Slow Regard of Silent Things

    Patrick Rothfuss

    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).

  • The Value of Everything

    Mariana Mazzucato

    A scathing and deserved endictment of how our modern capitalist economy (mis)assigns value.