My past reading lists only recorded books that I completed during the quarter. Influenced by Ryan Holiday (a) & Tyler Cowen (a), I've come to believe that I should read fewer books all the way through. With that in mind, here are the books I finished or discarded in the second quarter of 2017:
- The Complacent Class by Tyler Cowen (audiobook)
Cowen's reactionary side comes out. I found the basic argument persuasive; Cowen's recent interview on EconTalk (a) is also good.
- Zero to One by Peter Thiel (audiobook)
Peter Thiel's worldview packaged as business advice. Way better than I expected, and I went in with high expectations.
- Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler (Whiteside translation) (audiobook)
Pop history of Nazi drug use. Interesting premise but not very good. Occasionally sanctimonious, spends too much time trying to parse out Hitler's psychology, and overstates the impact of drug use on the rise and success of Nazism.
- A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe
Fun, short novel following a bourgeois Nigerian's struggle against his populist rival, set after independence.
- The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley
Good, though most of the neuroscientific claims are almost certainly wrong (see Sam Harris for more on that). Huxley's description of "chair-ness" is really good.
- The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State by Graeme Wood (audiobook)
Journalist befriends a bunch of ISIS sympathizers, all of whom claim to hate him while being unfailingly polite & accessible. Helped me understand ISIS a bit better.
- Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana
I read this on-and-off over the last year. It's a good intro, though definitely a slog – a lot of detail into how exactly to sit & breathe, which makes for pretty boring reading.
- How to Set a Fire and Why by Jesse Ball
Novel following a spunky, impoverished, anti-establishment teenage heroine through the trials of a new school. Good & quick.
- Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hochschild
Sociologist embeds in deep-red, rural Louisiana, trying to figure out how conservative people there reconcile their love of & dependency on nature with their political views, which support companies who destroy the environment they live in. Good, especially given Trump.
- How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett
Pamphlet advocating for more intentional use of the workday. Good, despite being a little out-of-date (it's directed at early 20th-century British office workers).
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Enrapturing. I haven't synthesized a take yet, so I defer to Ezra Klein (a).
- The Lathe of Heaven Ursula Le Guin (audiobook)
Sci-fi about powerful dreamers. Slow going in the beginning, but really good.
- [didn't finish] Radical Candor by Kim Scott
Business book advocating for a "radically candid" mode of interpersonal communication (i.e. communicating in direct way that still demonstrates deep caring). I like the basic framework a lot, but the book was too repetitive to finish.
- [didn't finish] Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone, Sheila Heen
Business book on how to receive feedback. Okay, but most of the content was common sense (make sure you are hearing the thing the speaker is trying to say, etc).
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck by Mark Manson (audiobook)
Mark Manson's crack at a general-audience self-improvement book. Good, though I worry that I enjoyed it mainly due to confirmation bias.
- [didn't finish] Against Empathy by Paul Bloom (audiobook)
Empathy considered harmful. The EconTalk episode with Bloom (a) is a sufficient presentation of the argument, I didn't get much out of the book.
- [didn't finish] Walks With Men by Ann Beattie
Captivating at first, increasingly scattered as it progresses. Angsty throughout, not good.
- The Circle by Dave Eggers (audiobook)
1984 with Google as Big Brother. Compelling, though the metaphors are way too on the nose.
[rereads: 1, edits: cleaned up grammar]