Books I finished or dropped in the second and third quarters of 2019:
1. Trust No Aunty by Maria Qamar
Advice on how to survive your aunties.
2. [didn't finish] The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff (audiobook)
Leftist critique of surveillance capitalists (Google, Facebook, etc.). Some of the anecdotes are shocking, e.g. the 1,000 contracts users are unwittingly agreeing to when they install a Nest thermostat, but the overall framework is too strong. What about all the benefits that Google et al. have unlocked? Consider pairing with Cowen's Ode to Big Business as a counterweight. See also Zuboff's EconTalk interview.
3. [didn't finish] Microcosmographia Academica by F. M. Cornford
Flipped through this before sending it to a friend in grad school. A favorite bit.
4. [didn't finish] Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung and associates
Encountered in Tassajara's library. Has some interesting illustrations of archetypes.
5. [didn't finish] On Right Livelihood by Jiddu Krishnamurti
Collection of Krishnamurti talks. Favorite parts: 1, 2
6. [didn't finish] Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man by Gopi Krishna
Encountered in Tassajara's library. Found the beginning to be surprisingly grounded and straightforward.
7. [didn't finish] Verses from the Center by Nagarjuna (Stephen Batchelor translation)
Heh, started this last year when I was at Tassajara and returned to it during this year's visit. Perhaps it will become a tradition.
8. Tenzo Kyokun (a) by Eihei Dogen (Kazuaki Tanahashi translation)
Dogen, down to Earth.
9. Memetic by James Tynion IV and Eryk Donovan
Memes end the world.
10. No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai
Sorta like a Japanese The Catcher in the Rye.
11. [didn't finish] Inspired by Marty Cagan
Picked this up looking to learn more about product development. Fine for what it is, but too focused on a certain flavor of tech product for my needs (Disciplined Entrepreneurship is more what I was looking for). Adam Wiggins' review gives a good summary.
12. [didn't finish] How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
You know it's a funny world when the guy who made Dilbert also wrote the best self-help book. Guzey is right that it's an important & helpful book. I dropped it near the end because the nutrition & diet stuff was review for me, but the first two-thirds... golden.
13. [didn't finish] The Revolt of the Public by Martin Gurri
Started this, then Robin Hanson convinced me to drop it.
14. A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin
Historical novel of Gödel and Turing. The depiction of Gödel near his end is particularly sad.
15. American Kingpin by Nick Bilton (audiobook)
History of the Silk Road (the darknet one). Libertarianism + idealism + internet marketplace + drug supply chains = giant mess
16. In Love with the World by Yongey Mingyur and Helen Tworkov
"Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche left a note on his bed, walked out of his monastery in India, and began a four-year wandering retreat."
17. [didn't finish] The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin
I started this a while ago but it didn't catch me.
18. [didn't finish] This Timeless Moment by Laura Huxley
Biography of Aldous Huxley by his wife. Contains some gems but it's slow going overall.
19. [didn't finish] The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson (audiobook)
An analysis buckets enterprise sales strategies into five archetypes. The "Challenger" archetype outperformed and the "Relationship Manager" archetype underperformed.
1. The Mind-Body Problem by Rebecca Goldstein
The tribulations of East Coast philosophy departments, and of being married to a famous mathematician.
2. On the Clock by Emily Guendelsberger
Undercover reporting of three low-wage jobs: Amazon fulfillment center, call center, McDonald's in the San Francisco Mission. (I know that McDonald's - it's probably one of the most intense fast-food locations in the world.) Fun to read, despite the grimness of the situation. The giant Amazon warehouse is spookily dystopian, though probably the best workplace of the three she tried.
3. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
Essays on writing. Beautiful, though a pessimistic feeling overall.
4. [didn't finish] In the Footsteps of Gandhi by Catherine Ingram
Conversations with social activists, including Ram Dass, Thich Nhat Hanh, Cesar Chavez, Desmond Tutu. I particularly liked the Ram Dass interview.
5. How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
Odell rediscovers some Buddhist insights. (Independent confirmation is good!) Increased my appreciation for the Mountain View Cemetery and the Morcom Rose Garden.
6. Paradise Now by Chris Jennings
History of 19th-Century utopian communities: the Shakers, Fourierites, Icarians, Oneida. Compelling. See also Julia Wise's Notes on Oneida (a).
7. [didn't finish] Religion: If There is No God... on God, the Devil, Sin and Other Worries of the So-Called Philosophy of Religion by Leszek Kołakowski
Picked this up on Douthat's recommendation. Pretty interesting, but it hasn't hooked me yet. Probably will return to it at some point.
8. The PhD Grind (a) by Philip Guo
Memoir of doing a computer science PhD at Stanford, written immediately after finishing and then annotated a few years later. Super helpful for anyone thinking about doing a PhD.
9. [didn't finish] Alien Information Theory by Andrew Gallimore
Strange and beautiful. Big, if true.
10. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Creepy little stories.
11. The Places that Scare You by Pema Chödrön
Man, I've been coming back to this for years now, and finally finished! It's a beautiful book – straightforward presentation of Tibetan Buddhist frameworks.
12. The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles Mann (audiobook)
Super inspiring. Some favorite bits: 1, 2, also this (not from the book but about the same stuff)
13. [didn't finish] Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties by Tom O'Neill (audiobook)
Started off fun, dropped it after I felt like I was getting the point (LSD + charisma can create cults; Hollywood holds its secrets close; reporters can get obsessed by a story).
14. [didn't finish] New Drugs by Lawrence Friedhoff
Good reference on the FDA approval process.