Books I finished or dropped in the third quarter of 2017:
- Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens
A passionate case for why Orwell remains relevant. Hitchens is a great writer, and it's a lot of fun to watch him demolish some of Orwell's louder critics.
- 1984 by George Orwell
Somehow I evaded 1984 in high school. It's surprisingly fresh & disturbing for a classic that's been so thoroughly absorbed by the zeitgeist.
- Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach
Airplanes and prophets in the Midwest. Whimsical & optimistic.
- As We Are Now by May Sarton
Despair and death in New England. Not whimsical, somewhat optimistic.
- [didn't finish] The Shipwrecked Mind by Mark Lilla (audiobook)
Collection of essays about philosophical reactionaries. The essays are somewhat disjoint, one suspects they were hurriedly assembled into a package fit for the angst of the 2016 book market. Interesting, but dense & hard to follow. Also discussing thinkers that I had no prior familiarity with, so it's hard for me to assess the quality of Lilla's criticism.
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Like Illusions, but with seagulls instead of airplane pilots. Or maybe Illusions is like JLS with pilots instead of seagulls?
- My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel
Part memoir, part pop-sci examination of anxiety; I hadn't read a book structured like it before. Probably the most thorough treatment of anxiety disorders intended for lay readers.
- Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Feminist essay collection. Good overall, though will make you feel bad about being a man if you're a man. Solnit's a good writer.
- The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes (audiobook)
Deserves a whole post of its own. Having a society dedicated to it is a good signal that a book is powerful (i.e. either brilliant or cultish). For now, I'll follow Richard Dawkins: "It is one of those books that is either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius, nothing in between! Probably the former, but I'm hedging my bets."
- [didn't finish] On Photography by Susan Sontag
Collection of polemical essays against photography, by a photograph buff. Good, but gets repetitive after a while. I read this while driving through British Columbia, and it convinced me to not take any pictures of the magnificent mountains.
- [didn't finish] Erasing Hell by Francis Chan, Preston Sprinkle
About why hell is a necessary part of Christianity. Aimed at a lay Christian audience, engaging in a debate I'm not well-versed in.
- A Primer for Philosophy and Education by Samuel Rocha
Short pamphlet about how to do philosophy in one's everyday life. Pleasantly commonsensical.
- [didn't finish] A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman (audiobook)
Memoir about microdosing LSD as a treatment for depression. Confirmed my bias on the subject, but poorly written.
- Sourdough by Robin Sloan
Robin does it again. More whimsical adventures in the techful Bay Area - this time with baking!
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
I followed the proscribed method and my apartment is much more pleasant now. The actual book is very skimmable. I agree with Elizabeth's review.
- [didn't finish] The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh
Compilation of essay-lectures by 49ers coach Bill Walsh. Good principles, repetitive presentation. Core principles: focus on the details of performance, don't worry about the high-level outcome, hold everyone in the organization to a high "standard of performance", fire those who don't meet the standard and those who don't conform to the culture.
- Acid Test by Tom Shroder
History of psychedelic policy and activism over the last 40 years. Very good, told with drama.
[rereads: 1, edits: 0]