Book Log

Here's a log of the books I've read since late 2003. More organized ratings of authors and books are on another page, and you can skip to its entries for individual books by clicking on the icons next to the entries here.
Full disclosure: Amazon links here pay me a commission if you buy the books.

Reading now: Supernova Era[Wikipedia], Cixin Liu

good 2024/06/29: Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present, Fareed Zakaria: It was quite enjoyable to read, and there was a steady flow of small-to-medium-sized nuggets of information I appreciated. Still, I went in expecting some kind of overarching thesis, a system for reducing historical forces to just a few categories of explanation, and I didn't feel the book really got there.
good 2024/06/24: The Conservative Futurist: How to Create the Sci-Fi World We Were Promised, James Pethokoukis: Some good cheerleading, though I didn't feel like I learned anything big and new.
good 2024/06/11: Not Accountable: Rethinking the Constitutionality of Public Employee Unions, Philip K. Howard: A pretty convincing case that this part of the U.S. has gone seriously off the rails
good 2024/06/04: Sputnik Sweetheart[Wikipedia], Haruki Murakami: Maybe not quite long enough to be great, but a solid installment of the same style I dig in his other books that I've read.
great 2024/05/24: Chip War: The Fight for the World's Most Critical Technology[Wikipedia], Chris Miller: A very satisfying historical tour and analysis through this subject that hovers right on the edge of my own professional activities
good 2024/05/08: The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness[Wikipedia], Jonathan Haidt: Convincing and actionable
good 2024/04/27: Disciplined Entrepreneurship, Bill Aulet: Some valuable structure and examples, though I'm not fully sold yet on the one-size-fits-all sequential workflow.
good 2024/04/11: Dolores Claiborne[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Very satisfyingly told, though the bits of supernatural content felt forced.
good 2024/03/28: Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers[Wikipedia], Robert Jackall: The slightly retro feel was part of the fun.
good 2024/03/20: The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect[Wikipedia], Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie: It was something of an ongoing puzzle to try to extract a rigorous mathematical framework out of a presentation meant for a general audience, but I think I roughly got it pieced together by the end. I need to think more about how this all relates to my prior ideas about how I might formalize causality.
good 2024/02/06: The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life[Wikipedia], Nick Lane: There was a moderately high density of thought-provoking segments, though overall I felt my knowledge of biology did not prepare me to appreciate most of the explanation, at least when reading the book in my "popular-science" mode, where I don't spend time carefully studying each section before moving on like I would have as a student in class.
good 2024/01/14: Gerald's Game[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Well, that was harrowing! At first I was worried that it would be dull, but there were twists aplenty.
good 2024/01/02: Number Go Up: Inside Crypto's Wild Rise and Staggering Fall[Wikipedia], Zeke Faux: Entertaining, with perhaps just the right drumbeat of reminders that compelling uses for blockchains have not been demonstrated
great 2023/12/30: How Not to Age: The Scientific Approach to Getting Healthier as You Get Older, Michael Greger: I really enjoyed digging into the nitty-gritty of health and how to promote it. I have to say, though, I was a little surprised that the Anti-Aging Eight turned out to be something other than an easily understood checklist for life, like the Daily Dozen are. This book is harder to reduce to practice than How Not to Die is, because of less summarization in top priorities.
good 2023/12/08: The Case Against the Sexual Revolution[Wikipedia], Louise Perry: I agreed with a healthy majority of the points being made, and it was thought-provoking throughout, in any case.
good 2023/12/04: Iron Council[Wikipedia], China Miéville: Quite a lot of weird conceits melded together; on the edge of being great
bad 2023/11/21: The Network State: How To Start a New Country, Balaji Srinivasan: This book feels like a speech at a rally for people who already agree with its main claims. It was a firehose of citations and allusions, but I didn't manage to extract a core outline of claims and evidence.
good 2023/11/05: Avenue of Mysteries[Wikipedia], John Irving: Good but not great, in a way that leaves me wondering if the author changed over the years or I did
good 2023/10/17: The Two-Parent Privilege: How Americans Stopped Getting Married and Started Falling Behind, Melissa S. Kearney: A pretty compelling, data-driven case for a claim that's a weird mix of popular and unpopular
great 2023/10/15: The Laws of Trading: A Trader's Guide to Better Decision-Making for Everyone, Agustin Lebron: A really satisfying treatment of a topic usually associated with one-upsmanship, self-promotion, and obfuscation, instead presented more in the style of a scientific study, with the bonus feature of spanning impressively many levels of "the full stack of society"
good 2023/10/08: Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World, Henry Grabar: An enjoyable update on The High Cost of Free Parking, though seemingly mostly retreading the same territory with some new sources of anecdotes
good 2023/09/30: Needful Things[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Fun and novel premise, with an improbable and rushed ending
great 2023/09/08: Recoding America: Why Government Is Failing in the Digital Age and How We Can Do Better, Jennifer Pahlka: Quite a tour de force of strategic thinking across layers of a complex ecosystem, with great style and balancing of anecdotes vs. generalization into grand theories
great 2023/09/05: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure[Wikipedia], Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt: I'm a pretty predictable mark for preaching to the choir on this one, but I appreciated the systematic approach to understanding why support for free speech has been flagging.
great 2023/08/16: Easy Money: Cryptocurrency, Casino Capitalism, and the Golden Age of Fraud, Ben McKenzie and Jacob Silverman: Very entertaining, though I have to admit, not much space is spent on making the case that blockchain technology is fundamentally mismatched with compelling use cases, rather than drawing attention to particular frauds.
great 2023/08/12: Ubik[Wikipedia], Philip K. Dick: Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepers!
great 2023/08/09: Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents--and What They Mean for America's Future, Jean M. Twenge: A really interesting tour that managed to unify differences behind just a few big trends
good 2023/08/01: An Introduction to Pharmacovigilance, Patrick Waller and Mira Harrison-Woolrych: Read for Nectry market research, it did its job as a quick overview of how to watch out for bad side effects of drugs, even if it's hard for me to say what specific info I learned.
great 2023/07/26: The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence[Wikipedia], Ray Kurzweil: Reading futurism books 25 years after publication is a good recipe for satisfaction!
good 2023/06/23: The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Yet another wildly different, and very fun, experience, compared to prior installments
bad 2023/06/03: God, Human, Animal, Machine: Technology, Metaphor, and the Search for Meaning, Meghan O'Gieblyn: I had trouble extracting anything coherent. To an extent that's justifiable, if this is mostly a collection of essays. In general, though, I felt like I was hearing repeated recital of applause lines, for ideas that self-declared progressives agreed were important and theories that they agreed were credible. It was hard to identify any clear objective claims being made, let alone evidence in support of them. In general, it felt like the kind of muddled thinking I'd expect from someone without serious experience in software development.
good 2023/05/22: The Peace War[Wikipedia], Vernor Vinge: I expect I'm going to be using "bobbling" as a nice obscure metaphor for years to come.
good 2023/05/04: More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite[Wikipedia], Sebastian Mallaby: Maybe I'm a little less dismissive now of hedge funds as net drags on society.
great 2023/04/02: At Swim-Two-Birds[Wikipedia], Brian O'Nolan: I'd usually roll my eyes, hearing a description of a "difficult" book, an intricate clockwork that is just so very impressive, but I think this one is the real deal in that category.
good 2023/03/30: The Essence of Software: Why Concepts Matter for Great Design, Daniel Jackson: I'm still digesting the consequences for my own software development, but I like the systematic approach to usability design.
great 2023/03/22: Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers[Wikipedia], Geoffrey A. Moore: I don't know how I managed to delay reading this one for so long, after so many recommendations from people who know this world. I think I expected it would be gross high-level generalizations like so many entrepreneurship books. Instead, I loved the mix of specific actionable advice (not too much of it, with a clear hierarchical decomposition across different principles) and a precise but engaging style.
good 2023/03/10: How the World Really Works: The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We're Going, Vaclav Smil: A handy, quantitatively grounded overview of some important topics. Throughout, the author leans a bit too much on condescending tone as a substitute for water-tight argument, and I was unconvinced to change my mind about a few of my favorite causes (surprise, surprise!).
good 2023/02/10: Four Past Midnight[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Thoroughly satisfying, despite some gonzo premises
good 2023/01/15: The Complete Guide to Memory: The Science of Strengthening Your Mind, Richard Restak: Short and to the point, styled as a bit more of a how-to guide than I was looking for
great 2023/01/12: The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, Kevin Dutton: An engaging and informative description of one of the main "polymorphic variants" of human personality, with a sense for why it evolved and where it pays off today
great 2023/01/08: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle[Wikipedia], Haruki Murakami: Wow, so reminiscent of Twin Peaks! They appeared at about the same time, and I wonder about the constellation of common influences.
good 2022/12/22: Status and Culture: How Our Desire for Social Rank Creates Taste, Identity, Art, Fashion, and Constant Change, W. David Marx: A very interesting deconstruction of an underpinning of modern life that I take for granted. I was on the edge of marking it "great," but somehow it didn't wind up being quite analytical enough, or another way of putting it is that the writing style seemed too oriented toward building status for the author!
good 2022/12/11: Land is a Big Deal: Why rent is too high, wages too low, and what we can do about it, Lars A. Doucet: Pretty darn compelling (and entertaining, at the same time)!
good 2022/12/09: The Dark Half[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Creepy, captivating, and a fun wink at the author's own biography
great 2022/11/24: Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do about It, Richard Reeves: This one had a really high ratio of "wow, how was I not aware of that already?" to total content. I also appreciated how thoroughly the author avoided a clear bias for either of the mainstream liberal or conservative tribes in America.
good 2022/11/12: Don't Be a Feminist: Essays on Genuine Justice, Bryan Caplan: I didn't go into it realizing it was a collection of blog posts, but it made for a good short session of cheerleading for properly rational takes on hot-button issues.
bad 2022/11/03: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus[Wikipedia], Ludwig Wittgenstein: Recommended by someone who had just listened to one of my talks on formal verification. I can see how this book seems to bring order to the chaos of logical argumentation, to someone who doesn't have experience with formal logic as we understand it today, but the book doesn't seem valuable anymore. It just comes across as muddled and inefficient. Clearly the right way to explain logical reasoning is via algorithms, but the author didn't have that tool and so needed to use all sorts of long-winded prose. Then, all sorts of philosophical puzzles, like around the difference between symbols and their meanings, need to be solved to get anything done with rigorous logical reasoning for engineering purposes, so anyone in that line of work is going to work all this out independently, more effectively than by reading it in a book.
good 2022/11/01: The Scar[Wikipedia], China Miéville: Somehow this one managed to be quite different than the previous book in the trilogy while keeping some of the best elements, certainly adding in a new kind of bonkers pseudoscience.
great 2022/09/17: The Status Game: On Human Life and How to Play It, Will Storr: A thorough presentation of what we've come to understand on a topic at the heart of the human experience, with a good mix of systematic and anecdote-based style
great 2022/09/15: Big Machine, Victor LaValle: Reminds me of Pynchon or Murakami!
good 2022/09/06: Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street, Karen Ho: An interesting example of a social system imitating its own org chart!
good 2022/08/26: Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Writers: 1852-1923, Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger: Uneven (understandably enough, for a collection of short stories) but fun. Favorites: "Nut Bush Farm," "The Wind in the Rose-Bush," "In the Closed Room," "The Third Drug," "Jordan's End."
bad 2022/08/19: Financial Intelligence for Entrepreneurs: What You Really Need to Know About the Numbers, Karen Berman and Joe Knight: On the one hand, this was a well-executed and readable introduction to standard accounting ideas. On the other hand, to someone like me whose perspective is a combination of the software engineer's and logician's, it was very frustrating to see all advice presented as "just the way things are done" without any consideration of what the underlying objectives of financial planning are, with "derivations" showing why we should use methods being presented.
good 2022/08/14: Spies, Lies, and Algorithms: The History and Future of American Intelligence, Amy B. Zegart: A nice overview of this topic that I mostly didn't know about in any detail. It felt more like a series of articles than a structured presentation supporting one or two big thesis points.
great 2022/08/09: Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting Old, Andrew Steele: A very thorough and no-nonsense treatment of what we know, accessible even to life-sciences-illiterate rubes like me
great 2022/07/30: Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, Ken Liu: Some definite gems among this collection.
great 2022/07/14: The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty, Daron Acemoğlu and James A. Robinson: I have to admit, I started out skeptical that a book this long could be filled with compelling discussion around a common model of state development, but it developed in a very convincing and satisfying way.
good 2022/06/30: When She Was Good[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: Overwrought melodrama and not much hint of the author's voice that I'm used to in later books
good 2022/06/26: The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you, Rob Fitzpatrick: Certainly jibes with my experiences in this realm so far, and these tips should help fine-tune my technique.
great 2022/06/23: More Sex Is Safer Sex: The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics, Steven E. Landsburg: Style and content/argumentation come together into catnip for me.
great 2022/06/19: Why We're Polarized[Wikipedia], Ezra Klein: A very careful and well-told journey through a variety of unexpected aspects of an important problem, bringing it all together into a compelling theory of why
great 2022/06/16: The King in Yellow[Wikipedia], Robert W. Chambers: Like a "stapler dissertation" combining the origin of weird fiction with a few episodes of 19th-century Friends! The latter was OK, but the former was very pleasantly ominous.
good 2022/06/14: Barbecue: The History of an American Institution, Robert F. Moss: A satisfyingly thorough account of an aspect of my ambient culture that I took for granted
great 2022/06/05: The Tommyknockers[Wikipedia], Stephen King: If this is what a book that the author doesn't like anymore reads like, then I can't wait to see what's next!
good 2022/05/30: The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World[Wikipedia], Tim Harford: Plenty of thought-provoking examples
good 2022/05/27: Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist, Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson: Too soon to tell how helpful this advice may be, but promising
good 2022/05/24: Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World, Tyler Cowen and Daniel Gross: An enjoyable read with a medium density of promising-sounding insights, though I'm not sure what concrete changes I should be making inspired by the book
great 2022/05/20: South of the Border, West of the Sun[Wikipedia], Haruki Murakami: Very similar vibe to Norwegian Wood
good 2022/05/14: The Power Law: Venture Capital and the Making of the New Future, Sebastian Mallaby: Engaging and useful to fill in bits of history I was missing
good 2022/05/11: The Secret Lives of Customers: A Detective Story About Solving the Mystery of Customer Behavior, David Scott Duncan: A quick and enjoyable-enough read, though I'm left without a clear idea of how to apply the advice to the sorts of products I'm likely to be involved with.
good 2022/05/09: Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love, Marty Cagan: There was a fair amount of repetition of the core message, but I think it's helpful to have it laid out so clearly.
good 2022/05/06: The Magicians[Wikipedia], Lev Grossman: Chosen while poking around the very beginning of my to-read list; this one went in about 2009, and I don't remember where the idea came from. I was worried at first that it would seem too blandly young-adult-fictional, but I ended very satisfied with the mixing of Harry-Potter-esque tropes with what is apparently a common mindset today, of stressing about finding one's place in the meritocracy. There were also layers of weird that were hard to predict.
good 2022/04/18: Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters[Wikipedia], Steven Pinker: Well-written as always, but fuzzier than I would have liked, without clear recommendations for worthwhile projects to undertake
great 2022/04/10: Misery[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Yup, it deserves to be as well-known as it is.
bad 2022/04/08: If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities, Benjamin R. Barber: I might even like the actual operational advice this book pushes, but the presentation just didn't work for me. I found myself thinking repeatedly "what is this book about?" as it jumped from topic to topic and eventually spent what felt like just a few pages on the marquee idea for a "mayors parliament." It felt more like a party conversation where someone is trying to impress the other guests, rather than a careful study of the evidence supporting a suggestion of how to make the world a better place.
good 2022/03/25: Cape Cod Noir, David L. Ulin: Largely washed over me quickly without making an impression.
good 2022/03/23: Rationality: From AI to Zombies, Eliezer Yudkowsky: I didn't walk away feeling like I'd learned a new coherent and relevant way of thought; the content was a mix of "I think I already knew that" (though I should probably trust my impressions less!) and reviews/introductions of ideas in probability theory or physics that don't seem immediately applicable to problems I think about. Still, I was happy enough to cheer plenty of the talking points, and it's good to have this skeleton key for the memes of a community adjacent to mine.
good 2022/01/22: Where Is My Flying Car?, J. Storrs Hall: Interesting, but I am on-board with the reviews I'd read years ago, about the book going surprisingly much into engineering detail. I was expecting more on the sociopolitical side of the equation, to explain why important technological directions have been blocked.
good 2022/01/05: Use of Weapons[Wikipedia], Iain Banks: Very rapid whipsawing between familiar human experiences and cosmic weirdness
great 2021/12/17: My Body, Emily Ratajkowski: With the timing of this book's release, I couldn't resist picking it up as an adjunct to Pricing Beauty. It was a well-written series of much more personal takes on that kind of life.
great 2021/12/10: Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model, Ashley Mears: Another fascinating and thorough look into the real mechanisms behind a world where people claim to navigate based on gut feelings
great 2021/11/23: Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy, Andrew Yang: I'm not quite agreeing with every policy idea, but I sure do like the sober-minded approach.
good 2021/11/14: The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class-and What We Can Do About It, Richard Florida: Another interesting romp through data. It's peculiar to see universal basic income and higher minimum wages pushed at the same time.
great 2021/10/31: The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Huh, I really was not expecting that after the first volume!
good 2021/10/10: Sludge: What Stops Us from Getting Things Done and What to Do about It, Cass Sunstein: An admirably succinct description of what seems to be one of the most important problems of our time, though somehow it felt short on actionable recommendations
great 2021/10/08: The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy, Stephanie Kelton: I have to admit, I started out skeptical, just knowing the author had worked for Bernie Sanders, who I don't generally agree with. However, a very compelling case was quickly made for a perspective that can't help but feel obviously correct, and the presentation was excellent. I don't agree with some of the specific policy directions pushed near the end, but the framework for comparing policies seems very valuable.
good 2021/09/21: Perdido Street Station[Wikipedia], China Miéville: It had an awfully slow start, and I was wincing at the nonsensical "science" elements... but boy did it develop as a completely unique and fun world! I'm hooked enough to try the next book in the trilogy eventually.
good 2021/08/12: Virtue Signaling: Essays on Darwinian Politics & Free Speech, Geoffrey Miller: The ideas about using the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect bewildered autistic-spectrum folks were interesting.
good 2021/08/08: Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe, Steven H. Strogatz: I was surprised how little of the math content felt unfamiliar, despite my dogged refusal to use any of that stuff in my life after undergrad. I enjoyed the long historical perspective.
good 2021/07/27: Miss Wyoming[Wikipedia], Douglas Coupland: A fun combination of the feels of other Coupland, Don DeLillo, and Thomas Pynchon
great 2021/07/19: Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon, Colin Bryar and Bill Carr: Now I'm itching to try out some of these techniques!
good 2021/07/12: The Silence[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: I like to think it would have been easy to pick this one out of a lineup as written by DeLillo. It's an extremely concentrated dose of the kind of people talking past each other that we're used to from him.
good 2021/07/09: Drink?: The New Science of Alcohol and Health, David Nutt: I was expecting a larger fraction of the text to be about less-obvious harms like cancer, but it's still good to read the fuller picture (obvious parts and all) told here.
good 2021/07/01: Every Life Is on Fire: How Thermodynamics Explains the Origins of Living Things, Jeremy England: An interesting message that feels more appropriate for a long-form magazine article than a book; it took way too many pages to get around to the (genuinely surprising) punchline. The Bible connection was super-awkward and nearly nonsensical, almost like its paragraphs were written by a deep neural network starting from main chapter content as seed.
great 2021/06/16: Skeleton Crew[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Freaky shit works well in small packages!
good 2021/05/22: Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, Colin Woodard: Not what I was expecting heading into it (narrative of individual lives vs. grand analysis), but it turned out to be a pretty interesting tour of North vs. South elements in Amercan history. There was something of a surprise secret origin story for American Nations in there!
good 2021/04/30: Last And First Men[Wikipedia], Olaf Stapledon: Totally ahead of its time in taking the long view on history; I can see the (transitive?) influence on Vinge and others. This book was published shortly before digital computers became a thing, and it shows that the author hasn't considered at all the possibilities they offer (including replacing humanity). It seems crazy to read of advanced civilizations unable to respond to existential-threat crises with thousands of years of warning.
good 2021/04/10: Disunited Nations: The Scramble for Power in an Ungoverned World, Peter Zeihan: A really interesting take on the world today and in the near future. I have to hold back on rating it too positively because I don't feel qualified to vet the reasoning.
great 2021/02/24: It[Wikipedia], Stephen King: What an intricate production, with almost-Moby-Dick-level interludes on so many topics and situations, despite maintaining both a mythos and a character-heavy storyline over decades!
bad 2021/01/16: Black Spring[Wikipedia], Henry Miller: Henry Miller and David Lynch have a lot in common, in creating works of fiction intermixed with LSD trips and free association. When it works, the trippier parts are the spice that makes the whole experience worthwhile. Within this recipe, though, it's easy to go too far away from comprehensible fiction, which, unfortunately, is what this book does for me. I did really like the chapter about the tailor shop.
bad 2020/12/29: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos[Wikipedia], Jordan Peterson: The foreword was a bad omen, trying as it did to let us know how great the main author is at parties. The initial chapters gave me some hope that we'd at least see cliched moral advice justified scientifically, but, no, most of the book came off as a manic attempt to name-drop as many sources in literature and religion as possible, without any kind of argument that could be convincing across cultures. There were a handful of segments that I appreciated for deconstructing certain sacred cows from at least halfway scientific perspectives, and some of the personal stories especially were engaging, but overall the book was an incoherent mess, where it wasn't even clear what the items of advice really meant, let alone why the reader should be convinced to follow them.
great 2020/11/26: The Sexual Paradox: Men, Women and the Real Gender Gap[Wikipedia], Susan Pinker: Even though I've probably been spoiled by reading some of the same results in more-recent books, I thought this was a great introduction to an important (if controversial) topic, striking the right balance between scientific rigor and the human touch.
great 2020/11/11: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World[Wikipedia], Haruki Murakami: This seems to be where the recipe of Kafka on the Shore and 1Q84 originated!
great 2020/10/18: Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions, Jeffrey J. Selingo: A comprehensive and engaging overview of a subject that's been bubbling all around me for a while but that I never dug into. Gets me thinking even more that I shouldn't overgeneralize from conclusions about choosing PhD schools, to say that it's nearly as important to fine-tune a choice of undergraduate school.
good 2020/10/09: Thinner[Wikipedia], Stephen King: The whole thing took a very unpredictable course for me. I wonder which aspect of this style King didn't want to put out under his own name originally.
good 2020/10/04: Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy, Tim Harford: I really enjoyed the bite-sized chapters that I could drop into most any free time that I found myself with, and it didn't hurt that I could fill some gaps in my knowledge of consequential inventions.
bad 2020/09/17: It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, Stuart Stevens: I came to this book expecting an argument about the mass of people who identify with the Republican party, but it seemed to be mostly about the elite within the party, not taking the time to engage with the positions or priorities that bind voters to this brand.
good 2020/09/08: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell[Wikipedia], Susanna Clarke: An interesting mix of conventional and surprising, comfortably far off from "great" for me, but still a right good time
great 2020/07/23: Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries, Safi Bahcall: A pretty compelling recipe: identify a persistent challenge for innovation-dependent organizations, lead the reader through some case studies, and generate a unifying theory and a set of advice.
great 2020/07/18: 10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less, Garett Jones: A very interesting tour through practical suggestions following a neglected theme. I also want to commend the writing style for very nice mixing of appealing folksiness and rhetorical rigor.
good 2020/07/13: The Ecstatic, Victor LaValle: I was pulled in by the Lovecraft connection (the author wrote an introduction to a Klinger collection), though this one didn't turn out to be a "weird fiction horror" book. It was plenty weird, though, and I do plan to check out his next book.
good 2020/07/07: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century[Wikipedia], Yuval Noah Harari: It made a mixed impression. On the one hand, I appreciated how it seemed to do a good job of avoiding communication as signaling (in the economics sense), where people either speculate about "sci-fi" topics to seem smart, or they make demands about current political issues to let you know their tribal affiliations. The author mixed both subjects in a very credible show of thinking things through rationally and not discounting near-future possibilities just because they're so different from what we grew up with -- and I almost never read any analysis so committed to this standard. The book's biggest weaknesses were sometime incoherence across chapters and sometimes not going far enough in reconsidering popular assumptions -- e.g., apparently concluding that it is obviously unethical to run a computer simulation that includes people who suffer realistically, since otherwise we'd be forced to discount suffering in the real world. I would expect less-obvious changes to how we think about ethics.
good 2020/06/29: Intelligence: All That Matters, Stuart Ritchie: A good summary of the area, but I came in hoping for more: detail on recent findings about the biological mechanisms behind intelligence and what IQ really "is" operationally. Maybe science doesn't actually have that level of understanding yet, though somehow I'd gotten my hopes up, based on where I saw the book referenced.
great 2020/06/28: Very Important People: Status and Beauty in the Global Party Circuit, Ashley Mears: I had no idea this world existed, and indeed the first pages were hard to understand. By the end, we have a satisfying explanation of a system allowing rich clients to pay indirectly for commodities that would be indecorous to buy directly.
great 2020/06/27: Watchmen: The Annotated Edition[Wikipedia], Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons: Edited by Leslie S. Klinger. It definitely stands the test of time, and the appendices to the chapters are fun.
good 2020/06/13: Consciousness Explained[Wikipedia], Daniel Dennett: Mostly satisfying and illuminating material, but too long-winded and flowery for my taste. I probably would have preferred a book that could assume computer-science background; a lot of the extended explanations here supported points that I already took as obvious.
good 2020/05/17: The Skating Rink[Wikipedia], Roberto Bolaño: Eh, just fine.
good 2020/04/17: Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class, Charles Murray: I really enjoyed the romp through the data, though the author seemed to be pulling punches in drawing clear conclusions in some cases, probably still smarting from the reaction to The Bell Curve.
great 2020/04/07: The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft: Beyond Arkham, H. P. Lovecraft: Edited by Leslie S. Klinger. Overall not as hard-hitting as the original, which makes sense, following up on a collection meant to grab the most influential stories. However, there were still quite a few gems, and it was interesting to watch some of Lovecraft's evolution in style.
great 2020/03/26: The Invincible[Wikipedia], Stanislaw Lem: From the short description I read beforehand, I was expecting something much more formulaic, but the experience gradually grew on me and turned out to be really unique. It's like Lovecraftian horror with robots!
good 2020/03/21: Salesforce for Dummies, Liz Kao and Jon Paz: Executive summary: Salesforce is a relational database management system with an integrated and tweakable UI, plus a particular schema oriented towards sales/marketing/support, but relatively little true code customization to support that schema. It's interesting how verbose the authors have to be to try to hide the general abstractions behind it all, for an audience presumed to understand concrete ideas only!
good 2020/03/11: The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World, John Robbins: After seeing it recommended in The China Study, I had high hopes for this one, as finally providing that comprehensive case for the environmental costs of animal foods. It quickly became clear that there would be a lot of the "flower-child" voice that tends to turn me off, but I decided to stick with it (and the density of citations was a countervailing positive sign, though too many of them were to the same popular book throughout a section). In fact, this is a comprehensive treatment of all the downsides of animal products, adding for good measure an attack on genetically modified foods and praise for organic farming (where I'm not sure I even agree with the main arguments). The few chapters on environmental costs were decently compelling, but not stand-out enough to push this one onto my list of standard recommended books.
good 2020/02/28: The Eyes of the Dragon[Wikipedia], Stephen King: King's take on a very conventional fairy tale. I wonder what inspired him to write it.
good 2020/02/22: What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture, Ben Horowitz: I appreciate the specific rules of thumb, and I'll look forward to trying them out soon.
great 2020/02/20: The China Study: Revised and Expanded Edition: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health[Wikipedia], T. Colin Campbell: I see why this book has been recommended, as a straightforward provider of the most convincing scientific evidence!
good 2020/01/27: A Spot of Bother[Wikipedia], Mark Haddon: Contrasting my expectations with the first quarter or so of the book, at first I was thinking, did I buy the wrong book by accident? Eventually we got to the main plot points, and I have to say it all comes across as a pretty effective cautionary tale about paying attention to signs of mental illness.
great 2020/01/25: Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life[Wikipedia], Richard Florida: I can't necessarily justify my high rating, but it was just the kind of content that I eat right up.
good 2020/01/21: Governing Least: A New England Libertarianism, Dan Moller: Honestly, I was leaning toward a negative rating through the first half of the book. It follows a philosophical approach of reverse-engineering consequences of human intuitions, which just doesn't appeal to me, vs. analyzing fundamental efficiency of social arrangements. The later content seemed strangely disconnected from what come before, but I did enjoy the treatments of some familiar issues, though they came across as essays rather than a coherent total argument.
good 2020/01/08: The Annotated Sandman, Vol. 3[Wikipedia], Neil Gaiman: Keep 'em coming!
good 2020/01/02: Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration, Bryan Caplan: A fun presentation of a compelling set of arguments
great 2020/01/01: Them: Why We Hate Each Other--and How to Heal, Ben Sasse: A really compelling and wide-ranging treatment of some of the biggest issues facing America today. I really hope to see the author running for president in 2024! It's so anomalous to have a former college president in the U.S. Senate and still writing pretty scholarly books (which are accessible to a broad audience). [I do have to say that the last two main chapters or so were out-of-line with most of the others, presenting little in the way of persuasive argument or data, instead going for emotional triggers that should work for people who already agree with the main points.]
good 2019/12/23: To Open the Sky, Robert Silverberg: Similar sort of sweep to Foundation and engrossing enough, but not special like Dying Inside
great 2019/12/19: Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies, Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh: I like the concreteness of generalizing from the stories of successful companies, into relatively short lists of ingredients that promote rapid scaling.
good 2019/12/12: How Change Happens, Cass Sunstein: Given the title, I expected different subject matter, but there was still a healthy amount of interesting content here. It really seems to be a sort of survey on compensating for irrational biases in designing good policy.
great 2019/12/02: A Wild Sheep Chase[Wikipedia], Haruki Murakami: OK, the transition to improbable material is complete. It kinds of phases in, even within the structure of the book.
good 2019/12/01: 7 Powers: The Foundations of Business Strategy, Hamilton Helmer: There's a serious "trust-me" feel to this book, in terms of the justification for the streamlined framework to think about company strategy. The algebraic formulas to quantify different strategy advantages especially stuck out as seemingly pulled from the air and then subjected to rigorous analysis in excess of the precision implied by the original formulas. However... I understand it's hard to justify the whole system in a book for a general audience, and I'm intrigued by these guidelines for brainstorming.
good 2019/11/30: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Al Ries and Jack Trout: I feel like the book is self-referential in repeating a simple message over and over again!
good 2019/11/28: The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement[Wikipedia], Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox: Who ever heard of a business novel, anyway? It was surprisingly fun to read, and I will have to wait and see if the ideas pay off in my life.
good 2019/11/19: Deception[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: Interesting format, and the metatextual element was fun, but overall it didn't stand out for me.
good 2019/11/16: Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World, Clive Thompson: The narrative moved slowly from the people to the usual headline-grabbing trends and social consequences, and I mostly enjoyed it, though in the end it didn't feel focused enough.
great 2019/11/11: The Talisman[Wikipedia], Stephen King and Peter Straub: A very inventive fantasy/horror setting (sort of reminds me of The City & The City), with 80s nostalgia for good measure
great 2019/10/25: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind[Wikipedia], Yuval Noah Harari: A very well-thought-out broad perspective on history I'm used to taking for granted
good 2019/10/04: The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds, Rip Esselstyn: Another very relatable introduction to this food philosophy
good 2019/09/27: Stoner[Wikipedia], John Williams: Believe it or not, this one came to my attention when it appeared a few years ago in the list of books people bought after following the referral links here! What I enjoyed most about it was the old-fashioned, almost simplistic worldview, combined with very spare but artful language.
great 2019/09/22: The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age, David E. Sanger: Unsurprisingly, there was minimal technical detail, including on how conceptually straightforward it would be to close most of the security vulnerabilities that these attacks depend on. Still, it was fascinating to learn some of the historical context, and I appreciated the strong recommendation to invest in defense, even without any hints on specifics.
good 2019/09/12: The Nonsense Factory: The Making and Breaking of the American Legal System, Bruce Cannon Gibney: The tone from A Generation of Sociopaths was less off-putting when combined with the author's firsthand knowledge of the domain and extensive research. I appreciated learning these sordid details of so many parts of the American legal ecosystem. What improvements were proposed didn't seem to combine into a simple, actionable recipe.
good 2019/08/22: Cycle of the Werewolf[Wikipedia], Stephen King: A nice, comfortable, travel-sized container of King
good 2019/08/22: The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy, Scott E. Page: A good starting point for considering the case that hiring diverse teams aligns well with profit motives. The first part of the book feels like an extended effort to establish terminology for aspects of common sense, or at least ideas that seem "obvious" when you read them. The second part goes into more empirical evidence connecting what the book calls identity diversity and cognitive diversity, and here I was feeling that, even though the text acknowledges the challenge of going beyond correlation to establish causation, there wasn't a very convincing argument. Still, I'm inspired to change how I think about admissions and hiring, to focus more on team composition rather than just applying a monolithic metric of quality to individuals.
good 2019/08/18: Survival to Thrival: Building the Enterprise Startup - Book 2: Change or Be Changed, Bob Tinker and Tae Hea Nahm: Here's hoping I have the chance to try out these ideas over the next few years!
good 2019/08/17: King Rat[Wikipedia], China Miéville: In a sense, it's a rather straightforward story, with the feel of a fairy tale despite the profanity and so forth. The ominousness and the idea of a hidden world within a city are logical precursors to The City & The City.
good 2019/08/12: Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy, David A. Mindell: An interesting tour through a number of cases of teleoperated and semi-autonomous systems, though I had a hard time extracting a clear thesis. Is the author saying that we will never achieve "full" autonomy, or does the advice to focus more on human factors apply only in the short term? It's hard to believe that we'll never build flight-control systems that exceed human performance uniformly.
good 2019/08/03: Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities, Eric Kaufmann: A pretty compelling explanation for much of the crazy political stuff going on lately, in terms of society-scale unwillingness to acknowledge that people tend to want to promote stability of their cultures and demographic groups
good 2019/07/03: How to Win in a Winner-Take-All World: The Definitive Guide to Adapting and Succeeding in High-Performance Careers, Neil Irwin: Hey, these people who don't know how to code have it pretty hard! More seriously, this one seems like a good guide for thinking about how to nudge a startup company toward a good cultural path.
good 2019/06/26: The Witches of Eastwick[Wikipedia], John Updike: Over-the-top flowery language, interesting though underexplained central conceit, and a bit of fun retro feel
good 2019/06/15: Don't Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability[Wikipedia], Steve Krug: I'm looking forward to trying out the usability-testing techniques, in particular, though at the moment it's hard for me to estimate how much value I'll get out of the book.
good 2019/06/13: Some Trick: Thirteen Stories, Helen DeWitt: It's interesting to try to piece together what is the common theme through these stories. I felt like the biggest one is people in a variety of different "scenes" getting carried away with signaling to each other and acting ingenuinely. While I was able to hold on and enjoy the stories in scenes I'm familiar with (computing, math), the others largely left me feeling like I'd fallen off the bus. A handful still felt broadly accessible and funny.
good 2019/06/10: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark[Wikipedia], Carl Sagan: I wasn't expecting so much to be spent on debunking pseudoscience. Good rah-rah kind of pep-talk material for true believers, but nothing that struck me as truly distinctive.
good 2019/05/25: Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, Ken Liu: Quite a lot of variation among the stories included, and my interest is piqued to read more.
good 2019/05/23: Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero, Tyler Cowen: Pretty compelling. Re: Other People's Money, I noticed that Cowen argues for the importance of equity markets without taking a position on the "trading culture" that Kay argues against. So maybe the American finance sector really is out of control, despite important roles for the more traditional core of the sector.
great 2019/05/19: Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain[Wikipedia], David Eagleman: At first this one was falling into the trap of recapitulating too many nuggets that I've been reading about for years in other books, capping my enthusiasm level. However, the chapter on reforming aspects of criminal justice was a unique enough perspective to put me over the top.
good 2019/04/26: The Player of Games[Wikipedia], Iain Banks: Some nice far-out premises
great 2019/04/19: The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses[Wikipedia], Eric Ries: Nice and simple and actionable.
good 2019/04/07: Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations[Wikipedia], Clay Shirky: I might need more time to digest this one, to figure out if it crosses the border into "great," by providing a new and useful way of thinking. I did enjoy the retro feel of its snapshot of the world e.g. when MySpace was big and obviously deserving of more discussion than Facebook.
good 2019/03/27: Bech: A Book[Wikipedia], John Updike: Some of the raw materials here were headed toward a potential "great" rating, but then the overwrought writing style faded in. I think the author was even lampooning his own past writing choices in the preface.
great 2019/03/20: Other People's Money: The Real Business of Finance, John Kay: I've been puzzled by the purpose of today's world financial system, and this book makes a good case that many parts of that system actually don't have very strong justification. Also, the writing style was so much fun, a perfect match of my stereotype of the worldly, sarcastic Oxford professor. Let's reform that financial system to clean up most of the complexity and put most traders out of work!
great 2019/03/13: Wind/Pinball, Haruki Murakami: Short and sweet! Smells a lot like Norwegian Wood, with the first hints of a leaning toward improbable material.
good 2019/03/06: The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future, Andrew Yang: The first 75% or so is a really great introduction to the motivation behind making big changes to the way income works in our country, plus one compelling solution, universal basic income. The remaining content spells out a pretty wide variety of programs under the heading "human capitalism," and on average I wasn't too convinced by the (short) cases made for them, though I nodded along with a few points made about problems in different sectors (like health care and education). That last list of suggestions makes it pretty clear the author doesn't follow a philosophy of trying to minimize the responsibilities assigned to government!
good 2019/02/23: High Growth Handbook, Elad Gil: An admirably compact and matter-of-fact reference manual for a complex domain
great 2019/02/11: The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: Some nice concentrated doses of Essence of DeLillo. That characteristic ambiguity, with unresolved practical details, is an especially good fit for short stories.
good 2019/01/28: Against Democracy[Wikipedia], Jason Brennan: A very interesting perspective presented pretty well, though I think the book was much longer than it needed to be. I just don't see the appeal of logical arguments that aren't fully mathematically rigorous, so why not cover the bases in a more compact way? Still, more Americans should be thinking about nonincremental tweaks to our institutions, especially given all the new possibilities of information technology -- and, more broadly, all the ways the world is different than it was in 1776.
good 2019/01/15: Letters to a Young Scientist[Wikipedia], Edward O. Wilson: Some nice pep-talk material for careers in scientific research. It is short and sweet enough that the maximum downside of investing in reading it isn't very high! I was heartened by the advice to run away from popular research areas, though, really, which famous scientist isn't going to counsel like that after-the-fact? The content seems to generalize moderately well to research in engineering rather than science.
good 2019/01/13: Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World, Annie Lowrey: I was surprised that the bulk of the book was spent introducing us to people around the world in various precarious economic situations -- trying to pull the heartstrings in demonstrating how many deserving recipients there would be for more effective economic aid. Very little technocratic detail made it in, though there was frequent citing of research on the superior effectiveness of unconditional cash payments vs. more traditional programs. All in all, I largely support the policies argued for here, though the book format wasn't ideal for answering the logistical questions that brought me to it.
great 2019/01/10: Solaris[Wikipedia], Stanislaw Lem: I really liked the mix of a desolate, eerie atmosphere and the psychodrama connected to weird phenomena.
good 2019/01/07: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Jaron Lanier: An interesting mix of the tones associated with mainstream blog posts and scholarly popular social-science books! I was expecting the former factor to turn me off, but actually I was pretty on-board for almost all of the ride, only parting ways in the chapter on religion and spirituality. Beside the element of preaching to the choir (I agreed with the basic argument already), I felt like I took away a few good nuggets, like a theory on why LinkedIn is so much less degenerate than Facebook.
great 2019/01/04: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, Paul Hawken: Accessible presentation of a very thorough study on our best options to control greenhouse-gas accumulation
great 2018/12/08: Pet Sematary[Wikipedia], Stephen King: I can see why the author writes, in a preface, that this is his book that scares him the most!
good 2018/11/30: Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals, Tyler Cowen: We get a quick summary of the author's axioms and then a qualitative analysis of their consequences. The axioms didn't happen to be mine, so I wasn't super compelled by what followed, but I agreed with tantalizingly enough of the premises to make it a bit interesting. Like the author, I'm in favor of more planning with the distant future in mind, but I don't take it as self-evident that we should measure success based only on consequences for people.
great 2018/10/07: The City & The City[Wikipedia], China Miéville: Wow. What an original concept, and it worked well with the crime-noir tropes.
great 2018/09/27: The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money, Bryan Caplan: It sure does look like a case of out-of-control signaling.
good 2018/09/12: Will Our Love Last?: A Couple's Road Map, Sam R. Hamburg: I was pleasantly surprised at how hard-headed the argumentation was, despite the inherently wishy-washy subject matter; and at how admirably the author held back on getting all religious, despite his background and the context behind the book.
good 2018/09/11: The Annotated Sandman, Vol. 2[Wikipedia], Neil Gaiman: Still going strong
good 2018/09/08: Authority and the Individual, Bertrand Russell: Occasionally thought-provoking but hard to extract a definitive message from. The closest I can find are pitches to (1) devolve more power to smaller, more local governments and other organizations and (2) focus more on human happiness in designing societies. I feel like the coming wave of automation challenges some of the key premises of the arguments, as spelled out in Harari's nifty recent article in the Atlantic.
great 2018/09/07: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay[Wikipedia], Michael Chabon: Fun for someone like me who grew up with comic books as the kind of cultural context that I'm sure used to be provided by proper mythologies, a thousand years ago. And plenty of high-quality storytelling even independently of that gimmick.
great 2018/08/17: The New Annotated Frankenstein, Mary Shelley: Edited by Leslie S. Klinger. As with the last two annotated Klinger books, read in fits and starts over a few months. And it delivered basically what I expect by now from that series. I hadn't read the source material before, and the biggest surprise was that the monster is much more like the one from Penny Dreadful (articulate and revenge-obsessed, but still sometimes relatable) than the one from the classic Universal Pictures movie.
great 2018/08/12: The Advanced Research Projects Agency, 1958-1974, Richard J. Barber Associates, Inc.: Fascinating history of an agency which I now feel like I was experiencing like the proverbial blind men touching the different parts of an elephant. I am such a sucker for the earnest formal writing style popular in the 70s. The repetitive structure of the chapters ("hey, what happened to the missile-defense program under this director's leadership?") was also unreasonably satisfying for my obsessive-compulsion. [Why did I read a dusty report that is barely possible to find, in smudged form, online? It's recommended reading for new DARPA ISAT members.]
good 2018/08/03: The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, Meik Wiking: I was intrigued by the idea of a culture better fitting my natural mellowness than does the one I was born into. I'm not sure I walk away from the book having learned much or come to any important conclusions, except maybe that hygge is all about candles and eating unhealthy food! (Just kidding... right?)
good 2018/07/30: The Low-Carb Fraud, T. Colin Campbell: In buying it, I hadn't realized that it was basically magazine-article length. It leaves me with some good questions to ask advocates of Atkins-type diets, but the scientific case wasn't very complete.
great 2018/07/30: Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think[Wikipedia], Hans Rosling: Another good "human brain owner's manual," for thinking about big problems that aren't right in front of us
great 2018/07/27: Christine[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Through the magic of low expectations, I was impressed! Who would have thought a haunted car could be the center of such a satisfying story?
good 2018/07/15: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America[Wikipedia], Barbara Ehrenreich: Engagingly written, though I'm not sure what to take away from it, other than "people low on the socioeconomic spectrum often have a lot on their minds," which I feel like I already appreciated at some level. I'm tempted to shrug it off by pushing universal basic income as the answer.
good 2018/07/13: The Virginian[Wikipedia], Owen Wister: I hear this is the book that introduced the first tropes of the fictional American West. It was enjoyable enough but not a stand-out, for someone who grew up with 'em.
good 2018/07/09: Parking and the City, Donald Shoup: The updates on particular pilot programs in specific cities were interesting, but overall I didn't feel I'd learned too much. It was strange to build the book out of such short articles that are nonetheless written as standalones, so that each one spends a page or so reintroducing the same shared context of the book.
good 2018/06/25: Consider Phlebas[Wikipedia], Iain Banks: A promising start to a series! So far, less mind-bending and more space-operatic than Zones of Thought, despite a similar central conceit.
great 2018/05/19: The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart, Bill Bishop: It started out slow, but by the middle we were seeing example after example of how one underlying phenomenon explained so many of the troubling recent changes in American culture.
good 2018/05/10: Submission[Wikipedia], Michel Houellebecq: A very different kind of ambiance and voice than I've experienced elsewhere. It was often hard to tell which parts were meant to be satire and which parts dead serious.
good 2018/05/09: Survival to Thrival: Building the Enterprise Startup - Book 1: The Company Journey, Bob Tinker and Tae Hea Nahm: I appreciated the very efficient presentation of a fairly straightforward way of thinking about what a startup company should be about, at different phases in its life.
good 2018/04/27: Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress[Wikipedia], Steven Pinker: A compelling and well-written case for a claim I already believed, though some of the particular statistical trends were news to me and increased my optimism
good 2018/04/12: The Annotated Sandman, Vol. 1[Wikipedia], Neil Gaiman: Edited by Leslie S. Klinger. A much quicker on-and-off-again coffee-table read than the other annotated Klinger books I've tried. Very promising so far!
great 2018/04/10: Kafka on the Shore[Wikipedia], Haruki Murakami: Despite the fact that it followed such a similar formula to 1Q84, I was still totally drawn in!
great 2018/03/29: Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow[Wikipedia], Yuval Noah Harari: Though the ending seemed a little too tethered to the very human exceptionalism that the book tries to shake readers free from, I really enjoyed the insights into value systems that we take for granted, especially the idea of how humanism is likely to cannibalize its own motivation.
great 2018/03/25: The New Annotated Dracula, Bram Stoker: Edited by Leslie S. Klinger. Wow; what a different story than I had inferred from Dracula in popular culture! A flawed story that was still a fun time, especially with a good tour guide. As with The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft, I enjoyed reading it in bits and pieces over a few months.
great 2018/03/24: Different Seasons[Wikipedia], Stephen King: And now for something completely different. The middle two stories were my favorites.
good 2018/03/08: A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America, Bruce Cannon Gibney: I learned a few things, but the tone was so bombastic and far from objective-feeling that it was hard for me to become too convinced of anything. A more compact argument, focusing on data analysis, would have worked better on me.
good 2018/02/09: Pachinko, Min Jin Lee: A quick lesson in Korean and Japanese history and culture. The narrative was reasonably compelling but somehow didn't grab me fully.
good 2018/01/30: Outliers: The Story of Success[Wikipedia], Malcolm Gladwell: Very well-written, with several fascinating case studies. Following reviews I've read, I'm not sure I'm convinced that the evidence really supports the hypothesis on the relative importance of context and relative unimportance of, say, genes. Stories about individuals (potentially cherry-picked) make for a compelling narrative but not such a convincing social-science case.
good 2018/01/28: The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson: Another of those books that I might have rated "great" if I'd read it 10 years ago. One of the really noteworthy elements for me was the very different style than I'm used to from Hanson's blog, presumably because of Simler taking more of a lead in crafting the prose. There were also a lot of footnotes, giving the impression of almost a paranoia for giving credit where it's due. I can see the book being a handy quick overview of some of the most widely applicable hidden motives, as a shortcut to reading quite a few books in evolutionary psychology.
great 2018/01/21: Death's End[Wikipedia], Cixin Liu: Continues the pattern of going somewhere completely unexpected, while playing within the same storyline begun in earlier books. The trilogy together paints a cautionary picture that might just deserve to be taken seriously, as we ponder our place in the universe.
good 2018/01/12: Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia, E. Digby Baltzell: An enjoyable mix of historical color, amidst a contest between two cultures where I can't decide who to root for. Should we hope for an uptick in the prominence of family dynasties? My position had been "heck no," but this book makes me wonder.
great 2017/12/27: iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us, Jean M. Twenge: Like Kids These Days but without the subjective parts that dampened my enthusiasm! A data-backed tour through the systematic ways that folks born from 1995 to nowabouts are differing (on average) from those who came before. We can blame it on smartphones, a tighter economy, and who knows what else.
great 2017/12/24: The Simple Path to Wealth: Your road map to financial independence and a rich, free life, JL Collins: I read this one as a candidate go-to book to recommend to other people who are bewildered at how to accumulate wealth. I was not disappointed. It covers the mechanics of investing, including emotional aspects. It emphasizes the importance of avoiding debt and minimizing expenses, though without going into much detail. That last omission is probably helpful to make the advice seem less intimidating to newcomers.
good 2017/12/23: Life on the Mississippi[Wikipedia], Mark Twain: Entertaining enough, providing some historical education. Would you believe that I started maintaining my books-to-read list in 2006, and this one had been languishing near the head of the list since then?
bad 2017/12/08: American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good, Colin Woodard: It was an interesting enough tour through a slice of American history, but I didn't feel like the author was making any kind of evidence-based point. He seemed to assume that the audience already agreed with him on a "moderate liberal" position, so that it sufficed to mention "outrages that we all already agree are terrible."
good 2017/12/02: Foundation[Wikipedia], Isaac Asimov: It definitely felt dated, but it was a quick enough way to pick up some culture on the early days of sci-fi. It's funny to be reading about space fleets with blinds on their windows and not a computer in sight!
good 2017/11/26: Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials, Malcolm Harris: A pretty thorough explanation of an attitude I've puzzled at in people about 10 years younger than I am. A little too much assumption of mainstream liberal political orientation, for my taste, but still useful and well-written.
great 2017/11/25: Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment, Robert Wright: I appreciated this one most for its explanation of the role of emotion in the thought processes that we take for granted. Another entry on the list for "owner's manuals for human brains."
great 2017/11/11: Cujo[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Strangely resistant to coming across as dated, the way many of King's books might to someone who has experienced a few decades of King-influenced books, movies, and TV. In fact, even upon finishing the book, it wasn't quite clear to me what kind of story I had read, what the book was really about. It was an entirely unique experience, which I decided meant this book was really something special. Actually, maybe what we have here is an existentialist novel trying to fly under the radar as mainstream horror.
good 2017/11/02: Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness[Wikipedia], Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein: Generally hard to argue with!
good 2017/10/30: number9dream[Wikipedia], David Mitchell: I'm on the fence between rating this one "good" and "great"! It's definitely worth reading more from the author. I'm a sucker for comic magical realism set in Japan.
bad 2017/10/25: Early Retirement Extreme: A philosophical and practical guide to financial independence, Jacob Lund Fisker: Felt like a surprise conversation with an Aspberger's-leaning engineer at a conference, who just doesn't get why his audience wouldn't find his insights fascinating. I often appreciate that communication style, but it didn't work for me here. The conceptual complexity felt way overblown for the subject matter, and the overall level of mathematical rigor didn't strike me as high enough to label the book as "formalizing ideas we take for granted, so that we are better able to make decisions." Also, the level of frugality the book argues for seems unnecessary for anyone with an upper-middle-class income, e.g. the dictum that rent should never be more than a few hundred dollars per month per resident. People who already buy into early retirement through frugality won't find much new here of value, and people who don't buy in will likely be scared away by the philosophical complexity of the presentation.
good 2017/10/22: Operation Enough!: How to Retire Remarkably Early, Anita Dhake: For me this book is solidly in the "preaching to the choir" mode, but it seems like it could be a good brief introduction to the subject for newcomers.
good 2017/10/21: The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, Ben Horowitz: Based on Tyler Cowen's review, I went into the book expecting more applicability to the life of a tenure-track professor. Most of the content, though, is quite specific to the enterprise-software industry. That's not such a big downside, since I'm expecting to devote more of my attention to that industry in the future, but for now my mind has not been blown.
good 2017/10/19: Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson, Gary Lachman: It's interesting how much I can buy into the spirit of Wilson's work and still find so many of his later topics facepalm-worthy! This is a well-written book, in any case, and it was jarring for me to experience that competent style telling the reader that, e.g., obviously we should all consider life after death well-supported by evidence.
great 2017/09/28: The Dark Forest[Wikipedia], Cixin Liu: Again like Zones of Thought, this second book in the series is built on rather different fundamental conceits than in the first book, while maintaining the same vibe. Definitely feels like it was written by an engineer who's decently far out on the autistic spectrum.
great 2017/09/03: American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, Colin Woodard: I feel like I've come away with a much better understanding of cultural differences in America, and the history was fascinating in any case.
good 2017/08/27: The Story of the Lost Child[Wikipedia], Elena Ferrante: Much as I expected from the previous books, with characters making plenty of decisions that seem to call for stern talkings-to
good 2017/08/27: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis[Wikipedia], J. D. Vance: A bit of extra anecdotal information on a segment of the country that I haven't interacted with very much
good 2017/08/23: Irrational Exuberance[Wikipedia], Robert J. Shiller: A convincing enough sketch of an argument that psychological factors explain much of variation in stocks and other market-traded assets. I'd have to read some of the academic papers to appreciate the objective, mathematical case, and I'm not feeling motivated enough to do that. Therefore, I leave with the message, "it's complicated" when it comes to global financial markets!
great 2017/08/11: The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft, H. P. Lovecraft: Edited by Leslie S. Klinger. A nice thick coffee-table book, which I read over the course of about a year. Though the last Lovecraft collection I read (in the 20th century) turned me off to this body of work, I'm glad I gave it a second chance. It absolutely deserves its place in popular culture. The part I liked least was At the Mountains of Madness, ironically the centerpiece of the collection I tried before.
good 2017/08/07: Ghost Story[Wikipedia], Peter Straub: A solidly eerie experience
good 2017/08/03: The Millionaire Next Door[Wikipedia], Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko: I really like the fast-paced, direct writing style. It made me feel like I was having a conversation with a member of a generation that achieved a level of earnestness that we're not likely to see again anytime soon. The message of the book seems like a good one, but I'm surprised that I found more to quibble with than Mr. Money Mustache's review prepared me for. Basically, the book doesn't go far enough, suggesting a still-too-high level of spending and risky investing. Especially egregious was implying that successful investing involves all sorts of manual stock-picking instead of just buying broad index funds; and it was amazing that, in discussing car expenses, the option of not driving a car wasn't even considered!
good 2017/07/31: Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, Greg Epstein: Pretty neutral overall feeling, after finishing this book. I was expecting more of a sociological survey of what nonreligious people believe, but it was more of an explanation of certain philosophical and ethical foundations, without any quantitative backing. Perhaps it's most useful to me as a window into what religious folks object to, measured indirectly via what explanation strategies the author has found to work well with them. I'm not sold on putting humans at the center of an ethical system -- that doesn't follow as the only option when we eliminate supernatural forces.
great 2017/07/23: The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World - and Us, Richard O. Prum: More than just a recapitulation of the concept of sexual selection, it presented a number of new (for me) perspectives on familiar topics. I will say that the author clearly came at all this from a 1970s countercultural perspective, where we might worry that the scientific conclusions were filtered to match social causes.
great 2017/07/09: Cryptonomicon[Wikipedia], Neal Stephenson: It's the computer-geek version of Gravity's Rainbow! I also enjoyed the Wired article included with the edition I read.
good 2017/07/02: AMC's Best Day Hikes Near Boston, Michael Tougias and John S. Burk: Impulse buy in the Harvard Coop, read interleaved with other books over several months. Well put-together, above the standard I assumed for a regional press. Makes me seriously consider getting into hiking around here.
good 2017/06/04: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking[Wikipedia], Susan Cain: One of those books that takes the "obvious" facts of everyday life and explains them through a satisfying (and accessible) scientific framework
good 2017/06/01: The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger[Wikipedia], Stephen King: A promising start to a series! Introduces plenty of dots to be connected later.
good 2017/06/01: It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways, Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig: Recommended by Jimmy Koppel, as an introduction to the practices and rationale behind paleo diets. I'd like to understand more how, in principle, the same medical-research literature is being cited here to justify such different conclusions than in, e.g., How Not to Die. One thing I noticed in this book is a focus on "feeling your best," with minimal argument about long-term health consequences of the diet.
good 2017/05/27: Man Without a Shadow, Colin Wilson: My reaction is essentially the same as to Ritual in the Dark; it makes for a good sequel.
good 2017/05/13: The Whole Foods Diet: The Lifesaving Plan for Health and Longevity, John Mackey, Alona Pulde, and Matthew Lederman: A more broadly accessible, less extreme version of How Not to Die, still sticking to a pretty solid scientific style, without much fluffy hippie perspective
great 2017/05/11: Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design[Wikipedia], Charles Montgomery: Advocating for cities designed less around motor vehicles, with a good mix of first-principles scientific results and anecdotes of interventions that have been tried
good 2017/05/05: Rainbows End[Wikipedia], Vernor Vinge: A good read in absolute terms, but not up to the standard of A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky. Mediocre sci-fi has story elements that feel like afterthoughts on top of tours of worlds that the authors have been so darned clever as to invent. Zones of Thought did a great job of avoiding that syndrome entirely, but Rainbows End leans noticeably in that direction.
good 2017/04/22: Danse Macabre[Wikipedia], Stephen King: There are at least a few good book recommendations in here, but mostly I enjoyed it for the author's discursive style, like I would a conversation with an off-the-wall and well-traveled uncle.
good 2017/04/02: Kicking Butt in Computer Science: Women in Computing at Carnegie Mellon University, Carol Frieze and Jeria Quesenberry: This was an illuminating look into a program whose early stages I experienced personally as an undergrad. I liked the refusal to take purported gender differences as the basis for designing a support program. Some fairly thorough evaluation was done to measure progress toward attracting a more diverse student body, seeing them through to graduation, and helping them come to feel that they fit in. What was really telling, though, was the almost complete lack of evaluation of educational effectiveness. A top program like CMU's CS major should be leading students towards (excuse the overblown-sounding phrasing, but I think it fits) mastery of a discipline and leadership in the field. My own anecdotal experience leads me to conclude that, concurrently with the start of the programs the book describes (there may not be a causal relationship), CMU has slipped significantly in the real intellectual measures of success. I have a feeling it has to do with the party line about diversity of interests, stigmatizing single-minded focus in a way that no one would consider doing for fields like biology or math.
good 2017/03/27: The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream, Tyler Cowen: I need more time to digest the sweeping argument of this one. I do feel like there's plenty of complacency to go around, but I had assumed that it was just part of the human condition. Part of the phenomenon seems to be an iterative system approaching a fixed point, which needn't be a bad thing.
good 2017/03/18: Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Sherry Turkle: Fairly thought-provoking stuff. The first part of the book, about social robots, is full of nearly metaphysical assertions, like that "clearly robots could never feel," without any sort of objective justification. The author seems to be having a hard time letting go of folk-psychology ideas about the essence of thinking beings. The second part of the book, about how social networking & co. have led to attention spread too thin and other woes, I had an easier time agreeing with.
good 2017/02/24: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay[Wikipedia], Elena Ferrante: The details of the protagonists' careers make me want to root for them more. I'm surprised that they're still so young, 3/4 through the series.
great 2017/01/28: Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It's Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won't Admit It, Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr.: Here's a very compelling case that the median U.S. university admissions policy is doing a lot of harm, where one of the biggest barriers to improvement is taboos against discussing the issues openly.
great 2017/01/23: Thinking, Fast and Slow[Wikipedia], Daniel Kahneman: Not to be hyperbolic, but this book should be required reading for pretty much everyone.
great 2016/12/30: The Three-Body Problem[Wikipedia], Cixin Liu: An intricate interwoven ball of speculative science and plot. Brings out some of the same themes that I enjoyed in Zones of Thought. Interestingly, I've heard that the English translation may be a better read than the Chinese original, even for native speakers of Chinese!
good 2016/12/16: Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007, Gary B. Gorton: It assumed a bit more economics background than I have, so I got lost following most of the details. However, the short version of the central theory makes sense, and, conveniently, it dovetails with my feeling of confusion in reading the book, in suggesting that some popular investment products have just gotten too darn hard to understand!
good 2016/12/04: Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Back-Room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy, Jonathan Rauch: Short enough to be worth giving a try. I understand the main message like this: coordinating many people to implement political policies requires complex control mechanisms that idealists often disdain. Best practices for those mechanisms wind up looking a lot like what gets labeled "corruption" by today's mainstream media.
great 2016/11/27: There Is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow, Jeffrey J. Selingo: A nice little gem that summarizes how young people should be reorienting their education and career plans. I might start recommending this to the undergrads I advise! My one (pretty big) disagreement: the implied advice to avoid doing real stuff and exploring career paths before age 18.
good 2016/11/24: Firestarter[Wikipedia], Stephen King: The basic story seemed very familiar, but then I remembered that King likely (co-?)invented this trope of "government experiment gives average people superpowers, then they get chased down by Uncle Sam"! Pretty good stuff.
great 2016/11/20: How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease, Michael Greger: A very thorough and convincing analysis of best practices for healthy diets. I'm inspired to make some serious changes to what I eat.
good 2016/11/12: A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History[Wikipedia], Nicholas Wade: A good case against taboos on studying genetic causes of social behavior, without a strong argument that particular, interesting differences exist between the populations that the book focuses on
good 2016/11/05: The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, Henry Miller: What a weird mishmash of different content styles: travelogue and then stream-of-consciousness essays on art and politics and then back again. The travelogue content was pretty good, while the rest generally got on my nerves.
good 2016/10/22: Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality, Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura T. Hamilton: A well-executed look into the lives of a segment of the college-going population that I've had minimal interaction with. It's hard for me not to wonder if everyone in scope for this study, namely students who wind up at universities that are nonelite but moderately selective, is doomed anyway, with automation taking over most of the desirable jobs they had shots at.
good 2016/10/10: The Savage Detectives[Wikipedia], Roberto Bolaño: Memorable and distinctive content and structure. My head hurts from keeping track of all the characters.
great 2016/09/17: Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will, Geoff Colvin: Ironically, I really enjoyed this book while disagreeing strongly with the top-level point of the title! The book begins with two axioms, one of which is that humans will remain at the center of the economy indefinitely. I don't buy it, but I had no trouble appreciating the rest of the book as a study into how to organize human-based systems efficiently. I was surprised at how many "obvious-in-retrospect" good human-modeling ideas popped up here that I don't remember from past reading.
good 2016/09/07: The Story of a New Name[Wikipedia], Elena Ferrante: More of the same from the last book, not quite as novel any more, but getting interesting at the end with the protagonists' first forays into creative careers
good 2016/08/27: Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir, Wednesday Martin: Very well-written. This little corner of our society showcases some horrible incentives miscalibration, with all the diversion of resources to goofy ends.
great 2016/08/24: Hive Mind: How Your Nation's IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own[Wikipedia], Garett Jones: Nice and short, with great density of "huh, why didn't I think of that?"-inspiring remarks about the effects of intelligence on economies
great 2016/08/21: The Dead Zone[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Way more heart, artistry, and originality than I expected from my stereotypes of horror movies. Of the King books I've read so far, this one has the strongest element of "life is a bummer" at its core.
bad 2016/08/06: Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles, David L. Ulin: My overall rating of this book is a tough call. In the end, I decided that, while reading it, I was too eager for it to end. Not knowing the geography of Los Angeles probably left me unprepared to appreciate it, and I have to say that the book didn't increase my enthusiasm for spending more time there! The prose style was also too overwrought for my taste.
great 2016/07/31: My Brilliant Friend[Wikipedia], Elena Ferrante: Very effective at pulling me into the world of the characters and their personal dramas
great 2016/07/27: From Beirut to Jerusalem[Wikipedia], Thomas L. Friedman: It grew on me while reading. In the end, I appreciated the vivid introduction to one of those world political situations that I've been hearing about my whole life but never really looked into in detail before.
great 2016/07/10: Zero K[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: I think I figured out the central quality of the DeLillo books that I like the most: they follow a particular sort of dream logic. The characters all seem to be speaking with essentially the same voice, and much of the dialogue is delivered monologue-style, with the receptive narrator as perhaps the only listener who's really following. Everyone is less concerned with day-to-day earthly matters than they would be in the real world.
good 2016/07/07: The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence, Rachel Simmons: A useful characterization of a persistent social failing [found via Jean's technical privilege reading list]
good 2016/06/30: The Age of Em: Work, Love and Life when Robots Rule the Earth[Wikipedia], Robin Hanson: An interesting treatment of one scenario within an important space of likely future developments. The funny thing is that the author admits that technology trends would likely give this style of civilization only a few years of life, before it replaces itself with one driven by much less recognizably human actors. I think the author underestimates the chance that those less human actors are technologically feasible before the human emulations he focuses on; it seems hard to argue that, cognitively speaking, we can't do much better than the human architecture by exploring very different designs.
good 2016/06/24: How to Write a Thesis, Umberto Eco: Enjoyed as a glimpse both into another time and into the strange world of research in the humanities, in addition, of course, to the author's peerless style
good 2016/06/19: Numero Zero[Wikipedia], Umberto Eco: Clever, frenetic, and over quickly, with something of the feeling of a friend telling you a far-fetched story in one sitting
good 2016/06/18: The Mismeasure of Man[Wikipedia], Stephen Jay Gould: I'm glad I spent the time reading this book to pick up a bit of cultural literacy, but it was a frustrating experience, with most of the space spent on history irrelevant to scientific questions of how heritable and immutable human intelligence is. Three main choices in framing made the book unconvincing to me: (1) a focus on history, trying to show that certain ideas must be wrong because they were associated with particular goofball scientists; (2) an argument against the "logical error" of "reifying" general intelligence "as a thing," without explaining rigorously what "reification" really means here, apparently denying that it makes sense to introduce empirically backed measurements solely because of their predictive power; and (3) too frequently arguing that some scientific question must be resolved in a certain way because the alternative offends the author's political sensibilities. Almost no space was spent on critiques, beyond those of the 3 kinds I listed, of relatively recent studies, like The Bell Curve, even though two essays are devoted to criticism of that book, as appendices.
good 2016/06/10: The Stand[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Well-done as always. I was surprised at how much it reminded me of the television show Lost, including my feeling, near the end, that the author hadn't planned out the story very carefully, with a variety of plot elements being thrown under the bus haphazardly, never paying off like I had expected them to.
good 2016/05/24: Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, Martin Ford: Very well-written; effectively makes many points that I agree with whole-heartedly. I felt like I'd heard most of it before, but this could be a hard-hitting book for someone who is new to this perspective.
great 2016/05/17: Norwegian Wood[Wikipedia], Haruki Murakami: Haunting and memorable. An interesting similarity in mood to 1Q84 without the magical realism.
good 2016/05/05: The Road to Character[Wikipedia], David Brooks: As much as the central theme came to feel like so much emotional nonsense, the tour through some biographies was engaging enough.
good 2016/04/16: The Handmaid's Tale[Wikipedia], Margaret Atwood: A memorable little world, with almost-relatable characters
great 2016/04/09: The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter, Joseph Henrich: Over and over again, I felt like I was being reminded of something I already knew but that I had never thought of before. This is a really illuminating overview of the human social brain.
great 2016/03/08: The Pale King[Wikipedia], David Foster Wallace: Even unfinished, it blew me away. Often more of the feel of a short-story collection than a novel, but that's a form that's worked well before for the author. The IRS has never been more fun.
good 2016/01/30: Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life[Wikipedia], Daniel Dennett: Good stuff, largely hard to disagree with, written well. It would have made a bigger impact on me if I had read it before all those other books on evolutionary psychology.
great 2015/12/28: The Bachman Books[Wikipedia], Stephen King: It must be one heck of an author who publishes books like these as rejects under a pseudonym! I felt like The Long Walk was (ironically) too long, though it was a worthwhile, eerie experience. The other three were well worth every page.
good 2015/11/25: The Rise of the Creative Class--Revisited: Revised and Expanded[Wikipedia], Richard Florida: An enjoyable read and a compelling theory, though I have to resist the temptation to nod along with a theory that puts my line of work in such an honored place, and in general with an author who promotes so many of my pet causes.
good 2015/11/06: Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself, Rich Roll: Very well-written and pretty engaging, though I was left doubting the objective justification for the author's dietary choices, given some of the hippie-style stuff that showed up
good 2015/10/29: By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, Charles Murray: An interesting idea that I haven't finished mulling over yet
great 2015/10/08: Dying Inside[Wikipedia], Robert Silverberg: Really something unique and compelling. It's also short enough that there isn't much to lose by giving it a try!
good 2015/10/07: Mate: Become the Man Women Want, Tucker Max and Geoffrey Miller: I appreciated this book for both its near and far content (see term explanations). It was pretty novel to see evolutionary psychology occassionally explained with humor apparently designed explicitly to offend a general audience. I would have preferred a tone closer to what's usual in popular-science books, but really it was just fine as-is.
great 2015/10/03: The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom[Wikipedia], Jonathan Haidt: Another amazingly effective book that I appreciate for the same reasons as The Righteous Mind
great 2015/09/25: 1Q84[Wikipedia], Haruki Murakami: The reviews that describe it as dreamlike are spot-on. Kudos to the English translators for making such good use of idiomatic expressions. And one of the Little People said "Ho ho."
great 2015/08/30: The Computer Boys Take Over: Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise, Nathan Ensmenger: The content was fascinating, though the form was a little weird (e.g., several quotes were repeated multiple times, with no acknowledgment of said repetition). I appreciated both learning more about the history of programming and getting some perspective on how easy it is to take technological systems for granted. One example is the idea of high-level programming languages (introduced in the second half of the 1950s) as a scheme by management to take "good, middle-class jobs" away from low-level coders. The whole experience provides some emotional ammunition for people working on new programming technologies that most folks "just don't get," not to mention other kinds of more "out-there" technological progress.
good 2015/08/28: You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), Felicia Day: An enjoyable ride through neurosis and triumph
bad 2015/08/21: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy[Wikipedia], Joseph Schumpeter: I hesitated between tagging this one as "bad" or "good." I learned of the book, in the first place, as the one that introduced the concept of creative destruction in free markets, and, sure enough, that's in here. There's also quite a bit else which was mostly dull. I was surprised that the book, cited for its contribution of one of the main popular arguments for capitalism, is fundamentally arguing for the inevitability of socialism! It's done in a relatively defensible way, but I'm not convinced, and I didn't have too much fun reading until the end.
good 2015/07/08: Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs, Lauren A. Rivera: Informative, but not as interesting to me as I would have liked, since it only studied consulting, investment banking, and law, businesses that I don't consider to be terribly important
good 2015/06/27: Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve, Ian Morris: A very well-written presentation of an idea that I was already pretty familiar with. It may very well have crossed the line into "great" if I read it 5 years ago.
great 2015/06/18: 2666[Wikipedia], Roberto Bolaño: A twisty maze of interlocking stories told well, with a dreamlike atmosphere
bad 2015/04/29: Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge, Michael Suk-Young Chwe: The core thesis is interesting, but the style of the book was just not my cup of tea. It seemed intentionally obfuscated like I expect to see in a caricature of the humanities.
good 2015/04/25: Last Night in Twisted River[Wikipedia], John Irving: Unexceptional Irving material.
good 2015/04/01: What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry[Wikipedia], John Markoff: Interesting historical context in a well-written form, though I didn't feel an especially strong case was made for a fundamental link between computing and counterculture
good 2015/03/24: Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, Robert D. Putnam: Engaging but somehow not entirely convincing
good 2015/03/20: Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking), Christian Rudder: Some fascinating conclusions, though sometimes the writing style seemed too bombastic.
good 2015/03/15: Sundiver[Wikipedia], David Brin: Clever but not exceptional; a bit pulpy, too. Might return to this series eventually.
good 2015/02/22: Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich, Robert Frank: An enjoyable read, but it's hard to come away with any serious conclusions. Is the author just picking and choosing the most entertaining examples of conspicuous consumption, or is there a real, socially important trend here? I enjoyed smirking periodically, considering that the book was published just before the 2008 financial collapse, and probably a good fraction of the characters wound up in dire straits shortly.
good 2015/02/19: Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us, Avi Tuschman: A pretty good addition to this important field. My two main reservations: (1) while most of the book is written in an objective, scientific style, the author's liberal leanings occassionally show through, in gratuitous mockery of conservative celebrities; (2) the book didn't quite help me sum everything up in one actionable theory that's easy to remember.
good 2015/01/21: Night Shift[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Well-done as usual
good 2015/01/19: The Sense of Style, Steven Pinker: I feel emboldened to ignore some of the grammatical "rules" I've learned over the years.
good 2015/01/12: The Children of the Sky[Wikipedia], Vernor Vinge: Enjoyable enough, but it abandoned the basic format of the previous two books and wasn't nearly as much fun.
good 2014/12/21: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty[Wikipedia], Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo: A number of interesting conclusions drawn about behavioral patterns in developing countries
great 2014/12/17: Ritual in the Dark, Colin Wilson: Full of life, fun, and poetic, like Adrift in Soho but moreso
good 2014/12/06: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think[Wikipedia], Bryan Caplan: I'm convinced!
great 2014/12/06: The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, Jon Gertner: An inspiring look at the research process and the foundations of information and communication technology
good 2014/11/24: The Shining[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Very atmospheric and well-executed, with a kind of depth of detail and context that the movie version couldn't muster
good 2014/11/05: In Our Hands: A Plan To Replace The Welfare State, Charles Murray: It all sounds very plausible and appealing for its simplicity.
great 2014/11/02: A Deepness in the Sky[Wikipedia], Vernor Vinge: It's amazing how close the basic formula here is to A Fire Upon The Deep while keeping the particulars different enough that it's no less of a page turner!
good 2014/10/12: The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic, Jonathan Rottenberg: Good message, though I think the book could have stood to be quite a bit shorter.
great 2014/09/12: A Fire Upon the Deep[Wikipedia], Vernor Vinge: A pretty amazing contrast between my impressions 20 pages in and at the end. Started slowly and wound up being extremely inventive and well-executed.
good 2014/08/22: Carrie[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Pretty darned good for a first novel!
good 2014/08/20: The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh: Much more practically oriented than my usual reading material, but could come in handy.
good 2014/08/16: Americans Against the City: Anti-Urbanism in the Twentieth Century, Steven Conn: An enjoyable tour through an important aspect of American history, though without a strong synthesis into a new perspective or strategy
great 2014/08/02: Snow Crash[Wikipedia], Neal Stephenson: It's the cyberpunk Infinite Jest!
good 2014/07/19: The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee: I'm so used to this narrative already that I'm not sure what that's new I took away from reading it, but it's probably a good introduction to this line of thought.
good 2014/07/19: The Compatibility Gene: How Our Bodies Fight Disease, Attract Others, and Define Our Selves, Daniel M. Davis: A solid piece of popular-science writing about our immune systems and the funny interactions they have with other parts of our biology
good 2014/07/05: The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist, Frederick Brooks: It's hard for me to tell how much I got out of reading it. The highlights were (1) accounts of some 1960's computer hardware/software projects and (2) some parts on design in house-building.
good 2014/06/07: The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success, Megan McArdle: Reads like a set of well-written essays (longish blog posts?) on the general subject of failure and bouncing back therefrom.
good 2014/06/01: Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty[Wikipedia], Daron Acemoğlu and James A. Robinson: A simple theory that is hard to argue with, presented pretty well
good 2014/05/11: Adrift in Soho[Wikipedia], Colin Wilson: It's a bit like Rosy Crucifixion in London!
good 2014/05/09: The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead: Dos and Don'ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life, Charles Murray: The first half or so was satisfying in the same way as standing around the water cooler complaining about the boss. Ended on a low note with the unqualified disapproval of atheism, absent any kind of convincing argument in favor of religion, for folks who don't already buy into supernatural thinking.
great 2014/05/07: The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life[Wikipedia], Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray: A contentious analysis of some important issues, which I'd say is worth reading for its unusual perspective.
good 2014/04/03: Generation A[Wikipedia], Douglas Coupland: Something completely different; clever narrative devices, though the plot wasn't quite my flavor
good 2014/03/11: Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America[Wikipedia], Thomas L. Friedman: A message that's hard to argue with, conveyed pretty well, but in too many words. I think a shorter account would have been more effective, focusing on the big take-aways.
great 2014/02/01: The Prague Cemetery[Wikipedia], Umberto Eco: A cross between the subject matter and style of Foucault's Pendulum and Baudolino; tons of fun!
great 2014/01/26: The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, Amanda Ripley: A very well-written consideration of which factors really matter in developing higher-order thinking skills in schoolchildren, coming to a pretty simple conclusion
good 2014/01/20: Sex at Dusk: Lifting the Shiny Wrapping from Sex at Dawn, Lynn Saxon: Thought-provoking stuff. Now I can see why Amazon reviewers described it as "dry." The writing and argument style isn't as "pop" as in Sex at Dawn, but it sure does sound like the authors of said book cut some serious corners.
good 2013/12/31: Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality[Wikipedia], Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá: Very well-written and thought-provoking. Now to read Sex at Dusk and see the counterarguments....
good 2013/12/26: The Sirens of Titan[Wikipedia], Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: For a book with one serious downer of a message about free will, this was a fun ride. Recommended for fans of paranoid fiction.
great 2013/12/24: Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming[Wikipedia], Peter Seibel: An extremely entertaining read! The focus on folks who had been around longer worked out well, I think. The discussions here got me to thinking about how formal verification really should be an effective replacement for the laborious debugging sessions that interviewees relate here.
good 2013/12/12: Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives, Amy J. Binder and Kate Wood: Interesting enough, but just not what I was looking for. Sociology is weird, and the idea of "conservative" vs. "liberal" in the U.S. is crazy.
great 2013/12/01: Bleeding Edge[Wikipedia], Thomas Pynchon: Well, that's a relief; Pynchon seems to be back on track! Stylistically, this one sits somewhere in between Inherent Vice and Gravity's Rainbow. There was a surprising amount of computing inside-joke humor; I don't know how the average reader will react (Tyler Cowen couldn't stand the book; maybe this is why?). The retro 2001 milieu was lots of fun for me.
great 2013/11/17: Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture[Wikipedia], David Kushner: Not very literary, but for me a fun walk down memory lane. Even though I was never that serious of a gamer, the events described here were part of the context during some of the most fun years of my life.
good 2013/11/11: Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict, Ara Norenzayan: A pretty convincing argument for an intuitively appealing theory of why big-box religion developed
great 2013/10/15: Average is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation[Wikipedia], Tyler Cowen: A fun unified projection of what we have coming. It seems pretty plausible that the trends predicted here will be extremely important while simultaneously being appreciated by very few people today. A bit too much time spent on a computer-chess metaphor, for my tastes.
great 2013/10/02: 'Salem's Lot[Wikipedia], Stephen King: Not too fancy, well put-together, fun retro feel. The "monsters come to small-town New England" idea is tons of fun.
good 2013/09/04: Point Omega[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: Short and surreal.
great 2013/09/01: Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace[Wikipedia], David Lipsky: What's not to like about sort of crawling inside David Foster Wallace's head?
great 2013/08/26: The Radicalism of the American Revolution[Wikipedia], Gordon S. Wood: A fascinating look at the development of the social structure that we take for granted in America today. Some parts felt a bit slow-going, but overall seems like essential reading for anyone interested in pondering ways the social order could be reengineered. A good andidote to the lazy claim that nothing ever changes politically!
good 2013/06/20: Back to Blood[Wikipedia], Tom Wolfe: Decent. Not very intellectual-feeling.
bad 2013/05/01: Planet of Cities, Shlomo Angel: This might be very good economics scholarship, but I found it extremely dull, mostly a parade of data and statistical results. I gave up halfway through.
great 2013/02/24: On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense[Wikipedia], David Brooks: Hard to characterize and not entirely what I expected, but very well-presented and engrossing.
great 2013/02/19: Human Capitalism: How Economic Growth Has Made Us Smarter--and More Unequal, Brink Lindsey: Very high value per page count, considering what seems like a central social problem of our time.
good 2013/02/10: Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know, Jason Brennan: Structured as a series of questions with answers, grouped by topic. I probably would have liked a more traditional (and opinion-full) narrative better.
good 2013/01/26: Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans, David Niose: I have mixed feelings about this book. I felt like most of it was "preaching to the choir," repeating standard complaints about abuse of church-state separation and so on. I was really after detailed information on the history of recent secular movements. There was some of that, and it was good enough to make me think about getting involved in related activism.
bad 2013/01/12: Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy[Wikipedia], Chris Hayes: Many sections were enjoyable enough to read, but in the end I don't really get what is the central argument of the book. The author takes up economic equality as an "obvious" goal, but I'm not convinced, and so I didn't see the point of most of the proposals near the end.
bad 2012/12/26: The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability, Lierre Keith: I haven't yet finished looking into the factual content, but the style is extremely off-putting, with frequent tone transfusions of both Stoned Hippie and Angry Oppressed Person. One chapter spends many too many words arguing against a crazy version of ethical vegetarianism where killing anything is wrong, which I don't think is very common, and which I've never come close to subscribing to. There are calls for a feminist, anti-corporatist revolution sprinkled throughout.
good 2012/12/04: The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined[Wikipedia], Steven Pinker: Could probably have been quite a bit shorter without losing value, but still I found it very thought-provoking (apparently enough to keep me reading to the end!).
great 2012/09/13: Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There[Wikipedia], David Brooks: A fun exposition of a nifty insight
great 2012/09/07: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion[Wikipedia], Jonathan Haidt: This one gets added to my shortlist of must-reads in evolutionary pyschology; another piece of the owner's manual for human brains!
great 2012/08/15: Just Food: How Locavores are Endangering the Future of Food and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, James E. McWilliams: Important information presented very well. This is close to what I've been looking for: a summary of the facts in favor of some unconventional choices, justified in terms of environmental impact. The part that frustrates me is the inconsistency in, on the one hand, quotes about the importance of minimizing intake of animal products, and, on the other hand, details of how fish ought to be raised for food. Does the author believe this aquaculture isn't substantially worse environmentally than veganism, or does he just think it's politically impossible to eliminate meat consumption?
good 2012/07/25: Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society, Jim Manzi: I'm not sure what to make of this book. I feel like it used way too many words to get across a not-especially-complex message. The author is a very good wordsmith; it was hard to find complaints with any individual paragraphs. Yet the whole thing was unsatisfying, considering the length. It felt somewhat like a stream-of-consciousness brain dump, albeit by a talented writer, supporting a worthwhile message.
good 2012/05/20: The Rent is Too Damn High, Matt Yglesias: Persuasive arguments, but not too much I hadn't already seen elsewhere
good 2012/05/14: The Natural Survival of Work: Job Creation and Job Destruction in a Growing Economy, Pierre Cahuc and André Zylberberg: Some good perspectives on employment
good 2012/04/29: An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies, Tyler Cowen: A fun read, with a mix of high-minded theorizing and practical advice
great 2012/04/15: Down and Out in Paris and London[Wikipedia], George Orwell: Reminds me of Henry Miller! Orwell has quite a way with words.
good 2012/04/01: Coming Apart: The State of White America[Wikipedia], Charles Murray: Well-written, but I'm not sure what to make of the conclusions.
good 2012/03/11: The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution[Wikipedia], Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending: A pretty good case that serious evolutionary forces have been active for humans more recently than most folks think
good 2012/02/18: Confessions of a Crap Artist[Wikipedia], Philip K. Dick: Much less about the narrator than I was expecting. Not quite sure what to think of it.
good 2012/02/11: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything[Wikipedia], Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: Short and sweet. Not as much fun as some economics-inspired books that aren't aimed so much at the general public.
good 2012/01/30: Launching The Innovation Renaissance: A New Path to Bring Smart Ideas to Market Fast, Alex Tabarrok: I agree with what he's saying and somehow didn't learn too much; but I can't complain about such a short essay.
good 2012/01/28: The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better[Wikipedia], Tyler Cowen: An interesting perspective that I'd gotten plenty of from the blogosphere before reading this
good 2012/01/22: The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory, Torkel Klingberg: You might not guess that a book about working memory would be much fun, but this was fairly informative and enjoyable. Contrary to my expectations, it really is almost entirely about working memory.
bad 2011/12/27: Disciplined Minds[Wikipedia], Jeff Schmidt: Somewhat thought provoking, but mostly unsatisfying. Most all of the author's complaints about PhD programs don't seem to apply to top computer science programs; I don't know how accurate they are elsewhere. I was surprised by this book's tone when I started reading it; somehow, when I first added it to my "to read" list, I hadn't realized that the book is targeted to "radicals" and "activists." The author doesn't spend any space trying to explain why the reader might want to become such a thing, so that was another serious turn-off for me.
bad 2011/12/08: From Two Cultures To No Culture, Robert Whelan: A big old pile of meta-discussion about who said what about whom
good 2011/11/30: Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences, Thomas Armstrong: Lots of really interesting stuff in here, but the special education angle didn't appeal to me.
good 2011/11/24: Comfortably Unaware, Richard A. Oppenlander: This was an aggravating book. On the first page, I noticed a typo, a horrifying font/spacing convention, and the clumsy, patronizing, and preachy prose style. However, the core of information in the book seems very worth knowing. The way it is presented leaves me wondering how much I can trust in its accuracy, but I haven't yet seen a reason to doubt it. It would be nice to find a better, less emotional presentation of the same essential facts about the costs of animal-based food production and consumption.
good 2011/11/20: Everyman[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: I went into this one not realizing that the focus would be aging, illness, and death. Doesn't sound so enjoyable, right? It turned out to be a fun read.
good 2011/11/10: Falling Man[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: At first I wasn't very optimistic; 9/11 is a pretty heavy subject for DeLillo. However, he wound up pulling it off very well. The usual surreal elements crept in eventually.
good 2011/10/20: Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, Edward Glaeser: Fun to read, though perhaps a bit of preaching to the choir, in my case
good 2011/09/26: Bowling Alone[Wikipedia], Robert D. Putnam: Definitely got me thinking, though the focus on particular archaic-feeling forms of social involvement seemed undermotivated.
good 2011/08/18: The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement[Wikipedia], David Brooks: The first third or so was great. There's a very meta aspect to the later parts of the book, which was clever at first, but which I started to feel was being abused. I won't spoil the details of what I'm talking about. ;-)
good 2011/08/05: The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate, David Archer: A reasonable description of how little we know about climate changes and our effect on them
good 2011/06/30: The Lonely Crowd[Wikipedia], David Riesman: Thought-provoking, though it was often hard for me to get past the dated elements of the book. The last few chapters were especially unsatisfying, partly for that reason.
good 2011/06/05: The Evolution of Cooperation, Robert Axelrod: I've seen the executive summary of this material so many times in other books that it's hard to evaluate the worth of the full version.
good 2011/06/05: The Revolution: A Manifesto[Wikipedia], Ron Paul: Largely agreeable, though not very novel
good 2011/05/31: Imperial, William T. Vollmann: Long enough that I often wondered whether it was worth finishing. Overall an enjoyable experience, raising interesting issues about how large populations of people can organize themselves in a modern setting.
good 2011/02/13: The Death and Life of Great American Cities[Wikipedia], Jane Jacobs: Interesting ideas that I need to ponder more. It didn't always hold my interest in the particulars.
good 2011/01/01: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin[Wikipedia], Benjamin Franklin: It's hard to imagine a book written today being so explicit about a search for "moral perfection," but I found the approach really attractive. I wonder how thoroughly the author followed through with it.
good 2010/12/17: Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade, Henri Pirenne: This was enjoyable enough, but still on the low end of "good."
good 2010/12/08: The Genial Gene: Deconstructing Darwinian Selfishness, Joan Roughgarden: Some interesting stuff, though I kept getting hung up on what exactly was the definition of "truth" of an evolutionary theory that this book was oriented around.
great 2010/11/28: Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days, Jessica Livingston: This was really fun and seems like a great extended pep talk for people considering doing the startup thing.
good 2010/11/23: City on the Edge: Buffalo, New York, 1900 - present, Mark Goldman: I seesawed between liking and not liking it. The not liking came from feeling that it was a "one thing after another" kind of history book without a broader message (and also from some poor copyediting and laugh-out-loud bad phrasing). The liking probably had most to do with the consistent anti-urban-renewal focus.
good 2010/10/24: How to Win Friends and Influence People[Wikipedia], Dale Carnegie: It's unclear how useful this will be, but it was very entertaining. I'm glad I followed Paul Graham's advice and got my hands on an early edition, complete with content that doesn't follow today's rules for political correctness.
good 2010/10/08: Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon[Wikipedia], Daniel Dennett: Well-written; I'm not sure exactly what I took away from it, but I enjoyed the ride.
great 2010/10/02: The High Cost of Free Parking[Wikipedia], Donald Shoup: This was a long one, but it was a lot of fun to read.
good 2010/09/03: The Future of Europe: Reform or Decline, Alberto Alesina and Francesco Giavazzi: Interesting, though I'm not sure I got much out of it
great 2010/08/29: Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior, Christopher Boehm: A very interesting perspective on the roots of political behavior
good 2010/08/23: Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life[Wikipedia], Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis: A well-written presentation of an interesting perspective. I got a good chuckle out of the socialist elements, which stayed manageable until the last part of the book, which is entirely skippable.
good 2010/08/19: Tomorrow's Professor: Preparing for Careers in Science and Engineering, Richard M. Reis: Like with the last one, I'm not sure if I got much out of reading this. In contrast, the prose here seemed overly preachy/condescending and generally didn't leave me with warm feelings.
good 2010/08/15: A Ph.D. Is Not Enough!, Peter J. Feibelman: Quite well-written, and short enough that I don't feel bad about not thinking too hard about what I got out of it.
great 2010/08/01: The Big Questions: Tackling the Problems of Philosophy with Ideas from Mathematics, Economics and Physics, Steven E. Landsburg: Short and sweet, but with high enjoyment value per page
good 2010/07/30: From Poverty to Prosperity: Intangible Assets, Hidden Liabilities and the Lasting Triumph over Scarcity, Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz: Not bad, not great; for me, more like a cheerleading exercise than anything else.
good 2010/07/23: Sex and Reason, Richard Posner: Clear-headed and thought-provoking, though not earth-shaking
good 2010/07/20: Midnight's Children[Wikipedia], Salman Rushdie: Entertaining enough. Too long and too much foreshadowing.
good 2010/06/10: Free to Choose[Wikipedia], Milton Friedman and Rose D. Friedman: I forgot to log this book until some weeks after finishing it, so I don't remember details, but it was probably pretty good. :-)
good 2010/05/12: Goodbye, Columbus[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: Decent
good 2010/04/27: Winesburg, Ohio[Wikipedia], Sherwood Anderson: I read this because Henry Miller seemed to be a fan. It was all right, but somehow didn't quite do it for me.
great 2010/04/03: The Evolution of God[Wikipedia], Robert Wright: Compared to my expectations, this was a lot more about politics and a lot less about evolutionary psychology. Near the end, though, the author brings in a really interesting message about the origins of morality in social evolution.
good 2010/03/21: Fixing College Education: A New Curriculum for the Twenty-First Century, Charles Muscatine: This book doesn't seem to have much to say about education in highly technical fields. Thus, while I agree with the book's criticisms, I'm not sure the proposed solutions are generally applicable.
good 2010/03/18: Simple Rules for a Complex World, Richard Epstein: Not always engrossing, but I feel more law-y already
good 2010/02/18: Inherent Vice[Wikipedia], Thomas Pynchon: Different but fun
bad 2010/02/02: Why Gods Persist: A Scientific Approach to Religion, Robert Hinde: I had to bail on this one early on. It was clumsy stylistically and didn't seem to be painting any kind of big picture.
good 2010/01/24: The Colossus of Maroussi, Henry Miller: Very lively
good 2010/01/13: Democracy in America, Volume I[Wikipedia], Alexis de Tocqueville: Interesting, though the value per page didn't seem quite high enough. Still, it stands the test of time pretty well.
good 2009/12/10: Guns, Germs, and Steel[Wikipedia], Jared Diamond: Interesting without really being riveting
good 2009/11/27: Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice, Tom G. Palmer: Some insightful stuff, but also a few chapters that are too much about arguing against particular works; not enough convincing rational argument in general
great 2009/11/18: The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, Elyn R. Saks: Kind of harrowing, but a real page-turner
great 2009/11/15: The Satanic Verses[Wikipedia], Salman Rushdie: Reminds me of Thomas Pynchon without the geek factor.
good 2009/10/12: The Voluntary City: Choice, Community, and Civil Society[Wikipedia], David T. Beito, Peter Gordon, and Alexander Tabarrok: It didn't always have me on the edge of my seat, but there was still plenty of thought-provoking stuff.
good 2009/10/01: Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life[Wikipedia], Nick Lane: Interesting and well-written, in that plucky British style
great 2009/09/26: Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air, David J. C. MacKay: A really enjoyable and informative read. There's definitely something to be said for the signature British writing style. [available free online]
great 2009/09/06: Amazons: An Intimate Memoir By the First Woman to Play in the National Hockey League[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: Really well put together, like an extended poem
bad 2009/09/04: Ancestral Roots: Modern Living and Human Evolution, Timothy Clack: There was some interesting information and speculation in here, but too much of the book came across as moralizing. The copy-editing was also notably poor.
bad 2009/08/21: Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science[Wikipedia], Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt: I didn't feel like I learned much from this book. The authors attacked particular quotations from a hand-picking of authors, so it's hard to tell which points are valid against the whole body of literature that they're dissecting. I don't know how it would be possible to do better, but that doesn't mean that this book is very helpful. The prose was also a little too purple for me.
good 2009/08/14: A Devil's Chaplain[Wikipedia], Richard Dawkins: Some decent material. I don't really like Dawkins's over-flowery writing style.
bad 2009/08/07: Mazel, Rebecca Goldstein: This one ended up being a wild ride. The first few chapters seemed very promising, but the bulk of the book just didn't interest me.
good 2009/07/25: The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering[Wikipedia], Frederick Brooks: For a light read, I enjoyed this well enough, more for the retro appeal than for the presence of much advice that seems relevant today.
good 2009/07/23: The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature, Geoffrey Miller: Some good information about what seems to be a really useful theory
good 2009/07/16: Programmers at Work: Interviews With 19 Programmers Who Shaped the Computer Industry, Susan Lammers: Good stuff. The earlier interviews (which were with the older programmers) I liked substantially more than the later ones.
great 2009/07/11: Consider the Lobster[Wikipedia], David Foster Wallace: And I thought he couldn't push this footnote stuff any further....
good 2009/06/21: The Stuff of Thought: Language As a Window Into Human Nature[Wikipedia], Steven Pinker: As usual, an enjoyable read, though it was often hard to figure out what exactly I had learned from each chapter.
good 2009/05/25: Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes, William H. Gates Sr. and Chuck Collins: 99% estate tax or bust!
good 2009/05/23: The Broom of the System[Wikipedia], David Foster Wallace: I can see the germ of the good stuff yet to come, but this one just didn't hang together in the satisfying way of Wallace's later work.
good 2009/04/19: Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count, Richard Nisbett: An interesting overview. I was most bothered by ignoring the extremes of intelligence.
great 2009/04/08: The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century[Wikipedia], Thomas L. Friedman: Reading this, I get a sense of what religious folk might feel readin' scripture.
good 2009/03/17: Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling, John Taylor Gatto: OK, but I didn't get much out of it that I hadn't already gotten out of Gatto's past writings
great 2009/03/16: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time[Wikipedia], Mark Haddon: Totally identified with the protagonist....
good 2009/03/14: Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal[Wikipedia], Eric Schlosser: Interesting, but not a page-turner
great 2009/03/07: The Lexus and the Olive Tree[Wikipedia], Thomas L. Friedman: A really interesting synthesis of different aspects of globalization into a Unifying Theory
good 2009/02/17: The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton[Wikipedia], Jerome Karabel: Some very illuminating information in here. The book was too long, but for some reason I followed through to the end anyway. There was good stuff appearing pretty frequently; there was just too much padding, too.
good 2009/01/17: Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education, Harry R. Lewis: Plenty of thought-provoking stuff in here. My biggest point of disagreement had to do with the downsides of large-scale spectator-oriented athletics, regardless of if that kind of activity is "natural." I also don't feel encumbered by tradition in designing future educational institutions, so conclusions based on assumptions like the continued use of lectures aren't that interesting to me.
bad 2009/01/15: Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties, Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner: I think I've been spoiled by books that analyze topics and synthesize new hypotheses or recommendations. I couldn't stand to finish this book, which is a mishmash of quoted stories grouped by topic, with minimal connecting text. From reading the description, I got the impression that most of the big elements of "quarterlife crises" weren't occurring for me, and that seems mostly accurate, based on what I read. I should make a note to, in the future, avoid reading books based on that kind of curiosity when the books were featured on Oprah.
good 2009/01/13: 100 Million Unnecessary Returns: A Simple, Fair, and Competitive Tax Plan for the United States, Michael J. Graetz: This seems like a pretty darned good proposal.
good 2009/01/09: Exit Ghost[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: The End
great 2009/01/02: The Moral Animal[Wikipedia], Robert Wright: More fascinating stuff, though falling off in interestingness near the end
bad 2008/12/25: The Age of Defeat, Colin Wilson: This started out interesting but devolved into seemingly random mentions of different authors and their works.
good 2008/12/22: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes[Wikipedia], Anita Loos: Nothing to write home about
good 2008/12/21: The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World[Wikipedia], Alan Greenspan: Got a little boring 'round the end, but interesting nonetheless
good 2008/12/06: A Class Apart: Prodigies, Pressure, and Passion Inside One of America's Best High Schools, Alec Klein: An interesting read. I couldn't help noticing how little creativity seemed to be involved in the hoops that these kids were jumping through to earn their special status.
good 2008/12/04: Tropic of Capricorn[Wikipedia], Henry Miller: Too many spells of free association, but I forgive him. Final verdict: Rosy Crucifixion beats the Tropic originals, hands down.
good 2008/10/14: The Space Merchants[Wikipedia], Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth: Quite well-written stylistically, and plenty of 1950's charm
good 2008/09/28: What Price Fame?, Tyler Cowen: There were some interesting spans of idea-sharing, but, in the end, I didn't really get what the point of the book was. Reading it kind of felt like standing in the way of a firehose.
good 2008/09/19: The Third Policeman[Wikipedia], Brian O'Nolan: This reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. I checked it out because the Lost writers cite it as an influence.
bad 2008/09/19: Fort Wayne is Seventh on Hitler's List, Michael Martone: One or two of the stories were enjoyable; the rest didn't work for me. I read this because David Foster Wallace mentioned it in "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction."
great 2008/09/18: Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny[Wikipedia], Robert Wright: Very thought-provoking
good 2008/09/02: JPod[Wikipedia], Douglas Coupland: Entertaining enough, but it felt like too many gimmicks with too little form or substance
good 2008/08/28: The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature[Wikipedia], Steven Pinker: No shortage of interestin' stuff
good 2008/08/12: The Language Instinct[Wikipedia], Steven Pinker: Not quite what I was expecting; too much focus on nitty-gritty details. The last chapter leaves me realizing that I was more interested in something like The Blank Slate, so on I go to that!
good 2008/07/30: Fortune's Formula, William Poundstone: At no point was it especially clear what the "theme" of this book was, but it was enjoyable anyway.
great 2008/07/26: The Last Samurai[Wikipedia], Helen DeWitt: This was so frenetic and nutty, in a way I've never seen before.
great 2008/07/13: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again[Wikipedia], David Foster Wallace: Heh heh heh.
bad 2008/07/05: The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture[Wikipedia], Fritjof Capra: I remember liking this book Way Back in the Day, but I can't stand it now. The author repeats the same hippie-targeted phrases over and over, with very prolix sentences that nonetheless fail to convey useful information.
good 2008/05/24: Villa Incognito[Wikipedia], Tom Robbins: This one leaves me with the impression that Tom Robbins may be "Thomas Pynchon for Dummies."
good 2008/05/17: Sabbath's Theater[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: Another raunchy ride from Roth
good 2008/04/04: Hey Nostradamus![Wikipedia], Douglas Coupland: There were a lot of loose ends. I didn't really get into it, but it was interesting and mostly well-told.
good 2007/12/29: The Unbearable Lightness of Being[Wikipedia], Milan Kundera: Kind of rambly and weird, but weird is good
good 2007/10/28: Letting Go[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: Kind of overdramatic
great 2007/08/30: Girl with Curious Hair[Wikipedia], David Foster Wallace: More of the same, with more of a popular culture focus than the DFW stuff I read earlier
good 2007/08/19: Carpenter's Gothic[Wikipedia], William Gaddis: My first impression was rage at the unconventional grammatical organization, where it's not clear what's a spoken quotation and what isn't. It got better further in, but not enough to make up for the confusion.
good 2007/07/26: Licks of Love, John Updike: John Updike doesn't disappoint.
good 2007/07/19: Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture[Wikipedia], Douglas Coupland: Pretty slick, though I was less able to identify with the characters than for Microserfs
good 2007/07/17: The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: He couldn't avoid sticking in more of this self-referential stuff, eh? :-)
bad 2007/07/13: Mysticism and Logic, Bertrand Russell: After reading the first few essays in the book, I asked myself what I was getting out of the experience. Failing to find an answer, I set out for greener pastures. (I picked up the book because Everything and More cited it, and the title sounded interesting; that should teach me to live on the edge!)
good 2007/07/11: Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity[Wikipedia], David Foster Wallace: I'm left wondering how much of this is intended satirically.
good 2007/07/07: World's End[Wikipedia], T. Coraghessan Boyle: It had its gripping stretches, but in the end it wasn't all that satisfying.
great 2007/06/23: Microserfs[Wikipedia], Douglas Coupland: Far out. For some reason, I had formed an internal classification of this book as typical empty nerdstuff. "We generate stories for you because you don't save the ones that are yours." Recommended by mpnolan.
good 2007/06/20: Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update[Wikipedia], Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows: Some interesting insights with solid experimental results
great 2007/06/04: The Ancestor's Tale[Wikipedia], Richard Dawkins: Yay for evolution. The parallels between better ways of enabling evolution and better ways of building computer systems are interesting... and squirrels are cool.
great 2007/05/23: Nexus[Wikipedia], Henry Miller: I wasn't disappointed.
good 2007/05/15: The God Delusion[Wikipedia], Richard Dawkins: Going in, I was feeling kind of guilty, since this kind of "preaching to the choir" subject matter is so popular among hapless fanboys. Nonetheless, there were some interesting arguments in here, and it's always fun to read Dawkins's prose. Makes me want to read more science-y books, in fact.
good 2007/05/06: The Man in the High Castle[Wikipedia], Philip K. Dick: There was some interesting stuff in here. It had a weird feeling of having been hastily written, like ol' PKD was under a tight deadline.
good 2007/04/25: Against the Day[Wikipedia], Thomas Pynchon: Plenty of good stuff here, but not quite enough to justify the length
good 2007/03/02: Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television[Wikipedia], Jerry Mander: Interesting, though not especially well focused
good 2007/02/22: The Waterworks, E. L. Doctorow: An all right book
great 2007/02/13: Infinite Jest[Wikipedia], David Foster Wallace: Awesome. That footnote business required some out-of-the-ordinary place-saving apparatus for efficient reading.
good 2007/01/14: Closing Time[Wikipedia], Joseph Heller: Kinda nifty
good 2007/01/07: Tropic of Cancer[Wikipedia], Henry Miller: I see the germ of the endearing qualities of Rosy Crucifixion.
good 2006/12/30: I am Charlotte Simmons[Wikipedia], Tom Wolfe: Agreeable enough, though it didn't have that special oomph.
great 2006/12/24: Oblivion[Wikipedia], David Foster Wallace: Wild stuff.
great 2006/12/04: Plexus[Wikipedia], Henry Miller: Now here's a ball of energy for you.
good 2006/10/27: The Counterlife[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: More mind-blowing recursive fiction!
good 2006/10/06: Billy Bathgate[Wikipedia], E. L. Doctorow: Mm, history-y.
good 2006/09/22: Rabbit at Rest[Wikipedia], John Updike: So that's that.
good 2006/08/05: The Plot Against America[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: Interestin'
great 2006/07/12: Brief Interviews with Hideous Men[Wikipedia], David Foster Wallace: I don't usually like books of short stories or things of similar form, but this one was super. With such great power to think of twisted ideas comes great responsibility.
good 2006/06/26: My Ishmael[Wikipedia], Daniel Quinn: More interestin' stuff
good 2006/06/17: The Story of B[Wikipedia], Daniel Quinn: Some thoughts worth thinking
great 2006/06/11: A Man In Full[Wikipedia], Tom Wolfe: Quite good, though suspiciously similar to Bonfire
bad 2006/06/02: Last Exit to Brooklyn[Wikipedia], Hubert Selby, Jr.: The combination of the subject matter and the "experimental" disregard for English grammar and layout drove me away from this before I got very far into it.
great 2006/06/01: Rabbit is Rich[Wikipedia], John Updike: This was top-notch and a significant improvement over the first two Rabbit books.
good 2006/05/10: The Late-Summer Passion of a Woman of Mind, Rebecca Goldstein: Interesting but uneven. I do wonder if the author is satirizing philosophers with some of the sections or if she really thinks that stuff is the bee's knees.
great 2006/05/03: The Bonfire of the Vanities[Wikipedia], Tom Wolfe: That was pretty swell. It reminded me of DeLillo and Heller in particular. Who knows who influenced whom!
great 2006/04/24: David Copperfield[Wikipedia], Charles Dickens: Great, but perhaps a bit longer than I would have liked.
good 2006/02/11: The Imaginary Girlfriend, John Irving: Not bad.
good 2006/02/06: Anansi Boys[Wikipedia], Neil Gaiman: It took a while to get started, but it ended up being reasonably good. It can't compare with American Gods, though.
great 2006/01/18: Operation Shylock[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: This was quite good. I had to laugh when I finished reading it; the whole thing came together so well. I'm now nominating Philip Roth for Patron Saint of Paranoiacs. (Thomas Pynchon is the other main contender, as I see it.)
good 2006/01/02: Until I Find You[Wikipedia], John Irving: Good, but not his best.
great 2005/12/20: Sexus[Wikipedia], Henry Miller: They don't make 'em like this anymore, no sir. There sure was a lot of sex!
good 2005/11/26: On the Road[Wikipedia], Jack Kerouac: Mildly interesting, but nothing too great. I guess I've been spoiled by all of the post-modern stuff that came later.
good 2005/11/20: The Mind-Body Problem, Rebecca Goldstein: Interesting and worth reading. At first I was put off by the seemingly forced and unnatural style of the writing, but it stopped bothering me.
good 2005/11/14: Hocus Pocus[Wikipedia], Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: Slightly above average quality. I think the non-linear narrative was too non-linear.
great 2005/11/08: Something Happened[Wikipedia], Joseph Heller: Interesting and worth reading. Do/did most middle-class Americans really live like this?
good 2005/10/22: Zuckerman Bound[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: More good stuff.
good 2005/10/18: Lila[Wikipedia], Robert Pirsig: Some parts were very interesting. The "story" parts were pretty poorly executed. Altogether uneven and disorganized.
good 2005/09/20: Radio Free Albemuth[Wikipedia], Philip K. Dick: Pretty good. My kind of paranoid trip. I see more PKD in my future.
great 2005/09/11: Portnoy's Complaint[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: Soopah doopah pizzazz.
good 2005/08/30: The Ghost Writer[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: Every journey has a beginning. (I liked it.)
good 2005/08/18: The Great American Novel[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: OKish and enjoyable at times. This one was entirely comic without the authentic feel that so endeared the latest Zuckerman trilogy to me.
good 2005/07/29: The Real Life of Sebastian Knight[Wikipedia], Vladimir Nabokov: Bleh. Some brief periods when it held my interest.
good 2005/07/17: The Power and the Glory[Wikipedia], Graham Greene: Not bad. Not awesome.
bad 2005/06/28: The Picture of Dorian Gray (and three stories)[Wikipedia], Oscar Wilde: I wanted to give this well-known story a try, and I was hoping the Wilde-ishness I'd read before wouldn't be involved too much. It was, and the interspersing of serious stuff with wit-wars didn't work very well. I didn't have the stomach to stay for the three stories.
good 2005/06/09: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana[Wikipedia], Umberto Eco: Off-and-on gripping. Definitely unique and imaginative.
good 2005/05/31: It Can't Happen Here[Wikipedia], Sinclair Lewis: All right-ish. I liked the feisty 1920's charm.
good 2005/05/24: Life of Pi[Wikipedia], Yann Martel: It was pretty good, but uneven. Anyone who needed to wait for this one to "make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction" has been living in a paper bag.
great 2005/05/22: The Catcher in the Rye[Wikipedia], J.D. Salinger: Seal of approval granted.
great 2005/05/20: The Human Stain[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: This was really good.
great 2005/05/15: I Married a Communist[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: I like.
great 2005/05/04: Great Expectations[Wikipedia], Charles Dickens: Top-notch.
good 2005/04/03: American Pastoral[Wikipedia], Philip Roth: Hey, pretty good.
good 2005/03/20: All the Pretty Horses[Wikipedia], Cormac McCarthy: Interestingly compelling, though I'm sure the double-quotes industry had a fit when they saw this one.
good 2005/03/05: John Barleycorn[Wikipedia], Jack London: Pretty swell.
good 2005/02/15: Rabbit Redux[Wikipedia], John Updike: I liked it better than the first book in this series. Definitely some good stuff here.
bad 2005/01/21: God Knows[Wikipedia], Joseph Heller: I gave up without finishing it. It was too loose and purposeless for me. Maybe I would have liked it if I had grown up with this biblical stuff.
good 2005/01/05: Mao II[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: Eh. Eh.
good 2004/12/30: Trying to Save Piggy Sneed[Wikipedia], John Irving: Not bad.
great 2004/12/28: Slow Learner[Wikipedia], Thomas Pynchon: Not bad. I agreed with the author's comments in the introduction, which said that the last story, "The Secret Integration," was significantly better than the others.
great 2004/12/24: A Son of the Circus[Wikipedia], John Irving: Really good. Very different from his previous books, and yet very similar at the same time.
good 2004/12/12: Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man[Wikipedia], Joseph Heller: Not bad.
great 2004/12/05: The Water Method Man[Wikipedia], John Irving: A grade-A good time.
good 2004/11/26: The Body Artist[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: Short and sweet. Neither great nor horrible.
good 2004/11/24: Moloch, Henry Miller: Very nice writing style, when he wasn't off in the Purple Prose Nebula. Definitely promising enough to warrant trying some of his better known books.
good 2004/11/11: The World According to Garp[Wikipedia], John Irving: It didn't quite have the life of Irving's later novels, but it had a less intense version of their quality.
great 2004/10/31: The Crying of Lot 49[Wikipedia], Thomas Pynchon: Worth reading, if only for another masterful treatment of paranoia. A few times I wondered if Pynchon had written a paragraph just to be confusing.
bad 2004/10/28: Oblomov[Wikipedia], Ivan Goncharov: Not very remarkable.
good 2004/10/10: Ishmael[Wikipedia], Daniel Quinn: Interesting
great 2004/10/02: Catch-22[Wikipedia], Joseph Heller: This is really something!
good 2004/09/18: Americana[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: Y'know, I really liked a lot of it, but it spent a lot of time dragging in Part 3. I also found a pathetically prolix style that DeLillo seemed to abandon immediately after this one.
great 2004/09/03: The Cider House Rules[Wikipedia], John Irving: Great
good 2004/08/29: Cosmopolis[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: Pretty good
great 2004/08/27: The Underground History of American Education[Wikipedia], John Taylor Gatto: An extremely illuminating book; highly recommended
great 2004/08/22: Vineland[Wikipedia], Thomas Pynchon: My appreciation for this guy just grows and grows. This book is both more down-to-earth and weirded than his previous.
good 2004/08/07: Rabbit, Run[Wikipedia], John Updike: It didn't always hold my interest, but in the end I liked it.
good 2004/07/30: Picture This[Wikipedia], Joseph Heller: Just my luck; I picked up another nontraditional sort of deal. I enjoyed it all the same. It almost makes me angry that I've had no exposure to "Classics" in my formal education.
good 2004/07/25: Now and Then[Wikipedia], Joseph Heller: I picked this one at random from the library shelves because the title sounded good, not realizing that it was an autobiography. It was pretty good, as autobiographies go. The writing was amazingly good. This man past age 70 had an amazing knack for writing pleasing English. So, I'm on to reading some of his fiction!
bad 2004/07/20: Old School[Wikipedia], Tobias Wolff: Eh, mediocre.
great 2004/07/19: A Widow for One Year[Wikipedia], John Irving: Super duper as usual.
great 2004/07/13: Libra[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: Very good.
good 2004/07/05: Slaughterhouse-Five[Wikipedia], Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: Fairly good. I find Vonnegut's repetition of phrases and overfrequent references to his other books annoying, though.
good 2004/06/29: The Fourth Hand, John Irving: Pretty good.
great 2004/06/23: Underworld[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: Again, it grew on me as I read it. The idea of moving backwards in time as the book progressed was very effective.
great 2004/06/05: A Prayer for Owen Meany[Wikipedia], John Irving: Another excellent book
bad 2004/06/03: An Outcast of the Islands[Wikipedia], Joseph Conrad: I gave it a chance, but it just couldn't hold my interest, so I gave up. The writing was waaay too verbose.
bad 2004/05/30: Keep the Aspidistra Flying[Wikipedia], George Orwell: A curious book. I think Orwell was trying to get across a social message, but it was generally unclear which of his characters and their views he agreed with.
good 2004/05/26: The 158-Pound Marriage[Wikipedia], John Irving: Another good one, though a bit more erotic than expected!
great 2004/05/21: Mason and Dixon[Wikipedia], Thomas Pynchon: Very enjoyable. The 90's Pynchon is much more organized than the 70's Pynchon. The sudden songs were kept to a minimum.
good 2004/04/26: Players[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: This was short but reasonably enjoyable.
great 2004/04/24: The Hotel New Hampshire[Wikipedia], John Irving: Wow. This book is amazing. Need I say more?
good 2004/04/22: Setting Free the Bears[Wikipedia], John Irving: This book was quite good, though the quality was inconsistent in places. I got the impression that this book was one of those attempts to merge several story ideas into one book. You'll see what I mean if you read it.
bad 2004/04/14: The Psychology of Computer Programming, Gerald Weinberg: I don't think I've really taken too much away from this book, especially given that most of what it talks about is based on the outdated computing conventions of the early 1970's. However, I have to say that Gerald Weinberg is one of the best nonfiction authors I have ever read. He has a very lucid writing style that keeps the reader interested.
great 2004/04/06: V.[Wikipedia], Thomas Pynchon: Overall positive opinion, though I often felt like it lacked organization and coherence. There really wasn't any clear connection between the two parallel stories that got about equal time and merged senselessly near the end.
bad 2004/03/17: The Hero with a Thousand Faces[Wikipedia], Joseph Campbell: I stopped reading this after the first of two parts. There were some interesting ideas, though somehow I feel like I would have gotten just as much out of a short article.
good 2004/02/19: Breakfast of Champions[Wikipedia], Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: An interesting story, very reminiscent of Timequake, though I read them in the reverse order to that in which they were written decades apart.
good 2004/02/18: God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater[Wikipedia], Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: I liked this one a lot. Very good weaving of social commentary into an engaging story.
good 2004/02/17: Cat's Cradle[Wikipedia], Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: I thought it was mediocre. There weren't really any sympathetic characters for me in it, and the plot came across as somewhat disorganized.
bad 2004/02/14: Strange News from Another Star[Wikipedia], Hermann Hesse: As I would expect from a book alternately entitled "Fairy Tales," this one wasn't really my style. I hadn't realized that these short stories were written shortly before Hesse got into psychodrama.
good 2004/02/08: Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy[Wikipedia], William Barrett: This was quite clearly written, and I feel like I understand the basics of existentialism much better now than before I read this.
great 2004/01/27: The Names[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: I really enjoyed this one. It was a little slow starting up, but I ended up appreciating it more in the way I would appreciate a poem than the way I would usually appreciate a novel.
good 2004/01/14: Timequake[Wikipedia], Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: I picked this one out expecting a novel. It turned out to be some weird unstructured autobiographical thing. Nonetheless, I ended up enjoying it.
bad 2004/01/13: Rudin/On the Eve, Ivan Turgenev: Pretty unremarkable stories.
bad 2004/01/10: Ratner's Star[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: Sometimes interesting, but not particularly satisfying. It reminded me more of Kafka's The Castle than the previous DeLillo books that I've liked. Instead of putting strange characters in believable situations, DeLillo puts strange characters in absurd situations for the entire book.
bad 2004/01/10: Running Dog[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: The streak is spoiled. This one is very different from his two books that I read previously. Somewhat enjoyable, but too action oriented. Not enough improbable conversation. Too real.
great 2004/01/05: Gravity's Rainbow[Wikipedia], Thomas Pynchon: Interesting book. Very 70's. If all your life you've longed for a novel full of spontaneous singing, then Gravity's Rainbow may be your deliverance.
good 2003/12/20: Wuthering Heights[Wikipedia], Emily Brontë: Recommended by opet in #haskell. I ended up enjoying it. It didn't rock my world, but that's OK.
good 2003/12/12: The Big Sleep[Wikipedia], Raymond Chandler: I read this on recommendation from Andrew Clausen, and I was pleasantly surprised. Seeing as how it's a detective story, I was expecting something much, much more pulpy than I got. The plot and behavior of characters were close to what I expected, but it was very intelligently written.
good 2003/12/11: Great Jones Street[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: This one ended up being pretty enjoyable. I think it got significantly better somewhere near its middle. OK, time to stop reading DeLillo before I overdose or something.
great 2003/11/30: End Zone[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: Another very good book from this author. Doubly impressive for being centrally about football and still being enjoyable for me.
good 2003/11/27: Nabokov's Dozen[Wikipedia], Vladimir Nabokov: Mixed feelings. I liked the story about the crazy kid. :-)
good 2003/10/20: The Great Gatsby[Wikipedia], F. Scott Fitzgerald: Not stupendous, but surprisingly good for something so often assigned in high school English classes
bad 2003/10/13: Forty Stories[Wikipedia], Donald Barthelme: Abandoned because I don't like the format.
great 2003/10/11: White Noise[Wikipedia], Don DeLillo: :-) Good recommendation by dwb.
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