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‘Recent’ reads

I somehow started making a list about ‘recent reads’ and ended up in an earlier decade. Anyway, points for spotting the hidden theme in my reading (roughly in order of reading):

2019:

  1. Manna: Two Visions of Humanity’s Future – Marshall Brain [like an electric shock, or taking the red pill]
  2. The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against The United States – Dr Jeffery Lewis [good read but probably loses some energy now Trump has gone]
  3. 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die – Cassell Illustrated [very helpful in making another big long list of things to do that I will never round to]
  4. Utopia For Realists: And How We Can Get There – Rutger Bregman [if Manna is the red pill I guess this is waking up on the Nebuchadnezzar – I read pre-pandemic and would like to read again because many of the ideas have more traction now (UBI etc.)]
  5. Apollo: The Race To The Moon – Catherine Bly Cox, Charles Murray [five star – all about the engineers and the behind the scenes rather than the astronauts and media (for which I have plenty other books), and some fascinating insight into how such a huge programme was run with such speed and agility]
  6. Pachinko – Min Jin Lee [I remember being totally enthralled and yet not knowing why, which I guess is what fiction does best when it works]
  7. The Moment Of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes The World – Melinda Gates [he isn’t a woman but he is under-represented in the leader/innovation space so I would pair this thoughtful book with William Kamkwamba’s The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind]
  8. No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference – Greta Thunberg [the narrative is of course now familiar but I find it always impressive to look at the forcefulness of those carefully selected words]
  9. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think – Hans and Ola Rosling [anything Rosling wins for me and this book (like Pinker’s The Better Angels Of Our Nature) succeeds in showing how a lack of personal data refreshes from what you learned in your schooldays shows how out of touch with reality we can become and instead rely on preconceptions]

2020:

  1. Killers Of The Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI – David Grann [wild, shocking history of the treatment of a Native American tribe]
  2. The Art Of Happiness: A Handbook For Living – Dalai Lama [unfinished, useful but repetitive]
  3. Rise: Life Lessons in Speaking Out, Standing Tall & Leading The Way – Gina Miller [now a polarised and demonised figure because of prorogation; wherever you stand though she can just get on with it and get things done powerfully, despite all the abuse and punishment designed to grind her down]
  4. On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft – Stephen King [a kindly meander and like all books I have read on writing, conveying a lot of wisdom that has completely left me]
  5. The Rules Of Contagion – Adam Kucharski [read in March and no longer relevant; everyone knows everything about epidemiology now]
  6. Remote: Office Not Required – David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried [Fried and Hansson founded 37signals (Basecamp) and have long been remote working; this was written in 2013. It is accompanied by It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work from 2018. Both have some takeaways to reflect on but not easy to adopt wholesale – culture of a startup is different from a monolith]
  7. In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives – Steven Levy [I remember the organised chaos aspects of this most but was disappointed it didn’t get into OKRs as much as it could]
  8. The Ride Of A Lifetime: Lessons In Creative Leadership From 15 Years as CEO Of The Walt Disney Company – Robert Iger [straightforward read, a key point being to stick to your core beliefs]
  9. American War – Omar El Akkad [like The 2020 Commission Report, it was alarmingly easy to see this becoming a reality, and we shouldn’t forget that time just because we are in Biden-land now]
  10. 21 Lessons For The 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari [gained less from this because it recaps what has been in the tech media for several years about the future (there are still no flying cars). An easier read than others though, as with Harari’s other books]
  11. The Counsellor: A powerful true story about addiction, grief and love – Alison Kerwin [a very raw and jarring book about family and loss but ultimately inspiring in working through it all and coming out stronger; I found it even harder to read as I used to work with the author]
  12. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less – Greg Mckeown [there is a sketch on page 6 which stopped me in my tracks; the rest of the book is riffing on the theme so is a bit repetitive]

2021:

  1. The Three Body Problem – Cixin Liu [it’s been a while since I have found sci-fi readable (only really Iain M. Banks and Dan Simmons], mostly enjoyed and was challenged by this but then peters out at the end]
  2. The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity – Toby Ord [brilliant in that he attempts to assign proper probabilities to each risk, and that we know have a ‘black swan’ event in recent memory to remind us that risks can happen even if they are unlikely. He puts AI surpassing human intelligence at 1 in 6, or a dice roll]
  3. How To Avoid A Climate Disaster – Bill Gates [he admits the hypocrisy at least but generally this is simply laid out and makes the same points repeatedly in different contexts, i.e. is perfectly written to influence governmental policy makers]

Next: Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias In A World Designed For Men – Caroline Criado Perez)

Later:

  • The Order Of Time – Carlo Rovelli
  • Timefulness: How Thinking Like A Geologist Can Help Save The World – Marcia Bjornerud
  • 1491: The Americas Before Columbus – Charles C. Mann

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