- Origin Story by David Christian. Great story about the long waves of development over the entire course of history. Focusing just on the human development part of the story, human societal development has been characterized by increasing energy consumption and increasing levels of complexity to both consume energy and to find energy. The tale falls down a little in the last chapter though as he shifts from the story of increasing energy consumption, and now asserts that everything has to change. But still a good read.
- New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson. I don’t think Robinson is a great story teller or a great builder of characters, and the book was overly long, but still an interesting exploration of what our lives might be like 100+ years from now as we deal with climate change.
- Everything Trump Touches Dies by Rick Wilson. This quote near the end says it all: “Everything about Donald Trump’s presidency and character is a disaster for America. The victories Republicans think they have achieved are transitory and ephemeral and come at the cost of their principles and, probably, their immortal souls. He is a stain on the party, on conservatism, and on this country that won’t easily wash out.” And that is the most temperate thing Wilson says about Trump.
- The Legacy of the Civil War by Robert Penn Warren. The book is almost 60 years old and still super relevant. And demands careful reading, he doesn’t cater to the reader who isn’t willing to think or work.
- The Power by Naomi Alderman. No real surprise here — absolute power corrupts absolutely, regardless of who has it. The book is solid but over-hyped.
- Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data by Viktoe Mayer-Schönberger and Thomas Ramge. Ok the very first example in this book pissed me off and I set the book down. Talking about a cookware purchase, the author describes a magical future where some system knows all your preferences and purchase history and just magically selects the right item for you in seconds. And this seems like horseshit as it completely devalues design, ignores the fact that some people like shopping, ignores the value of the shopping process itself, etc. I just didn’t care enough to read another page. The book gets nice reviews tho.
- Imperial Twilight by Stephen R. Platt. The story of the Opium War. Well written and much to learn here. And what a great contrast to the book above. The pop business book spins some BS tale about how humans will behave. The deep history book examines exactly how humans did behave and reasons about how that will apply in the future. The history book is way more insightful.
- Sabrina by Nick Drnaso. Graphic novel, odd little story which wanders around and doesn’t really go anywhere. Reviews were excellent but I found it dull.
- Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. The Theranos story. Wow. Unalloyed ambition, the worst of Silicon Valley. Holmes and Balwani are clearly bad actors but their investors and legal partners get off too easily — they created and fed the monster.
- The Soul of America by Jon Meacham. Division and bigotry has been part of America forever, every generation has struggled with it. The best of our Presidents have been unifiers and have worked to bring us together — and the country has survived the divisive demagogues, but it will take engagement and action on all our parts. Excellent perspective.
CSNY pushed that record out in 3 weeks. They were at the top of their careers, already had an album for sale, but they didn’t play it safe, they made an emotional statement that resonates to this day. I was quite young, but this event hit me hard and contributed to my suspicion of authority and power.
We have terrible issues in society today. Gun violence and school shootings affecting many more people. Inhumane treatment of desperate people at our borders. None of the artists of today want my opinion — but too often I see artists talking at rallies and events, but it is their art that is impactful and emotional, and they could be more effective in reaching us if they spoke through their art.
One artist that is doing it today is Donald Glover — if you haven’t seen Childish Gambino – This Is America (Official Video), you should. It is hard to watch. I am sure there are others.
- Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. This settled down into basic space opera but some fun language and ideas about an era in which we have dramatically more control over the physical world.
- Have You Tried Working? By Anthony Gardner. Ugh. Poorly written, and then his flippancy about CTE turned me completely off. Can’t figure out why I bought this.
- The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey. This won’t be popular with some people, a look into how the intolerant early Christian Church destroyed the arts, literature, and science of Western world and contributed to the dark ages.
- Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty. Awesome tale of 6 travelers on a space ship, trying to figure out who among them is trying to kill all of them. Agatha Christie in space!
- The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt. Space opera — pirates, aliens, wormholes, etc. Fun but not that memorable.
- Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. World War II escapades of a young Italian spy. Based on a true story, very engaging.
- The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson. Post-apocalyptic tale of survivors in the Yukon. Ok but pretty well-trod ground.
- Semiosis by Sue Burke. Very good first contact tale, the things we meet might be very very different than us.
- No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts. Another independent bookstore pick up, waaaay outside my comfort zone, and I just couldn’t get thru it.
- Originals by Adam Grant. I expected to hate this as I tend not to enjoy pop business books, or books that justify people being jerks. But it was better than that. Useful tools for encouraging creativity in yourself and your teams.
- The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell by W. Kamau Bell. Interesting story of a developing comic and his experiences with racism. I need to watch his show on CNN.
- Everything is Awful by Matt Bellassai. Another book by a comic, and this one is thin gruel after reading Bell above. Couldn’t finish, seemed so lightweight.
- Nanoscale Communication Networks by Stephen F. Bush. From 2010, so in this field this is like a billion years old, but still interesting. Transport mechanisms, delay characteristics, accuracy are so different at the nanoscale.
- Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton. Deep dive into the British efforts to combat the Nazis with sabotage, resistance, even terrorism. Well done.
- The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. I picked this up at random on Independent Bookstore Day at Elliott Bay Bookstore. Fantastic hopeful book about loss and love. Great characters. Very glad I took the chance — what I really like about independent bookstores is their “staff picks” area.
- March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell. Great graphic novel about the life of John Lewis.
- Amatka by Karen Tidbeck. Another Independent Bookstore Day purchase. A town whose very existence is defined and controlled by language, and what happens as some of the residents start to rebel against control and language. A little trippy but I enjoy tales like these.
A great launch yesterday — Docusign IPO.
Congrats to everyone there. And a big congrats and thanks to JonRo who unflaggingly championed and supported the company through every zig and zag. He taught me such valuable investment lessons about persistence and about survival — he stuck with Docusign (and other investments) through every dip, through every tough spot, as they went in and out of fashion, and it all ultimately paid off for Docusign and Ignition investors. Thanks Jon.
- The Dry by Jane Harper. A breathless page turner according to the reviews — i did consume in about 2 days. Very solid tale set in rural Australia — murder, money, long-hidden secrets.
- Easternization by Gideon Rachman. A good summary of the rise of China and the impact on US domestic and foreign policy. There is no getting around the fact that China’s economy and hence soft power and military power is going to surpass that of the US, it is simple numbers. And much about that is OK, China becoming richer is no real threat to us and no real threat to world peace. That said, there might be some issues that the US differs from China on, and if the US wants a strategy to counter China, we need to focus on multilateral partnerships in Asia and/or Europe and/or the Americas. We are doing a poor job at that.
- A Higher Loyalty by James Comey. Some of you may have heard of this book. Comey seems very principled. He doesn’t like Trump and writes a compelling indictment. I believe he fails tho to really understand his missteps around the election. Every decision he made was a principled local optimum but globally was an asymmetric skew. And he doesn’t go to the meta level and discuss how the FBI should behave in the future. We can take it as a given that both major candidates in the future will have various accusations made against them, and the FBI should probably simply announce that they are investigating both candidates and be transparent about the nature of the charges against them.
The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan. Continuing on my theme of books about bodies of water — this was much more compelling than the Gulf book. Partly because of my familiarity with the Great Lakes, partly because there was a very strong story in this book that was new to me. I knew about the pollution issues in the Great Lakes before the EPA, but I never new the story of invasive species and the battles that have been happening. Very interesting.
- The Gulf by Jack E. Davis. A history of the development of the Gulf of Mexico over the last 300 years sounds like it could be dull, but it is actually pretty interesting, though there is a ton of detail in here. Enjoying it — if I ever planned to the move to the Gulf Coast, this would be essential.
- Concurrency in Go by Katherine Cox-Buday. Ok this is the far more essential book to read about Go, the intro to Go book I previously read should have had all this material. This is the interesting stuff.
- Dear Committee Members by Julue Schumacher. Hilarious and well executed, a series of recommendation letters from a university professor, each of which gets hijacked by events in his personal life. Loved it.
- I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. Thriller tale of a super spy saving the world. Nothing innovative but a great tale and an appealing main character.
- Scoreboard, Baby by Ken Armstrong & Nick Perry. The inside story on the UW football team in the early 2000s, pretty shocking and awful. I am sure this level of corruption has happened at other programs too.
- Red Rising by Pierce Brown. Start of a series set in the far future of our solar system. All the near habitable planets and moons are terraformed, a rigid authoritarian society is in place, and an uprising starts at the lowest levels of Martian society. Fun.
- Need To Know by Karen Cleveland. A LOT of fun. A CIA analyst discovers her husband might be a Russian mole, and things get complicated as she tries to protect her life while more and more of the onion gets peeled away.
- The Humans by Matt Haig. A scientist makes a mathematical breakthrough which will transform our society, triggering the arrival of aliens who decide that humans aren’t ready for this knowledge.
- Broken River by J. Robert Lennon. Crimes and misdeeds swirl around a house in upstate New York. Eventually pretty much everyone is threatened with death or is dead. Fun!
- Introducing Go by Caleb Doxsey. Very short intro to golang. A bit thin.
I am so saddened and angered about the Parkland shooting. I work with a colleague who lost his child. I have been useless in the last week processing this.
I’ve sat by year after year as these shootings have happened and done nothing. I need to do my part, I need to speak up, I need to take whatever action I can.
I will demand to my representatives that we try to address these shootings. And I am open to trials on many fronts. Reasonable restrictions on assault rifles, let’s try it. More mental health support, let’s try it. Hardening schools, let’s try it. I have my own beliefs about which of these will be most effective (restrictions on assault rifles), but I support any steps that address the shootings, and preferably a basket of steps. Let’s try them all, measure how they do, and try again. The exact steps are not important — it is the repeated trying that matters.
I will demand to my local and state representatives that we try things locally. Don’t try to “boil the ocean” at the Federal level. Start at the state and local level. That is how the country made progress on LGBT rights.
I will support candidates who refuse to take gun lobby money. I want candidates who work on behalf of citizens, not the gun lobby.
We each need to decide how we are going to react to these shootings. I will speak my feelings, and I will demand that we try policies to address the problem, and that we repeatedly try.
- Still Life by Louise Penny. Great start to this series, homicide in the Quebec countryside. I feel like I have read another in this series but can find no evidence of it.
- Glass Houses by Louise Penny. And the latest in her series, also excellent.
- The Chickenshit Club by Jesse Eisinger. The premise is good and there is some interesting detail in here, but the book loses its way in the detail. I expected to be angry about corporate crime and lack of consequences after reading this book, but I just felt kind of tired.
- Black Bolt by Saladin Ahmed. I dip into graphic novels every once in a while to see what is up. This one got great reviews. It was just ok for me, a little difficult to relate to the characters or situation.
Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff. Who knows if it is all true but it certainly reads true. Most of the administration comes across as unprepared for the job and unwilling to dive in and do the hard work to learn the job. Smells like Bannon is a major source, if Bannon had emerged triumphant this might have been a very different book.
- All Systems Red by Martha Wells. A fun romp with cyborgs, planetary exploration, betrayal, friendship. Short and sweet. Apparently a longer novel form coming out this year.
- Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli. Super quick walk thru the major issues in physics today, well written and crisp.
- Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill. Humans are extinct, robots rule the world, and they are just as petty, noble, nasty, friendly, loving, and vicious as humans ever were.
- Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. Fun multiverse adventure, exploring the role of the observer in controlling the multiverse. Seems like the author is working hard to get this to film, would be fun.
- Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. Immigrants trying to find their way in America during the 2008 financial crisis. The good, bad, and ugly of being an immigrant in America, and a story of success and failure and resignation and acceptance.
- We Have No Idea by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson. A walk through the big unanswered questions about our universe. The sophomoric humor is very tiresome, I enjoyed some of the information, but can’t recommend.
- The Grid by Gretchen Bakke. This book has had a lot of buzz, but it is very tiresome. Some interesting observations but wrapped up in wooden repetitive prose. The language and story aren’t good enough to make this book widely popular, and the data is too thin for a really technical book. I resorted to just reading the topic sentences of paragraphs and trying to make do with that.
- Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. Nice tale of immigration, especially pertinent today. Our birthplace is a matter of sheer chance, it does not define us.
- The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt. A dive into the Adam and Eve story, and how its relevance and meaning have changed over the past several thousand years. Very helpful context, it would be interesting to read the origin myths of other major religions and a theological discussion of them.
Mansions of Madness was surprisingly fun. We had low expectations, it just didn’t look like our kind of game. Cooperative sounded too nice. But the pace is good, the iPad app really helped run the game, and once we realized that going “insane” in the game opened up play quite a bit, we had a lot of fun. Definitely recommended. Not a short game tho.
King of Tokyo — super fast to play, easy gameplay, and the game can shift dramatically in seconds. Also recommended, and you can fly through a game.
A disappointment was One Night Werewolf. Maybe we needed more eggnog. With 5 people, it seemed like the outcomes were obvious. Maybe we were doing it wrong.