Sunday, December 30, 2012

Q4 Book List

Thoughts on the year to follow next week. But I got my century!

I love Nassim Taleb, but not nearly as much as he loves himself. Interesting throughout nonetheless, though less so than previous work. And even more self-congratulatory and arrogant, which is hard to believe.

The Cay, Theodore Taylor
Classic shipwreck story, where young boy learns a thing or two about people and prejudice in WW II Caribbean. Easy to read, harder to recommend.

Taft 2012: A Novel, Jason Heller
Very cute idea, capably rendered.

Sleep is crucial for well being and happiness, yet it remains mysterious to doctors and scientists.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963, Christopher Paul Curtis
Disjointed story with little to say about the titular subject. Disappointing, because I expected to enjoy the Michigan connection.

Public Opinion, Walter Lippmann
Classic about how the media shapes public opinion, rather than reporting the news. Full of insight, but I found the writing hard to digest

Not as interesting or as insightful as I'd hoped, but I'll never look at supermarket produce or an Applebees menu the same way again.

Friend of My Youth, Alice Munro
Beautiful and engaging writing about ordinary people doing ordinary things. A delightful surprise--and a Canuck to boot!

It's exhausting, all that passionate searching for fundamental truths and essences. Also for the reader

Pressures to be first and interesting make information online increasingly combative, sensational and unreliable. Plus, the people who provide information care more about money than truth. Not the Internet we were promised. Not hardly.

Death in Venice, Thomas Mann
Somewhat disturbing story of aging and obsession. Not quite sure what to make of it, but I do know that I did not enjoy reading it, but am glad to have read it. And I am still thinking about it.

Poignantly and generally believable novel about the problems and triumphs of a troubled ninth grader. Read this after seeing the movie, whose faithfulness to the text was to its detriment. I find it difficult to read about this kind of suffering. It hurts.

Rickshaw reporter, George L. Peet
Dreadfully dull and quotidian memoir about life in Singapore between the two world wars. I had thought this might be interesting, but the author provided scant context and color. Very British in its rote chronicling of everyday life.

Not as good as the other book by the author that I read this quarter. Interesting ideas though about the applicability of peer-to-peer networking in government and society.

The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler
The best of the three classic detective stories I read this year. A little cliched, but the writing is brilliant, and the ending surprised even me. Incredible, but I bought it.

Tour of the supermarket. circa 1994, blending a little economics, history science and folksy philosophy. A little bit dated, but interesting throughout.

Readable look by a Nobel prize winning economist at the patterns by which markets emerge, and how they are the drivers of future growth. Korea and China follow Japan, but the timing is faster. Is Africa next? Many seem to think so.

Entertaining look at all of the noise and signal in the "wellness" industry. Some science, but more anecdotal than anything. Recommended nonetheless.

Key is the “adjacent possible”, the innovations inspired by what is known. Collaboration and serendipity help as well.

Is fiction a drug? A flight simulator? It serves no clear evolutionary purpose, yet we love it. Maybe we love stories and familiar patterns because they economise on mental processing power. That’s what Kahnemann would say, I suspect.

Detroit: (a Biography), Scott Martelle
 Brief history of the city from Cadillac to Dave Bing. Surprisingly, Racial relations seem to have done more than unions to shape the city and its politics.

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