#+TITLE: Books
#+OPTIONS: H:2
#+BEGIN_EXPORT html
<style type="text/css">
  h3 {
    color: #777;
    font-family: 'Gentium Book Basic', serif;
    margin-bottom: 0;
    margin-top: 0;
  }

  ul {
    margin-top: 0;
  }

  .outline-text-3 p:first-child {
    margin-top: 0;
  }
</style>
#+END_EXPORT

I dive into a book whenever given an opportunity, and on occasion take
notes while reading — or re-reading it. This page is devoted to an
incomplete, (somewhat) chronological list of books I’ve read with the
occasional note describing them.

* 2017—
** 02- : Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman
** 02- : The Traders war, Charles Stross
** 02- : Empire Games, Charles Stross
** 02- : The Revolution Trade, Charles Stross
** 01- : Of Darkness & Dawn, Will Wight
** 01- : Of Sea & Shadow, Will Wight
** 01- : Of Shadow & Sea, Will Wight
** 01- : The Traveler's Gate Trilogy, Will Wight
** 01- : The Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu
** 01- : The Wall of Storms, Ken Liu
* 2016—
** 12- : Soulsmith, Will Wight
** 12- : Unsouled, Will Wight
** 12- : Momo, Michael Ende
** 12- : The Glass Palace, Amitav Ghosh
** 12- : Train to Pakistan, Khushwant Singh
** 12- : Shoe Dog, Phil Knight
** 12- : Whiplash, Joi Ito, Jeff Howe
** 12- : So Good They Can't Ignore You, Cal Newport
** 11- : Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan
** 11- : Power and Performance, Jim Kukunas
** 10- : Parable of the Sower, Octavia E Butler
** 10- : What we talk about when we talk about love, Raymond Carver
** 10- : Masters of Doom, David Kushner
Definitely an interesting read: getting a better sense of how Doom was
developed and Carmack’s work ethic written as an incredibly readable novel.

** 10- : The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
The book was delightfully well written but I didn’t enjoy reading it
much: perhaps I’m too far removed from the beat generation to
appreciate books depicting them.

** 09-24: Sinbad, Kurt Vonnegut
A delightfully sinister short story that lasted just long enough to
get me through dinner and coffee.

** 09-21: Death's End, Cixin Liu
A grand finale for the series, and possibly the longest novel I've
read till date. (Though now that I think about it, there is a story by
Isaac Asimov that spans a similar length of time).

There are so many concepts packed in, it's a great read — it starts
off somewhat slowly but quickly catches steam, and I ended up spending
the rest of my night reading through. There isn’t much I can write
here without giving away too much, but it’s easily worth a read.

** 09-19: The Inner Game of Tennis, W. Timothy Gallwey
This was trending on Hacker News, so I ended up picking up the book:
the author speaks about relaxed concentration, something my Aikido
Sensei kept trying to emphasize but I never really achieved.

For physical activities, I’ve since found that I can cheat my
conscious self by just explicitly thinking about a secondary activity
and letting the rest of my muscles go about normally.

He emphasizes seeing ourselves/the world as it is, without judgement;
focusing on only the required outcome.

An interesting read, and one I’m hoping to apply to Flamenco at the
very least; and work if I can manage it.

** 09-16: The view from the cheap seats, Neil Gaiman
I’ve been reading The View slowly over months, for reading this
collection of essays is very similar to doing a depth first traversal
of a tree; most essays are introductions to other books or music, and
if I found the introductions compelling enough (which was often) I
would go and read the books mentioned.

Shatterday was one of the books I ended up reading this way.

Reading through this book emphasized Gaiman’s deep love of books,
reading and comics — capped with his admonition to Make Good Art, it’s
definitely something I’d recommend.

#+BEGIN_QUOTE
Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere
you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who
ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that
you grew up in. And discontent is a good thing: people can modify and
improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different, if
they’re discontented.
#+END_QUOTE

** 09-14: A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway
A Moveable Feast was a delight to read: I’m enjoying my life in New
York City, sitting in several favourite cafes reading, writing — or
programming, and occasionally getting distracted by beautiful women as
they sit across the cafe. Displaced by several years and continents,
Hemingway’s life was more similar and resonated much more than
I had expected.

I was reading another book by Neil Gaiman at the same time — and the
contrast in styles was refreshing; Hemingway’s style is precise,
minimalistic and direct. Reading the several iterations of
introductions to a moveable feast gave a hint at the amount of effort
behind every page.

-----

Finally, as someone who tends to avoid social appointments like the
plague — allow me to justify myself in Hemingway’s words:

#+BEGIN_QUOTE
The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep
from making engagements, each day had no limits.
#+END_QUOTE

** 09-11: Death by Cliche, Bob Defendi
Another book recommendation by Howard Schulz; and one which covers D&D
gaming. I kept reading mostly because I've never actually played these
games, though I have similar enough interests it's surprising that
I've never been interested.

Even though the title gives it away, the book itself was enough of a
cliché that I didn’t enjoy it.

** 09-04: Street Fighting Mathematics, Sanjoy Mahajan
This is probably the hardest book I've read this year: and I'm already
planning to re-read and attempt more problems in a few months; after
trying to apply the techniques mentioned in the book to better
understand other hard books I've been meaning to read.

Working through this book would often make my jaw drop: my first
thought would generally be We can do that? quickly followed by
I would have never applied this there.

For example, using dimensional analysis to approximate integrals, or
his approach to lumping to determine values; evaluating e^D as a
left-shift was completely insane.

** 09-03: Pride's Spell, Matt Wallace
** 09-03: Lustlocked, Matt Wallace
** 09-03: Envy of Angels, Matt Wallace
I picked up the Sin du Jour series after reading a
positive review on Howard Taylor's blog — they’re really good urban
fantasy and fairly different from most books I’ve read.

To describe the books in terms I understand — a cross between China
Mieville and Terry Pratchett; I just wish the books were a bit longer.
** 08-28: The Goal, Eliyahu M Goldratt
A somewhat strange choice for me, but I've been trying to get better
at setting personal goals and assumed — from the title — that this
might help.

Instead, the book ended up introducing me to the
theory of constraints and basically that managers should look at
determining what needs to change, what to change it to, and how to
achieve the change.

The fact that it was written as a fictional account made it much
easier to read and I ended up reading the book surprisingly
quickly.

** 08-22: What I talk about when I talk about running, Haruki Murakami
A slim, extremely readable memoir by Murakami about his life as a
runner and a professional writer.

Even more so than running, I read the book as a novel about
persistence, and a lifetime of creating. Pursuing something across a
lifetime is something to build up to, and something you build up to in
a rhythm.

There were several passages and instances that stood out to me;

— on persisting

#+BEGIN_QUOTE
To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the
important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the
rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set
speed—and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort
as you can manage.
#+END_QUOTE

— on focus

#+BEGIN_QUOTE
If I’m asked what the next most important quality is for a novelist,
that’s easy too: focus—the ability to concentrate all your limited
talents on whatever’s critical at the moment. Without that you can’t
accomplish anything of value, while, if you can focus effectively,
you’ll be able to compensate for an erratic talent or even a shortage
of it.
#+END_QUOTE

— on speaking

#+BEGIN_QUOTE
I have to choose words that area easy to pronounce so people can
understand me, and remember to get the audience to laugh to put them
at ease. I have to convey to those listening a sense of who I am. Even
if it’s just for a short time, I have to get the audience on my side
if I want them to listen to me. And in order to do that, I have to
practice the speech over and over, which takes a lot of effort. But
there’s also the payoff that comes with a new challenge.
#+END_QUOTE


Overall, I greatly admire the humility and grit that appear here: and
the standards he sets for himself.

On a more general note, I’ve always enjoyed the prose in Murakami’s
novels, even if the contents occasionally (or often) whiz over my head
at a distance. I’m never quite sure if that’s because of the
translator or the author; given that I’ve enjoyed reading several
books by him by various translators, presumably it’s because of the author.

Finally, I never realized that he also works at translating several
English novels to Japanese — or that he’s translated several of
Raymond Carver’s novels, which possibly explains his fascination with
American detective novels.

** 08-21: Twenty Minutes in Manhattan, Michael Sorkin
Twenty Minutes was a valuable — if somewhat long — book to read. The
author takes the reader on a walk from his walk-up apartment in the
Greenwich Village to his Studio, describing everything he sees with
the context of a practicing architect and teacher.

As someone who loves to walk through the city, I was fascinated by the
the several different aspects of the city he speaks about — the
decision to lay out New York City as a grid and the ramifications; the
fact that ‘Tribeca’ stands for ‘TRIangle BElow CAnal’; why my old
apartment building has a shaft through it - and the relationship
between landlords and tenants.

He also speaks at length about gentrification, and the effects of
neighbourhoods losing their character. The fact that the world becomes
smaller as it becomes more connected is something I think about frequently.

I did find the book hard to read and extremely dense at times — with
references that were beyond me. The fact that it was written over
several years also tends to come through, I think I could discern a
change in the author’s voice — and occasionally the book tends to
ramble a bit.

I wish more experts would write similar books: I particularly enjoy
John Carmack’s VR game reviews, which are written in a similar vein.
** 08-17: The Last Days of New Paris, China Mieville
As surprising as China Mieville always is — nazis, surreal art, and
demons in a single book.

A surreal but very readable book that has made me much more interested
in surreal art.
** 08-13: The Chart of Tomorrows, Chris Willrich
The conclusion to the trilogy: again, there was too much of a sense of
far too many events and villains and heroes being compressed into a
book, but this was an easier and more interesting read.

This entry was written and published from an aeroplane.

** 08-10: The Silk Map, Chris Willrich
One unexpected side-effect of listing out past books was that I ended
up finding a series I'd never completed; Bone and Gaunt by Chris
Willrich.

The second book in the series is decent, with a lot happening — a fairly
good sword and sorcery series that kept me turning pages to find out
what’s next.
** 08-01: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J. K. Rowling
I hadn't originally planned to pick this up, but decided I might as
well, given I've read books one through four several times, and five
through seven occasionally.

A fun, short read, with some unexpected twists and turns — and one plot
decision that will probably birth several fan fics on tweaking.
** 07-30: Acceptance, Jeff Vandermeer
The final book in this trilogy, and a fine ending.

Reading these books was definitely an astonishing experience, because
the point of view narration made it very easy to sympathize with the
characters and get completely immersed in the book.

As expected, there weren’t that many answers, though some questions
were cleared up; others were hinted at — like the series itself, the
main question in the story is something that’s more to be experienced
than dissected or explained.

** 07-29: Authority, Jeff Vandermeer
The Southern Reach Trilogy has been riveting so far: I wasn’t able to
put down the second book till I reached the end and I’m already
eagerly anticipating reading the third one tomorrow. Having read The
City of Saints and Madmen I don’t quite expect to get all the answers
after reading Acceptance tomorrow, but still enough to satiate part of
my curiousity, I hope.

Set in the same world, with overlapping characters Authority manages
to be similar to yet completely distinct from Annhilation with another
fascinating new narrator. The mundane world encountered here is also
fascinating.

For those who read fantasy as a quick escape into another world as an
observer free of death and taxes — which I do, as mini-vacations to
regain perspective — these are amazing books.

** 07-28: Annhilation, Jeff Vandermeer
A surprisingly short read that I just could not put down: I enjoyed
everything from the remarkable story, the narration and the amazing
structure.

Now I need to make another quick pilgrimage to The Strand to pick up
the sequels in this trilogy.

** 07-26: Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin
Another unplanned for detour from wandering around The Strand
bookstore.

Having watched The Omen, and at the very least having read a review of
the film I had some idea of what was coming at the end of the book —
but that only improved the experience because it just showed how
carefully everything in the story was arranged.

Mr. Levin clearly follows Chekhov’s gun.

** 07-25: Slade House, David Mitchell
A page-turner with good pacing: the book kept me interested till the
very end. I enjoyed how the author toyed with expectations around
characters readers end up being sympathetic to.

** 07-23: The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury
I was wondering around The Strand fulfilling my prophecy and ran
across this one on one of the shelves.

A fun read with good ideas; but the science fiction feels a bit dated
— which it is, The Illustrated Man was published in 1951! The
technology reminds me of The Jetsons for the most part.

There are some really good short stories here: particularly The Veld
and The City.

** 07-23: Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges
I had read Labyrinths half way through several months ago: today I
ended up picking it up and reading through most of the remaining book.

I’ve read another collection by Borges before: a few stories
overlapped between the two collections. It just became that much more
obvious that I can keep reading Borges again and again and find more
in the set of words.

Reading Borges always tends to be an experience: his writing tends to
transcend time. There are some themes that stood out to me,
particularly when I re-read some of the stories.

People blend into each other when considered across time; there are
only so many human behaviours and experiences — looking forward or
backward everything is simply repeated.

** 07-17: How to Talk to Girls at Parties, Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon
The field guide I always wanted. Apparently the trick is to just talk
to them. And under general circumstances, they tend to be from the
same planet.

** 07-16: Shatterday, Harlan Ellison
A collection of brilliant short stories, further coloured in with
introductions by the author.

** 07-12: The Great Ordeal, R Scott Bakker
I've been waiting for this book for several years at this point, and I
ended up speed reading through it in a single day.

Hopefully the last book in the series releases on time.

** 07-04: Chaos Monkeys, Antonio Garcia Marqez
I enjoyed reading this book because it provides a perspective into
most of my career options: working at a big company (Facebook, even!),
startups — including a stint at Y-Combinator, Finance and includes
actual numbers. And I recognize a large number of names and places in
the book.
** 06-?: Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino
** 06-?: Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut
** 03-18: Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker
*** Takeaways
**** Learn what my strengths are
***** Predict what will happen 9 months - a year from now
***** Re-evaluate to understand how close my estimates were
***** Will take 2-3 years
***** Make sure I understand how to unlock things
***** TODO Set up prediction document to evaluate myself
**** Determine how I learn
***** Reading, writing, listening, doing, etc.
**** Determine what my values are
***** and whether they align with the work that I'm doing
**** Think about a second career ... and get started early
***** obtain more options i case my primary career fails
***** ... or doesn't succeed.
**** What should I contribute
***** state what value I bring and what I want to focus on
***** also ask the same of my coworkers to understand what they're thinking
*** Takeaways I missed ... or didn't consider important enough
**** Where do I belong?
***** determine the work environment that makes me most productive
***** solitude/teamwork: solitude
***** structured/unstructured: unstructured
***** large/small company: small company
***** decision maker/aide: decision maker
*** Fascinating, short book.
*** Learnt about it on Retinart.
*** Focussed on a decade spanning career(s).
*** Meta takeaways
**** Compare what I get out of reading a book with what someone else notices
**** Comparison with retinart was very interesting

* 2015—
** The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
Pretty much the scariest book I've read.

I'd always assumed that I'd be self-aware enough to observe
double-think in the real world, that wasn't exactly an Orwellian
dystopia.

Reading this book makes me question that assumption very strongly, as
well as other aspects of the world around us.

I'd love to be able to model bias in behaviour and try estimate
effects of subtle biases compounding compared to a central agency
reinforcing bias and wilfully harming people.

** The Better Angels of Our Nature, Stephen Pinker
Pinker asserts something extremely counter-intuitive: violence around
the world is decreasing, and goes on to provide comprehensive facts,
statistics and possible narratives tying them together as proof.

Contents aside, I enjoyed reading this book as a blueprint for
providing a compelling argument: very well structured, argued, and
backed up by several references. I also found it amusing that Pinker's
rebuttal of criticisms was mostly pointed to pages already in the book
— there's just so much content that I can't help but sympathize with
critics who missed some of the facts he addressed.

Perhaps the only thing that I would have liked to observe argued even
more clearly is the distortion caused by media and the recency effect
to further reduce the impression that with ISIS, Syria, et al violence
has indeed been decreasing.

There's not much point in summarizing the book here; it's worth
reading by itself and the Wikipedia article would be much better than
anything I could come up with.

Additional background provided for each of the concepts: ranging from
probability to Hobbes to the Prisoner's Dilemma were amazing and
really interesting to read.

It's interesting to contrast this book with the Decline of Power; one
of the factors behind decreasing violence is the increase of
Leviathans who reduce the benefit from violence; the Decline of Power
argued precisely the opposite with the author being worried about
anarchy resulting caused by a breakdown of standard government.

One aspect that I'm curious about is what physical violence is
mutating into — what aspects of our behaviour today will be
considered barbaric by humans a few centuries in the future?

Economic sanctions and doxxing are some possible examples.

Update: I actually met the author when he came to do a Q&A at
Facebook and asked him the same question; he spoke about male rape in
prisons, nuclear weapons, etc.

To be completely honest, I'm no longer completely convinced by this
book; probably because I don't quite understand all the assumptions
involved — I'll need to read more around this subject to feel
comfortable.

** The Liar's Key, Mark Lawrence
I really like the post-apocalyptic universe with reality set adrift; a
reasonably fascinating diversion with a cliff hanger ending.

I'll read book 3 when it comes out, but I found the Prince of Thorns
series much more engrossing.

** Eastern Standard Tribe, Cory Doctrow
A fun, near-future Sci-Fi read with some good ideas. The emphasis on
IRC-like messaging threw me off a bit.

What I found more interesting was a note in the preface, which comes
along while he explains why he makes his books available under a CC
license for anyone to read and download:


#+BEGIN_QUOTE

I just think that the complex social practice of "book" — of which a
bunch of paper pages between two covers is the mere expression — is
transforming and will transform further.


#+END_QUOTE

** Angry White Pyjamas, Robert Twigger
A fun, fairly irreverent read on an Oxford Poet's stay in Japan and a
year of Aikido training. I read a recommendation for this book while
following a long thread of action movies, actors who actually know
martial arts, and so on.

I generally don't read travelogues, but this was fascinating enough
that I ended up reading the book within a day of getting it by mail
(it's old enough to not have a kindle version).

** The End Of Power, Moises Naim

*** Defines power as the ability to force people to do what they would rather not; and having more access to resources and opportunities makes people harder to control: combined that basically means direct "power" is on the wane and provides several examples to back this up.
*** Doesn't address soft power, what I understood to be influence very well; where you just nudge someone towards one option from a set of things they would do. Does discuss the fact that abuse of hard power causes it to decline much faster than it used to.
*** Points out that because people have more access to information, they have a much better idea of what they want and can handle themselves much better than a large central power. Beware oversimplifiers.
*** Finally, diffusion of power makes it impossible to take hard decisions; such as those required for battling environment change, etc. Recommends looking for new ways of government that don't oversimplify but still have enough power to force hard long term decisions.

Overall, interesting the description of power has changed how I read
the news and the role of goverments, etc.

** Dealing With China, Hank Paulson
*** I liked how it followed the conclusions from "The Better Angels", where the author hints at using really strong economic ties to avoid any overt conflict. I didn't quite understand why the US would send that aircraft carrier through a zone they didn't have to if they could avoid it on a phone call.
*** It did go against the End of power with the stated goals of the current premier to build an even stronger hold; I'm curious how well this plays out over the next couple of years and how resilient it is to swings in the economy.
*** While China's development has been extraordinary, the cost in terms of number of people affected and environment was scary. To quote Terry Pratchett, "Dragged kicking and screaming into the century of the fruitbat"; I probably wouldn't want to be caught in the gears of that machine.
*** Another take away I had was that while Paulson encourages the US to spend more effort to trade with China because it'll lead to more Win-Win situations, anyone outside China seems to be negotiating from a disadvantage because a large part of the structure within the country doesn't actually believe it to be beneficial and must be convinced by really attractive terms.
*** I was surprised by how much influence Goldman Sachs and similar firms have at a government level; I'm clearly too naive.

** Blindsight, Peter Watts
One of the few hard science fiction books I've ever read: post-humans,
vampires, and officially the best aliens I've encountered so far.

On the way, the author also manages to introduce several concepts,
particularly around Darwinian processes.

** Elon Musk, Ashlee Vance
An interesting biography around one of the most fascinating people
alive today.

I always try to be careful about reading too much into behaviours
while reading these: how many of a person's achievements are because
of their eccentricities, and how many are in spite of their
eccentricities.

** Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull
*** A very fascinating and inspiring read, particularly for someone with
my background. Aspects of the book I found really interesting:

**** A blueprint for what Pixar (and then Disney) did right in fostering creativity and achieving their goals from a management and structural perspective.
**** The sheer amount of work and creativity that goes into building an animated film, and the process itself. They should go meta and make an animated film about making an animated film.
**** Never really explicitly referred to, but Ed's success at building his vision of animated films into reality is really inspiring.
**** Problems will happen, the best approach is to accept that they will happen, always be alert to catching them and then fixing them.

*** The book goes into a lot about making sure everyone on the team is
valued and can help identify and fix problems themselves.

*** Accepting that change is the only constant, and not working against
it, making it as painless to fail and learn and candor at identifying
and fixing problems are very important. Being able to put away my ego
and accepting feedback was another highlight.

*** Happily enough, I identified several things that we already have at
Facebook and helped put some processes into clearer perspective.

*** I loved the references to Ratatouille — particularly
Anton Ego's speech which happens to be one of my favourites in any animated film, ever.

*** Edit: A friend recently pointed me to
Ed Catmull's involvement in wage fixing which is fairly disappointing
given the other aspects he spoke about in the book. What I had found
conspicuous by its absence was that there was no explanation around
how Pixar/Disney handled performance evaluations and compensation —
because that can inherently affect motivation and employee creativity
positively and negatively. Perhaps this goes some way in explaining
why.

That said, I still enjoyed and trust the rest of the book.

** Scarcity, Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir
An interesting book exploring the effects of limited bandwidth and
tunneling: I constantly have trouble with time management and often
find myself over committing.

I was hoping for more explorations of avoiding or managing tunnelling
and side effects, but apart from the recommendation to push more
things into your tunnel vision I didn't quite get much more from this
read apart from validation around experiences I'd already had.

** Hurricane, Hugh Howey
Short and cute — a nice dinner time read.

** Seveneves, Neal Stephenson

*** This might have supplanted The Diamond Age as my favourite Neal Stephenson book.

*** There is so much happening here that I won't attempt to summarize it — I wish the blurb didn't give away the fact that the human race does survive in the end, the book itself manages to keep it ambiguous enough except for the fact that there are enough pages left near possible endings that you can be sure of a happier ^1 ending.

*** I found the near future science, Neil deGrass Tyson clone (Doc Doob), Hillary Clinton equivalent as president of the USA, a philanthropic-ish tech billionaire, etc. fairly fascinating. He doesn't seem to have a very high opinion of existing leaders or power structures: most representations aren't flattering.

*** Facebook's analog — 'Space'book, is also used as a tool for anarchy that almost ends all hope, but is an interesting counter point where the existing power structure is actually meaningful.

*** He also condemns some of the recent technical advances, which does have some merit: instead of controlling our physical environment and crossing space we're investing constantly more effort into controlling virtual environments; which need not represent reality.

*** The representation of future human societly seems overly optimistic and ... nice.

*** I can't help but compare the collection of the 9 human race representatives at the end of the book with the Lord of the Rings' fellowship. I almost wonder if there'll be a sequel where they go and destroy a powerful artefact to save the planet.

-----

1 Just once, I would like to write a book with an unhappy ending where — spoiler — everyone dies, and at the same time leave several blank pages at the end just to be an epic troll.

"... as X was walking towards the dojo to train under the revered
Shaolin master (who was secretly also a ninja pirate magician who was
also a dragon unicorn) to take revenge on his rival (his twin sister,
born a picosecond later but never able to accept that fact) he slipped
on a banana peel...

"... and fell into on open manhole that should have been a portal to
a wonderful, arcane world waiting one for the chosen one but instead
was just a normal manhole, knocked himself out ...

several blank pages later "... and drowned."

"The End."

** On Immunization, Eula Bliss
This (relatively short) book could really have done with some more
aggressive editing. Far too many literary references, whether they
actually contributed to the theme or not; the sheer number of
dracula/vampire references were also hard to read through.

Yes, I agree that vaccination is really important; I did that before
reading this, and still do after. I vaguely suspect that if I (for
some strange reason) didn't agree, this book is nowhere near enough
evidence to convince me otherwise.

The perspective of american healthcare transitioning from "paternal"
care to "shopping" was interesting.

** Usenix: Simple Testing can Prevent Most Critical Failures
For a change, a
technical
paper instead of a book.

My biggest take aways were that


*** non-critical error handling code tends to be sloppy and untested and has the highest probability of leading to catastrophic failures.
*** accordingly, "bottom up" unit tests should ensure that all possible exception handling code paths are triggered.

More focussed on distributed data intensive systems - but based off
personal experience from code I've written I can say that this is
applicable across different domains in Software Engineering.

** The Rational Ritual, Michael Chwe
An interesting, if somewhat dated read that speaks about how rituals
are useful in propagating information in societies by providing
feedback that others know what you know and they know that you know
that they know and so on and so forth.

He introduces some game theoretic principles, underlines the fact that
this has several simplifying assumptions built in and goes into depth
with examples around advertisements during the super bowl, etc.

To be perfectly frank the book felt more like a literature survey at
times that highlighted important aspects around understanding social
systems; but this was a part of a conversation I haven't heard or
understood.

The appendix felt like something that would be very well modelled by a
program along the lines of something Bret Victor would build that
showed how values change with understanding.

** Orwell's Revenge: The 1984 Palimpsest, Peter Huber
One of the stranger fiction books I've ever read: the author wrote a
sequel to 1984 which investigates the function of the telescreens as
communication devices; and how access to unfettered communication
effectively breaks any totalitarian control.

Some aspects from both Better Angels as well as the Panopticon from
Rational ritual are reflected here.

I also enjoyed the book as a statement by itself — the author
rearranged words by Orwell to come up with a coherent piece using a
computer: though I might have enjoyed the book slightly more if the
background and story weren't alternating chapters.

Finally, this book takes critical reading to a whole new level: Peter
Huber explains a lot of the book in terms of what was going in
Orwell's life and could possibly explain his approach to life and
books, which was amazing.

** A Blink of the Screen, Terry Pratchett
A lovely collection of short stories by Sir PTerry — one of my
favourite authors ever. After spending enough time immersed in any
author's books I become very curious about how they came up with the
world — and books like this with notes on each story and the why
behind it are like catnip for me.

I found out that "Death and What Comes Next" was written as puzzle —
see Timehunt
— and honestly that is something that had never crossed my mind given
how smoothly the story flows. It happens to be one of my favourite
Death stories.

I am glad to report that there are still some Discworld books I
haven't read, and I plan to savor each one slowly because there aren't
going to be any more.

** The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
Cute, and I really liked the concept of letters written to the ether.

** The Perfect State, Brandon Sanderson
A fun dinner companion: both dystopian and not, I almost expect the
world to end up somewhere like this.

** Gang Leader for a Day, Sudhir Venkatesh
An interesting book to read in light of Decline of Power and Better
Angels: clearly pointing out how violence can increase without an
effective Leviathan and the standard Hobbesian trap the gangs fall
into.

I was constantly uncomfortable this one, though — perhaps it felt too
voyeuristic for my taste. I'm still trying to figure out why; I just
finished reading this today so it'll take a bit of time before I can
express my thoughts better.

Another observation was that time feels distorted in the book: the
author spends several years working on his dissertation, while the
book moves reasonably fast.

I suspect I'll update this sometime soon.

** The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera
I really enjoyed reading this book, even though I'm missing a lot of
context about the time he's writing this book around and the country
Czechoslovakia.

The chapter on litost was a really good read; the stories about
Tamina were interesting, though it took me a long time to understand
the references in the second story, perhaps because it was a bit
graphic.

The constant references to the fact that this was a book, and the
characters were all from the Author's imagination — including
choosing names for them were refreshing.

I'm afraid these words don't do enough justice to the book:
this
is much better.

** Un Lun Dun, China Mieville
Technically, a YA fantasy story - but I enjoyed it far too much and
will be recommending this one to anyone above the age of 8.

Merrily stomps on existing YA tropes around chosen ones and their
inevitable victories.

PS. Un Lun Dun == UnLondon

** The Fifth Heart, Dan Simmons
A fun story surrounding Sherlock Holmes, Henry James and other
prominent Americans where Sherlock starts realizing that he might a
fictional character^1.

A fairly pleasant read, not as fast moving as I would have liked but
still gripping enough that I finished it fairly quickly after
starting.

Sadly, I suspect I missed a lot of references because I'm not very
familiar with the non-Sherlock characters referenced, particularly
Henry James. I need to add some more entries to my queue of unread
books.

1: Including taking his first heroin injection to be able to see the
type of the book — and the reader.

** Hurricane, Hugh Howey
Short and cute — a nice dinner time read.

** Trigger Warnings, Neil Gaiman
Masterful vignettes from one of my favourite authors — capped at the
end by a story about Shadow, from American Gods.

I particularly enjoyed the even-shorter stories based off the months
of the year, the cinderella/sleeping-beauty reference and the
Amanda-Palmer-inspired story.

Surprisingly enough, perhaps what I enjoyed most was the introduction:
he discusses on how un safe fiction can be; and that is what inspires
the title of the book.

There are also short pieces on how each story was written, which I
saved till I'd read the book completely to savor all the better.

** How to Write a Thesis, Umberto Eco
One of the themes I've been becoming increasingly fascinated with over
the past several years has been understanding and handling
information.

Reading about recommendations around indexing and accessing
information for a thesis several years before computers were commonly
used for other academic research or the internet was easily accessible
promised to be rewarding; the fact that the author was Eco with his
dry wit and understated humour promised that this book would be
entertaining.

It was both.

The thesis that is referred to in this book is an undergraduate
thesis for the final years of a degree. Eco focuses on both why
writing a thesis can be a very rewarding experience, and why it would
make sense to do it honestly.

There were two topics that I found very relevant and useful from the
book:


*** Using a table of contents as a working plan: setting up a very rough initial table makes it easy to determine what I'd want to cover and determine. At the same time it is by no means a finished document — it must be completely mutable and constantly updated as I understand the topic of my thesis.

*** Having a homogenous and easily accessible store of information is very useful; even if it means spending more time consolidating that information and being more disciplined while collecting it. Having this is also very valuable if you ever revisit a topic several years after researching it.
There are some aspects of the book that are dated: there is a lot of
emphasis on handling paper notes; choosing indexing systems that are
somewhat independent of explicit ordering because it can be very
painful to re-type notes; as well as choosing thesis topics for which
books are available nearby. There are also a couple of pages devoted
to to handling complex symbols.

The core themes of what the thesis is aimed at are timeless:

*** Choose a thesis topic that you can write about — you must be able to access relevant information from original sources.

*** A thesis can be your contribution to humanity's store of knowledge — be as clear and verifiable as possible.
I couldn't help but draw parallels with the amount of effort invested
into TEX, LATEX and Unicode. And perhaps bemoan the fact that simple
plain text files (my generation's equivalent of a typewriter) don't
support underlinining and we've adopted conventions like Markdown to
work around them.

Finally, my favourite quote from the book that stares down imposter
syndrome:


#+BEGIN_QUOTE

Be humble and prudent before opening your mouth, but once you open it,
be dignified and proud. (Section 5.6, 183)


#+END_QUOTE

How to Read a Book is a very good companion for How to Write a
Thesis.

** The Second Suicide, Hugh Howey
Another short story — a tad predictable even though it's written from
a completely alien standpoint.

** Essays in Love, Alain De Botton
Completely predictable, well written and extremely funny.

** Half the World, Joe Abercrombie
A reasonable continuation of the series; a page turner even if it was
a bit too cliched and mostly predictable.

** After Dark, Haruki Murakami
A surreal, relaxing tale representing what it feels like to be awake
after midnight.

Somehow perfectly captures my mood on nights I stay awake because I
can.

Introduced me to music which sounds like liquid gold - Duke Ellington.

** The Autumn Republic, Brian McKellan
A good ending to the series — with a lot happening in a very few
pages. Perhaps a bit too much, even.

** The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro
A pleasant diversion for a lazy weekend. For a slightly more unkind
take, check out a
digested
read by John Crace.

** Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Elizier Yudkowsky
This is an amazing fan fiction series that I've been reading for
several years: what if Harry Potter went about magic scientifically,
with experiments and controls and careful^1 observation.

The reason the series finds itself mentioned here is that Elizier
finally finished the series — appropriately enough — on Pi^2 day.

Now that it's complete, I can finally unreservedly recommend the
series: go and explore a completely different magical universe!

1: Determining the limits of transfiguration without blowing up and
destroying everything in a radius of several miles, for example.

2: As someone who abhors the mm/dd/yy format, Pi day is very
bittersweet.

** The Aleph and Other Stories, Jorge Luis Borges
One of the most fascinating books I've read in the past few years. Of
course, I could only read a translation but the quality of the
translation was amazing enough to make this a more than worthwhile
read. I am somewhat disappointed that I didn't come across Borges
earlier in my lifetime.

There were some stories that I didn't enjoy as much as the others
because they required more context than I had about Latin American
history — there were very useful notes provided, but nevertheless I
lost a lot of the colour I would have otherwise observed here.

Stories that particularly stood out to me are: The Immortal, The
Writing of God, of course the eponymous The Aleph, The Zahir, On
Exactitude in Science, The Plot — and finally, Ragnarok.

Ragnarok foreshadows Neil Gaiman's American Gods a lot for me.

There is something very fascinating on how a very few words from
Borges — just a page or two, and a complete story — could be so
significant. I digested this particular set of short stories with a
lot of discipline, at least initially: restricting myself to just one
every night before I fell asleep. By the end I couldn't resist and
devoured the rest of the book over an eventful weekend.

* 2014—
** Declare, Tim Powers
** Blackcollar, Timothy Zahn
** The Backlash Mission, Timothy Zahn
** The Judas Solution, Timothy Zahn
** The Time of the Dark, Barbara Hambly
** The Walls of Air, Barbara Hambly
** The Armies of Daylight, Barbara Hambly
** Effective Java, Joshua Bloch
** How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
** The Cartoon Guide to Statistics, //
** The Gods Themselves, Isaac Asimov
** Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely
** Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson
** The Divergent Series, Veronica Roth
** Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S Thompson
** City of Saints and Madmen, Jeff Vandermeer
** The Curse of Chalion, L M Bujold
** Blood of Tyrants, Naomi Novik
** A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge
** A Deepness in the Skye, Vernor Vinge
** Terra, Mitch Benn
** Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett
** Welcome to Bordertown, Various
** The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, Barry Hughart
** Hope’s End, Brian McClellan
** Forsworn, Brian McClellan
** The Martian, Andy Weir
** Thirteen, Richard K Morgan
** The Circle, Dave Eggers
** Market Forces, Richard K. Morgan
** The Seasoned Schemer, Daniel P FriedMan, Matthias Felleisen
** The Steel Remains, Richard K Morgan
** The Cold Commands, Richard K Morgan
** Coders at Work, Peter Seibel
** Worm (~22 books)
** Promise of Blood, Brian McClellan
** The Crimson Campaign, Brian McClellan
** Hope’s End, Brian McClellan
** The New York Trilogy, Paul Aster
** The Shining, Stephen King
** Doctor Sleep, Stephen King
** Wool Omnibus (1-5), Hugh Howey
** First Shift, Hugh Howey
** Second Shift, Hugh Howey
** Third Shift, Hugh Howey
** Dust, Hugh Howey
** Sleeping Beauty, Mark Lawrence
** Prince of Fools, Mark Lawrence
** Proficient Motorcycling, David L Hough
** Mindset, Carol Dweck
** The End of Eternity, Isaac Asimov
** Rogues, George R. R. Martin, etc.
** Lovecraft’s Monsters, Neil Gaiman, etc.
** Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer
** To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
** The Now Habit, Neil Firoe
** Wingman, Mack Maloney (ew)
** The Mature Optimization Handbook (Carlos Bueno)
** The Forge of God (Greg Bear)
** Half a King, Joe Abercrombie
** The Reluctant Swordsman, Dave Duncan
** The Coming of Wisdom, Dave Duncan
** The Destiny of the Sword, Dave Duncan
** The Death of Nnanji, Dave Duncan
** Earth Awakens, Orson Scott Card, Aaron Johnston

* 2013—
** The Naked God, Peter F Hamilton
** The Neutronium Alchemist, Peter F Hamilton
** The Reality Dysfunction, Peter F Hamilton
** Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
** Long War, Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter
** Making of Prince of Persia, Jordan Mechner
** The Signal and the Noise, Nate Silver
** The Republic of Thieves, Scott Lynch
** Red Seas Under Red Skies, Scott Lynch
** Unfettered, Edited by Shawn Speakman
** Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
** The Poison Eaters and other stories, Holly Black
** Boneshaker, Charlie Priest
** Just a Geek, Wil Wheaton
** Shards of Honor, Lois McMaster Bujold
** The Bedwetter, Sarah Silverman
** Not quite the classics, Colin Mochrie
** Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
** Emperor of Thorns, Brandon Sanderson
** Only Joking, J Carr, Lucy Grieves
** Red Country, Joe Abercrombie
** Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Philip K Dick
** The Man in the High Castle, Philip K Dick
** The Troupe, Robert Jackson Bennett
** Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson
** Scroll of Years, Chris Willrich
** Infinity Blade, Redemption, Brandon Sanderson
** Muse of Fire, Dan Simmons
** Anathem, Neal Stephenson
** Republic of Thieves, Scott Lynch
** Broken Angels, T Kovacs
** Woken Furies, T Kovacs
** Altered Carbon, T Kovacs
** Dad is Fat, James Gaffigan
** Rainbow’s End, Vernor Vinge
** Space Eldritch, Various
** Space Eldritch 2, Various
** Desolate, R Brumm
** Nine Goblins, T Kingfisher
** New Cthulu, The Recent Weird, Various
** Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
** The Last Unicorn, Peter Beagle
** The Etched City, K J Bishop
#+BEGIN_QUOTE
I am always a different man; a reinterpretation of the man I was
yesterday, and the day before, and all the days I have lived. The past
is gone, was always gone; it does not exist, except in memory, and
what memory is but thought, a copy of perception, no less but no more
replete with truth than any passing whim, fancy, or other agitation of
the mind. And if it’s actions, words, thoughts that define an
individual, those definitions alter like the weather — if continuity
and pattern are often discernable, so are chaos and sudden change.
#+END_QUOTE
** Emperor of Thorns, Mark Lawrence
** Prince of Thorns, Mark Lawrence
** Fool’s Fate, Robin Hobb
** Golden Fool, Robin Hobb
** Fool’s Errand, Robin Hobb
** Assassin’s Quest, Robin Hobb
** Royal Assassin, Robin Hobb
** The Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb
** Dominion, C S Friedman
** Crown of Shadows, C S Friedman
** When True Night Falls, C S Friedman
** Black Sun Rising, C S Friedman
** Fevre Dream, G R R Martin
** The Escapement, K J Parker
** Evil for Evil, K J Parker
** Devices and Desires, K J Parker
** Off to be the Wizard, Scott Meyer
** The Human Division, John Scalzi
** Caine’s Law, Matthew Stover
#+BEGIN_QUOTE
There are two things about a man that matter: what he wants and what
he’ll do to get it.
#+END_QUOTE
** Caine Black Knife, Matthew Stover
** The Blade of Tyshall, Matthew Stover
** Heroes Die, Matthew Stover
** 03-17: Spin, Robert Charles Wilson
** 03-24: Amped, Douglas E Richards
** 03-24: Wired, Douglas E Richards
** The Functional Art, Alberto Cairo
** Phoenik, Chuck Palahnuik
** Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed
** Soldiers Live, Glen Cook
** Water Sleeps, Glen Cook
** She is the Darkness, Glen Cook
** She is the Darkness, Glen Cook
** Bleak Seasons, Glen Cook
** The Silver Spike, Glen Cook
** Dreams of Steel, Glen Cook
** Shadow Games, Glen Cook
** The White Rose, Glen Cook
** Shadows Linger, Glen Cook
** The Black Company, Glen Cook
** The Price of Spring, Daniel Abraham
** An Autumn War, Daniel Abraham
** A Betrayal in Winter, Daniel Abraham
** A Shadow in Summer, Daniel Abraham
** Questions for a Soldier, John Scalzi
** How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer
** 01-27: 1Q84, Haruki Murakami
** 01-20: Supergods, Grant Morrison
** 01-17: Batman, The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller
** 01-16: Batman, RIP, Grant Morrison, Tony S Daniel
** 01-15: Snow White, Blood Red, Edited by Ellen Datlow, Terri Windling
** 01-13: Dawn of the Bunny Suicides, Andy Riley
** 01-12: Fuzzy Nation, John Scalzi
** 01-09: A Memory of Light, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan
#+BEGIN_QUOTE
dovie’andi se tovya sagain
#+END_QUOTE
** 01-01: Infinity Blade, Brandon Sanderson
** 01-01: First Born, Brandon Sanderson
** 01-01: The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson
* 2012—
** 12-29: The Mongoliad, Book One, Greg Bear, Neal Stephenson, others
** 12-26: Legion, Brandon Sanderson
** 12-24: Embassytown, China Mieville
** 12-17: Elantris, Brandon Sanderson
** 12-11: Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami
** 12-08: The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson
** 12-02: A Rational Design Process, how and why to fake it, Parnas & Clements
** 11-30: Smoke & Mirrors, Neil Gaiman
** 11-27: Coraline, Neil Gaiman
** 11-26: Accelerando, Charles Stross
* Previously—
** American Gods, Neil Gaiman
** Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
** Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
** The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien