Readings

A compilation of books and short works of fiction that I’ve read by year along with a few comments about each. I have some stretch goals for reading this year.

2020

  • The Testaments (Margaret Atwood) - I had to.
  • Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History (Kurt Andersen) - An exhaustive history of nonsense in the United States. Andersen begins with the hypothesis that America’s current state bears the marks of its origin story. The know-it-all nitwit reality-show president is just one aspect of a long line of fantasies in America’s history.
  • Отче наш - a depressing but beautifully written short story from Odessa’s Holocaust. I read this in the original Russian; and I want to read more from Valentin Katayev (Валентин Катаев)
  • College Prep for Musicians: A Comprehensive Guide for Students, Parents, Teachers, and Counselors - some good advice for students who want to go into music. The sections on mental practice and centering are quite good.
  • The Meritocracy Trap (Daniel Markovits) - This book helped me understand the degree to which the populist uprising in the U.S. can be traced back to the pernicious effects of meritocracy.
  • How to Do Nothing (Jenny Odell) - This was on Obama’s 2019 summer reading list. Reclaiming attention from the online attention economy by investing attention in your local bioregion.
  • The Noise of Time (Julian Barnes) - Interesting historical novel about Shostakovich. Now I want to read more about the composer and investigate Julian Barnes more. He seems to turn an artful sentence.
  • The Rise and Fall of DODO (Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland) - I had enjoyed Seveneves after finding it on one of Obama’s readings lists. This book was enjoyable science fiction, interesting but a a little far-fetched. (Or can you actually say that about science fiction?)
  • The Language Instinct (Steven Pinker)
  • The Joy of X (Steven Strogatz) - A delightful and entertaining tour of mathematics from the fundamentals to the abstract.
  • The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (Shoshana Zuboff) - A well-supported account of the ways in which big capital, government, and a handful of tech leaders have conspired to “farm” our experience online as behavioural surplus and algorithmicallyexploit the data derived from it as a behavioural modification regimen. Strongly recommended.
  • 10 Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (Jaron Lanier) - I saw the author interviewed on “The Social Dilemma”, the Netflix documentary about the destructive effects of social media. Since then, I heard him make his case on a podcast and decided to read his arguments. It’s all quite convincing and consistent in many ways Zuboff’s opus. Whereas her arguments are for sweeping governmental regulation, based on new areas of law that deal with the wholesale “farming” of human experience at scale, Lanier’s arguments are for individuals to simply deny surveillance capitalism its raw materials.