A Reading List
Table of Contents
- 1. Current
- 2. 2019
- 2.1. Disgrace fiction
- 2.2. Dracula fiction
- 2.3. Why We Sleep nonfiction
- 2.4. Accelerate nonfiction
- 2.5. How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge nonfiction
- 2.6. Desert Solitaire nonfiction
- 2.7. The Art of Selfishness nonfiction
- 2.8. The African Queen fiction
- 2.9. The Poisonwood Bible fiction
- 2.10. Troubles fiction
- 2.11. Stories of Your Life and Others fiction
- 3. 2018
- 3.1. The Fifth Risk nonfiction
- 3.2. Flash Boys nonfiction
- 3.3. Space in the Tropics nonfiction
- 3.4. The Fire This Time nonfiction
- 3.5. Hacking Healthcare nonfiction
- 3.6. The Soul of a New Machine nonfiction
- 3.7. Turn the Ship Around! nonfiction
- 3.8. Saving International Adoption nonfiction
- 3.9. Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul nonfiction
- 3.10. Hagakure nonfiction
- 3.11. Our Only World nonfiction
- 3.12. Lincoln in the Bardo fiction
- 3.13. The Sun Also Rises fiction
- 3.14. Americanah fiction
- 3.15. American Gods fiction
- 3.16. The Obelisk Gate fiction
- 3.17. The Fifth Season fiction
- 4. 2017
- 4.1. The Righteous Mind nonfiction
- 4.2. At Home nonfiction
- 4.3. Hillbilly Elegy nonfiction
- 4.4. The DevOps Handbook nonfiction
- 4.5. Evicted nonfiction
- 4.6. Tribe nonfiction
- 4.7. The Negotiator nonfiction
- 4.8. Convictions nonfiction
- 4.9. Letters from a Stoic nonfiction
- 4.10. A Guide to the Good Life nonfiction
- 4.11. Cultivating Empathy nonfiction
- 4.12. The First Paul nonfiction
- 4.13. Homegoing fiction
- 4.14. Underground Railroad fiction
- 4.15. Too Like the Lightning fiction
- 4.16. Sign, Unburied, Sing fiction
- 5. 2016
- 6. Report
What is this?
I document what I’ve read, and what I’m reading here. There’s not a lot from pre-2019 reading, as I hadn’t developed a very good process for keeping track of what I read, and my notes. As a result those are pretty scattershot.
As we go along now, I’m hoping to update this with notes I’ve gleaned from my reading.
1.1 Exhalation fiction
1.2 Calculus Gems nonfiction
- Was bad ass.
- Originator (or most proximate) for rational thought and investigation of facts about abstract aspects of the natural world
- Proved that any triangle circumscribed in half circle must be a right triangle
- Pretty sure I had read this before
- Crazy guy who was more that a little involved in a cult of numbers
- Khan style, had so many followers who give him credit, hard to know what he really discovered.
- Invented the idea of systematic discovery of ideas
- Most of euclidean geometry as been show to be only partially true
- Initial assertions thanks to relativity and QM have been debunked
- State of the world seems more chaotic now (string theory, quarks, etc)
- I wonder if the loss of euclidean innocence has had intellectual impacts
- Not for researchers, but for average people, lack of faith in science?
2.1 Disgrace fiction
I thought I knew what this book was about in the first 10 pages. I thought it was a fictionalized opinion piece about the overly politically correct environment of higher education. The main character is openly derisive as people attempt to destroy him, leveling accusations of who they think he is, but there’s so much more to this book. I should have known. It won the Man Booker Prize and Pulitzer. I am not totally sure how I missed it for so long. Now I wonder how many other wonderful, thought-provoking books are out there.
My head is still in a bit of a muddle over this one. I don’t know if I agree with Lucy’s character, but I also don’t know how much it matters. Lurie is not an obvious character. I object to the idea that men are, by default, looking for women. Men who serially pickup women for one-night stands are a character type, not a description for all men everywhere. But I’m not sure that’s what Coetzee had in mind.
His behavior make me uncomfortable. It was especially jarring when, after multiple scenes of him trying to come to grips with the trauma of what happened to he and Lucy, he then describes just going and picking someone up on a street corner for a quickie. Good people don’t act like that, and I assumed Lurie was on his way through the dark valley on his way towards some sort of better place.
The visit with the parents is super weird too. I kept expecting it to be a dream sequence, or to have some other explanation.
It was a compelling read, and there’s something going on in there with Lurie’s love for the dead dogs and coming to grips with actual emotion. But I can’t totally make heads or tails of it. I think I may need to read it again.
2.2 Dracula fiction
This is my second attempt to read Dracula. The first stalled out in the third chapter. This reading nearly stalled out in the same place. I gave myself the right to skip huge chunks where someone with a cockney accent was talking about gravestones. Yeah. I get that Drac needs an army of the un-dead.
So far I’ve actually been pretty impressed with how Bram’s story has held up to the years. It’s not the creepiest thing I’ve ever read (thank you Lovecraft), but it has a sense of dread to it that is quite nice.
The various reveals in this book seem to take forever getting there. I wonder if part of it is the nature of writing in the 21st century vs the early 20th. There’s a lot of work around setting the tone of the characters and give them motives which by 21st century standards the definitely don’t need. I don’t need to know that Arthur feels magnetically drawn to Lucy. You can show it by the fact that he’s always there and assume the writer will pick up on it. In a lot of places it seems Stoker does not believe in the reader’s ability to intuit things about characters.
Finally finished this over the long Thanksgiving weekend. The story picked up considerably in the last third. Stoker’s writing was still a little slow, but the drama of trying to track down the Count as he made his way back Castle Dracula was fantastic. I’m not sure why film portrayals insist on changing the hunt to taking place in the castle. Finding him on the road surrounded by handlers and having to fight them to get to Dracula was great.
2.3 Why We Sleep nonfiction
2.4 Accelerate nonfiction
I didn’t finish this. It was a ton of justifying their results with data. Which is awesome, but hard to read. The conclusions I came away with were:
- Deploying should as low friction as possible
- Rolling back should be easy as well
- Orgs that deploy more frequently, can deliver value faster
This was also a great summary:
2.5 How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge nonfiction
2.6 Desert Solitaire nonfiction
2.8 The African Queen fiction
2.9 The Poisonwood Bible fiction
2.10 Troubles fiction
2.11 Stories of Your Life and Others fiction
3.1 The Fifth Risk nonfiction
A review of The Fifth Risk by Micheal Lewis
This is not Micheal Lewis’ best book. While I realize a lot of his books are spun out of short form pieces, this one seemed pretty transparently to have been drawn out of an article in a magazine. All of Lewis’ strengths as a writer are on display, but the narrative arc is lacking the elegance of something like The Undoing Project.
Walking us through how hilariously unprepared to govern the Trump transition team was, and then through the thankless work of the Dept. of Agriculture, Commerce and Energy, Lewis entertains, even without his usual depth.
The reality that the Dept. of Commerce would be more accurately named the Dept of Data and Weather, or that Agriculture administers small business loans in rural communities where anti-big gov’t politicians ask them to stay quiet about the origins of their community loans is all facinating.
And the effective raping of public data acquisition in Commerce under Trump’s administration is shocking. The idea of putting somone with commercial interest in keeping public data away from the public seems like there should be laws around it. It’s morally dubious ground, for sure.
And yet, at the end of the day, the book feels more like a rush job to capture what may be a fleeting market of trying to explain just how horrible the Trump Adminsitration is. There are a lot of exposés with a simliar bent, and while Lewis is remarkably calm in disdain, it’s still comes across as a look how absurd this administration is piece.
3.2 Flash Boys nonfiction
3.3 Space in the Tropics nonfiction
3.4 The Fire This Time nonfiction
3.5 Hacking Healthcare nonfiction
I wouldn’t recommend this for beach reading, but that’s hardly the point. Hacking Healthcare provides a really concise, if slightly outdated look at what it means to work in IT with health data. Unfortunately, I’ve come away pretty underwhelmed at the impact that open source software has had in healthcare. While many industries seem to be going full bore into software built by collaboration, with support provided by for-pay companies, healthcare still seems dominated by proprietary software. What this book shows, is largely why that is so.
Between ontologies (specific words coded for reference), HIPPA-compliance, and the general un-sexiness of health care data, it is amazing anyone at all spends their time trying to make doctor’s lives easier. And even more challenging, a high percentage of docs are well-educated and just technical enough to think they know the best way to solve a problem. That leads to very inflexible ways of thinking, for better or worse.
There’s also the reality that paper really does work very well for healthcare. Before you replace something, you have to understand the value of it, and the value of a patient chart is huge. Doctors and nurses have shorthand; they can scribble in text when checkboxes don’t provide the context they need; they can write down three different possible ways to diagnosis someone and come back later to review their notes, to ensure codes in bills match patient conditions. It should come as no surprise then, that computer-aided solutions often fall flat.
Recently I spent an afternoon in the ER. The RN on duty was quietly cursing under her breath as she struggled with an electronic health record input that required her to code everything. Going back to ontologies, that means that when she used rubbing alcohol to clean off my scrapes, that required her to lookup and specify ICD10 diagnosis code S40.212A, “Abrasion of left shoulder, initial encounter.” What the fuck? No wonder she was frustrated. Nevermind if it turned out to be my right shoulder but she was tired from being on the end of a ten hour shift.
And of course, this doesn’t even get into the politics of ontology. The AMA maintains it’s own list of DX codes, but they charge money for access to them. Meanwhile, there’s also LOINC, a free standard, but which is not accepted by all insurers. And of course, Medicare and Medicaid have their own standard which maps, roughly, to ICD10 and LOINC. BUt don’t forget Snowmed … sigh.
And that’s just ontologies. There’s also the simple matter of what IS a patient chart? Is it just the patient? What happens when a patient changes their name? Should we assign an ID to the patient? But how do we track the ID across the various systems they might travel through when they are referred?
What about billing? Oh my. Let’s not even start with that.
Suffice it to say, reading this book was mostly humbling. I will likely return to it as a reference in the future, as I mostly skim read it this time. But it is a fantastic overview of the state of healthcare IT from 2015.
The VistA effect, as explained in Longman’s book about the VA, is where the quality healthcare outcomes are continuously measured to enforce higher levels of patient safety and care.
This hinges on “meaningful use” measurements, which include:
- medication lists
- problem lists
- vital signs
These are trivial for a clinician to understand, but very difficult to model in software.
Given how difficult some of these problems are to reason about (is Fred Trotter and Frederick Trotter the same person?), are there opportunities, as a forward thinking healthcare problem solver to open source certain tools that make expunging HIPPA data easier? Or perhaps to rectify demographic information? Can we, while still making money and not tipping our hand too much, help those who are technical to advance the state of the art in healthcare IT?
3.6 The Soul of a New Machine nonfiction
3.7 Turn the Ship Around! nonfiction
3.8 Saving International Adoption nonfiction
Full disclosure, the authors are related to me. That said, after finishing this book, I find myself wondering how one person can put their shoulder to the wheel of the debacle that is international adoption, and introduce concepts that have been de rigueur in successful domestic adoption policy in the United States for years now.
More compelling than their idea, however, is the continuous stream of solid examples of how current policies are designed to help nation-states save face rather than ensure quality care for children. Having been through an adoption process myself, I can assure you that there are few things worse on the psyche of a child than being stuck in legal limbo. Perhaps the only thing would be being actively lied to about your past. Yet in international adoption, both of these things are common place.
Adoptions that drag on for months or years are the standard, not the exception. And often times, because of draconian laws, parents are forced to pretend they are dead to ensure their children are adoptable. Any one who knows anything about child psychology owes it to themselves to help parents make the best decision in terrible circumstances, and to allow the process to work slowly at first, and then rapidly as decisions are made.
I’ll also admit that the anecdotes about the authors’ adopted children were at times hilarious and heartbreaking. It was neat getting to know my nephews in a different light. While I realize most readers will not have the personal connection with the people, the vignettes anchor the story in an actual lived experience beautifully.
3.9 Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul nonfiction
3.9.1 The Wall of Separation
In January 1636, during a blizzard, in the dead of night, and still nursing an illness, Roger Williams stole out of his own home, leaving his wife and young children, and walked 55 miles through deep snow from Salem to Raynham, Massachusetts. He would depend on the kindness of his friend, Massasoit, Sachem of the Wampanoags for three months while he waited for winter to pass, before he could endeavor to settle land purchased from the Massasoit.
What had Williams done that was so heinous to the Massachusetts Bay fathers? He argued that the Colony had no right to take Indian land without payment, and furthermore charged King James with uttering a “solemn lie” when he claimed to be the first Christian monarch to have discovered the Colony lands. To arrive at these conclusions, Williams had applied English law, but the leaders of the Boston church, at the time an extension of the government, took issue with his political position and took it upon themselves to ensure that he could not preach anywhere in Massachusetts.
As far as I had been taught Rhode Island founder was a religious extremist worse even than the Pligrims themselves in his Christian piety and I had assumed that with their capital named Providence, the whole state was thick with Christian belief. Turns out I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Why had I never heard this part of Roger Williams’ story?
In my sophomore year of high school, I took a world history class from a socialist-minded teacher. The room that Mr. Levy taught in was assembled from thin, temporary walls in tracks. He took delight in explaining how the whole extension we were in was built as an experiment in the 70s. Teachers taught in various corners of one big room, and students could float between them, and learn what they wanted, when they wanted.
The experiment, for some reason, didn’t really fit in with public school educational models, and it only survived one semester. The chronically damp carpet in that extensions would, however, grow mold that survived and ended up making a number of kids (thankfully not me) very sick. But anyhow, Mr. Levy also had a habit of photocopying sections of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
Zinn’s oft criticized and sometimes canonized book portrays a more nuanced walk through the history of our country. By nuanced, I mean socialist. Zinn specifically looks for the people who are left out of orthodox versions of our history. While Mr. Levy delighted in turning history on it’s ear, his primary aim was to encourage us to not look at history as immutable writings scribbled in books. History is a living discipline. In French, the word histoire depending on context can mean history, or story. Indeed, history is the telling a story. A story of where we’ve been, who we think we are, and why we believe what we do.
Perhaps it’s obvious at this point, but Roger Williams story of exile was left out of my early American history lessons. Mr Levy only had us in class for one semester, and Williams was probably too English and white to have warranted much mention in Zinn’s history anyhow. So instead, I was taught that Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay setup successful colonies which over time, and with minor setbacks, eventually led to the complete colonization of North America by white Europeans. This is, of course, absurd, but welcome to American high school curricula circa 1997 (and I’m guessing that’s not far from 2018 either).
Williams exile, however, was more nuanced than I presented it. He had actually preached in Plymouth Colony for a time, drawing admiration from Governor William Bradford and being on good terms with John Winthrop, despite the latter’s disdain for Williams more liberal views. Indeed, Williams was uncomfortable in Plymouth, arguing that the church there was insufficiently separate from the Church of England. Plymouth was also where he began to take issue with colonial charters which did not include legitimate purchase of Indian land.
While Williams could tolerate political corruption, the fact that in both colonies, the church was inextricably linked to that corruption through law greatly disturbed Williams. As he sought out an audience for his ideas, the leaders of Massachusetts decided they had to act. His conviction for sedition and heresy meant he was to be put on the first boat back to England where his best outcome was life in prison, a sentence that in those days did not last very long and usually ended in death.
So Williams escaped, tipped off by his friend Winthrop, and in the spring of 1636 he, and along with his family and a small group of like-minded families setup a new community on the banks of Narragansett Bay, which Williams had purchased from the Womponoags. Under colonial law of the time, his purchase entitled Williams to rule the land and run the court. But he took the unheard of step of creating a community charter and, after securing a small parcel of land for his family, offered up the rest of the purchase to be dolled out from a town common stock, at a fixed rate.
In “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul,” author John Barry goes to great length to point out how radical a government with power drawn purely from the people goverened and not at all by God was in an English community in the 17th century. With Williams’ explicitly leaving God out of Providence’s government, the community quickly became known amongst the regligiously persecuted. Jews and athiests lived next door to people like Samuel Groton, who was indeed Christian but seemed to refuse to be held to the same standard as the church fathers in Massachusetts and so was difficult to govern. Williams’ community also became a home for Quakers, a persecuted religious group who plagued Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay with their belief that God channeled his communication directly through lay people, frequently being charged “causing a disturbance.” Williams believed that so long as the beliefs of these groups did not interfere with civil governance, the Rhode Island government should have no say in what they do.
As radical as his property rights position was, his declaration that the new colony would “still to hold forth liberty of conscience,” would go on to influence similar declarations one hundred years later, as the United States formally established its own government. Indeed, the future Rhode Island and Providence Plantation colonial charter would be the first place in the history of European colonialism where citizenship did not depend on church membership. The actual compact establishing Providence Plantation in fact made no mention of God at all.
Williams convictions, born from ideas he developed over decades, were given life in Providence out of the crucible of injustice by the hands of men who claimed to be acting for God. “When they have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of Separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wilderness of the world, God hathe ever broke down teh wall it selfe, remove the Candlestick &c. and made his Garden a Wildernesse.” Williams soul had been hurt by those he considered friends. In founding Providence and the future Rhode Island on the idea of government power derived from the people, and leaving the Holy out of human concerns, Williams hoped no one would suffer as he had.
Thirty-five years later, Williams would continue to refer to the cold January night he escaped Massachusetts and the “snow wch I feele yet.” This was a wounded man. This was a brilliant man. And this was a virtuous and pious Christian, who was hurt by those he thought himself in religious communion with. Williams “Wall of Separation” was not to keep belief out of government, it was to keep government out of belief.
In our modern view, we often understand the separation of church as state ans chiefly benefiting our government, keeping the specifics of religion from our common law. Yet, as I stand here in a Unitarian Universalist Church in 2018, I say, thank Budda, and the gods of ancient Rome that what I say here today can incur no civil penalty so long as it breaks no civil laws. This a privilege Williams nearly died for, and countless other American patriots certainly have died for. On this independence day, remember why the Wall of Separation is there, and if you are so convicted as Williams, defend
- Chapters 19-20
While I found the build up of Williams’ story a bit dry, especially the bits in England, and the early Planters in New England, these chapters kicked off his banishment from Salem. There’s an almost visceral quality to Barry’s depiction of his leaving, and it’s not an accident I suppose. Williams wanted to stay in Salem, and Barry goes to great ends to explain that he felt betrayed. But beyond Barry’s betrayal, or perhaps with that as a backdrop, we begin to find out just how revolutionary the founding of Providence was, not just for the American plantations, but the development of Western Civilization. Barry explains how devout a man Williams was, and notes just how striking the absence of the Christian God in the founding documents of Providence really was.
I’ll admit to being blindly dismissive of the founding of Rhode Island. I assumed Williams, like the Puritans before him, sought only a different religious individualism, but just as comformist in it’s own way. And yet the story is almost the exact opposite. Providence received it’s name because Williams believed his ability to sneak out of Salem before being sent back to England for torture was a form of divine intervention. And his grant of land from the Narragansetts would look like luck to any unchurched person, but Williams believed differently. And yet. And yet, this religiousity did not inform his new community. Providence was to derive the power of it’s governance NOT from a god, but from the individual rights of it’s inhabitants. Far from yet another religious plantation, Providence proved to be the first experiment in what would eventually become the United States. Silly to restate Barry’s title, but indeed, Williams’ idea birthed the soul of America. Not the Pligrims, not Plymouth, certainly not the industrious Dutch in New Amsterdam. Rhode Island, Providence and Williams, churched in liberty by Coke and religious tolerance by his own treatment in Masschussetts, began a period of Baconian government by scientific method in which we find ourselves today.
I think the most important aspects of Williams idea came from his willingness to put his trust in his whole community, while still acknowledging the importance of structures of governance. His was not a commune of anarchists, or anti-government activists. He simply wanted a place where his beliefs would be free from the tyranny of governance. Where the liberty and equality of governance were not required to poison the well of faith.
These chapters also touched on the tragic consequences of war and alliances. The fall of the mighty Narragansett empire was precipitated by a self-preservation move to ally with the English. Ironically, this alliance’s victory of the Pequot nation gave power to the Mohegan’s in the north who had never much cared for the Narragansetts. Sometimes, it would appear, survival means defeat.
- Chapters 20-25
Thinking now about this book from the perspective of writing a sermon, as Margaret asked me about it. I’m struck by how radical Williams’ point about Christianity not involving Earthly government was, and how we still haven’t really gotten there. There are still debates about the morality of our government which fall back to religious arguments because it’s all we have.
- Chapters 25-34
Noted this in my journal as well, but Williams’ stand for religious liberty reminded me very much of John Adams (portrayed) stand for legal liberty at the beginning of the HBO mini series. And really, in another turn of phrase, it would be called moral imagination. To provide someone else the respect of not understanding or feeling how they feel or think, but giving them room to do it anyway. Williams was a devout Christian. In these last chapters, Barry makes it clear that he also detested Quakers. And yet, his distaste for their beliefs, had zero impact on their ability to live in community with others. When the governor of Rhode Island was asked to keep the Quakers out of the United Colonies, they rebuffed them by saying they would stop them from violating civil law, but had no business what they believed so long as they respected others.
In 2018 it’s easy to think that’s not that big a deal, but it was a radical notion then, and as regards debates about public education and the role of religion in civil life, still just as important.
It’s also important to remember that Williams did not like the Quakers. He had falling outs with many of the rougher sorts who came to settle in his more-tolerant colony. But his personal distaste for them meant nothing so long as they abided by the laws as decided on by the people being governed. You do no have to like everyone, and you certainly do not have to agree with everyone. But laws should be generated by the people being governed under a framework of providing mutual aid and security. Beyond that, religion has no place in civil society. The use of laws to enforce religious preferences is abhorant, whether they be liberal preferences or conservative.
3.10 Hagakure nonfiction
- In offering one’s opinion, one must first ascertain whether or not the recipient is in the right frame of mind to receive counsel.
- It is important to commend young warriors if they perform their duties well in order to motivate them, even if it was only a trifling achievement.
- When scheduled to meet somebody the following day, make a careful assessment the night before, contemplating appropriate greetings, topics of conversation, and points of etiquette.
- Act in a way that people will think you may have become weakened through illness, and compared to the old days, that you have calmed down considerably. Your first words are so very important [in the way that you frame things].”
- “How will you reply when your own heart asks questions?”
- “I do not know how to defeat others. All I know is the path to defeat myself. Today one must be better than yesterday, and tomorrow better than today. The pursuit of perfection is a lifelong quest that has no end.”
- f you learn the teachings of the sages of China through lectures and books, it does make you more knowledgeable; but you may become mistaken in thinking that you share the same wisdom, and conceitedly start looking down on ordinary people as if they are nothing more than insects. This is proof that you have veered far from the Way.
3.11 Our Only World nonfiction
3.12 Lincoln in the Bardo fiction
- A curious sort of ghost story
When I first picked this book up I managed to get about 50 pages in when I realized I had no idea what was going on. Saunders’ narrative style is like a fractured Faulkner. A dozen different voices, all sliced together to form a rough narrative. I didn’t like it.
Trying it again, after learning what the Bardo is, I realized fairly quickly that this is not a book about Abraham Lincoln. It’s about Willie Lincoln, who died at age 11. But even more than being about any one person, it’s a sort of perverted love lost story. Abraham loved his firstborn son. When he died he was an emotional wreck and stuck back into the cemetery multiple times to hold his dead son’s corpse.
As grisly as that sounds, Saunders’ manages to make it into a heart-wrenching story about the purgatory of souls. Far from gross, Lincoln’s visits to his son’s grave are moving and more emotionally grisly than biologically so.
3.13 The Sun Also Rises fiction
3.14 Americanah fiction
3.15 American Gods fiction
3.16 The Obelisk Gate fiction
I did not enjoy this book as much as The Fifth Season, and finishing it became a slog. The revelation of where orogene power comes from was rather disappointed, and I felt that the big reveal we were building towards was obvious from quite a ways away. Still, the basic premise is intriguing, and I did find myself wanting to know where the characters were heading, if I didn’t care as much about them as in the first book.
3.17 The Fifth Season fiction
4.1 The Righteous Mind nonfiction
4.1.1 Intuition or Groupthink
No man is an island. Bon Jovi, sure, but also simply true. Perhaps even more true that Jon imagined. Or maybe he imagined the whole thing. How would I know.
The point here, is that many of the current epidemics in our culture, be they chemical, ideological or philisophical, can be traced back to a violation of the above Bon Jovi Principle. That is, we humans were not built to exist in a vacuum. Far from it, we are some of the most socially complex creatures Earth has managed to harbor yet, and we walk around with a belief that we’re doing this all on our own.
In The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt explores just how important intuition and groupthink are to the every day functioning of humans. The Enlightenment poised the well of dependence, giving rise the the thought that with enough inidvidual effort, any one human can do anything. The reality, however, seems to be that with enough group effort, humans can do anything. Individual effort is a figment of our imagination.
4.2 At Home nonfiction
4.3 Hillbilly Elegy nonfiction
Originally picked this up as part of a book discussion at church. I’m still not totally sure how I feel about. On the face of it, the book is labeled as a memoir. But the subtitle includes the phrase “culture in crisis” which begins to make a political statement. As a political statement it’s not great. Vance seems overly apologetic about how much help he had springing himself out of a terrible childhood, while at the same time making arguments that sound an awful lot like Trump and his supporters that poverty is a state of mind and that those on the dole have only themselves to blame.
Ultimately, Vance credits the Marines with teaching him responsibility and personal agency (a great expression). If that is true, than what could better help folks stuck in a culture of poverty than a mandatory two year government service project? Projects could be community oriented, or military, but everyone would have to do it.
It also perhaps wasn’t fair to read [Evicted](https://www.onec.me/post/evicted/), a professional enthnography about inner-city poverty, right after reading this book. Vance is writing a memoir, and seeks to make a few general statements about how he survived his childhood.
Perhaps we shouldn’t take it as much more than a glimpse into a life many us are privilaged never to see.
4.4 The DevOps Handbook nonfiction
4.5 Evicted nonfiction
The most affecting aspect of this book was the extent to which the author made friends with the characters in his enthnography. In spite of obvious character flaws, the people in Evicted are human and display compassion in the midst of horrible circumstances.
From a political perspective, it’s clear that we are failing a great many people, and that wealth does not trickle down, and never has. Desmond artfully avoids injecting his opinion in the piece, but at the end of the work makes a solid argument about the usefulness of housing subsidies.
A warm and safe place to live ought to be a human right, and in a capitalist housing market, the only way to affect meaningful change appears to be subsidizing the expense of a decent place to live based on total family income.
4.6 Tribe nonfiction
4.7 The Negotiator nonfiction
4.8 Convictions nonfiction
4.9 Letters from a Stoic nonfiction
4.10 A Guide to the Good Life nonfiction
4.11 Cultivating Empathy nonfiction
4.12 The First Paul nonfiction
4.13 Homegoing fiction
4.14 Underground Railroad fiction
4.15 Too Like the Lightning fiction
Never actually finished this one. I feel like the author was trying to do too much and the narrative was a bit sloppy. Maybe I’ll pick it up again and try later, but for now my attention is in too many places.
Effectively a story about an athiest future and the impulse of humans towards religion, a child is gifted with the ability to animate inanimate objects and in trying to cover it up a person in a highly structured society who secretly practices religious acts is figuring out what to do with the child.
4.16 Sign, Unburied, Sing fiction
5.1 The Man Behind the Microchip nonfiction
5.2 Evolution of the Word nonfiction
5.3 When the Body Says No nonfiction
5.4 Swimming Made Easy nonfiction
5.5 Eat & Run nonfiction
5.6 Born to Run nonfiction
5.7 The Sympathizer fiction
5.8 Pillars of the Earth fiction
5.9 Winter Men fiction