Whenever I finish an interesting book, I try to write a quick summary of it here. These are often meant for myself (as I find the exercise valuable for connecting concepts and themes) and for sharing book recommendations with friends.
5/5: Will re-read. 97th percentile+
4/5: Very impressed. 75th percentile+
3/5: Net likeable. 50th percentile.
2/5: Only for enthusiasts. 25th percentile.
1/5: False, ugly, evil, or vapid. 1st percentile.
- Pieces of the Action (In Progress) by Vannevar Bush
- The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World (September 2023) by Oliver Morton. (4/5)
- The Making of the Atomic Bomb (July 2023) by Richard Rhodes. (5/5)
Highly recommended - an engaging study of the people, places, and policies that led to the consequential technology. This book greatly enhanced my mental model of the role of science in policy development and shapes my views of how technology progress actually occurs. An excellent resource for folks contemplating current large-scale research projects in AI, biotech, and materials science.
- Ideas That Created the Future: Classic Papers of Computer Science (December 2022) edited by the MIT Press. (4/5)
- The Precipice (December 2022) by Toby Ord. (3/5)
- The Man from the Future: The Visionary Life of John von Neumann (July 2022) by Ananyo Bhattacharya. (4/5)
Recommended - this is less a biography and more a story of scientific and mathematical progress springing forth from genius. It doesn't shy away from or dumb down the technical minutiae of subjects such as set theory, quantum mechanics, or formal logic. Von Neumann is deserving of a far more prominent place in the public's conception of genius and innovation.
- The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values (June 2022) by Brian Christian. (3/5)
- Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach (June 2022) by Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig. (4/5)
- The Hundred-Page Machine Learning Book (April 2022) by Andriy Burkov. (3/5)
- Spark: The Definitive Guide: Big Data Processing Made Simple (O'Reilly) (February 2022) by Bill Chambers & Matei Zaharia. (3/5)
- Where Is My Flying Car (January 2022) by J. Storrs Hall. (4/5)
Excellent commentary on the current technological "Great Stagnation" as well as idealism about nuclear power, nanotechnology, and AI.
- The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space (May 2021) by Gerard K. Oneil. (5/5)
Initially published in 1977, this work by physicist Gerard K. Oneil influenced the blueprint for many space exploration activities in the time since - most notably SpaceX and Blue Origin. While some of the material is dated, many of the core concepts of designing and building large-scale settlements in space hold true and are fascinating to consider in light of technological advances in the time since.
- Data Management at Scale: Best Practices for Enterprise Architecture (O'Reilly) (July 2021) by Piethein Strengholt. (3/5)
- The Self-Service Data Roadmap (O'Reilly) (March 2021) by Dr. Dandeep Uttamchandani. (3/5)
- Technology Strategy Patterns (O'Reilly) (February 2021) by Eben Hewett. (3/5)
- Developing Data Migrations and Integrations with Salesforce: Patterns and Best Practices (August 2020) by David Masri. (4/5)
This is the best resource that I've found for data professionals to learn about the Salesforce technical ecosystem.
- Designing Data-Intensive Applications: The Big Ideas Behind Reliable, Scalable, and Maintainable Systems (August 2019) by Martin Kleppmann. (5/5)
Absolutely excellent resource, I have bought this for several colleagues on my own dime.
Inadequate Equilibria: Where and How Civilizations get Stuck (May 2019). (3/5)
AI theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky mixes decision theory, philosophy, and macroeconomics to demonstrate where we can (and can't) spot systemic inefficiencies.
Superintelligence: Path, Dangers, and Strategies (May 2019). (5/5)
Highly recommended. This book, published in 2014, is foundational to the field of AI safety and ethics. Nick Bostrom does an exceptional job communicating theories about an abstract, technical, and futuristic field. It is interesting to observe where his theories have been correct or failed to come true in light of significant advancements since publication.
- Consider Phlebas (Culture series) (October 2023) by Iain M. Banks. (3/5)
- Matter (Culture series) (October 2023) by Iain M. Banks. (4/5)
- Green Mars (Mars Trilogy) (July 2023) by Kim Stanley Robinson. (3/5)
- Red Mars (Mars Trilogy) (July 2023) by Kim Stanley Robinson. (5/5)
Recommended - an exciting blend of hard sci-fi and politics chronicling the terraforming of Mars. If this interests you, check out the commentary and designs proposed on Casey Handmer's excellent blog.
- Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation (May 2023) - Anthology compiled by Ken Liu. (3/5)
- The Redemption of Time: A Three-Body Problem Novel (May 2023) - Baoshu. (3/5)
- Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation (April 2023) - Anthology compiled by Ken Liu. (4/5)
- Supernova Era (April 2023) by Cixin Liu. (3/5)
- The Dispossessed (November 2022) by Ursula K. Le Guinn. (4/5)
- The Player of Games (Culture series) (October 2022) by Iain M. Banks. (4/5)
- There Is No Antimemetics Division (August 2022) by qntm. (4/5)
- Cryptonomicon (June 2022) by Neal Stephenson. (4/5)
- Profiles of the Future (June 2022) by Arthur C. Clarke. (3/5)
Read to be impressed by Clarke's prescient forecasts, and for a much-needed dose of optimism.
- The Wandering Earth (June 2022) by Cixin Liu. (4/5)
- Hold Up the Sky (June 2022) by Cixin Liu. (4/5)
- Ball Lightening (June 2022) by Cixin Liu. (5/5)
- Project Hail Mary (May 2022) by Andy Weir. (4/5)
- Death's End (The Three-Body Problem series) (May 2022) by Cixin Liu. (5/5)
- The Dark Forest (The Three-Body Problem series) (April 2022) by Cixin Liu. (5/5)
This may be the best sci-fi book I've ever read.
- The Three-Body Problem (April 2022) by Cixin Liu. (5/5)
This series quickly became one of my favorites of all time, highly recommended. Cixin Liu has my vote for the best author of this generation.
- The Martian (October 2021) by Andy Weir. (5/5)
- Foundation's Edge (Foundation series) (July 2021) by Isaac Asimov. (2/5)
- Second Foundation (Foundation series) (July 2021) by Isaac Asimov. (2/5)
- Foundation and Empire (Foundation series) (July 2021) by Isaac Asimov. (3/5)
- Foundation (Foundation series) (July 2021) by Isaac Asimov. (4/5)
- Nemesis Games (The Expanse series) (July 2021) by James S.A. Corey. (2/5)
- Cibola Burn (The Expanse series) (July 2021) by James S.A. Corey. (2/5)
- Abbadon's Gate (The Expanse series) (July 2021) by James S.A. Corey. (3/5)
- Caliban's War (The Expanse series) (June 2021) by James S.A. Corey. (3/5)
- Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse series) (June 2021) by James S.A. Corey. (3/5)
Philosophy & Politics
- The History of Western Philosophy (February 2022) by Betrand Russell. (4/5)
- Camus at Combat (July 2020). (5/5)
Camus was active in the French Resistance in WWII. This book is a collection of his articles & essays written for the underground newspaper *Combat*. What I find most striking is the way in which his perspectives change over time amidst the turmoil of 1944-1947. You can observe the themes and worldview present in his novels and essays influencing his day-to-day reporting, and he simultaneously cuts through chaos to predict the future in timeless ways.
- The War on Normal People (February 2020). (2/5)
Andrew Yang launched universal basic income to the national stage with his presidential campaign. He emphasizes that automation will have profound impacts on the workforce and structure of American society, without coming across as alarmist or apocalyptic. The book certainly cemented my belief that Mr. Yang's ideas shouldn't be lumped in with the socialist left (Bernie/AOC/DSA), as he maintains a fairly pro-capitalist mindset which should resonate with most Americans.
- China's Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa (January 2020). (3/5)
A fascinating look at China's global ambitions during this time of American's decline and waning influence. Howard French is a gifted storyteller, weaving interviews with ordinary individuals across Africa into a narrative of the changes taking place on the continent.
- Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race (January 2020). (5/5)
Beautifully written and thought-provoking, no matter where you stand on political and philosophical divides. Thomas Chatterton Williams captivates as he explores self-conception, identity, and parenthood through the lens of amorphous and inconsistent racial constructs. Highly recommended.
- Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (November 2019). (3/5)
Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla
(December 2016). (3/5)
David Kilcullen is a counterinsurgency expert who has served in advisory roles for the Department of Defense, NATO, and the White House. This book, published in 2013, is an exploration into the future of counterinsurgency strategy and conflict studies more broadly.
Fiction and Fantasy
- Parable of the Talents (December 2022) by Octavia Butler. (4/5)
- Parable of the Sower (December 2022) by Octavia Butler. (5/5)
Highly recommended series. Octavia Bulter's excellent and expressive writing forces you to viscerally feel the emotions of the main character as the book progresses.
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy (February-April 2021). (5/5)
Re-reading this series was a pleasure. Trust me, if you haven't read Tolkien it since grade school, it will be richer the second time around.
- Missionaries (January 2021) by Phily Klay. (3/5)
- The Stranger (October 2019). (5/5)
One of Albert Camus's most famous works. A quick read, but full of depth.
- The Handmaid's Tale (September 2019). (4/5)
This dystopian story is over three decades old, yet sadly still relevant. Worth a read.
Miscellaneous & Non-Fiction
- The Storm of Steel: Original 1929 Translation (August 2023) by Ernst Jünger. (4/5)
- La Place de la Concorde Suisse (May 2023) by John McPhee. (2/5)
- Classic Krakauer (May 2020) by Jon Krakauer. (3/5)
- Red Roulette: An Insider's Story of Wealth, Power, Corruption, and Vengeance in Today's China (December 2022) by Desmond Shum. (3/5)
- How to American: An Immigrant's Guide to Disappointing Your Parents (January 2020). (3/5)
Funny, touching, authentic. Recommended reading for fans of the *Silicon Valley*.
- The Gun (October 2019). (3/5)
CJ Chivers's masterful history of the AK-47, dispelling pervasive myths about its initial design and spread. All the while, Mr. Chivers maintains a humanist viewpoint on the firearm's destabilizing effects throughout the world.
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (September 2019). (1/5)
I don't have inflated expectations for pop-sci/pop-history books, but this one still managed to underwhelm. Sensationalist and inaccurate, I read half of it and won't be returning.
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (June 2019). (5/5)
The late Anthony Bourdain's breakout book, featuring his brash but loveable way of explaining the culinary industry and the world at large. A must-read for those only familiar with Bourdain through his TV shows.
80,000 Hours: Find a fulfilling career that does good (April 2019). (5/5)
Excellent guide. Lessons from the Effective Altruism movement, applied to career advice.
Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Help Others, Do Work that Matters, and Make Smarter Choices about Giving Back (April 2019). (5/5)
Highly recommended. Learn how to have the greatest positive impact in your life.
Weapons of Math Destruction (February 2019). (1/5)
A popular, but in my opinion fundamentally flawed, warning about mathematical modeling.
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (November 2018). (4/5)
An insightful look into one of today's most influential companies and the relentless founder behind it.
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE (November 2018). (4/5)
An exciting story, a tale of adventure as a young man seeks to find his true calling, scraps together a company around it, then reaches for ever greater heights.
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
(October 2018). (4/5)
Journalist Sebastian Junger's inquiry into the country's growing problems with depression, political polarization, and lack of community.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
(July 2018). (2/5)
A biography of the man diving headfirst into humanity's most difficult challenges. Unfortunately, there was very little original reporting in the book, mostly a compilation of history and stories already in the public record.