Sunday, May 03, 2020

Reading in 2019

It's nearly May of 2020, and I finally decided I've procrastinated this enough. So here's my reading list for 2019.  

Top recommendations
  • Righteous Mind - Jonathan Haidt: While my reading for the last few years has been predominantly non-fiction, very few books make the kind of impression that the Righteous Mind. As a classical liberal with a slight left-lean, I've struggled with truly understanding the conservative view points, and I've been fairly troubled with the rise of the right all over the world. After this book, some how, it all made a lot more sense. This one was a definite viewquake, to borrow from Robin Hanson's dictionary. 
  • Why We Sleep - Matthew Walker: If Righteous Mind made the biggest difference to my worldview, Matthew Walker's Why We Sleep forced the most number of practical changes to my life. I've stopped using an alarm clock altogether, all the lights at home turn yellow at home, and I've barely sacrificed sleep for anything else (work, exercise) if I could help it. 
  • The Sixth Extinction - Elizabeth Kolbert: I've grown increasingly fatalist/defeatist about humanity's ability to tackle climate change. I can't tell if books like this force me out of the stupor or push me deeper into cynical resignation. Either way, this is a fascinating book. 
  • The Fish that Ate the Whale - Rich Cohen: Everytime I read a book on history I come away marvelling at our modern education system's ability to take such an interesting subject and make it as boring as they do. Who new the humble fruit had such a role to play in shaping modern geopolitics? 
  • Maus - Art Spiegelman: I feel like I've read so many books on holocaust that nothing on that topic can shock me anymore, but Maus still did. Probably because of the novelty of the format.
  • A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles: One of only two fiction books that I read this year. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Travels with Charley - John Steinbeck
Second-tier recommendations
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying - Marie Kondo
  • Early Indians - Tony Joseph
  • I'll be Gone in the Dark - Michelle McNamara
  • The Three Body Problem - Cixin Liu & Ken Liu
  • Zero to One - Peter Thiel
  • Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber - Mike Isaac
  • The Algebra of Happiness - Scott Galloway
  • Sense of An Ending - Julian Barnes
  • Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World- David Epstein
Some other books I read didn't make that much of an impression for various reasons
  • Classical Music of India - L. Subramaniam and Viji Subramaniam: While the subject fascinates me no end, I realise my vocabulary and comprehension of the basics are still too raw for me to understand everything in this book. I'm sure I'll return to it some other time. 
  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century - Yuval Noah Harari: After having read his first two, the topics and the treatment in this book didn't really trigger the thought processes that much.