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📚 Finished Reading: Ursula K. Le Guin: The Last Interview

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Last Interview by edited by David Streitfeld feat. Ursula K. Le Guin  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Recommended for any fan of her work or anyone seeking wisdom.

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I don’t have a lot to say about this book, but I did make many highlights of quotes that were interesting, funny, or worth pondering.  You can peruse them from within my public notes, here.

What’s your favorite Le Guin work? Let me know!


Originally posted at Hey World

📚 Finished Reading: Why Nations Fail

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Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Here’s the summary from my public notes:

Extractive political institutions and extractive economic institutions create a reinforcing vicious cycle. “Extractive” institutions are ones where the power and wealth are funneled towards a controlling group.

Conversely, inclusive political and economic institutions create a virtuous reinforcing cycle. "Inclusive” institutions are ones that have pluralistic power and rule of law.

Inclusive institutions support longer-term planning, because people can rely on rights & protection, and thus save and invest in education & innovation.
 
These ideas are, at their core, basic classically-liberal principles.
 
The authors have done a good job of showing how inclusive institutions lead to growing nations, and how extractive institutions can lead to capture, authoritarian regimes, or societal collapse.
 
What the authors have not made a case for is why growth is the most important means of measurement, nor why centralization of power is required for inclusivity. (One can imagine decentralized systems that protect rights and rule of law, for example). Nor have the authors deeply examined resource/environmental extraction and what that will mean for the future of all institutions, should our approach to natural resources not shift to an inclusive model.

Have you read this book or one of the others that talk about why nations rise and fall? Have any recommendations on what to read next? Let’s discuss!


Originally posted at Hey World

📚 Finished Reading: The Feather Thief

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The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson ⭐⭐⭐⭐. Recommended

Based on the topics (bird feathers, museums, thieves) I wasn’t very excited about this book, but it was selected as a book club book for work. I’m glad I read it, as it was very good. Like a Michael Lewis book, it reads much more like a story (or stories) of people, and it gave unique insights into deep subcultures. I don’t want to spoil it further. Recommended!

Read it and want to discuss? Hit me up!


Tagged: Nonfiction


Originally posted at Hey World

📚 Finished Reading: Harrow the Ninth

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Tagged: Fiction


This is the second in a series of mega-horror, murder-mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, all-the-genres books.

You may not guess it based on giving it 4 stars, but it took me a long time to get through this book. Why? Because it’s tough.

Look, I’m not dumb, but this book often made me feel almost-dumb. With a plethora of fringe vocabulary, deep mysteries, strange perspectives, unreliable narrators, and a significant plotline that appears to contradict the whole first book…it was a challenge to wrap my head around.

Here’s the thing though: I like to be challenged in my reading. It’s just that this was a fiction book and therefore a “before bed” read, meaning I often didn’t get far with it before going to sleep.

It takes about 4/5ths of the book before things start to come together, but it’s worth the wait.

I’m looking forward to book 3!

Further reading:
Gideon the Ninth, the first in the series. Also ⭐⭐⭐⭐



Originally posted at Hey World

📚 Finished Reading Give and Take by Adam Grant ⭐️⭐️⭐️

I am skeptical of “put people in categories” books, due to all the evidence we have that things like this are not hard & fast categories. This book still had important wisdom to share.

Last one for today. 📚 cleaned up (a little) my notes for The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Highly recommended.

Also, ended up doing so much more linking around today that I went full steam ahead and put a “Digital Garden” link on my blog homepage.

📚 After reading The Shallows I’ve been wondering if there is some optimal blend between strengthening deep thinking pathways and Internet thinking pathways.

Along the lines of “explore vs. exploit”, what’s sweet spot between attentive consideration and inattentive collection?

📚Book notes from Signs of Life by Stephanie Lobdell ⭐️⭐️⭐️

(note: trying out a new book review configuration in my experimental digital garden. Feedback encouraged!)

2020: Nonfiction 📚 Review

To view other 2020 review posts (including fiction, feeds, newsletters, and magazines), visit the main post here.


I read 23 nonfiction books this year, down from 31 last year. I attribute this to a tough year, and also reading more fiction as well as reading more from other sources. I read more overall this year than last.

I prefer to read nonfiction in ebook format, so that I can create highlights and notes and have them automatically export to Readwise, where I keep all my reading notes for review. I read through the notes when finishing a book, so that I can capture what I learned in my own words (an important part of learning & synthesizing). I also have Readwise setup to surface 15 highlights from my reading every day (with a built-in “smart system” that follows my weighting choices based on source and recency of the work).

My first choice is to borrow the ebook from the local library, using Overdrive/Libby. Then I can read in the Kindle (or Kindle app). If not available there, I try to buy it as epub, and open it in iBooks. Both Kindle and iBooks are supported by Readwise.

When I read a paper book, I buy my own (usually from Bookshop.org these days, to support independent bookstores) and underline text and write in the margins. Then I also add those to Readwise using the Readwise app and follow the same process I listed above. It just takes more time, which is why I prefer ebooks.

If I’m not sure if a book is going to be relevant, high-quality, or have a lot of content that I want to highlight, I will listen to an audiobook, usually from Overdrive/Libby again (though we have an Audible subscription as backup).

I have collected my 2020 recommendations (both fiction and nonfiction) on a Bookshop list for easy perusal. That, and all of the individual book links, are affiliate links.

  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ How to Invent Everything by Ryan North - I can’t recommend this highly enough (micro review)
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Born a Crime by Trevor Noah - this had been on my list for a while, but I picked it up to read with a book club at work, after Noah came to our company all-hands meeting for a deep, insightful, and humorous interview with our company president.
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I Am Not Your Enemy: Stories to Transform a Divided World by Michael T. McRay - Resilient Review
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Deep Work by Cal Newport - How do we get meaningful work done in a world of increasing fragmentation and distraction? Newport has some ideas. (f you like this, see my in-depth Digital Minimalism reference and review)
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Four Futures by Peter Frase - What are different directions our political economy might go, especially in light of increased automation and ecological crisis? These thought experiments will help you ponder not just the author’s four directions, but others, too.
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis - Lewis brings his famous explanatory lens to high-frequency trading (micro review)
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ No Name in the Street by James Baldwin - insights from Baldwin’s life that we unfortunately still need to hear today
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ What Is Reading For? by Robert Bringhurst - A thoughtful and beautiful talk-turned-book. I bought a second copy so that I could have one to mark up on one to keep clear.
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Immunity to Change by Lisa Laskow Lahey & Robert Kegan - When actions & systems don’t change even after declaring our intent and good plans to do so, it’s usually because someone (including yourself) is invested in the way things are. Real change requires addressing that. (micro review)
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Remote by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson - As a remote-first company, the Basecamp & Hey founders share what they’ve learned. There’s a lot here that will be valuable even after more desk jockeys start returning to the office.
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Unicorn Project by Gene Kim - what Kim did for Ops & DevOps in the Phoenix project, he has continued for product development in this work
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️ In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan - in this work, Pollan shares the history of “nutritionism” and ways we can reverse the trends in “western diets” and proliferation of metabolic diseases
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Imaginary Borders by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez - Resilient Review
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek - micro review
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder - I thought this was going to simply about people who lived like nomads, but it’s a look at people living precariously and the industries and companies that are exploiting them
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes - like Pollan above, Taubes looks through the history of nutritionism, especially the problems with how we adopted a high-carb diet, and zeroes in on habit change to address the most dangerous parts
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Get Together by Bailey Richardson, Kai Elmer Sotto, and Kevin Huynh - how to build and maintain community
  • ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin - powerful essays that (as with No Name in the Street above) have far too much relevance still today

Other Books

Here are the other at-least-3-star books that I read in 2020. Books that are unfinished, I abandoned, or I only gave 2 stars are omitted.


What did you read this year? What do you recommend?