The start of a new year always provides a bit of motivation and that's been the case about my goal to read more books. Along with an abnormally cold Ohio January, I've torn through more books this month than any other. Here's what I've ready so far.
The Circle. I read this at the same time as Average is Over (see below) and the two books blew my mind to the point that I nearly needed the singularity they both address to put me back together again. The Circle follows Mae Hollands as she joins a Google/Facebook/Apple like company in California. She goes from working in a water pump plant to being one of the most popular people in the country thanks her to constant connection using zings (like tweets), smiles, frowns, and other data that people share. I wanted the book to take a Children of Men course, going from the pristine campus Mae works on to the gritty back streets where revolution festers. It didn't. Instead, it took things in a nice and steady direction of what the future might be, small changes over time that led to big differences. Which I guess is how things would happen anyways. I agreed with the small changes in the book, but was appalled by what the culmination of them looked like.
Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation. If The circle was a focused fictional account that might be true, this is the non-fictional macro view. I enjoy reading Cowen because his logic is well deduced and this book was no different. It was my favorite book of his so far and covers many areas using mostly chess as a model for the future. Cowen's main premise is that the greatest chess teams in the world are those that combine computer and human, and someday that will be true of the greatest workers in the world too. He also suggests that income inequality will rise, but so will the standard of living and things won't be bad at all. Here are 5 things I learned.
2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. I've posted my review, but I'll mention again that this book can help you do anything better. Rachel Aaron started by asking herself how she wrote best. She found the recipe included knowing what you want to do, knowing what you need to know to do it, and knowing when you can do it best. That simplified formula is something that we can apply to anything. From studying a new subject to snacking on the right foods at the right time.
In addition to this being great content, it also showed me that now is a great time for reading materials to be just the right length. This book weighs in at 64 pages and Do The Work at 109. The stories that each of these told fit nicely into those smaller page counts.
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey. Another book I've posted a review for, but I'll add this. This book was the equivalent of a great sport announcer. If you watch any sports you know that there are some commentators that are former players and they understand the game well. In football this is the guy who, during the replay, shows a key block or position of a player that led to the success by one of the teams. That's what Taylor did in writing this book, only instead of sports, it's about a brain during a stroke.
A Short History of Nearly Everything. I was listening to this audiobook and it's going to take a long longer than a short time to get to nearly everything. Bryson is funny and smart and finds details in the crevices of history that made me wonder why history in school wasn't taught this same way. Back then I would have been entertained by 12 year old girls who discovered fossilized sea monsters and feuding geologists. This book, like some of Bryson's others, is long. It's like being at a buffet and while there is delicious food, you're just too full. I stopped reading this part-way though I'm sure to return to it someday.
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. If Bryson is the mammoth buffet, Gladwell is the good meal. I've read his other books and enjoyed them greatly. I've read that his book got some push-back and there is some resistance to his calling attention to the 10,000 hour rule, but so far it's enjoyable. Most notably the beginning where Gladwell suggests that Goliath was afflicted with acromegaly, a syndrome that causes excessive growth and poor vision. I'm listening to the audiobook and it's as well narrated as What the Dog Saw.
Can you comment on anything you've read lately?