By William J. Bernstein
Finished on 08-05-2021
An in-depth history of world trade. It’s surprising to me that even hundreds of years ago it was quite common to consume grains, meat, and many other things from abroad. The main change right now is that ships are able to traverse the world much faster and reliably. Even during the time of the Roman Empire there was quite an extensive trade between Europe, India, and China through the Eastern Desert and red sea. Also neat to learn that the spread of Islam through Southern Asia and what is now south east Asia helped people trust one another and aid in trade. Same as the Mongol Empire, which made the Silk Road possible.
By Ashley Mears
Finished on 02-05-2021
A book about the ‘VIP party circuit’ where millionaires/billionaires/sheiks/oligarchs go out and party by popping champagne bottles, focusing on the models that accompany these men in the night clubs. The writer is a former model who does field work by going with the ‘promoters’ and girls to go out and party and spend time with these people.
It’s super weird. I don’t really understand why people want to live like this, it seems pretty boring to go to these sorts of parties. But then I’m not really the target audience I guess.
By Mark Miodownik
Finished on 21-04-2021
Fun book, just like Stuff Matters. Full of cool facts. For example, I learned that soap is an emulsifier—it causes dirt and water to form an emulsion (dirty water). Neat!
Another soap fact: Soap Operas are named so because the first ones were sponsored by… Proctor and Gamble.
By Sebastian Mallaby
Finished on 18-04-2021
A description of how the hedge fund industry came to be, and about what they actually are. It was also a food background into some well-known people like George Soros and how they gathered their fortune. It’s not so conclusive on whether hedge funds are good. Having many small hedge funds are certainly a better alternative to big banks gambling people’s savings, because the funds have more ‘Skin in the Game’ so to say, but if they blow up they are not a systemic risk (though it was pretty close some times).
All in all hedge funds are not that important. It is also not likely that the insane returns they enjoyed in the 80s/90s are repeatable today. Looking at the whole market, hedge funds don’t really outperform.
This was a good book on the topic though. Quite thorough going through the different eras of the industry.
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Finished on 07-04-2021
This book is the latest in the Incerto series, where Taleb is mad to everyone that doesn’t have Skin the Game—that makes a decision without suffering the consequences of it. His thinking is that without it, we have nothing. That we need personal benefit and responsibility for good decisions to be made.
By Eric Berger
Finished on 21-03-2021
Very exciting read. The author interviewed a bunch of people that were involved in the early days of SpaceX, chronicling the struggles it took to get the company into a long-term viable position.
Total startup porn this book is. These people really have it their all but the result is incredible: humanity might have a real chance of going to Mars now.
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Finished on 20-03-2021
Just like Fooled By Randomness, great read. This book gets more into what you should do with the knowledge that that society is shaped by highly unlikely events. You should basically ignore very long-term forecasts about society or the economy, because they are always wrong. They’re basically just for entertainment.
We should also attempt to expose ourselves to positive black swans. If an opportunity comes up to talk to a big shot investor/politician/publisher/museum director, you should drop everything you’re doing and take the meeting. It could affect your life in a monumental way, and such an opportunity might never come along again. This is also a good reason to live in a big city. Chance encounters are not going to happen in a small town.
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Finished on 28-02-2021
This book is amazing. I’d listened to audiobooks of Taleb before and have been exposed to some of his ideas, but reading his words is a lot better. His writing style is highly enjoyable, oozing an attitude of ‘why is everyone so stupid except for me?’
The gist of the book is that survivorship bias leads us astray not just theoretically but is all around us—we shouldn’t take advice from rich and successful people because you don’t see the 10 others that took the same path but failed on the way.
The other big idea of the book is that (in the financial trading profession) many people take risks that give them a steady return until a ‘one in a billion’ event happens that wipes them out. The thing is that many one in a billion events happen every year, which is a mathematical fact.
By Ed Yong
Finished on 19-02-2021
Microbes are SO COOL!! We are absolutely covered in them, every gram of food contains a million bacteria, we breath out tens of millions per hour.
And there are so many interesting symbionts in nature, even insects and combinations of multiple bacteria that have co-evolved to be completely dependent on each other. If the bacteria is removed from the insect, both won’t survive. We wouldn’t survive without our bacteria either.
The big takeaway is that we can’t do without bacteria, and we shouldn’t be afraid of them. It’s better to find a balance with them instead of trying to kill them all and leave it to the bad bacteria to colonize the barren result.
By Rutger Bregman
Finished on 14-02-2021
I basically knew all of the stories in this book already and started skipping through some of them as the book progressed. The most interesting part of the book is the Epilogue, where Bregman tells you what conclusions you can make from the book in how you should live your life.
I’m also kind of surprised by the premise of the book, that most people think people are bad. I don’t really think that way to be honest. I already believed that most people are good and trustworthy. Can’t imagine living my life any other way.
By Ted Chiang
Finished on 10-02-2021
I really enjoy these sorts of small story bundles. My favorite in this one was Seventy-Two Letters followed by Tower of Babylon. What’s nice about a short science fiction story is that a speculative world can be created without having to fill in all the gaps—if some of these stories were longer you’d have more questions about how the world actually works, but now it can just be used to demonstrate a certain idea.
By Bianca Toeps
Finished on 03-02-2021
Heel fijn boek over Bianca’s ervaring met haar autisme, hoe ze er achter is gekomen dat ze het is, hoe ze wilt dat anderen het benaderen en hoe ze er mee omgaat.
By Xiaowei Wang
Finished on 02-02-2021
Intriguing book about how the internet is reshaping the countryside in China. It is a common pattern seen all over the world—of small towns having to adapt to the whims of what people in the big cities want, to try and make a living. Of farmers having to squeeze every little bit of productivity out of their land to compete on a national or global scale. And how this is no longer a national thing but a global thing, Chinese manufacturers quickly adapt to what American consumers want, with the last chapter showing the latest weirdest version of this: pearl parties being hosted on Facebook live in the Southern U.S., with oysters that are actually mussels filled with cheap cultered pearls from China.
The eponymous Blockchain Chicken are chicken that are ‘on the blockchain’ so they are tracked their whole life which should somehow guarantee that they led a good life. That there is not actually a way to verify that you have the right chicken or that there is no way to connect the physical chicken you hold in your hand to the chicken you see on a website is beside the point.
Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts by Annie Duke finished on 16-01-2021
Exhalation by Ted Chiang finished on 11-01-2021
By J.E. Gordon
Finished on 03-01-2021
Enjoyable book that lies down a lot of principles for how to construct things in a good way. It shows away from being too theoretical while also not being too ‘popsci’, a good balance. I found the chapters on aesthetics to be the most enjoyable.
By Eric Jorgenson
Finished on 31-12-2020
This book is so incredibly regurgitated that there’s very little of value left.
Hell Yeah or No: what's worth doing by Derek Sivers finished on 31-12-2020
Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger finished on 06-12-2020
By Meg Jay
Finished on 05-12-2020
The title is quite cheesy, but I found this an insightful book. The author (a therapist) goes through a series of anxieties that she sees twentysomethings have, where most of them boil down to people not really taking their life seriously and feeling like it’s fine to just sleepwalk they way through their twenties, not considering what they want out of life or how they want their next decades to be. This leads to regrets, where people at thirty need to start taking their career and family life seriously all of a sudden and failing at it.
The book is definitely aimed at people who foresee themselves having a normie life at some point, so if that’s not the path you want then it might not apply to your. But if not that, you need to consider what you want your life to look like instead, and what steps you have to take to get there. Because if you don’t then life will just happen to you, time will pass, and you might regret where you end up.
By Anna Wiener
Finished on 30-11-2020
I really enjoyed Weiner’s writing, it’s very funny and engaging.
By Oliver Bullough
Finished on 24-11-2020
This book is rough, it’s about how crooks and plutocrats—think oil princes, families of dictators, Russian oligarchs—are shaping the international legal system into one where they can safely steal trillions from their own countries, facilitated by bankers in the west. And how these people are using their influence to fund political campaigns in democracies like the successful Brexit campaign, and surely some other populist parties as well. Just completely awful, but the book is great.
I found the history lesson at the beginning also interesting, about how most countries had quite strong capital controls after WW2 that were gradually removed. This is also what irks me so much about Bitcoin people, that the complete lack of central control should be seen as something good. Being able to do whatever you want with your money is not a human right, and not desirable in any way. It only serves criminals and crooks.
By Chase Purdy
Finished on 27-10-2020
This book reads like a bad first-person fiction book, with very little meat (heh) to it. Unfortunately I’ve learned nothing about it.
Started skipping through the last four chapters.
By Morgan Housel
Finished on 30-09-2020
Very clear and short book that contains a lot of things that might should be common knowledge or obvious, but aren’t explained so clearly as in here.
It treats money as the thing it is: a bunch of (trust) relationships between people, with all the emotions and messiness that comes with people. And that’s how it should be treated! So don’t pretend you’re a spreadsheet, read this book and become a little more aware of what goes on in your head.
Notes to Myself: My Struggle to Become a Person by Hugh Prather finished on 18-09-2020
Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk finished on 16-09-2020
By M. Mitchell Waldrop
Finished on 14-09-2020
A huge book that spans the history of computers from WW2 up to the nineties, told as interwoven threads that all connect to JCR Licklider. He foresaw interactive computing as we know it today, at a time when computers filled rooms, cost millions and required clerks to attend to them.
What I found great about the book is that names kept coming up that I knew. People that invented the GUI, OOP, Lisp, etc. Amazing.
By Jacob Goldstein
Finished on 13-09-2020
Enjoyable read, but if you’re an avid planet money listener, you’ll know many things already!
By Benjamin Lorr
Finished on 11-09-2020
This book dives into the craziness that goes into the background to make supermarkets ‘work’. At first it’s kind of weird and funny but the book gets very dark, detailing the human suffering that gets inflicted to make your shrimp slightly cheaper.
By David Graeber
Finished on 02-09-2020
Pretty good book about some jobs being useless, as judged by the people themselves. Apparently in the Netherlands 40% of people surveyed said their own job is useless.
Not sure what I took from the book however.
EDIT: wow the author died the same day I posted this review. Rest in peace
By James Gleick
Finished on 28-08-2020
Super fun to read! I read another bio (I think ‘Surely you’re joking…’) a while ago, but it was fun to read this one. Feynman seemed to just play his way through life, not taking things too seriously and always looking through bullshit to get at the core of things. I recognize some of myself in that attitude, although he was 100x as smart of course.
Het leven is te kort om op kantoor te zitten by Lonneke Lodder finished on 27-08-2020
Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime-from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door by Brian Krebs finished on 15-08-2020
By Doortje Smithuijsen
Finished on 08-08-2020
Vermakelijk en intrigerend boek over de wereld van influencers. Het is best apart dat er zo weinig serieus geschreven wordt over deze mensen, terwijl een groot deel van de advertenties die we dagelijks zien door influencercampagnes geplaatst wordt.
De schrijfster wisselt mooi tussen de verhalen van de mensen die ze volgt, en filosoferen over hoe het komt dat de Millenialgeneratie zo statusgedreven is, en wat het met iemand doet om constant bezig te zijn met het profileren van haarzelf.
Het enige wat ik heb aan te merken op dit boek is dat ze steeds andere schrijvers aanhaalt om haar filosoferingen te onderbouwen, wat je ietwat uit de ‘flow’ van het boek neemt.
Ik kijk uit naar meer boeken van deze schrijfster! Het las erg makkelijk weg.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi finished on 05-08-2020
By Ben Hubbard
Finished on 24-07-2020
Very in-depth book on MBS. He seems to be simultaneously giving his citizens more freedom to do things like go to concerts or allow women to drive, while at the same time setting up a very strong surveillance apparatus and ‘disappearing’ people he doesn’t agree with.
No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram by Sarah Frier finished on 16-07-2020
By Jordan Mechner
Finished on 06-07-2020
Great look into the soul of Jordan Mechner as he creates Prince of Persia. We are lucky that he kept a journal during this time, and we should all be journaling more! I’ve been doing it for a while now, and it’s nice to be able to look back sometimes.
The Stripe Press print is just beautiful. Very nice blue cover with many photos and notes inside, just a great reading experience.
By Evan Ratliff
Finished on 05-07-2020
This book reports incredibly well on the insane story of Paul Leroux, who started out as a programmer and ended up a mob boss, ordering the killing of many people and shipping weapons out of Iran.
I’m mostly impressed by how much access the writer managed to get. Thrilling read.
By Tracy Kidder
Finished on 20-06-2020
This book is just good fun, in the same spirit as Masters of Doom.
By Greg Egan
Finished on 03-06-2020
OK book with some cool ideas that’s hampered by poor writing.
I’d also like to instate a rule: if you write hard sci-fi, just don’t write a sex scene. Just don’t
Lifecycle Investing: A New, Safe, and Audacious Way to Improve the Performance of Your Retirement Portfolio
By Ian Ayres
Finished on 21-05-2020
This is a neat little book, with a easy to grasp insight:
1. If you’re going to be employed in the future, you will have future savings. You know this for sure.
2. You can see your future savings as a a bond that pays a certain amount per month. You can discount this bond by the prevailing interest rate to get its present value.
3. Your risk tolerance doesn’t change during your lifetime. The only thing that changes is your future savings.
4. Therefore, if you want to be 50% exposed to stocks, you will need to borrow money to be properly exposed in your younger years. Investing with leverage when young will lead to higher minimum, maximum, and average returns.
5. The key insight is that investing with leverage early on leads to ‘temporal diversification’—you should expose yourself to more market risk early in your life so you can have less risk later on in life. This is less risky than not leveraging when young. Think about it this way: imagine you could invest everything at birth, and pay off the loan over time. If the interest rate is low enough, then this would be the way to go. With a broker like Interactive Brokers, you can borrow at 1.5%, so it’s a cheap way to allocate your risk that you would take in your 50s to 60s across your 20s-40s. This would lead to a lower risk with higher returns.
Very good insight. The only reason I’m not jumping to borrow money to invest myself, is because it seems daunting and something that can cause quite some damage.
Dune by Frank Herbert finished on 18-05-2020
By Robert M. Sapolsky
Finished on 26-04-2020
It’s decent, but if you read any other books by Mr. Sapolsky you will come across some of the same stories in this one.
Good Economics for Hard Times: Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems by Abhijit V. Banerjee finished on 24-04-2020
The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner finished on 01-04-2020
Chillies: A Global History (Edible) by Heather Arndt Anderson finished on 11-03-2020
By Adam Minter
Finished on 09-03-2020
Enjoyable book about the unseen world of where your second-hand stuff ends up at. Some takeaways for me:
1. Don’t feel bad about donating clothing that’s durable, it will find a good use.
2. Don’t buy clothes that are from synthetic material (unless it’s recycled and high quality i.e. Patagucci). Buy durable clothes that are made from cotton or other natural fibers.
3. Buy less stuff, own less stuff, less stuff.
How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers
By Sönke Ahrens
Finished on 01-03-2020
This book is quite incredible in its depth—what on the surface seems like just a book about taking notes goes much deeper than that into how thought itself works, and how you can improve the way you read and do research to learn more.
A central thesis of the book is that the people who see as ‘geniuses’, the Nobel-prize winning people of the world, are so productive because they have a system they use to structure their thoughts. If you want to be a successful researcher or writer, you will need to build to systematically collect insight from your research, and connect ideas across different subjects. The Zettelkasten, as described in this book, is one way to do so. It is a way to take notes, where you form connections between notes. These connections allow browsing through the notes, making it possible for you to birth new ideas across different disciplines. The implementation of it can be done in different ways, a personal wiki would be one way.
I’ve started taking more notes since reading this book, I hope to see an increase in novel thoughts from it. We will see.
Radicalized by Cory Doctorow finished on 26-02-2020
By Ray Bradbury
Finished on 17-02-2020
I found the book OK, it’s not very deep and a bit of a slog at times. The message is that books will be obsoleted so we should cherish them, or something. I think Bradbury got that wrong.
Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals by Tyler Cowen finished on 31-01-2020
By Andy Greenberg
Finished on 12-01-2020
Just listen to the Darknet diaries podcast episode NotPetya, it’s better than the book.
By Mike Isaac
Finished on 30-12-2019
Reads like a thriller, or like plot of Succession. The crazy story of Uber. You won’t really learn anything from this book, besides the fact that Kalanick is a manipulative asshole, but you will have a great time reading it.
2001: A Space Odyssey (Space Odyssey, #1) by Arthur C. Clarke finished on 15-12-2019
By Mark Kurlansky
Finished on 06-12-2019
I like these sorts of books that try to explain the history of civilization through a single thing, but this author should’ve edited a lot out of this book. It’s a lot of accounts of random places on how they use salt and recipes with them. There’s only two paragraphs at the very end about the nutritional reasons we need salt. It’s just a dull book.
Je kunt het ook nooit goed doen by Carmen Felix finished on 19-11-2019
By Alain Bertaud
Finished on 17-11-2019
Very thorough book about urban planning and economics. It’s quite frustrating to see how cities I’m familiar with (Amsterdam, Berlin) that are going through growth are mismanaging it so poorly that rents are skyrocketing, leading to people getting stuck into their current situations when they would be better off moving.
Some of the insightful effects:
* A lack of enough housing for the growth of a population leads to an increase in rents for all kinds of housing, as people with high incomes will settle in middle quality housing, middle incomes on low quality housing, and low incomes get squeezed out.
* Fast trains and e-bikes are dope. Cities should ensure that there’s adequate train transport between suburbs and to the center, and citizens should have the room and infrastructure to keep (e-)bikes to quickly get to the nearest train station.
* There is no free way to get affordable housing. Zoning laws and regulations that require cheaper housing will lead to randomized lottery winners that get nicer housing, while people who don’t qualify for it pay more for theirs. It can also lead to locking people into housing that isn’t optimal for them (because of location, size or otherwise). Giving tax cuts to build affordable housing end up costing a lot more than just buying the apartments outright would’ve cost the city. If you’re worried poor people can’t afford housing, just give them money. They can better decide for themselves what kind of housing is best for them. This housing subsidy should gradually reduce as their income increases—this is a current problem with ‘huurtoeslag’ in the Netherlands where people can end up with net less money if they get a raise, because they lose their access to the subsidy.
* Cities need to have economists to figure out what the impact is of current regulation, of new ones, and adjust or remove regulations that don’t work/have adverse effects.
By Vaclav Smil
Finished on 26-10-2019
This book is very, very thorough. It goes through the whole history of how humans use energy, which is basically the whole history of human technological development. It is also very dense, no words are wasted on anecdotes or prose, but rather every sentence contains interesting information.
It is quite sobering, we need a lot of energy to maintain something close to our current standard of living and to improve the lives of the people currently living in squalor, but there’s no easy way to achieve this. The only viable way seems to be a massive (and politically difficult) scale up of nuclear energy, with wind and solar where it makes sense. And we will still need techniques for synthesizing hydrocarbon fuels for things like aviation and shipping.
It is also sobering because the author doesn’t care about politics, just the poor allocation and use of energy we have in the world. Why are we placing solar panels in northern europe instead of Africa? Why are we shipping wood chips across the Atlantic to burn them in European power plants? These things are local maxima but bad for the world as a whole.
Life is a brutal fight against entropy.
The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman finished on 22-09-2019
How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems by Randall Munroe finished on 15-09-2019
By Safi Bahcall
Finished on 05-09-2019
Got through a quarter of the book and couldn’t go on.
The author has some flimsy theories that he then tries to justify by shoehorning some interesting historical stories into fitting his narrative. Don’t get this book if you actually want to learn something, it’s only good if you want someone to rehash some stories of historical innovators and fluff them with a lot of adjectives to make them more exciting.
By Herman Koch
Finished on 22-07-2019
Heftig boek. Ik wist niets over dit boek van tevoren en dat is beter. In het begin vond ik dit boek buitengewoon vermakelijk omdat ik de komische observaties van de hoofdpersoon ontzettend kan waarden—ik kijk vaak op dezelfde manier naar de wereld. Het boek draait om geheimen die stukje bij beetje onthult worden. Aan het einde weet je wat er allemaal is gebeurd maar meer wil ik niet kwijt zonder hier een spoiler van te maken.
By William Zinsser
Finished on 15-07-2019
Writing is very important, because it’s how I bring across ideas and opinions. I also consider writing well to be hard. Without paying attention you can write a lot of text without conveying your initial thought. The worst writing is done in a business context, where process performance optimizations are scheduled to integrate external requirements. A business context is also where good writing can be most impactful. If you write an email that gets sent to 500 people, you better make sure it is easy to read and gets your message across. What else would be the point? Otherwise you waste 500 people’s time.
This book is a good overview of writing principles you should follow to make your writing better. I enjoyed the chapters that go into applying the principles to specific topics, although I skipped over the ones that are not relevant to me–sportswriting for example. I am surprised by how well-updated this book has been over the past 40 years, although I am interested in a book like this that is written by a writer from a newer generation.
By Robert M. Sapolsky
Finished on 11-07-2019
This book is almost like a manual on how your human biological machine works. Mr. Sapolsky goes through all different kinds of human behavior and does the same thing: explains how the environment/context and hormones together influence the behavior. If there’s one lesson from this book it’s that behavior is always a combination of context + hormones.
It can be a bit of a slog at times because it’s so long and thorough, but his writing style is enjoyable and quite witty at times. I’d recommend this book to anyone who is a human.
By Fabien Sanglard
Finished on 10-07-2019
Very understandable deep dive into various sections of the Wolfenstein engine. The author is very good at visually explaining the hardware situation developers in the late 80s/early 90s had to deal with, and what kind of crazy tricks they had to invent to get the game up to a decent frame rate. My favorite technique was (mis)using the VGA bank mask to be able to write multiple pixels at the same time, halving the amount of memory writes a typical scene needed to do. I went through it in a couple hours.
I’d recommend getting the PDF for free from
http://fabiensanglard.net/gebb/index.html and then donating to the author.
By David Kushner
Finished on 01-07-2019
I flew through this book in just a weekend. Most of this story happened before I was born—yet through this book I lived it all. A total ode to the individual hackers that revolutionized computer games forever, with OG ‘rockstar programmer’ John Carmack and game development visionary John Romero as the protagonists. Just like the book ‘Skunkworks’ this one highlights the innovations small teams under great constraints can achieve. It makes me want to start my own company developing for the current cutting-edge mobile devices, and pushing the status-quo much further than it currently is
I am not worthy!
By Iain M. Banks
Finished on 18-05-2019
A pretty OK space opera that has an unsurprising ending conclusion, with a twist explanation thrown in at the end that doesn’t really add anything. I’m enjoying some of the world building in the series but I wish there were more details on the Culture instead of all the focus on the Empire. The game of Azad was so central to the plot of the book but you learn nothing about it except that it’s 👋🏻 really complicated 👋🏻 which is a shame.
By Irene Yuan Sun
Finished on 25-04-2019
This book is a series of profiles on various characters that are involved with the progression of industrialization in various African countries, spurred on by Chinese entrepreneurs.
There are a couple key points the author wants to make:
1. Industrialization in east Asia has been a chain reaction, with Japanese factory workers becoming factory owners in Taiwan, workers in Taiwan becoming owners in China, and now former factory workers in China opening factories in Africa. In each step the workers in the various countries started out very poor, and through industrialization their standard of living and social outcomes improved drastically.
2. Industrialization has a very profound impact on the social norms and culture of a society. Workers in newly industrialized countries have been complaining about the ruthlessness of the clock since the dawn of industrialization, and factory owners have been complaining about the ‘laziness’ of workers since forever too. No group of people in inherently lazy, industrialization molds everyone into productive cogs of the machine.
Another example of shifting social norms is women in Lesotho. It used to be the case that many women would be dependent on men who would go work in mines in South Africa. Now some of them can earn their own living working in garment factories. This changes the nature of relationships in society in a big way.
3. Some Chinese entrepreneurs play it really dirty. There have been cases of competitors’ factories mysteriously burning down, machines that were outlawed in China because of poor environmental qualities being deployed in Nigeria, and bribery. To develop strong labor and environmental protection in these countries will take time, and damage will be done in the mean time.
We will have to see what actually happens over the coming decades. I really hope Africa will be able to shed its legacy of being seen as backward and hopeless, and at the same time I hope it can develop without destroying the environment. Time will tell.
By David Graeber
Finished on 20-04-2019
An anthropological inquiry into how money came to be, ending with a political message. There was never a true barter society like some economists like to say. There was never a quaint little village where cheese mongers traded wheels of cheese for shoes, until someone ‘invented’ money. Instead there is plenty of reason to believe that people traded by using ‘IOUs’ (I owe you) which are slips of paper that for example would show ‘this paper entitles the holder to the value of a wheel of cheese from Joe the cheese monger’. Sometimes this was a literal slip of paper, most most of the time it would just be a feeling you kind of keep track of in your head.
There was also a lot of details on usury and excessive debts. In some societies debt holders would be able to not just take possession of someone’s land and animals, but even their wives and children. Some societies allowed sentencing a debtor to death! It’s been recognized through the centuries that excessive debts can have an enormously destabilizing effect, and kings would sometimes call for a forgiveness of all debts in society. It also explains why Islam does not allow lending money with interest, because it was recognized that it can have very bad consequences.
In short, this book is quite thorough in the different sorts of debts it explains.
By Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Finished on 24-03-2019
Not for me
By Iain M. Banks
Finished on 19-03-2019
I think this book is just OK, and even a bit cheesy at times. It definitely has its moments and interesting characters, but it gets to be fairly predictable. Hope the follow on books are better
By Robert M. Sapolsky
Finished on 26-02-2019
This book is fantastic and I’ve been telling everyone who listens about it. It explains the mechanics of how stress works on a biological level, not holding back on naming names when it comes to hormones and glands and all that. The author managed to make the book accessible while simultaneously being in-depth, which I really appreciate. I recommend it for anyone who’s ever stressed (which is everyone) and wants to understand why this happens and what is going on in your body.
By Rick Pastoor
Finished on 23-01-2019
Ik denk dat dit boek nauwelijks beter uitgevoerd had kunnen worden. Meneer Pastoor laat zien hoe hij werkt en hoe jij zijn werkmethode kan toepassen. Die methode heeft hij gecreëerd door veel te lezen, studeren, en toe te passen. Ik heb er wel wat aan over gehouden, en ga Todoist serieuzer gebruiken.
By Michael Pollan
Finished on 21-01-2019
A very hopeful book about the newly nascent science of psychedelic-assisted therapy, which has the potential to revolutionize how we treat many ailments of the soul, including depression, addiction, and to allow people to deal with their impending death. I don’t think I can come up with a better person who could’ve written this, the writer was around 60 before doing mushrooms for the first time which makes his experience more valid than that of some 20-year old kid.
This book also just wants me to do psychedelics again so it’s about time I order some truffles.
By Liu Cixin
Finished on 12-01-2019
This trilogy might be my favorite fiction series now. Go read it
By Alexandra Robbins
Finished on 01-01-2019
The only thing I learned from this book is that being young in the US fucking sucks, because everyone is far away, there’s no healthcare, and you need to have a masters degree to do something such as being an inferior designer (which costs $50,000). Wtf?
Uncanny Magazine Issue 2: January/February 2015 by Lynne M. Thomas finished on 28-12-2018
By Kai-Fu Lee
Finished on 27-12-2018
This book is kind of a mish-mash of different topics, it talks about the entrepreneurial environment in China, about what stages AI will go through as it becomes widely deployed in our economy. Then the author reflects on his life after he was diagnosed with cancer, and realizes he’s spending his whole life dedicated to being a public figure, and working at the expense of his relationships.
The mix of topics, ranging from business to work ethic to love, is good. The thing tying all these together is that the author tries to be realistic about the danger our society faces as we put millions of people out of work, without a guarantee that they’ll have a job to do afterwards, and that we should shift our way we value people from their economic value to the value they bring to society. He stresses we should become more human, as we leave many tasks to the machine.
By Barry Schwartz
Finished on 22-12-2018
This book hit me at the right time. It describes how the happiness goes in a U-curve following the number of options you have, at first more options is great as it leads to competition and better outcomes, but at a certain point the number of options can be so overwhelming that trying to find the best one causes you more stress than is worth it.
TL;DR is: go for the suboptimal choice, one that you can be satisfied with and stick with it. Don’t try to go for ‘the best’ because there is no such thing, not for everyone.
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton finished on 16-12-2018
By Ken Kocienda
Finished on 15-12-2018
Enjoyable insider’s view on how product innovation works at Apple.
There is a recurring theme between this book and Skunk Works, in both cases there were small and secretive teams that were given a clear goal and technical freedom. With this freedom they achieved marvelous innovations. The writer of this book made multiple innovations while developing the autocorrect feature for the iPhone keyboard, which is now in everyone’s pocket.
Key quote: “Design is the way it works”. I played around with a Pixel phone recently and it’s just such a garbage experience compared to an iPhone. The scrolling and tapping and keyboard and everything are just such an inferior experience to the iPhone, and this book gives some indication as to why that is.
Brieven aan Koos. Avonturen van een zolderkamerfilosoof by Tim Fransen finished on 05-12-2018
De pest by Albert Camus finished on 28-11-2018
By Gabrielle Wittkop
Finished on 25-11-2018
A lovingly written romance novel about A MAN WHO FUCKS CORPSES AND DEAD BABIES AND DEAD GRANNIES WHAT THE FUUUCK.
By Liu Cixin
Finished on 17-11-2018
Suspenseful and exciting, and at the same time heavy enough that you need to put it down after a while. The idea of the dark forest was explored nicely, and it’s a fun thought that utter annihilation of our solar system could be only a single transmission away.
Relationships by The School of Life finished on 08-11-2018
Het bestverkochte boek ooit (met deze titel): Hoe cijfers ons leiden, verleiden en misleiden by Sanne Blauw finished on 28-10-2018
By Andy Weir
Finished on 20-10-2018
This short story takes about ten minutes to read, and you can do so here: https://medium.com/s/futurehuman/digitocracy-a-story-by-andy-weir-a13c0412e50d
I saw it as a funny ultimate conclusion of the advancements in AI as applied to utilitarianism.
By Albert Camus
Finished on 16-10-2018
Dit is Camus’s eerste boek, en kwam uit in het interbellum. In essentie gaat het over een man die niet de normen van de maatschappij naleeft, nergens om geeft, en ook niet doet alsof hij ergens om geeft. Hij geeft niet om zijn moeder’s dood, niet om het mogelijke huwelijk met een vrouw, en niet om de moord die hij pleegt. Zelfs zijn eigen dood aanvaardt hij zonder strijd. Dit sluit hem uit van de rest van zijn landgenoten. Zijn proces is meer een proces over zijn onaanvaardbaar gedrag dan over zijn misdaad, om aan te tonen dat hij een vreemdeling is die uit de maatschappij moet worden verwijderd.
De vertaling van de schrijfstijl is fantastisch, de lucide tekst plaatst je in de schoenen van de hoofdpersoon.
By Mark Miodownik
Finished on 15-10-2018
This book will make you look at the physical world in a very different way. Our physical lives are enabled by the various materials that make up the things around us, and they are not much appreciated. Every chapter in this book is about a different material, its history and how it affects our day-to-day. You will learn a lot of random interesting facts, but also gain a new appreciation for the things around you. Whole empires were literally built on advancements in the material sciences, and it seems that there are still large leaps to be made in this field.
By James S.A. Corey
Finished on 15-10-2018
Did not finish, stopped reading some time in May. The series just got really boring and uninteresting after half of the humans were killed in the meteor strike attack. The most interesting part at first were the powerful interplanetary governments, but those just got destroyed so now there’s just a bunch of annoying people left.
This review says it better: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1834502520
By Betsy Beyer
Finished on 15-10-2018
Fantastic book about how to run a healthy org of people who keep software running and scaling. Should be read by anyone going into tech.
Darknet by Matthew Mather finished on 10-10-2018
By Jason Fried
Finished on 08-10-2018
Nice and concise book that’s all content and no fluff. It’s structured in small chapters that all stand in their own, so it’s easy to read a couple of chapters and then go do something else.
Some of my favorites were:
The outwork myth – its a myth that you can outwork the competition by working 80 hours instead of a healthy rhythm. Doing this will just leave you in shambles.
Nobody hits the ground running – don’t expect to start a new job/role and immediately providing value. You will take a while to properly ramp up, I remember it probably took about a year for me at Shopify before I kind of felt like I knew what was going on.
Don’t change the world – not every idea/business needs to change the world. You can create a lot of value in your business without ‘disrupting’ industries and ‘destroying’ the competition.
Great Thinkers: Simple Tools from 60 Great Thinkers to Improve Your Life Today by The School of Life finished on 02-10-2018
By A.M. Homes
Finished on 21-09-2018
This book reads like a fever dream. It’s the story of a man who is super rich and doesn’t need to do anything, but because if that he is philosophically dead, as he interacts with nobody and does nothing. It’s about his ‘revival’, this book is really bizarre and the events are really weird (multiple natural disasters happen in this book, and he saves multiple lives) but most of all the book is very fun, like a wild ride.
By Kim Zetter
Finished on 16-09-2018
Thrilling book, with a lot of terrifying information about the Iran nuclear program, and the ‘cyber’ capabilities of the US and Israel. Unfortunately the book got more and more repetitive as it went on, up to a point where I could just start skipping whole paragraphs because it was just rehashed information.
Lying for Money: How Legendary Frauds Reveal the Workings of Our World by Dan Davies finished on 07-09-2018
By Liu Cixin
Finished on 29-08-2018
This book has some quite unique and interesting ideas, and I found the prose to be quite poetic at times, which is great for a translation. I found the different perspectives the book shows for humans and the Trisolarans to be quite insightful. Anyways if aliens are actually found we are definitely screwed.
Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming by Peter Seibel finished on 16-08-2018
Animal Farm by George Orwell finished on 05-08-2018
By Joe Studwell
Finished on 03-08-2018
Really interesting book! This might be the only book I’ve ever read on macroeconomics, but it’s very well written and reads easily.
The book investigated and expounds the successful and not so successful economies of Eastern Asia, comparing why certain ones (Taiwan, S Korea, Japan) succeeded, while others (Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand) never reached the same level of success. The author explains that a lot of the policies that made these and other industrialized countries successful are contrary to those spouted by the world bank, IMF, and the US.
According to the author it comes down to three policies by the developing countries’ governments:
1. Agricultural development. When a country is underdeveloped and labor is cheap, it should redistribute farmland to small household farms, and make sure that this is done in a sound way such that the land can’t just be accumulated under one landlord again. The reason is that ‘gardening’-style farming as done on such farms, while labor-intensive is much more productive per hectare than large-scale mechanized farming. This will lead to a surplus in yields, which will lead to profits for the families, which they can then re-invest in their farms or use to improve their own living conditions. This policy should also be supported with subsidized fertilizer, education, etc. whatever support the government can give to improve the yield of small farmers. The problem in the Philippines is that, while they tried to do land reform, in the end the big families just regained their land through backdoor policies, and to this day are farming them like plantations, which are profitable but don’t provide the biggest amount of welfare for the nation.
2. Industrial policy. The country should nurture an infant manufacturing sector through protectionism and export discipline. The author points out that basically every industrialized country did so through protectionism, including Germany, USA, and the UK. The developing country should build up their own expertise, for example by doing technology transfers with foreign firms (while maintaining control) until they can innovate on their own. This should be stimulated by the government. An example from the book, is that during the Korean junta they rounded up all the business leaders and forced them to sign a statement that they agreed to listen to the junta, otherwise all of their possessions would be taken from them. They then coerced them into starting manufacturing businesses like cables etc. The other key factor is that the manufacturing businesses should be forced to compete on a global level through ‘export discipline’, which is policy that incentives businesses to export their products, for example by guaranteeing loans based on purchase orders from abroad (like Korea did).
3. Keep a tight leash on the financial system. The hire part is that the government should rightly control the finance system and ensure it works to their interests, instead of being captured by profiteers. An example was that in the Philippines, where the banks were privatized, the big family businesses all had their own banks which would loan money to the family business, which they would just not pay back, leading to the government picking up the cheque. In Malaysia they liberalized the financial system and IPOd companies prematurely, leading to huge stock market bubbles on unproductive companies. Only after industrialization should the banking sector be liberalized bit by bit.
The last chapter is on China, and talks about how all these things are also playing there, but on a much larger scale and with the twist that many of the large companies are state-owned.
In conclusion, very good and clear book. I learned a lot.
By Paul Shapiro
Finished on 31-07-2018
This book is an investigation into an upcoming industry, that of ‘cellular agriculture’. This industry aims to destroy factory farming by growing animal products ‘in a lab’. The author visits and interviews various companies that are working in this space, from the well-publicized $330,000 burger (which is already a lot cheaper) to companies that are already to market with gelatin produced by genetically modified yeast, leading a cleaner product at a lower price without animal suffering.
The thesis of this new industry is that we can replace factory farming with an alternative that is cheaper, cleaner, and morally superior. The process is that they take some muscle cells from an animal (it doesn’t need to be dead), put it in a cat with some nutrients, supply some sort of structure for the muscles to attach to, and very closely control the temperature and other environmental conditions for the cells to proliferate. This will (and has already been proven to) produce meat that is completely without dangerous bacteria like e-coli, is as lean or fatty as we want it to be, theoretically requires much fewer resources and land usage (animals are quite inefficient), and most importantly is without the killing of any animals. You could even eat the meat of an animal that is still alive, or is endangered, or in theory one that is extinct (mammoth steak anyone?).
The billion dollar question is whether these companies can bring the cost down enough to make it viable. They certainly believe so, as there should be no reason why they can’t make it more efficient that an animal that needs annoying things like horns and a stomach and brains.
This nascent industry is quite exciting and has big potential to completely change how we, and the upcoming middle class in countries like China and India eat. I for one will absolutely switch my diet to completely animal free when these products come available, and there will be not much justification left why we treat billions of animals the way we do now.
I subtracted one star because the book gets a bit repetitive here and there, defining terms over and over again which was not needed. Other that that it reads very quickly.
Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried finished on 28-07-2018
By Matthew Walker
Finished on 26-07-2018
This book is pretty terrifying. We have a societal sleep deficiency, and the impact of not sleeping enough is much worse than I expected. There are a lot of comparisons of how too little sleep can quickly impact you, for example if you wake up at 7am, go to work, go out after work with friends and don’t drink, but you drive home at 2am you will be impaired enough from sleep to have your behavior reflect that of someone over the legal drinking limit.
There are also many impacts a lack of sleep seem to have on learning. All very concerning when looking at things like the early start times of schools.
Sometimes I was annoyed by some sloppiness of the writer around causation, but it didn’t detract too much from the book. Recommended read for anyone who enjoys (a lack of) sleep.
By Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Finished on 23-07-2018
Recommend this to anyone who likes thinking about automation and about what the end result might be. Vonnegut envisions a future in which society has been separated in to two classes: the engineers and managers, and the other people who have to go into military or social service, which are meaningless jobs (in this universe). All production and service jobs have been automated.
Very funny book, satisfying and kind of nuanced ending.
By James P. Carse
Finished on 01-07-2018
I found this book to be a drag, and not very insightful. The author’s writing is unnecessarily cryptic and just painful to get through at times.
My (probably wrong summary)
1. Life is one big game
2. It contains smaller games within it
3. It contains many players
4. You are one of those players, and not the others
5. The players interact with each other through the smaller games
6. They have various reasons for doing things
7. You can make your own choices
8. Some players realize the existence of the games, some don’t
9. Enjoy your life
That’s it kind of?
By Bas Haring
Finished on 24-06-2018
Ik vond dit een erg vermakelijk boekje. Meneer Haring legt een vrij ingewikkeld onderwerp (ideologie en hoe het zich voortplant) uit in heldere taal, met hele geestige grapjes waardoor dit boek leest als een trein. Er wordt uitgelegd waarom we dingen willen zoals succesvol zijn, en waarom we de hoogste bergen willen beklimmen, terwijl het helemaal niet evident is waarom dat goed voor je is.
By Hans Rosling
Finished on 23-06-2018
This book encourages you to look at ‘the rest of the world’ in a fact-based manner, and to depart from such knee jerk falsities as ‘Africa is bad, has always been and will always be’ when in fact a lot of progress is being made. It is also no longer true that there is such a thing as ‘the west’ and ‘the rest’, instead the countries of the world are now on a scale. We need to acknowledge that things can be bad and getting better at the same time.
The book is structured around ten factfulness rules of thumb:
1. Gap: look at where the majority is.
2. Negativity: expect bad news.
3. Straight line: trend lines might bend.
4. Fear: make decisions on actual risk instead of fear-based gut.
5. Size: place facts (especially large numbers) in proportion.
6. Generalization: question the categories in which you place things. Does it even make sense to place all of ‘Asia’ in one bucket? (No)
7. Destiny: just because you don’t notice incremental 3% change doesn’t mean things will always be the same
8. Single: get multiple perspectives on things to get a more accurate understanding
9. Blame: resist pointing a finger at a single thing as the cause of something
10. Urgency: resist making urgency-based decisions. Things are often not as urgent as they may seem
By Liesbeth Rasker
Finished on 22-06-2018
Leuk geschreven boek over backpacken, met veel persoonlijkheid van de schrijfster. Ik vond het vooral vermakelijk, maar voor een beginnende reiziger kan ik me voorstellen dat het een motiverende werking kan hebben. Ik ga het boek zeker aanraden.
By Anthony Bourdain
Finished on 15-06-2018
Incredible look into an inquisitive and tortured soul. Bourdain needs no introduction, and this book is a great look into what goes on behind the scenes after you order your meal at a restaurant. It is highly enjoyable and incredibly written, for example the chapter about his experience of going to japan gave me vivid images of the street setting there.
May he rest In peace
By Alain de Botton
Finished on 01-06-2018
This is a nice book. It goes through some of the things people struggle with (heartache, money envy, etc.) and presents a philosophy from a certain philosopher as a way to mentally deal with each. Very accessible book! Worth a re-read.
By Ben R. Rich
Finished on 29-05-2018
The incredibly interesting story of the Skunk Works section of Lockheed, which was responsible for revolutionary technology like the U-2, SR-71, and the F-117. This book shows how small teams of very smart and very driven people can produce incredible results. The initial designs of these planes were done with just around a score of people, but each brought in a revolution in the capabilities of the US military. There’s also a lot of funny anecdotes in this book, some of which I’ve highlighted.
By Robert C. Martin
Finished on 26-05-2018
I have no idea who this author is and why this book has such a good rating, but the author seems to be pretty full of himself and repeats the same 3 stories over and over again which he seems to find relevant in every situation. He is of the opinion (and his opinions are all over this book without much backing) that coders should be ‘professional’ like engineers and lawyers and doctors, which to him means working 60 hours a week, by adding ‘just’ 3 hours of self study every day. Do you really think all lawyers work 60 hours a week?
Besides his personal opinions I think this book might only be relevant to you if you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade and only now discovered things like ‘testing’ and ‘continuous integration’. The book is basically outdated already and won’t teach you anything if you’ve worked at a modern tech company in the past five years.
Side note; I get that the author wants this book to fit in with his other book ‘clean code’ but he should’ve just called it ‘the professional coder’ because that’s what this book wants to be about. If you want to be a clean coder just take a bath or something.
Did not finish, refunded.
By Benjamin Todd
Finished on 24-05-2018
A pragmatic look at how you can improve as many lives as you can through your career. Expounds on the idea of effective altruism, where you try to make a lot of money and then proceed to donate anywhere from 10% to as much as you can. It has been calculated that $3000 in malaria nets can save a human life, while one additional person becoming a doctor in a developed country might only save an additional 4.
The book also has some ideas around how you should select a career and job, with straight-forward advice usually backed by studies or book recommendations.
By Steven Pinker
Finished on 22-05-2018
Pinker argues that things are getting a lot better for a lot of people, and we can make them better still into the future if we keep innovating and improving. Although he explicitly acknowledges that there are some big dangers on the horizon (climate change) that need to be addressed. Good read if you want to feel warm and fuzzy about the world
By Eliot Peper
Finished on 14-05-2018
I loved the topic of the book, but I just can’t get over the writing. It seems most chapters are 4-5 pages long, and every single plot point is resolved over the course of two sentences over and over again. There is just no subtlety to the author’s writing style, things are never foreshadowed, they just happen out of nowhere. It’s a book you can kind of tune out to while reading, because you won’t miss anything.
Nemesis Games (The Expanse, #5) by James S.A. Corey finished on 05-05-2018
By George Orwell
Finished on 23-04-2018
Grim description of the life of British expats during the colonial era. Most of them hated the people, country and language yet stayed in their cushy position, bickering over nonsense at the club.
By Ryan Holiday
Finished on 15-04-2018
I really enjoyed this book as a mix of political intrigue, references to past thinkers and a sobering discussion of whether one man should have the power to crush a journalistic publication, no matter how scummy it might be. The last section filled me with hope that we can all enact real change in the world, no matter how small or meaningful it might be to some.
Cibola Burn (Expanse, #4) by James S.A. Corey finished on 08-04-2018
By Pieter Levels
Finished on 01-04-2018
Fairly enjoyable read, but if you’re familiar with Pieter’s work and follow him on Twitter you will have absorbed most of the information already. Recommended for someone who wants to start their own solo software biz
Forever Nomad: The Ultimate Guide to World Travel, From a Weekend to a Lifetime (Life Nomadic Book 2)
Finished on 30-03-2018
Nice collection of essays about being a person who likes to move around a lot. Some practical tips about how to meet people in a new city, what kind of things to pack, and how to approach a new place as best as possible.
Abaddon's Gate (Expanse, #3) by James S.A. Corey finished on 26-03-2018
Caliban's War (Expanse, #2) by James S.A. Corey finished on 19-03-2018
By Sander Heijne
Finished on 07-03-2018
Een logische redenering onderbouwt met voorbeelden van de tegenvallers van marktwerking. ‘De markt’ heeft ons veel goeds gebracht, maar het neoliberale idee om alles aan de markt over te laten heeft ook tot schade geleid in de Nederlandse maatschappij. De schrijver stelt een lijstje van vier punten voor waar een idee aan moet voldoen om geschikt te zijn voor marktwerking.
By James S.A. Corey
Finished on 06-03-2018
This book was incredibly fun. If you’re a fan of space operas, you will love this. It’s good because it’s set in the time period between now and when humanity conquered the stars, so our solar system is colonized but humanity hasn’t gone beyond that.
Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life, in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies
By Geoffrey West
Finished on 27-02-2018
Some interesting ideas and patterns are being shown in this book that seem to emerge in life, cities and companies arising from the necessities (oxygen, electricity) they each uniquely need. Lots of neat facts about animals too. Not sure what I learned from it though, because I’m not sure how I can apply the knowledge that many things are scaled versions of each other in my daily life. Maybe feeling more empathy for mice?
By Philip K. Dick
Finished on 23-02-2018
This book is super weird, the premise is that a wealthy person returns from another galaxy carrying with him a new drug, which ends up controlling people’s minds and altering their reality. The fun part is that the protagonists also undergo this drug, which means that there are a lot of parts in the book where you don’t know what’s real or not. My first PKD read and o really enjoyed it. Also funny was the ‘retro-futurism’ with everyone smoking all the time and the power imbalance between men and women which is different now.
By Ursula K. Le Guin
Finished on 21-02-2018
Unfortunately I cut my losses and stopped reading this book. I just couldn’t keep up with all the different places and characters that were introduced, and that all had inscrutable names. Maybe I will give t another shot down the line
By Stanley Karnow
Finished on 15-02-2018
The part about the pre-American war is good, but then it becomes way too complicated. I’ve started watching the documentary by Burns and find it much easier to follow, and the visuals make the story come alive much more.
By Timothy Ferriss
Finished on 29-01-2018
I really enjoyed this! It’s a great variety of different people answering a standard set of questions, which gives it a good structure. To determine whether you want to read this book, just look at the table of contents and see if any of the people interviewed interest you.
By Paul Kalanithi
Finished on 24-01-2018
Incredible. The memoir of a man on track in one of the most prestigious, well-paying and impactful careers is faced with a cancer diagnosis that shortens his life dramatically. This book is him attempting to come to terms with what is meaningful when you have so little time left on this earth. With his talents he can save lives, but he also wants to be with his family and write down his final thoughts in his final moments.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro finished on 07-01-2018
By Siddhartha Mukherjee
Finished on 25-12-2017
Genes are fucking wild. They have a much bigger impact than I was aware of, and we know much more about them than I expected. This book thought me a lot about how life and DNA works, and is an incredible history of genetic biology. It also makes me incredibly excited/terrified of what we will be capable of in the future.
Just a random example, but one of the craziest things is the existence of Eutelies, which are organisms like C. Elegans that have an exactly fixed number of cells at adulthood. An adult C. Elegans has 1031 cells when it reaches maturity, and scientists have traced the course every individual one of those cells goes through until it lands in its final position. Wild!!!
By Rolf Potts
Finished on 23-12-2017
Did a re-read of this over the past day. A good book for those who want to see the world without pretension, with lots of pointers and reminders on how to travel while making it worth your while, and without being a wanker
By Martin Kleppmann
Finished on 14-12-2017
This book is incredibly useful if you spend time engineering software systems that process data (AKA all systems). In my career at Shopify I’ve spent time as a Data Engineer working on Hadoop/Spark batch processing systems, on the ‘Merchant Analytics’ team working on a stream processing and real-time analytics database, and as an application developer working on standard Rails apps. Having this book available to me would’ve been incredibly useful, and it contains many many lessons I’ve learned over the past couple of years, but written down in a way that’s way clearer than I could ever formulate it.
By François de La Rochefoucauld
Finished on 14-12-2017
Overly sexist and sometimes insightful book, that’s an enjoyable relic of its time if more than anything. Quick read.
By Annalee Newitz
Finished on 29-11-2017
A compelling world at first that is ruined by totally unnecessary distractions. Why the details about the sex life of the main character? Why the concern about the gender of a robot? Robots are objects. I am not concerned about the gender of a car either. Missed opportunity
By Yuval Noah Harari
Finished on 21-11-2017
Fantastic book. Very balanced in that it’s not just like ‘we’re all going to die!’ Or ‘we will be in nanospacemachineAIelectricfuture soon!’ But rather explores what the consequences would be of a future without jobs, what it would do to the worth of a human. Also a lot of discussion about the consequences of capitalism:
> Take, for example, a software engineer making $ 250 per hour working for some hi-tech start-up. One day her elderly father has a stroke. He now needs help with shopping, cooking and even showering. She could move her father to her own house, leave home later in the morning, come back earlier in the evening and take care of her father personally. Both her income and the start-up’s productivity would suffer, but her father would enjoy the care of a respectful and loving daughter. Alternatively, the engineer could hire a Mexican carer who, for $ 25 per hour, would live with the father and provide for all his needs. That would mean business as usual for the engineer and her start-up, and even the carer and the Mexican economy would benefit. What should the engineer do?
> Free-market capitalism has a firm answer. If economic growth demands that we loosen family bonds, encourage people to live away from their parents, and import carers from the other side of the world –so be it. This answer, however, involves an ethical judgement rather than a factual statement. No doubt, when some people specialise in software engineering while others spend their time taking care of the elderly, we can produce more software and give old people more professional care. Yet is economic growth more important than family bonds? By daring to make such ethical judgements, free-market capitalism has crossed the border from the land of science to that of religion.
Very relevant indeed. The book explores what humanism is and what comes next. Humanism is our current doctrine in which we believe that our human feelings and emotions should be our guiding principle. Humanism replaces religion in a lot of ways, replacing the word of god with doing what ‘feels right’. The writer foresees that we are replacing humanism with ‘dataism’, which is a utilitarian approach that puts trust in the mysterious decree of an algorithm, telling us to follow it because it is empirically right, and knows more about us and everything else than we could ever.
By Yuval Noah Harari
Finished on 11-11-2017
Wonderful exploration of the history and evolution of Homo Sapiens. It was a good addition to my favorite book from last year, Guns Germs and Steel, and explores more the ‘why’, meaning and consequences of man’s constant change, instead of answering the question of how humanity became spread around the world as it did.
Recommended for anyone interested in history and biology
By Daniel Keyes
Finished on 04-11-2017
I read this book in less than a day, it enthralled me from start to finish. It’s about Charlie, a mentally retarded man who undergoes an operation that makes him smart, which ends up making a genius as he goes through a short period of rapidly developing from a intellectual and emotional child into an adult, until he realizes that he will rapidly deteriorate, which he does until he is back at the beginning.
In a way it is the story we all go through in our lives, being born as children and growing up to be adults, making dumb mistakes on the way, but compressed in a book. It’s a gripping story for me because I can see how my mind was closed intellectually and emotionally as a child, and what progress I have made since and still do.
By Ray Dalio
Finished on 29-10-2017
I read this as an audiobook. Some parts were read by mr Dalio and others by someone else, which was a bit weird but both narrators have a good voice.
Ray Dalio is a very successful hedge fund manager who lives his life and operates his company under a well-defined set of ‘principles’. The book goes through his history and then he lays out his principles, how he arrived at them and how to apply them. He lays out a very compelling framework for how his company works, built on the foundation of rational discourse, transparency, and open-mindedness. His principles revolve a lot around the idea of introspective everything, from the machines/companies you built to your own though processes, instead of just letting them happen to you.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to think through their work and life rationally. You might be able to read a summary (or the supporting PDF http://download.audible.com/product_related_docs/BK_SANS_008054.pdf) and read through a lot of the lessons, but to actually understand and imprint them it’s worth it to receive the context of the man’s life story to understand why these are his principles.
What are my principles? Everyone has principles, you might just not be aware of them, or rationally agree with them. It is probably worth it to think about it and write them down.
By Cal Newport
Finished on 16-10-2017
Forgettable. TL;DR spend less time on social media and focus on what you need to do or something and you might be successful but maybe not because the book is based on a couple anecdotes
By Neal Stephenson
Finished on 15-10-2017
Did not finish. This book is actually two in one, the first part I really enjoyed (drama! Science! intrigue! Nukes!) the second part of which just gets into weird bullshit with nonsensical unscientific ideas about what a descendant is. First part was great though
The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering by Frederick P. Brooks Jr. finished on 03-10-2017
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman finished on 23-09-2017
By Max Tegmark
Finished on 18-09-2017
A very thorough book about the last invention humanity will make: human-level artificial intelligence. AI has enormous potential ramifications and this book very clearly goes through all of them, this book explains what AI is and how it will be built, and what the benefits to risks are to humanity. It ends with a solid philosophical exploration of what intelligence and consciousness are.
By Eliot Peper
Finished on 13-09-2017
Fun read, doesn’t have very strong character development. The author ‘drops bombs’ on you by having big events happen without any warning pretty often in the book, which made the book a whirlwind to read.
Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right by Angela Nagle finished on 11-09-2017
By Donella H. Meadows
Finished on 30-08-2017
Good book that reads very quickly, it gives you mental ‘tools’ to analyzes systems, where a system is defined by relationships between different things. It encourages you to look at the world through the lens of feedback loops which allows you to answer questions about why things are the way they are.
Also we are so fuuuucked when it comes to climate change
Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World by Rutger Bregman finished on 25-08-2017
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships (Nonviolent Communication Guides)
By Marshall B. Rosenberg
Finished on 23-08-2017
Really pragmatic book on how to communicate your wants and needs effectively, and how to really, actively, listen to other people. Lots of clear and relatable examples of people whose lives and relationships were improved tremendously by really communicating, instead of judging the other person with the words they’re using.
Candide by Voltaire finished on 18-08-2017
By Arnold Bennett
Finished on 16-08-2017
Short book on how to live your life deliberately. Time is the most egalitarian of commodities, we each get 24 hours when we wake up, nobody can take them from you and nobody can give you more. You can’t borrow time from the future, those 24 hours is all you have. Where do they go? It is foolish to say you don’t have ‘enough time’, as 24 hours is all you will ever have. It is up to you to decide what to do with them.
I listened to the Audible version read by Jim Roberts which I quite enjoyed, it is only an hour and a half.
PRAGMA by Sebastian Marshall finished on 14-08-2017
China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing's Expansion in Africa by Serge Michel finished on 06-08-2017
By Nick Bilton
Finished on 06-08-2017
Really enjoyed this book, very detailed description of the story of Ross Ulbricht aka the Dread Pirate Roberts. Ross got in way over his head running the Silk Road, and had to pay for it with his freedom in the end.
One thing I didn’t really like is that the author took a lot of liberties with filling in the motivations and moods of the various characters, although it did improve it as a story, it made it less close to reality.
By Anne Frank
Finished on 05-08-2017
Required reading. The despair you feel as you read the happy parts of her diary, while knowing her imminent demise, is hard to describe.
Neuromancer (Sprawl, #1) by William Gibson finished on 24-07-2017
We Learn Nothing: Essays and Cartoons by Tim Kreider finished on 12-07-2017
The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli finished on 06-07-2017
The Fall by Albert Camus finished on 06-07-2017
Discourses, Fragments, Handbook by Epictetus finished on 29-06-2017
Max Havelaar / Of de koffiveilingen der Nederlandsche Handelsmaatschappy by Multatuli finished on 15-06-2017
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene finished on 06-06-2017
By Jack Weatherford
Finished on 06-06-2017
Nice book to listen to as background sound while doing other things. Good overview of how the mongols basically conquered everything they could reach, and in doing so imposed many values and societal structures that still survive to this day.
By Ernest Cline
Finished on 28-05-2017
This book took me two tries to finish. First I tried reading the text version, which I found boring and couldn’t even get through. After a friend implored me to give it another shot, I tried the audiobook version, narrated by Wil Wheaton. It was a blast. This book is an ode to geekdom, with 80s videogame and movie references dripping of the pages. The characters are situated in a post-apocalyptic, Late Stage Capitalism wasteland where much of the earth’s resources have been depleted and whatever is left is being fought over by the people that survive. The real story takes place in a virtual reality however, where everyone can be an Adonis where they can fly spaceships and make love to virtual people.
I don’t want to spoil anything more of the story, but you should just go listen to the audiobook if you’ve every played a videogame or watched an 80s movie.
(Also, this book isn’t for everyone and will probably annoy the hell out of some people for its (over)zealous use of references)
Finished on 06-05-2017
Short and sweet book containing a bunch of stories about people the author met on his travels.
By Sebastian Marshall
Finished on 06-05-2017
A though-provoking series of essays exploring various topics with lots of historic background. I’ve received a lot from this book, but was a bit put off by the writing style in places. It could also use a pass by an editor because there were quite a few spelling mistakes.
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell finished on 06-05-2017
By Joseph Heller
Finished on 06-05-2017
This book is absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious at times, and depressing at other times. It is also quite confusing, and I think it deserves a second reading in a couple years
By Jang Jin-sung
Finished on 06-05-2017
Incredible recount of a North Korean’s escape. If you want to question your whole reality and gain more understanding of the plight of the North Koreans (you do) read this book. I read it as an audiobook and it was great
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway finished on 06-05-2017
By Derek Thompson
Finished on 06-05-2017
Enjoyable exploration into the sometimes unexpected ways in which things become popular. Good debunking of why ‘viral’ is really not viral by investigating the actual mechanics of how a thing reaches popularity.
Read it as an audiobook which is narrated by the author, which was good.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance finished on 06-05-2017
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton finished on 09-04-2017
The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy finished on 06-04-2017
By Jean-Paul Sartre
Finished on 06-04-2017
This book is awful and you shouldn’t read it, unless you want to have an existential crisis. Sartre sketches mundane daily life in such intricate detail that you start to realize the arbitrariness and meaninglessness of everything around you. From the way people talk and interact with each other, to your own wants and needs. The protagonist in this book is a lonely and miserable character that ‘wakes up’ (or ‘gets woke’ as the kids would say these days) and becomes hyper aware of his own existence and that of others around him. The book is written as a diary from him as he goes through a life crisis while trying to process this.
A must read if you have any interest in philosophy I think.
By Michael Foley
Finished on 06-03-2017
This book has its moments, but here’s a summary of the conclusion: try to be more present in the moment and have genuine experiences instead of just cruising life on auto pilot. Also some parts of the book annoyed me because the author was just being an old curmudgeon instead of actually providing insight.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman finished on 06-03-2017
By Bill Bryson
Finished on 06-03-2017
Fun read, and works very good as an audiobook. I fucking love anything Bill Bryson writes, and this book is a testament to why people should explore the outdoors and experience nature. It sure makes me want to go on a camping trip.
By Adam Alter
Finished on 06-03-2017
This is a very important book on a topic that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. There is a hidden societal cost on our population’s obsession with smartphones and social media, that is not talked about and poorly understood. This book explores behavioural addiction, how it compares to previous addictions (like substance addiction) and what causes it. There’s a good mix of research and anecdotes in this book, and the book is very easy to devour in a couple days.
I think there’s going to be a lot more discussion in the next couple years about the mass addiction to likes and shares, and this book prepares you fairly well on the subject. I’ll be exploring it more, and hoping to create systems or apps to make sure I don’t get sucked into the hole of social media/video games/VR/whatever people come up with next.
A Man for All Markets by Edward O. Thorp finished on 04-03-2017
By Sarah Bakewell
Finished on 20-02-2017
Whirlwind tour through mostly French and German existentialist philosophy and philosophers, painting a compelling image of a community of European philosophers (Sartre, Beauvoir, Camus, Heidegger and others) sitting in a café together and figuring out how to Be. The book is mostly a short introduction to all these different philosophers with plenty of references to their own works, and it added a lot of books to my reading list. I did think the writer went a bit far sometimes with interpreting certain events and opinions of the characters, but overall I really enjoyed reading it.
By Neal Stephenson
Finished on 20-02-2017
This book was basically made for nerds like me, it is a sort of historical fan-fiction adaptation of the people who worked as code crackers in WW2. It’s a combination of people during WW2, and their ancestors 70 years later. Expect plenty of references to cryptography, computers, and military humor. This book actually had me laughing out loud in certain passages.
The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays by Albert Camus finished on 06-01-2017
Superhuman Social Skills: A Guide to Being Likeable, Winning Friends, and Building Your Social Circle
Finished on 01-01-2017
Short and sweet book that goes through the mechanics of human interaction and how to get more out of your interaction with friends and new people. It’s basically a series of short blogposts in book format, going through topics like ‘how to tell a story’, ‘how to make a friend group’ and ‘how to remember people’s names’.
It’s a valuable book that I’ll probably re-read at some point just to refresh my memory.
The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir finished on 01-01-2017
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka finished on 01-01-2017
By Phil Knight
Finished on 12-11-2016
An incredible memoir about the founding and ride of NIKE written by its founder Phil Knight. It describes the struggle of Mr. Knight to work with suppliers, be there for his children, and to find meaning in his life. Definitely recommend this to anyone with aspirations.
By Thomas Paine
Finished on 30-10-2016
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense is a argumentation from first principles on why the American colonies should form an independent nation from Britain. He argues why representative government exists in the first place (because societies become too big to involve everyone) and why monarchies are dumb (because all men are created equal). He then lays out a plan for an American government that’s not too far from how it currently works, and explains why America should be independent from Britain and why now (where now is 1776) is the time for it to happen.
It’s an interesting thing to read because it is a pretty unique perspective at a time when most countries had some sort of monarchical component. It’s an all time classic because it has such strong reasoning based on first principles, although some calls to Christian values take away from that. I would argue that the appeal to Christian values was equivalent to what we would call universal human rights these days, as such a thing did not exist back then.
The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman finished on 30-10-2016
By Tom Wainwright
Finished on 26-10-2016
Fantastic deep dive into the world of the illegal narcotics industry. Shines a light on various parts that have been hidden from the public, from production to transportation.
It also makes economic arguments for why the ‘war on drugs’ as it’s been waged has been so ineffective, and uses simple economic logic to suggest better alternatives.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius finished on 14-10-2016
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty finished on 29-08-2016
Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis finished on 22-08-2016
Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio García Martínez finished on 18-08-2016
The 7 Day Startup: You Don't Learn Until You Launch by Dan Norris finished on 10-07-2016
Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup by Rob Walling finished on 25-06-2016
Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons finished on 19-05-2016
The Rational Optimist (P.S.) by Matt Ridley finished on 06-05-2016
Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. finished on 21-04-2016
The Robots of Dawn (Robot, #3) by Isaac Asimov finished on 19-04-2016
The Naked Sun (Robot, #2) by Isaac Asimov finished on 04-04-2016
The Caves of Steel (Robot, #1) by Isaac Asimov finished on 27-03-2016
What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael J. Sandel finished on 25-03-2016
Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn finished on 20-03-2016
Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It by Gabriel Wyner finished on 17-02-2016
Lonely Planet Japan by Lonely Planet finished on 14-02-2016
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid finished on 29-01-2016
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson finished on 01-01-2016
The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis finished on 01-01-2016
Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth about Reality by Brad Warner finished on 01-01-2016
Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster (Lean (O'Reilly)) by Alistair Croll finished on 01-01-2016
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter by Matt Kepnes finished on 23-08-2014
The Entrepreneurial Imperative: How America's Economic Miracle Will Reshape the World (and Change Your Life) by Carl J. Schramm finished on 22-08-2014
Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt finished on 20-08-2014
Flash Boys by Michael Lewis finished on 20-08-2014
The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries finished on 20-08-2014
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield finished on 28-07-2014