Books 2017

January 2018 · 4 minute read

All the books I read or listened to in 2017.

Ratings
* Okay, interesting enough to finish
** Interesting ideas or very enjoyable
*** Definitely read again

January - June

  1. What Evolution Is – Ernst Mayr *
  2. Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu, Translation Ursula K. Le Guin ***
  3. The Righteous Mind – Jonathan Haidt ***
  4. Radical Acceptance – Tara Brach (Audiobook) ***
  5. The Island of the Colorblind – Oliver Sacks ***
  6. Lying – Sam Harris (Audiobook) ***
  7. Hardboiled Wonderland at the End Of The World – Haruki Murakami **
  8. The Undoing Project – Michael Lewis (Audiobook) *

July - December

  1. The Beginning of Infinity – David Deutsch ***
  2. Deep Work – Cal Newport **
  3. Flat Rock Journal – Ken Carey *
  4. The Gene: An Intimate History – Siddhartha Mukherjee (AB) **
  5. So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Cal Newport *
  6. The Death of Expertise – Tom Nichols *
  7. Other Minds – Peter Godfrey-Smith **
  8. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out – Richard Feynman (AB) *
  9. The Moral Landscape – Sam Harris *
  10. Chaos Monkeys – Antonio García Martínez (AB) *

Abandoned

  1. Consilience – E.O Wilson
  2. Siddarthas Brain – James Kingsland (AB)
  3. Redeeming Grace – Francine Rivers

Standouts

Most Pleasurable

In The Island of the Colorblind Oliver Sacks recounts two adventures. The first is around the investigation of congenital achromatopsia in the islands of Pohnpei State, Micronesia. The second around the disease lytico-bodig on Guam, especially it’s potential relation to cycads, of which Sacks’ was an avid collector.

Oliver Sacks always just brings a wonderful, youthful curiosity to every subject along with a deep compassion and humanity.

Most Thought Provoking

I first heard David Deutsch on a podcast with Sam Harris a couple of years ago. It was fairly interesting but mostly over my head, and it took me a while to get to The Beginning of Infinity. What an eye-opener. Aside from the clearest explanation of what science is and how it works and why explanation is at the heart of it, Deutch really manages to take simple statements of reason and take them to the most astonishing conclusions. I already re-read half this book and am currently reading the earlier work The Fabric of Reality

Most Transformative

I listened to Radical Acceptance in January and Febuary and i’m not afraid to say there were several mornings on the trip into work where I was weeping. I was never really taught how to listen to emotions or what to do with them. I was also brought up in a christian home where misbehavior was seen as a manifestation of sin and the doctrine of the total depravity of man was taught.

If embracing your life and practicing acceptance sounds too self-help or wishy washy, it’s not. this was actually the hardest thing I read all year. If you judge yourself (or others) or waste any amount of mental energy worrying whether you’re good enough along some dimension then I recommend this book.

Disappointments

The Death of Expertise was the only book on the list recommended to me this year. Despite a lot of high praise I didn’t find it that enjoyable to read, it felt much longer (it was extended from an online essay) than it realy needed to be.

One of the books I was most stoked to read but couldn’t actually finish was E.O Wilson’s Conscilience. I enjoyed some sections immensely but I guess I just don’t care about cultural evolution enough to finish it this time. I may come back in the future.

The second was The Undoing Project I’m a fan of Danny Kanheman and i’ve read Thining Fast and Slow. I’m also a fan of Micheal Lewis and i’ve listend to two of audiobook by him previously and enjoyed both (Flash Boys and The Big Short). I found this, frankly, boring.

Future reading prospects

I think my volume of reading will likely remain similar. I hope to read more than on work of fiction in 2018 and revisit some favorite authors, particularly Oliver Sacks and David Deutsch.