I read sixty-one books this year, five fewer than last. You can find the full list over at Good Reads. Here are my top picks.
The Glass Cage by Nicolas Carr
What if the cost of machines that think is people who don’t? An must-read for everyone in tech. It is not anti-technology, but raises some important questions about how technology is changing society. I reviewed this in full earlier in the year.
This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
Damning yet uplifting book about the state of our climate. It savages everyone from fossil fuel companies to futurists to billionaire do-gooders, before turning in the second half to cover the many successes of climate movements around the world. Inspired me to learn more, engage more, and write more.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Perhaps the best business book I’ve read. Real-talk from a CEO in the trenches. I’m not usually a fan of blog post collections, but there is enough glue and cohesion here to make it work.
Non-violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
Rosenberg has well over three decades of experience coaching difficult conversations. He delivers it well. Key takeaway is to be able to identify needs and how they drive feelings, and to then using them to find common ground, particularly when you disagree strongly with someone. Also, people want to be heard, not fixed or advised.
Several short sentences about writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg
Original review: “Could have done with a couple of paragraphs.” It has had a lasting impact on my writing though, and in hindsight I rate it much higher than I did when I first read it. Skim over the middle section to get to the enjoyable sentence critiques in the final chapter.
I became interested in Law this year after stumbling across the excellent Surveillance Law subject on Coursera. Naturally, I read some books about it.
The Legal Analyst by Ward Farnsworth
Great introductory book. Frames many familiar concepts from game theory, economics, and cognitive science within the context of law. Each of the thirty-one chapters are short, clearly written, and contain many recommendations for further reading.
Reflections on Judging by Richard Possner
Possner has been an appeals judge for over thirty years. His topics are wide-ranging: from an increasingly technically illiterate judiciary, to the rise of formalist textualism, to managerial issues within appelate courts, to judges who have never learned to write. His opinions are clear, hard-hitting, and very entertaining.
I made a successful effort to read more fiction this year. I doubled my rate from last year, up to 30%. Fiction is great!
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
Made me realise how long it has been since I read any Australian literature. Centered around a POW camp building the Thai-Burma death railway, it is both tragic and beautiful.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Set in 1975 India during the state emergency. Another amazingly depressing novel I couldn’t put down.
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Time for something a bit lighter. I’m not generally a huge Vonnegut fan, so was surprised how much I enjoyed this.
Self-Help by Lorrie Moore
Nine short stories, funny and sad all at the same time. The first Moore book I’ve read, and I plan to read more.
Bonus Section: Documentaries
In addition to reading, I watched a number of documentaries this year. The standouts were all by Marshall Curry. I reviewed If A Tree Falls previously, and Street Fight and Racing Dreams were also both excellent.
Josh Fox’s Gasland earns an honourable mention, which I watched as part of a fracking binge back in October.