Reading List 2021

Reading List 2021

2021, Oct 10    

2021 Reading List

Among other things, I’d initially set a goal of reading 12 books in 2021. I’m still progressing toward completing some of my other plans, but I’m actually exceeding my expectations in this area, and I want to recap here. Hopefully this exercise will help cement some of the content of these books in my head for better recall later.

I’ll include a rating 1-5 stars, with 5 being the best. I doubt anything will get a rating below 3, because if a book is that bad I will have put it down before finishing it.

I’ll also include a link to the book on indiebound or wherever it is available, although I borrowed most of these from my local library as ebooks. I’ll use hardcover versions where available, but paperback and digital versions are available for most of these as well.

Finally, I’ll write a short summary of the book and how I related to it, or why I chose to read it. As mentioned above, anything on this list is likely to be worth your while if you are vaguely interested in the subject matter.

Books Read

It’s About Damn Time (Arlan Hamilton)

It's About Damn Time cover


indiebound - hardcover

I read this book because I’d heard Arlan on a few different podcasts. As a newcomer and outsider to the VC world, I was fascinated to hear her origin story. I don’t recall the exact quote or who said it first, but her ‘overnight success was years in the making’. Her story is inspiring and enjoyable to read. There was a bit more namedropping than I am usually comfortable with, but I don’t think it is intended to be boastful - she came from the world of event promotion and happened to work with some notable folks. Great book for anyone looking to break into something new.

Eat a Peach (David Chang, Gabe Ulla)

Eat a Peach cover


indiebound - hardcover

Honestly this is a good book. If I could relate more with the struggles of Dave Chang, I would probably have enjoyed it more. It was not easy to read about his struggles with mental illness - which made it all the more important to read. I found this book after seeing him on the Netflix show Mind of A Chef - which I had found after being an Anthony Bourdain fan for years. I suspect that someone who has worked in high-stress professional kitchens would really appreciate this book.

The Library Book (Susan Orlean)

The Library Book cover


indiebound - hardcover

This book hit a number of my weak spots (books/libraries, public service, biographies, nonfiction). It’s nonfiction, but in many ways reads like a thriller. It’s about the LA Central Library fire of 1986, but also more broadly about libraries and the fascinating characters who work there and use the library system. Part of the book explores the purpose of libraries, and how they have changed over time. If you have fond memories of visiting the library as a child, you will probably like this book.

Post Corona (Scott Galloway)

Post Corona cover


indiebound - hardcover

NYU professor Scott Galloway first came on my radar as host of the Pivot podcast. He co-hosts with Kara Swisher, and this book is essentially a summary of his thoughts on the business world and how it will change in the years following the 2020/21 Coronavirus pandemic. It’s yet to be seen how his predictions will hold up, but it is a good, thought-provoking read. Some of his talking points got to be a bit tiresome, as they are repeated nearly verbatim in this book as well as on the podcast. Someone unfamiliar with his work would probably enjoy the book more for this reason. I have another of his books - The Algebra of Happiness - on my ‘to-read’ list.

Ready Player Two (Ernest Cline)

Ready Player Two cover


indiebound - hardcover

I’d forgotten about this when writing above that 3 stars is likely the floor for my book ratings. I think this was the worst book I read in a while. The first book was an enjoyable nostalgic sci-fi journey, and that led me to read this one. The wikipedia entry on the reception of the second book sums up the problems with Ready Player Two quite well, so I’ll just link it here.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century (Jessica Bruder)

Nomadland cover


indiebound - hardcover

Nomadland is simultaneously depressing, uplifting, humanizing, and galvanizing. If you are one of the two people remaining in the world who haven’t seen the movie, read the book, or heard about it through a friend, this book gives a view into the lives of a diverse group of nomadic laborers. Although some have chosen to be part of this roaming workforce, many have been forced into it through some combination of bad luck, failed support systems, illness, or something else. It is a strong case for a more comprehensive and powerful social safety net. I’ve yet to see the movie, but film adaptations rarely live up to the book.

You Can Be a Stock Market Genius (Joel Greenblatt)

YCBaSMG cover


indiebound - paperback

I don’t actually remember much from this book specifically. I enjoyed it, and it had some good bits. I’d put it at about 3/5 for actual investing complexity, but as a general overview of investing strategies it is fantastic. Would be eye-opening yet still accessible for a beginning investor. More seasoned investors might find it a bit basic, but it is not really aimed at that audience. It is probably still worth a read, but may not result in any lightbulb moments. Joel Greenblatt has an exceptional record at Gotham Capital, so it would be foolish to dismiss the wisdom found in this book.

The Sprawl Trilogy: Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive (William Gibson)

Neuromancer cover Count Zero cover Mona Lisa Overdrive cover


indiebound - paperback (Neuromancer)

indiebound - paperback (Count Zero)

indiebound - mass market (Mona Lisa Overdrive)

These books are classics that I hadn’t gotten around to reading beyond Neuromancer (and that had been quite a while). I reread Neuromancer and continued on with the rest of the Sprawl trilogy. They’re great, but made even better when you stop and reflect on when they were written. So much of the technology described in these books has since been developed or is in development. William Gibson is without a doubt one of the most prescient authors in the sci-fi space.

Permanent Record (Edward Snowden)

Permanent Record cover


indiebound - hardcover

An important book. The retelling of Edward Snowden’s life, from his own perspective. It manages to cover his life before government service, as well as his actions and motivations during and after the disclosures for which he is famous. I was privacy-conscious prior to reading this book. After reading it, I’m not sure whether to be completely fatalistic or to double down on paranoia, or somewhere in between. Recommended reading for everyone with a digital footprint.

Million Dollar Portfolio (David Gardner, Tom Gardner)

Million Dollar Portfolio cover


indiebound - hardcover

Actually somewhat similar to You Can Be a Stock Market Genius by Joel Greenblatt, but more enjoyable. The Motley Fool has a knack for presenting financial wisdom with a bit of humor, which really made this an enjoyable read. Recommended for anyone with an interest in investing.

Still Reading

Here are the books in my metaphorical bookbag (most are actually just in my Kindle). I won’t include ratings or reviews, but instead write a small bit about why I am reading them.

How To (Randall Munroe)

How To cover

indiebound - hardcover

I wanted to read something fun - and the creator of XKCD seemed like an obvious source. I have his coffee table book Thing Explainer and it is excellent.

Weapons of Math Destruction (Cathy O’Neil)

Weapons of Math Destruction cover

indiebound - hardcover

As a student of data science and social policy, I wanted to find out more about potential adverse effects caused by algorithms. As powerful as they are, I think it is incredibly important to take a close look at algorithms and make sure to minimize the potential for unanticipated negative results.

The Rust Programming Language (Steve Klabnik, Carol Nichols)

The Rust Programming Language cover

no starch press - paperback and ebook

Most of my programming experience thus far has been with web development (HTML/CSS/JS) and Python, and I wanted to learn something new. Rust was a pretty obvious choice for me, as it is becoming increasingly popular and also complements my current knowledge well.

  • Rust is statically typed, unlike Python
  • Rust is a compiled language, unlike Python
  • Rust has good error handling, which is friendly to new users
  • As a relatively high-performance language, Rust is being used more for things like machine learning and neural networks, which could be useful alongside my Python background.
  • Rust can be compiled to web assembly, which also complements my current skillset.

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics (Richard H. Thaler)

Misbehaving cover indiebound - hardcover I’ve found that my interests in finance, social causes, and data science often converge, and the field of behavioral economics is a piece of that puzzle. The fascinating thing about behavioral economics is that it can help explain why people don’t always act as predicted by traditional economic models. Self interest is a strong motivator, but since people are not purely economic beings, there can be other drivers at play. Richard Thaler is a pioneer in behavioral economics, and I am reading this to get his take on the field.

If Then (Jill Lepore)

If Then cover indiebound - hardcover If Then is a book about the origin of the use of algorithms and data science, especially in the fields of marketing and politics. As with Weapons of Math Destruction, I want to learn about the history of data science and also where it is going.

Photo Credit

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash