I enjoyed publishing some thoughts on my reading list from 2017 at the end of last year, and wanted to continue the tradition in 2018. I think my blend moved more toward nonfiction this year, which I’ll blame on getting a ton of good recommendations through work. Stripe is an amazing place to build an impossibly large reading list.
I didn’t quite hit my goal of 20 books this year, but feel good about the material I did get through this year. If I had to pick, I think Men, Machines, and Modern Times, Democratizing Innovation, The Score Takes Care of Itself, and Sculpting in Time were my favorites of the year. I’ve left some notes on these books (and more!) in ascending order of completion below:
At the start of 2017 I, feeling a little unproductive, defined a set of goals which I’d try to achieve by the end of the year. It was around this time that I, feeling a little unhappy in my job, started looking at other places to work. While I was investigating the culture and history of Stripe (which I ultimately joined) one very common theme was how voracious of a reader its CEO Patrick was.
Reflecting on the meager list of books I’d completed in 2016, I realized that my own reading pace had dwindled over the years. Back when I commuted to Mountain View from SF, I generally had multiple hours per day to read. That became maybe 40 minutes each day when I started taking Muni to work downtown. When Twitter moved its office to within walking distance I basically stopped entirely, not making up in reading the time I was gaining from a shorter commute. I missed the depth I felt that I got from reading books and figured the best way to bring that back was to construct a goal of reading a specific quantity this year.
At some point I overheard Buster (my PM on analytics.twitter.com) raving about Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s books. I was intrigued without knowing too much and dove into Black Swan (even though Buster recommended Antifragile as his favorite) because I wanted to see what the deal was.
Racing the Beam is kind of like a biography for the Atari systems and their unique underlying circuit design. Actually, it’s kind of like one of those band documentaries where the band is already established so you just follow them around and see their interactions with common folk. Eventually there’s some scene where a band member blows up or throws a tantrum and probably didn’t mean anything at the time but foreshadows the band’s eventual downfall/breakup and so forth.
I picked up Post Office by Charles Bukowski at Booksmith because one of the shelves claimed it was hilarious and because I hadn’t read anything relaxed and just funny in a while. I had heard of Bukowski before but wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything beyond that he had a hand in writing Barfly, a movie starring Mickey Rourke which I haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.