Books (Including Snippets)

Parts of Books that I Love

There are certain parts that have gotten lodged in my head forever. These are some of my favorites that I was able to post.

From 2016

  • Overall Pick: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (AmazonAudible). This is a bit of a fanboy review but this book is awesome. In the article Ernest Cline is the Luckiest Geek Alive, Cline describes the book as, “What if Willy Wonka was a video game designer and held a contest inside his greatest video game?” Ready Player One is set in a dystopian future where nearly everyone lives in a virtual world called “The Oasis” and the only way to save the world is through an encyclopedia knowledge of 80’s trivia. The book presents such a compelling version of the VR future that all employees of the VR firm Oculus are asked to read the book before they start. The Audiobook is read fantastically by Wil Wheaton (who is mentioned very briefly in the book). Oh, and Steven Spielberg is making it into a movie.
  • Guilty Pleasure: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (AmazonAudible). A pruriently intellectual book on gossip, twitter and social media shaming. What happens when Lindsey Stone posts a picture mocking a sign at Arlington National Cemetery and it follows her for the rest of her life or when Justine Sacco tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” and it ruined her life. Ronson does a great job of going deep into the specific stories but also making some general points about what social media shaming is doing to society.
  • Business: Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull (CEO of Pixar) (AmazonAudible). Creativity Inc is a great book that combines the history of Pixar with the lessons that they’ve learned as a business. The lessons in the book are pretty run of the mill but the real spark is how Pixar implements them. When Catmull says “Don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share them with others,” it sounds like any other book on iterative development. But he shows how Pixar implements this, how movies like Toy Story 2 and Up were completely remade from the initial draft. As a bonus, Catmull talks a lot about his decades long relationship with Steve Jobs and how Jobs impacted Pixar.
  • Economics: Misbehaving – The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard Thaler (AmazonAudible). Thaler is the founder of Behavioral Economics, inspired by Daniel Kahnemann and Amos Tversky. In the book Thaler talks about how he got started in economics and started noticing how humans don’t act in the ways that economists expect them to. For example, in his first experience as a professor he got enormous pushback from students when he presented them with a hard test, with an average score of 72. Though the class was graded on a curve, this shouldn’t make a difference to anyone — but it did to the students. How did he learn to placate them? By changing the total available points to 137. Poof! The human students became much happier.
  • Memoir: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (Amazon, Audible). I was expecting a teenage story similar to all the other comedy celebrity stories out there — like Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” But this book is so much more — chronicling Noah’s life through the collapse of Apartheid and seeing the culture through the eyes of a half black / half white man who doesn’t really belong to either culture.
  • Technology: The Elon Musk Blog Series: Wait but Why by Tim Urban (Amazon e-bookOriginal web series). Tim Urban writes a great blog called Wait But Why?  Elon Musk liked it so much he asked Tim to write about his companies. After months of work, many interviews with Elon and staff and 90,000 words Tim put together a very complete picture of the problems that Tesla (global warming) and SpaceX (global annihilation) are looking to solve and how they are looking to solve them.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Chuck Yaeger is the pilot who had more of The Right Stuff than anyone else. Wolfe writes in the book that the low key Appelechean accent that most commercial pilots use when talking to passengers is all an imitation of Yaeger. If you want to hear what Yaeger sounds like, you can listen to this interview of Yaeger that starts with a Wolfe anecdote about the accent.
2. If you’re looking for similar books, Leo Janos co-wrote two autobiographies. Yaeger dives deeper into the life of Chuck Yaeger. Skunkworks is the memoir of Ben Rich, the second leader of Lockheed’s super-secret military aircraft division.