The sun is out, summer is here, it’s time to read some great books. Here are my recommendations:
Fiction and memoirs
Educated by Tara Westover. I’m in the middle of this book based on a true story. Imagine a girl raised in the mountains by deeply conservative religion parents. That means no modern medicine, no secular education, no revealing clothes and no TV or music. The mountains were not Afghanistan, but the US and the parents were Mormons. Then throw the girl, the author Tara, into modern world when she starts university. An incredibly insightful book of how our society operates, revealed through the eyes of someone who has never experienced it before. By the way, I found Part 1, which covers here mountain life, a bit tiresome in parts, so you can skip some chapters and jump to Part 2 which covers her interaction with the modern world.
Artemis by Andy Weir. From the author of Martian, which later became a film starring Matt Damon, this novel features life on the moon. This time there’s a Singapore style economy on the moon. The protagonist is a hard-drinking Saudi woman who discovers a plot to sabotage the moon colony. Great attention to detail on the science of living on the moon.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. With so much chatter about AI and robots taking over the world and our scary future, I thought I read another imaging of the future but one written 90 years ago. I’ve always found Brave New World more believable than Orwell’s 1984 as a possible future. Yet even then, Huxley’s future still seems to give too much weight to a malevolent central authority figure. It shows how much of our perspectives are coloured by the time we live in – Huxley did live in the authoritarian 1930s.
Vision by Tom King. I’m a fan of graphic novels. This one based on the Marvel character Vision is Shakespearean in its plot. It revolves around Vision’s attempt to fit his family into a regular suburb. More details in my blog.
Capitalism Without Capital by Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake. Probably the most original book on economics I’ve read in years. It argues that many economies are becoming dominated by intangible assets such as the brands, platforms and networks. The way to understand their value and impact on society are fundamentally different to conventional economics which implicitly assumes all assets behave like tangible ones (factories and shops).
Skin In the Game by Nassim Taleb. As usual, Taleb punctures conventional wisdom with some clever ideas on trusting those that have skin the game rather “intellectuals” or “politicians” who won’t suffer the consequences of their decisions. Also, his rehabilitation of the value of religion is noteworthy.
Four Princes: Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe by John Julius Norwich. I blogged about this. It covers the lives of four towering princes/kings are lived at the same time. England’s King Henry VIII, Frances’s King Francis I, Gemany’s Kings Charles V and Turkey’s Suleyman the Magnificent.
Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday. The book is framed as an exposition of how conspiracies unfold, but the book is really the rip-roaring account of Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel vendetta against Gawker through using the wrestler Hulk Hogan’s sex tape scandal!
Longevity Diet by Valter Longo. My favourite book on health. A very logical approach to determine the secret of long life by using methods from cellular science to centenarian studies (Eg Okinawan society ). I blogged on this too.
Presidential Leadership In Political Time by Stephen Skowronek. Written a few decades ago and updated since. The book is a clever way of looking at American presidencies in terms of transforming Presidents (like FDR or perhaps Reagan) to status quo affirming Presidents (Bush senior, Clinton) to “disjunctive” Presidents (Carter). The latter are ones that come into “disrupt” the system but fail for various reasons.