Reading 2015

Updated 06 Feb 2016

Top books this year

Meditations: A New Translation, by Marcus Aurelius (4/5). Re-read 2015
Such a great mixture of notes-to-self, and zen-like observations of the world. Check out “Only Don’t Know”, (teaching letters to students) by Seung Sahn for a very complimentary Zen perspective.

Predator at the Chessboard, by Ward Farnsworth (5/5). Outstanding
This breaks down the basic tactical themes in a way that just fit perfectly for me – whenever I finished a chapter, I would immediately start to see those ideas popping up in games. I read this online from his website.

All the rest

The Art of Profitability, by Adrian J. Slywotzky (3/5)
Semi-interesting catalog of 23 profit models. But I always find the “instructive conversation” style in books really contrived and painful. Pair with “Staying Power”, by Michael Cusumano for another interesting perspective.

Encountering the Chinese, by Hu Wenzhong (4/5)
This was a good cultural overview of China. I was aware of all the broad themes, but I found a number of subtleties that refined my understanding, and put some previous interactions in a new light. Very useful. Including pinyin without tone marks is annoying, though.

Let’s Talk About Love, by Carl Wilson (3/5)
I liked the parts about the socio-economics of “taste”, and signalling of social and cultural capital. I’ve never been a Céline hater, so I found the hand-wringing about liking her to be kind of dull.

Leading Change, by John P. Kotter (4/5)
Great advice on what it will take to achieve change in large, slow-moving organizations. All of the obstacles and anti-patterns were painfully familiar, and the advice seems straightforward in retrospect, but isn’t obvious when you’re in the middle of the problem.

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, by Peter C. Brown (4/5)
How to learn? You’re probably doing at least some of it wrong (inefficiently). My two biggest takeaways are: 1) to move on well before you have “mastered” the material, and instead come back repeatedly to build up your levels, and 2) that retrieval is what you’re really after, and quizzes are “retrieval practice”… quiz always.

Evocative Objects: Things We Think with, by Sherry Turkle (4/5)
Great book, with lots of linkages to other people I find interesting (Piaget, Seymour Papert, Marcel Mauss). Should be nibbled on, don’t overdo it. A couple of the objects were personally evocative (raincoat hood!), most were interesting.

盲人国 (The Country of the Blind), by H.G. Wells (4/5)
My first “book” read in Chinese… exhausting! Quite well done given the very limited vocabulary, and the repetition definitely helped my reading speed a lot.

Uncreative Writing, by Kenneth Goldsmith (2/5)
Whatever. Wanted to like this, but it had no substance, and the author got off on the wrong foot with me by not understanding what a binary file is. Still, there were a few interesting references like Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings.

秘密花园 (The Secret Garden), by Frances Hodgson Burnett (4/5)
Chinese Graded Reader edition. Not much new vocab, but the repetition really helps my reading speed.

卷发公司的案子 (Sherlock Holmes and the Red-Headed League), by Arthur Conan Doyle (4/5)
Quick and simple translation of the story. Good practice material for reading speed.

The Martian, by Andy Weir (2/5)
Pure hard sci-fi plus survival fantasy. It was OK, but without any psychological angle to drive it, I got crisis fatigue from one emergency stacked on top of another.

六十年的梦 (The Sixty Year Dream), by Washington Irving (4/5)
Rip Van Winkle in Beijing. This is a graded reader for learning to read Chinese.

Ideogram: Chinese Characters and the Myth of Disembodied Meaning, by J. Marshall Unger (3/5)
Really interesting, although I wasn’t able to make much sense of the second half. Favourite part was the comparison to English shorthand rules and techniques.

TPRS with Chinese Characteristics, by Terry T. Waltz (3/5)
I’m not a teacher – I read this looking for ideas to help my self-study. To that end, I didn’t really find much new, as it was all pretty general and I had seen most things from other sources already.

Dave Barry Does Japan, by Dave Barry (3/5)
Good fun, classic Dave Barry. A bunch of genuine laugh-out-loud moments in there.

White, by Kenya Hara (3/5)
I love his designs, but I had trouble getting anything out of this.

The Little Book That Still Beats the Market, by Joel Greenblatt (3/5)
Very basic idea expanded with a lot of backstory.

Foundations of Chinese Characters, by Kyle Balmer (3/5)
Introduction to the structure and system of Chinese writing.

Earth Vs. Everybody, by John Swartzwelder (3/5)
Frank Burly is at it again… a zany cartoon, nothing more (and I read it in Mexico).

Lexicon, by Max Barry (4/5)
Fun read. Matrix meets sorcery, kind of an action movie.

The Art of Communicating, by Thich Nhat Hanh (4/5)
Great reminders. Just be here, now, and listen with compassion.

The Intelligent Investor, by Preston Pysh (5/5)
You are probably a defensive investor, now act like one.

Notes from a Blue Bike, by Tsh Oxenreider (2/5)
Meh. I judged the book by its cover and I expected more than anecdotes.


You can also check out everything I've been reading on Goodreads.