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Reading List, Q4 2022
Wrapping up a decade of keeping track of what (and why) I read. A slightly lower total than in previous years, mostly due to finishing a few very long, detailed books that I had put down at least once, and a fair number of exogenous forces that simply reduced daily reading time. In particular this was the fewest books I’ve read at year’s end in a long time, for just those reasons.
Highlights: Annie Duke’s “Quit” and Katy Tur’s “Rough Draft” (one of which I’m in, one of which I was present for but not acknowledged) along with the conclusion of NK Jemisin’s quantum physics meets the five boroughs “City” duology.
Personal goal for 2023: Read more books, with more variety.
37. “Resonate,” business, Nancy Duarte, finished October 5
I picked up a few of Duarte’s books on presentation and data narratives. I had a lot of trouble getting through this, which should not have been the case - I think a book about presentations and narrative is like a book about writing – you have to actually do the work and not just read about it. I also found the Kindle edition exceptionally hard to read – the variegated text had miserable context and most of the good material (hopefully) is in the online reference.
38. “Quit,” business, Annie Duke, finished October 20
Continuing her “question your context” series of decision making and decision improvement books, Annie Duke delivers another dense, highly researched and incredibly valuable book. “How To Decide” has made appearances in any number of my own staff meetings and large group talks, and “Quit” will inform my thinking going forward about setting all-or-nothing goals, about differentiating the hard versus easy parts of goals, and establishing kill criteria to know when to stop. Best learning: “Quit while you’re ahead” is wrong. You quit when you no longer have positive expected outcomes. Figuring out what they are and how to value them are topics in the prequels; deciding when you should quit completes the full set of decision making experiences. Disclaimer: I am listed in the Acknowledgements, sandwiched between authors whose work I share and quote, but have received no value or compensation for this reference other than an early release of the book.
39. “Beauties,” sports, James Duthie, finished November 1
A truly laugh-out-loud collection of true hockey stories about famous, infamous and less than famous players that ranges from the inner dialogue of a tough guy to the gentle care a team shows for a fan. Hockey’s characters - amplified by the speed and basic complexity of the game - seem to show up, scaled to their leagues, in everything from youth hockey to the NHL, and Duthie captures the range of people and their emotions wonderfully.
40. “The World We Made,” sci-fi, NK Jemisin, finished November 12
The sequel to “The City We Became,” this is what would happen if Lou Reed and Richard Feynman had a literary child. It’s so well crafted, you love the characters and their flaws and their humanity – despite them being meta-human icons of the iconic city. The confluence of new vs old vs elder world, the daily conflict of life in New York, the inter-borough “bridge and tunnel crowd” rivalries, and just an XXL sized dollop of NYC snark had me laughing, racing and even hopeful throughout the book. I’m not really sure how to describe the duology other than an identity search against timeless and timely forces. It really is a book for our time and a long baseline time frame.
41. “Boldly Go,” non-fiction, William Shatner, finished November 26.
Part “401(k) tour” book and part reflection on a long and varied career, it’s a fun series of essays on various events and observations. Shatner puts his wit and an earned sense of humility (that doesn’t always come through in his stories) on full display.
42. “The Six Deaths of the Saint” (Alix Harrow) and “Persephone” (Lev Grossman), fantasy, finished November 27
Two of the short stories in Amazon’s “Into Shadow” collection; available as stand-alone purchases. Both are creepy reads by authors whose long form works I really like; it’s fun to see them take a small idea and play it out fully.
43. “The Unfinished Land,” Greg Bear, sci-fi, finished December 22
Greg Bear’s last book before his recent death, and one rich in the world building and interconnected character types you expect from him. Partly a sea faring tale of adventure, partly a re-interpretation of Norse mythology, and partly an exploration of the origins of creativity, I almost stopped reading a few times – prose interspersed with a legion of Bonvolio like characters who drop lines and then retire had me dropping my Kindle onto my head at least a week’s worth of nights.
44. “Rough Draft,” Katy Tur, memoir, finished December 23
There’s a chapter near the end of “Rough Draft” where Tur describes being at Madison Square Garden for a New Year’s Eve Phish concert – if you’ve seen her live you know she liberally teases the band’s lyrics as the year draws to a close. About 20 minutes before the scene described, I met her in the lounge at MSG, talking about kids and her show and the band – maybe 2 minutes of interaction that was completely gracious and away from politics. She is as genuine a person as you will meet, and “Rough Draft” felt like talking to her for a few hours, sharing her personal backstory and her first few months of motherhood. She voices the concerns we (as parents, greater Tri-State Area citizens and people who grew up on broadcast news) share, but also offers a glimmer of hope. Like those New Year’s Eve balloons.
45. “Babel,” R F Kuang, sci-fi, finished December 31
Technically a young adult novel, Kuang’s overlay of magic and metalworking on the serene Oxford University setting paints a graphic picture of Britian, colonialism, and the roots of unrest. I read this on a recommendation of one of the best computer scientists I know, and saw it (unprompted) as a bit of a warning about the influence and social shifts of allowing unchecked AI to reshape our workforce. Technology has social consequences and they play out very loudly in “Babel.” A nice way to end the 2023 reading year.