Back in December, I wrote a quick little recap of books from 2012. I think I’ve read more leisure material in the past six weeks than I had in the previous six months, so it might be time for an update. If I keep up my daily practice, maybe these lists will become more of a monthly thing. If not, that’s okay too.
First, the few that I’d already started last time but hadn’t yet finished:
The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje was, I can now confidently confirm, delightful. It’s just a story—a relatively short, digestible story (especially considering its source)—about growing up or being a child or just existing, but the man writes in a way that fires up my imagination; a beautiful feeling which I (sadly) find myself decreasingly able to self-initiate.
Freakonomics by Levitt & Dubner—I should have read this book a long time ago. An economist and a journalist team up to tell the world how things really work. People tend to focus on the statistics in the book, and there are certainly a few interesting statistical tidbits, but the really interesting takeaway for me remains his (Levitt’s) way of analysing incentive systems for bugs—finding the problems in micro-economies the same way that a programmer or an engineer would.
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore had been on my reading list for a while, and got pushed to the top at my cousin’s insistence. Mine was the revised and “modernised” second edition, which is still chock-full of horribly dated examples. Nevertheless, it lays out a very compelling thesis about the “right way” for disruptive technology companies to break into mainstream markets. I certainly recommend it to anyone interested in making technology companies work.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed touched me. It was… she certainly holds nothing back. The whole book is about her quest to find herself while hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, and the events in her life leading to that point. It’s painful reading at times, or just slightly uncomfortable, as though it is a violation of privacy, but her cathartic writing becomes a cathartic read. Even though her story is far more dramatic than my own, it was impossible for me not to find parallels between her experiences on the trail and my own experiences on the road. It has certainly renewed my itch to get away from cities and noise for a while.
Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, Jr. was an amazing read. I had somehow never seen the Hollywood blockbuster based on the book (a situation I recently rectified) but the story is enormously inspiring; not necessarily in terms of what the boys became but just of what they were. That enthusiastic curiosity for life is something I knew well as a child. It’s sometimes harder to find these days, but every now and then I grasp a corner and cling to it for all I’m worth.
Into the Silence by Wade Davis—I’m still working on this one. It’s the story of the first British expeditions to Everest, and it’s fascinating so far. I had never considered the effect of the first world war on those men, or even the overlapping timelines involved. I had never considered the effect of British history in India, nor had I ever attempted to form a mental image of Tibet during that time. It’s been incredibly eye-opening for me.