A Year In Reading
This year was the first year I made a concerted effort to read consistently, after all, it was the first year I was able to actually do that.1 It has been wonderful, and I have absolutely no intentions of doing anything different next year.
On an absolute scale, I don’t read that much. I make 30 minutes of time per day for reading, which is on the lower end for most people I know I’d call readers. My process is a bit interesting, and while rather slow, yields excellent returns for me in terms of comprehension and understanding.
I think my “Book Of The Year” award goes to Sorting Things Out from Bowker & Star, a very dry and hard to read book that nevertheless is densely packed with ideas and insight. It’s fantastic.
All being said, I read 36 books this year. Most of these were rather academic non-fiction books, a few were (very good) fiction books, and some were neither of these things. I’ll make some rough groupings.
Safety, Resilience and Systems Theory. (Also Programming) (13 Books)
- Woods, Cook, Dekker, Johannesen & Sarter – Behind Human Error
- Dekker – The Field Guide To Human Error
- Meadows – Thinking In Systems
- Luhmann – Macht Im System
- Bowker & Star – Sorting Things Out
- Newfield, Alenxandrova & John – Limits Of The Numerical
- Hollnagel & Woods – Joint Cognitive Systems: Foundations Of Cognitive Systems Engineering
- Dekker – Just Culture
- Paget – Unity Of Mistakes
- Hollnagel – The Reliability Of Expert Systems
- Muller – Tyranny Of Metrics
- Downe – Good Services
- Bellotti – Kill It With Fire
Highlights from this list are definitely Sorting Things Out, Behind Human Error, Macht Im System, and Joint Cognitive Systems.
Generally speaking, these come together into a more and more detailed picture more than they are individual works. This space greatly rewards reading broadly and piecing together the resultant insight.
“Stuff has affected the real world in unexpected ways” (6 Books)
This category is extremely loose, but here’s the list:
- Easterling – Extrastatecraft
- Kent – Data & Reality
- Scott – Seeing Like A State
- Wu – The Master Switch
- Scott – Against The Grain
- Soules – Icebergs, Zombies and the Ultra Thin
This is a really broad category for books that make points with real-world examples that are exceedingly hard to make in abstract. I think the highlights here are Extrastatecraft, Seeing Like A State and Icebergs, Zombies, and the Ultra-Thin.
Introspection, Philosophy and “Productivity” (12 Books)
- Elliott – Existential Kink
- Rettig – The 7 Secrets Of The Prolific
- Veerasamy – Introspect
- Hamming – The Art Of Doing Science And Engineering
- Boissiere – Thriving With Adult ADHD
- Ellenberg – How Not To Be Wrong
- Buckingham – Finding Our Sea-Legs
- Galef – Scout Mindset
- hooks – The Will To Change
- Pearl & Mackenzie – The Book Of Why
- Sloman & Fernbach – The Knowledge Illusion
- Petroski – To Engineer Is Human
This is another extremely broad category that’s mostly a junkyard. I don’t regret reading any of these, except for “Thriving with Adult ADHD”, which is awful.
Fiction (5 Books)
- Jemisin – The Stone Sky
- Jemisin – Obelisk Gate
- DeLillo – White Noise
- Mieville – The City & The City
- Calvino – Invisible Cities
The last two books of the Broken Earth trilogy written by NK Jemisin are fantastic, and hands-down the best piece of fiction I’ve had the pleasure of reading since, I think, Pratchett. I highly recommend them to everyone.
The City & The City was a fun book to read, in the end it spent all of its stat points on world building, and so, the characters and plot were forgettable, but the setting was not. It feels like it sprung from Calvino’s pages in Invisible Cities, which I’m sure did not escape Mieville’s notice.
DeLillo’s White Noise is a strange, fantastic tale about modern life, where so many things don’t make sense, and yet we have no choice but to accept it and deal with it.
I got medicated for ADHD last year (2021), and with it, a whole world of deliberately investing effort into outcomes I liked opened up. I picked up reading, mostly. ↩