A List of Books I Read in 2016

In 2016 my goal was to read 20 books.  I ended up reading 24.

I actually started off the year reading avidly, but 3 things occurred which drove my spare reading time to almost nil:

  1. I started working on more projects at work which I enjoy working on in my free time as well.
  2. My wife not only became pregnant but delivered our baby in late November!
  3. Partially as a result of 2, we stopped traveling almost completely at the end of the year, outside of a last-hurrah trip to Chicago.

2016 marked a year of reading more specialized books to further my advancement as a developer and to deepen my knowledge of building worlds and multiplayer games as background research for Galapag.us.

This list above is probably a less interesting list than past years to anyone outside of myself.  Nevertheless, what impressed me about the books on the list was depth to which the authors had researched and experienced their own stories.  The amount of time it took the authors to travel down the paths of scaling data pipelines, or to iterate upon Dwarf Fortress, or to establish a long history of ground-truth work for the people of Vermont as Bernie Sanders has, or to build up the best animation company in the world.

To think that these people started at the same place and traveled so far from each other is something that I consider every day that my newborn daughter gets older.  Where will she go, and how far away from her starting point will she end up?

In 2017 I think a lot of my job’s architecture buildout will be done, but my daughter will be more of a handful once she goes mobile.  So I’ll set my goal for 2017 to read a modest 15 books.  The good side is that, having gone to our local SoHo bookstore recently, after having not looked for new books in a while, I was awash with new books I wish to read.

The curiosity is still there, but not the time.  I do also plan on writing on my blog more, to cope with a post-truthiness American mainstream world.

Feel free to look through my previous years’ lists of books.

A List of Books I Read in 2015

In 2015 I read 29 books.  My goal was 40 books.

Near the beginning of the year I decided to focus more of my time on coding for my ongoing personal project, Galapag.us.  That project is still in need of reaching a point of critical mass.  It’s scaled up as I’ve learned more about how to develop an application from top to bottom, but it’s still in need of a lot of work, with an ever-increasing scope.  In calculating the amount of time to push the ball forward for Galapag.us, I realized that time spent on the train, plane, subway, or waiting room could be spent figuring out the next crucial pieces for that project, instead of reading.

Hence the dropoff.

The books:

  1. (7) The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made – Walter Isaacson (Isaacson is a great biographer; starts off slow)
  2. (10) @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex – Shane Harris (hard to find anything as thorough these days that isn’t also screechy about Snowden)
  3. (10) The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York – Robert Caro (exhaustively comprehensive)
  4. (7) Bad Luck and Trouble – Lee Child (my first Reacher book)
  5. (7) Rocketeers – Michael Belfiore (good primer on private outer space efforts)
  6. (10) The Martian: A Novel – Andy Weir (MACGUYVER IN SPACE)
  7. (7) Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace – Leon Panetta (latter half is just a timeline basically)
  8. (8) The Hacker Playbook: Guide to Penetration Testing – Peter Kim (solid broad coverage)
  9. (10) Slash – Slash, Anthony Bozza (read this and Reckless Road for full GnR)
  10. (10) Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity’s Chief Engineer – Rob Manning (invaluable engineering insight)
  11. (10) Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of NYC – Robin Nagle (ethnography of most important civic workers)
  12. (10) Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground – Kevin Poulsen (best book on carding black market out there; read along with Mitnick)
  13. (9) The Basics of Hacking and Penetration Testing: Ethical Hacking and Penetration Testing Made Easy – Patrick Engebretson (best book I’ve found for how to start out pen testing)
  14. (8) Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century – Michael Hiltzik (comprehensive look at project which changed modern west)
  15. (8) Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money – Nathaniel Popper (background into original players behind bitcoin’s rise)
  16. (8) Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs – Ken Jennings (Jennings is funny but Word Freak is a better book)
  17. (8) The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate – Robert Kaplan (gift from Colin Nagy; Kaplan & George Friedman the best on geopolitics, despite his neoliberal leanings)
  18. (10) Primates of Park Avenue – Wednesday Martin (delicious ethnography of the Manhattan elite)
  19. (10) Palace of Treason – Jason Matthews (sequel to Red Sparrow, tons of tradecraft by ex CIA case officer)
  20. (8) Armada: A Novel – Ernest Cline (next novel after Ready Player One; same themes, more scifi, seems tailored for film rights)
  21. (10) It’s So Easy: and other lies – Duff McKagan (this is like Andre Agassi’s bio — the later phases of his life somehow transcend the flashy beginning)
  22. (6) The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever – Teri Agins (a now-outdated dryly written history of mass-marketed clothing trends)
  23. (10) Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates (I avoided this book for too long because of hype, but the most insightful experience about being a modern black person that I’ve ever read)
  24. (5) Slice Harvester: A Memoir in Pizza – Colin Atrophy Hagendorf (heavy emphasis on memoir, not pizza — you will not learn much about NYC pizza from this book)
  25. (10) The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State – William McCants (best primer for what ISIS is about from one of the most knowledgeable in his field)
  26. (8) Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker – Molly Bloom (fun insight into private celeb poker games in NYC, Vegas, and LA)
  27. (7) Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint Special Operations Command – Sean Naylor (comprehensive from early days till post-Afghanistan)
  28. (8) Building the H-Bomb: A Personal History – Kenneth Ford (some good explanation of nuclear physics but also fuzzy-headed academics going camping)
  29. (10) The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win – Gene Kim (recommended at Container Days, helps understand continuous integration)

Anyway, the good part of this year was that I absolutely loved the books that I did read!  My 1-10 scores tend to skew above 6, but that’s mainly because I’m not forced to read terrible books.  I think I’ve only given a few 3s over the years.

I rated 13 books this year a perfect 10, which is absurd.  I rate a book a 10 if not only do I think it’s well-written and authoritative in its research or access, but I also think it’s important that others read the book.  A 9 is a book that I loved reading and that I think is important, but I took more personal satisfaction in it.  An 8 is a solid book, a 7 is one that I probably felt like I had to read for my own education, and 6 and below is mostly just poorly-written fluff.

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book: I really wanted to not like it, but it challenged me like few books I’ve read have.  It pissed me off, made me uncomfortable, but also made me feel love, and loved.  Definitely the most influential book I’ve read in a few years.

This year I do plan to continue putting more time into Galapag.us.  I’m still trying to get it to a point where I love to use it, use it for everything, and even stop needing to use other sites.  It’s getting closer.  So let’s say my goal in 2016 is to read 20 books.

As always, I am in search of new books that cover subject matter that I don’t know much about so I can get a baseline sense of the insider baseball within.  Subculture books are always fun.  I prefer nonfiction and I generally enjoy reading journalists’ work since they can balance efficiency with fascination, discipline, and exploration.

I tried to read more fashion books this year to get a sense of that industry, but most are garbage or write of segments of time with designers who have long since been relegated to the dustbin of history despite their meteoric rises.  What does longevity mean in that industry?

I felt like cyber and hacking storytelling has finally reached a point where the stories are amazing to read, but are also true.  It’s been the stuff of cheesy plot lines in the past but now we regularly read highwire stories of law enforcement chasing unknown online criminal enterprises.  That world has matured into reality, is basically what I’m saying.

Here’s my previous years’ lists of books.

Got any book ideas?  Leave a comment.

Books I Read in 2014

This year I read 40 books.  I’m almost done with a few more really long books but I’m saving them for next year.  My goal was to read only 25 books — I think I figured that my reading would drop off with trying to work on creating practical blocks of code and learning algorithms, but I also did a bit of traveling up and down the coast, so that allowed for more reading time.

They are rated from 1 to 10.  I rated 10 of the 40 books this year a 10.  As always, the books I think are absolutely worth reading and which I think say something profound or new are rated at a 10.  Rarely do I rate below a 6, just because I wouldn’t have chosen to read the book anyway if I knew it was that bad. 9’s and 8’s are usually solid books, but not must-reads.  7’s I appreciated the content and was satisfied with my choosing to read them.

This year I added very very brief comments giving my 2-second gut review.

This year, my emphasis has been on deepening my understanding of code quality, algorithmic efficiency, and runtime speed as I try to become a more seasoned programmer.  My goal has been to practice more C and C++ to learn from a sound fundamental base.  I also tried to become stronger in devops-related topics.

I think this has been my best year for reading books written by women.  In the past I had read the Hunger Games, The Giver, and Harry Potter series, and those shouldn’t all count as uniques.  But this year I was delighted to read some fascinating investigative journalism books (on chocolate, Chinese consumerism, and shipping) and a couple amazing memoirs (Julia Child and the woman with the brain on fire).

In the coming year I’m going to try to read 40 books.  In particular, if you have suggestions for investigatory journalism books, I’d love to read them!  I also love books with biographies on great persons or great projects.

Previous years:

List of Books I Read in 2013

Here is a list of the books I read in 2013.  There are quite a few coding books on this list so they were not particularly long reads, but they were fairly difficult to parse.  There’s not much of a way to quantify non-book reading (blog posts, newspaper articles, etc.) but I’ve definitely stopped reading as much about politics and economics and more from experts in their fields (particularly software engineering).  I still have a sweet tooth for foreign policy and military affairs — WaPo, NYT, and LA Times for their international news reporting fill the bill (which is good because most everyone else closed their international stations).  Newswires (AP, Reuters) continue to be stellar.

I’m probably most turned off by this year’s cyber-libertarian literature — it reads like lobbyist spin and less like 80’s-era hacker or 90’s-era cypherpunk.  As always I’m obsessed with famous American magnates.

  1. (3) The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption – Clay A. Johnson
  2. (5) The SALT Summaries: Condensed Ideas About Long-Term Thinking – Stewart Brand
  3. (6) Homeland – Cory Doctorow
  4. (7) Pukka’s Promise: A Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs – Ted Kerasote
  5. (6) Rainbows End – Vernor Vinge
  6. (8) Test Driven Development: By Example – Kent Beck
  7. (6) Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability – Steve Krug
  8. (9) Who Owns the Future? – Jaron Lanier
  9. (10) Decoded – Jay-Z
  10. (6) A Programmer’s Guide to Drupal – Jennifer Hodgdon
  11. (10) Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture – David Kushner
  12. (10) Wherever I Wind Up: Truth, Authenticity, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Knuckleball – R.A. Dickey
  13. (7) Pro Drupal Development – John K. VanDyk
  14. (7) MongoDB Applied Design Patterns – Rick Copeland
  15. (8) Learning JavaScript Design Patterns – Addy Osmani
  16. (7) Hackers & Slackers: The New York New Media Underground in the Early 1990’s – Kevin Walker
  17. (6) 10 Print Chr$(205.5+rnd(1)); Goto 10 – Montfort, Nick, et al
  18. (9) The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth – Mark Mazzetti
  19. (7) Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection – Ethan Zuckerman
  20. (6) The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master – Hunt & Thomas
  21. (7) Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace – Ronald J. Deibert
  22. (6) The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets Since the Depression – Angus Burgin
  23. (9) The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court – Jeffrey Toobin
  24. (8) MongoDB: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition – Kristina Chodorow
  25. (9) Beginning MySQL Database Design and Optimization: From Novice to Professional – Chad Russell, Jon Stephens
  26. (5) David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants – Malcolm Gladwell
  27. (9) Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile – Nate Jackson
  28. (7) Understanding Color: An Introduction for Designers – Linda Holtzschue
  29. (10) Reminiscences of a Stock Operator – Edwin Lefevre
  30. (8) Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code – Martin Fowler

 

Unfortunately, worse than most years, only 3 of the 30 books were written by women (compared with, say, last year, where 11 of the 30 books were written by women).  I’d like more parity there but save for a few spurious books on this list, most of the books were targeted reads based on topic.

As always, a book with a rating (in the parentheses) of 10 is a must-read by my count.  This year it was Jay-Z’s autobio “Decoded”, “Masters of Doom” (a book about id Software, John Carmack, and John Romero), “Wherever I Wind Up” (an autobio about the Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey who is the MLB’s last full knuckleballer), and “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator” (one of my favorite books ever, written back in the early 1900’s but which still rings true on Wall Street today).  There were probably fewer 10s this year than before — unfortunately a lot of these books were the kind of book you should probably read, but which aren’t really that good).

School ended in May so my book-read count will probably decrease this year — the only time I really spend reading now is when I’m on planes or trains or buses or whatever.  Though I might try to carve out regular time during every day since I’ve got a list of like 7 books I really want to read.  I’m going to put 2014’s goal at 20 books.

I update my lists at Shelfari and Goodreads.  Here are my lists from 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009.

List of Books I Read in 2012

Here’s the list of books that I read in 2012.  Since I’m in my second year of grad school and am learning a lot of technical stuff, that would explain some of the more manual-type books.  It also explains why I wasn’t able to read as many books as I would have liked.  I expect the number of books I’ll read this coming year to be higher, though I’m burned out on a lot of foreign policy books.

The number in parentheses is my 1-10 rating.  Books that are rated 10 are definite must-reads, but I think that anything above an 8 on this list this year was very, very interesting.  Having 7 out of 30 books rated “10” means to me that I did a good job of picking books worthy of my time!

Past years here: google spreadsheet

2012 Goal: 30 BOOKS
TOTAL: 30 BOOKS

My 2011 Reading List

Here’s the list of books I read in 2011, including my ratings of them on a scale from 1 to 10.  I read 25 books in 2011, substantially down from the 40 before that in 2010, the 49 in 2009, and the 50 in 2008.  I blame this on a pretty rough year, a lot of moving and upheaval, and starting up a more technical-based school degree.  It was a year of more coding than reading. :)  Obviously anything rated 10 is a must-read!

From my Google shared Docs: (text, spreadsheet)

  1. (7) Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future – Stephen Kinzer
  2. (6) Amexica: War Along the Borderline – Ed Vulliamy
  3. (7) Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge – E.O. Wilson
  4. (8) How to Run the World:  Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance – Parag Khanna
  5. (7) Forever War, The – Joe Haldeman
  6. (8) We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves – Shepard, Glenn, et al
  7. (10) Father of Money: Buying Peace in Baghdad – Jason Whiteley
  8. (10) Open: An Autobiography – Andre Agassi
  9. (7) Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Life – Marshall Frady
  10. (8) What Technology Wants – Kevin Kelly
  11. (9) Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny – Robert Wright
  12. (6) Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa – Jason Stearns
  13. (8) In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules – Stacy Perman
  14. (10) Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly – Anthony Bourdain
  15. (5) Roseannearchy: Dispatches from the Nut Farm – Roseanne Barr
  16. (8) The Next Decade: Where We’ve Been… And Where We’re Going – George Friedman
  17. (7) The Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth – Mark Anielski
  18. (9) The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent – Richard Florida
  19. (8) Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto – Chuck Klosterman
  20. (10) Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy War with China – David Wise
  21. (7) Fight Club: A Novel – Chuck Palahniuk
  22. (10) The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency – Matthew Aid
  23. (6) Rafa: My Story – John Carlin, Rafael Nadal
  24. (6) This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  25. (10) Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

 

Here’s past blog posts I made on annual book reading lists.  The “what to read in international affairs” post needs updating, bad.

Also, here’s a txt file of my Kindle highlights.  And a Wordle made up of the Kindle highlights:

 

Books, 2010

In 2010 I finished 40 books.  Here they are. The initial number in parentheses is a rating from 1-10.

2010 Goal: 40 BOOKS
SO FAR: 40 BOOKS

  1. (8) Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction – Thomas K. McCraw
  2. (6) The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict – Arbinger Institute
  3. (9) Makers – Cory Doctorow
  4. (6) Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World – Vali Nasr
  5. (6) A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present – Howard Zinn
  6. (9) What Does China Think? – Mark Leonard
  7. (10) Daemon – Daniel Suarez
  8. (8) Code: Version 2.0 – Lawrence Lessig
  9. (10) Science for Sale: The Perils, Rewards, and Delusions of Campus Capitalism – Daniel S. Greenberg
  10. (6) A Testimonial to Grace: And Reflections on a Theological Journey – Avery Dulles
  11. (5) American Gods – Neil Gaiman
  12. (7) Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future – Cory Doctorow
  13. (8) How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization – Franklin Foer
  14. (10) Freedom (TM) – Daniel Suarez
  15. (6) Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy – Moises Naim
  16. (8) The Case for God – Karen Armstrong
  17. (10) Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. – Ron Chernow
  18. (6) The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life – James Martin
  19. (3) Mastering the VC Game: A Venture Capital Insider Reveals How to Get from Start-Up to IPO on Your Terms – Jeffrey Bussgang
  20. (6) Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age – Viktor Mayer-Schonberger
  21. (6) Gandhi: Prisoner of Hope – Judith M. Brown
  22. (6) Schism and Continuity in an African Society: A Study of Ndembu Village Life – Victor Witter Turner
  23. (8) Galapagos at the Crossroads: Pirates, Biologists, Tourists, and Creationists Battle for Darwin’s Cradle of Evolution – Carol Ann Bassett
  24. (8) Confessions of an Economic Hitman – John Perkins
  25. (5) Let’s All Find Awesome Jobs – Kevin Fanning
  26. (8) Playing the Odds to Win Big in Business – Jeffrey Ma
  27. (6) Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
  28. (9) The Hidden Wealth of Nations – David Halpern
  29. (9) The Man Who Tried to Save the World: The Dangerous Life and Mysterious Disappearance of an American Hero – Scott Anderson
  30. (7) Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming – Peter Seibel
  31. (8) The Teeth of the Tiger – Tom Clancy
  32. (7) Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War – Andrew Bacevich
  33. (10) Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing – Adam Greenfield
  34. (5) Halting State – Charles Stross
  35. (8) Zeitoun – Dave Eggers
  36. (8) The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary – Eric S. Raymond
  37. (10) The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity – Richard Florida
  38. (10) Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power – Robert Kaplan
  39. (7) Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation – Steven Johnson
  40. (7) The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World – Dominique Moisi

What to Read in International Affairs

I just left my old job, which was to read endless open-source articles online in the mainstream, on blogs, on Twitter, in discussion forums, whatever.

One thing that was awesome about the job was learning how the news cycle works.  You’re able to see how stories develop and how they take hold on the public.  You’re able to see how the news is manipulated.  You can see who finds stuff first, who curates the news best, who is always late to the party, who gets things wrong consistently over time.  Most excitingly, you see how much crowdsourcing is contributing to the news cycle now.

Being an international relations (IR) wonk, then, what I crave when I’m looking for news is an inside scoop from people who are close to those who affect events.  By the time it reaches the major newspapers, it’s not much of a story anymore.  Although the New York Times is still the absolute best when it comes to learning about why a story is important.  Some people like to read stuff like Before It’s News but they have too much user-submitted garbage.  I’ve found that 4chan and reddit catch stuff the fastest most often these days.  Huffington Post usually almost always has the most discussion about a topic but can have some pretty stupid comments.

So for those of you who love IR, especially for incoming students to Georgetown’s Master’s of Science in Foreign Service program, here’s what I recommend reading:


Major News Sites:

NYTimes’ The Lede Blog (http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/)

This is where the NYT develops on-going stories.  They have a ton of blogs for different topics but this one deals with whatever the big stories are, along with added social media, discussion, and NYT’s superior curated commenting system.

Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report (http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/)

Just found this one.  Provides some very good contextualized news on what’s going on in China, which usually exists in the news world behind a black see-through veneer of American stereotypes.

AOLNews (http://www.aolnews.com/)

AOL apparently hired a lot of freelancers to write up news, and I have to say they’re a pretty reliable crew at finding more context at reporting under-rated news stories that are being talked about a lot but don’t respond to specific news events.

ABCNews’ The Blotter (http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/)

Brian Ross’s project used to break a lot of details for terrorism-related incidents.

Foreign Policy Passport (http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/)

The editors of Foreign Policy cover pretty thoroughly just about any IR story.


Blogs:

Borderland Beat (http://www.borderlandbeat.com/)

This blog is supposedly made up of a group of anonymous folks reporting from Mexico — while Mexican newspapers usually get the initial stories out quick, Borderland Beat usually follows up later with (very gruesome) photos and more context into what’s actually going on in the massive gun battles and violence between drug cartels in Mexico and the Mexican security forces.  This is probably the #1 story not being represented well enough in the US.  Borderland Beat makes sure it’s right in your face.

Also see Border Reporter (http://borderreporter.com/).

Thomas Ricks’ The Best Defense (http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/)

Author of two of the best Iraq books out there, Ricks writes for Foreign Policy and has recently been posting soldiers’ and soldiers’ families letters from the disaster in Wanat.

The Jawa Report (http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/)

Tracks jihadis in the news and in social networking/media.  Finds a surprising number of wannabe jihadist hacks within the US!


Social Media/Other

STRATFOR (http://www.stratfor.com/)

Austin-based open source intel outfit with a strong leaning towards the importance of geostrategy and geopolitics in understanding the motivations behind different countries.  Consistently awesome.

NYkrinDC (https://twitter.com/NYkrinDC/)

Follow this dude on Twitter.  He posts a ton of news links daily related to international relations and security.

Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet (http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheat-sheet/)

Sign up for the newsletter.  FP’s has gotten too long.  This one gives you the key headlines and important blurbs for the top 5 stories their editor has chosen (which I often concur with).  Love reading this right as I get up every morning.  Always feel prepared for the whole news day after quickly scanning this.


Books

George Friedman, “The Next 100 Years:  A Forecast for the 21st Century”

Looks at demographics and geopolitics to determine outcomes.  Sees Japan, Turkey, and Mexico as the US’s looming IR challenges.  Sees immigration and Mexico border as key US priorities.  What I like best, but most people think is silly, is his extrapolating of future warfare:  American battle stars, robot swarms, control of space and communications.

Sebastian Mallaby, “The World’s Banker: A Story of Failed States, Financial Crises, and the Wealth and Poverty of Nations”

A biography of James Wolfensohn’s time as president at the World Bank and also an important primer on how the World Bank affects the world.

Samuel Huntington, “The Third Wave:  Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century”

Huntington is a mensch in IR.  This book argues that democratization has occurred in 3 waves so far, and even hints that we may be in a retrenching right now (each wave has an anti-wave).  I read this book for my comparative democratization class, which was awesome.

Robert Baer, “The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower”

Baer argues that Iran has been building up its regional power and, after the US unleashed the Shi’ites within Iraq, now has growing influence over the Arabian/Persian Gulf, the Gulf states, Iraq, and its borders with Afghanistan.  Which, as we fight Sunni extremists, makes one wonder, why aren’t we working WITH Iran?

Walter Russell Mead, “Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World”

Mead counters the idea that America has had a very immature history in its foreign relations.  One of the best books I never had to read for any class (but others had it assigned), it helps you see American IR in terms of American schools of thought:  Jeffersonians (limited govt, more isolationist), Hamiltonians (free trade), Wilsonians (activist, progressive involvement abroad for high ideals), and Jacksonians (war hawks, fiercely nationalistic).  I swear you won’t see the US the same after this book.

Andrew Bacevich, “The Limits of Power:  The End of American Exceptionalism”

Bacevich addresses three concerns:  American fiscal profligacy (massive budget deficits), the “voluntary” military that detaches the public from civic responsibility, and weak leadership where each President has decided not to tackle the hard issues and instead continues our spending binge (Carter being the closest to address it, but being smacked down hard, as Reagan’s election showed).  Depressing book.  Is the fable of American leadership just a myth?

Naomi Klein, “The Shock Doctrine:  The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”

Klein argues that the west has used the shock doctrine as a new form of exploiting weaker countries by privatizing public institutions and starving funding, and by using Washington Consensus monetary policies as bailouts in economies under attack, so that privatized systems can be put in their place afterwards.

Michael Mandelbaum, “The Case for Goliath:  How America Acts as the World’s Government in the 21st Century”

Mandelbaum argues that the US offers the world a public good — international defense — and so therefore complaints about its military spending and presence worldwide are overlooking the benefits gained from having the US control most international waters, global trade, and currency.

Ray Takeyh, “Hidden Iran:  Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic”

This book helped me understand Iran’s political structure far better.

Mark Leonard, “What Does China Think?”

Same as Takeyh’s book, but for China.  Quotes many of China’s top IR thinkers to see how they view the world from their perspective.

Parag Khanna, “The Second World:  How Emerging Powers are Redefining Global Competition in the Twenty-First Century”

Khanna graduated from Georgetown’s Security Studies Program.  I think some of his analyses are breezy, but I like that he gives a quick glimpse at all the bigger second-world countries that most people overlook but have the potential to affect regional behaviors.


Tools

WizardRSS (http://www.wizardrss.com/)

Know how some RSS feeds only display a blurb from their updates?  WizardRSS gives you a feed URL with the full bodies of updates.  Thank God.  And you are using Google Reader, right?  Please say yes.


Have Additions?

A lot of the above is influenced (if not published) by the Council on Foreign Relations.  That may introduce significant bias but they are also heavyweights of serious (and in my opinion, balanced) IR thought.

I will add more stuff to this post as I find it, and I’m of course curious to hear what you’d recommend!

My 2009 Book List

Here’s the list of books I read during 2009.

I finished 49 books in 2009, ahead of my goal of 40.  In 2010 I will attempt 40 books again.

This only captures a sliver of what my eyes have consumed in 2009, since there’s just so much content online these days.  Hopefully at some point we’ll be able to measure every word consumed annually at some point, possibly with neural/optical implants.

The books are rated on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being awful in every respect, 10 being both interesting & readable.  This is very subjective but basically, if a book is a 10, everyone must read it.  If it’s a 7, it brings a good perspective but either isn’t rigorous or is too niche.  If it’s a 5, it was informational but otherwise boring.  Below that?  Avoid!  The list is in chronological order.

You can also read ratings of books I’ve read going back to before 2006 from my Google Spreadsheet.

  • (7) Cluetrain Manifesto (Levine, Locke, Searls, & Weinberger)
  • (5) Heart of Lightness:  The Life Story of an Anthropologist (Edith Turner)
  • (6) Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis (Robert Kennedy)
  • (10) Outliers:  The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell)
  • (4) Innovation:  The Missing Dimension (Lester & Piore)
  • (9) The Third Wave:  Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Samuel Huntington)
  • (10) The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac:  Styles, Stats, and Stars in Today’s Game (FreeDarko)
  • (5) Celebrating the Mass:  A Guide for Understanding and Loving the Mass More Deeply (Alfred McBride)
  • (8) The Mystery of Faith:  An Introduction to Catholicism (Michael Himes)
  • (6) The Process:  1,100 Days That Changed the Middle East (Uri Savir)
  • (4) Rules For Revolutionaries: The Capitalist Manifesto for Creating and Marketing New Products and Services (Guy Kawasaki)
  • (6) The World of Goods:  Towards an Anthropology of Consumption (Mary Douglas & Baron Isherwood)
  • (10) The Holy Longing:  The Search for a Christian Spirituality (Ronald Rolheiser)
  • (10) Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life (Richard Florida)
  • (10) The Gamble:  General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 (Thomas Ricks)
  • (10) The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Michael Pollan)
  • (10) The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (Robert Baer)
  • (6) Tribes:  We Need You to Lead (Seth Godin)
  • (4) Roots for Radicals:  Organizing for Power, Action, and Justice (Edward Chambers)
  • (10) The Next 100 Years:  A Forecast for the 21st Century (George Friedman)
  • (4) The Whuffie Factor:  Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business (Tara Hunt)
  • (2) Leading Geeks:  How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver Technology (Paul Glen)
  • (10) The Wealth of Networks:  How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (Yochai Benkler)
  • (9) The Wisdom of Whores:  Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS (Elizabeth Pisani)
  • (8) Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy (Judy Estrin)
  • (7) Tsukiji: The Fish Market at the Center of the World (Theodore Bestor)
  • (10) Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places (Paul Collier)
  • (5) The World is Flat:  A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century (Tom Friedman)
  • (8) No Logo:  No Space, No Choice, No Jobs (Naomi Klein)
  • (6) New Liberal Arts (Snarkmarket)
  • (8) Marshall McLuhan:  The Medium and the Messenger (Philip Marchand)
  • (5) The Gift:  Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World (Lewis Hyde)
  • (5) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice (Jack Donnelly)
  • (8) Free:  The Future of a Radical Price (Chris Anderson)
  • (8) Starship Troopers (Robert Heinlein)
  • (9) King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa  (Adam Hochschild)
  • (6) In the Name of Identity:  Violence and the Need to Belong (Amin Malouf)
  • (10) Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World  (Walter Russell Mead)
  • (9) Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman (Jon Krakauer)
  • (6) Zelda:  A Biography (Nancy Milford)
  • (5) Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (Neil Howe & William Strauss)
  • (8) Little Brother (Cory Doctorow)
  • (8) A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (Stephen Hawking)
  • (6) Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (Cory Doctorow)
  • (6) Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Sheryl WuDunn & Nicholas Kristof)
  • (7) Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln (John Stauffer)
  • (10) The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy (Bill Simmons)
  • (9) Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street (Karen Ho)
  • (7) Dorkismo: The Macho of the Dork (Maria Bustillos)

A Thought on Masculinity

Some of my old classmates from Georgetown met up to discuss Nick Kristof’s and Sheryl WuDunn’s book, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”, a couple weeks ago.  Most of the group was women, but among international development folks, there’s definitely a tribe of guys who are male feminists.

That is to say that we are men but believe that educating girls and having more of an equal balance of men and women in society and politics will by causation improve conditions for society’s well-being as a whole.

Singles Map, from Richard Florida's "Who's Your City?" http://creativeclass.com/whos_your_city/maps/#The_Singles_Map

I live in DC, the city with the highest proportion of highly-educated (and single) women in the country.  More girls are in school than boys now, and they are out-performing the boys.  What does this mean in the long run, if women are selecting the most fit mate?

And that introduces the Fight Club problem of future masculinity.  What qualities will be desired in a man?  Not too long ago, men derived their pride from fighting and being the bread-winners.  Now that many families combine two salaries, war is an undesired quality, and sports is an option only for the few, where will men go?  Will they have to re-commit to education and improve as well?

How long can men coast through life being more aggressive, stronger, and louder than women?  I would agree that men and boys get their way just through sheer force of nature much of the time, but in a world of equal gender proportions, how will this change?

Women are able to give birth, and are natural nurturers and protectors of societal fabric.  What do men bring?

Perhaps the future man will be fighting still, but instead for universal rights, for equal rights, for the diffusing of power.  Today’s programmers may become those who bring transparency and accountability to those who would rather have no part in it.  Today’s warriors may become tomorrow’s pacifists, who seek diplomacy and providing space for tomorrow’s tribes to be able to have their own identities.

And there’s always honor.  I always think of Gangs of New York, that much-panned Martin Scorsese movie about “natives” fighting immigrant Europeans for the five points of New York.  In it, Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day Lewis) fights Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson) and slays him.  But Bill, as evil a villain as he is, later remembers his nemesis by saying, “I killed the last honorable man 15 years ago.”  “He was the only man I ever killed worth remembering.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aY2tbeP_K1M

He also expounded, “We hold in our hearts the memory of our fallen brothers whose blood stains the very streets we walk today. Also on this night we pay tribute to the leader of our enemies, an honorable man, who crossed over bravely, fighting for what he believed in. To defeat my enemy, I extinguish his life, and consume him as I consume these flames. In honor of Priest Vallon.”

Marine Staff Sergeant John Jones (see http://www.hbo.com/aliveday/bios/jones.html)

That is, even though they were enemies, at least Vallon was a man of principle and honor, and that was noble enough even for Bill to recognize.

And now we send another 30,000+ (mostly male) soldiers to Afghanistan, who’ve been fighting wars for almost a decade, to get maimed or killed.  That hidden class of warriors, who participate in almost a shunned profession, will bear permanent scars of a machismo past, unable to hide missing limbs and large burns on their bodies.

I hope that a noble place is found for them, and for all men.