Reading

Here’s a list of books that I’m currently reading and have read over the years. Thanks to Dave Rupert for the inspiration and for providing the code for his bookshelf.

2021

Twitter and Teargas

Twitter and Teargas

Zeynep Tufekci

In Progress
Your Money or Your Life

Your Money or Your Life

Vicki Robin

In Progress
I'm re-reading this book as a check-in for my ongoing FIRE goals, while also listening to it with my wife so that we're able
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

John Gottman

★★★★★
My wife and I have been through some serious shit over the last year, so we have been doing some active work to make sure our relationship is as strong as possible. We did some couples counseling which has been absolutely phenomenal, and the counselor recommended this book. We listened to the book together, and it's already helped our relationship immensely. Highly recommended for any couple.
Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep

Matthew Walker

★★★★½
I was simultaneously excited and terrified to read this book. I've long known my relationship with sleep has been less than ideal (to put it lightly). Sure enough, this book delivered and simultaneously got me excited about revolutionizing my relationship with sleep while also terrifying me about the damage I've already done to my body with my past poor sleep habits. People have sent me some criticism of the book and some of its specifics, and while I know a lot more research needs to be done I think the overall gist of "better sleep = better health" seems uncontroversial.
Music, Language, and the Brain

Music, Language, and the Brain

Aniruddh D Patel

★★★★
This was a very thorough and fascinating read about the science of music. It gets into so much: how we evolved to create and process music, how our brains process pitch and timbre, how we interpret rhythm, universal vs cultural aspects of music, and so much more. The musician in me and the science geek in me really loved this book.
Humankind: A Hopeful History

Humankind: A Hopeful History

Rutger Bregman, Erica Moore, Elizabeth Manton

★★★★
Hats off to Dave Rupert for recommending this to me. At the time we were in desperate need of some optimism, and this book delivered. The premise is "maybe human beings aren't bad." And goes on to demonstrate the many ways that human beings are generous and altruistic by nature. My only criticism is that I feel the book doesn't do enough to really address the fact that while yes humans are good their are many power structures and forces at play to pit people against each other.
Measure What Matters

Measure What Matters

John Doerr

★★★
I think OKRs are a helpful tactic, but I really struggled with a lot of the silicon valley mentality & lingo throughout the book. Stuff like "push ourselves", "stretching","achieve 10x success". I'm just like "nah that sounds exhausting." It's good to have goals, define tactics, and to be able to measure your progress towards achieving your goals. But I bristle at the whole "do this to achieve 10x growth and ScAlE" mentality.

2020

Silent Spring

Silent Spring

Rachel Carson

Not finished
I live right by the Rachel Carson trail and really wanted to read this critical classic. But I'm learning that I don't have the stomach to read about the environment. This is now the third book that I had to stop reading because it brings me face to face with my deepest fear. I know one day I will confront that fear, but I need to be in a better/stronger headspace before I do that.
How To Write One Song

How To Write One Song

Jeff Tweedy

★★★★½
This book was fantastic. It contains a lot of practical advice about songwriting, but a lot of the advice can be applied to any creative endeavor. I love that he continually repeats that it's about the process rather than the product. There will be good and bad songs, but the magic is really about getting lost in music and creating something that didn't exist before. Highly recommend this book to anyone interested in doing creative things.
One Way Out

One Way Out

Alan Paul

★★½
A book about the history of the Allman Brothers Band. I love reading music books, and it was wonderful to read about a staple American band. Duane Allman was one of the best, and it sounds like he really was an amazing leader that created strong bonds around playing music. While it was fun to learn about the band's genesis, the format of the book is interview snippets from the band, crew, and constellation of people around the band. That means that the same thing is said 7 times by 7 people. In addition to the redundancy, the band has had a 40+ year career, but not all of it was as exciting or noteworthy as the formative years. But those years are giving equal weighting. I don't give a shit about some guitar player that stood in for a gig in 1992, but it's given the full treatment. I'd recommend reading the first part of this book to get the origin story, and then leaving it be after that.
This Is Where You Belong

This Is Where You Belong

Melody Warnick

★★★½
This is a book that analyzes the criteria in which people decide where they want to live. Things like proximity to family, access to nature, visual aesthetics, and so on are discussed. But there some weird detours and an over-reliance on anecdotes and individual stories that had me scratching my head a bit. But in general, it was a good book that got me and my wife thinking about what we care about when it comes to finding our next place to live.
Remain in Love

Remain in Love

Chris Frantz

★★★★
I love the Talking Heads, so this book was right up my alley. Lots of great stories and memories, and the fact that Frantz was raised in Pittsburgh (in fact, in the very neighborhood where I now reside) made it that much more fun to read. His writing style is a bit declarative, but the story itself is great. I'd recommend it for any Talking Heads fan.
Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman

★★★★★
After I endured the hardest times in my life, I learned that I have a gift in reading others' emotional states and using those insights productively. Turns out there's a name for that: emotional intelligence. This book introduces the concept of emotional intelligence, but it also is a really great primer on a whole lot of psychological concepts.
The Invention of Air

The Invention of Air

Steven Johnson

★★★★
This is a book about Joseph Priestley, a scientist, theologian, and political mind. He's not exactly a household name, despite being massively influential on the Founding Fathers, inventing seltzer water, and being the first to isolate oxygen amongst other important scientific discoveries. A really interesting read.
Being Peace

Being Peace

Thich Nhat Hanh

★★★★★
Breathing in, I relax body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. This book is one of the most important books in my family's life, and has helped us through some very harrowing times. The language and concepts are simple, yet extraordinarily profound.
Creativity, Inc.

Creativity, Inc.

Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace

★★★★★
This is one of the best web design books I've ever read. And it's not a web design book. This book is a treasure trove of insights and lessons learned from Pixar, which very much apply to running a web development business and working with different teams and company cultures. So much of this book resonated closely with me, especially the notion of getting out of the way and letting smart people solve problems and do their jobs rather than trying to over manage them. If you make money doing creative work and work with other people, this book is for you.
Factfulness

Factfulness

Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Ola Rosling

★★★★★
A fantastic read about how our over dramatic and negative outlook on the world prevents us from seeing (and therefore recognizing and celebrating) all the progress that's been made in the world. The book deconstructs why we get things so wrong about pretty important aspects of human life (such as stats about extreme poverty, global health, etc), and why things are in fact a lot better than the media leads us on about. But this isn't a "hey let's just feel good" book; it recognizes the severity of these issues, and explains how it's essential to hold two thoughts simultaneously in our heads: things are both "bad" and "better" at the same time. Of course important work needs to be done to address the big issues our world faces, but the authors claim that it's tough to do that when we are only alarmist about issues and don't accurately track the data and report on progress that's been made. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone.
The Coddling of the American Mind

The Coddling of the American Mind

Jonathan Haidt, Greg Lukianoff

★★★★
Jonathan Haidt's other books were some of the best books I've read. This book, while good, doesn't compare to the others. The book dives into the cultural shift towards "safetyism" on college campuses and society at large. The mentality that people are fragile who need to be protected has led to kids not being able to play by themselves outside and controversial speakers being dis-invited from speaking on campuses. There's definitely some good thoughts in here, but there's also something about two white men speaking to grievances expressed by people of color and other underrepresented groups. But ultimately, I enjoyed the message of reducing tribalism and treating each other as capable, "anti-fragile" human beings that have value.
How to Do Nothing

How to Do Nothing

Jenny Odell

★★★★★
This book was exactly what I needed. Far from a "just delete Facebook!" screed, it's a deep, thoughtful book about examining many things I've been struggling with. The book talks about how the design of our physical and digital worlds are geared towards optimizing our consumption and comfort. Because of this, "doing nothing" actually requires a hell of a lot of effort. The author urges us to connect with our physical world and to focus on what's _real_ in our lives. The book intentionally meanders around, exploring concepts of time, place, responsibility, politics, psychology, and more. This review doesn't do it justice at all; just read it for yourself and you won't be disappointed.
Solve for Happy

Solve for Happy

Mo Gawdat

★★★½
A look at happiness from someone who tragically lost their son due to an error during surgery. The happiness equation Mo lays out is Happiness is greater than or equal to your perception of the events in your life minus your expectations of how life should behave. While there were definitely good insights in the book, it's largely a repackaging of old principles (especially Buddhist ones). Also, in the last chapter he goes all-in on intelligent design, which I felt was really out of place and undermines the rest of the book.
The Burnout Generation

The Burnout Generation

Anne Helen Petersen

★★★★
This audiobook (sorta kinda a podcast but I'm going to classify it as a book) is a follow up to the author's article How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation. It interviews millennials who have experienced burnout that is all-too-common in our generation. Many of the stories really resonated with me, and I'm realizing that my own burnout is something that is worth examining a lot closer.

2019

Drive

Drive

Daniel H. Pink

★★★½
Drive is often cited in many of the other books I've read, which is perhaps why it didn't deliver many new insights for me. The TL;DR is that humans aren't just driven by carrots and sticks, but have an intrinsic drive to perform meaningful tasks.
How to Change Your Mind

How to Change Your Mind

Michael Pollan

★★★★
Very good look at the science and stigma of psychedelics. While it was really entertaining to read the drug experiences of an almost 60 year old guy, the book deftly outlined the many positive benefits psychedelics can provide individuals, science, and society.
How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids

How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids

Jancee Dunn

★★★★★
This book came highly recommended by my wife, and I'll say the title is unfortunate because there's great insights in here for all spouses. It's a fantastic book about how to parent as a team, and reinforces communication and collaboration as crucial tools in the parenting toolbox. I'd recommend this book to any new parents.
How to Be Miserable

How to Be Miserable

Randy Paterson

★★½
The book's premise is interesting: "here's what to do to maximize your misery" in order to better understand how to live a happy life. Unfortunately, the book toggles between "here's how to be happy" and "here's how to be miserable" and it takes a lot of effort to figure out where the author's being facetious vs being sincere. It's also way over the self-help line for me and doesn't have enough psychological meat behind it.
It Doesn't Have To Be Crazy At Work

It Doesn't Have To Be Crazy At Work

Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

★★★★
Great reminder that our work environments don't have to be stress factories. Something I need to remind myself of a lot. Probably my biggest takeaway from this book is that even if I tell my team to not work too hard (which I say frequently), they see me running around like crazy. So I'm not being a good example. There are lots of practical takeaways in here and I think it's worth reading.
Lies My Teacher Told Me

Lies My Teacher Told Me

James W. Loewen

★★★★
Basically "A People's History of the United States" but told through the lens of school history textbooks. The author goes into detail about how school textbooks whitewash and sanitize American history in order dodge confronting our country's rocky history. There's a good deal about history's injustices to be learned here, as well as great criticisms of American pedagogy.
A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

Adam Rutherford

★★★
Interesting to look at human evolution through the lens of genetics. Unfortunately, I found it to be a bit of a slog to get through.
So You Want to Talk About Race

So You Want to Talk About Race

Ijeoma Oluo

★★★★½
An important and intentionally uncomfortable read. The author does an amazing job explaining the many aspects of systemic racism and the white supremacy that is baked into US culture. She urges us all to be aware, to do better, and be willing to take a more active role in dismantling the systemic racial issues that face our society. There's a lot to ponder and a lot to do, and I will no doubt be stewing over the concepts in this book for a long time to come.
Playing with FIRE

Playing with FIRE

Scott Rieckens

★★★★
This was a good book for me to read as I go down the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) rabbit hole. Vicki Robbin's book was a great introduction, and this book is a nice personal journey of someone in a similar life situation as me (mid-30s, young family, etc). It's more a narrative but also contains some good tips and how-to guides as well.
Around the World in Six Glasses

Around the World in Six Glasses

Tom Standage

★★★★
The story of western civilization told through the lens of the world's most popular beverages (beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, Coca Cola). It was a fun and interesting to see how the world was shaped by these beverages. I learned a lot.
Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy

J.D. Vance

★★★½
The author's personal story is wild and depressing, but his writing about it is captivating and entertaining. I grew up in a small post-industrial town and have seen Mountain Dew mouth and a much more sinister opioid epidemic take hold. So I 100% relate to the picture he paints of Appalachia in decline. I wish I could give it more stars, but the macro-level conclusions he comes to about how to remedy this sad state of affairs really miss the mark to me. There's some sentiments I agree with (i.e. we as communities need to do a better job supporting one another), but strongly disagree with the author's view that government programs aren't able to seriously address these issues and prevent the sorry state much of America is in. No amount of bootstrap pulling can solve these dire issues.
Ruined By Design

Ruined By Design

Mike Monteiro

★★★★★
Important read by the always-entertaining Monteiro. Similar to Cennydd's book, it's an essential read for anyone designing digital things, and I'd say especially for people designing digital things At Scale.
Born a Crime

Born a Crime

Trevor Noah

★★★★★
Listened to the audio book with Melissa. It was immensely entertaining, and I learned a lot about South African history. And holy shit, his mom is incredible.
Form Design Patterns

Form Design Patterns

Adam Silver

★★★★½
A great deep dive into creating intuitive, accessible forms. The 10 chapters cover form best practices through the lens of some real-world examples. Chapter 3 covers a flight booking form, which is especially convenient as one of my current clients is an airline! The author has a tendency to swat down anything new/shiny/fancy, but I'll say I'm usually that person as well (at least when it comes to form design).
Company of One

Company of One

Paul Jarvis

★★★
I agree with pretty much everything in this book, and I'm glad I read it. I've been running my business as an intentionally small, nimble company and increasingly balk at the notion that "growth is good". While I very much agree with the message, I have a hard time with books that seem to be nothing but aggregates of examples and research. Every sentence was either "according to so and so" or "this company did this", which for me ends up being super tedious.
Progressive Web Apps

Progressive Web Apps

Jason Grigsby

★★★★★
Perhaps an unfair review as Jason is a good friend, but he did a hell of a job explaining why anyone should care about progressive web apps. Having lived through a few cycles of the exhausting "native vs web" debate, Jason's points about how PWAs help bring the reach of the web and the polish/speed of native together.
Humble Inquiry

Humble Inquiry

Edgar H. Schein

★★★★
This book was great. I've always had a penchant to fill the air with words (I blame genetics) and to be quick to proffer advice. While I've been working on those character flaws for a few years, this book really underscores the importance of listening and asking questions. There's some great practical advice in here.
Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

★★★½
This was a good book, and had I not read several other books that touch on similar topics (The Happiness Hypothesis and its concept of "the rider" and "the elephant"), I likely would have rated it higher. There's some interesting stuff in here, but I felt it was a bit of a slog to get through.

2018

Your Money or Your Life

Your Money or Your Life

Vicki Robin

★★★★½
I was expecting this book to be more of a money tips book, but I was pleasantly surprised it was far more philosophical. While it contains a lot of tangible advice (it's a step-by-step program that I hope to do one day), the main thing it did for me was reframe how I view money. I'm excited to act on a lot of the concepts in this book.
Future Ethics

Future Ethics

Cennydd Bowles

★★★★★
Absolute must-read for anyone making digital things. Read my full review here.
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Jocelyn K. Glei

★★★★
This book has plenty of tactics for taming your inbox, and I read it immediately after Deep Work, which was a nice one-two punch. Thankfully, I'm already practicing a lot of the tips laid out in this book, but I still took away a lot.
Deep Work

Deep Work

Cal Newport

★★★★
This was a great book that helped reframe how I spend my work day. It led to me scheduling every minute of my day and thinking about my work day in a totally different way.
Prisoners of Geography

Prisoners of Geography

Tim Marshall

★★★★½
A wild ride through the world of geopolitics, and specifically how geography shapes how different nations behave. I've long said "America is an island" and that shapes how Americans think about ourselves and the rest of the world. It's great to see that concept (and many others — each chapter is dedicated to its own country) explored.
Learning React

Learning React

Kirupa Chinnathambi

★★★★½
A great introduction to React that doesn't assume a lot of prior knowledge but also isn't super patronizing. Kirupa has been integral to my career as a web developer (from back in the Flash days!) so it's great to see his enthusiasm for learning technology hasn't waned at all.
The Righteous Mind

The Righteous Mind

Jonathan Haidt

★★★★★
Fantastic book that discusses the psychological differences between conservatives and liberals.
The Expanding Circle

The Expanding Circle

Peter Singer

★★★½
I love the idea of exhibiting compassion for people, animals, and things well beyond our immediate tribe. The world is getting smaller, so it's imperative for us to care about one another and our planet. While I love the content, it a bit of a slog to get through.
The Revenge of Analog

The Revenge of Analog

David Sax

★★★★
I'm someone who actively avoids most digital things. But this book paints a picture of a renaissance of certain physical mediums (records, moleskine journals, polaroids, etc) in this increasingly digital age. I was expecting more of a "remember the good ol' days?" read and was pleasantly surprised that wasn't the case.
Design Systems

Design Systems

Alla Kholmatova

In Progress