• "How Asia Works" by Joe Studwell - an interesting analysis of the economies of some Asian countries and their paths from rags to riches in the last few decades. The author raises some intriguing questions about the paths the most successful countries taken as compared to the free market approach the great powers tried to enforce upon them, and ends with some speculation on the future of China's financial development.
  • "The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro - a truly delightful book, I have no other word to describe it :) Having watched and enjoyed "Downton Abbey" just a short while ago, it was very interesting to draw the similarities with the world Ishiguro describes in this book - the world of British nobles and their servants.
  • "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis" by J.D. Vance - the author tells about growing up in a troubled family in the rust belt, and eventual "escape" to the Marine Corps and Yale law school. Interestingly, while I originally expected something different from the book, I did like it overall. It doesn't carry a lot of insight besides the very personal story, but perhaps such insight is best gained through individual stories and not editorial pieces that are prone to political biases.
  • "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates - a troubling auto-biographic account of the author growing up as a black man in Baltimore and later through studies in Howard University. Reading this book is difficult and poignant, as it paints an angry picture of the racial divide in modern-day America.
  • "Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century" by Daniel Oppenheimer - a biographical account of 6 prominent Americans from the political left, their gradual estrangement from their party and eventual flip to conservatism (or neoconservatism). Provides a fairly interesting angle on major issues American politics of the 20th century.
  • "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng - a well-to-do family in Cleveland intersects with a nomad artist and her daughter, with a thorny adoption story in the background. Somewhat soap-opera-y, but not bad overall, with some interesting thoughts on choosing life paths.
  • "To Make Men Free - A history of the Republican party" by Heather Cox Richardson - a detailed history of the Republican party from the times of Lincoln and until the end of Bush Jr's presidency. Very informative book overall, but far from great. For one, it's clearly biased towards the left - and bias makes such books lose a lot of credence; for another, it completely ignores the changes in the Democratic party - for example, very little is said about how the Democrats turned from racism to liberalism in the 1960s. In fact, the author insinuates that most of the changes in the political spectrum were either made by the Republicans, or as a mirror image of their views; clearly, the truth can't be so simple. On the positive side, I liked the exposition of the inherent conflict between the Declaration of Independence (equality of opportunity) and the Constitution (protection of property), which may help explain why there's no easy answers in American politics.
  • "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals" by Michael Pollan - a really well written book about the current industrial food chain, organic foods, "free-range" farm foods and also modern hunter-gathering. I liked the balanced approach and the book not being too preachy even though the conclusions are fairly clear.
  • "Programming Haskell" by Graham Hutton (2nd ed.) - full review.
  • "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri - this time a full-length novel about the same topic of Bengal immigrants to the US in the 1970s, following their life through the early 2000s. The protagonist is Gogol, born in Boston to immigrant parents, trying to have a normative American life in the late 20th century. I liked the first ~half of the book much more, as it was more tied to Lahiri's main immigrant theme. The second half felt like a fairly generic "coming-of-age" story for a young intellectual in New York. Still a good read overall, though.
  • "The Vital Question" by Nick Lane - another grand-sweeping account of fundamental bio-chemistry and evolution mixed with speculative musings on the big questions of the origin of life by Nick Lane. My opinion of this book is similar to that of the author's Life Ascending - really well written, tons of knowledge, but way too dense and way too speculative. I'd say the minimal education level for really understanding this book is being a grad student in biology or a related field; otherwise it's fairly hard to judge where the facts end and where the speculation begins. I did enjoy the book overall, however - there's tons of fascinating details in it that just aren't covered anywhere else in popular science.
  • "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" by Michael Pollan - the book that gave birth to the saying "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants". A nice and pragmatic treatment of the important question of "what should we eat".

Re-reads:

  • "Travels with Charley in Search of America" by John Steinbeck

Comments

comments powered by Disqus