My Books of 2017

I managed to get through 38 books this year. Book of the Year was Bertrand Russell’s mammoth History of Western Philosophy, written by one of the few people who could write about Aristotle as a peer. Most inspiring were the Theodore Roosevelt biographies by Edmund Morris, while most absorbing fiction was Michael Shaara’s Killer Angels. Most disappointing was Yuval Hariri’s Homo Deus, after I loved Sapiens. Janna Levin’s book on the search for Gravitational waves was the best science read this year and had me gesticulating wildly in dive bars.

Biographies

Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram

“A commander can use this temporal discrepancy (a form of fast transient) to select the least-expected action rather than what is predicted to be the most-effective action. The enemy can also figure out what might be the most effective. To take the least-expected action disorients the enemy. It causes him to pause, to wonder, to question. This means that as the commander compresses his own time, he causes time to be stretched out for his opponent. The enemy falls farther and farther behind in making relevant decisions. It hastens the unraveling process.”

Dying Every Day: Seneca at the court of Nero by James Romm
Allenby, A Study In Greatness by Field-Marshal Earl Wavell
Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris

Foreign Offices in Britain and Europe worried that their representatives might not be up to the physical hazards of dealing with Theodore Roosevelt. Junior diplomats campaigned for postings to his court on the basis of common youth and strength. The essential qualification was perhaps expressed by Cecil Spring Rice, Roosevelt’s former best man and now a British commissioner in Egypt: “You must always remember that the President is about six.

Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

Business

HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2017: The Definitive Management Ideas of the Year by The Harvard Business Review
Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets Are Transforming the Economy by Sangeet Paul Choudary, Marshall W. Van Alstyne and Geoffrey G. Parker
The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business by Rita Gunther McGrath
HBR’s Must-Reads on Teams by The Harvard Business Review
Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life by Tonianne DeMaria Barry and Jim Benson
Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street
An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan, Lisa Laskow Lahey, Matthew L Miller, Andy Fleming, and Deborah Helsing

Fiction

The Housekeeper and the Professor: A Novel by Yoko Ogawa
The Sailor who fell from grace with the sea by Yukio Mishima
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
The Raj Quartet: The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott
The Sport of Kings: A Novel by C. E. Morgan
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

“What am I dying for? he cried back. I’m dying because this world I’m living in isn’t worth dying for! If something is worth dying for, then you’ve got a reason to live.”

“Americans on the average do not trust intellectuals, but they are cowed by power and stunned by celebrity. Not only did Dr. Hedd have a measure of both, he also possessed an English accent, which affected Americans the way a dog whistle stimulated canines. I was immune to the accent, not having been colonized by the English”

When Nietzsche Wept: A Novel Of Obsession by Irvin Yalom

Philosophy

History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

“Pythagoras is one of the most interesting and puzzling men in history. Not only are the traditions concerning him an almost inextricable mixture of truth and falsehood, but even in their barest and least disputable form they present us with a very curious psychology. He may be described, briefly, as a combination of Einstein and Mrs. Eddy. He founded a religion, of which the main tenets were the transmigration of souls and the sinfulness of eating beans.”

“It has always been correct to praise Plato, but not to understand him. This is the common fate of great men. My object is the opposite. I wish to understand him, but to treat him with as little reverence as if he were a contemporary English or American advocate of totalitarianism.”

Creation by Steve Grand
Play Anything: The pleasure of limits, the uses of boredom and the secret of games by Ian Bogost

Psychology and Sociology

Feminism is for everybody by Bell Hooks

“I was an advocate for gay rights long before I knew the word feminism. My family feared I was a lesbian long before they worried that I would never marry. And I was already on my way to being a true freak because I knew I would always choose to go where my blood beats, in any and all directions.”

The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time by Maria Konnikova
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Hariri

Science

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman

“At least 15 percent of human females possess a genetic mutation that gives them an extra (fourth) type of color photoreceptor—and this allows them to discriminate between colors that look identical to the majority of us with a mere three types of color photoreceptors. Two color swatches that look identical to the majority of people would be clearly distinguishable to these ladies.”

The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human by V. S. Ramachandran
Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow
Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space by Janna Levin
The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life by Nick Lane

“Eukaryotes have ‘genes in pieces’. Few discoveries in twentieth-century biology came as a greater surprise. We had been misled by early studies on bacterial genes to think that genes are like beads on a string, all lined up in a sensible order on our chromosomes. As the geneticist David Penny put it: ‘I would be quite proud to have served on the committee that designed the E. coli genome. There is, however, no way that I would admit to serving on the committee that designed the human genome. Not even a university committee could botch something that badly.’”

Miscellaneous

And Yet…: Essays by Christopher Hitchens
Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows