๐Ÿ“š 2021


Not the best month: I started Ian Stewart's Does God Play Dice and abandoned it because it required a greater commitment of effort than I was able to give.

I'm also midway through a couple of other books but have not finished either of them yet.

I did finish an audiobook called The Art of Reading from The Great Courses. It has inspired me to tackle books that I previously considered too hard. So I expect the quantity of books read to be lesser from now, but hopefully the quality is higher.

Shakespeare, by Bill Bryson

A slim book, what I liked most was how the times and place were brought to life.

Four Thousand Weeks, by Oliver Burkeman

A 'productivity' book from someone who embraced productivity tools, got burned out, and tries to give some perspective on things that matter more than trying to make the most of every minute.


Axiomatic, by Greg Egan

A short story collection from one of my favourite hard-sci-fi writers. Excellent as always.

The Witcher series (continued), by Andrzej Sapkowski

  • Baptism of Fire
  • The Tower of the Swallow

Things are getting interesting now, with the Witcher assembling a rag-tag party to search for Ciri.

Indica, by Pranay Lal

I've longed to get a book like this: a natural history of India. The photos and illustrations are quite beautiful.

Shards of Earth, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I wanted a bit of epic science fiction and this is my first foray into this author's books. It is quite nice. Humanity and a bunch of aliens face up to a fearsome race of planet-destroying 'Architects'.


The Witcher series, by Andrzej Sapkowski

  • The Last Wish
  • Sword of Destiny
  • Blood of Elves
  • Time of Contempt

I got the entire Witcher series as an ebook collection, and got hooked right from the start. The first two were quite nice, as they were more of short-story collections. I have another four to go but plan to mix it up a bit next month.


Pale Fire, by Vladimir Nabokov

I re-read this book every year or so. This is probably my all-time favourite book.

The Authenticity Project, by Clare Pooley

A farewell gift from my friends. Not usually the kind of book I read but interesting in its own way.


The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Cambell

A beautiful synthesis of several major world myths. If you like going down the TV Tropes rabbit hole, this is for you.

Civilization, by Niall Ferguson

I suppose I'm not enough of an expert to comment, but the tendency to pigeon hole vast swathes of history into a few fixed theories seemed too forced to me.

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

I read the Penguin edition as part of a collection called Four Tragedies. The annotations are quite extensive and extremely useful to new readers. That apart, it's Shakespeare, of course it's great.


The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, by Vincent Van Gogh

My wife got this as a birthday gift. It is a tragic look at Van Gogh's suffering but passionate and all too brief life. The editor's notes before each section were quite helpful in setting the context. Before reading this, I saw Loving Vincent, a beautiful tribute to the same author. So I'd recommend folks to watch that movie first, and dive into the week if they crave more.

The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande

I'm been tweaking my productivity tools, and this seemed like a well-recommended book in that space. It is quite nice although a bit light. The summary is that in high pressure and critical jobs, experts usually look for corner-cases but quite often miss the basics. And a good checklist serves as a reminder for a group of people to coordinate tasks well.

Pomodoro Technique Illustrated, by Staffan Noteberg

Continued my productivity investigation with this book. Again, a light, enjoyable read. I read the book using the Pomo technique itself and quite liked the approach. I have too many meetings at work these days to be able to use this as often as I'd like. But it seems like a nice way to pace your work without getting swamped by distractions.


Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnemann

Did not have high expectations going in, as I was already aware that an entire chapter was essentially worthless due to the replication crisis that has proven that most research around priming has very little value.

I find survey-based research rather depressing. The book time and again states that researchers have a poor understanding of statistics, and the subjects display a high variability in their answers based on trivial and unrelated conditions. But it then goes on to quote study after study as if it were fact.

I've enjoyed other areas in non-fiction a lot more than this one and should probably stick to them.

Mistborn: The Final Empre by Brandon Sanderson

My first by the author. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Did not have too many of the usual fantasy tropes about heroes and destiny and so on.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Was a short science fiction piece I read for a change of pace. It had a decent cast and atmosphere.


Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

I wanted to read a good fantasy book and this was the one I picked. Very enjoyable read and seems worth committing to finish the trilogy.

The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten, by Julian Baggini

Fun armchair philosophy thought experiments. There are a hundred of them, from age old paradoxes (Zeno) to funny insights that trigger a deeper train of thought (Douglas Adams). The fact that there are so many make this book harder to read in one sitting. Good in bite-sized chunks.

Nexus, by Ramez Naam

Wanted a switch from fantasy to science fiction so I tried this one out. It was alright.


The Brain: The Story of You, by David Eagleman

Felt like a short read that didn't go deep enough but this was a nice introduction to our current undertanding of how the brain functions. The author does a nice job of keep things interesting at a high level.

Golden Gate, by Vikram Seth

This is a technically brilliant book but ultimately dealt with themes outside my usual genres.

Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk

Ahh this one is not for the queasy. A collection of uncomfortable short stories about cynical wannabe authors stuck in a writers' retreat.


Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome, by E. M. Berens

After reading Stephen Fryโ€™s take on this genre, it was refreshing to read a more classic take. Highly recommended. I was fascinated by this kind of stuff when I was young. Is adulthood mostly us trying to recapture those days?

Despair, by Vladimir Nabokov

I wrote about it here.


This was a great month for books. I signed up for scribd (again) and went to my favourite book store (Blossoms) after nearly a year.

The Enchanter: An Adventure in the Land of Nabokov, by Lila Azam Zanganeh

An exquisite love letter to Nabokov's works. Emulates his luminous, mad style very well.

Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk

Our great depression is our lives.

Reread this. Immensely quotable book.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, by Carlo Rovelli

A light overview of physics. Does not go too deep so might be good for folks who are dipping their toes in this genre.

Goodbye, Things: On Minimalist Living, by Fumio Sasaki

A light look at the minimalist movement from a Japanese blogger.

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made, by Jason Schreier

Somehow this was more forgiving than I expected, of the grind and hell folks in the videogame industry go through. The author hand waves it away as something people do out of sheer passion. I can understand that from the small indies working away for years on a tight budget, but I wonder if that holds true for the entire industry. Nevertheless this was an interesting peek behind the curtains of game companies small and large.

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein

Well this was preaching to the choir as I consider myself a bit of a generalist. Most of the book quotes success stories, which makes for nice reading but I guess if you look for something you'll always find examples supporting your cause.

The larger point is that we don't know what we want to do unless we try it, so the general recommendation is to sample widely and not be afraid to be a late bloomer.

The Tangled Lands, by Paolo Bacigalupi, Tobias S. Buckell

Four short stories by the two authors, all centered around a world troubled by poisonous brambles that grow and spread whenever its people use magic.

I've read and liked Baciagalupi's dystopian science fiction before.


Anabasis, by Xenophon

"Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks. I must teach you. You must read them in the original. Thalatta! Thalatta!" -- Buck Mulligan in Joyce's Ulysses.

"Warriors, come out to play-i-ay." -- From the movie The Warriors.

Well I didn't read it in the original Greek but I finally read this book. It's nice when you finally read something that has such a rich cultural history and you see all the influences it has had.