Books/Podcasts/Blog posts I read/listened in 2019

1. Unordered list of books I read or listened in 2019. I bold-faced my favorites

  • Ted Chiang: Exhalation and Stories of Your Life. These are two collections of short stories. Each story is motivated by physics or philosophical concept. My favorite author of the year. “Stories of Your Life” was used for the plot of “Arrival”. Emotionally touching, wildly entertaining.
  • Rober Pool: Peak. I wish there would be a shorter version of this book. Manipulate your mind and body to achieve your goals.
  • John McWhorter: The Story of Human Language. Just read it! One of the best books of the year for me.
  • Lauren Gunderson: The half-life of Marie Curie. Audiobook. Short and very entertaining. Turns a one-dimensional scientist into a HUMAN.
  • Neal Stephenson: Seveneves, Anathem, Quicksilver, The Diamond Age, King of the Vagabonds, Odalisque, Reamde, Snow Crash, “Fall; or Dodge in Hell”, Zodiac, Interface. I cannot describe all ten books. Some of them were more entertaining than others. I enjoyed most of them and if a story line would get tedious, the language never disappointed. Can I recommend one of them? At least seven in this list are very different and deserve special attention.
  • Peter Watts: Blindsight and Echopraxia. The review which made me read this book “Philosophical and needlessly complex”. This is exactly what I look for! A study into consciousness, read it!
  • Danniel Immerwahr: How to hide an Empire. A non-conventional glance into the U.S. history. Very entertaining.
  • Blake Crouch: Recursion and Dark Matter. Sci-fi exploration into the subject of the road not taken and personal multi-dimensionality. It was entertaining, but it could not compete with Ted Chiang. One of the most memorable lines from Recursion: "the dark side of fining your purpose is ..."; I am sure you can guess the continuation, if you did find your purpose!
  • Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch. It was recommended to me by Rob Pisarski. I read it after loss of my mother. I decline to describe in 90 minutes (amazon studios tried and miserably failed) let alone in one sentence. Just read it!
  • Derek Kunsken: Quantum Magician and Quantum garden. The first book of the series was moderately entertaining, but some parts were difficult to swallow for a theoretical physicist. I struggled to finish the second book.
  • Martha Wells: All Systems Red. You know, I can not remember anything about this book. I think it characterizes it well. Get an audiobook when on on sale and listen when you fly from coast to coast.
  • Vernor Vinge: A deepness in the Sky. Slowly developing plot will capture your attention till the very end.
  • James Corey: Tiamat’s Wrath. Better than two previous books in the Expanse series, which were rather disappointing. Looking forward for the last book -- just to complete the series and be done with it.
  • David Javerbaum: An Act of God. Get an audiobook and enjoy one-hour show from the author of God’s twitter. Not for everyone… It might insult your religious believes if you have any.
  • Gillian Flynn: Gone girl. The book is much better than the movie. I read it following B. Obama’s recommendation who wrote "There were books that would blend, I think, really good writing with thriller genres. I mean, I thought “Gone Girl” was a well-constructed, well-written book."
  • Kim Stanley: Aurora. An exploration into an idea that it is naive to to put a thousand of brilliant scientists on a generation spaceship and expect the ship to survive beyond the first generation. Slow and enjoyable. Romantic scenes are disturbing and felt out of place.
  • Andy Weir: The Martian and Artemis. I really enjoyed the first book; many scientific and engineering details which kept me entertained. The latter was close but not as good as the former. A good travel companion if you fly to Europe from the U.S. or vice versa.
  • William Hertling: Kill Process. Describes how vulnerable can we be in the modern everything-connected world. Enjoyable, but might require knowledge of programming jargon.
  • Tara Westover: Educated. One of the best books I read this year. This is a memoir describing that your origin does not define your future and it goes well beyond this.
  • Madeline Miller: Circle. An alternative spin on Greek mythology. Beautiful language and a story providing rationalization to characters’ behavior. If you are familiar with Greek mythology, you will enjoy it. It will turn one-dimensional Gods into humans, i,e. multi-dimensional worlds of doubt, jealousy and indulgence.
  • Richard Morgan: Thin air. Imaginative but disappointing overall. I struggled to finish it. “Romantic scenes” were very disturbing.
  • Mary Kowal: The Calculating Stars. I will be honest, I could not finish it. I will give it another chance in 2020.
  • William Ledbetter: Level Five. I read it over Christmas eve/Christmas day. Camping outdoors promotes reading after sunset. AI, nanotechnology, and their abuse. The language is somewhat plain; but overall the book was entertaining, especially when it is dark and wet outside.
  • Trevor Noah: Born a Crime. Another last minute addition. A memoir; it provides somewhat humorous take on race, apartheid, and life in South Africa. Often crosses my vulgarity threshold, but overall extremely good.


2. Podcasts:

  • Science of Ultra: The main idea of the podcast is "Manipulate your mind and body to achieve your ultra best" or using the author's words "Pay attention to how you eat, sleep, think, and move because they all play a role in helping you become your ultra best." I learned a lot from the podcast; it is useful not only for ultra-runners or just runners, but for any athlete. One memorable line: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
  • EconTalk: Liberal economist's take on everything. The main idea that your actions have consequences and often they are unpredictable and unwanted.
  • That triathlon show: everything is in the name. Scientific take on training for triathlon.


3. Blog posts:

I was behind on blogs this year; but this single post compensates the lack of quantity by extraordinary quality. It is about Robert Kegan’s model of adult development.

This blog has some thought stimulate material.


To read in 2020: B. Obama's favorite book list