Currently reading

Hmm. Gotta minimise work-in-progress and get this down to 3.

  1. The Light Fantastic, Terry Pratchett
  1. Mort, Terry Pratchett
  2. We Are All Stardust: Leading Scientists Talk About Their Work, Their Lives, and the Mysteries of Our Existence, Stefan Klein
  3. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente
  4. Deathless, Catherynne M. Valente
  5. The Aquitane Progression, Robert Ludlum (holiday 2nd hand bookstore pageturner)
  6. Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Finished recently

    The Dispossessed, Ursula K Le Guin, 4 stars, October 2019. A human from a hardscrabble anarchist utopian outpost looks on us/not us, their twin, in total dismay. Anarchist/Anarres and Earth/Urras. Physics, philosophy, political science, finely observed human life, with a deep utopian streak. Our future already exists: simultaneity. We just need to read it.
  • Methuselah’s Children, Robert A. Heinlein, 2 stars, October 2019. Rollicking space opera – kilted methuselean cowboy meets space dogs – with only a small philosophical sprinkling about age and death. (Maybe when you’re life’s extended you fear death more.) For something published mid WWII, I didn’t pick up many echoes.
  • The Testaments, Margaret Atwood, 4 stars, September 2019. Makes so much of the crushing dystopia seem familiar. (I’m not talking about Trump’s America.)
  • Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Robert Wright (, 4 stars, September 2019. More-or-less my view of the world. Thesis: Evolution can’t help but accelerate. Cooperation of ever-increasing scale and complexity works, biologically or culturally, in a competitive world. Sure, it’s a pyramid of energy that sucks in from the bottom, to defeat entropy only in a local are. Pushing water uphill by generating heat elsewhere. But…it works where it works. Systems that respond to their environment through the transmission of information win, proliferate, accelerate. But they do more – they create meaning. And it sure looks like the universe can’t help it, it’s just a pattern. Self-replication and information/meaning-creation creates awareness and subjective consciousness.
  • Waking Up, Sam Harris, 4 stars, July 2019. Lots of excellent and sharply observed thoughts about meditation, the self, consciousness, states of mind, and the sociopathic gurus who inhabit the landscape. But I always find Harris manages to be brilliant and insightful and well expressed, yet baleful and humourlessly earnest at the same time. There are some questions begged and incantations spoken about the meaning of spirituality, self-transcendence, and what it means to see the self as illusion. Still: very worthwhile.
  • The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett, March 2019, 4 stars. Brilliant, kooky, for kids and philosophers.
  • How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan, March 2019, 4 stars. Excellent 3 part investigation into psychedelics, their history and moral panic, the science, the hope for future research, and what they tell us about the mind. Makes me want to try them belatedly, in my late middle age, as he did. Too scared, but.
  • Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari, 4 stars, Feb 2019. What do we become when we can change what we want? What happens when intelligence with no consciousness surpasses our self-knowledge. Matrix? Are we the new cow? The new dodo? More questions than answers, by design. And I think there’s an intersection to humanism and his “Dataism”.
  • Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut, 5 stars, Jan 2019. The tragedy and absurdity of war meets pulp sci fi.
  • Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari, 4 stars, November 2018. From indistinguishable ape to restless gods that don’t know what they want. A broad sweep, trying to cover all the big questions, means it can’t go deep anywhere in particular…but still good.
  • Red Moon, Kim Stanley Robinson, 3 stars, November 2018. China on the moon. Lots of interesting ideas and characters, plot gets a little lost.
  • Second Foundation, Isaac Asimov, 2 stars, September 2018. Mutants! We’ve reached the limits of Physics, stand back while I use….Psychology! Meh. Not sure it ages well. Still reading though.
  • The Kremlin Candidate, Jason Matthews, 3 stars, September 2018. Unreconstructed spy thriller, action movie style, with evil Russkies, bosomy sexy spy dames, hard-bitten CIA spooks, and lots of asides mocking the chattering classes. Very silly, but fun enough. Third part.
  • Freakenomics, Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, 4 stars, August 2018. Statistics can tell fun and interesting stories after all.
  • Robot Dreams, Isaac Asimov, 3 stars, August 2018. Asimov noodling around. Pulpy thought experiments.
  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, 5 stars, July 2018. Mostly not about Anna. About Levin/Tolstoy’s self-doubt, and finely observed people, and key experiences of life, beautifully rendered: birth, death, marriage, motherhood, depression, joy.
  • The Wife Drought, Annabel Crabb, 4 stars. Gender roles and Australian politicians: we’re nowhere near equality, traditional roles are hard to budge. And the Crabb is hilarious. Endless bon mots.
  • Disturbing the Universe, Freeman Dyson, 5 stars, February 2018. Beautiful. The most literary, erudite and philosophical autobiography you’ll read from a world leading scientist. Because science is art.
  • The Book of Dust vol. 1: La Belle Sauvage, Phillip Pullman, 5 stars, February 2018. First volume of the prequel to His Dark Materials. Malcolm, Alice and baby Lyra pursued on the flood.
  • Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 2 stars, January 2018. All of humanity are deceptive, cowardly, listless, obstructive, self-deceiving dullards and toadies, exepct a dozen billionaire genius heroes who go on strike, which naturally causes the apocalypse, so they can start their own world from the ashes. A mere 900 pages of fine print. But did his smile hold a hint of mockery? (rolls eyes)
  • Eon, Greg Bear, 3 stars, November 2017. A parallel future comes to visit. A human-built universe with tube-like topology.
  • The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford, 3 stars
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller Jr., 4 stars. Deservedly a classic.
  • The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman, 4 stars – July 2017. Lovely YAF about coming of age, the old passing their life to the young.
  • New York 2140, Kim Stanley Robinson, 4 stars – June 2017. Rollicking tale that imagines a global-warming future in which finance and real-estate speculation still drive NYC. Really a post-GFC treatise, KSR doing his polymath explanation of what’s gone wrong with capitalism.
  • The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins, 5 stars – May 2017. New senior jobs are about performing quickly, which is about relationships.
  • Foundation, Isaac Asimov, 3 stars – May 2017. A bit dated – a sausagefest – but fun.
  • The Chaos Walking Trilogy, Patrick Ness, 5 stars – March-April 2017. Beautiful YAF sci-fi.
    • The Knife of Never Letting Go 
    • The Ask and The Answer 
    • Monsters of Men 
  • The Three Body Problem, Liu Cixin, 3 stars – February 2017. Should we communicate with the stars?
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie, 3 stars – February 2017. Just be a good person.
  • Persuasive Technology, B.J. Fogg, 3!stars – February 2017
  • Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood, 5 stars – February 2017
  • The Lean Startup, Eric Ries, 4 stars – January 2017. Experiment in small batches.
  • The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson, 5 stars – January 2017. An alternative history in which Europe barely exists, and China and Islam are the only superpowers. Reincarnation theme allowing an epic spanning hundreds of years. Risks being orientalist – a white American man wrestling with other cultures and worldviews – but I found it powerful.
  • Seveneves, Neal Stephenson, 3 stars – November 2016. The moon explodes, the world is covered in a meteor shower for 10,000 years, only a handful left in the International Space Station and some ad-hoc additions.
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan, 4 stars. Prisoners of war.
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe – October 2016. The white-woman’s book that brought the horrors of slavery into the parlours of the US North. So problematic, racist in its own right. But interesting.
  • His Dark Materials Trilogy, Phillip Pullman, 5 stars – July 2016. Still one of my favourites, YAF or no.
  • Keep the Aspidistra Flying, George Orwell, 3 stars – March 2016.
  • Palace of Treason, James Matthews, 3 stars – March 2016
  • Red Sparrow, James Matthews, 3 stars. Sexy Russian double-agent. A rip-snorter page-turner.
  • Deer Hunting With Jesus, Joe Bageant, 4 stars – September 2015. The mystery of poor white folk in small US towns voting for the big end of town while they slide into ill health and poverty – told by one of their own who became an unabashed socialist.
  • Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson, 3 stars – August 2015. Getting a colony to the nearest star would be a crushing ordeal over generations. And may not work.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, 4 stars – finished July 2015. My favourite author looking at the logical conclusion of all that has happened.
  • Middlemarch, George Eliot, 5 stars – April 2015. A sparkling triumph of social commentary and wit. Makes me feel very dim, she was a blinding genius.
  • American Gods, Neil Gaiman, 4 stars – finished Jan 2015. Gods as immigrants.
  • Freedom, Jonathon Franzen, 4 stars
  • The Australian Moment, George Megalogenis, 5 stars. Yes it is.
  • MaddAddam, Margaret Atwood, 5 stars. Outstanding finale to my equal-favourite trilogy.
  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, 2 stars. Can’t work out why this is so popular.
  • The Man in the High Castle, Philip K Dick. 3 stars. Meh.
  • When It Rains, Maggie Mackellar. 5 stars. Raw, beautiful.
  • The Shallows, Nick Carr. 4 stars. The internet is giving us all ADHD.
  • Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood. 4 stars. Glad I read this second – it’s more cynical than Year of the Flood.
  • Here On Earth, Tim Flannery. 3 stars. Felt too light – even though I’m a fan of “the connected internet brain of us all might save us all” idea.
  • The Algebraist, Iain M. Banks. 2 stars. Not my kind of sci-fi really. All aliens and space opera.
  • Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham. 3 stars. On my post-apocalyptic jag, adding some school-days-nostalgia.
  • Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood. 5 stars. Glorious terrifying warm view of the near-future apocalypse.
  • Uncle Tungsten, Oliver Sacks. 5 stars. Chemistry and learning are joy.
  • Anathem, Neal Stephenson. 5 stars. A world a lot like ours, but not, with scientist-monks cloistered away from the world.
  • The Management Myth, Matthew Stewart. 5 stars. Most management rules-of-thumb are based on complete horseshit. Just be a good person and use your mind.
  • Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut. 3 stars
  • Death Sentence, Don Watson. 5 stars. So good. A treatise on management speak, political blather and bureaucratic mangling of straight talking.

Up next

  • The DevOps Handbook, Gene Kim
  • Visible Ops
  • Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organisations Innovate at Scale, Jez Humble, Joanne Molesky
  • Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari
  • Germs, Guns and Steel, Jared Diamond
  • The Evolution of God, Robert Wright
  • Plan. Think. Live. Gill McLaren
  • The Art of the Good Life, Rolf Dobelli
  • Utopia is Creepy, Nicholas Carr
  • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  • Purity, Jonathan Franzen
  • Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
  • Australia’s Second Chance, George Megalogenis
  • The End of Nature, Bill McKibben
  • Thinking in Systems: A Primer, Donella H. Meadows
  • The Great Disruption, Paul Gilding
  • Prosperity Without Growth, Tim Jackson
  • Cradle to Cradle, William McDonough
  • Requiem for a Species, Clive Hamilton
  • eaarth, Bill McKibben
  • The Startup Owner’s Manual, Steven Gary and Bob Dorf
  • Who Owns the Future?, Jaron Lanier
  • Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  • Commonwealth, Ann Patchett
  • Larrikins: A History, Melissa Bellanta
  • Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
  • The Place of the Lion, Charles Williams
  • The Global Minotaur, Yanis Varoufakis
  • The Third Chimpanzee, Jared Diamond