In 2019, I read the most books I’ve ever read in a year with 102 books under my belt! These have been a combo of audiobooks, ebooks, and paper books. It’s been a lot of fun. On the other hand, it’s been over a year since I started Le Comte de Monte Cristo in French and I still haven’t finished it. The struggle continues.
Me, in 2018: Reading a book a week is basically impossible— Camilo (@cpayan_) December 9, 2019
Also me, having read about a 100 books this year: Reading a book a week is definitely impossible.
I liked a lot of books that I read, but I wanted to write a bit about the ones that made a big impression on me!
This book walks through US history from pre-colonial days to modern history to make a simple point: racism and racist ideas were created and popularized. Even fighters for civil rights or slavery abolition can contribute to or cement racist ideas. I found the book illuminating and it changed the way I see race in our current moment and in US history.
I’m making an effort to introduce more art and culture into my life. I figure that every masterpiece is the inheritance of every human being, so I should learn about it. This book was an excellent introduction. In 57 artworks, Grovier chooses what he calls “an eye-hook,” to give historical context and deeper meaning to the work. It’s fascinating, and spans from the 40,000 BCE to modern art. It’s accessible and I recommend it!
Ehrenreich is always an interesting and incisive social critic and this book isn’t any different. Starting from her own experience with cancer, she critiques the relentless promotion of positivity through US history and culture. Her book argues that a sunny outlook is no substitute for clear critical thinking. The marketing blitz of optimism serves to shortcut people’s long-term and critical thinking, to the benefit of very few.
This book got me back into playing my violin. I played for years as a child, but stopped as an adult. Station Eleven follows an orchestra/theater troupe in a world after civilization collapses. Since reading it, I felt the need to re-connect to art and music and my own ability to make it. I joined a community orchestra and have been working toward learning more violin repertoire. It’s been great.
The book contains interesting descriptions of what a bullshit job is, how they proliferate, and why we suffer them. I definitely saw aspects of these in jobs friends or I have held, so the arguments stand up, in my experience. Graeber always has a good way of weaving together argument and example. That alone makes this worth reading!
I’ve been a sucker for Greek mythology since childhood, and this re-imagining of the story of Circe works. Miller’s previous book, The Song of Achilles, is also excellent. I listened to them both as audiobooks and they were both well-acted as well. I recommend the audiobook versions.
My favorite comic book that I read this year. This book was completely successful in its depiction of a superhero dealing with depression after a lifetime of constant war. To be honest, I never found Mister Miracle a very interesting character until this work. I do think you need some familiarity with Mister Miracle to get the most from it, though, so I guess read his Wikipedia page? There’s a follow-up by King called Heroes In Crisis, which deals with similar themes, but suffers a bit from being more integrated with the larger canon.
I’ve heard in the past or from other books that women used to dominate computing and then were forced out. I wasn’t clear about the specifics of how such a process could happen. Programmed Inequality has the answers, blow by blow. This is a great book about the intersections of labor, sexism, new technology, and governance. I recommend it to programmers and other people working in IT who want to understand how we got to now.
I read plenty more books, but these were definitely some of the books that had the deepest impact on me this year! If you, dear reader, pick any up, please let me know and we can chat about it on Twitter or wherever else you find me.