Six good books I bought but did not read, 2021

Written with the assistance of Google and Amazon’s book blurbs.

  1. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President (2011): about the attempted assassination of President James Garfield. 
  2. The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life (2018): I believe the thesis is that humans are primates, so our behavior is fundamentally base at its root, and potentially banana-seeking, which is undoubtedly true in the case of my one-year-old son.
  3. Getting Things Done (2001): I feel like I know what the book says, which is probably unfair. This book is so definitive that it feels like a lot of the productivity methodology is boiled into task apps like Things and was helpfully boiled down by Matt Mochary in The Great CEO Within. I did pay for it, though, so David Allen should be fine.
  4. **The Quiet Americans (2020):**Chronicles four officers from the OSS/early CIA as they tried to fight against Soviet influence worldwide, but promises to zero in on the ramshackle nature and unintended consequences and victims that resulted from those efforts.
  5. The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 (1966): A certified classic, I’m pretty sure — a collection of essays from Barbara Tuchman detailing the excesses of pre-World War I Europe. 
  6. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, & Power (2012): A long history of oil’s influence in geopolitics across centuries. But, unfortunately, I bought it as a paperback, which in this case, is making it intimidating to start.

Five books I did read

  1. Precious Little Sleep (Timeless): Practical, comprehensive, and hilarious advice on baby sleep.
  2. This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends (2021): Goes past Snowden-era revelations to what the modern security and exploit ecosystem looks like, including NSO Group, the Shadow Brokers leaks, and the “democratization of zero-days”.
  3. An Ugly Truth (2021): a fast-moving and seemingly exhaustive accounting of Facebook’s internal decision-making post-2016 as it realized limitless and instant human connection may not have been wholly good for the world. I feel like this one suffers from an affliction I find in many current events books that are expansions of newspaper coverage — enjoyable while reading, but now a few months later, I don’t quite remember what it said.
  4. Yearbook (2021): Seth Rogan’s autobiography. I don’t remember nearly the same amount of detail from twenty years ago that he does.
  5. Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon: Unlike most business books, this was really actionable and super practical. From meeting structures to metrics dashboard layouts to an extensive explanation of the PRFAQ technique popular at Amazon, one does not need to pick up every recommendation into daily life. Still, it’s nice to see how it’s done in enough detail that you could.