The books I read in 2022.
Including some longer papers that I found of interest as well.
Debt: The First 5,000 Years - David Graeber
One of the best books I’ve ever read.
Fundamental Chess Openings - Paul van der Sterren
Long, but very interesting chess book.
There’s a ton of depth in modern chess opening theory, but books like “Modern Chess Openings” which are chess encyclopedic lists of moves and variations aren’t really “readable”. This book, on the other hand, is good, high-level overview of the various openings, how they’ve changed over time, and what the main ideas are.
There’s still plenty of detail – variations listed out, positions diagrammed, and so on – but in a way that’s explanatory rather than overwhelming.
Let Them Eat Dirt - B. Brett Finlay & Marie-Claire Arrieta
Nice quick, interesting, educational read.
I think this book did a very good job of striking a balance between being a science book and a general-interest book. The authors are both PhD’s and clearly know their stuff very well, but they have obviously made a great effort to be accessible and not too jargon-y.
Soldiers in Cities: Military Operations on Urban Terrain - Various
U.S. Army War College book on the challenges and pitfalls of operating in urban environments.
Stalingrad - Vassily Grossman
Great book; very much modelled on War and Peace. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It made me think a lot of Red Plenty, in how it shows the promise that Russian communism held.
1983-1993: The Wonder Years of Sequential Prolog Implementation - Peter Van Roy
Very fun paper looking at the history of Prolog development.
Killing Floor - Lee Child
The junk food of books. A podcast I listen to is starting a mini-series making fun of the Jack Reacher show, so I decided to read the first book. Read it in a day; seems like the quintessential “airport book”.
The Scout Mindset - Julia Galef
Read based on a recommendation from Dan Luu’s blog. A quick read, but interesting. All about our own cognitive biases and how we tend to approach things looking more to protect our own egos and presuppositions than actually search for the truth. Has some actionable steps one can take to try to improve.
What Is To Be Done? - Vladimir “Lenin” Ilyich Ulyanov
I wanted to read some of Lenin’s first-hand writings, not just about him. This was an interesting look into the thoughts of one of the most preeminent revolutionaries of the twentieth century, before things really took off for him. How does one make an effective organization when you can’t even organize, dissent is illegal, and you’re living under Tsarist absolutism? Lots of thoughts and, apparently, a great deal of invective for those theoretically on your side, but “doing it wrong”.
Under the Surface - Jan Markos
Yet another chess book. Quite interesting, a little different than many of the others I’ve been reading.
Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes
Quite funny; surprising how meta-textual a 400 year-old book can be. People are people, I guess.
Moby Dick - Herman Melville (re-read)
I read this book a year or two ago, as an ebook, but I recently came across a paper copy and thought a re-read would be enjoyable. Indeed it was! A great read as always.
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Tore through this in a day at a cottage. Really enjoyed it; surprisingly less depressing than I expected it to be. I think Cormac McCarthy might be my favourite fiction author?
Advanced Programming in the Unix Environment - W. Richard Stevens
Great programming book. I’ve been programming in a “Unix Environment” for more than fifteen years now, but I still got quite a bit out of this. Lots of interesting tidbits about various POSIX features; in particular, all the stuff on signals & threads and IPC mechanisms was very educational.
Classical Indian Philosophy - Peter Adamson & Jonardon Ganeri
I picked this up on a whim in a funky leftist bookstore in Seattle. I’m generally interested in philosophy, but didn’t really know much about Indian schools of thought, so this was quite edifying. Very enjoyable book; quite a funny, engaging writing style. Apparently it’s based on a podcast series, so I might have to give that a listen.
The State and Revolution - Vladimir “Lenin” Ilyich Ulyanov
I found this much more interesting than What is To Be Done?; more generally relevant, less complaining about putative comrades. Quick read, but provocative ideas.
Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy (re-read)
Like Moby Dick, I wanted to read this again with a physical copy.
I’ve been trying to describe why I like this book. Everything that happens in it is terrible, all the characters are monstrous, on the face of it, it should be horrific and depressing, but somehow it isn’t. I think it’s partly due to the economy of language imparting a sense of poetic detachment from the events happening. People walking across the plain are described with the same affect as those same people being gutted and dismembered. One gets the sense of watching events unfold from a great distance, impartial. I’m not exactly sure how to describe it; I suppose if I could, I’d be a much better writer.
Scientifica Historica - Brian Clegg
Neat; a history of science books. Lots of very cool pictures of said books, interesting way to chart the development of science and science communication.
Gardens of the Moon - Steven Erikson
The first book in the “Malazan Books of the Fallen” series.
A History of Philosophy: Volume I: Greece and Rome - Frederick Copleston
Volume one of nine down. Great series, learning a lot.
Xenos, Malleus - Dan Abbnet
Re-reading some trashy novels from my youth for fun.
A History of Philosophy: Volume II: Augustine to Scotus - Frederick Copleston
Continuing the series; seven more to go. This volume was mostly about early Christian theology and philosophy.
It’s kind of wild how after thousands of years, Western philosophy still seemed to largely be shades of “Plato or Aristotle?”. I also find all the stuff about medieval Christianity fascinating; at some point, I want to read more about how the early church changed, all the schisms and heresies and the like.
Pale Fire - Vladimir Nabokov
I was curious about this book after learning that it’s the source of the lines for the strange “baseline” scene in Blade Runner 2049.
I quite enjoyed reading it. Fairly short, but very interestingly put together – the core is a 999-line poem, but there’s a forward & commentary which are actually part of the whole story. The narrative itself is fairly straight-forward, but the way it’s told is neat; I really like books that play around with the form.
A Viet Cong Memoir - Truong Nhu Tang
Picked this up on a whim from one of the “Little Free Library”s near my house. I’m always interested in history and this promised the story of the Vietnam War from a Vietnamese perspective.
It was indeed an interesting read. The author starts by saying that they didn’t want it to be yet another book glorifying in war, so it doesn’t really talk about combat directly. Instead, it’s mostly about the political dimensions of the conflict. Of course, plenty of violence is inflicted on him, but it’s certainly not what one would typically think of as a “war memoir”.
A History of Philosophy: Volume III: Ockham to Suárez - Frederick Copleston
Continuing the series.
This one covers the early Renaissance and the lead-up to the changes in thought occurring then. We finally start to see modes of thinking that seem less alien to me, particular the growing nominalist movement.
On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War - Harry G. Summers Jr.
I got this from the same “Little Free Library” is A Viet Cong Memoir. Interesting contrast between the two books. This one is obviously from the American perspective. Even though it’s putatively a critical analysis of what they did wrong, the ideology is still so deep that some assumptions are still left unquestioned.