this year i have:
read 86 books
written 22 opinions
bought 83 books
organised an online book club
made way too many graphs about my book habits
jenny kleeman provided detailed reporting on several major innovative promises in the key areas of a human’s life: birth, food, sex, and death. if all of these promises get fulfiled, the future will be quite a ride – birth via external womb and diy 3d printed suicide capsules being the starkest examples.
most importantly, author examines these trends from the women-centric point of view, which is still a rarity in tech reporting of any kind.
if you read the verge or ars technica, try this book for a fresh perspective.
i still have only vague idea about the author, not having read anything else (i plan to fix this next year), but if the rest of writing is even two-thirds as stylish as this novelette, i will have great time.
if you decide to read this book, don’t expect much plot, but worry not, you will be generously compensated with style and character study. just look at the opening paragraph:
“I woke to find her lying next to me, quite dead, with her throat torn out. The pillow was shiny and sodden with blood, like low-lying pasture after a week of heavy rain. The taste in my mouth was familiar, revolting, and unmistakable. I spat into my cupped hand: bright red. Oh, for crying out loud, I thought. Here we go again.”
have to admit that my expectations were coloured by the fact that esther perel is a psychologist, living and working in usa. so i expected some level of moralisation since the subject of the book is romantic infidelity, but this was a good lesson on recognising your own bias. dr perel wrote based on her professional experience and research, which was more international than i expected, and does an admirable job of not casting judgement either way.
while it was an interesting and educational read, i am drawing a blank on whom to recommend it to.
there is a young heroine going for the adventure of first year in university, comedic relief friend, another friend is in the knight’s armour. but don’t yawn yet.
it is not the main heroine who will get the romantic plotline, but sidekick. it is not the knight in shining armour who saves the damsel, but she herself does the job, and figures out what exactly made her different, and how to cope with that.
i couldn’t help but really like this bunch of clueless teenagers, who had the life i was never able to get. Alice Oseman writing style is so warm and empathetic, it felt like an old friend telling me a story over a cup of tea.
if you are squeamish, proceed with caution. it’s a book about anatomy, and some potentially repulsive details are inevitable. but with the exception of final chapters on disease in general and cancer specifically, this is an entertaining and educational read. bryson’s tone is charming, humorous, reminding me of archetypal uncle who’s only too happy to explain whatever is his current field of interest.
bryson does not limit the narrative with only facts about human body, expanding into history of biology and medicine, which makes it interesting even if you are quite familiar with the subject already.
the title is wonderfully descriptive and equally confusing. the sense of confusion and puzzlement stayed with me for the most of the novel, and it was very enjoyable. klara is an extremely unreliable narrator, leaving the reader second-guessing every line. and the resolution is a masterful execution of an open ending concept.
if you like soft sci-fi and have even passing interest in artificial intelligence, consider reading “klara and the sun”.
heavy but essential read. awfully scary too. recent years showed me how easy it is to erase all equality progress, so gilead was terrifying in it’s authenticity. i could imagine book events unfolding in real life way too easily.
so, be careful if you pick this book as the next thing to read. make sure you have someone to hug. ideally, don’t read in winter.
“all about yves” is an autobiographic story of transition. yves rees started life as straight cis-gender woman, and at the age of thirty arrived at the realisation why that skin never sat right.
yves posesses the talent of articulating those overwhelming emotions, thoughts, and questions swirling in one’s head when they realise they are not a woman. so many things felt as if taken straight out of my head.
a truly novel feeling for me.
i’m now on a quest to get hold of more memoirs by trans and non-binary writers. if you have any recommendations, please do share!
(here i presume majority of the readers of this blog know me personally and can send me a text/dm)
“everybody lies: what internet can tell us about who we really are” is a non-fiction about things a data scientist can do with information we all collectively fill internet with, aimed at wider audience. a terminally online person won’t find any shocking relevations from mr stephens-davidowitz, but i absolutely can see the usefulness for people less connected (the ones, who probably don’t have triple-digit number of logins saved in their password manager of choice).
parts i and ii are mostly a primer on statistics intersperced with amusing and/or alarming factoids about human nature. but it’s the part iii, titled “big data: handle with care”, that makes the book worthwhile of your attention. i liked how author concisely spelled out major problems of giving too much power to data-driven decisions.
like many books published after 2016, this one too shows the trauma of 2016 usa presidential election. i wish it didn’t, yet totally understand where it’s coming from.
if you are deep into the weeds of data science, this book will be redundant for you. if you are not, then give it a try. if anything, it will give you material for some small talk at the next social gathering (whenever that happens…)
“ducks” excelled at making me feel suffocated, angry, and dumbfounded all at the same time. the protagonist was written as incredibly infuriating person. she is dim with occasional flashes of some intelligent thought, but mostly it’s jumbled sludge of utter mediocrity. all this time i tried to parse whether lucy ellmann was intentional with such portrayal, or it was accidental. i was not successful.
parts about the lioness were the only relief in the form of proper grammar, structure, and narrative amidst the rest of the word vomit. juxtaposed against the most uncoherent stream of consciousness they looked like some genius prose. but when re-read in isolation, the illusion doesn’t hold up.
to summarise, “ducks, newburyport” made me feel like a duck who has to waddle through metric ton of mud to get a billfull of edible grass. and even that tiny bit is not tasty and barely nutricious.
if you treasure your time, do not ever spend it on this book.
the timing was really fortunate – i was in the middle of data course, and getting hands on a well edited book about data visualisation was useful. i might be nearly perfect reader for ‘how charts lie’, as someone working with graphs, but on a data scientist or analyst level.
cairo’s style is good balance between informative without being dry, entertaining without going off topic, and easily understandable without being watered down (that’s my most frequent complaint about non-fiction).
check this book out if you want sensible advice on how to improve your charts for work, studies, and personal nerdery. and also if you want to get minor 🤯 upon seeing connected scatter plot.
if you dread another self-help book with a checklist at the end, i have good news for you – there nothing like that behind the flowery cover. this book rather belongs in the section of modern philosophy. author is not trying to give the reader prepackaged and easy-to-digest ideas, but hands them a cookbook, if you allow me this tired methaphor.
i appreciated the way jenny odell quoted and referenced greek classics – giving the necessary exposition but without overexplaining. as someone who has surface level familiarity with the subject, i got a nice refresher and a prompt to return to philosophy in my reading.
who would i recommend this book to? to my every terminally online friend (waves at #productivity) who pondered at least once “is this whole internet thing making me a worse human?”
the midnignt bargain is set in the vaguely victorian world where magic exists and women are banned from it. the protagonist is a debutante under pressure to get married well. surprise-surprise, she doesn’t want to be a wife, but wants to pursue a magical career instead.
i liked the fabula when i heard it (for the life of me, can’t remember when and where exactly), but the execution left me cold. four chapters out of twenty two, 82 pages out 369, 22%. that’s enough of a chance for a book that hasn’t been recommended by someone trusted.
why i dropped the book? the writing felt repetitive, implementation of fantasy jane austen world didn’t grab me, and attempts to ratchet up the tension of the plot were too obvious for my taste. moreover, the protagonist’s outrage about gender discrimination felt too on the nose.
i won’t recommend this book. for good romance you’d be better of rereading Austen, for good fantasy – the list is endless.
why on earth does he need to give short description of their looks nearly every time he introduces a person? how is that relevant? instead of lightening up the text, or whatever was his goal, book starts looking like a random mash of scientific paper and badly written RPF fanfic.
the tone of the author at times overshadowed the factual content. my copy of the book has several notes, such as “really?”, “ugh”, “this is ageism”, et cetera, most accompanied with exclamation marks.
the book would benefit from re-editing with consideration of evolved norms on what is considered appropriate in a serious non-fiction work.
pachinko is a family saga of three generations – classic approach. what makes it different is the setting, so unusual for anglophone readers – korea and japan. mostly japan. i think this is the first fiction book where i get to see this country through the eyes of a non-japanese person. and let me tell you, it’s not a flattering view, which has been a surprise in itself.
i absolutely recommend this book if you are:
five out of five from me.