Each week I try to write out an in depth review of a book that I’ve read recently. These reviews typically delve into what I took away from the book and serve as a reminder of what I’ve read. I’m writing these so that I can go back, in the future, and learn about what I’ve taken away without having to re-read the thing entirely.
'Shop Class as Soulcraft' by Matthew Crawford
Shop Class as Soulcraft is a good polemic. A railing against the way that society is going and an eloquent exposition of what it means to be human. Though I found some of Crawford’s arguments to be off the mark his critique has a grain of truth running throughout and made for an enjoyable read. Crawford’s world view seems to reflect my own to a certain extent though I disagree with some of his conclusions.
'The Case Against Sugar' by Gary Taubes
The case against sugar by Gary Taubes is his third book on the theme of nutrition following on from “Why We Get Fat” and “Good Calories, Bad Calories”. In this edition Gary levels his strongest accusations that the key problem in western diets is our huge sugar and refined carbohydrate intake. Gary traces the evidence over time regarding the slow and insidious weight that is being packed on around the globe and asserts that this trend beings at the moment that refined carbohydrate intake starts to increase.
'Salt Sugar Fat' by Michael Moss
Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss is an investigatory report into processed food industry practices that was published in 2013. The book is American-centric and doesn’t necessarily hold across all cultures and nations but in so much as America is a cultural harbinger for a lot of the world it is worthwhile using them as a case study. But first, a caveat, Moss is not a scientist, he approaches the work from a journalistic bent and I found some of his writing on some of the more scientific elements to be alarmist and a touch misleading at times.
'Average Is Over' by Tyler Cowen
This was one of the more popular books to come out of the GFC as we all grappled with the ramifications of the “new world order” so to speak. A rising Asian hemisphere, a decline in the influence of western economies and wars in the middle east that never seemed to end. It was first published in 2013. The author is a well known, libertarian leaning, economist who blogs at Marginal Revolution (an excellent blog) and is also a professor at George Mason University.
'What Technology Wants' by Kevin Kelly
This is an interesting but strange book. It was first published in 2010, a time when the financial crisis was sweeping the goal. I read it in 2021. I do not think the gushing praises of technology have aged particularly well in the years since the publication. Kelly is ambitious and for that he is to be lauded. Ambitious books are rare enough as it is so it is always enjoyable reading something original.
'A Philosophy of Walking' by Frederic Gros
A light poetic book. A translation from French to English by the excellent John Howe. The book abounds with metaphor and simile which some won’t like. Once you immerse yourself in the style thought the book has a lot to offer. The book is ultimately concerned with the question, “should life be lived inside sitting?” or, “should life be lived outside walking?” It’s an interesting question. Walking has a lot to offer and research study after research study seems to indicate the benefit of being immersed in Nature.
'The Great Stagnation' by Tyler Cowen
The Great Stagnation by Tyler Cowen is a very short book; I read the hardcover edition that clocks in at fewer than 100 pages but the work was originally published on kindle only. Though it’s short enough to not be considered a full length book I would prefer if more books were this length. I’ve found that it has the effect of focussing the authors attention on what is truly important in their thinking and their contribution to the wider literature.
'Deep Work' by Cal Newport
I must admit, I have a predisposition towards liking the concept of Cal Newport’s works. As a mass-media (versus academic-media) writer he has pitched himself towards the niche of one of my favourite concepts, depth and concentration and their impact on the world itself. At a visceral level, I find this type of writing appealing to me which probably explains why this was my second read through of his work “Deep Work”.
'Where's My Flying Car' by J Storrs Hall
I picked up a copy of Where’s My Flying Car (kindle edition) on a whim after reading some interesting reviews online for the book. I was curious to see how these would stack up against the genuine article. I’m not sure that I should have lent my curiosity such latitude. The book itself is in need of a good editor to rein in the excesses of the author and in particular some of the more meandering sections which became quite tiresome.
'Twilight of the Elites' by Christopher Hayes
Twilight of the Elites is an interesting book. Hayes writes from a position of well researched erudition in the format of “Silent Spring”. His aim is not to provide solutions but instead to draw attention to what he sees as a problem in modern society. That problem, in his words, is the problem of Meritocracy and it’s ills. More specifically, in my interpretation, his problem is with the implications of multi-generational meritocracy and the different incentive structures that it creates.
'Digital Minimalism' by Cal Newport
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport is a solid but simple read. Whilst not the deepest book in the world Newport makes a convincing case for reducing our usage on technology in favour of real world alternatives. Overall, I enjoyed the book and gave it a 4/5.
'Extreme Ownership' by Jocko Willink
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink is an airport business book through and through. It’s part war memoir, part business book and from a literary perspective has been padded out with many many superfluous adjectives. That being said, I found the sections on simplification and decentralised leadership to be interesting so at least I got something from it. A 3/5.
'The Craftsman' by Richard Sennett
The Craftsman by Richard Sennett covers the tension that exists between the ‘Head’ and the ‘Hand’ in modern culture. Sennett seeks out to develop a full throated defence of the mechanical crafts and to a large extent succeeds. The book itself is a dense read with a number of paragraphs that reach. A 3/5.