Books read in 2018:
15. Toilet: Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing. Harvey Molotch and Laura Noren.
14. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Susan Cain. Perhaps like Cain’s portrayal of introverts, I found the book slow to warm up to, but ultimately appreciated the depth in which she treats the complexity of the introvert/extrovert dichotomy and cultural expectations (despite the introvert checklist that I felt oversimplified and thus undermined much of the book – I’m choosing to ignore it). In particular, I appreciated background of the States’ idolization of socializing combined with how partners, parents, teachers, and employers can better support more varied temperaments and personalities, especially across an overlay of cultural differences and preferences.
13. Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions. Lucy Suchman.
12. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel. Rolf Potts. More inspirational than how to. Found the characterizations of tourists versus travel a bit pretentious, though appreciated the advocacy of more time in fewer places. A significant amount of the book is dedicated to quotes from other travels, which I’ll give Potts a pass for because he included one of my all time favorites: “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country
11. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. Christopher McDougall.
10. Rules of Civility. Amor Towles. Loved his second book so much, couldn’t resist listening to Towles’ first.
09. Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy. Richard E. Ocejo.
08. The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less. Richard Koch. An amusing self-help book on time-management. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend, I very much appreciated the author’s humor and if anything, it was useful in prompting a bit of self-reflection.
07. Tuesdays with Morrie. Mitch Albom. A touching chronicle of the last weeks together between a dying teacher and a reacquainted student in search of meaning, wisdom, and a coach. Thoroughly enjoyed the ensuing reflections on relationships and “giving as the key to living.”
06. Machine Learners: Archaeology of a Data Practice. Adrian Mackenzie. Very difficult read! But would like to return to chapters 3) Vectorization and its Consequences and 7) Regularizing Materializing Objects.
05. Walden: Civil Disobedience. Henry David Thoreau. A compressed, meticulous account of Thoreau’s two years living in a cabin by Walden Pond in the mid 1800s, the book interweaves a manual for self-reliance with personal introspection on independence and living in natural surroundings. Apparently I’m one of the few Americans who wasn’t required to read Walden in high school (though we did read Ayn Rand), and instead I picked it up recently due to an outdoors research project and an ongoing personal search for a Swedish fritidshus to live in year round outside of Stockholm. Upon finishing, although I perhaps enjoyed some (beautifully written) criticism on Thoreau more than the book itself, I nevertheless find his irony and contradictions reflectively apt and a needed satirical perspective towards the privileged position where I live, crafting my own liminal space between the wild and society. We almost bought a house a few months back that didn’t have running water, an ideal retreat from which to embrace ‘living deliberately.’ There was though a gym nearby where we could go for a hot shower.
04. Weapons of Math Destruction. Cathy O’Neil. Through a variety of examples, including housing and financial sections, the book uses the term Weapons of Math Destruction to describe biased mathmatical models influencing our everyday lives. It also provides the formula of a good model: relevant data, transparency, and clear measures of success within an embedded feedback mechanism.
03. Technology as Experience. John McCarthy and Peter Wright. Draws upon pragmatism to emphasize the felt, emotional quality of experiences with technology. A remarkably easy and accessible read, yet might be without first reading Dewey’s arduous Art as Experience, which foregrounds the relationship between a live creature in the environment in which a continual doing and undergoing transform an everyday experience into an aesthetic experience.
02. Small Great Things. Jodi Picoult. A story about an African-American nurse, white supremacist, and white lawyer following the tragic death of a baby after a routine hospital procedure. While interesting from the start, it took quite sometime into the story to move beyond an outsiders positioning of racial stereotypes and propagate deeper reflections of racial privilege and institutional bias. At times it reads quite didactic, but is ultimately powerful (as an intended audience member) and powerfully uncomfortable.
01. Making Preciousness: Interaction Design Through Studio Crafts. Vasiliki Tsaknaki. A dissertation on the intersection between studio crafts and interaction design to explore the meaning of ‘preciousness,’ resulting in the extraction of three qualities: resourceful composition, material sensuality, and mattering artifacts. I’m particularly drawn to her paper on the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi in which she proposes three design principles inspired by impermanence, incompleteness, and imperfection.