I’ve been doing a little better this year sticking to my reading list. I’ve also been doing a better job of reading books that have been languishing on my reading list for some time. The latest example was (R)evolution by PJ Manney.
I’m not exactly sure when I first discovered the book, but it first showed up on my 2019 reading list at #35. Since I usually read about 25-30 books a year, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll read any books below #20. So it took a couple of years to get to this one.
At our core, I feel like humans are natural explorers. That nature led our ancestors to spread across the face of the Earth. It drove our desire to visit the moon. And it is currently driving us to explore Mars.
There are all sorts of reasons why we might want to live on Mars, but curiosity is probably the biggest. People just want to know what it would be like. It’s a blank slate, a new opportunity.
However, there are some big questions that need to be answered before a human sets foot on Mars. In fact, there are a lot of questions and issues that need to be addressed before someone even attempts the trip. It’s those questions and issues that Stephen Petranek explores in How We’ll Live on Mars.
I’ve been reading books related to Stoicism and ancient Stoic philosophers for a few years now. I can trace my interest to Brad Feld’s blog, which is one of few that I still follow regularly. He wrote a book review about The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman at the end of 2017. I was intrigued.
I had heard of Ryan Holiday. His book, Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, transformed the way I view mainstream media and popular news websites. Little would I know that reading The Daily Stoic during 2018 would change my outlook and approach to life.
Since then, I’ve continued my exploration of Stoicism. I’ve read additional books related to Stoic philosophy, including other Ryan Holiday books such as Ego Is the Enemy and Stillness Is the Key, which I recently finished.
I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a short story junkie. Between novels, I like to read a short story or two to break things up. The format is, well, different. It’s hard to explain, but a good short story captivates me. I enjoy how the characters are developed, and I really enjoy a short story with a strong plot twist. It’s especially satisfying when just enough is left unresolved that I get use to my imagination to complete the story.
I also find that short stories are a good way to explore different authors. If I like their short stories, then there’s a good chance I’ll enjoy their longer form writing too. That’s why I decided to read Selected Stories by Theodore Sturgeon. I had never heard or ready any of his works, so I figured it would be best to start with a collection of his short stories.
When you have a reading list with over 200 books on it, some are going to get lost on it. It’s inevitable, especially when I’m adding 20-30 new titles every year. Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald is a great case in point.
I added the book when I saw it on Gizmodo’s list of The Very Best Science Fiction And Fantasy Books Of 2015. Yes, that’s right 2015. The list was posted on December 21, 2015. And yes, you are correct, I’m writing this post on July 14, 2021.
It’s not that I didn’t want to read Luna. It’s just that other books kept getting in the way. I finally prioritized the book by putting in on my 2020 reading list. When I didn’t get to it last year, I moved it higher on my 2021 reading list.
So after nearly 6 years, I finally read it, which begs the question, was it worth the wait?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed an interest in ancient philosophies. More specifically, I’ve found Stoicism, which I was introduced to through Ryan Holiday’s writing and The Daily Stoic, to be particularly intriguing. It has shown me that the things humans do in our daily lives has evolved a lot throughout history, and it continues to change rapidly due to technology. However, the character traits of being a good person have not changed. The same values and principles that made up good character over two thousand years ago are still applicable today. What humans do has changed, but human nature has not. It reinforces the adage – “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
When reading Stoic philosophies, it is impossible to avoid references to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Aurelius was Emperor of Rome from 161 AD – 180 AD, and Meditations is a collection of writings from his personal journals that reflect his thoughts during his time as emperor. Since most of my reading of Aurelius’ writing were excerpts from and interpretations of passages from Meditations, I felt is was best to read it on my own, to get it from the horse’s mouth.
I’ve read a few books on the topic of neuroscience and how the brain functions. I’ve also read a few science fiction books about artificial intelligence, robotics, and simulating human behavior. A few of these books have went as far as portraying the concept of uploading the contents of the brain to a computer. It begs the question, what is human conscience, and can it be portrayed in software? It’s an ambitious and complex topic, and one that Greg Egan tackles in Permutation City.
My best source for book recommendations are from those who I know well, whether they are family, friends, or close acquaintances. We talk about books enough that they have a good feel for the types of books that I might like. It’s also easy for me to figure out how to prioritize a book by how they describe it to me. It’s how I learned about The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. A couple of years ago, my daughter Courtney read it for one of her college classes and recommended it to me. She even went as far as to lend me her personal copy, which was an old school traditional hardback. Before we dive into this review, I only have one regret with this book – that I let it languish on my book shelf for the better part of two years before opening it up.
Eliot Peper is near the top of my current list of favorite authors. I’ve read most of his books, including the Uncommon Stock Series, Cumulus, and Bandwidth. I really like the way he weaves together mystery and suspense using present day technologies as a backdrop. So it was with high expectations that I read his latest work, Veil.
In June 2013, Edward Snowden provided reporter Glenn Greenwald with top secret documents from the NSA. It was the first of many leaks Snowden would supply to various media organizations. Those leaks revealed both the breadth and depth of the US government’s surveillance programs.
The leaks ignited a firestorm of controversy. People were appalled at the amount of information the government was collecting from individuals around the world, including its own citizens. Reforms of surveillance programs were requested, demanded even.
Were these reforms ever implemented? We’ll never know.
One would be naive to think our government no longer collects people’s personal information, listens to their private conversations, or monitors their movements. I’m convinced the government is collecting even more data about us than when Snowden made his revelations.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this way. In his fictional novel, The God’s Eye View, author Barry Eisler explores how the government might still be collecting data on us, and the consequences of such a program if a megalomaniac happened to be in charge of the agency responsible for safeguarding that information.