I really like the idea behind the Amazon Forward series. They pulled together six up-and-coming science fiction authors and had each of them write a short story.
I started off the series by reading Summer Frost by Blake Crouch, which I thoroughly enjoyed. For my second read in the series, I chose Randomize by Andy Weir. I’ve read other books by Weir which include The Martian and Artemis. The Martian was the best book I read back in 2014, and it remains one of my all-time favorites.
Based on my experience with Summer Frost and my prior experience with Weir’s writing, I was looking forward to diving in to Randomize. Here’s my take on it.
Ever since reading Wool, I’ve been a fan of author Hugh Howey. I’ve read quite a few of his works including Sand, Beacon 23, Hurricane, Half Way Home, and numerous short stories. They vary in terms of genre, though he has a tendency to lean more towards science fiction, which is how I discovered him. What I find distinctive about his writing is how immersive and engaging his stories are. He has a knack for building vivid environments in your mind, developing relatable characters, and telling a story.
Every year, I do my best to have a least one Hugh Howey book on my reading list. For 2019, that book was Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue.
I’m in the middle of a productivity reading binge this year. It was inspired by Cal Newport’s Deep Work, which I read during the first half of 2018. Since then I’ve read the 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch and Get It Done by Michael Mackintosh. The next book up on my productivity journey was Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity by David Allen. It was recommended by one of my co-workers, Julie Yousefi. Given how organized her desk always is, I figured she must be on to something and that Allen’s book was worth a read.
I wasn’t prepared for what I was getting into when I opened up Getting Things Done. Most books on productivity are theoretical. They give you some broad, generalized ideas that are left as an exercise to the reader to figure out how to incorporate into your daily routine. More often than not, I store away those theories as “to-do’s” and never get around to figuring out how to put them into practice.
Well, I’m here to tell you that Getting Things Done is short on theory and long on practical ideas that you can implement immediately, which is a good thing.
One of my primary reading genres is health and fitness. I have an interest in understanding how diet and exercise affect our physiology. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years that have led to adjustments in my personal eating habits and exercise routines. It’s helped me to control my appetite, maintain a healthy weight, and generally feel better all around.
One area that I’ve been particularly intrigued by is fasting. I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting for the past couple of years and have occasionally mixed in a full 24-hour fast. I even did a 48-hour fast a little over a year ago, which was a great learning experience.
I want to continue fasting and to incorporate longer periods of fasting into my routine. To help me understand more about it, how to prepare, and what to do during a fast, I decided to read The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day and Extended Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung.
One of my all-time favorite books is Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. I loved how he showed that life’s real adventures are the ones that don’t rely on technology. They occur when we connect with and engage our friends to help us solve problems and find the answers to what we’re looking for.
Given how much I liked his debut novel, I was looking forward to reading his second book, Sourdough, or Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market. It was released in 2017 and languished on my 2018 reading list. A nudge from one of my top recommendation sources, Brad Feld’s blog, nudged it to the top of my reading list earlier this year.
Despite my contentious relationship with the Amazon recommendation engine, it continues to have a significant influence on my reading list. The Subprimes by Karl Taro Greenfield is yet another example of a book that I found through their email newsletter. I purchased it near the end of 2016 (thanks again Amazon for the reminder), and it languished on my reading list for a couple of years before I finally managed to get to it earlier this year.
In addition to working in technology, I enjoy observing trends and watching up-and-coming technologies. Blockchain is one of those new technologies that I’ve been watching closely over the last couple of years. General, as well as my interest in blockchain has risen due to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. While I’m not a fan of cryptocurrencies (a rant I’ll post some other time), I am fascinated and keenly interested in blockchain. So much so that I felt it was worth the effort to read a book on the subject, which led me to The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice, and Application of the Next Internet Technology by William Mougayar.
A lot of people mistakenly think that blockchain is just another name for cryptocurrency. In reality, crytpocurrencies are just one application that is made possible because of blockchain technology. Blockchain enables cryptocurrencies. So if I’m not a fan of cryptocurrencies, why am I interested in blockchain?
I have a love-hate relationship with the Amazon recommendation engine. There are times when I get email recommendations that leave me scratching my head, saying “What the…?” And then there are other times when I feel like it knows me better than I do.
For example, I love the short story genre and feel it is underrepresented in books these days. It feels like so many authors and publishers are focused on prolonged series. Now it could be my ADHD speaking, but there’s something to be said for a captivating short story. So when I got an email from Amazon saying they created a new short story series focused on science fiction by the genre’s up and coming authors, called Forward, I was intrigued.
Favorite genre? Check.
Favorite authors? Check.
Short stories? Check.
Available to Prime members for free (via borrowing)? Double check.
Count me in. Since Blake Crouch has become one of my favorite authors as of late, I decided I would start with his contribution to the series, Summer Frost.
I’ve written about this before, but I’m always amazed at how deep you can go into any one genre or subject when reading. Here’s a case in point. I like to read personal improvement books, especially those that help me set priorities, get things done, and, on the whole, manage myself better. I’d have to go pretty far back to find the first book I read on the topic, but the genre only seems to get deeper and wider the more books I read in it. Whether it’s exploring other books by the same author, references to other books embedded in the ones I’m reading, recommendations by friends, families, or blogs I follow, or my ultimate nemesis, the Amazon recommendation engine, the quantity of books that I can read on the subject never ends.
It should be no surprise then that I happened upon The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less by Richard Koch. I added the book to my reading list after I saw it referenced in Ninja Selling by Larry Kendall. I’ve found that when a book you really like makes reference to other books, you generally can’t go wrong reading them.
My favorite reading genre is science fiction. I especially like the stories that use current technology as the basis for the plot, or build off current technology trends. Stories based on hard science fiction both engage and captivate my imagination. Zero Hour by Eamon Ambrose fits into that category.
Zero Hour is a post apocalyptic glimpse into the future. It examines the consequences of an artificial general intelligence that goes into a runaway improvement state, meaning it becomes smarter at a faster and faster rate. It’s a condition often referred to as the technical singularity – the point at which machines become smarter than humans.