What I read in December 2020
- Warprize (Chronicles of the Warlands, #1) by Elizabeth Vaughan, 340p: This a comforting read. It's a story of different cultures clashing together but without the violence. It's set in a fantasy world, with a healer that does not use magic. I hoped there was going to be magic, but it's more like using science knowledge to heal which makes for an interesting main character.
- How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers by Sönke Ahrens, 178p: I probably highlighted too many passages in this book. I would compare it to “Getting Things Done” by David Allen in terms of presenting new ideas and a practical application to them. It describes an organized system to take notes based on the Zettelkasten Method. Zettelkasten was developed and used by this German sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1927–1998). The idea is not to organize notes by topic, but rather have them stored in an abstract way (he used a numbering system on index cards). Each note is “atomic” containing only one idea with its references and reasoning. The goal is to produce notes that can be linked together in a way that encourages thinking and learning within the system. I got inspired by the book and I'm currently giving it a try to build my own Zettelkasten using the Obsidian.
- Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress by Christopher Ryan, 304p: Was transitioning from a nomadic hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural one worth it? Is Civilization really good in the long term? Was it inevitable? This book discusses how civilization and the agricultural revolution (12,000 years ago) changed human living conditions and all our social relations. One of the arguments is that the Narrative of Perpetual Progress, or NPP, creates inequality, suffering and subjugation. One interesting observation in the book is how the agricultural societies changed the role of women throughout history. In a nomadic society women used to breastfeed children for years, and biologically that naturally created a decrease in women fertility because of hormones. Women had less children and were active members of the tribe, contributing in equal levels as of men. After transitioning to a more settled society, ownership of land became important, cattle could provide milk to feed children and women started to be subjugated to the “breeder” role, having more frequent pregnancies. And the rest is history. It was a fascinating read but not too hopeful. It seems that we are way past the point-of-no-return and only big improbable changes in our society could revert the damaging effects of civilization. It's good food for thought, tho.
- Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton, 299p: This book satiated my curiosity about the origins of Twitter. It starts with a simple tool to allow friends to know what they are doing via SMS updates and morphs into a revolutionary idea of giving voice to people, no matter their social status. It's clear that the founders (and friends) Jack, Evan, Biz, and Noah all contributed to “create” Twitter but the book shows how greed and money-talks disrupted friendships and ended up creating power struggles between the members. It is clear that once Twitter became huge, and millions of dollars were at stake, the company lost its founding values getting lost into the attention economy model. I loved the way the author chose to tell this story. He mixes journalism and narrative in a very clever style. I want to read more books written by Nick Bilton.
- The Little Book of Contentment: A Guide to Becoming Happy with Life and Who You Are, While Getting Things Done byLeo Babauta, 112p: A quick read about contentment. Nothing too extraordinary, just a reminder that it is important to live in the moment and be content with whatever we have.
By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.