The personal website of George Eves
I love to read, be that newspapers, magazines or books. Below are the books I've read over the last few years. I try to keep this updated when I can and also add ratings and reviews if I have time. All ratings where present are out of five and reviews are in reverse chronological order.
Scaling People by Claire Hughes Johnson
Doppelganger by Naomi Klein
The Zimmermann Telegram by Barbara W. Tuchman
Volt Rush by Henry Sanderson
The Napoleonic Wars by Alexander Mikaberidze
Patriot Games by Tom Clancy
It’s Not Luck by Elijah M. Goldratt
A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. Tuchman
The Goal by Elijah M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox
Between Two Worlds by Upton Sinclair
The Secret Life of Groceries by Benjamin Lori
King Coal by Upton Sinclair
Burn-in by P.W. Singer and August Cole
The Last Devil To Die by Richard Osman
Influence Empire by Lulu Chen
Dead in the Water by Matthew Campbell and Kit Chellel
The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
World’s End by Upton Sinclair
Number Go Up by Zeke Faux
Politics on the Edge by Rory Stewart
Cobalt Red by Siddharth Kara
The Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini
Audience of One by James Poniewozik
Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
Going Infinite by Michael Lewis
Fatal Risk by Roddy Boyd
Unscripted by James B. Stewart and Rachel Abrams
Getting Gamers by Jamie Madigan
But What Can I Do? by Alastair Campbell
The House of Gucci by Sara Gay Forden
The Wager by David Grann
Fancy Bear Goes Fishing by Scott Shapiro
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez
Genetech by Sally Smith Hughes
Sid Meier's Memoir! By Sid Meier and Jennifer Lee Noonan
Risky Business by Kiran Einav, Ray Fisman and Amy Finkelstien
Power and Progress by Simon Johnson and Daron Acemoglu
Built to Move by Juliet Starrett and Kelly Starrett
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.
All the Beauty in the World by Patrick Brinkley
Racing for the Bomb by Robert S. Norris
The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Ultra-Processed People by Chris van Tulleken
The Heat Will Kill You First by Jeff Goodell
Nemesis by Max Hastings
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Outlive by Peter Attia and Bill Gifford
Aleph by Paulo Coelho
Tracers in the Dark by Andy Greenberg
Madoff Talks by Jim Campbell
American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin
Crécy by Michael Livingston
Sink 'Em All by Charles Lockwood
A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz
MI9 by Helen Fry
Escape from Rome by Walter Scheidel
The LEGO Story by Jens Andersen
Hunt the Bismarck by Angus Konstam
Jet Man by Duncan Campbell-Smith
The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman
Overlord by Max Hastings
Internal Time by Till Roenneberg
Checkmate in Berlin by Giles Milton
Replay by Tristan Donovan and Richard Garriott
Chip War by Chris Miller
In Vino Duplicitas by Peter Hellman
The Hacker and the State by Ben Buchanan
VC by Tom Nicholas
Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean
Atomic Bomb Island by Don Farrell and Dr Gordon Castanza
Madoff with the Money by Jerry Oppenheimer
Fire in America by Stephen Pyne
Lethal Tides by Catherine Musemeche
Market Wizards by Jack Schwager
Bomber Command by Max Hastings
Tree Story by Valerie Trouet
On Freedom by Case Sunstein
Surface at the Pole by James Calvert
The Haywire Heart by Chris Case, John Mandrola MD and Lennard Zinn
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham
The Bright Ages by Matthew Gabriele and David Perry
M: Son of the Century by Antonio Scurati
The best fiction book I’ve read in a while, it’s great knowing there are going to be two (if not three) more my only concern is how quickly they’ll be translated from Italian into English.
Battle for the Falklands by Max Hastings
The Amur River by Colin Thubron
Masters of Doom by David Kushner
I still remember the first time I got a copy of Wolfenstein 3D on floppy disk. From that day on for the next few years and whilst Doom was rearing its head around the shareware world it was constantly being played, well that and SimCity. Hours were spent building custom levels and then further hours spent playing death match with friends. Whilst Doom may be in the title of this book, for me Wolfenstein 3D had a far greater and longer lasting impact and this book does a great job of explaining it’s history and what happened in the post Doom days.
Surveillance State by Josh Chin and Liza Lin
If you truly want an explanation of how the world ends, well the internet at least, this is it. Don't bother with 'The Age of Surveillance Capitalism' or even 'Click Here to Kill Everybody' if you truly want to see the potential (and ever creeping) direction of Western Internet and what we deem free then this is it.
The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett
Inspired by the absolutely reasonable made for TV movie adoption I thought I'd actually read the original, somewhat the other way round than normal for me but definitely worth it. Definitely better than the movie but that not much to boast about however if ever James Bond went to SPECTRE, Alex Wolff would be a pretty good approximation for who he’d become.
Das Reich by Max Hastings
More “der resistance” rather than “Das Reich” as most people comment on but that doesn’t take away from the history covered in this book. At times often difficult reading but seemingly thoroughly researched…
Not so much a definite history of Das Reich but more a quick overview in some parts and then very in-depth in others. You could say this is mentioned on the back of the book but it’s certainly not on the cover. However what Max covers with their escapades in France doesn’t pull any punches.
The Loop by Jacob Ward
Scratching the surface of an infinite number of issues we will be approaching ever quicker over the coming years. Boundaries are being pushed every day yet lawmakers and humans are always seemingly two steps behind. As and when we’ll catch-up I have no idea. Given the launches at its simplest of mid journey, stable diffusion and chatGPT this year this book is already two steps behind. Let alone what’s been technically released in the last few years since it was published.
Build by Tony Fadell
You might say, yet another “how to build / scale” book because they seem to be very hot these days but this one actually hits the mark unlike a lot of others. Probably the best of its kind since I read The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky.
The Lazarus Heist by Geoff White
False Alarm by Bjorn Lomborg
The New Market Wizards by Jack Schwager
Across the Airless Wilds by Earl Swift
My Remarkable Journey by Katherine Johnson
Beyond Possible by Nimsdai Purja
Cable Cowboy by Mark Robinchaux
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Fire on the Horizon by Tom Shroder and John Konrad
The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
Silent Running by James Calvert
The Billion Dollar Molecule by Barry Werth
The Dead Hand by David Hoffman
The Island of Extraordinary Captives by Simon Parkin
Expedition Deep Ocean by Josh Young
Most Secret War by R.V. Jones
Exercised by Daniel Lieberman
Flying Blind by Peter Robinson
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Fossil Future by Alex Epstein
Money Men by Dan McMcrum
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
Where the Deer and the Antelope Play by Nick Offerman
On the Bottom by Edward Ellsberg
No Banners, No Bugles by Edward Ellsberg
The Far Shore by Edward Ellsberg
Electrify by Saul Griffith
Into the Planet by Jill Heinerth
Breaking the Age Code by Becca Levy
Under the Red Sea Sun by Edward Ellsberg
Iceland's Secret by Jared Bibler
Scuba Compendium by Simon Pridmore
Quiet by Susan Cain
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Diver Down by Michael Ange
N-4 Down by Mark Piesing
Known and Unknown by Donald Rumsfeld
Aquanaut by Rick Stanton
Beyond the Valley by Ramesh Srinivasan
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Some might call it old fashioned but this is an amazing collection of stories before the National Parks in the US became popular.
Thunder Below! by Eugene Fluckey
Immune by Philipp Dettmer
The Caesars Palace Coup by Max Frumes, Sujeet Indap
Fall by John Preston
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson, Peter Thiel
Dark Towers by David Enrich
Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb
The Master by Christopher Clarey
Not to be confused in any way with L. Ron Hubbard and Paul Thomas Andersons masterwork 'The Master', Roger Federer for me is the real master. Both on an off the court a man who defines how it is to appear in the public eye and seemingly also a very shrewd businessman. Now that he's seemingly retired from tennis it'll be interesting to see what he does next.
The Backyard Adventurer by Beau Miles
In my opinion one of the most engaging and wholesome people in front of any camera today even though he’s primarily found fame (at least for me in the wrong hemisphere) through his YouTube channel. If you’ve watched all of his videos you may not find this quite as engaging but I’ll take in anything he does.
The Jeeves Collection - P.G. Woodhouse Volume 1 by P.G. Woodhouse
Well I suppose this is a selected volume of various Jeeves and Wooster stories, whilst mostly great some are hit and miss. Dare I say it I think I prefer the television series...
Endurance by Alfred Lansing
Makes pretty much any human accomplishment achieved in the last 100 years feel like a walk in the park, read it! South Georgia has long been on my list of places to visit and this book has only made me want to visit it more.
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Required reading for anyone who has their life intersected by the American healthcare system in any way. The TV show Dope Sick does a very good job of trying to cover this but I strongly recommend the book.
2021 (December to October)
The Devil's Candy by Julie Salamon
Better than the film, way better than the film and probably even better than the original book! A tour de force, even though old, a fascinating tale on the inner workings of Hollywood and everyone who swims in and out of the pool. With so much content being produced these days you have to imagine these kinds of ego clashing / money wrangling mess-ups are happening on a daily basis.
The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
Browsing Hulu last month I came across the TV show and saw that it was based on a book, the show was promptly paused and I have waited to get to this. Having many years ago read the 9-11 Commission report (which itself is interesting, for all the wrong reasons), this book mirrors the original report and yet only provides more backstory to this horrific event. Once again the infighting between the different agencies is made apparent in ways which will have horrific consequences. Frankly difficult reading.
Cadillac Dessert by Marc Reisener
Everyone living west of the Mississippi should read this book, actually everyone living anywhere should read this. It's been written for a long time that the next world wars will be based over access to scarce resources and fresh water is definitely one of them. How we will ever recover from the political decisions made we're told for the greater good at the behest of the greedy and the few I'm not sure. It's already been shown that many of the decisions made in this book are already having long term consequences which could take decades to undo let alone rectify, yet most politicians only think about what might impact them during their term, not long long after it.
We Are Bellingcat by Elliot Higgins
What is the truth? Who gets to define it? Can we trust what we read or see anywhere these days, especially when so many governments are flat-out trying to manipulate everything they see in their own light. What Elliot Higgins and the Bellingcat team have achieved is frankly remarkable, their use of mostly publicly accessible or affordable information and openness in their reporting is what's required these days.
Den of Thieves by James B. Stewart
In the nearly 30 years since this book was published it's sad to see how little has changed, crime really can pay and if you're lucky, very lucky, you may get a presidential pardon eventually. Anyway back to the book itself, insider trading was a thing back then and still is one now, whether it was easier back then or now is a different matter. You have to admire their brazenness though. p.s. Pulitzer Prize winning articles inspired this book, the book itself didn't win one contrary to the slightly misleading cover.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Having watched the TV series several years ago I wanted to try and see if the book lived up to it. Unfortunately for me it just didn't gel, I found the style of writing to hard to keep up with and very unapproachable. Maybe I need to try and re-read it again in a year or two.
Atomic Adventures by James Mahaffey
A collection of stories that's written more like a textbook than a structured history of various nuclear related adventures (and misadventures) you may or may not know about. It's a worthwhile read and led me to much Googling and WikiPedia reading as I worked my way through the book though you can easily pick it up and put it down again as you see fit.
The Sun King by David Dimbleby
Has the king ever flown too close to the sun, rarely and this is potentially the closest he ever came. A podcast series / audiobook produced for Amazon and whilst not a complete history of the Rupert Murdoch and the empire he created it certainly uses its short length to good use. Covering the pivotal moments in Rupert's career it really does show him in a less than favourable light, ruthless to the core and never seemingly forgiving not matter the consequences of his or his employees actions.
The Wages of Destruction by Adam Tooze
Who needs a story about weapons and battles surrounding World War II when you can spend several hours reading about the economics of the Nazi empire and how this probably had a bigger on their eventual downfall than how they actually fought. Whilst the outcome of a specific battle may have immediate repercussions, some of the early economic choices made in the run up to World War II had far larger consequences that would be impossible to unravel.
Blowout by Rachel Maddow
An interesting if unintended companion to Daniel Yergin's 'The New Map' which was also published recently. Whatever you think of her politics or show this is a good introduction for those who want to understand quite how the geopolitics of energy play out on a global scale.
A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester
In a way this is an amazing history of the Middle Ages and the dawning of the Renaissance with me itching to dig more into some of the stories told and characters mentioned. My only hesitance would be wondering if anything else can match the what seems like sometimes sensationalised stories, is this the Daily Mail of the Middle Ages?
The New Map by Daniel Yergin
This is a map that's being redrawn every day and Daniel does his best to try and keep up with the main protagonists in this race, China, Russia and the US. Whilst it gives an interesting overview of changes in energy production and demand I haven't had time yet to read any of his other books such as The Prize but am hoping to do so soon.
About Time by
A partially flawed exploration of the influence of various clocks on moments in history. Finding the right balance between a technical discussion on the intricacies of these clocks and their development vs. their perceived impact or not on our world is a tough balance. With some of the clocks David pulls this off but with others there's either too much or too little information or speculation.
A World Without Email by Cal Newport
Would be a better place... but if only it was that easy. Unfortunately you might say a world with email these days would be preferable to one with instant messengers such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp and Telegram. This is more about the separation of responsibilities and the implied obligations of a connected world. Can we take a break from the pressure of instant communication? When and how are we obligated to respond, and how can we maintain a fair distance to prevent constant disruption seem just as pertinent questions.
Spacefarers by Christopher Wanjek
Anyone contemplating the realities of a book (or film) such as 'The Martian' should really read this afterwards to let reality set it. Whether we like it or not, humans haven't been beyond the space station in over 50 years and if anything no matter what certain celebrities / engineers say we're not made for long-term space travel unfortunately. Unless we can realistically find another way to keep our bodies going in environments that we haven't evolved for we should be looking to solve problems down on Terra Firma first before pushing our development (and issues) on other planets.
2021 (September to July)
Graveyard of Memories by Barry Eisler
Recommended to me as along the lines of the Jack Reacher series (well in as much as it seems to be one man on a mission, irrespective of that mission!) and I know I'm reading this out of order but once you adjust to Barry's style of writing vs. Lee's they both again become the enjoyable brain fodder that they are. This book is a prequel to his others about the John Rain character and it shows but that doesn't stop it being enjoyable.
Underland by Robert Macfarlane
Travel writers either connect with their reader or they don't and Robert Macfarlane certainly knows how to challenge his readers given the varyingly levels of reception between his books. My sister many years ago gave me a copy of Mountains of the Mind which this is not, however I still found this very enjoyable and definitely as engaging as his earlier works if only for different reasons. This book tries to tell stories which are perhaps better represented on screen and I hope that might be the case one day.
The Space Barrons by Christian Davenport
The mother of all ego contests is going on right now and I'm not convinced it's worth it. Is it required yes, is it all beneficial no. Whilst full of some interesting anecdotes this doesn't really expand on many of the other books in this space (excuse my pun) at the moment, not forgetting that each is as outdated as the other given the pace of process the days. If only this shows the increasing pace of entrepreneurial private companies vs. the long established government supported operations. Mainly covering the competition between SpaceX and Blue Origin, it's a pity that more pages aren't given for some of the other contenders.
The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan
Having read this series in reverse I was desperately hoping it was better than his followup 'The New Silk Roads' but it's not. I've learnt my lesson and shall refrain from reading books like this again.
The Martian by Andy Weir
I've watched the film way too many times and I wanted to read this prior reading some of his other books. Science for the win, even if unfeasible, but still what great inspiration for people who may be wondering how we can engage others to help solve the worlds problems let alone those on another planet. Can we work on fixing Earth first please?
Humble Pi by Matt Parker
Measure twice, cut once. Learn this mantra and repeat until mistakes are no longer made. It sounds so simple but unfortunately still happens to people and projects both large and small on an all too regular basis. I suppose the hope of these kind of books is that we can learn from other people's mistakes, well or laugh at them! Whilst at times amusing, I suppose sometimes you want to get a little bit deeper into the actual causes of these accidents and therefore I'd recommend something like 'Meltdown' by Chris Clearfield and András Tilcsik instead.
Janesville by Amy Goldstein
Change is hard, modernatisation is hard and automation (especially in the current climate) isn't going to make things any easier. How Western economies cope with this will define the generational change which is happening now. What happened in Janesville is happening on a daily basis all over the world, we want more, we want to pay less and we mostly don't care where it comes from. Until we can get past these stopping points things won't get any easier. Another great view of this is American Factory on Netflix.
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
Whether we like it or not unless you're lucky enough to live on an island, military history will have most likely defined most or if not all of your boarders. Though sold as a book about geography it's far more about the long term impact wars or potential wars have had on shaping our borders and the consequences (why is it I use that word so much in my reviews) they have for inhabitants of those lands whether they happy about it or not. Not really 'Prisoners of Geography' rather 'Prisoners of Geopolitics'.
The Power of Geography by Tim Marshall
A 'followup' to Prisoners of Geography above, more like a subtle history to 10 countries around the world (well mostly Western) with a couple of pages of speculation tacked on the end of each country detailed. To truly understand something like the power of geography I'd instead recommend reading Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.
The Choice by Edith Eger
Whilst the description of her time at Auschwitz is harrowing this is as much a book about her later work as a psychologist as it is her time there. This shows us how her later life has helped her with her healing but it unfortunately starts to lose its way as this part of the book progresses. I hate to detract from the experiences that she has been through and the accomplishments she has made but I feel some of this has been lost by the overall tone of this book.
The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson
What rip-roaring fun, in times where we expect quick gratification in a story, this is long and entertaining, the fact that Frans is able to keep you (hopefully) engaged enough in Orm's story only tells to the power of his writing. How much of this is narrative history vs. historical narrative I'm not quite sure but I wish I'd known about this when I was at school, it would have been a welcome distraction from the other books I read.
One Shot by Lee Child
OK let me get this out there first, I like the first Jack Reacher film staring Tom Cruise, look I know he's seemingly not at all like the description of Jack in any of Lee Child's books but I don't care, I like how Tom plays the part! Done with the film review, on to the book review. I know this isn't the first in the series but I'd read that it was one of his better ones and given my knowledge of the film I wanted to see how it compares. Look this isn't the height of fiction but you know how these out-of-towner / loner / subtle action-hero (not Steven Seagal or Liam Neeson) / save the day thriller books work and for that it does pretty well, perfect plane fodder.
The Push by Tommy Caldwell
Having watched The Dawn Wall last year I was drawn to my first mountaineering based memoir in quite a while. Tommy has been open about the fact that he used ghost writers for this and I think that's for the better as they've done a great job of trying to get his devotion, effort and journey into words (I imagine they'd have an even tougher job with Alex Honnold!). This came out before the film did so I hope other future potential readers don't just get drawn to that and also read this to truly understand Tommy's devotion to the sport.
Countdown to Pearl Harbor by Steve Twomey
As mentioned in previous reviews I find books about the build-up to event often as interesting as tellings of the event themselves. It enables you to contemplate many more "what ifs" and whilst the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor was seemingly inevitable given their existing war efforts, the ineptitude of the American forces in the lead up to this leave a lot to be desired. If you don't feel like reading this Tora Tora Tora covers part of this story pretty well, along with the classic "what if" of The Final Countdown!
The Arms of Krupp by William Manchester
Sometimes I like to go deep on a subject and you can't get a much deeper overview of a dynasty than by William Manchester and his frankly phonebook sized history of the Krupp family. This is partially due to the depth of their history and quite how involved they were in all aspects of industry for such a long time. For me everything post the start of World War II wasn't that interesting, what got me was the early days, many family run companies struggle to keep things going as the generations pass by but it took a lot to stop this juggernaut.
Cult of the Dead Cow by Joseph Menn
Whilst the early days of the Internet were the Wild West, realistically nothing has changed. All that's seemingly happened is these more casual hacker groups have become government backed and sanctioned and the stakes are only higher as we unfortunately become more and more connected. Some interesting anecdotes but a bit of a convoluted mess.
Murder in Mykonos by Jeffrey Siger
Read on a plane to Mykonos, it makes a far more entertaining way to get to know the island than picking up the current version of the Lonely Planet or your guidebook of choice. Perfect plane fodder, I think I'll try this for other future trips I have to pastures new.
2021 (June to April)
This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth
I think 'Katie Mack' would have a few words to say about whether Nicole is completely correct with her title, however as we become ever more connected she might not be wrong. Don't get the wrong impression, building software is hard, though it's often possible for companies to also be lazy or inept leading to no end of unintended consequences. It's taken far too long for both bad actors and bad practices to be held responsible and even now these aren't being enforced nearly as strictly as they should be. This book provides a pretty good overview of how we've gotten here and whether we have any chance of getting out of this mess. To try and understand how complex this can get I also recommend reading either 'Sandworm' by Andy Greenberg or 'Countdown to Zero Day' by Kim Zetter.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
I really need to stop reading books which could be summarised in one page and applied with a healthy dose of common sense. p.s. it really helps if you have the use of an assistant...
The Art of Language Invention by David Peterson
Follow these simple steps:
- Watch Game of Thrones (or any show of that ilk).
- Wonder how these languages are made
- Learn about this book and the work of David Peterson
- Start reading, oh this is really interesting...
- ...but the rabbit hole gets very deep very quickly and I don't have any linguistics background!
- Nevertheless it makes for a great read though you're warned.
The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell
I listened to this as an audiobook and I have to stay the production of that is very good, most likely far better than reading the book itself. The ability to mix in original sources really makes an impression.
As to the story itself well that's a different matter, don't expect your usual Malcolm Gladwell book here, this is a book that tries to understand the thinking and justifications of two very different generals, Haywood Hansell and Curtis LeMay, who had very competing ideas as to how the end of World War II could be accelerated. Whilst we know which one prevails, which one had the better idea is still open to contention.
The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger
On the one-hand you can't take it from Bob Iger that he has achieved a lot in his career, especially whilst at Disney, but it's definitely had the Disney treatment, everything seems just a little bit too sugarcoated. There's not much actual leadership or management information here but instead a lot of great stories on some of the takeovers he was able to undertake. I just wish it had a little bit more spice to it.
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
Weirdly honest from someone with rumoured political aspirations! Love it or hate it though you have to admire his honesty given his presence for someone in the public eye, definitely a refreshing take on life, after all aren't we all human? Given what can be read about the 'diva like' lives of celebrities I have to admire Matthew's hustle. It's definitely not going to be everyones cup of tea though.
The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson
Ignore the science, which is awesome, what this book really struggles with is covering the control, ethics and ownership of CRISPR. You can easily loose the last third of the book to this as frankly it's already out of our hands, can we instead move to create better agreements and laws to work with fast moving technologies. These have already been put to good use with the rapid generation of various COVID-19 vaccines using mRNA techniques for example.
Land by Simon Winchester
Such a mixed bag in comparison to some of his previous books such as Krakatoa or The Map That Changed the World. Ownership of anything can be difficult to cover, with land possibly being one of the hardest, so the broad sweeps made here often lack focus or a full discussion of some of the nuances around how a particular state or country treats land ownership. Adding onto this dealing with indigenous / ancestral ownership in a sometimes flippant manner leads a lot to be desired.
Liftoff by Eric Berger
Written by well respected senior space editor Eric Berger at ArsTechnica it's in many ways like Rocket Men but for the modern age. You're pretty much left wanting more and I'm sure there's a lot more that hasn't been said or written which may one day come out but it can be confidently said SpaceX made itself into what it is today by the skin of its teeth. Yes it only follows SpaceX but given what they've achieved now they're deserving of a book just about them.
October by China Miéville
Having read 'A Gentleman in Moscow' last month this inspired me to read a bit more Russian history around the Russian Revolution. Whilst you're not going to get the full picture here and the consequences are only looked at in the epilogue, this book continues my fascination with stories leading up to big events and not necessarily the event themselves.
Unknown Market Wizards by Jack D. Schwager
Following on from Hedge Fund Market Wizards which I read last September, this is another great series of interviews with investors you've never heard of. Success can come from truly flying under the radar. I love his style of interviewing and the effort he puts in to talk to investors both large and small, I'm sure I'll be reading another of his books later in the year.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
I don't read a huge amount of fiction these days though that's slowly changing but I feel people like me who have read this book at the tail end of the COVID-19 crisis must have a completely different view on being stuck somewhere for a while in comparison to those who read it beforehand. Having spent many years living in Moscow and knowing the Metropol Hotel this book for me had a similar impact as when I read Shantaram whilst living in Mumbai (a true Marmite book) though Amor's book is a lot better!
The End of Everything by Katie Mack
Space is the place, the birth of us and it'll also be the end of us! Quite which way we go, well that's what you find out in Katie's entertaining short book on all the ways the universe could kill us if we're still around to see it. Who's taking bets on the winning option?
Blitzed by Norman Ohler
Not to make light of the matter but it really was the roaring 40s in Germany if even half the stories written here are true. Unfortunately whilst the large scale production of drugs and usage by German troops is well recorded the author's assertions about the leadership are much harder to verify as the author states himself many times during the book.
Endure by Alex Hutchinson
Wrapped around Nike's attempt to break the 2 hour marathon this book is a fascinating study on what our limits truly are as humans and how far we can push ourselves. It's not going to guide you on how to improve your endurance but will either make you want to give up on pushing your self harder or enthuse you to get out there and just do it!
2021 (March to January)
Ma'am Darling by Craig Brown
Satire needs to be understood before reading this book along with knowledge of the Private Eye and the fact that the author has written for them for many years. Once you get past this and appreciate that somethings need to be read with large pinch of salt this is an enjoyable read. Especially if you're looking for something in addition to binge watching of The Crown. With everything happening in the Royal Family at the moment her tales (supposed or not) seem quaint, well maybe apart from the one about marrying Picasso...
How to Make the World Add Up by Tim Hartford
Books about trusting data, numbers, statistics and science in general are hard, if you've read a good one you've really read them all. Whilst accessible with good historical note points I think there are far better books on the subject of trusting or not-trusting what you read. Though seemingly getting old and mentioned by Tim in this book, Ben Goldacre's 'Bad Science' for me is one of the gold standards on this subject.
Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It by Richard Koch
Having listened to an interesting podcast between Tim Ferris and Richard Koch last year I decided to give one of his books a try.
I must admit when I started reading it I wondered what I'd gotten myself into, the narrative structure is definitely strange and the constant comparisons between selected successful people and management consulting companies makes for interesting reading. The thesis of the book just didn't gel with me though, brief moments were interesting but rest felt very repetitive and wasted.
Kleptopia by Tom Burgis
There's a lot going on here and a lot to keep track of. Unfortunately stories about financial crime are never going to be simple even if you're just following one character so this book does jump around a bit, whole books can be written about just one of characters mentioned. Are we learning the whole picture, I don't know, but it's interesting (and sad) to read what some people are able to get away with.
Another for my collection of books on the various both obvious and un-obvious ways financial misdeeds are done by some of the less scrupulous people on this planet.
Signals by Dr. Pippa Malmgren
A butterfly flaps its wings in Asia and we feel the reverberations in America, the question is who can interpret the signal first and take advantage of it, as consumers do we even see it? If you like analogies you're going to find plenty here and most of what's mentioned here hasn't aged very well, whilst the signals are still happening the world has also moved on.
Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe by Roger McNamee
Guilt, I think that's the one word that sums up this book. Big Tech is in a tough spot these days and it's largely their doing, how they're going to get out of it is anyones guess. This book gives a partial inside view on trying to deal with this before the proverbial hit the fan. Whatever your view on this topic it's going to take a while to sort out.
Fake Law by The Secret Barrister
Following on from 'The Secret Barrister' which I read last year this book is more approachable than their first, whilst still UK specific, the topics covered are far more applicable to a broader audience. What is written in law doesn't necessarily mean it's the law especially once the media or government gets on (or off) the bandwagon of the day.
A Game of Birds and Wolves by Simon Parkin
I really wanted to like this book more, such an interesting topic with so many facets but with so much to cover it's a bit all over the place. Jumping from character to character and story to story along with numerous side stories it can be hard to keep track. The Battle of the Atlantic during World War II was fundamental to the progress of the war and Operation Raspberry helped sway this in the Allies favour. If you really want to understand how it was done by the WRNS of the WATU you should read 'Wargaming the Atlantic War' by Paul Edward Strong.
The New Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan
Really only worth it if you've read his preceding book 'The Silk Roads: A New History of the World', which I ironically haven't, and even then not really recommended. In summary China is expanding its trade routes, or attempting to, whether that's good or bad is up to you. There you go, just saved you several hundred pages of reading.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Like space and science...? In a hurry...? Then this is the book for you! There's a lot to pack in here and it definitely gives a great high level overview of the skies above us. Too much or too little though that's the question. It desperately needs to be a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' book which is actually thousands of pages long so you can at any time delve deeper into any of the topics mentioned without loosing your train of thought or having to take copious notes. I think we've developed this before, some kind of computer based knowledge system linked to an article or book...
The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero
Like 'Broadsword calling Danny Boy' I suppose this book is either only for fans of Tommy Wiseau's The Room or those who wanted a deeper dive into this amazing story having watched the film adaption of this book. Personally I'm in the later category having not actually seen The Room but was enthralled enough by the film adaption to want to know more about one of the crazier slices of Hollywood.
Seriously watch the film adaption, a tale that beggars belief. I'm sure one day we'll know more about the elusive Mr Wiseau but until then this is all we really have.
Billion Dollar Loser by Reeves Wiedeman
I'm sure like a lot of people we're waiting for the movie adaption of this story, along with the one about Theranos. If you've read either 'Bad Blood' or 'Super Pumped' a lot of this will feel very familiar, unfortunately so that is. Unlike Theranos though, WeWork seemingly has a chance of survival though without the 'perceived' drive and guidance that Adam Neumann gave it, maybe that's for the best though. Whether it will ever match is previous valuation in comparison to its competitors is a guessing game though.
If you ever have the time do have a read through their S-1 filing document with the SEC, it certainly does help explain a lot of where the exuberance of WeWork came from.
The Rising Sun by John Toland
Following on from last summer's read of 'The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich', this compellingly long tome on the war in the Pacific is a fantastic read, even 50 years on, in my opinion well deserving of its Pulitzer Prize. As time passes by historical events get re-examined, rewritten and reconsidered again and again but there can never be an authoritative truth as every viewpoint will always have some bias. There are no doubt more recently written books which may cover this topic in further or more accurately but you can't read them all.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The first novel I've read since The Alchemist in 2018. I thought the honour of it finally being released to the public domain (at least in the United States) justified a break in my normal reading schedule! This novel wasn't on my reading list when I studied English at school back in England so my knowledge of it so far I must admit has been biased by the Baz Luhrmann movie interpretation, my apologies.
Depending on the commentary you read this is one of the American classics that every high schooler will have read, and they either love it or hate it!
For me, honestly I'm not quite sure what to think, I loved the length and it is a good story but I think there are many other works of fiction that are far better however they've never made it to the seeming reverence this novel has. It feels like outsiders view of living in what prime 'TMZ' land must have been like in the 1920s.
Sandworm by Andy Greenberg
We're ruined, everyone is ruined! Life has become too connected and too complicated and we're a long way out from understanding the consequences of this. If major corporations and governments can't keep themselves safe then what hope do we have.
2020 (December to July)
The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton
Just keep on printing money, well not actually printing money but adjusting ones and zeros at the treasury (assuming you have one and are able to) until you have enough for all your government needs, the end. I think that summarises the book succinctly enough. Whether you should or not is a completely different matter and will most likely consume many economists for a long time. As to whether it will actually happen or not, well that's going to also keep politicians occupied for a long time as well!
The Man Who Solved the Market by Gregory Zuckerman
The problem with this book is that it's about a man who doesn't want the book to be written and therefore ends up being a book about the people around this man and neither do many of these people want writing about either! Whilst the rise of 'Renaissance Technologies' is covered it does make the title of the book somewhat misleading. It's not really a biography and it's also not really a corporate history either. You end up with not enough of a story about Jim Simons and also not enough detail about how his investment strategy works.
Operation Paperclip by Annie Jacobsen
Never has turning a blind eye been more relevant to a part of history where so much was up for the taking. This book covers the efforts by all sides to capture or obtain details on the scientific advances the Germans had made during World War II whilst desperately trying to ignore the atrocities performed by many of the people they sought. Whilst it makes difficult reading, this was truly a time of us or them mentality with the seeds of the Cold War already sprouting, was it all worth it though?
Narrative Economics by Robert Shiller
Humans are sheep, we follow prevailing trends and stories, and all suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). I think it would have made more impact and had more reach as a well paced article.
Heroes by Stephen Fry
Like all retellings of mythological stories, they're retellings, open to interpretation and artistic licence which can be given and taken at any time. Therefore you either like or dislike how Stephen Fry has given his very British spin to these tales much like he did for 'Mythos' and am I sure will be the same with 'Troy' when I get round to reading it next year. Personally I found it enjoyable.
The Panama Papers by Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer
Much like 'Moneyland' by Oliver Bullough and 'Extreme Economies' by David Davies, this is another damning inditement of the lengths people (and therefore companies) will go to move behind the scenes whether legally or illegally. Whilst the co-ordination of the publication of papers was impressive, if you're in any way technically minded the description of constant laptop upgrades will get tiring fast, this book should have been published a year later to truly try and understand if these revelations had any real impact. Even though in the end Mossack Fonseca dissolved, much like the Hydra of Lerna, I'm sure there are plenty of other firms in their place continuing the same old routine.
The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova
Anyone expecting a pure book about poker when reading this is going to be sorely disappointed, whilst tangentially about poker this is very much the memoir of someone looking to do and try something very different with their life with a lot of help from her family and friends. Taking on the challenge of learning poker under the mentorship of one of the all time greats (Erik Seidel) whilst looking at it from an observational / psychological angle gives it an interesting spin on what could have been a very boring book. Fundamentally her musings apply far outside the realm of poker.
Alchemy by Rory Sutherland
On the one hand you could just watch Rory's TED talks and save yourself several hours from reading the rest of this book, however I think you'll be missing out on quite a lot. Rory's style may be grating for some but for others it's a breath of fresh air on how to look at how products and services can best be marketed and sold. An Ad man does what Ad men do!
Flash Crash by Liam Vaughan
The irony of the trouble Nav caused 10 years ago solely from his bedroom at his parent's house wilfully whilst a lot of people have spent most of this year day trading from home trying to recreate such a path to wealth is not lost on me. Similar to Tom Hayes's story in 'The Spider Network' which I read in July you have to wonder how much innocence is really at play here though Nav's lack of interest in money and naivety in as what to do with all of it is very visible. Much like Michael Lewis's 'The Big Short' and 'Flash Boys', this is an entertaining tail and it's amazing to read the cracks you can slip through if you're not part of the establishment. Also like them I read it's being turned into a movie, this time staring Dev Patel.
Mindf*ck by Christopher Wylie
Whilst equally fascinating and horrifying in its premise, there's just too much back-story. I really struggled to get going with this book and contemplated giving up several times, however I did eventually make it to get through to nitty-gritty of how Cambridge Analytica worked. It's a sad thing to say that none of what was written is really new, as the saying goes "if you're not paying for it, you're the product", it's more the ease and scale that (along with I'm sure many other governments, organisations and companies) they obtained the data and then weaponised it which makes me wonder if we're really going in the right direction!
The Mechanism by Vladimir Netto
Wow! Where to start with this book, it truly goes down the rabbit hole on the drama that has occupied the Brazilian media and people for the last 6 years and is still ongoing, Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash), and what is now the largest corruption investigation in Brazilian history. The audacity of both the companies and politicians implicated is incredible both in the bribery / money laundering operation itself and then how they handled themselves once the prosecutors came knocking. Whilst the writer tries to keep it engaging as a foreigner in the end it all gets a bit much with so many people involved in this scandal, you may be better off watching the Netflix show O Mecanismo which is loosely based on this.
Active Measures by Thomas Rid
Deception, subterfuge, dirty tricks and lies to manipulate our views of a country, topic or person have used as long as humans have been communicating. Quite how far we're prepared to go though isn't as well known, with efforts to discredit sometimes taking years of planning and execution to produce the intended result. This book covers a lot of the efforts we know about between various countries over much of the last 100 years. With the current political climate and the existing manipulation of all types of media this book is not only relevant but more relevant than it should have been. Will we ever truly know what's happening these days?
Broadsword calling Danny Boy by Geoff Dyer
OK so you have to be a real fan of the film Where Eagles Dare to read this book, luckily I am, in fact I think it's currently partially watched again on my Apple TV. Like Steven Spielberg it's also my 'all-time favourite war movie', if I happen to come across it on television I'm pretty much guaranteed to sit down and watch it.
Should you read this book though, well if you're not a fan, obviously not, if however you are, it's a pretty fun short read with enjoyable commentary of the film as it progresses along with some very British humour. One benefit you'll probably read it quicker than you can watch the film.
Rise and Kill First by Ronen Bergman
To many a deeply conflicting book, to others required reading. This exhaustive history of the Israeli Secret Service's targeted killings is surprising for its depth of access (both formally and informally) but also number of operations it covers, since before the formal creation of the State of Israel to the modern day both at home and abroad. At times morally disturbing, and with countless points raised as to whether this is a battle that can ever truly be won, this book makes difficult reading for anyone trying to work out how to solve many of the world's issues whether in the Middle East or not.
MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman by Ben Hubbard
I presume Mr Hubbard has given up hope of getting another visa for Saudi Arabia, at least for a while. A compelling read on the path to potential power of Mohammed bin Salman, who is truly determined to get what he wants by any means possible. Whether MBS will still become king is the 64 million (or billion!) dollar question or will further disruption within the House of Saud continue?
Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre
I doubt much has changed since this book was published 8 years ago and this makes reading it even more scary. This is a damning inditement of the pharmaceuticals industry and how drugs are researched, developed, priced and marketed. Unlike his previous book 'Bad Science' which I read in April the potential fixes to most of the issues seem much easier to implement if governments and regulators can up their game around the world.
Hedge Fund Market Wizards by Jack Schwager
As with my reviews of 'Principles', 'Mastering the Market' and 'What It Takes' this year you can't find the secret elixir of making it in finance, or life for that matter. However as with many of Jack's books, the stories told are fascinating, engaging and inspiring.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer
The longest book I've read in a while but so worth the time and effort. An enthralling description of the destruction of Europe during World War II. The build up to the start of the war still feels very relevant, is history repeating itself again? I will be re-reading this again at some stage.
The Secret Barrister by The Secret Barrister
The assumption that everyone is treated fairly irrespective of their resources or upbringing is reduced to a mockery by this enthralling book on the inadequacies, inequalities and injustices of the English legal system. What is written though is an allegory for any democratic country, troubling to the core of how we think justice is or isn't served.
No Filter by Sarah Frier
The jealousness of Mark Zuckerberg as to the success of Instagram, even once he owned it, and the community it was able to create is palpable. In an alternate universe I dream of what would have happened if Instagram had stayed independent of the Facebook empire.
The Spider Network by David Enrich
Just because everybody else is doing it, why shouldn't we? In other words, if I'm the perceived ring-leader should only I take the fall. There have been worryingly few arrests, let alone convictions, anywhere, related to the financial crises that have afflicted us this century so I suppose they had to get at least one. Was Tom Hayes chosen because he was easy prey for the courts or because he was the true mastermind of the global Libor rate-rigging scandal. Seemingly everyone else convicted around the world from this scandal has had their convictions quashed since this book was published so I think this is deserved reading.
Nature's Mutiny by Phillip Bloom
A book that tries to explain how the long term affects of geological actions affect our planet, given our predominance to only contemplate anything that might only affect us in the next 5 seconds. Reading how one, admittedly, long term event (in our eyes) can have cultural, societal and environmental impacts that influence hundreds of years of history and quite likely the nature of our society at the moment is just fascinating. More please...
What It Takes by Stephan Schwarzman
Like most biographies of financial 'wizards', there are no ABCs here to follow the author's path. What one can only glean, is depending on your viewpoint the impressiveness or lack thereof of their achievements that made them think they could write a book about said achievements and their life. In some circles 'private equity' is a dirty 'word' but surely better the devil you know than the devil you don't. Far more enjoyable and impressive than I was expecting.
Kochland by Christopher Leonard
The best business book I've read since 'Shoe Dog' by Phil Knight in 2018. Koch Industries is ingrained in our lives, everywhere, next to impossible to escape, and yet seemingly either the greatest example of corporate capitalism in recent history (the East India Company might give them a run for their money) or everything that's wrong with the world. Would we better without them, or what would have replaced them?
Click Here to Kill Everybody by Bruce Schneier
Will make you never want to use the Internet or any device connected to it ever again.
2020 (June to January)
The Greatest Trade Ever by Gregory Zuckerman
If you've already read Michael Lewis's 'The Big Short' (or seen the movie) you may find this a bit repetitive even though it does take another angle. Michael Bury does feature though this book is mostly about John Paulson who truly made the trade of the century but doesn't really feature at all in 'The Big Short'. Should one person be able to make so much money, that's fundamentally the existential question of this book.
Chernobyl by Serhii Plokhy
Having been wowed last year by the HBO mini-series about the Chernobyl disaster I had been wanting to read more about what truly happened as my childhood memory of the disaster had faded, and this book doesn't disappoint. Thoroughly researched and at times heart-wrenching it is still worth the time to read it.
If I ever want more Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich will definitely be next on my list.
Blind Man's Bluff by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew
Ever since a family friend once regaled me of some of their tales as a submariner in the 60s and 70s along with a fond reading of Tom Clancy's 'The Hunt for Red October' this book covers some of the scariest and most nefarious missions that submariners took during the Cold War.
Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
Short, sweet and to the point with some great stories and anecdotes mixed in.
Mastering the Market Cycle by Howard Marks
Dull, if you want this sort of thing 'Principles' by Ray Dalio is much better!
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff
Whilst I empathise with the principles of this book and the concerns that companies and governments are able to take advantage of inconsistent laws and rules around the world irrespective of their actions and those of their users it seems that these problems aren't necessarily as new as they are implied. This book just feels too long, OK not only feels too long, it is too long. It could have been so much more impactful and approachable if it were half the size without any perceptive drop in content or enduring message. Like Thomas Piketty's 'Capital in the Twenty-First Century' which is still on my nightstand I worry there too that most readers might only get 20 pages in before giving up.
Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
Taking this book to the extreme you should (or could) take a bet on whether this will help you with your life or is it still only down to luck. For me I felt I lost the bet.
Extreme Economies by David Davies
A worrying snapshot of the 'modern' age around the world, and surely containing more lessons from many books as to where we could be headed. I feel that a second edition in a few years will only be expanded on rather than contracted with the ever increasing level of disparity prevalent now.
Super Pumped by Mike Isaac
It's all about the "Bros", whilst we wait for the history of the WeWork debacle to be written and how Adam Newman helped bring that down (and maybe Oyo in the future) we can spend our time consoling ourselves in the self-destruction of Uber by Travis Kalanick which we find was mostly seemingly his own doing.
Whilst I don't think it ranks as highly as the Theranos scandal led by Elizabeth Holmes it's on the way there, unfortunately the book noway near matches what John Carreyrou was able to achieve with 'Bad Blood' (one of my favourite books in 2018). For all the talk of disruption of industry, the endless quest for growth and competition crushing it eventually has to be balanced out somehow.
Playing with FIRE by Scott Rieckens
I suppose this book can rub readers one of two ways, either the right way or the wrong way! For those feeling wronged by the book, it does scream of entitlement and a starting point that is already unachievable for most people, for those not it's short (that's definitely a positive) book of one couple's journey learning about what they really spend, how they might live in the future and how they improved their communication. If anything if it can educate anyone more than they are on long term financial planning that's a good thing.
Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty
It's taken me a long time to get to this book and Piketty has been able in this time to write an even longer tome ('Capital and Ideology' which weighs in at over 1000 pages) on the subject of taxes and wealth distribution. Irrespective of ones beliefs on the equitable distribution (or re-distribution) of wealth in modern society it's way too repetitive and much like Shoshana Zuboff's 'The Age of Surveillance Capitalism' could have been edited in a way to make it much more approachable to its prime audience rather than just economics students.
Bad Science by Ben Goldacre
In times where even talking about science gets an increasingly bad rap with both the general public and governments this book should practically be compulsory reading. Even though it's over 10 years old now and I'm sure if ever revised for a second edition made even more scary the stories that Ben writes about often beggar belief. How ignorance is able to spread and dubious claims are able to be advertised / marketed show a level of complacency within government which radically needs to be rectified.
The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton
There's no such thing as a clean war, every side plays dirty and this book covers a lot of these escapades during World War II from an Allied perspective. Whilst the operations and inventions described were real you may have to take some of the 'action' with a pinch of salt, if you prefer a slightly 'drier' account you may prefer The Secret War by Max Hastings.
Countdown to Zero Day by Kim Zetter
Can this be real, espionage and infiltration done from a far and found practically by accident. An impressive tale of what’s really going on these days behind the scenes. If this is what’s written about I can’t imagine what’s actually going on. Will Ben Afleck be remaking Argo for the modern age? I do also have Sandworm by Andy Greenberg waiting to be read.
Principles by Ray Dalio
Lambasted by many I really don't understand what all the fuss is about, from what I could tell this was actually quite a novel way of doing what I would call a 'business autobiography'. You could argue that any book that gives advice or explains quite how another person achieved success is never going to be structured in a way that's logical to the reader as every person thinks and works differently. A part two is mentioned often and I’ll be intrigued to see the response once it’s released.
Range by David Epstein
'Range' is me, well at least the state of mind that I perceive myself. Having though been also reading 'Meltdown' (see my next review) in parallel I was left somewhat lacking by its content. I really wanted to like it and had listened to many interviews with David prior to its publication.
Meltdown by Chris Clearfield and András Tilcsik
This is a book you read for the footnotes, throughly researched and it left me wanting more. Not one to wish for more incidents and accidents but their association with human psyche is just fascinating. Communication is hard at every level.
Moneyland by Oliver Bullough
People using loopholes are a fact of life, corruption is also too, mix that with governments meddling in both, along with a pinch of ineptitude and finally both NIMBY / YIMBY factions and you have 'Moneyland'. It feels as if Jho Low (of 'Billion Dollar Whale' fame) could have been a standard barer for pretty much every chapter of this book had Oliver covered his exploits. The sad fact that until we solve the issues of 'one rule for us', 'another rule for you' we will never get closer to clamping down on some of the more egregious financial crimes possible these days. Off the back of this I want to read more about Eurobonds but have struggled to find any interesting books, ‘The Highway to England’ is mentioned in the book but seems hard to find, for now I’ve added ‘Bonds without Borders’ by Chris O’Malley to my wish list.
Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford
Behold the end is nigh, or maybe not, sorry actually it is. One way or another we could be ruined or transformed! Innovation has been the end of us for as long as humans could write it seems so this one is still up in the air. Practically out of date before it left the presses.
The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee
The interspersion of a personal family history and the impacts of a genetic mutation weave wonderfully within a well structured telling of the discovery and influence of genes on our lives. Now a documentary on PBS in the US.
Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
Read the Epilogue for the executive summary, read the rest of the book if want the tale of how the authors get there. Whether it's of use or helpful to your own personal journey and long term planning is up to you.
Mythos by Stephen Fry
Reminded me of many years spent learning Greek mythology at school, possibly recounted and retold better than by my teachers.
Accessory to War by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Avis Lang
Really not what I was hoping for, on the one hand not enough science and on the other not enough ethics.
The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
I can understand why this might not seem like a usual Michael Lewis book but this is a perfect compliment to Daniel Kahneman's book that I read last month. I think this is better also!
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Reading, slow and boring by... this took a while to get through and just grab me in the way I hoped it would. Some fantastic anecdotes, observations and stories surrounded by endless waffle.
Turn the Ship Around! by David Marquet
Definitely a better read than most leadership management books. Add to that honest real-life situations that explain the move to leader-leader management and it works very well. Sleeping better at night because nuclear armed submarines are running efficiently is far more important than boardrooms!
Bowerman and the Men of Oregon by Kenny Moore
Having read Shoe Dog in 2018 I wanted to delve deeper into the history of Nike and understand the other man behind the shoes. Whilst ultimately more about track running in the Pacific North West it's still a fascinating story. Bill Bowerman led an amazing life and there's far more to it than Nike, the fact that it’s written by one of the runners he coached made it even more personable. As a bonus if you've ever watched Wild Wild Country this book has some interesting tidbits.
Scale by Geoffrey West
An interesting book that suffers itself from its own premise, the number of (sometimes interesting) facts and examples causes the page count of the book to scale needlessly. Much like a movie that's too long it could have easily lost the last act and have been just as entertaining and informative.
Rocket Men by Robert Kurson
I could read about the endeavours of humans getting to and being in space all day long.
Narconomics by Tom Wainwright
No Stone Unturned by Steve Jackson
Not what you'd normally find on my reading list this is though an interesting history of a novel part of forensic science. The tenacity and patience of the scientists involved to keep at what was by so many people deemed hokum is incredible and well worth reading about once you can get past the horrors of some of the crimes they end up investigating.
It's been a while since I've written properly but here are a few articles I've written in the past.
Cross border data
As time goes by, we seem to get more and more ensnared in endless loops of red tape that make us provide Personally Identifiable Information (PII) at every turn, whether requested by an airline, bank, or government, to name just a few, to the point where I think they have lost sight of its importance. Organisations can assure us that they have data-sharing agreements, follow modern security practices, and encrypt data, but these elaborate mechanisms can easily be short-circuited by other kinds of bureaucratic processes these organisations themselves require.
Since moving to the United States four years ago, I have learnt how sacred one’s Social Security Number (SSN) is. It seems to be more important than any other government-issued document anywhere on earth, and so you would think it should be guarded with one’s life, but its use is now so ingrained in American society that it’s hard to conduct almost any official transaction here, financial or otherwise, without it.
Whilst scores of companies are useless at protecting this vital piece of information, along with the rest of our PII, some at least try. Every bank I’ve worked with in the US masks this number and at most asks for it once or twice a year when making changes to one of my accounts.
But the fun starts when my UK bank also needs my SSN.
Due to possibly the most one-sided piece of legislation ever created, Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), I need to provide my SSN to the UK banks that hold my accounts. However, my UK bank seems to feel it is equivalent to the UK’s National Insurance number, which it isn’t. And whilst this is also a number that shouldn’t be bandied about, its potential for misuse is far more limited.
The aforementioned fun begins with how the UK bank requests my SSN and then manages its submission. Speaking to anyone at the bank about this process is useless, and a Little Britain “Computer says no” situation rapidly develops, when it becomes very evident their staff aren’t properly trained to deal with clients who live abroad, let alone ones who need to provide personal information to them in a secure manner, and no, I’ve repeated to them I can’t just visit a branch, but also I’m not allowed to simply provide this information over the phone to my relationship manager, someone I’ve met before and trust.
As I suspected would happen, when I follow my UK bank’s instructions, I’m taken to the website of an intermediary service, which asks me to complete a PDF online. I unhappily mulled over this for a few days as the bank’s filing deadline approached and tried to decide what would be worse: Not having full access to my accounts? Providing my SSN in an insecure way and wondering where my information may end up? Or spending the time, trouble, and money to solve this issue in person in the UK, a choice that presents the added health risk (along with ill-advisement) of travel during this current COVID-19 pandemic.
Eventually, I grudgingly choose the second option and complete their PDF online. Once I submit it I am not returned to my bank’s website; the intermediary service simply sends me an email confirmation, cc’ing various bank email addresses. And attached to this email is a copy of the PDF, now in a lovely downloadable format, containing all the information that one country deems PII and another doesn’t.
Do financial institutions in the UK, along with the intermediary services they use, not recognise the impact the misuse of this information can have on lives in another country? Or is this just sheer ignorance? How many of their other clients have been forced to go through this process? And then there’s the million-dollar question: What has happened to all of those PDFs and emails with their sensitive information, not to mention whatever database they might have ended up in?
Wherefore art your RSS feed
Whilst this might be partially a generational thing, it strikes me as strange that they don’t even seem to contemplate keeping RSS as a default plugin or an option you enable. I’m not sure if this is because of the metrics and tracking engagement often considered so important these days, but surely the more people who read your content the better, irrespective of how they do it or the way they get to your website.
I was a happy Google Reader user until that fateful day in 2013. Since then I’ve moved to using the service Feedbin and the app Reeder, which are now my primary tools for getting news; they enable me to read articles from the same sources as before and the immense number of subscriptions I have rivals the one I’ve reached thanks to my podcast addiction. Rather than having to visit a hundred different websites and newsletters to find interesting articles, it’s much more practical—and logical—to scroll through a self-curated list of RSS feeds every morning to find them.
So it irks me when a site offers no RSS option. Twice this week alone I’ve come across websites using different types of modern CMSs where RSS feeds aren’t available by default and you need to install a plugin. Call me crazy, but I actually contacted both of these sites and asked if they could add one, and, wow, did that make me feel old. I’m happy to report that they both responded graciously and granted my request. The term ‘old-timer’ was mentioned once, but I’ll take it if it gets me another feed for my reader.
And just this evening, I came across a third CMS with a beautiful blog but not a trace of an RSS feed to be found. I also have a fourth I need to investigate—but should I even try? I’m starting to get the distinct feeling that RSS feeds are really dead and gone on the newest platforms.
I understand that website owners may want to track engagement on a user-rather than platform-basis, and therefore that marketing folks prefer to get information about their conversion ratios by tracking click-throughs from LinkedIn and Facebook posts or newsletter emails. But that also assumes that people are even reading them these days. More and more content is being produced and I certainly don’t have time to read everything, but I’m also not going to subscribe to every website newsletter I see to get updates about things of interest to me only to wind up as a part of a conversion ratio or funnel in a marketing pipeline.
But the public is pushing back against this kind of tracking, if the the burgeoning number of blockers for ads, cookies, and trackers, VPN services like Guardian Firewall, privacy-focused email services like hey.com, and browsers like Mullvad Browser and Firefox are any indication. So websites are going to have to get used to everything being blocked, proxied or stripped before any link comes back to them and figure out how to track engagement in other ways.
Yet all is not lost for RSS lovers like me, who really appreciate the fact that RSS was designed to be so simple, because old stalwarts like Drupal and WordPress are still dominant website platforms. And you can be 99% sure that any site built with them will have a feed, and one which takes a bit of work to disable at that. But despite this, I do wish more of the newer CMSs and their developers would also do their part to keep this amazing standard alive. This may sound self-interested, but I really do think all internet users would benefit.
Fortunately, I don’t think that RSS will die off anytime soon, but it would be a sad day for me if the number of feeds in my reader started to decline because their websites switched to CMSs that no longer support RSS by default—or at all. But even if this doesn’t happen, I, intend to keep on nudging websites that don’t support RSS and I hope you will, too.
For the love of music
I love podcasts and subscribe to way too many for my own good. They’re my radio, my source of information, even beyond the audiobooks to which I am also addicted. And yet for the past few weeks I’ve noticed something missing in my life. I’ve seen my productivity wane during the COVID-19 lockdown, and even though I have plenty of experience working from home, it took me a while to understand one of the reasons for this. It wasn’t till I took a look at my recent last.fm scrobbles that I saw what the problem was: years’ worth of carefully curated playlists, iTunes album purchases, and “liked” tracks in Spotify just sitting there, woefully neglected.
Some people prefer to work in silence, but I’ve always needed to listen to something in the background. Twenty years ago, all I listened to was music; I could even have the same song on repeat for hours when feeling extra productive. I had playlists for different times of day, tracks for when I needed to think, tracks for when a deadline loomed, and tracks that I knew would change my mood as soon as I started playing them.
Back then podcasts were in their infancy, but internet radio was off to the races, and it started edging out music from my daily life. When I started spending significant amounts of time outside of the UK and wanted to feel some connection to home, internet radio filled this gap better than reading online news did. I would listen to replays of morning shows when it was my afternoon, and yet I felt as though I was connecting to my home in real time, or at least that’s what I would tell myself. It was like living in the future, even though I knew I was listening to the past.
That all changed though, when I got my first iPhone, Apple released its dedicated podcasts app, and internet radio seemed to drop off my particular spectrum. I started slowly, even though back then most podcasts were effectively time-shifted, on-demand radio. But boy, once I got going, one subscription turned into five, then 20, then 50, and now I subscribe to over 100 different podcasts. Obviously, I don’t listen to all the episodes of each podcast; I speed some up or even skip particular ones if I don’t find them interesting, and luckily many are seasonal or very short. These podcasts help me get through my workdays, and, in most cases, I’d rather subscribe to one of them than a newsletter.
I realised the other day, though, that things were getting out of hand when I discovered a podcast I was late to the game for, which meant downloading the whole back catalogue and starting from the beginning. So on top of all the new episodes currently getting released, I now have over 100 hours of old ones waiting to be listened to. Quite when I’ll get to them, I’m not sure.
Despite my love of podcasts, they never entirely eclipsed music in my life, and recently I’ve missed it, the emotional connection, the memories, and the stimulation that it brings me. So for the past few days I’ve cut back massively on my audiobook/podcast listening and started enjoying music again. This sounds like such a simple action, yet with a plethora of listening choices, what was staring me straight in the face was the hardest to see.
It’s been interesting to spend some time reviewing everything I’ve curated so far. When I was younger, I explored many different genres,classical to rap, jazz to heavy metal. Then, as my tastes changed, I became hooked on specific artists. Over the last decade, though, my passion for music has really grown through film and television soundtracks. They fascinate me, not only for how they often have more impact than the dialogue in a script, but also for the work that goes into producing them.
Years ago, when I was living in Russia, I saw a pre-release of Nicholas Refn’s film Drive; this was before Cliff Martinez’s scoring and music direction called for the magical addition of tracks by Kavinsky and Lovefoxx, amongst others. This pre-release had placeholder tracks by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and whilst recognisable from The Social Network, they were obviously not suited to Drive. Mental images of Jessie Eisenberg crossing the Harvard yard don’t work quite so well when you’re watching a moody Ryan Gosling pulling on his leather driving gloves. Once the film was officially released, though, it had a completely different feel to it, just because of how the soundtrack had changed.
Now that music has started to play a much stronger role in my life again, I realize that podcasts have been acting as placeholder tracks in my life: still great, loved, and not forgotten, but not suitable for how I’m currently feeling. I’m not sure how long this situation will last and whether the FOMO part of me can cope with missing out on shows I’ve been listening to for years now, but music has regained its place in my life, and I’m glad it has.
I'm a Brit in the USA, currently living in Miami Beach, Florida.Currently I'm working at Evesco as a consultant helping emerging deep tech companies, projects and technologies thrive and grow. Previously I had a software development consultancy and co-founded GemSite Solutions and ChaletManager.I love to read and also write occasionally and when I'm not working I enjoy photography and the great outdoors along with scuba diving the many wrecks off the coast of Miami.
© George Eves. All rights reserved.