Table of Contents
Classic and Popular Fiction
For Whom the Bell Tolls (Ernest Hemingway): Interesting book about an American fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Very personal, very real, and very long. Its interesting because it feels boring but I find myself invested in the characters.
Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway): A classic. A short story with very detailed accounts of fishing and this old man’s inner thoughts. It sneakily gets your very invested in this character and takes you on an emotional journey whose details I won’t spoil here.
Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling): Modern classics coming of age story. Excellent world building with a few plot holes, but the story, themes, and struggle are timeless and excellent.
Twilight (Stephenie Meyer): Read them not great but entertaining and that’s really all you want sometimes.
Fifty Shades of Gray (E. L. James): Read them not great but entertaining and that’s really all you want sometimes.
The Jealous Kind (James Lee Burke): An excellent book set in 60s Houston that takes a strong willed kid and pits him against the mob
The Century Trilogy (Ken Follet): An excellent period epic that starts at WWII and goes through the Cold War looking through the eyes of a variety of characters and families.
Black Moses (Alain Mabanckou): An interesting story from a legendary author about that takes you through the history of the Congo starting in the 70s. It is about a boy who grows up in an orphanage and you follow him through adulthood. Weird ending though.
Catastrophe and other Stories (Dino Buzzati) – A collection of short stories by a famous Italian writer. They build up on some tense theme or anxiety until it ends abruptly. Some of the stories are very captivating and its interesting to have such short stories build up so quickly.
Your duck is my duck (Deborah Eisenberg) – A collection of short stories, but these are more dramas and kind of the indie vibe feel. Very good work building up characters in such a quick time span and as seems to be the theme with short stories building up the momentum and then fizzling away.
“House of the Rising Sun” (James Lee Burke) – A book about a Texas ranger between the Pancho Villa and WWI, a love triangle, a good but abandoned son and plenty of other characters. It is a fascinating book with quick digestible if a bit stylized that makes this for a very fun read with engrossing characters. I like other books this author makes as his books are usually set in Texas in some time period or another.
Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) – Nigerian blogger breaks up with her Princeton black boyfriend to go Nigeria. Emails ex. Her ex struggled after finishing University at Oxford, but rode the coattails of a corrupt (although everyone is) business to become rich and start his perfect family with the proper social class of wife (very jealous) but feels like its undeserved and empty. Prediction: the girl will mess up dudes life, but end up fine in the end and vindicated in her decision to come home. The dude will either lose everything but feel happy about it because it was empty all along or become the new dude people ride the coattails of more money etc. but feel even emptier.
To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee): A classic, possibly my favorite book. A book that could only be told in America about coming of age, justice, and mercy.
Rolling Thunder Hear My Cry (Mildred D. Taylor): Another modern classic that could only be written in America. The other side of the coin of to Kill a Mockingbird. A heartbreaking tail of struggle and persistence.
Science Fiction and Similar Fiction
The Forever War (Joe Haldeman): Legendary classic Sci Fi Book. Legendary excellent ideas including regeneration and the origins of the Mjonir armor from Halo. Written as a critic of the Vietnam War one of the first forever wars that unfortanetly still exist today.
Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card): A Sci-Fi classic about a war against an alien species waged by extraordinary brain power from children generals. Very good.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Robert A. Heinlein): Excellent idea of AI sentience and the hard life on an extra-planetary colony. Also the power struggle between a major power (Earth) and her colonies (Moon). Just drop rocks on them.
Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell): Classic Dystopian Sci-Fi book about Big Brother.
Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury): Been a while but remember it being about book burning and a critique on censorship and educational ostracism.
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley): Also a while but I remember this book being weird and about social conformism with a social outcast as the subject.
Animal Farm (George Orwell): Another Orwellian classic this time as a critique against communism using animals as an allegory.
The Thrawn Trilogy (Timothy Zahn): Probably the best books of the Star Wars Extended Universe. It introduces amazing new species and probably the best military commander on the enemy side since Vader himself. Highly Recommend.
Artemis Fowl (Eoin Colfer): Excellent and slightly underrated kid series that mixes fantasy and science in a unique way. Really dives in some sustainability issues, humanities flaws and also technological push to get better
Artemis (Andy Weir): An interesting heist store set on a colony on the moon with a very interesting object to steal and political intrigue
Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star (Pierce Brown): An excellent dystopian scifi book trilogy that chronicles the human race centuries in the future. It is a dystopia for the lower classes but a utopia for the higher ones. A trump era book that also incorporates how to become more egalitarian and keep order. Interestingly interested in how to transition rather than just revolt. Also a very compelling series hard to put down.
“Rendezvous with Rama” (Arthur C. Clarke) – A legendary book about science fiction this one explores a space ship misidentified as an asteroid as it enters orbit with our sun. A crew goes to explore this artificially created world the size of an asteroid to uncover the secrets of the alien civilization that built it. Although there is no conflict between humans or other species this book builds a wonderous world of new futuristic technology stays true to our laws of physics and explains how we as humans would interact with this type of event.
Super Extra Grande (Yoss aka Jose Miguel Sanchez) – A quick witty book about humans and other aliens species after they figure out faster than light travel and set out to settle worlds. He is a biologist so his character is a veterinarian biologist who specializes in absurdly large creatures. A tale of work and love and acceptance in a much bigger universe. The use of Spanglish as the official language was cool but to get through at times. The tech and the world building were pretty good in such a short book. And the plot progression was fun even with the absence of chapters. I liked it.
Cyber World: Tales of Humanity’s Tomorrow (Joshua Voila): A re-imagining of the cyberpunk genre via a collection of short stories from various writers. As with any collection some where OK, but the ones that are good are amazing. Recommend .
A Memory Called Empire (Arkady Martine): Excellent Sci-Fi book, great drama intrigue and world building recommend.
Science and Engineering History or Futures
America the Ingenious: How a Nation of Dreamers, Immigrants, and Tinkerers Changed the World (Kevin Baker)
An excellent book chronicling America’s inventions and how they changed the world and also what is on the brink of horizon
Dreams of Iron and steel: 7 Wonders of the 19th century: Went from Brooklyn bridge to the Panama Canal to the great Eastern stories of how some of the greatest wonders of the 19th century were built
Convergence: the Idea at the Heart of Science – (Peter Watson): Excellent book of almost all sciences converging and gives glimpses into the future
50 Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy (Tim Harford) – Harford goes into depth about how these 50 inventions shook up existing industries and laid a path for how our economy works today. He highlights superstar economies where 1 great person can reach everyone with technology lowering the worth of the middle class of performers. He breaks his book up into 7 sections.
- The first section winners and losers highlights the gramophone allowing artist to sell copies of themselves ad nausem, barbed wire, and google search and how they all influence business.
- Reinventing How We Live, with woman centric inventions like tv dinner, baby formula, and the pill as well as video games and AC.
- New systems like the bar code the cold chain the shipping container and tradable debt.
- Ideas about Ideas like Cuneiform, public key cryptography, and IP
- Where Inventions Come From and how modern inventions are a collaboration between government, academia and industry like the iphone, radar, and fertilizer.
- The Visible Hand – where government influences inventions for good and nil like with leaded gasoline and banking.
- And Inventing the Wheel inventions old and new that make life easier like paper, paper money, the S bend , insurance and index funds.
- Also special shout outs to the plow in the beginning for kicking off humanities switch to agriculture and the light bulb for allowing humans to work at night and other poorly lit times improving our productivity exponentially
Soonish: An excellent book detailing the future, self driving cars, cheap space flight, bioprinting, brain implants and more. Great real life source material for sci fi.
Cheap Access to Space (Ram Jets Space Elevator), Asteroid Mining, Fusion Power, Programmable Matter, Robotic Construction, Augmented Reality, Syntheic Biology, Precision Medicine, Bioprinting, Brain-Computer Interfaces, Quantum Computing, Mirror Humans
Inventing the 20th Century: 100 Inventions that Shaped the Modern World (Stephan van Dilken)
A good book detailing various inventions from the 20th century that are either precursors to modern inventions or are being used to today
Quartz: The objects that power the modern economy (Xana Antunes)
A good book highlight modern technologies and how they affect modern life, from pixel sensors to refrigerated shipping containers (reefer), neurotropics, batteries and blockchain.
Writing, Data Visualization, and Other Creative Arts
Elements of Style: An English book that spells out simple rules for writing.
- Such as join independent clauses that aren’t connected with a conjunction with a semicolon. It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town by nightfall.
- Use a colon after an independent clause to introduce a list of particulars or an illustrative quotation, but do not separate a verb from its compliment. From: Your dedicated whittler requires: a knife… To: Your dedicated whittler requires three props: a knife, a piece of wood, and a back porch.
- Use a dash to set off an abrupt break or interruption and to announce a long appositive or summary. Example: The rear axle began to make a noise – a grinding, chattering, teeth-gritting rasp.
- Modal auxiliaries – Any of the verbs that combine with main verb to express necessity (must), obligation (should), permission (may), probability (might), possibility (could), ability (can), tentativeness (would).
- Use the active voice, it shortens sentences and makes them more forceful.
- Put statements in positive form changing: he was not very often on time. To: He usually came late.
- Use definite concrete language: A period of unfavorable weather set in to: It rained every day for a week.
- Omit needless words and keep emphatic words at the end.
- Also, for style place yourself in the background and make your nouns and verbs count; don’t lean on adjectives and minimize adverbs.
“On Writing”, (Stephen King): Excellent and personal book by Stephen King on how to write novels.
How to Rap: A good book that goes through raps history and some of its basic techniques.
How to Write a Scientfic Paper (Gastel): This is a good manual for how to write a scientific paper. It goes through the IMRAD format (Abstract, Intro, Methods, Results, Discussion). It also goes through formatting font size how to submit, and other types of writing. Great manual.
Information is Beautiful / Knowledge is Beautiful (David McCandaless)
Both excellent infographic books detailing a variety of subjects in inspiring infographics
Take Off Your Pants: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing (Libbie Hawker)
An excellent book clearly explaining what makes a story is the progression of its main character. She clearly goes through examples of how story is really a case of a character learning lessons and working to a goal and that the plot pushes the character along. Its a short read,but does an excellent job of describing what makes a good story and by extension a good book.
Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Lisa Cron)
This book is written by a literary agent who does a good job explaining why so many talented writers who come across her desk never get published. In the same vein as the Libby Hawker book she explains why character progression is the most important part of a story and the plot simply guides her along. However, she goes more in depth and gives you a formula to follow to ensure your character and therefore story progress.
City Planning, Urbanism, and Environmentalism
The Works: Anatomy of a City (Kate Ascher): A good and very visual book showing how a city runs
Triumph of the City (Edward Glaeser) – A book with good economic foundation on how why cities foster innovation and produce capital. 1) It looks at how some third world countries that foster education innovate (Bangalore). 2) How some former great cities stagnated as they specialized and didn’t have the ability to diversify later on (Detroit). 3) Why slums are good, because the rural areas were worse. 4) Why industrial hygiene on a city is so important sewers and clean streets, saves from diseases 5) How they support local arts and other acts that could only be possible if the costs were shared with thousands or millions of people 6) Why skyscrapers and building up keeps housing costs and people close together in a nice density. 7) Why sprawl happen due to the highway and why it could be bad but also why people want it . 8) Why cities are more environmentally friendly because people can share resources use less land and distribution costs are cheap. 9) How cities with limitations succeed Tokyo, Singapore, Boston, etc. 10) How polices could help cities grow, but the idea is always to help poor people not invest in the poor place.
Power Hungry: The Myths of Green Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future” by (Bryce)
A very interesting take on the energy mix that is short-sighted and reactionary. It did not age well.
“Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era” (Lovins)
A very intriguing well thought out book about how to reduce the GHG footprint by embracing solar, wind, improving efficiencies for automobiles, improving buildings energy profile and improve insulation and embracing new technologies. Despite being relatively dated its ideas stand up pretty well.
The Pan Industrial Revolution (Richard D’Aveni) – This book talks about how AM is the future and allows economies of scope that will eventually also be of scale. It basically is a giant advertisement for 3D printing. And its premise was easily ascertained in the first chapter. Basically companies with AM will be able to produce anything anywhere and get such huge advantages they will take over the world. That might be dubious but thinking of the manufacturing in terms of economies of scope and economies of scale is worth reading the first few chapters which is as far as I got.
Palaces for the People (Eric Klinenberg) – This book examines the importance of social infrastructure on communities and how it makes them more resilient in bad times and prosperous in good times. He examines places to gather (libraries being the main ones), safe spaces (focusing on correcting blight), learning together (focusing on university’s responsibility to their community), healthy bonds (focusing on the opioid crisis), common ground (focusing on civic organizations), storm resiliency.
The Option of Urbanism (Christopher Leinberger) – This book goes into the history of the rise of suburbia and how it is supported by infrastructure policies, tax policies, and zoning laws. Furthermore, it goes into the history of cities and explains that walkable urbanism was more or less the only form of a city for thousands of years. This book doesn’t simply say that the suburbs shouldn’t exists, but details why there should be a choice, the consequences of being an only suburban nation, and what the future could be if we changed or if we didn’t. This book was written before the housing crisis of 2008 and yet it still reads as a lesson of that time. Excellent book with good technical and legal terms describing how different city forms are built and the pros and cons of each type
A Framework for Geodesign (Carl Steinitz) – This book introduces the idea of geodesign and outlines the framework for implementing it. Geodesign is both a verb that means to change geography by design and a noun that means a purposeful plan for the future. Geodesign is interdisplanary by nature and requires working with normally siloed disciplines. This book talks about how these different professionals can collorborate, how to implement geodesign in the real world, shows case studies where it was implemented, and talks about how it can be taught and expanded in the future. The framework includes 6 questions answered by six models. They are:
- How should the study area be described in content, space, and time? Answered by a representation model which determines how much data is needed to represent the system in the model.
- How does the study area operate? Answered by a process model that describes how the system works and interacts with other parts of the system. There are 8 levels of complexity they are direct, thematic, vertical, horizontal, hierachical, temporal, adaptive, and behavorial.
- Is the current study area working well? Answered by an evaluation model that looks at the attractiveness, vulnerability, and risk inherent in an area.
- How might the study area be altered? Answered by a change model that distills the from the vision through the strategy and tactics to an action. Change models can be described by 8 different strategies: anticipatory, participatory, sequential, constraining, combinatorial, rule-based, optimized, agent-based, and mixed.
- What differences might the changes cause? Answered by an impact model that evaluates the economic, environmental, social, etc. impacts of a change.
- How should the study area be changed? Answered by a decision model usually run by decision makers that accesses the cultural and regional qualities of an area.
More information can be found at this wiki: http://geodesignwiki.com/tiki-index.php?page=Steinitz+Framework+for+Geodesign
Makeshift Metropolis (Witold Rybczynski): Good book on how cities are formed, how they occur naturally, how designed neighborhoods and developments can fail, and how they can succeed. Good description of how more humble planning rather than detailed central planning is more effective at creating good cities.
Historical, Political, or Economics
Smoke and Mirrors, (Dan Baum): Pretty Good book about how the war on drugs was politically motivated and has exploded the prison population even today
The Undercover Economist (Tim Harford) – This is one of Harford’s most well known books as it delves in how to apply basic economic principles into just about every facet of life. It goes into length about incentives and disincentives signaling and how sellers try to get buyers to reveal how much they would really pay for something. Examples from coffee, to supermarkets, to bidding on Europe’s telecom infrastructure, to how corruption stunts countries, to globalization, to how china become middle class. Excellent book that applies economics to real life.
The New Jim Crow, (Michelle Alexander): How mass incarceration has the same effect as Jim crow.
Heads I win Tails I win: Why smart investors fail and how to tilt the odds in your favor: Good book detailing sound investment strategies and how to avoid pitfalls.
The Entrepreneurial State (Mariana Mazzucato): A very good book on how innovation isn’t at the hand of businesses or VCs, but has been invested in at the very beginning during the highest risk stages by the government. In fact, the government not only invests in the basic science that might eventually turn into a big innovation, but also creates a market for those innovations when they are prohibitively expensive. On the other hand, business and VCs benefit from these public risks and privatize the rewards at the expense of all other stakeholders including the government and in most cases their own workers. Managing the proper allocation for rewards commiserate with the risks undertaken is of vital importance as the government takes a more active reward in key innovations especially in the green economy. Excellent book, a bit dry, but go overs modern economic concepts and explains a lot of the problems and mindsets that are hurting innovation that will need to be overcome.
How the Other Half Banks (Mehrsa Baradaran): An excellent book detailing the history of the American banking system, its original purpose, how it changed over time, how power was checked throughout history, and why new methods are needed for the modern age. It reads as part history book, part case study, and part solution. It doesn’t only highlight the struggles everyday people face when they are frozen out of the mainstream banking sector and are forced to go to payday lenders, but it shows why institutions do or don’t serve the under-banked and how policy relates to that. The book then calls for a new solution to this modern problem, but uses history as a lesson for why this is the solution for now and not any other solution before.
The Prince (Machiavelli) – From the introduction Machiavelli had interesting perspectives about people, power, and political systems. He was educated as a humanist but contradicted many of their viewpoints. For instance, the Prince is short and simple not eloquent as the humanists preferred. He valued experience over learning as he repeats throughout the Prince especially in the chapters regarding inheriting or otherwise acquiring territories when you have no experience to draw upon. He believed in deeds over words and platitudes and valued deception when necessary over integrity. His instructions are an objective science of what politics actually is rather than a humanist view of what politics should be.
He constantly addresses certain dichotomies in life like virtue vs. fortune, choice vs. necessity, shame vs. glory, and following vs. breaking rules. He has an interesting way of defining virtue not as someone with integrity, but someone who is skilled, so skilled he accomplishes his aims almost by any means possible. He believes in self-governance when possible but also believes in some occasions a princely state is the better form of government. Furthermore, he defines the plebs (common man) as those who only want security, the popolo (politically active people) as true citizens who are active in politics, and the grandi (leaders) those who actually lead. How he suggests to balance these ideals, these groups of people, and your own goals is the key to becoming a virtuoso and explains the longevity of his works.
God Save Texas (Lawrence Wright) – An excellent book that goes through the past, present, and possible future of Texas with colorful anecdotes and chilling stories. Wright is a master storyteller that takes us through the far past of Texas and the recent past of Texas to provide perspective on how Texas could look in the future. He tackles its racist past, explores the good and bad of the oil booms and busts, recognizes the amazing progress it has made in expanding its economy, highlights the increasing diversity, shows how the conservative movement in Texas has solidified its power for good or ill, and how all these developments not only affect Texas but the future of America herself. Somehow even while fitting in all the political and social implications he found time to explore the art and music scene of Texas as well. As a Pulitzer prize winning write but also a Texan, Wright wrote an incredible book that reads as part historical thriller, part travel guide, and part social commentary that is required reading for all Texans and those interesting in seeing the direction the nation is heading.
How Rich Countries Got Rich … and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor (Erik S. Reinert): Excellent book that goes over the history of economics, how industrialization actually worked, what modern industrialized countries did to become industrialized, and how they are preventing developing countries from doing the same. This is a must read for anyone who wants a good foundation in economics and how to help the developing world.
Melting Pot or Civil War? (Reihan Salam): Good book that really dives into the immigration discussion with well reasoned and even experienced points. He believes that assimilation of immigrants is essential rather than the creation of a underclass of immigrants which would breed racialization, resentment, and possibly civil war. Even beyond the argument he makes the book is worth the read for the explanation of the technical aspects of immigration. Good read.
Dream Hoarders (Richard Reeves): Good book whose point has been parlayed into numerous articles across the interwebs. Basically the upper middle class has through their political power voted in benefits for them and restricted other groups further down the ladder from accessing them walling off their gains. This is shown in things like the shortage of affordable housing vs. the many affluent suburbs and how those same neighborhoods are usually the only one with good schools. A great investigation of inequality beyond just the top 1%.
Textbooks and Other Formal Education Sources
A First Course in Probability – Pretty good descriptions and examples of all the stuff we learned in class. Some detail is missing but the notes should fill that in.
Operations Research Models and Methods (Jensen, Bard)– Despite the obvious plug actually pretty good description of almost all the stuff we’ve covered and probably some stuff more advanced in OR
Introduction to Industrial and Systems Engineering (Robert Wayne Atkins): Excellent book that simply and concisely explains the foundations of industrial engineering. Great learning and reference book
Introductory Econometrics with Applications (Ramu Ramanathan) – Didn’t use it in class or otherwise but apparently its free and considering how much I learned could be a good reference
Integer Programming (Wosley) – Pretty good shows the basics of integer programming and the theory behind it. A plus.
Modeling and Stochastic Methods (Kulkarni) – Kind of a rough read but once you understand the theory its good to go back to the examples as they make much more sense.
Linear Programming – The first five chapters lay out the basics of linear programming really well recommend.
Stochastic Processes (Ross)- In addition to the book this clarified things much better and was much better at explaining renewal processes.
The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast (Kaufman) – This book lays out a quick formula for how to become reasonably proficient at anything relatively quickly. It is extremely helpful for powering through the part of learning where you are bad at your task and ending up somewhere where you are proficient. The first 40 or so pages give you all you need to know about the technique and the rest of the book are interesting examples of this technique in practice. The book is worth alone for those first 40 pages.
Advocacy (John Daly) – An incredible book on how you can get your ideas across. It sounds simple but no matter how good your idea is if you no one will listen to it, it won’t be implemented. This book delves into the psychology of why some ideas are implemented and other aren’t, how people perceive you and your brand shapes how they think of your ideas, and how to shape your message and improve your brand so that they listen to your idea. Its an excellent book part business, part psychology, and completely relevant and helpful for all professions.