What are you reading? November 2019 Edition

The weather has been turning cold in the upper parts of the US… Lots of time to sit inside and read books! What have you been reading?

We love hearing about other peoples’ book choices and adding to our ever growing reading lists.

I usually split what I’m reading into business, technical and fun books, but you are welcome to post however you’d like!

I just finished two books:

I tend to enjoy most of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, this one was alright, but I think my two favorites are still Outliers and David and Goliath.

The 7 habits book was good, but self help books are always hard for me to enjoy. It was one of the better self help books that I’ve read.

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Just finished (Professional & Personal): The idea factory, the story of bell labs. A great read through the research, inception, application, and general history of many of the things we take as standard today.

Currently reading (Professional): Systems Engineering, Kossiakoff & sweet. Pretty dry but it is for a course…

Currently listening to (DC traffic is “great” for audio books…): Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, Thomas Friedman. Seems good so far, but the jury is still out since I’m only about 10% in…

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  • Currently reading

  • Recently finished

    • Technical
    • Business
    • Enjoyment
      • Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
        • I enjoyed this book, especially since it was ready by the author and voiced by a star studded cast (Nick Offerman did the voice of George Washington, which felt fitting somehow). The author hops back and forth between the actual history and her experience relating to it at various historical places like museums and placards placed throughout the states. It was also tempered by the fact that I had just seen Hamilton in Chicago before its run was up in January, so I had other interesting insight into LaFayette’s contribution to the Revolutionary War. It’s definitely a different style of reading/listening, there were many more modern references than I would have guessed. I would try another book by Sarah Vowell though.

I took a break from Audible for a while, because my credits are running out and because I didn’t have any books that I was hoping to read. I think it shows in that I have far fewer books finished. I have been back into podcasts though and have been enjoying the Ologies Podcast.

Thanks for sharing these.
After watching the new Cosmos series, I’ve decided going back to the old one w/ Carl Sagan:

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Just now I am at the last chapter of Three Body Problem. It is a Chinese hard scifi, bunch of radio stuff, they even made a computer out of a 6 million man army of people holding flags (logic gates, etc). Not sure what to make of it yet. Unlike anything I have read. Looking forward to book no 2 in the series, that is suppose to be the best one!

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I’ll look forward to hearing about that second book. The first book was a bit too out there for my taste. Perhaps it was a translation problem, but it was a hard read for me.

I have had “A Demon Haunted World” on my list for a while. I’ll have to add Cosmos as well!

I haven’t read any of Friedman’s stuff since “The World Is Flat” back in 2004, which seemed pretty prescient. Wonder if this newer book is similar?

This was also recommended to me, but I have held off. I too liked the early Gladwell books, but his style seemed a bit repetitive, even as the content changed throughout books.

Thanks for the book recommendation. I am number 104 on 23 copies at my library. The cool thing is by the time I am notified the book is ready, I would have forgotten what this is about. It’s like this awesome gift!

Fascinated by your take, I felt the opposite! Draft No. 4 had a tremendous impact on my writing process and completely transformed some of the pieces I’m working on.

I’m currently reading a new translation of Lives of the Great Commanders and re-reading Musashi for fun.

@embeddedartistry please explain more about Draft No 4! I’m in the same camp as @ChrisGammell: I’m not getting practical/applicable advice out of it; I’d love to hear more from you!

Here are some of the lessons I took away. I have dozens of pages of notes that I’m still processing on specific points/quotes/highlights.

Perhaps context and interest matters. I write something every day, and Mon-Fri I block out 4 hours a day for writing or editing.

  • “It’s easier to get rid of someone you call Mister. Think how much harder it would be to fire someone you call Sandy.” - I laughed, and then I started using more formality in some of my business interactions for this reason
  • I have more respect for titles after reading one of the chapters, and adopted the “no subjects as title” rule for myself as a constraint (outside of blog articles, where I tend to be more direct). I also find myself paying more attention to the titles of everything I read.
  • I never drew out a “structure” to keep as a reference while I’m working. I started doing that for most things I’m working on: blog posts, journal articles, essays, courses, projects, and I find it to be really helpful to have a visual reference for the “geography” of a piece
  • I found the discussion of different narrative structures quite helpful, particularly because he provided examples that illustrated the structures quite nicely. I was really wrestling with how to structure a piece I’m working on that ties together the Therac-25, a DC-10 crash, and the Boeing 737-Max crashes. I decided on a circular arc after reading that section.
  • There was a lot of practical insight on working with sources and being a fly on the wall
  • The discussions on fact checking and quotations caused me to pay more attention to how I quote, inspire me to more accurately record information, and be more diligent about citations. I wish I could afford a fact checker for my writing.
  • The frame of reference chapter provides practical insight for anyone creating work that they’d like to last longer than 5 minutes. Works that rely too heavily on readers sharing a common frame of reference are harder to understand and susceptible to becoming outdated. I try to think more deeply about the frame of reference that is assumed for something I’m working on. What could be explicitly explained to improve the reader’s understanding? What should be left out? What will date me? What’s the lifespan of this work based on the frames of reference I’m assuming? How long do I think some of these concepts, names, languages, etc. will endure?
  • The Draft No. 4 essay is really the core of the book, I think, and gives you insight into McPhee’s actual process. I work under a similar process to him: most things that I write go through 3-4 rounds of editing before being released. I start with a raw a brain dump, followed by a re-write/restructure, and then refined further in collaboration with my wife/editor. Comparing my process to McPhee’s was interesting, and I picked up a few new ideas to try out. It’s also nice to see that it’s hard for a famous and widely-published writer, not just you.
  • Each of the essays provides points that you can extract and use when editing works for others. I’m working on an “editing checklist” to prime my mind at the times I need to be critical.
  • I’ve started to practice “greening”. Sometimes I sit down and see what I would eliminate if I was forced to remove 5%, 10%, 20%, 25%. The practice is essential, I think. I sometimes try to transform essays into journal articles, which can result in needing to cut 25% of the content. I just recently had to shorten a 50 word obituary by removing 10% of the characters, which was quite a challenge.
  • I never thought to use a dictionary to find alternate words, and now I have a good use for my nice paper dictionary that sits on the shelf.

Thanks for your detailed response! I appreciate your perspective.

I only tend to read one book at a time. Though I do start lots and then discontinue. Last month I tried the Elon Musk book but just couldn’t continue. I’m not a fan of life stories.
Currently I am reading There is no Plan B for your A-game, by Bo Eason. About 3/4 of the way through. Its very light reading, and there are some good stories from other contributors, but nothing revolutionary in it. Some interesting tidbits, like creating a 20 year plan but generally the advice is just work hard for what you want.

Technical and enjoyment are pretty much the same category for me :slightly_smiling_face:

Currently reading through the ARRL amateur radio handbook; hoping to get my ham license soon!
As I’ve been getting into an audio project recently, Art of Electronics has been an excellent reference for the analog stuff. I’m actually a bit surprised at the lack of reading I’ve been able to find on working with DSPs. Maybe I’m searching for the wrong stuff though. I’m familiar with writing embedded code, and moderately familiar with the math behind digital signal processing, but I find that examples or guides on writing your own operations for DSPs to be scarce. Maybe somebody has recommendations in that regard?

I’m also reading through some DnD 5e pre-made adventure books, in the hopes that someday I will have enough free time to run a campaign haha. And as always, I’m skimming through multiple datasheets per day :slight_smile:

I too have found “practical” DSP references hard to find, although it’s been a while since I’ve looked. Seemed like they’d always dive right into a bunch of really intimidating-looking math without describing the basic general flow - once I figured that out, I was always like “Is that all there is to it? Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” The Audio EQ Cookbook by Robert Bristow-Johnson is a succinct practical guide to implementing versatile biquads; if this is the kind of DSP you’re interested in, search google for “RBJ Audio EQ Cookbook”, I think it’s been reproduced on many sites.

Will let you know when I have read it! I am reading the English translation, agree that it is a hard read, not the best book in that regard, but the “to out there” is what keeps me in.

Your welcome! Yeah, I do the same by ordering used books from Amazon, usually I have forgotten when it arrives. Love the random surprise.