What I’ve Been Reading

Books, books, books.

1. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. Great historical fiction authored by a Pulitzer Prize winning writer who has command of every page. Set in Brooklyn during World War II, I learned a bunch about New York at that time, the mob scene, and scuba diving. The main character becomes the first female diver working on the Brooklyn docks.

2. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. My fifth or sixth book by Murakami. Kafka is totally engrossing. I read 200 pages of it straight through, in the middle of the night on a 12 hour flight. Kafka On the Shore, while set in modern day Japan, is as strange as any of his novels: cats who talk, fish fall from the sky, alter egos take on their own named characters, and characters enter others’ dreams. Murakami is peerless in his ability to create rich worlds that leave you in a trance. Critics often refer to Murakami’s novels as “dream like.” That phrase captures my reading experience 100%.

This is not a book with dozens of highlightable one-liners. But here are a few of my highlights:

“Actually, I don’t have any memories either. I’m dumb, you see, so could you tell me what memories are like?” Miss Saeki stared at her hands on the desk, then looked up at Nakata again. “Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”

I’m free, I think. I shut my eyes and think hard and deep about how free I am, but I can’t really understand what it means. All I know is I’m totally alone. All alone in an unfamiliar place, like some solitary explorer who’s lost his compass and his map. Is this what it means to be free? I don’t know, and I give up thinking about it.

“The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory.”

3. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Harari.

The first 60% is a rehash of Sapiens. The next 40% is good (I highlighted 110 sentences!) but not great. Still worth reading if you’re a fan of Sapiens (as I am) if for no other reason than to get the refresh. A few random highlights:

If and when computer programs attain superhuman intelligence and unprecedented power, should we begin valuing these programs more than we value humans? Would it be okay, for example, for an artificial intelligence to exploit humans and even kill them to further its own needs and desires? If it should never be allowed to do that, despite its superior intelligence and power, why is it ethical for humans to exploit and kill pigs?

The technological solution to such dramas is to ensure we never have uncomfortable desires. How much pain and sorrow would have been avoided if, instead of drinking poison, Romeo and Juliet could just take a pill or wear a helmet that would have redirected their star-crossed love towards other people.

We just don’t know what to pay attention to, and often spend our time investigating and debating side issues. In ancient times having power meant having access to data. Today having power means knowing what to ignore. So considering everything that is happening in our chaotic world, what should we focus on?

4. Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder. Surprisingly gripping true life account of a hedge fund manager who makes a fortune in Russia by being contrarian, and then ends up making enemies with Putin. Timely, given the state of U.S.-Russia relations.

5. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. An engaging memoir from the legendary feminist and social activist. Stories from her travels, especially her visits to college campuses across the U.S.

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