Favorite Books I Read in 2017
Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right by Angela Nagle, 2017. The criticisms and counter-criticisms that followed the book were very enlightening. One of those critiques led me to the next book.
Cultures of Darkness: Night Travels in the Histories of Transgression by Bryan D. Palmer, 2000. Not finished with this one yet, but it’s a fascinating history of the transformative power of people and groups sidelined by mainstream American culture and capitalism. The night, in metaphor and actual space, is where the marginalized are free, shielded from surveillance by mainstream power, where they can transform everything else.
Against Democracy by Jason Brenna, 2017. Also not finished with this one, but the gist is: Politics is bad for us and makes us bad for each other, so we have a moral duty to limit our political involvement, thus epistocracy is better than democracy. According to Brenna, anyway.
Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia by Anthony Townsend, 2014. The most interesting chapter for me was the one outlining the history of failed and successful attempts to connect people and places within cities in ways that can be monitored and analyzed. People and large corporations have been at this since the end of WWII.
Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions, by Brian Chritstian, 2017. This is not as dehumanizing as it sounds. It’s incredibly insightful and the author is quick to point out the limits of applying computer science principles to daily living. But where and to what extent they do apply is fascinating.
The Exile: The Flight of Osama bin Laden by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, 2017. The book description is accurate: “…remarkable, first-person testimony from bin Laden's family and closest aides, The Exile chronicles this astonishing tale of evasion, collusion and isolation.” It’s hard to remember all the dates, names, and places, but it is nonetheless a gripping tale told by Osama's family and friends.
It's in that same spirit that I read and liked Hillary Clinton's What Happened. Like Osama's tale, It's an insider's take on some crazy shit of global importance, even if you don't like or agree with the main character.
There was one book I wanted to like but could not. Joan Didion's South and West. I am from the South and am always interested in others' views of the South, especially from others who are from elsewhere. Joan Didion is from California. I can see why she is considered an artist at the level of the sentence. But I couldn't get past what felt like her stereotypical handlings of the heat, humidity, food, and supposedly strange characters and culture. Having grown up in the South I know I am overly critical of people who write about it, so I'll read this again with a more charitable eye to see if I might learn something new.
Books I bought in 2017, did not read, but wish I had and plan to in 2018
Racecraft: the soul of inequality in America by Karen Fields and Barbara Fields.
Creepiness by Adam Kotsko.
A History of Future Cities by Daniel Brook.