Five Books I Read This Year

Books

‘How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy’ by Jenny Odell

I read this on a plane back from Seoul, right before COVID-19 lockdowns started in NYC. One of my biggest struggles (and, later on, successes!) this year was overcoming the severe work anxiety I’ve sufferend from since graduation. Jenny’s books was a gentle, but very compelling, reminder of the many perspectives I can take on life that don’t revolve around success and failure at work.

‘Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin’s Most Dangerous Hackers’ by Andy Greenberg

I know almost nothing about computer security, but my perception of the community (based mostly on lurking infosec Twitter for a few years) is that it’s a dramatic and dangerous one. Even if that’s not fully true, ‘Sandworm’ scratched my itch for a real-world thriller nevertheless. The book is a super informative overview of the history of some cyberattacks and hacking teams I’ve been hearing about in the news ever since the 2016 US presidential election.

‘Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim is a polarizing guy, but I solidly fall in the camp of enjoying everything he writes (books, papers, raging tweets, etc.). Like his other works in ‘Incerto’, ‘Skin in the Game’ is seemingly all over the place, yet very focused at the same time. True to his statement in the first chapter, it doesn’t take more than a few dozen pages to understand the meaning of “skin in the game”; it’s a pretty simple theory, but Nassim spends a lot of time talking through the (often amusing) logical, ethical, and practical conclusions of it.

‘Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software’ by Nadia Eghbal

I thought I knew how open source really worked, until I read ‘Working in Public’. Nadia’s analysis of the open source “market” is informative and I particularly enjoyed the direct quotes from interviews with developers. However, my favorite part of the book was getting to see a bird’s-eye, very scientific view of a community that I’m technically part of but at a macro level apparently knew very little about.

‘How the Internet Really Works: An Illustrated Guide to Protocols, Privacy, Censorship, and Governance’ by Article 19

Contributing authors Mallory Knodel, Ulrike Uhlig, Niels ten Oever, and Corinne Cath. It’s just a fun, cute little illustrated guide to exactly what the title suggests. I generally knew the basics of IP, DNS, and Internet infrastructure, but ‘How the Internet Really Works’ puts everything together in an easily-followed narrative.