Books Read in 2019
Between the World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates — Styled as a letter to his teenage son, Coates discusses and illuminates — especially for non-black readers — the cruel, harsh reality (destruction, dispossession, and disembodiment) of being “drafted into the black race,” and dispels the illusion of America as some shining city on a hill. Incredibly evocative.
The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller — Miller's seminal, blockbuster work, this book is something that I think everyone can relate to in some part (or at least acknowledge its powerful, inescapable conclusions) regarding the cyclical nature of parenting, i.e. how we unintentionally reproduce/internalize behaviors (often undesirable) in our own children. Most importantly, she offers us the tidbit from her own decades of experience as a psychologist that the only solution for individuals tormented by their childhood - which is basically everyone, in some way or another — is much-needed but much-avoided internal dialogue.
The Coddling of the American Mind by Lukianoff & Haidt — An expanded version of their original 2015 article, but goes into much greater detail explaining 6 potential causes of the recent safetyism/victimhood culture arising on campuses and spelling out why it's problematic for kids today. Basically, it makes them fragile.
The Wisdom of Finance by Mihir Desai — Explains basic financial concepts through various cultural references (history/lit/music/movies) in order to humanize it. The ideas of living life with or without leverage (comparing Jeff Koons' and Orwell's approaches), and seeing the principal-agent problem in parenting, were particularly thought-provoking.
My Twentieth Century by Kazuo Ishiguro — Kazuo Ishiguro’s acceptance speech for his 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature (transcript). Explains the thought-process and chronology behind his books, especially interesting if you've read Remains of the Day and/or The Buried Giant.
The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis — Lewis uncovers some of the hidden complexities of the US government in this book, taking examples from the Department of Energy (half of whose budget goes towards maintaining the nuclear arsenal, namely waste), the Department of Commerce (which is misnamed, it should really be the Department of Data — all of weather data comes from sub-department NOAA), and the Department of Agriculture (whose $200B bank funds rural development). Basically, the book is about short-termism and through reading it one uncovers how Trump might be the epitome (both indirectly (lack of preparation) and directly (continued ignorance)) of it. Honestly, terrifying.
The Buy Side by Turney Duff — Duff, a journalism major from Ohio State vividly recounts his experiences as a buy-side trader on Wall St from the 90s to the 00s. What makes this book so entertaining is Duff’s ability to write what is presumably a factual account of his own experiences and his willingness to go to into incredibly sordid details regarding his cocaine/alcohol addiction, which his book suggests is the norm of Wall St’s buy-side (at least back then). I was fascinated by his crediting his success to his interpersonal skills — something which I imagine has in no small part have to do with him being the only son (of a demanding, cold father, see Drama of the Gifted Child but youngest of 4 children…