Reading Clay’s Ark by Octavia E. Butler.
Saturday, September 24th, 2022
Tuesday, September 20th, 2022
I like the way this work-in-progress is organised—it’s both a book and a personal website that’ll grow over time.
Saturday, September 10th, 2022
Reading Mind Of My Mind by by Octavia E. Butler.
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2022
Reading Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler.
Tuesday, August 16th, 2022
A lovely website (or web book?) dedicated entirely to colour contrast, complete with interactive illustrative widgets.
A comprehensive guide for exploring and learning about the theory, science, and perception of color and contrast.
Thursday, August 11th, 2022
Adrian brings an excellent historical perspective to the horrifying behaviour of Facebook’s in-app browsers:
Somewhere along the way, despite a reasonably strong anti-framing culture, framing moved from being a huge no-no to a huge shrug. In a web context, it’s maligned; in a native app context, it’s totally ignored.
Yup, frames are back—but this time they’re in native apps—with all their shocking security implications:
By the way, this also explains that when you try browsing the web in an actual web browser on your mobile device, every second website shoves a banner in your face saying “download our app.” Browsers offer users some protection. In-app webviews offer users nothing but exploitation.
Friday, August 5th, 2022
Reading The Alchemy Of Us by Ainissa Ramirez.
Friday, July 29th, 2022
Reading The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel.
Friday, July 22nd, 2022
Reading All Systems Red by Martha Wells.
Monday, July 11th, 2022
We have been seduced by Harari because of the power not of his truth or scholarship but of his storytelling. As a scientist, I know how difficult it is to spin complex issues into appealing and accurate storytelling. I also know when science is being sacrificed to sensationalism. Yuval Harari is what I call a “science populist.” (Canadian clinical psychologist and YouTube guru Jordan Peterson is another example.) Science populists are gifted storytellers who weave sensationalist yarns around scientific “facts” in simple, emotionally persuasive language. Their narratives are largely scrubbed clean of nuance or doubt, giving them a false air of authority—and making their message even more convincing. Like their political counterparts, science populists are sources of misinformation. They promote false crises, while presenting themselves as having the answers. They understand the seduction of a story well told—relentlessly seeking to expand their audience—never mind that the underlying science is warped in the pursuit of fame and influence.
Harari has seduced us with his storytelling, but a close look at his record shows that he sacrifices science to sensationalism, often makes grave factual errors, and portrays what should be speculative as certain.
Monday, July 4th, 2022
Reading Being You: A New Science of Consciousness by Anil Seth.
Wednesday, June 29th, 2022
I’ve mentioned before that I like to read a mixture of fiction of non-fiction. In fact, I try to alternate between the two. If I’ve just read some non-fiction, then I’ll follow it with a novel and I’ve just read some fiction, then I’ll follow it with some non-fiction.
But those categorisations can be slippery. I recently read two books that were ostensibly fiction but were strongly autobiographical and didn’t have the usual narrative structure of a novel.
Just to clarify, I’m not complaining! Quite the opposite. I enjoy the discomfort of not being able to pigeonhole a piece of writing so easily.
Also, both books were excellent.
The first one was A Ghost In The Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa. It’s sort of about the narrator’s obsessive quest to translate the Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire. But it’s also about the translator’s life, which mirrors the author’s. And it’s about all life—life in its bodily, milky, bloody, crungey reality. The writing is astonishing, creating an earthy musky atmosphere. It feels vibrant and new but somehow ancient and eternal at the same time.
By contrast, No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood is rooted in technology. Reading the book feels like scrolling through Twitter, complete with nervous anxiety. Again, the narrator’s life mirrors that of the author, but this time the style has more of the arch detachment of the modern networked world.
It took me a little while at first, but then I settled into the book’s cadence and vibe. Then, once I felt like I had a handle on the kind of book I was reading, it began to subtly change. I won’t reveal how, because I want you to experience that change for yourself. It’s like a slow-building sucker punch.
When I started reading No One Is Talking About This, I thought it might end up being the kind of book where I would admire the writing, but it didn’t seem like a work that invited emotional connection.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. I can’t remember the last time a book had such an emotional impact on me. Maybe that’s because it so deliberately lowered my defences, but damn, when I finished reading the book, I was in pieces.
Monday, June 27th, 2022
Everything old is new again:
In our current “information age,” or so the story goes, we suffer in new and unique ways.
But the idea that modern life, and particularly modern technology, harms as well as helps, is deeply embedded in Western culture: In fact, the Victorians diagnosed very similar problems in their own society.
On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder is a very short book. Most of the time, this is a feature, not a bug.
There are plenty of non-fiction books I’ve read that definitely could’ve been much, much shorter. Books that have a good sensible idea, but one that could’ve been written on the back of a napkin instead of being expanded into an arbitrarily long form.
In the world of fiction, there’s the short story. I guess the equivelent in the non-fiction world is the essay. But On Tyranny isn’t an essay. It’s got chapters. They’re just really, really short.
Sometimes that brevity means that nuance goes out the window. What might’ve been a subtle argument that required paragraphs of pros and cons in another book gets reduced to a single sentence here. Mostly that’s okay.
The premise of the book is that Trump’s America is comparable to Europe in the 1930s:
We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.
But in making the comparison, Synder goes all in. There’s very little accounting for the differences between the world of the early 20th century and the world of the early 21st century.
This becomes really apparent when it comes to technology. One piece of advice offered is:
Make an effort to separate yourself from the internet. Read books.
Wait. He’s not actually saying that words on screens are in some way inherently worse than words on paper, is he? Surely that’s just the nuance getting lost in the brevity, right?
Staring at screens is perhaps unavoidable but the two-dimensional world makes little sense unless we can draw upon a mental armory that we have developed somewhere else. … So get screens out of your room and surround yourself with books.
I mean, I’m all for reading books. But books are about what’s in them, not what they’re made of. To value words on a page more than the same words on a screen is like judging a book by its cover; its judging a book by its atoms.
For a book that’s about defending liberty and progress, On Tyranny is puzzingly conservative at times.
Saturday, June 25th, 2022
Reading The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett.
Friday, June 17th, 2022
Reading The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win by Maria Konnikova.
Sunday, June 5th, 2022
A century of sci-fi book covers.
Wednesday, June 1st, 2022
Reading A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine.
Monday, May 2nd, 2022
Reading East West Street by Philippe Sands.
Thursday, April 28th, 2022
The best climate fiction can do more than spur us to action to save the world we have — it can help us conceptualize the worlds, both beautiful and dire, that may lie ahead. These stories can be maps to the future, tools for understanding the complex systems that intertwine with the changing climates to come.