Worthwhile Books: Q2 2017

I’m always looking for interesting books to read. These are the books that I enjoyed enough to recommend in Q2.

Cyber

Nonfiction, not security

  • Narrative and Numbers, Aswath Damodaran. Presents a compelling approach for using narrative and numbers to discuss business valuation, but the lessons can be extended and used in many places. Also worthwhile is his focus on improving stories by testing them and seeking out contrary views.
  • The End of Average, by Todd Rose. Rose uses narrative to make the case that the mean is not the distribution, and that focusing in on averages leads to all sorts of problems.
  • A Sense of Style, Steven Pinker. I learned a number of things about how to write clearly and how the brain processes words. Some of those things will be in the next edition of Threat Modeling.
  • Starman, Jamie Doran. A biography of Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space.
  • Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo, Nicholas de Monchaux. A really fascinating socio-technical history of the Apollo Spacesuit and the interactions between NASA and their systems approaches and the International Latex Company, who at the time, mainly made women’s undergarments under the Playtex Brand. NASA was focused on manufacturing from plans, ILC fashioned from patterns. The engineered suits didn’t function as clothing. ILC once sent NASA a silent filmstrip of an space-suited employee playing football as part of their argument for their approach. (As an aside, I re-wrote the first sentence here to put the long dependent clause at the end, because of advice in Pinker, and the sentence is better for it.)

Fiction

  • Underground Airlines by Ben Winters. What if Lincoln had been shot, the civil war averted, and slavery was still legal in a “hard four” southern states? Not a breezy read, but fascinating alternate history.
  • Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer. The second book in a quartet chronicling in the 23rd century. An interestingly non-standard future with deep layers of complexity. Challenging reading because of the language, the nicknames and Palmer’s fascinating lens on gender, but easier than her first book, Too Like the Lightning. Searching this blog, I am surprised that I never linked to her excellent blog, Ex Urbe. Also, there’s a Crooked Timber seminar on the series.
  • Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress. Nancy Kress, need I say more? Apparently, I do, there’s a trilogy coming out, and the first book, Tomorrow’s Kin, is out shortly.

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