Worthwhile Books (Q1 2020)

These are the books I read in the first quarter (and forgot to mention last quarter) that I think are worth your time.

Cyber

  • Secrets of a Cyber Security Architect, by Brook S. E. Schoenfield. I was honored to write the Foreword, and think there’s a great deal of hard-won wisdom.
  • Sandworm, by Andy Greenberg. In depth the story of the NotPetya worm. Much of it’s been published in Wired, but seeing the story in one place was powerful.
  • Crash Override, by Zoe Quinn. I put off reading this for quite a while, and I regret that. I expected more of a polemic, or (justifiably) a re-telling of a story of traumatization. And while there were elements of that, I found Crash Override to be clear-headed, witty and insightful about the awful experiences that Ms. Quinn went through and what we all can learn from them.

Non-fiction

  • The Weather Experiment by Peter Moore is fascinating history of the very gradual process of understanding the weather. The shape of a hurricane is obvious today because of satellites, but was worked out by people writing each other letters containing observations. The existence of weather offices was highly political, and at times defunded for the offense of offering to predict the weather. There’s
    an interesting relationship to cybersecurity, in that it took quite
    some time to even figure out what was worth observing, and much more
    time to start to collect, correlate and understand it all. The benefit
    of all that work wasn’t visible at the start. I don’t think that we
    know the shape of a hurricane yet, and our fits and starts at collecting and sharing knowledge might not be capturing the right things, or making it available to the right people.
  • Tolkien in the Great War by John Garth. A mix of biography and literary criticism. I was reading this the day I learned that Christopher Tolkien had passed. Speaking of which, this article on his maps was a fascinating, and related tidbit.
  • Bad Blood. The story of Theranos. When I read these books, I play a game with myself where I ask “at what point would I quit?” In this case, the lesson that comes out is the abuse of loyalty. Theranos’ founder Holmes asked for or even demanded loyalty from those around her. Not a focus on the mission or goals, but loyalty to her. There’s a lesson in how she allowed that to trump everything else.
  • Humans Need Not Apply by Jerry Kaplan is a really interesting look at the dual rise of what the author calls synthetic intellects and forged laborers. The analysis of what that means for people is fascinating, deep and wide ranging. Importantly, he identifies ‘winner take all’ as an outcome that’s magnified by each of these developments separately, and that build on each others. The proposals to address the problems are less convincing. In this, and I mean this in a complimentary way, the work reminds me of Das Kapital. Excellent analysis of the problems with capitalism, and I don’t believe in the solutions offered.

Fiction

  • Famous Men Who Never Lived by K. Chess is a fascinating story of trans-universe refugees, settled in a world that doesn’t understand their shared heritage. Well-done storytelling and character development.
  • Torchship by Karl Gallagher is a fun story of a torchship taking on various cargos and problems after the AIs and grey goo have taken over a good chunk of the universe. The pilot uses a slide rule because computers cannot be trusted. Awesomeness. Also free if you have Kindle unlimited, easily worth it if not.
  • Children of Ruin, Adrian Tchaikovsky. The second book in a fascinating universe, this one with uplifted octopi.
  • Semiosis by Sue Burke is a multi-generational story of settlers on a planet with intelligent plans. Finalist for lots of awards. I did not love everything about this, but it stretches in interesting ways.

That’s my list! What have you read lately that was worthwhile? Please leave a comment?

Photo by Aaron Burden.

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