All books by penguin
In this follow-up to Here Comes Everybody, Shirky argues that we’re evolving from passive consumers of Seinfeld to creative makers of everything from lolcats to open source software to real-time news reporting. One can’t help but hope that the death of television is as nigh as he predicts.
Days of Reading
Proust’s meditations on reading, and the gifts that writers leave their readers. Best read slowly.
This little book from everyone’s favorite omnivore deftly defines a series of simple rules to eat by, expanding on his mantra from In Defense of Food: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
Standard Operating Procedure
Errol Morris, Philip Gourevitch
The book companion to Errol Morris’ movie of the same name. Where Morris tells the story with video and photography, Gourevitch communicates with words alone. The effect is less emotional or tactile than the film, but it’s indictment of the war is more strident.
Ways of Seeing
Based on the BBC documentary, Berger begins with a retelling of Walter Benjamin’s Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction and concludes with a brilliant analysis of modern day advertising and its roots in Renaissance-era oil painting. The text is set in Univers bold, an unusual choice that has the effect of slowing down the reading experience; the result is akin to listening to a voiceover. Two of the book’s seven chapters eschew words in favor of images, and while the quality of the printing leaves a lot to be desired, the essays prevail nonetheless.
Here Comes Everybody
I’m late to the party on this, but Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody discusses the evolution of group collaboration in the age of social media, and, conversely, the increasing irrelevance of institutions. Required reading for anyone who thinks about the ways in which technology is changing human behavior.
Cass R. Sunstein, Richard H. Thaler
A compelling little book arguing for “libertarian paternalism,” a doctrine that nudges people towards the decisions most likely to improve their lives, while maintaining their freedom to do as they choose. Most interesting for their discussions of “choice architecture,” which describes how we create the conditions under which people make choices, with obvious parallels to usability design.
A History of Reading
Manguel’s lifelong dedication to reading plays itself out in a work that follows reading from clay tablets to present day. No apology is made for a reader-centric view: “We cannot do but read. Reading, almost as much as breathing, is our essential function.” (page 7)
Jorge Luis Borges
Short, surreal little tales that experiment with the form of the story and often take the library as their subject.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Worth the hype, not because of the widely-hailed subject matter but because of the extraordinary writing.
Pynchon’s famously difficult masterpiece. I destroyed three copies in a (failed) effort to grasp it completely. But despite the challenges, the story is enormously charming; I have very warm feelings about the time I spent with it, and I still think of Byron each time I have to change a bulb.
Waiting for the Barbarians
Coetzee’s most important novel, sadly more relevant everyday. Perhaps the writer I most admire.