The 2020 Reading Thread

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#21

Post by Marilink » Tue Feb 18, 2020 8:35 pm

Booyakasha wrote:
Tue Feb 18, 2020 7:12 pm
Just saw David Wong is doing a sequel to 'Futuristic Violemce and Fancy Suits' this year. Maybe I'll go reread the first one, just to get all het up and silly about it.
I just picked up a copy of "John Dies at the End" on UN's recommendation. I look forward to getting into it.

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#22

Post by Booyakasha » Wed Feb 19, 2020 9:33 am

It's a trip. Hope you dig it, man.
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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#23

Post by United Nations » Tue Feb 25, 2020 4:50 pm

United Nations wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 6:54 pm
Last year I read more than 52 books, but I didn’t keep track so I just know it was ~62-64. I’d like to keep track in this thread better, so here’s my first book of the year.

1. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

I’m a certified Osage, so I loved reading about my tribe’s history, even though it was more than tragic. It was horrifying what white people will do when a minority group becomes wealthier than any of them. Worth the read even though it still has me shivering about lack of human decency.
2. Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

It’s the sequel to Children of Blood and Bone. A fantasy series featuring people of color used as an allegory for police brutality. It’s so good minus the love stories.

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#24

Post by Heroine of the Dragon » Wed Feb 26, 2020 7:34 pm

Just finished The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. Now to tackle it in Hungarian... A Dzsungel Könyve. :D
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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#25

Post by I am nobody » Fri Feb 28, 2020 5:18 pm

3. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer (2/28)

I got this thinking it'd be the WWII equivalent of what A World Undone was to WWI, but the title should've been a hint. It was written in 1960 and based on Nazi documents captured at the end of the war, and as such it's for an audience that largely lived through the war and with source material only concerned with the German perspective. The result is a book that mentions major events like Stalingrad or the Normandy landings only in passing, and instead focuses on the minute details of the political situation in Germany and, occasionally, the relationship with Italy. That said, while it isn't what I expected it to be, I still think it's valuable to have such an extensive look (it's 57 hours long) at how the Nazis came to power and ultimately undid themselves. There's a lot to learn here about how dictatorships come to be, and the varying reactions of the top officials as everything comes down around them are fascinating. It also devotes a fair amount of time to the anti-Nazi plot that ultimately became Operation Valkyrie, which came far closer to succeeding than I realized. War crimes and the Holocaust come up less than I'd expect, although still in significant detail, and I assume that's because everyone already knew about them in 1960.

Having said all that, I get the impression that the author was an immensely unpleasant person. He claims to have written the book as objectively as possible, yet makes constant broad generalizations about entire nations, dismisses many figures as fools without backing that up, and is weirdly obsessed with making minor personal insults against men who are literally the Nazis. He misses no opportunity to call gay men (and it's only ever men) perverts and on multiple occasions implies that a group, which is again literally the actual Nazis, is somehow degraded by their presence, on one occasion stating the early party attracted "murderers, blackmailers, and homosexuals", and he makes no mention of them later being targeted in the Holocaust. The Roma and disabled are similarly left unmentioned. My version contained two afterwords, one written in the 60's in which he dismisses academic historians' reviews of the book except for one that was positive, and blames comparatively poor sales in Germany on a false belief that the book was anti-German. Putting aside he can barely go a page without describing the German people collectively as, at best, "easily fooled", he then proves the point in the later afterword where he suggests the newly reunified Germany would quickly start a third war, and that only the threat of nuclear weapons can prevent that.

All of which is to say it's a pretty good book that would greatly benefit from being abridged to remove most traces of the author.

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#26

Post by Valigarmander » Fri Feb 28, 2020 6:08 pm

10. Open Borders: The Science and Etihics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan & Zach Weinersmith - ★★★☆ (Feb 6)
11. A Little History of Economics by Niall Kishtainy - ★★★☆ (Feb 10)
12. Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey by GB Tran - ★★★★ (Feb 18)
13. Giants of the Lost World by Donald R. Prothero - ★★★☆ (Feb 19)
14. One More Year by Simon Hanselmann - ★★★☆ (Feb 21)
15. The Rabbi's Cat 2 by Joann Sfar - ★★★☆ (Feb 27)

I do love me some graphic memoirs.

2020 reading list:
Spoiler.
1. Megahex by Simon Hanselmann - ★★★☆ (Jan 7)
2. Dinosaurs Rediscovered by Michael J. Benton - ★★★☆ (Jan 9)
3. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi - ★★★★ (Jan 9)
4. The Complete Peanuts: 1950-1952 by Charles M. Schulz - ★★★☆ (Jan 15)
5. How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt - ★★★☆ (Jan 15)
6. Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir & Steenz - ★★☆☆ (Jan 18)
7. Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit - ★★★☆ (Jan 23)
8. Fables: The Mean Seasons by Bill Willingham, et al. - ★★★☆ (Jan 23)
9. Fables: Homelands by Bill Willingham, et al. - ★★☆☆ (Jan 30)
10. Open Borders: The Science and Etihics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan & Zach Weinersmith - ★★★☆ (Feb 6)
11. A Little History of Economics by Niall Kishtainy - ★★★☆ (Feb 10)
12. Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey by GB Tran - ★★★★ (Feb 18)
13. Giants of the Lost World by Donald R. Prothero - ★★★☆ (Feb 19)
14. One More Year by Simon Hanselmann - ★★★☆ (Feb 21)
15. The Rabbi's Cat 2 by Joann Sfar - ★★★☆ (Feb 27)

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#27

Post by Marilink » Fri Mar 13, 2020 11:05 am

6. NFL Century by Joe Horrigan

I picked a good time to get interested in Sports History, since Sports is currently cancelled indefinitely. This book was good at giving the sweeping overview of the history of the NFL. Horrigan occasionally would get into greater detail, like when he dedicated an entire chapter to The Immaculate Reception. Those were the most enjoyable parts. I skimmed the sections about owners, TV deals, and commissioners because those are the things I’m least interested in. When he talked more about the players, specific games, specific plays, and personal stories, that’s when I got more interested.

7. NFL 100: A Century of Pro Football

This was a collection of high-resolution photographs and sports article clippings from across the years, including statistical breakdowns by decade. It was shorter and less detailed than NFL Century, but it also focused much more on the things I care about: players and their stories. There were even 4 two-page spreads dedicated to Detroit Lions (Bobby Lane, Joe Schmidt, Barry Sanders, and Calvin Johnson), which was appreciated after they were basically relegated to a footnote in Horrigan’s book (5 indexed citations in the whole book, 7 if you count the Portsmouth Spartans). I was also pleased to see some writing included from one of my favorite and most shockingly eloquent sports writers, Spencer Hall. This book was a great read with a lot of amazing photos to enjoy, too.

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#28

Post by Marilink » Wed Mar 25, 2020 1:53 pm

8. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

This book was so good. I'm familiar with a lot of the tenets that this book puts forward about baseball--the overvaluing of RBI's and batting average, the benefit of looking at players in terms of OBP and OPS, the fact that you should never steal and never bunt, thinking of pitchers as "out-getters," and so on. But to go back to the book that really codified the philosophy for much of the baseball world was pretty eye-opening. I should have read it sooner. I can imagine a world in which I didn't grow up into a Detroit Tigers family and I become a diehard fan of the Oakland A's purely because of this book. I'm about to say the most no-brainer, unoriginal thing I've ever said in my entire life: this book is a must-read for any baseball fan.

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#29

Post by Valigarmander » Tue Mar 31, 2020 8:40 pm

16. We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates - ★★★☆ (Mar 2)
17. The Fixer and Other Stories by Joe Sacco - ★★★☆ (Mar 12)
18. Bad Gateway by Simon Hanselmann - ★★★☆ (Mar 17)
19. Fatherland by Nina Bunjevac - ★★☆☆ (Mar 23)
20. Block Party by David Daneman, et al. - ★★★☆ (Mar 24)
21. Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin - ★★★☆ (Mar 26)

Sloooowly working through my backlog.

2020 reading list:
Spoiler.
1. Megahex by Simon Hanselmann - ★★★☆ (Jan 7)
2. Dinosaurs Rediscovered by Michael J. Benton - ★★★☆ (Jan 9)
3. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi - ★★★★ (Jan 9)
4. The Complete Peanuts: 1950-1952 by Charles M. Schulz - ★★★☆ (Jan 15)
5. How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt - ★★★☆ (Jan 15)
6. Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir & Steenz - ★★☆☆ (Jan 18)
7. Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit - ★★★☆ (Jan 23)
8. Fables: The Mean Seasons by Bill Willingham, et al. - ★★★☆ (Jan 23)
9. Fables: Homelands by Bill Willingham, et al. - ★★☆☆ (Jan 30)
10. Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan & Zach Weinersmith - ★★★☆ (Feb 6)
11. A Little History of Economics by Niall Kishtainy - ★★★☆ (Feb 10)
12. Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey by GB Tran - ★★★★ (Feb 18)
13. Giants of the Lost World by Donald R. Prothero - ★★★☆ (Feb 19)
14. One More Year by Simon Hanselmann - ★★★☆ (Feb 21)
15. The Rabbi's Cat 2 by Joann Sfar - ★★★☆ (Feb 27)
16. We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates - ★★★☆ (Mar 2)
17. The Fixer and Other Stories by Joe Sacco - ★★★☆ (Mar 12)
18. Bad Gateway by Simon Hanselmann - ★★★☆ (Mar 17)
19. Fatherland by Nina Bunjevac - ★★☆☆ (Mar 23)
20. Block Party by David Daneman, et al. - ★★★☆ (Mar 24)
21. Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin - ★★★☆ (Mar 26)

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#30

Post by Marilink » Sun Apr 19, 2020 11:05 pm

9. Al Kaline: The a Biography of a Tigers Icon by Jim Hawkins

I ordered this book on Amazon the day that Al Kaline passed away last month. I wanted to learn more about the man who was and still is synonymous with my favorite baseball team. I’m glad I did it, even though the writing left something to be desired every now and again. (The writer was very old school, constantly mentioning pitcher Win-Loss records and RBI as if those stats actually mean anything. He also made constant reference to Mickey Lolich being “rotund” and “portly” or having an “ample belly” over and over again.) I absolutely appreciate Kaline more now in a way that I wish it didn’t take me until his death to realize.

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#31

Post by I am nobody » Tue Apr 21, 2020 1:47 pm

4. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (4/21)

I had this recommended to me by a Chinese friend, because it's apparently a pretty big thing in Mandarin. It's mostly a very hard-science take on first contact with some interesting world building around the alien homeworld. Parts of it don't feel very plausible despite being physically possible, but I was willing to forgive that since it was usually in service of an interesting idea or image. I'm much less willing to overlook long stretches around the 20-40% mark that take an eternity to make their significance clear and initially feel like pointless meandering. While that gets better later in the book, it never completely goes away. I'd have been a lot more positive on it if it were half as long, but as it is too many scenes feel longer than they needed to be, and it's hard to call it more than okay.

I will say that it's fairly interesting from a political perspective, because censors make everything political in China. Although nearly all of the notable characters are Chinese, the state has almost no role and the CCP is only mentioned in a very negative light during the parts set in the Cultural Revolution. The book doesn't take a clear stance on anything, but individual characters get a lot of time for speeches about how state policies are hurting the environment, etc. Kind of surprised it got published.

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#32

Post by smol Kat » Tue Apr 21, 2020 4:11 pm

^I forget exactly why or how it got started, but a work-related rabbit hole led me to that book. Your impressions of it are pretty much the impressions I got, too, from reading a synopsis.
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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#33

Post by Valigarmander » Thu Apr 30, 2020 7:05 pm

22. It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi - ★★★★ (Apr 9)
23. The Arab of the Future 4 by Riad Sattouf - ★★★☆ (Apr 17)
24. Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud - ★★★☆ (Apr 30)

You'd think lockdown would mean I have a lot more time to read, but long story short I don't.

2020 reading list:
Spoiler.
1. Megahex by Simon Hanselmann - ★★★☆ (Jan 7)
2. Dinosaurs Rediscovered by Michael J. Benton - ★★★☆ (Jan 9)
3. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi - ★★★★ (Jan 9)
4. The Complete Peanuts: 1950-1952 by Charles M. Schulz - ★★★☆ (Jan 15)
5. How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt - ★★★☆ (Jan 15)
6. Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir & Steenz - ★★☆☆ (Jan 18)
7. Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit - ★★★☆ (Jan 23)
8. Fables: The Mean Seasons by Bill Willingham, et al. - ★★★☆ (Jan 23)
9. Fables: Homelands by Bill Willingham, et al. - ★★☆☆ (Jan 30)
10. Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan & Zach Weinersmith - ★★★☆ (Feb 6)
11. A Little History of Economics by Niall Kishtainy - ★★★☆ (Feb 10)
12. Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey by GB Tran - ★★★★ (Feb 18)
13. Giants of the Lost World by Donald R. Prothero - ★★★☆ (Feb 19)
14. One More Year by Simon Hanselmann - ★★★☆ (Feb 21)
15. The Rabbi's Cat 2 by Joann Sfar - ★★★☆ (Feb 27)
16. We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates - ★★★☆ (Mar 2)
17. The Fixer and Other Stories by Joe Sacco - ★★★☆ (Mar 12)
18. Bad Gateway by Simon Hanselmann - ★★☆☆ (Mar 17)
19. Fatherland by Nina Bunjevac - ★★☆☆ (Mar 23)
20. Block Party by David Daneman, et al. - ★★★☆ (Mar 24)
21. Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin - ★★★☆ (Mar 26)
22. It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi - ★★★★ (Apr 9)
23. The Arab of the Future 4 by Riad Sattouf - ★★★☆ (Apr 17)
24. Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud - ★★★☆ (Apr 30)

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#34

Post by I am nobody » Thu Apr 30, 2020 7:45 pm

5. Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration by Bryan Caplan & Zach Weinersmith (4/24)

I read a physical book for once! Most of it is just a more readable version of the economic and ethical benefits of open borders, but it does a good job of addressing other concerns people have (cultural, security, etc) without belittling them. Weinersmith writes SMBC, so the comic portion of it is unsurprisingly great. It's overall well worth a read, but I do wonder if anyone that doesn't already lean that way will bother.

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#35

Post by Marilink » Fri May 08, 2020 10:48 pm

10. EarthBound by Ken Baumann (Bosa Fight Books)

This was an enjoyable read, much better than the Chrono Trigger book from the same series. Baumann’s style is very haphazard, rapidly going back and forth between his own personal story and the story of the game, but he weaves his themes together very well. The style would get a little overwrought at times, but I forgave it quickly as it moved into the next thought.

I could at any time go to Starmen.net and get the perspective of EarthBound from people who have beaten the game countless times and dedicated huge chunks of their lives to it. This book did something different than that—it provides a layman’s perspective on the book and how it affected him as a kid and re-affected him now. I loved that angle.

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#36

Post by I am nobody » Sun May 10, 2020 12:37 pm

6. How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems by Randall Munroe (5/10)

In the vein of Munroe's other books and XKCD, it's a book that takes simple situations and then gives ridiculous yet technically sound answers to them. It includes chapters like "How to get somewhere fast" that looks at the consequences of accelerating at 1G for long periods, "How to Move Your House" with jet engines, and involved Serena Williams killing a drone with tennis serves. If you've liked any of his previous work, you'll like this.

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#37

Post by Apollo the Just » Sat May 23, 2020 8:18 pm

I don't know if this really counts because I definitely did not read it in full. I got a translation of Kurt Gödel's "On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems" which is otherwise known as Gödel's first "incompleteness theorem" and is basically a theorem about how some concepts cannot be proven within a given and defined mathematical system even if they are true.

I've been binge watching conceptual math youtube videos and the subject of this theorem came up in one but I didn't really fully get it so I decided to get this $9 paperback on Amazon. It has a long preface by a guy named Braithwaite and was translated by a dude named Meltzer.

I got about halfway through the long introduction, which was cool because it not only starts introducing the kinds of concepts that Gödel is using but also talks about the translation process and choices in how to word things during this translation. Never really thought before about what a job it must be to translate metamathematical texts lmao.

Anyway then I kinda got a bit lost and decided to yolo and jumped into the translated theorem, I tried to understand its logic and wrap my brain around what it was saying for the first couple pages and I think I have a better idea of the underlying concept. But it definitely lost me a few pages in. This is definitely a "write clarifications in the margin to try and follow along and justify each step to yourself" kind of read. I think I got a decent grasp on the, like, text version of "assume set K is the set where R(n) is not provable for n" and "assume S is an equation where R(n) is in set K for n=q (so like for R(q))" which means that R(q) is in set K, but it therefore is not provable because of how K is defined; so there is a "proof" that R(q) is in K that also proves that R(q) is not provable. R(q) basically is a function that asserts its own unprovability by defining itself as being unprovable; it can't be proven within its own system. That doesn't mean it's not TRUE, it just means it can't be proven.

I am probably definitely misusing terminology and oversimplifying here because I again do not pretend to be an adept mathematician but I think I mostly get that basic concept. Once he starts relating signs and stuff to prime numbers though I'll be real the dude definitely lost me. It looks like a cool ass proof but I don't pretend to understand how it is actually applied to numbers and functions. I hope to actually understand it eventually because the idea is fascinating.

I'm gonna keep this and hopefully kind of come back to it now and again and see if I can grasp another layer of its logic when I come back to it. I think the subject is awesome but also the most advanced mathematics I have ever done is like infinite sums in calculus so this is... a bit beyond that shall we say.

I'm kind of considering getting more math subject books and learning more about theoretical math and conceptual math that I never got to in school. Related, I am open to recommendations on good math books if any of you have any.

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#38

Post by I am nobody » Sat May 23, 2020 8:41 pm

Complexity classes are a tangentially related concept (it's believed that some of the most important problems therein are unprovable, which may itself be unprovable) that you might be interested in. They don't require any math knowledge beyond what you've already got to understand since it's mostly just a more analytical way of thinking about problem solving.

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#39

Post by Apollo the Just » Sat May 23, 2020 8:54 pm

Just googling Complexity Classes brought me to a wiki page on the "P versus NP problem" which I am already finding really fascinating, so thank you very much for that rec.

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Re: The 2020 Reading Thread

#40

Post by I am nobody » Sat May 23, 2020 8:57 pm

P=NP is the one I was referring to there, yeah. There's also the undecidable class, which is the set of problems so intractable that there's no way to ever know if you have the right answer or not. The cheapest flight between two cities is actually included in that for really arcane ticketing reasons I've never fully followed.

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