Louis Simoneau

Ruby, OOP, TDD, Remote Work, Miscellany

Quarterly Reading List: January-March 2013

I thought I’d start posting quarterly breakdowns of the books I’ve been reading, partly just to share stuff I’ve been enjoying, but mostly to shame myself into reading more my holding myself publicly accountable.

Here’s the first edition. Since the start of the year, I’ve finished four books. Pretty weak, I admit, but I’ve also had a child, so that’s my excuse:

Glasshouse, by Charles Stross. Possibly my new all-time favourite science fiction novel. Filled to bursting with ideas, it manages to create a plausible post-scarcity, post-”singularity” universe and a hugely compelling story at the same time. Can’t recommend it highly enough.

How Much Is Enough? Money And The Good Life, by Robert and Edward Sidelsky. A philosophical examination of modern Western society’s organisation, questioning how little of the gains in economic productivity of the last 50 years have gone towards improving average standards of living, framed in terms of “the good life”. The book was often overly academic in tone, but it drew on some interesting research and raised some (I think) very pertinent questions.

Carbon Zero: Imagining Cities that can Save the Planet, by Alex Steffen. A short book, available for free online in full, examining the role that urbanism can (and must) play in staving off the worst of the climate crisis. Steffen’s argument is compelling: converting the entire automobile fleet to hybrid or electric vehicles would take decades even if every car sold today were such a model, and likewise replacing the entire power generation grid with renewables is an enormous undertaking. But with the coming boom in urban development across the world, there’s real potential to make drastic reductions in carbon emissions with innovations in walkable urbanism, transport, and building technology.

The Last Policeman, by Ben Winters. (Currently for sale for $2.99 on the Kindle store.) A fun noir detective story, with the clever twist that it’s set in a world where a giant asteroid is months away from colliding with Earth and ending civilization as we know it. It took me a while to get into this one, as the noir tropes and first person narration felt a bit over the top, though in retrospect it’s clear that was the intent. All in all, it was a captivating mystery, and I’ve pre-ordered the next book in the trilogy, due to be released in July.