Books

in Books, Digital Rights

The Books I Read in 2014

At the end of each year I try to list the books that I’ve read during that year. I’ve done this in 2012 and in 2013. Below you’ll find the list of books that I’ve read in 2014. This year I’ve also added the other media that I regularly consume: what magazines and newspapers do I read, what are some notable RSS feeds that look at and what podcasts have been on my playlist?

Covers and ratings of the books I've read in 2014

Covers and ratings of the books I’ve read in 2014

I’ve read 39 books in 2014. That is, once again, significantly less than in earlier years. It has been a busy year at work and I have occasionally struggled to find the time to read. Here is what I did manage to read this year and what I thought of it.

Digital Rights

Menner’s book with pictures from the Stasi archives is another way to powerfully visualise the banality of evil. Malamud Smith’s book is already a bit older but very valuable in how it frames the ability to have a personal life as something that is essential for humanity. Greenwald was a bit too full of bluster for my taste and Pariser’s book is very much worth the effort, even if you have seen his TED talk.

  • Simon Menner — Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives (link)
  • Janna Malamud Smith — Private Matters: In Defense Of The Personal Life (link)
  • Katja Franko Aas — Technologies of InSecurity: The Surveillance of Everyday Life (link)
  • Glenn Greenwald — No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State (link)
  • Eli Pariser — The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You (link)

B00k C7ub 4 N3rd$

We’ve read seven books in our book club this year. Dow Schüll and Scott both managed to blow my mind. Dow Schüll’s work is very impressive because she manages to tie 10 years of observation of slot machines in Vegas to philosophy of technology. Scott has given me a key concept in understanding the state: legibility. Rushkoff’s book disappointed as his concepts (like ‘narrative collapse’) didn’t stick. Garton Ash going back to East Germany to read his 300+ pages of Stasi files and confronting his informants was enlightening.

  • Natasha Dow Schüll — Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas (link)
  • James C. Scott — Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (link)
  • Douglas Rushkoff — Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (link)
  • Timothy Garton Ash — The File : A Personal History (link)
  • Luke Harding — The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man (link)
  • Mai Jia — Decoded (link)

Fiction

Chimamanda Adichie’s book had me captivated from the beginning to the end. It painfully exposes the perspective of the immigrant and shows how much race is still an issue in the US. I travelled through Iran in late October and read some related fiction. As always it was Kapuściński who impressed me the most. Few writers can demonstrate so much insight in so few words.

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — Americanah (link)
  • Ryszard Kapuściński — Shah of Shahs (link)
  • Dr. Seuss — The Lorax (link)
  • Marjane Satrapi — The Complete Persepolis (Persepolis, #1-4) (link)
  • Kader Abdolah — Het huis van de moskee (link)
  • Sam Peeters — In de schaduw van mijn lul (link)
  • Aglaia Bouma — Niets te verbergen (link)
  • Jean-Yves Ferri — Asterix bij de Picten (Asterix, #35) (link)

Non-fiction

I couldn’t really find any way to further categorise this diverse set of non-fiction books, so I’ve bundled them all together. Pollan’s short book is the first sensible thing I’ve seen about food in a long time. His strategy: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” is what I now live by. I’ve always been a bit hesitant to read De Bono (he seemed too much like a hyped-up American consultant). I was wrong. His six ‘thinking hats’ helped me tremendously in keeping meetings very productive. Pinker has written a seminal book about the historical decline of violence, the man writes like an angel. Munroe’s serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions were hilarious and managed to teach me a lot at the same time. Cillier, finally, found a way to succinctly explain complexity theory. Lakoff on metaphors was very worth my while and I love anything that gives us Ai Weiwei’s voice.

  • Michael Pollan — In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (link)
  • Edward De Bono — Six Thinking Hats (link)
  • Steven Pinker — The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (link)
  • Randall Munroe — What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (link)
  • David Allen — Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life (link)
  • Richard Templar — The Rules Of Management: A Definitive Code For Managerial Success (link)
  • Paul Cilliers — Complexity and Postmodernism: Understanding Complex Systems (link)
  • Hans de Bruijn — Framing, Over de macht van taal in de politiek (link)
  • Hans Ulrich Obrist — Ai Wei Wei Speaks (link)
  • George Lakoff — Metaphors We Live By (link)
  • Zinnebeeld — Symboolpolitiek, letterproef van mooie woorden (link)
  • Steve Crawshaw — Small Acts of Resistance: How Courage, Tenacity, and Ingenuity Can Change the World (link)
  • Stuart Williams — Iran – Culture Smart!: the essential guide to customs & culture (link)
  • Paul Arden — It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be (link)
  • Jordi Puig — Dali: The Emporda Triangle (link)
  • Angela Wilkinson — The Essence of Scenarios: Learning from the Shell Experience (link)
  • Eefje Blankevoort — Te gast in Iran (link)
  • Antoine Vigne — Le Corbusier In His Own Words (link)
  • Barry C. Lynn — Cornered : The new monopoly capitalism and the economics of destruction (link)
  • Tony Buzan — How to Mind Map: The Ultimate Thinking Tool That Will Change Your Life (link)

My consumption of other media

In 2014 I continued my subscriptions of Wired (which I find barely tolerable at times) and the New York Review of Books (wonderful!). There were no other magazines that I read regularly. The only daily ‘newspaper’ that I subscribed to was De Correspondent.

The playlist of my podcast player included (in this order of preference): This American Live, This Week in Tech, 99% Invisible, WNYC’s Radiolab, Guardian Tech Weekly,Security Now, Triangulation and occasionally a part of Argos.

I subscribed to (and read) Stephen Downes’ Ol’Daily newsletter, Audrey Watter’s newsletter and Springwise Weekly.

The newsfeeds in my RSS reader that I made sure to read were: NRC, Tweakers, Ribbonfarm, Kars and Alper at Hubbub, Bruce Schneier, Freedom to Thinker, Prosthetic Knowledge, the EFF, the Guardian Tech, Privacynieuws, the Privacy Surgeon, XKCD, Adam Curtis, Zeynep Tufceki, Jevgeny Morozov, Slashdot’s Your Rights Online and of course everything that Bits of Freedom, my place of work, produces.

What will I be reading in 2015?

I am about halfway in Piketty’s ‘Capital in the 21st Century’ and want to make sure that I make the time to read some original McLuhan, some classics in cybernetics, the Club of Rome’s original ‘Limits to Growth’ and some more Žižek.

Update (21 february 2015): I’ve set a goal for my reading in 2015:

  1. Thanks for posting this, Hans. I used to suvbscribe to Wired UK when it first started, then unfortunately it got progressively worse over the years so I stopped.

    What RSS reader do you use? I use Netvibes, but it’s not working well on mobile, so I am looking to move.

    Happy New Year and please write more frequently in this blog! 🙂

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