Covers of the books that I read in 2016

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The Books I Read in 2016

At the end of each year I list the books that I have read during that year. Earlier years were 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012. Below you will find the list of books that I’ve read in 2016. Every year I also include an overview of my other media consumption habits (magazines, RSS feeds and podcasts).

This year I had planned to make more conscious decisions about what I would read and this should include more female, more non-Western and more non-white authors. I also wanted to read more books that were at least 30 years old. I managed to read 53 books in 2016. About 25% of the books that I read were written by women (that is the same percentage as last year), and about half of the books did not come from the US or the UK (but the majority still were ‘Western’). Most books were quite recent. I guess you could say that I failed to reach most of my goals.

I’ve ordered the list of books into categories that make sense to me. These are the books that I’ve read and what I thought of some of them:

Digital rights

Ai Weiwei is one of my heroes and the book that was made by FOAM clearly shows why: he has experimented with surviving total surveillance. Ruben Pater wrote a beautifully designed book about the fact that there is politics in every design (I wish developers would start realising this about their code). Nissenbaum’s book gave me a new way of framing the privacy debate and the Dutch bestseller by Martijn and Tokmetzis had an inspiring final chapter enumerating the lessons that digital rights activists can learn from activism around climate change.

  • Ai Weiwei — Freedom of Expression Under Surveillance (link)
  • Ruben Pater — Politics of design (link)
  • Helen F. Nissenbaum — Privacy in Context (link)
  • Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity — Cybersecurity Futures 2020 (link)
  • Tijmen Schep — Design my privacy (link)
  • Maurits Martijn and Dimitri Tokmetzis — Je hebt wél iets te verbergen (link)
  • Frank Pasquale — The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information (link)
  • Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid — WRR Rapport 94 – De publieke kern van het internet (link)
  • Inez Weski — De jacht op het recht (link)
  • Byung-Chul Han — De vermoeide samenleving (link)

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We managed to read seven books with our book club (which is the same number as in each of the previous two years). Cathy O’Neil just might have written the Silent Spring of our age. The book by Christian and Griffiths was a fresh way of looking at how algorithms, but was also a bit formulaic. You can’t say that about Frank Westerman’s book in which he explores whether language can be a weapon against terrorism. Dan Lyons wasted my time with an awful book which was my least favourite read of the year.

  • Cathy O’Neil — Weapons of Math Destruction (link)
  • Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths — Algorithms to Live by (link)
  • Frank Westerman — Een woord een woord (link)
  • Axel M. Arnbak — Securing Private Communications (link)
  • Astra Taylor — The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age (link)
  • Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan — The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries (link)
  • Dan Lyons — Disrupted (link)

Philosophy

Last September I started studying philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. I should be able to get my masters degree in about two years of fulltime study (next to a fulltime job). Next to reading a lot of articles, I’ve also read a few books. It was truly a joy to finally do a close reading of Hobbes’ Leviathan.

  • Thomas Hobbes — Leviathan (link)
  • David Miller — The Liberty Reader (link)
  • Michiel Leezenberg and G. de Vries — Wetenschapsfilosofie voor geesteswetenschappen (link)

Self improvement

I guess it does say something about me that I am constantly seduced by self improvement books. This year I apparently wanted to get better in organising my time, become more disciplined, write more clearly and budget smarter. Highlights were Minto’s classic book about writing persuasive business texts, Newport’s idea of ‘deep work’ as something that we need to try and attain as much as possible during our working hours and McGonigal’s science-infused explanation of willpower as something that can be depleted, replenished and trained. Linenberger made me change my to-do list habits for the better (which is quite an accomplished because they were well ingrained).

  • Barbara Minto — The Pyramid Principle (link)
  • Cal Newport — Deep Work (link)
  • Michael Linenberger — The One Minute To-Do List: Quickly Get Your Chaos Completely Under Control (link)
  • Kelly McGonigal — The Willpower Instinct (link)
  • Greg McKeown — Essentialism (link)
  • Jesse Mecham — Four Rules, A primer on living well, within your means (link)
  • Jim Benson and Tonianne Demaria Barry — Personal Kanban (link)
  • Daniel J. Levitin — The Organized Mind (link)

Fiction

There is a huge discrepancy between how much I enjoy reading fiction and how much I actually do read it. All four of these books were quite incredible. I am convincend that Adichie will one day receive the Nobel prize for literature. I finally read her debut novel and was overwhelmed. The Sellout is a novel unlike any other, I perceived it as a relentless attack on my brain. And Maya Angelou youth in the thirties of the US was both shocking and courageous.

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — Purple Hibiscus (link)
  • Paul Beatty — The Sellout (link)
  • Maya Angelou — I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (link)
  • Chris Kraus — Summer of Hate (link)

Non-fiction

Coates wrote a brutal book that gave me a visceral reaction and forced me to rethink my position in life. Michael Pollan went on a cooking journey and was so kind to take me along the way. Jessica Abel unlocked the secrets behind the incredible quality of American podcasting and somehow managed to do this in a comic. Jon Ronson and Joris van Casteren both manage to elucidate serious themes with an often hilarious ironic undertone. I had a little war strategy theme going with Che’s book about guerilla warfare and with Richards’ application of Boyd’s thinking to the world of business. Finally, I will certainly vote for the okapi.

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates — Between the World and Me (link)
  • Michael Pollan — Cooked, A Natural History of Transformation (link)
  • Maxim Februari — De maakbare man: notities over transseksualiteit (link)
  • Jessica Abel — Out on the Wire (link)
  • Edward van de Vendel and Martijn van der Linden — Stem op de okapi (link)
  • Geoff Manaugh — A Burglar’s Guide to the City (link)
  • Tim Flannery — Atmosphere of Hope (link)
  • Julius Fast — Body Language (link)
  • Chet Richards — Certain to Win: The Strategy of John Boyd, Applied to Business (link)
  • Joris Luyendijk — Een goede man slaat soms zijn vrouw (link)
  • Erik Kessels and Erik Kessels — Failed It! (link)
  • Ernesto Che Guevara — Guerrilla Warfare (link)
  • Brian J. Robertson — Holacracy (link)
  • Achille Mbembe — Kritiek van de zwarte rede (link)
  • Jon Ronson — Lost at Sea (link)
  • Joris van Casteren — Mensen op Mars (link)
  • Femke Halsema — Pluche (link)
  • Avinash Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff — The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life (link)
  • Per Espen Stoknes — What We Think About When We (Try Not to) Think About Global Warming (link)
  • Anoniem — CubaConga (link)
  • Mandy Macdonald — Cultuur Bewust! – Cuba (link)

My consumption of other media

Last year I continued my subscriptions of De Correspondent (I usually read one or two of their articles in the morning), the New York Review of Books and the Wired (which I barely take the time to read, but still can’t say goodbye to).

There are a few ‘curators’ who make my life easier by scouring the web and writing up what they find interesting. Stephen Downes and Audrey Watters continue to be my connection to the world of learning. The maintainer of the Dutch Privacy Nieuws website does an incredible job of keeping up-to-date with all the latest privacy related news items. And Cory Doctorow has this wonderful and insightful take on the digital world. Unfortunately I can’t read his pieces in my RSS reader (the items are no longer full text) and I am forced to go to Boing Boing’s ad-infested website. I would much rather pay a little to have the full text via RSS, but don’t think that is currently possible. I might have to create a little personal scraper to solve this problem. My daily news comes from through the Trouw RSS feed. I try to read everything that Ta-Nehisi Coates writes for the Atlantic, keep my eye out for Morozov in the Guardian and am delighted whenever Maciej Cegłowski posts something new. I also follow The Intercept, the technology sections of Nu.nl, Tweakers and the Guardian, and Wired’s security blog.

I did find a bit more time to listen to podcasts every week. I still listen to each and every episode of This American Life, This Week in Tech (with Leo Laporte), 99% Invisible, Radiolab, Reply All and Note to Self. New must-listens are Dipsaus, Een Podcast over Media, Strangers, and Bits of Freedom’s own Insert_User. I then cherry pick episodes that might be interesting from Benjamin Walker’s Theory of Everything, the Bret Easton Ellis Podcast, De Correspondent (they are doing a nice series made by high school students), Freakonomics Radio, Planet Money, Security Now, Stuff Mom Never Told You (which seems to have created their final episode last week), Team Human (with the incredibly articulate Douglas Rushkoff), Tech Weekly (by the Guardian), The Tim Ferriss Show and Triangulation. Radiolab also made this fabulous series about the US supreme court called More Perfect.

What will I be reading in 2017?

Unfortunately I know that I will get to read much less in 2017: my studies will dictate what I’ll have to spend my time reading on: mostly articles rather than books.

I will be very happy if I manage to read one book every two weeks. Looking forward to doing just that!