The Books I Read in 2021

Covers for all the books that I've read in 2021

At the end of each year, I list the books that I have read during that year. Earlier years were 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012. Below, you will find the list of books that I’ve read in 2021. Every year I also include an overview of my other media consumption habits (magazines, RSS feeds and podcasts).

This year, I only managed to 38 books for a total of 7.660 pages. This is about half as much as last year.

Close to 30% of the books that I’ve read were written by women. About a third of the books that I’ve read had authors that were born in the US or the UK, a third were from Dutch writers, and a third came from the rest of the world.

I’ve ordered the list of books into categories that make sense to me (and that are in many ways overlapping and arbitrary). These are the books that I’ve read and what I thought of some of them:

Digital rights and technology

Bowles has written the book that I wish I had written myself. It is very short, but manages to frame the most important ethical issues around (the design of) technology in a brilliant way. McLuhan was extremely entertaining and insightful as per usual. The other three titles each taught me worthwhile lessons about how to develop technology in an ethical manner.

  • Cennydd Bowles — Future Ethics (link)
  • Marshall Mcluhan — Counterblast (link)
  • Sasha Costanza-Chock — Design Justice (link)
  • Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth — The Ethical Algorithm: The Science of Socially Aware Algorithm Design (link)
  • Eva PenzeyMoog — Design for Safety (link)

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The book club read seven books this year. Stanley Robinson’s book led to the most discussion (and included some unforgettable harrowing scenes about climate change), and Xiawei’s was the most idiosyncratic, teaching us about how China is using technology to keep its countryside (culturally and economically) connected to the rest of the country. Tufekci’s book is worth spending your time on to understand how technology changes protest and activism, even though we are now a decade after the Arab spring. Wiener is a brilliant writer and Hoepman has written a book about the technology behind privacy that every tech policy maker should read.

  • Kim Stanley Robinson — The Ministry for the Future (link)
  • Xiaowei Wang — Blockchain Chicken Farm (link)
  • Zeynep Tufekci — Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest (link)
  • Anna Wiener — Uncanny Valley: A Memoir (link)
  • Jaap-Henk Hoepman — Privacy Is Hard and Seven Other Myths (link)
  • Kate Crawford — The Atlas of AI (link)
  • Mariana Mazzucato — Mission Economy (link)

Improving my game skills

I played a lot a games this year. I had read Lugo before, and doubt there is a better book about partner dominoes. Olsen’s book about backgammon really improved my game. It is great for beginners, but will also satisfy the most competitive of players. Dee’s book about one of my new favorite games (Hive) was a sweet and short introduction, but if you enjoy the game you should really go for Ingersoll’s Play Hive Like a Champion instead.

  • Miguel Lugo — How to Play Better Dominoes (link)
  • Marc Brockmann Olsen — Backgammon (link)
  • Steve Dee — The Book of Hive: Strategy, Tips and Tactics (link)


The fiction with the most impact on my thinking about the world were the books by Balci and Gül. Both of them showed – each in their own way – the stifling conditions that exist for many people living in or around Muslim communities here in the Netherlands. They have fundamentally shifted my perspective. It was great to reread the mysterious Chimo’s Zei Lila after many years. Chimo’s follow-up book is less interesting unfortunately. Den Ouden wrote a funny Roman à clef about being a project manager at the institution for higher education where I work (think the worst of bureaucracy, combined with a satire of agile software development, and an attack on diversity thinking). The most overrated book in the Netherlands in 2021 must be Lakmaker’s, whereas Coelho’s is probably the most globally overrated book of all time.

  • Chimo — Zei Lila (link)
  • Erdal Balci — De gevangenisjaren (link)
  • Lale Gül — Ik ga leven (link)
  • Chimo — Ik ben bang (link)
  • René den Ouden — De projectleider (link)
  • Tobi Lakmaker — De geschiedenis van mijn seksualiteit (link)
  • Paulo Coelho — The Alchemist (link)

Children’s books

Joke van Leeuwen will always be my favorite children’s book author. It is my ambition to read all of her work, so I’ve added three of her books to my list and enjoyed them thoroughly. Dahl’s book was a perfect as I remembered. And Van Lieshout has written (and designed) a beautiful young adult book about (the meaning of) art.

  • Roald Dahl — De reuzenkrokodil (link)
  • Joke van Leeuwen — Ergens (link)
  • Joke van Leeuwen — Waarom lig jij in mijn bedje? (link)
  • Joke van Leeuwen — Tijgerlezen – Fien wil een flus (link)
  • Ted van Lieshout — Wat is kunst? (link)


The most special book I’ve read this year is Angelo’s. It is a mind-blowing exposé of the ingenious material objects that prisoners make in the US prison system. De Bono gave me some more thinking tools, these ‘shoes’ are good, but not as useful as the ‘hats’. De Dijn wrote a discerning history of our political ideas of the concept of freedom (if you are interested in this topic, I think Pettit will give you more actionable insights). Levine and Heller should be required reading for anybody with attachment problems in (love) relationships. Tanizaki is a beautiful ode to darkness, and Jansen gave me a very real and personal history of the beginnings of our welfare state. I found Gunster’s book about ‘omdenken’ to be an insult to my intelligence.

  • Angelo — Prisoners’ Inventions (link)
  • Edward de Bono — Six Action Shoes (link)
  • Annelien De Dijn — Freedom: An Unruly History (link)
  • Asis Aynan — Eén erwt maakt nog geen snert (link)
  • Hafid Bouazza — De akker en de mantel (link)
  • Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller — Attached (link)
  • Junichiro Tanizaki — In Praise of Shadows (link)
  • Suzanne Jansen — Het pauperparadijs (link)
  • Simon Pridmore — Scuba Confidential: An Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Better Diver (link)
  • Henno Eggenkamp — De verguisde stad (link)
  • Berthold Gunster — Ja-maar… Omdenken (link)

My consumption of other media

I decided early in the year that I wanted to financially support journalism. So next to my existing Wired, Economist (reading their daily Espresso update), and New York Review of Books subscriptions, I also subscribed to De Groene Amsterdammer, De Correspondent (now turned into a lifelong subscription due to my volunteering as a board member for the Correspondent Foundation), Follow the Money, Vrij Nederland, and OneWorld. This is one of the reasons why I read less books: too much reading of long form journalism. I switched from the NRC to Parool as my daily newspaper, mainly because I enjoy reading about what is happening in my city of Amsterdam.

I strongly prefer to keep up to date through RSS instead of through email newsletters. But I can’t escape email fully and read the newsletters I get from Rick Pastoor (about productivity), Dipsaus, Audrey Watters (who has stopped writing for the most part), and the local neighbourhood I live in. Every morning I get the newsletter aimed at journalists from the ANP press service, giving me an update about what has happened and what will happen during the day. My favourite curators still are Cory Doctorow and Stephen Downes. Both provide me daily with interesting links (thankfully via RSS).

Authors I follow via RSS include Kashmir Hill, Zeynep Tufekci, Bert Hubert (for his Covid updates), Evgeny Morozov, Jaap-Henk Hoepman, Karin Spaink, Ben Thompson, Linda Duits, Maciej Cegłowski, Ian Bogost, Matt Taibi (only his free posts), Harold Jarche, Rineke van Daalen, Wilfred Rubens, Aral Balkan, Cennydd Bowles, James Bridle, Ernst-Jan Pfauth, Axel Arnbak, Matthew Green, Yasmin Nair, and Bruce Schneier. Organizations and blogs I follow include Colossal, The Hmm, Bits of Freedom, EDRi, Digital Freedom Fund, Controle Alt Delete, Bij Nader Inzien, XKCD, EFF, The Markup, The Black Archives, Stop Blackface, and Stichting Nederland Wordt Beter. I keep up to date with technology news through Guardian Tech, MIT Technology Review, and Tweakers. For fun, I enjoy the Reddit on The Big Lebowski. The only two Twitter accounts that I check regularly are the ones from Alexander Klöpping and Nadia Ezzeroili. And finally, the most valuable new edition to my RSS diet is the news from Rest of World.

Using Pocket Cast, I still listen to all new episodes of This American Life, Een Podcast over Media, Radio Rechtsstaat, and Replay-All. New on the list of must-listens are Napleiten and the Rudi en Freddie Show (I enjoyed the shows without Rutger Bregman the most). I listen to the majority of episodes from 99% Invisible, Cautionary Tales, Cyberhelden, Lex Bohlmeier’s interviews for De Correspondent, and In Machines We Trust. When an episode looks appealing I will listen to Dipsaus, The Ezra Klein Show, Freakonomics, Philosophy Books, Philosophical Disquisitions, The Nextcloud podcast, Philosophy 24/7, Philosophy Bites, Planet Money, RadioLab, The Tim Ferris Show, and Where Should We Begin by Esther Perel. This means that This Week in Tech has dropped off the list after many years of loyal listening.

There were a few one-off podcasting series that I listened to this year. The first few episodes of Bits of Freedom’s Big Brother Awards podcast of course, De Dienst (about the Dutch secret service, it mostly made me very angry), The Noord Face, Stuff the British Stole, and Sudhir Breaks the Internet.

What will I be reading in 2022?

My reading plans for 2021 did not come to pass for the most part. I did manage to read a bit about data/AI/technology ethics, but I only enlarged my list of half-read books instead of reducing it, and didn’t read any Toni Morrison nor did I get to Piketty or Kelton. Those latter two are still high on my list. I also want to make sure to read another McLuhan book.

Other than that, I am hoping to read a bit more fiction this year. Hopefully my personal rule of only bringing fiction on my holidays should help with that goal.

Update (10 January 2022): I like recommendations, and especially if they are done by a human being or are if they are not algorithmically personalized towards me. One of the best recommendation engines are (literary) awards of course. I have therefore created my own personal recommendation algorithm using awards as a guide. So this coming year I will challenge myself to read the following:

  • All Booker Prize shortlisted books of the previous year.
  • The winner of the Booker Prize of a random previous year (only books that I haven’t read yet).
  • The winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction of the previous year.
  • The winner of the International Booker Prize of the previous year.
  • The winner of the Libris Literatuur Prijs of the previous year.
  • A book of choice by the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature of the previous year.
  • A book of choice by the winner of the P.C. Hooft-prijs of the current year.
  • The winner of the Pullitzer Prize for Fiction of the previous year.
  • The winner of the Royal Society Science Books Prize of the previous year.
  • The winner of the Socratesbeker of the previous year.
  • The winner of the Boekenbon Literatuurprijs of the previous year.
  • The winner of the Gouden Griffel of the previous year.
  • The winner of the Bronzen Uil of the previous year.

If there are no double winners/nominations, then this will be a list of eighteen books to read, most of which will be fiction. The list is very biased towards current and new books (which the Lindy Effect tells us, isn’t necessarily a smart idea). I am still thinking of ways to engineer reading more great books that are a bit older.

The Books I Read in 2019

Covers of the books I read in 2019

At the end of each year, I list the books that I have read during that year. Earlier years were 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012. Below you will find the list of books that I’ve read in 2019. Every year I also include an overview of my other media consumption habits (magazines, RSS feeds and podcasts).

This was a slow reading year for me: I only managed to read 39 books for a total of 10.350 pages (last year I managed 52 books and 12.417 pages). It was a busy year, where I was trying to close out and hand over my work at Bits of Freedom, while also preparing for a year of travel and organising a huge real life game.

Only about 24% of the authors that I read were women. That is a bad result and reflects the fact that I didn’t put a lot of intentionality in my reading: I mostly just read in a very instrumental way, picking up books as I felt that I needed them.

I’ve ordered the list of books into categories that make sense to me (and that are in many ways overlapping and arbitrary). These are the books that I’ve read and what I thought of some of them:

Digital rights and technology

None of the books that I read in this category gave me huge new insights nor a new framework of looking at technology. Kaye’s short book is a good introduction for people who haven’t thought much about the topic. Brunton was less on the ball than in his previous books. And Van Dijck and Poell give a useful definition of platforms in the context of an argument for public values. The book with the most staying power (at least for me) is probably Odell’s.

  • David Kaye — Speech Police (link)
  • Finn Brunton — Digital Cash (link)
  • Jenny Odell — How To Do Nothing (link)
  • José van Dijck and Thomas Poell, Martijn de Waal — The Platform Society (link)
  • Marjolein Lanzing — The Transparent Self: A normative investigation of changing selves and relationships in the age of the quantified self (link)
  • Jan Kuitenbrouwer — Datadictatuur (link)
  • Alexander Belgraver and Silvia Belgraver — Eerlijk nieuws zonder censuur (link)

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We only read six books with the book club this year. The most monumental and thought provoking is certainly Zuboff’s book, which gave us a whole new vocabulary with which to critique what we now call ‘surveillance capitalists’. I enjoyed finally hearing how Snowden managed to get those files out of the NSA, and thought that Modderkolk did some amazing pieces of journalism in his book about ‘cyber security’. Stross proved once more that I am not the type for science fiction (I’ll keep trying though). Both Van Essen and Pomerantsev had some memorable scenes in their books, but both didn’t manage to fully convince me in other ways.

  • Shoshana Zuboff — The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (link)
  • Edward Snowden — Permanent Record (link)
  • Huib Modderkolk — Het is oorlog maar niemand die het ziet (link)
  • Peter Pomerantsev — This is Not Propaganda (link)
  • Rob van Essen — De goede zoon (link)
  • Charles Stross — Accelerando (link)

Self improvement and how-to

The book that has had (by far) the most practical impact on my life is Pastoor’s book about how to get a grip on your work. Although I wasn’t bad to start with, it really helped me to easily accomplish some of the things that I would find difficult in the past. I would truly recommend the book to anybody who wants to accomplish anything. I was ready to hate De Becker’s book, but found that it had some profound insights on how to deal with difficult people (e.g. stalkers). Den Dekker has written a beautiful book about Chi Kung, and if you ever want to go and hitchhike across the ocean on a sailing boat, then I think that Van der Vreeken’s book is required reading.

  • Rick Pastoor — Grip (link)
  • Gavin De Becker — The Gift of Fear (link)
  • Chris Guillebeau — The $100 Startup (link)
  • Matt Kepnes — How to Travel the World on $50 a Day (link)
  • Peter den Dekker — The dynamics of standing still (link)
  • Royal Yachting Association — RYA Competent Crew Skills (link)
  • Suzanne van der Veeken — Ocean Nomad (link)
  • Jelmer de Boer — Thuisblijven is duurder (link)
  • Tom Hodgkinson — Business for Bohemians (link)


Once again, I didn’t read a lot of fiction, but the things that I did read were all very good. My mind was completely blown by Marlon James, I absolutely loved his book. Murdoch and Baldwin are both skillful interpreters of the human condition. The graphic novel by Altaribba was completely haunting (and beautiful). If you have young children, get them Tori.

  • Marlon James — A Brief History of Seven Killings (link)
  • Iris Murdoch — A Fairly Honourable Defeat (link)
  • James Baldwin — If Beale Street Could Talk (link)
  • Antonio Altaribba and Kim — The Art of Flying (link)
  • Barry Smit — Bloedwonder (link)
  • Brian Elstak and Karin Amatmoekrim — Tori (link)
  • Joke van Leeuwen — Toen ik (link)


Judah wrote a harrowing and brilliant portrait of London. Tolentino is an incredibly talented writer and I thoroughly enjoyed reading her essays. Walker’s book made me change my sleeping habits but also made me understand much better how sleep actually works (so listing it under self-improvement wouldn’t do it justice). Bythell managed to make me laugh out loud on many occasions with his wry diary entries from the frontier of a second hand bookshop. Abdurraqib shares my love for A Tribe Called Quest, which made his book a pleasure to read.

  • Ben Judah — This is London (link)
  • Jia Tolentino — Trick Mirror (link)
  • Matthew Walker — Why We Sleep (link)
  • Daan Dekker — De betonnen droom (link)
  • Hanif Abdurraqib — Go Ahead in the Rain (link)
  • Harry G. Frankfurt — On Inequality (link)
  • Peter Wohlleben — The Hidden Life of Trees (link)
  • Shaun Bythell — The Diary of a Bookseller (link)
  • adrienne maree brown — Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds (link)
  • Mark Traa — De Russen komen! (link)

My consumption of other media

2019 was dedicated to saving as much money as possible (in order to travel for all of 2020). I therefore cancelled all my regular subscriptions to magazines. As The Correspondent’s subscription continued well into 2020, I continued to read their pieces on the basis of their daily newsletter. At the end of the year I took out a subscription to The Economist, mainly for their excellent daily Espresso news app, but also as I way to stay in touch with what is happening with the rest of the world while I am traveling. I continued to read Stephen Downes and Audrey Watters (luckily they continued to write!) and am still subscribed to the Dipsaus newsletter.

The rest of my reading comes via my RSS reader (which I consider to be my personal inoculation against misinformation). I used the reader to read Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing, Maxim Februari and Marcel van Roosmalen at the NRC, and Karin Spaink, Caroline Haskins, Jaap-Henk Hoepman, Ben Thompson (Stratechery) Linda Duits, Kashmir Hill (until she went to the New York Times), Evgeny Morozov, Ian Bogost, XKCD, Zeynep Tufekci, danah boyd, James Bridle, Matthew Green, and a whole bunch of digital rights organisations. I also read Tweakers and Guardian Tech via their RSS feeds.

Not much has changed for me in podcasting land. I listened to all new episodes of This American Life, Een Podcast over Media, This Week in Tech, Dipsaus, Ear Hustle, 99% Invisible (although I am behind), and Reply-all. Next to that I listened to three interesting series: Tim Harford’s Cautionary Tales and two podcasts created by AudioCollectief Schik, namely Laura H. en El Tarangu. When I see an interesting episode I will listen to podcasts by The Correspondent, RadioLab, Glitch, Philsophical Disquisitions, Philosophy Bites, Freakonomics, Philosophy 24/7, New Books in Philosophy, Planet Money, Radio Rechtsstaat, The Tim Ferris Show, Triangulation and Your Undivided Attention.

What will I be reading in 2020?

As I will be traveling for all of 2020, I will likely mostly read books that relate in some way to the country where I am at or to the activity that I am doing. I already know that this will mean reading books about a few places in South America and a few books that are about (long distance) sailing and the sea.

The Books I Read in 2018

Covers of all the books I read in 2018.

At the end of each year, I list the books that I have read during that year. Earlier years were 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012. Below you will find the list of books that I’ve read in 2018. Every year I also include an overview of my other media consumption habits (magazines, RSS feeds and podcasts).

I managed to read one book a week last year, exactly 52 books. The majority of those were read in the latter half of year, when I finished the thesis for my masters in philosophy. There was an increase in the number of books by women that I read (from close to 25% in 2017 to close to 35%), but it still isn’t what I’d like it to be. More than half of the books were written by people who were born in the either the US or UK. However quite a few of those writers do come from a bicultural background.

I’ve ordered the list of books into categories that make sense to me (and that are in many ways overlapping and arbitrary). These are the books that I’ve read and what I thought of some of them:

Digital rights and technology

After reading Gerard I sold most my of meagre Bitcoin holdings, he wrote a thorough debunking of the blockchain concept in general and Bitcoin in particular. Bartlett and Lanier have both made quite radical arguments in two very clearly argued books. Jeong’s concept of ‘garbage’ is a useful way of looking at the shit on some parts of the web. Stephens-Davidowitz makes you realize that Google has more psychological data about people in the world than any other organization ever before. Don’t bother reading Taplin.

  • David Gerard — Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain: Bitcoin, Blockchain, Ethereum & Smart Contracts (link)
  • Jamie Bartlett — The People Vs Tech (link)
  • Jaron Lanier — Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (link)
  • Sarah Jeong — The Internet Of Garbage (link)
  • Seth Stephens-Davidowitz — Everybody Lies (link)
  • Yuval Noah Harari — 21 lessen voor de 21ste eeuw (link)
  • Jonathan Taplin — Move Fast and Break Things (link)
  • Safiya Umoja Noble — Algorithms of Oppression (link)

Justice, ethics and identity

I had the privilege of being able to invest a whole week into reading Rawls’s masterpiece. To me he is the model of how one should do philosophy. Pettit’s ideas are more appealing to me though, and this book is a great summary of his thoughts on civic republicanism. Appiah has written a definitive guide to identity in the current moment. Macfarquhar’s book is a wonderful introduction to age-old ethical dilemmas through stories of lived experiences. Qureshi should be read by anyone who wants to understand more about the current plight of Muslims in the UK.

  • John Rawls — A Theory of Justice (link)
  • Philip Pettit — Just Freedom (link)
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah — The Lies That Bind (link)
  • Larissa Macfarquhar — Strangers Drowning (link)
  • Asim Qureshi — A Virtue Of Disobedience (link)
  • Reni Eddo-Lodge — Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (link)

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The book club was back in full effect last year. Unfortunately with plenty of middle of the road books. Bridle was the exception and brought the mindset of an artist to our technological predicament. I now also understand why Harari is such a bestseller: the man can write. The corporate take-over in Magnason’s near fiction novel will stay with me for a while longer. Nagle wrote the most intelligent thing I’ve read all year about the ‘culture wars’. Schneier’s book is a good overview of where we are at when it come to securing the internet of things.

  • James Bridle — New Dark Age (link)
  • Yuval Noah Harari — Homo Deus (link)
  • Andri Magnason — Lovestar (link)
  • Angela Nagle — Kill All Normies (link)
  • Bruce Schneier — Click Here to Kill Everybody (link)
  • Bruce Bueno De Mesquita and Alastair Smith — The Dictator’s Handbook (link)
  • Fred Kaplan — Dark Territory (link)
  • Jean M. Twenge — iGen (link)
  • Ryan Holiday — Conspiracy (link)

Self improvement and how-to

Books that teach you new skills can have an incredible influence on your daily or professional life. Parker’s book on how to run gatherings (a place where people come together to do something) might have been my favorite book of the year. She really nailed it. Carroll has managed to change my productivity-practice: I used to have all my todos online, now I’ve switched back to paper.

  • Priya Parker — The Art of Gathering (link)
  • Ryder Carroll — The Bullet Journal Method (link)
  • Eva Rovers — Practivisme (link)
  • Juana Clark Craig — Project Management Lite (link)
  • Michelle McGagh — The No Spend Year (link)
  • Caroline van der Velde — Oudergids autisme (link)
  • Rolf Potts — Vagabonding (link)


Wow, I’ve read some wonderful fiction this year. All of the below come recommended. Neale Hurston was incredible and Ross was weirdly hilarious. Didion writes beautiful prose and I couldn’t stop reading Isik and his coming of age in the Bijlmer.

  • Zora Neale Hurston — Their Eyes Were Watching God (link)
  • Fran Ross — Oreo (link)
  • Joan Didion — The Year of Magical Thinking (link)
  • Murat Isik — Wees onzichtbaar (link)
  • Chibundu Onuzo — Welcome to Lagos (link)
  • Barry Smit — Ondijk/Punt (link)
  • Vamba Sherif and Ebissé Rouw — Zwart (link)

While traveling in Mexico, I read these three pieces of excellent writing by current Mexican writers. Luiselli was my favourite.

  • Valeria Luiselli — The Story of My Teeth (link)
  • Yuri Herrera — Transmigration of Bodies (link)
  • Juan Pablo Villalobos — Quesadillas (link)

Graphic novels and art

I loved Elstak en Duysker’s children’s book, mainly because of its bold graphics. The novel by Drnaso was haunting and made me feel empty inside afterward. Dalí is ever the prankster, and I look forward to reading the following chapters in Sattouf’s life.

  • Brian Elstak and Esther Duysker — Trobi (link)
  • Nick Drnaso — Sabrina (link)
  • Salvador Dali and Philippe Halsman — Dali’s Mustache (link)
  • Riad Sattouf — The Arab of the Future (link)
  • Verzetsmuseum Amsterdam — Explosiegevaar! (link)


I was mesmerized by Godfrey-Smith’s book about octopuses, which turned out to be insightful look at consciousness and at our own minds. Beerthuizen’s book had some good examples of how organizations managed to find business sponsors for their activities. The two museum catalogues were both worth the read. Hislop and Hockenbull’s book was actually better than the exhibit at the British Museum, which can’t be said about the book about the National Museum of Anthropology (even though it was excellent). Taleb both infuriated me (more so than with his earlier books), but also made me think. Wallman should have just done a TED-talk, his premise is interesting but too thin for a book.

  • Peter Godfrey-Smith — Other Minds (link)
  • Marcel Beerthuizen — Show me the money (link)
  • Ian Hislop and Tom Hockenhull — I object (link)
  • Mónica del Villar — 100 Selected Works: National Museum of Anthropology (link)
  • Nassim Nicholas Taleb — Skin in the game (link)
  • Catherine Ingram and Andrew Rae — This is Dalí (link)
  • James Wallman — Stuffocation (link)

My consumption of other media

My media consumption looks very similar to last year’s. I am subscribed to De Correspondent, Het Parool, Wired Magazine and the New York Review of Books. I get three newsletters: the OLDaily by Stephen Downes, the weekly newsletter by Audrey Watters, and whenever Dipsaus sends out one. Outside of these I get most of my news through my self-hosted RSS reader. I read a few people diligently: Kashmir Hill, Evgeny Morozov, Cory Doctorow, Cathy O’Neil, Karin Spaink, Jaap-Henk Hoepman, and Linda Duits. I wish there was a way for me to receive the columns of Maxim Februari and Sheila Sitalsing in my inbox. The only web-comic I read is XKCD. For other news, I read The Intercept (which is getting better again), Wired Security, Guardian Tech and Tweakers. For work I follow most digital rights organizations, Pricacy Nieuws and Privacy Barometer.

I still listen to a lot of podcasts: Every episode of Reply All, This American Life, Dipsaus, Ear Hustle, This Week in Tech, Een Podcast over Media, and Strangers (which is on a very long hiatus). New is Goed Nieuws with Joris Luyendijk. If I have time, or if the show looks particularly appealing, I listen to Radio Rechtsstaat, 99% Invisible, The Most Perfect Album, RadioLab, Pakhuis de Zwijger, Freakonomics Radio, Intercepted, The Guardian Long Read, Triangulation, and sometimes even the Tim Ferris Show.

What will I be reading in 2019?

Outside of the books that I will have to read for my job as the director of Bits of Freedom and the books that I will read with the book club, I will try and read the books that I have already bought and haven’t read yet. So that would be this list. Next to an attempt to read more fiction, I will also read some foundational texts in ethics (probably through anthologies).

The Books I Read in 2017

Covers of the books I read in 2017

At the end of each year I list the books that I have read during that year. Earlier years were 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012. Below you will find the list of books that I’ve read in 2017. Every year I also include an overview of my other media consumption habits (magazines, RSS feeds and podcasts).

Last year I wrote that I would be happy if I would manage to read one book every two weeks. I did manage to read a little bit more: 36 books for the year. Unfortunately the percentage of female writers is still stuck at just under 25%. However, I did manage to read less from the US and the UK than usual (about 40% this year).

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:


I spent a lot of time studying the republican ideal of freedom (see my bachelor thesis) and I am convinced that the world would be a better place if more people would read Philip Pettit’s books. Matthew Crawford wrote a must-read cultural critique of our current attention economy and Svendsen helped me articulate why I believe that the current focus on anti-terrorism is creating its own victims.

  • Matthew Crawford — World Beyond Your Head (link)
  • Robert Kane — A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will (link)
  • Lars Svendsen — A Philosophy of Fear (link)
  • Quentin Skinner — Hobbes and Republican Liberty (link)
  • Quentin Skinner — Liberty Before Liberalism (link)
  • Daan Roovers — Mensen maken (link)
  • Philip Pettit — Republicanism (link)
  • Paul Scheffer — De vrijheid van de grens (link)

B00k C7ub 4 N3rd$

The book club is slowing down. In the past year we always managed to read seven books, this year we got stuck at five. The Dutch are privileged to have such a sharp novelist writing about our technological predicament as Maxim Februari. Cixin Liu’s science fiction was very entertaining and Nir Eyal was mostly irritating with his disingenuous concern for the ethics of his dopamine based approach.

  • Maxim Februari — Klont (link)
  • Adam Greenfield — Radical Technologies (link)
  • David Golumbia — The Politics of Bitcoin (link)
  • Cixin Liu — The Three-Body Problem (link)
  • Nir Eyal — Hooked (link)

The black struggle and black experience

This is of course a slightly uncomfortable category (the books are way too diverse to all be put on the same pile), but I wanted to get a better understanding of black experience in the last year and these are the books which helped me do that. Most of the books on this list are incredible. Yaa Gyasi’s novel was the best piece of fiction I read this year and it were the words of James Baldwin who hit the hardest. Chinua Achebe is the favourite writer of one of my favourite writers (Ngozi Adichie) and I now understand why. Tommie Shelby’s radical black liberalism is a convincing philosophical argument for the abolishment of the American dark ghetto and Gloria Wekker has managed to put the finger on why I often feel so uncomfortable with how we deal with race here in the Netherlands.

  • Tommie Shelby — Dark Ghettos (link)
  • Yaa Gyasi — Homegoing (link)
  • James Baldwin and Raoul Peck — I Am Not Your Negro (link)
  • Chinua Achebe — The African Trilogy: Things Fall Apart/No Longer at Ease/Arrow of God (link)
  • James Baldwin — The Fire Next Time (link)
  • Angie Thomas — The Hate U Give (link)
  • Gloria Wekker — White Innocence (link)
  • Anousha Nzume — Hallo witte mensen (link)
  • Robert Vuijsje — Kaaskoppen (link)
  • Colson Whitehead — The Underground Railroad (link)

The war in Vietnam

While spending a few weeks in Vietnam I wanted to dive deeper into the war. Bao Ninh’s book will continue to haunt me for a while, while Dang Thuy Tram gives a glimpse into the Vietnamese psyche. Swain writes beautifully about both the horrors and the pleasures of Indochina during the late 60s and early 70s.

  • Bao Ninh — The Sorrow Of War (link)
  • Dang Thuy Tram — Last Night I Dreamed of Peace (link)
  • Jon Swain — River Of Time (link)


It isn’t the only fiction that I read over the last year (there is some in the other categories), but it is fitting that Atwood’s book stands by itself. What a formidable writer and what an incredible book.

  • Margaret Atwood — The Handmaid’s Tale (link)


Goodwin and Bach made a great comic about how the economy works and Ould Slahi’s account of his rendition and his time in Guantánamo is shameful for the US. Ecott’s book is a joy for any diver and Puett has inspired me to try and read some of the Chinese classics in the coming year. Fumio Sasaki has convinced me (once more) that a minimalist mindset is a wonderful thing, but I think that my physical books will continue to be part of my minimalism.

  • Michael Goodwin and David Bach — Economix (link)
  • Mohamedou Ould Slahi — Guantánamo Diary (link)
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (link)
  • Fumio Sasaki — Goodbye, Things (link)
  • Tim Ecott — Neutral Buoyancy (link)
  • Frans Osinga — Science, Strategy and War (link)
  • Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh — The Path (link)
  • Edgar H. Schein — Humble Inquiry (link)
  • Henk van Houtum and Leo Lucassen — Voorbij Fort Europa (link)

My consumption of other media

Not much has changed on this front. I am still a member of De Correspondent and subscribe to Wired Magazine and the New York Review of Books. New is a subscription to the Amsterdam-based (and focused) newspaper Het Parool.

Cory Doctorow, Stephen Downes and Audrey Watters have been with me for years and they are still my favourite curators. My RSS feed has barely changed: I read the news from other digital rights organisations, read Coates and Bogost in the Atlantic and Morozov in the Guardian, follow the Facebook newsroom and Google’s research and won’t miss anything that Kashmir Hill or Maciej Cegłowski writes. A new find is Ben Thompson who writes very insightfully about the tech industry on his on blog, Stratechery. My other tech news comes from the Guardian, Tech, Tweakers and Wired’s security blog. The Intercept is still on my list of feeds, but is becoming nearly formulaic in its approach.

In podcasting I continue to listed to every episode of This American Life, Dipsaus, 99% Invisible, Een Podcast over Media, Radiolab (and their More Perfect series), Reply All and This Week in Tech. New and not to be skipped is Ear Hustle, a podcast from inside a US jail. I’ve listened to quite a few of Lex Bohlmeijer’s interviews on De Correspondent and can usually get to the Rudi and Freddie Show from the same outlet. If I can find the time I listen to some of the Guardian’s long reads, Note to Self, Planet Money, Strangers, Team Human, The Tim Ferris Show, Freakonomics Radio and Security Now.

What will I be reading in 2018?

2018 will be another year where I will have to spend a lot of time studying and writing and so will have less time for reading. I will read some books about fundraising, expect to be reading about the philosophy of justice and hope to get to some more fiction than I usually manage.

The Books I Read in 2016

Covers of the books that 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)

B00k C7ub 4 N3rd$

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)


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)


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’s 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)


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, 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!