quick reads

i can say that i’ve been around just long enough to recognize when i’m entering a new reading cycle. it seems to go fiction, non-fiction (like memoirs), to current non-fiction (financial crisis, design, biographies of recent figures, etc).

i’ve been on an design and tech innovation kick lately (part 3 of my cycle), possibly sparked last fall with a quick read through change by design and now spreading through to a tufte collection, don’t make me think, painters and hackers, and ultimately the steve jobs biography. and of course all of this is supplemented by an assortment of tedtalks, my favorite being hans rosling’s ‘best stats you’ve ever seen’ which actually came out 6 years ago. while on this topic of tech, i recently just got more into podcasts which are also perfect for morning commutes or easy jogs.

i just want to make a few comments on my latest reads while they’re still fresh on my mind. in order of being read:

don’t make me think – interesting, not particularly informative (now that i’m reading it about 12 years post original publication date, but i can see how he was effectively before his time – and how that time was the last decade.

tufte (collection of 4 books, visual explanations, beautiful evidence, envisioning information, visual display of quantitative information) – actually went to his talk as well. perhaps i went into the lecture with the wrong expectations, but his advice was relatively impractical. it was more or less a spiel on his achievements, how to give presentations (from poise to appropriate use of humility), and a mild advertisement of his sculpture work.

lecture aside; his books are beautiful and quite interesting in understanding the history of data visualization and also of visual integrity. they’re wonderful to read and would highly recommend anyone with any remote interest in questioning the stats he or she sees every day. it encourages you (or maybe just me?) to think just a little bit deeper and to think a little bit harder about data dimensionality.

hackers and painters, written by paul graham, who first and foremost, has accomplished great things in his field and  is a decent blogger. but as a writer, well, that’s definitely not his skill set. the chapters are choppy, a bit odd, and his intro beef with the pitfalls of high school were extraneous and conceal a hurt not yet forgiven. in other areas he goes too deep with little explanation. what’s funny is i suspect he anticipates his readers to flip over to the glossary to decipher his message. his book is very onerous on the reader. in his intro he states that a reader can pick up and leave off at any chapter at any time as well as skip around. while that’s useful for a website, it’s quite different in a novel. reading a book should not be like following a blog where i dig through your archives or look up key words. i found this strategy very annoying, disruptive to the flow and pacing, and to be quite honest, lazy.

while i do like graham’s blog and have read quite a few of his articles that i found interesting or informative, the novel is a different beast and should be appreciated and the writing elevated. writing style gripes aside, what i found useful in this book is his opinion on languages it has made me think a bit more deeply about learning how to code myself.

steve jobs biography – i will have to say that this author is very easy to read and really enjoy his style of writing. i couldn’t put it down and finished it in a few days’ time. steve is kind of inspirational and while i never understood or appreciated the hype before, i sure do now. what’s really fun is the fact that i read this after reading lehrer’s imagine. lehrer has a chapter on pixar and to intersect the Jobs’ biography with the outsider view of pixar is like fitting puzzle pieces together.

whether you love or hate apple or steve jobs, you’ll definitely appreciate both a lot more post this book.

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