Saturday July 10, 2021
I’ve been reading more books than usual recently — this post is a quick list of some of the most recent books I’ve read.
What Tech Calls Thinking (Adrian Daub)
This book is extremely good — it’s about the stories that Silicon Valley tells about itself, and contradictions in those stories. The rhetoric seems very finely tuned, and it largely avoids the sloppy mistakes that much of this sort of writing tends to fall into. Each chapter focuses on a different facet of the Silicon Valley mythos, and each does an excellent job pointing out the goals and contradictions involved.
Stop Saving the Planet (Jenny Price)
I think this book is getting at something very important, and has identified what is probably the most useful way to think about “environmentalism”, although I found the presentation somewhat offputting. I’d summarize the key ideas as:
- It’s an error to think of the environment as being synonymous with nature — cities and houses are as much a part of our environment as forests and lakes.
- We should be wary of individualistic solutions to systemic problems.
- The metric for how successful we are at mitigating environmental damage should be how much we’re improving the places that have been most impacted (which tend to be the places where poor people live), rather than looking at averages or improvements in well-off communities.
It’s a pretty quick read, and I do recommend it.
Educated (Tara Westover)
This was a very interesting and entertaining (albeit somewhat stressful) read, although I don’t feel that I learned much from it, exactly. Insofar as #1 NYT best-sellers go, it was quite good.
Two Cheers for Anarchism (James C Scott)
This book (or maybe more accurately, collection of essays — Wikipedia snarkily refers to it as “book-length defense of the anarchist perspective”) was very insightful — I especially enjoyed the opening essay on “anarchist calisthenics,” the essay offering a defense of the petite bourgeoisie, and the essay on the systemic destruction of vernacular knowledge. Maybe a quarter of this book was rehashing material from Seeing Like a State, but I think that’s probably useful — while Seeing Like a State is an important book, it’s also very dense. Two Cheers for Anarchism offers many of the same ideas in a more approachable package.