So summer is upon us once again. In Madrid that means temperatures of around 40 degrees. But it is also a great time to catch up on reading. This will be my last post until early October, so I thought I would share some of the books I plan to read over the following months. I am a non-fiction guy and I think I am pretty clear about what I want to read. I have doubts about the fiction I have chosen. Many of the books on this list are not new, but I just haven’t got round to reading them yet.
To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death Mark O’Connell
I have been meaning to blog about the subject of the Singularity for a while now. So this book should give me some ideas. Journalist Mark O’Connell meets some of the leading Silicon Valley types who think that they transcend human existence. I am drawn to the wacky characters that O’Connell visits, but it is an opportunity to reflect on the ethical dilemmas that this brave new world raises. Having said that, I am sceptical about many of the claims made by figures such as Ray Kurzweil.
Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus Rick Perlstein
I have blogged about Goldwater before. He may have lost to LBJ in the 1964 election, but he was a pioneer of the Conservative revival, which would culminate in the election of Ronald Reagan. Goldwater was the target of the famous Daisy ad in that election.
Before the Fall Noah Hawley
I love Fargo, both the Coen brothers’ film and the TV series. The later was created by Hawley, so I couldn’t resist his foray into the world of suspense. I don’t know much about the story, only that it involves a private jet flying from Martha’s Vineyard to New York that plunges into the ocean.
Belichick and Brady: Two Men, the Patriots, and How They Revolutionized Football Michael Holley
I am not a big fan of Tom Brady’s lifestyle brand, as I pointed out in a post a few weeks ago, but what a quarterback the 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL is. And Belichick is surely one of the greatest coaches in any sport. No head coach-quarterback pair has been more successful in NFL history than these two. I will be interested to discover the ins and outs of their relationship.
Flight Behavior Barbara Kingsolver
A number of colleagues have recommended this book to me. I have already read Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible and am looking forward to reading this tale of the causes and consequences of climate change. Dellarobia Turnbow is a 28-year-old housewife who lives with her family on a farm in rural Tennessee. She is going on a hike and is planning to meet a telephone repairman who she is going to begin an affair with. She discovers millions of monarch butterflies in a nearby valley. I have been told that it begins slowly, but that it’s worth sticking with.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari
I love this kind of big sweep book which looks at our history from around 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. How did these savannah-dwelling primates become the dominant force on the planet, beating out six other competing hominid species? I also want to look at his second book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, which takes our story into the future.
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA Tim Weiner
I have read Weiner’s Enemies: A History of the FBI and now want to look at his book about the CIA, a controversial organisation if ever there was one. Is it the last line of defence against America’s enemies, or an evil conspiracy to promote American imperialism? It is probably a bit of both with a lot of incompetence and delusional thinking added to the mix. Weiner’s is a critical account so perhaps I ought to look for amore favourable one too.
Summer House with Swimming Pool Herman Koch
I have already read the Dutch author’s novel The Dinner, which was pretty macabre. This one seems to be in a similar vein. I’m not very sure about the plot about Dr. Marc Schlosser and a patient of his, actor Ralph Meier, who winds up dead. I do know that it will not be a feel-good book.
The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World Sharon Weinberger
Founded in 1958 amidst the American angst after the launch of Sputnik, DARPA’s original mission was to create “the unimagined weapons of the future”. The threat of nuclear Armageddon led to massive investment in computer networking and the creation of the Internet. They were also behind or had an influential role in GPS, Agent Orange, driverless cars, the first stealth prototype aircraft, drones and the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. There is the wacky stuff such as building a planetary force field to protect America from nuclear weapons, draining the Great Lakes to power a missile-destroying particle beam and tens of millions of dollars spent on psychics to test ESP.
Have a great summer and I will be back in early October.