Book Reviews

I've always been an avid reader, going through about a book a week. In recent years I have increasingly shifted to audiobooks. I spend so much time looking at a screen that just giving my eyes a break is important. Here's a small selection of what I've enjoyed.

Philosophy and Ethics

The Moral Landscape

Sam Harris

The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris, is a book I keep coming back to. Its central thesis is simple: science can – and should – be used to answer moral questions. Harris argues that morality is a matter of maximizing the wellbeing of conscious creatures and that this can be objectively determined by understanding the nature of the human mind and the universe we live in. There is no is/ought distinction because an 'ought' question is just a specific kind of 'is' question. He also challenges the notion that religion is the only source of moral guidance, and suggests that science can provide us with a more reliable foundation for ethical behavior. I largely agree with most of it but I'm not sure I can sign on to all the implications. Is there really a morally optimal tax rate?


Sam Harris

Harris offers an in-depth exploration into the ethical implications of lying and how it can shape our lives. He covers a wide range of topics, from relationships and politics to the media and technology, and ultimately provides a convincing argument against lying in all forms. The book is well-written, easy to read, and packed with powerful arguments.


Joesph Goldstein

This book is a great resource for anyone looking to learn and practice mindfulness meditation. Joesph Goldstein provides a comprehensive, informative, and easy to understand guide to mindfulness meditation. He covers the fundamentals of mindfulness, how to establish and maintain a consistent practice, and how to apply mindfulness to everyday life. The book is filled with helpful exercises and techniques to help cultivate a greater sense of presence and self-awareness.

The Five Invitations

Frank Ostaseski

Against Empathy

Paul Bloom

Against Empathy is an exploration of the concept of empathy. He's against it. Bloom argues that empathy-based emotions and behaviors can be misguided and even harmful, and that our society needs to move away from relying heavily on empathy when making decisions. He provides evidence from a variety of sources, including behavioral science and neuroscience, to back up his claims. Bloom's writing style is sharp and clear, making the book easy to read and understand.

Ethics in the Real World

Peter Singer

This is an interesting-enough look into the ethics of daily life. The book examines a wide range of ethical issues, from animal rights to charity to climate change. Singer's writing style is clear and enjoyable but his arguments seem too simple or obvious. Maybe that's the style he's going for. It feels like he's more often giving his opinion on what the outcome should be, rather than an objective discussion of the underlying ethics. It still does what the title says, and it's a good read.

Arrival of the Fittest

Andreas Wagner

Thinking Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

Kahneman brings his lifetime of experience in psychology to the strange depths of the human mind. The book explores the different ways in which people process and make decisions based on their emotions, gut feelings, and cognitive biases. The book is divided into two parts: System 1 and System 2. System 1 provides a more intuitive, often automatic response to situations while System 2 requires more focus, concentration, and deliberation. The most useful part of the book for me was Kahneman's examination of cognitive biases that can lead to irrational decisions. He explains how these biases can be avoided, and how one can be more aware of them in order to make better decisions.

Science Fiction

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O

Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

Magic is real, but somehow the book feels realistic. There are no space ships or weird aliens, just people going about their lives on Earth. Even the magic is treated as more of a hereditary skillet. The book is also very funny. I listened to it on audiobook and there few a few times I burst out laughing on trains or sidewalks, like in one hilarious scene in which a group of 10th century vikings raid a suburban Walmart and are confused to find so much loot. The meeting of the ancient and the modern shows the absurdity of both.


Neal Stephenson

This is an ambitious and complex science fiction novel that tells the story of a group of intellectuals in a monastery-like environment. The avout are divided into various orders, each of which is set up with a series of levels. Some avout go into the outer level for a year and have the option of going through the doors to the next inner level where they can't come out for ten years, and those have the option of going into the next inner level where they can't come out for a hundred years and so on to a thousand years. They do have ways of meeting and coordinating the operations of their monastery and its interaction with outer society. The most interesting part of the book is how the avout interact with the outer society. Overall I found the book interesting but too long.

The Circle

Dave Eggers

The Circle by Dave Eggers is a thought-provoking novel about the potential dangers of technology and the effects it can have on society. He paints a vivid picture of the Circle’s all-encompassing presence in Mae’s life and the lives of those around her, showing how the company’s mission to make all information freely available to the public comes at a cost. The novel touches on topics such as data privacy, surveillance, and the ever-growing power of technology companies. I didn't agree though, with the way Eggers portrayed the company as a villain, as it seemed to be an oversimplified explanation of a complex issue. Imagine if ubiquitous surveillance allowed the police to catch every rapist for example. I'm not saying I would want to live in such a society but it does have it's benefits. As always, there's a tradeoff between your security and other people's privacy. I value my privacy, but I also think the police should be allowed to invade peoples privacy if warranted. The problem is not that surveillance is bad, but that too much is bad. Reality is in this grey zone but Eggers book is black and white.

Snow Crash

Neal Stephenson


Neal Stephenson


Neal Stephenson


Neal Stephenson

Seveneves is an exemplary science fiction novel written by Neal Stephenson. It is a story of the human race’s survival and a testament to the power of human ingenuity and resilience. Typical Stephenson - a large-scope ambitious story with lots of side twists that you'll either love or hate.


Andy Weir

Artemis tells the story of Jazz, a smuggler living on a lunar colony. While the novel has an interesting premise and a unique setting, it fails to truly capture the reader's imagination. The plot moves at a decent pace, but never reaches the heights of my favorite of Weir's novels, Project Hail Mary. The character development is adequate, but ultimately not that compelling. Weir's writing style is still entertaining, but overall the novel left me feeling somewhat unfulfilled. Why did I read that?

Project Hail Mary

Andy Weir

This is a remarkable read. It has a great mix of not-completely-implausible scifi elements, a captivating plot, and relatable characters that I enjoyed spending time with. Ryland and Rocky are great. Just read it.

The Mezzanine

Nicholson Baker


Stephen King

The Three Body Problem

Liu Cixin

Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury

Ready Player One

Ernest Cline

This was fun. Please don't write a sequel.


Sam Harris

Lex Friedman

Modern Wisdom

No Such Thing as a Fish

Bari Weiss

AWS Podcast