Content roundup (Feb + Mar + Apr 2021)

Books:

  1. If Beale Street could talk – Love, loss and hard-hitting everyday reality of what it means to be black in America. I’ve read many books centred on this theme of late – what stood out here was the simple, raw and matter-of-fact reality of the average black person’s life. The simplicity of the everyday narrative is heart-breaking. I personally wanted a longer book and more closure in the end, but that’s the thing – many black lives are hanging in the middle, without closure – so in some ways, it felt apt. – 4/5
  2. Where the Crawdads sing – Such a wildly different book. I lapped it up. This book is about family, love, loneliness, and the price we pay to not be lonely. It is also a book about the wild beauty of nature – the part of nature most of us don’t consider beautiful. The writing is so vivid that I could visualize every word. The protagonist is flawed, and that’s what makes the book magnificent – 4/5
  3. The Little Prince – This is a classic but I personally did not relate to it or like it as much. Overall the characters and the plot were not real enough for me to be invested and internalize the philosophical takeaways 3/5
  4. The Great Alone – This book was such a rollercoaster of emotions – love, solitude, family, domestic violence, and the choices we make that define our lives. I held on to every word and every page. Kristin Hannah’s Nightingale is an all-time favorite and this came close. The portrayal of ‘real’ Alaska is so real, raw, untamed, wild that I spent hours reading about Alaska when this book got over. If you ever want a wholesome read that makes you feel many things, this book is it – 4.5/5
  5. The Three Body Problem – Much has been said about this book. It was my first real foray into sci-fi. While the initial half of the book is somewhat slow and difficult to get through, the overall plot and actual hard science fiction makes up for it. There are so many good scientific concepts explored for the uninitiated, and it does a good job of setting up the plot for the next two books in the series. Overall a little more flow and a little less ‘bunch of independent narratives’ would’ve made it more wholesome, but it’s definitely worth reading, for what follows – 3.5/5
  6. The Dark Forest – Second book in the Three Body Problem series. I could NOT put down this book. The characters, the plot, the science, the fiction, the overarching understanding of the universe – I think this book has it all. The protagonist’s view on a life partner is as old school as it can get, but it’s a minor blip in the overall scheme of things. I was awed and amazed at the scientific concepts throughout and I definitely learnt more through than all the Physics in school – A solid 5/5
  7. Death’s end – Third and final book in the Three Body Problem series. This book made me really think about our universe, space and the Earth in a different light. The scientific concepts were again enthralling and mind-opening, while being largely grounded in the laws of physics. Seeing game theory play out at the scale of the universe was also crazy. Although the book didn’t imply this, I appreciated how truly, truly rare life is and how fortunate we are to have a planet like Earth – 4.5/5
  8. Animal Farm – Another classic. “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Everyone should read this book once in their lifetimes – the journey from being ‘equal’ animals to ‘more equal than others’ animals is intriguing and funny at the same time, and the parallels with our world’s authoritarian regimes today, are uncanny. 4/5

Articles:

  1. Nobody is perfect, Everything is commensurable – Slate Star Codex – protests, civil activism and other ways to spur change may be overrated; giving even $100 can save many more lives than we can imagine
  2. Contra grant on exaggerated differences – Slate Star Codex – the best piece I’ve read on the gender gap in tech. Despite being a feminist, this article really changed the narrative for me
  3. Why is everything liberal – Richard Hanania – super interesting perspective on why, even though Democrat and Republicans see nearly equal voter support, most of America’s institutions lean liberal
  4. Organized lightning – Greg Isenberg + Mario Gabriele
  5. Moore’s law for everything – Sam Altman
  6. Book review of Why we’re polarized (Ezra Klein) – Slate Star Codex
  7. How Twitter got its groove back – Not Boring by Packy
  8. Why Gamestop didn’t sell any stock during the Twitter rally – Matt Levine
  9. Is Substack the media future we want? – New Yorker

Movies / shows (notable):

  1. The Spy – 4.5/5
  2. Dead Poets Society – 5/5
  3. My Octopus teacher – 3.5/5

Podcasts:

  1. The simple economics of saving the Amazon rain forest – Freakonomics Radio – 5/5
  2. The $69 million JPEG – NPR Planet Money – 5/5
  3. A primer on NFTs with Jesse Walden – Invest like the best – 4.5/5
  4. Puzzle Rush – Revisionist History – 4/5
  5. The Basement Tapes – Revisionist History – 3.5/5
  6. Modern Monetary Theory – NPR Planet Money – 3.5/5

Content roundup (Jan 2021)

Books:

  1. The courage to be disliked (290 pg.) – As much as I dislike self help, I couldn’t help but appreciate a few actionable ‘mental models’. I liked the ease of understanding and implementing things we all know internally. The writing style and the first 75 pgs. are a big turn-off though. 3.5/5
  2. Memoirs of a geisha (420 pg.) – I nearly lapped up this one. It’s a beautiful and heart-breaking portrayal of geishas in Japan before and during the World War. The rawness of words and emotions kept me glued till the end. 4.5/5

Articles: (Fewer articles than usual because I committed to start reading books again!)

  1. Platforms, Bundling, and Kill Zones – Benedict Evans
  2. Still Alive – Slate Star Codex, Scott Alexander
  3. Opportunities in education – Erik Torenberg
  4. How free speech leads to moral progress – Erik Torenberg

Movies / shows:

  1. The Dissident – Everyone needs to watch this. Eye-opening, terrifying, and heart-breaking documentary (by the maker of Icarus) on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the famous Saudi journalist. 4.5/5
  2. For Sama – A look into Syria’s civil war from 2012-16 from a civilian’s perspective. What makes this movie special is the blend of facts and emotions. What it meant to live, love and survive during the war. The protagonist filmed the entire Syrian uprising as an ode to her daughter – (Academy Award nominee). 5/5
  3. All the President’s men – I love investigative journalism, which is why I enjoyed this movie. How two Washington Post reporters unearthed the entire Watergate scandal. 4/5
  4. The Crown – Hooked me like many others. Since then, I watch YouTube videos about Princess Diana. 4/5

No podcasts because I was stuck indoors!

Favourite books, articles, podcasts, and movies of 2020

Books:

  1. Born a Crime – Trevor Noah’s story of growing up in South Africa. This book lives up to all its hype, and then some – it’s difficult to write about racism without victimization and pity, and Trevor did exactly that. Recommend very, very highly
  2. An American Marriage – I laughed, cried, and smiled with the characters – real race issues in America and what prison does to innocent people. Incredibly beautiful
  3. Zero to One – Needs no introduction. This book changed my world view on creating large-scale impact and what it means to really change the world
  4. The Three Body Problem – Was one of my first scientific fiction books, and I got through it slowly, but surely – it’s mind-opening. Set against the backdrop of China’s cultural revolution makes it even more interesting
  5. 1984 (re-read) – My favourites: ‘if both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?’ and ‘freedom is the freedom to say two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.’ 1984 is a book for the ages

Articles:

  1. The categories were made for man, not man for the categories – Slate Star Codex. My all time favourite article ever. Period.
  2. Questions – Patrick Collison. Incredibly thought provoking questions about the past, present, and future of the world we live in
  3. The future of America’s contest with China – New Yorker. Long read but worth it. I enjoyed understanding Chinese students’ perspectives of the US, and the experience of the author in China
  4. Content, cars and comparisons in the streaming wars – Matthew Ball. Deep dive on the OTT space – how streaming and television have evolved, and the current landscape (Netflix, HBO, Disney)
  5. Masa Madness: an analysis of Softbank – Not Boring by Packy. Very well researched, genuinely not boring, and insightful deep dive on Softbank
  6. Legal systems very different from ours, because I just made them up – Slate Star Codex. Yes, SSC is my favourite blog. Another mind-opening read of what different (theoretical) legal systems could look like
  7. This is water – David Foster Wallace. This speech deserves to be widely read. How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life, dead and unconscious – highly recommend
  8. Targeting meritocracy – Slate Star Codex. SSC is my favourite – even though I don’t fully agree with all the arguments in this piece, it’s a logical and non-polarized opinion on meritocratic systems
  9. New erotica for feminists (an excerpt from the book) – Short and fun read on what a feminist’s fantasies look like
  10. How to build curation businesses – Erik Torenberg. Harvard, Stanford and YC are essentially curation businesses, where it comes down to brand and signal value
  11. Stop trying to try and try – Minding our way. I’m not a self-help/ inspirational reading type of person. But this is very legit advice that I often think of. We need to stop telling ourselves we need to try our best, and actually try
  12. The three sides of risk – Collaborative Fund. What really matters and we don’t think enough about, is, the tail-end outcome of any decision or situation. I often think about this now, while taking risky decisions
  13. Twitter, responsibility & accountability – Stratechery. Brilliant arguments on whether Twitter and Facebook are accountable for everything that’s published on their platforms or are they only distributors of content. I don’t fully agree with everything, but this is my favourite read on this topic
  14. Social cooling – This is not a piece but a new concept. Scary. I re-read 1984 recently, and there were eery similarities with this concept. What happens when all our data is being recorded and we are being watched all the time?
  15. The case against kids – New Yorker. Good piece on why having kids is not actually a selfless decision
  16. Why Figma wins – Timeless piece on what makes Figma tick: growth loops and how Figma has made design not only a designer’s thing, but everyone’s thing
  17. If I ruled the Tweets – Not Boring by Packy. Fun piece that resonated a lot of my thinking about Twitter
  18. How the Kremlin uses and abuses history – Carnegie Moscow Centre. Intrigued, but not surprised to read how the Kremlin has used and abused history to its benefit (another 1984 reference!)

Podcasts:

  1. McDonald’s broke my heart – Revisionist History. My favorite podcast episode ever. The McDonald’s fry we all know today is not the OG fry, and for an utterly unbelievable reason. Highly recommend
  2. Ben Thompson on platforms and aggregators – Invest like the best. Even though Ben Thompson pioneered this topic, but this podcast revisited it with newer perspectives and examples, making it more interesting than ever before
  3. Negative oil – Planet money. Good explanation of what really happened when the oil futures went negative. I love Planet Money for fun explanations of seemingly complex topics
  4. Spanx: Sara Blakely – How I built this. Usually not a fan of listening to entrepreneurial stories, but this one’s an exception. Sara Blakely didn’t know what a venture exit was, sold her product to Neiman Marcus in the ladies’ room, and more
  5. Shishir Malhotra on bundling – Invest like the best. Great mental model of how bundling works (and should work) in the real world

Movies:

  1. Hamilton – I think this movie will go on to have a deep and rich legacy. This is an experience and made me feel so many different emotions – definitely my top 3 movies of all time
  2. The Trial of the Chicago 7 – An absolute gem. I didn’t want this to end. Great court room drama about a civilian protest in Chicago against the Vietnam War
  3. The Post (rewatched) – Yes, I love movies based on historical events AND I love journalism. This covers how the NYT and The Washington Post finally broke the reality behind US’ involvement in the Vietnam War
  4. Icarus – It is mind-boggling to imagine doping at the Olympics. Icarus tells the story of consistent state-sponsored doping. Bone chilling

All these movies are true stories and the first three based on historical events.