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.