What If?

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More correctly titled “you die horribly and it probably involves plasma”, this light hearted and fun read explores serious answers to silly scientific questions. The footnotes are definitely the best bit. A really enjoyable read.

What If? Book Cover What If?
Randall Munroe
Humor
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September 2, 2014
320

The creator of the incredibly popular webcomic xkcd presents his heavily researched answers to his fans' oddest questions, including “What if I took a swim in a spent-nuclear-fuel pool?” and “Could you build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns?”

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Best Foot Forward

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Catherine and I have been huge fans of Adam Hills for ages, so it wasn’t a surprise to me that I’d like a book by him. As an aside, we’ve never seen him live — we had tickets for his show in Canberra in 2013, but some of us ended up in labor in hospital instead, so we had to give those tickets away. One day we’ll manage to see him live though, he just needs to get back to touring Australia more!

Anyways, I enjoyed this book which as mentioned above wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise is that he said something interesting which I have been pondering for the last few days…

Basically, its nice to get on stage and say things, either entertaining the audience or in my case perhaps educating them a little (I give technical conference talks). However, that’s not the most important thing. You need to work out why you’re on that stage before you go out there. What is the overall thing you’re trying to convey? Once you know that, everything else falls into place. I think this is especially true for keynote speeches, which need to appeal to a more general audience than a conference talk where people can pick from a menu.

What Adam seems to be saying in his comedy (at least to me) is to embrace life and be good to each other. Adam is a super positive guy, which is delightful. There is something very special about someone who lifts up those around them. I hope to be that person one day.

Best Foot Forward Book Cover Best Foot Forward
Adam Hills
Autobiography
Hachette Australia
Paperback
353

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Scared Weird Frozen Guy

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The true life story of a kid from Bribie Island (I’ve been there!) running a marathon in Antartica, via being a touring musical comedian, doing things like this:

This book is an interesting and light read, and came kindly recommended by Michael Carden, who pretty much insisted I take the book off him at a cafe. I don’t regret reading it and would recommend it to people looking for a light autobiography for a rainy (and perhaps cold) evening or two.

Oh, and the Scared Weird Little Guys of course are responsible for this gem…

This book is highly recommended and now I really want to go for a run.

Scared Weird Frozen Guy Book Cover Scared Weird Frozen Guy
Rusty Berther
Comedians
2012
325

After 20 incredible years as part of a musical comedy duo, Scared Weird Little Guy, Rusty Berther found himself running a marathon in Antarctica. What drove him to this? In this hilarious and honest account of his life as a Scared Weird Little Guy, and his long journey attempting an extreme physical and mental challenge at the bottom of the world, Rusty examines where he started from, and where he just might be going to.

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High Output Management

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A reading group of managers at work has been reading this book, except for the last chapter which we were left to read by ourselves. Overall, the book is interesting and very readable. Its a little dated, being all excited with the invention of email and some unfortunate gender pronouns, but if you can get past those minor things there is a lot of wise advice here. I’m not sure I agree with 100% of it, but I do think the vast majority is of interest. A well written book that I’d recommend to new managers.

High Output Management Book Cover High Output Management
Andrew S. Grove
Business & Economics
Vintage Books
1995
243

The president of Silicon Valley's Intel Corporation sets forth the three basic ideas of his management philosophy and details numerous specific techniques to increase productivity in the manager's work and that of his colleagues and subordinates

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Bad Pharma

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Another excellent book by Ben Goldacre. In this book he argues that modern medicine is terribly corrupted by the commercial forces that act largely unchecked in the marketplace — studies which don’t make a new drug look good go missing; new drugs are compared only against placebo and not against the current best treatment; doctors are routinely bribed with travel, training and small perks. Overall I’m left feeling like things haven’t improved much since this book was published, given that these behaviors still seem common.

The book does offer concrete actions that we could take to fix things, but I don’t see many of these happening any time soon, which is a worrying place to be. Overall, a disturbing but important read.

Bad Pharma Book Cover Bad Pharma
Ben Goldacre
Clinical trials
2012
430

"Medicine is broken. While patients trust that their drugs are safe and regulated, and doctors attempt to prescribe the most effective cures, the global pharmaceutical industry is a 600 million dollar business rife with corruption and greed" -- Blurb.

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Richistan

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This book examines the lives of the newly wealthy in America. Its a little dated, in that it was written before the recent real estate crash, but apart from that is a very good book. It is readable, interesting, and raises some interesting questions about what will happen with wealth in an increasingly globalized world. The book also does a good job of highlighting the increasing gap between the ultra-wealthy and not just the poor, but the middle class as well. I really enjoyed this book.

[isbn: 9780307341457]

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Being Geek

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This book by long time Apple engineering manager, as well as startup employee, Michael Lopp is a guide to how to manage geeks. That wasn’t really what I was expecting — which is sort of the inverse. I was hoping for a book about how to be a geek who has to deal with management. This book helps with that, by offering the inverse perspective, but I’d still like to see a book from my direction.

The book is well written, in a conversational and sometimes profane manner (a comment I see others make about his other book “Managing Humans”). I think that’s ok in this context, where it feels as if Michael is having a personal conversation with you the reader. An overly formal tone here would cause the content to be much more boring, and its already dry enough.

I’m not sure I agree with everything said in the book, but the first half resonated especially strongly with me.

[isbn: 9780596155407;0596155409]

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Bad Science

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I’ve been trying to read one non-fiction book a month recently, and this is the one for January. This book is simply excellent and I’m glad I read it. It is clearly written, entertaining, and easy to understand. Yet it covers complex issues about how mis-reporting of medicine result in people dying. It covers statistical errors, dodgy marketing, and self serving journalism. An excellent book that I am now going to force my wife to read.

[isbn: 0865479186;9780865479180]

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