If We Burn, Vincent Bevins

A fascinating history of recent mass protests, however I wished the analysis about implications had been more substantial. 

The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman

Another review helped me understand this book; while it might seem repetitive when read in 2024, for its time it was revolutionary. It’s a pity we are still fighting a war on bad design and, worse, blaming humans and not bad design. 

Model Minority Gone Rogue, Qin Qin

Qin writes with raw power in this affecting story of self-discovery. I only wish it didn’t feel quite as disjointed in the underlying narrative. I hope to be able to read more from Qin!

Dune, David Lynch

A real fever-dream of a movie. Utterly bizarre at times; and at other times, oddly beautiful and compelling. Still, I love films that take huge swings and even if they don’t always pay off, it’s so much more creatively interesting and rich than so much of film today.

The Great Housing Hijack, Cameron K Murray

Very dense economically, which is necessary, of course, to understand the current housing crisis and to begin to be able to think about ways out of the mess we are in. I felt myself getting a bit lost in the soup from time to time, and would have appreciated a high-level summary of the five equilibria.

I was excited to read Murray’s proposed solution as well as being offput to reflect on the power of what he calls “the housing cheer squad” – i.e. the vested interests that are protecting the status quo. As always, I cannot help but think the problem is too big and too politically messy for a solution as brave and necessary as Murray advocates. 

Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan

An unsettling, near-endless film; I think I wanted something more than what it was, which ultimately was a film that made me very upset at humanity’s tendency towards wretchedness. Still, it’s a Nolan, so you know there’ll be some good bits.

Designing Your New Work Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

A real mixed bag: I thought the sections on design thinking were, as you might expect, the stronger part of the book. The book falls down, though, in having a real USA-centric attitude to work and I think some views of the authors are just outdated. For instance, they seemed unconcerned or even enthusiastic about the growing dominance of the gig economy. There was also little to no evidence base for many of their recommendations (and indeed, underlying view). And to round off my criticism, the case studies they used to illustrate their points (especially from their own lives) felt a little trite.

Creamerie, season two

Not quite as sharp or enjoyable as season one (nor, I think as funny). Still, the things that made season one so wonderful are still present here, just perhaps in lesser amounts.

Until the End of Time, Brian Greene

Quite a dense and chewy book, and one that is stronger when it sticks to the areas closest to Greene’s expertise (hard physics). It becomes quite vague and waffling in areas farthest from his (professional) expertise. The book often relies on assertions as to the likely answer to some of our thorniest questions (such as consciousness) which I think comes across as intellectually incurious and rather dogmatic. It is disappointing that he does not make an effort to engage with arguments that challenge his physicalist preferences.

488 Rules, Kitty Flanagan

This was funnier, and less ‘okay, boomer’ than another similar book I read about an Australian comedian-type. I think I made a mistake by not finding the audiobook version of this, as I’m sure Flanagan’s delivery would have added so much. That said, it is still a bit familiar, and very few of the jokes made me laugh out loud. 

The Wandering Mind, Jamie Kreiner

Look, this WAS interesting. But it was very little about distraction and far more about monks: how they lived, worked, acted, and so on. But luckily, Kreiner writes with such wit and authority that even though I wasn’t getting what I expected, I had a fine enough time. 

The Shamshine Blind, Paz Pardo

A fun adventure – Paz’s world-building and concepts are remarkable and a lot fun. My main quibble is with the pacing – the plot moves at a glacial pace with far too many digressions and flashbacks that feel a lot like telling not showing. I think this might make a fun movie.

Full Time, Eric Gravel

An entirely stressful movie, made even more so by a needlessly intense soundtrack. And I wonder if there’s a certain middle-class privilege that the movie just isn’t interesting in exploring. But these quibbles aside, it was a component, compelling film.

Bottoms, Emma Seligman

A fun Friday-night pizza-and-wine type movie. Witty, occasionally, and joyfully profane. I thought it was just a fun time. More of this, I think, and less of the usual same-old. Good performances!

Constellation, season one

Uneven, yet with some really strong moments and excellent performances by most of the cast (and in particular Noomi Rapace and the actors—twins, I just found out—that play Alice!) My only complaint centers on the overall plot: it feels confused and I’m not entirely sure if I have confidence that there’ll be a satisfactory narrative conclusion when the show is all said and done. Another of Apple’s ambitious sci-fi shows, Invasion, has burnt me. I sure hope, however, that there will be.

Ducks, Kate Beaton

A beautifully illustrated story that I think is let down by its overall narrative structure and reliance on sudden narrative jump cuts; it was hard to tell the passage of time and the authors growth throughout the story. I liked, very much, reading the author’s afterword, but I wish more of that had of come across in the text itself.

Stoic at Work, Annie Lawson

Lawson has a lot of great stories, and while I found the analysis and history of Meditations (or Jottings as I am tempted to call it after Mary Beard) to be a little so-so, this is a fun, breezy sort of book. I especially liked the use of blue ink throughout the book.

Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport

I find dipping my toes into the world of minimalism always a curious experience: it is a topic overwhelmingly dominated by white middle-to-upper class tech-adjacent bros, who hawk their ideas and solutions as if they were a panacea. I think this book is perhaps a little better than that bleak prognosis, but not by much alas. I found his argument interesting, and I think I will try the digital declutter he suggests. 

Brainwyrms, Alison Rumfitt

I had a ghastly time reading this—it was simply too much for me, the delicate violet that I am. Yet I think this is, in some ways, a necessary book: the hate and violence towards our trans-brothers and -sisters is appalling and needs to be called out and explored within fiction and outside of fiction. The body horror elements of this book turned my stomach, and I don’t know whether to congratulate the author for creating something so genuinely shocking or run away from thinking about this book. Provocative, gross, and brave. 

Note: I have pixelated the cover for the front page. If you’d like to see the original, it is here.

Dirty Work, Eyal Press

Press (what an Author’s name!) presents chilling case study after chilling case study, humanizing those society has forced to do our collective dirty work. However, the book falls down in that it does not offer a way forward or solutions to the issues expressed. Still, Press’ plea that we see these people are not only people but our agents and we be willing to bear witness to their stories is a powerful conclusion. 

Blackouts, Justin Torres

A book that confused me; it invoked a feeling I haven’t had since a teen of reading serious novels and just feeling slightly off put; almost as if I was missing something fundamental. Torres has created a smart novel with some metatextual tricks and delights. While I did not love it, and skimmed the back half, it is an interesting and valuable piece of modern queer literature. 

My Neighbor Totoro 1000 piece puzzle, Ensky

My first jigsaw puzzle (since I was a kid). I liked this one—the Studio Ghibili art is, as expected, amazing—but I was a little put off by the white border around the image. Putting together white jigsaw piece puzzles is pretty tedious, especially for a beginner. The result was very impressive.

AlRawabi School for Girls, season two

After a strong first season, I had high expectations for the second season—always a bit of a trap. I thought this season was very inconsistent: I suspect the central problem is it simply tried to cover too many topics and as a result felt patchy, uneven and that it didn’t do any one of the plotlines the justice they deserve. As a cultural study, I still think it is worth watching: both for the exploration of what it is to be a young woman in Jordan society, but also to be a young women in today’s social-media hellfire landscape.

American Mermaid, Julia Langbein

What an intriguing debut novel! I found this quite slow to read, but Langbein’s writing is often quite witty: there are some great lines through this sometimes meandering, curious novel. 

The Art of Reading, Damon Young

Young writes so well, yet the premise of this book feels quite uncertain: is it about the joy of reading? Is it about novels and stories themselves? Is it a vehicle for the author to explore the thoughts of various other philosophers? I spent a nice time with this book but could not recommend it. 

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, season one

I was initially quite excited about this—I thought it was going to explore what life would be like in a world where monsters have not only arrived, but made themselves comfortable—yet I was quickly let down by ChatGPT levels of plotting and exposition and some younger actors who struggled to convey anything other than pure petulance. I sincerely hope they get a second season and can improve upon a rocky foundation.

The Brothers Sun, season one

A lot to like about this show—yes, aside from the transcendent Michelle Yeoh—but sadly really let down by crummy writing, peak performances from others in the cast. Still, more Asian-American representation please!