Summary of recent reading(April-June 2019)

Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool: a book on deliberate practice by one of the researchers who originally coined the term. This book lays out a framework for how to achieve expertise. Briefly, this goes as follows: identify what skills and mental representations an expert possesses, design a step-by-step program where you build up that skill, get feedback on what you’re doing wrong, focus on your weaknesses as you practice. The book emphasizes mental representations as essential to expertise– as chess players study games for many, many hours they see not just individual pieces but learn to identify larger patterns in any configuration. Deliberate practice is about building similar mental representations in any skill you want to master.

Overall, I think this book is a worthwhile read. You’ve probably encountered the idea of deliberate practice elsewhere by now, and the authors lay down exactly what that entails. The book can be a bit dry at times– it tries to stay firmly grounded on facts, and that means citing one study after another. But I did find the description of how Benjamin Franklin designed a program to practice his writing skills to be really cool.

Backstabbing for Beginners by Michael Soussan: an insider’s account of the United Nations operation overlooking sanctions imposed on Saddamn Hussein’s Iraq. The book is very open about the many failings(including incompetence, naivete and downright corruption) of the Oil-for-Food program and the people involved. And how Saddam Hussein benefitted massively, to the detriment of the people of Iraq, by exploiting these failings.

I found the book really well-written, and highly recommend it.

Phoenix by Steven Brust: This is book 5 of the Vlad Taltosseries. I’ve reviewed the earlier ones, and I can definitely stick to my recommendation for this series– these books are short and entertaining. I’m reading them in order of publication date; in terms of chronological order, this book follows book 3(Teckla).

Athyra by Steven Brust: Book 6 of the Vlad Taltos series. This one’s written in a different voice and centers around a different character, although the protagonist of the series– Vlad– still plays a significant role. Still really fun.