Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnold and David Roberts
This is a memoir of sorts by a rock climber most famous for his free solo ascents(free soloing = rock climbing without a rope). The reason I picked up this book is because I’ve been doing some climbing myself and while the type of climbing I’ve done– mostly bouldering, mostly indoors– is very different from what Honnold does, it’s still very interesting to read about the perspective and experiences of someone who performs at such a high level.
Especially interesting was his perspective on risk versus consequences. Climbing a big wall without a rope has obviously very grave consequences if he falls, but he figures that most of the time the risk of his actually falling is pretty low.
The Push by Tommy Caldwell
Another rock climbing book. A big theme in this book is getting over adversity and pushing past perceived limits. Caldwell has had quite an interesting life and there are bits of biographical details in the book alongside his rock climbing exploits. The biographical bits are actually quite interesting and they tie in with what fed his sense of purpose while doing some of his climbs.
Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
This one is not about rock-climbing! Instead, it’s by a former Navy SEAL turned endurance athlete– Goggins has participated in several ultra-marathons. This is somewhat thematically similar to “The Push” in that it is also about pushing past your perceived limits, although unlike “The Push”, this one is a bit prescriptive and borders on the “self-help” genre at times.
Still, I think the core message of the book– that you should constantly be pushing past your comfort zone– is a valuable message.
Grr. I really need to write blog posts other than book reviews. But until then, here are some notes on two books I read recently:
Superforecasting by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner
Superforecasting is a book about what qualities it takes for a person to be good at forecasting events. These qualities were teased out of a multi-year study in which participants were presented with a precise question about a future event(for example a question could be “Will Donald Trump serve the full term of his presidency?”); the participant has to come up with what she believes to be the probability of the outcome(an example response could be “yes, with 85% probability”). Among participants in this study, some performed much better than others— the book calls this group of people “superforecasters”. What made this group so good at forecasting? That’s what the book is all about.
Besides the mental habits of “superforecasters”, the book also makes the case that forecasting is important— not just for its own sake but because we make decisions based on our forecasts. And that for forecasting to improve we must subject it to some rigor, instead of making vague statements whose accuracy can’t really be assessed even after the forecasted event has/hasn’t taken place.
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Shoe Dog is the story about the origins of Nike, written by one of the founders of the company. I enjoy reading these “here’s how we did it”-type books and this one is particularly well-written and fun to read throughout.
Spin is a sci-fi trilogy comprising of the books Spin, Axis and Vortex.
The first book in the series, Spin is a really great science-fiction story and the Hugo award it won is well-deserved. Since it is a story that can be easily spoiled, I’ll try to sell it without giving away too much: it is a story of a crisis that hits the Earth. The first book is mostly about unraveling the nature of this crisis and what caused it. What makes the book great, of course is that this crisis, called “the Spin”, is an interesting idea.
The latter two books– Axis and Vortex are okay-ish. They’re not boring books per se, it’s just that as follow-ups to Spin, I think they do pretty poorly. I think the problem is that while Spin introduces a fairly novel concept, instead of expanding upon that, Axis and Vortex spend a lot of time on mundane and overused-in-scifi stuff like how the bad guys are going to mis-utilize some technology.
So yeah, in summary, at least the first book is worth the read. If you are the kind of person who can live with reading only the first book of a three-part series, then I’d skip the latter two.