If you travel at all and you’re anything like me you probably have an overstuffed backpack containing your laptop and some books you’re currently attempting to read. The set changes all the time, with some books moving from backpack to rollerbag, so what is actually with me at any given moment is always in flux.
So, in packing to return to San Diego after the current speaking tour I notice that the set of books in my backpack is an electic mix:
The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, by Barry Schwartz.
What I like: A breezy overview of a real problem, which is the increasing cognitive burden created by the surplus of options faced by people today. I see it in everyone from CEOs to recent hires.
What I didn’t like: It’s a bit repetitive, and it has a tendency to over-elaborate its relatively simple conclusions.
The Drowned World, by J.G. Ballard.
What I liked: This first novel by the dystopian British writer is one of his best. It limns a haunting and melancholy flooded future on an over-heated earth where we are all both Kurtz and Marlow.
What I didn’t like: Ballard overly regularly gets mired in poetic prose, and periodically Kevin Costner comes unbidden into my head.
Our Own Devices: How Technology Remakes Humanity, by Edward Tenner.
What I liked: This is a unique look at the essential two-way interaction between invention and use, with detailed studies of how first we make our inventions, and then our inventions make us, from the reclining chair, to the helmet, to the typewriter.
What I didn’t like: There is something vaguely bloodless about Tenner’s fastidious writing.