jml's notebook

Reading update

Reading update

I started the year with the intention to do a post for each book I finished reading. I can pretty honestly say I don’t have the time or energy to do that reliably just now.

However, I would like to do quick run down of the things I’ve read since my last update (whenever that was).

Zero Trust Networks, Evan Gilman

This is a write-up of the ideas of the BeyondCorp paper. I got this while I was still VP at Weavework, in the hope of using the ideas to set our IT strategy. I was never planning to do everything in it, but I thought that maybe there would be three or four small things we could do to get our security story under control.

Regrettably, the book is a long, dry textbook with little focus on implementation. It goes long on the theory, and has a lot of well considered notes on architecture and trade-offs, but very little for anyone who doesn’t believe in firewalls or VPNs but wants to make their system a little more secure.

If I’d had a team of three or four people to throw at the problem, maybe it would have been more interesting.

Wyntertide, Andrew Caldecott

This is the sequel to Rotherweird. It’s very much like its predecessor, with riddles and a labyrinthine plot and an excessive love of Englishness. I heartily enjoyed it and am looking forward to the third installment being out next year.

Early Riser, Jasper Fforde

It’s been so long since I’ve read something from Jasper Fforde. This one is delightful. It’s very much in the same vein as Shades of Grey, but that’s no bad thing.

It’s set in an alternate Wales where most humans hibernate through the winter. He spends the first quarter of the book setting things up for one dreadful pun, but that’s why we love him.

The Bullet Journal Method, Ryder Carroll

Memrise has a culture of not taking laptops into meetings. This means my normal Google Docs / OmniFocus-driven approach doesn’t work, and I need to get my note taking act in gear.

I bought this book because I’d heard good things about Bullet Journaling and wanted to read something away from the screen.

It’s a pretty frustrating combination of good advice awd what I can only interpret as self-important Silicon Valley wankery. I can tell that Carroll has read a lot of the same books as me, as he puts forward a lot of ideas that I’ve seen more convincingly articulated elsewhere.

I’m more or less actively bullet journaling now. I’d like to follow up with a post on how that’s working out for me.

Among Other, Jo Walton

David recommended this one to me, and I was desperate for some decent fiction to read. It’s not bad. I found it extremely moreish while reading it, but when I put it down I had little desire to pick it up again. I think that’s because while there are a lot of cool things going on, it’s kind of weak on plot.

Also, without wanting to give too much away, I found certain aspects of the narrator’s family life and her state of mind to make me very uncomfortable.

I’ve not read any Jo Walton before, and I have no idea of how representative it is.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, Marie Kondo

I just moved house, and am ashamed of how much junk we have. I bought this because someone mentioned Kondo at work and I wanted something to help me with clearing out the junk.

I would very much like to write a standalone post about Kondo, but I doubt I’ll get the chance.

Broadly, she has a lot of good ideas in here mixed with a lot of woo. She’s almost certainly right about what things to do when tidying up, and almost certainly wrong about the kinds of feelings my socks have.

Spark Joy, Marie Kondo

As above. More practical. Less woo. Still talks to her clothes.

Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz

This is a fun murder mystery within a murder mystery. I’m not in love with it, but almost perfectly fits the bill of holiday reading.

Made me want to read some Poirot, which is no bad thing.

Ghost Trees, Bob Gilbert

This is a lovely about the trees that are no longer in London. The author is a vicar’s husband in the parish of Poplar, and starts by observing that there are no poplar trees in the parish.

It’s extremely well written and highly discursive. He talks about foxes and real estate development and old English rituals and how ash trees reproduce and urban legends. In some ways, it was like taking a walk through a forest with Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable as a guidebook.

Reading it made me more aware of and more grateful for the plant and animal life that thrives in the city. My only wish is that it had more pictures, so I could identify more of the trees here. I think it’s telling that the bit that most connected with me was about the Australian gum tree that has now made its way to England. I know gum trees, having grown up with them all around me. I don’t know ash or elm or willow or birch or hazel or oak. To me, they are trees that show up in books, as real as mellorn and just as easily glossed over. I was hoping that Ghost Trees would help me connect more to the trees of my adopted country.


Anyway, that’s the update. Lots of good times reading books, it turns out.