What am I reading -- January 2018 Ed.

My next few months are travel-lite, and I'm catching up on my reading. I don't have much to say aside from "people should read more" and here are some recommendations.

Growing Up Absurd, by Paul Goodman

Probably the first book about the systemic problems society faces that I read that actually made sense. The central thesis is that, when presented with a picture of adulthood that doesn't make sense, people either grow up pretending and then resenting that adulthood (a bad state) or they drop out of the system entirely (Beatniks being the main example in this book from 1959, but it applies to every generation). The crux of the argument is that work, adult work, should be productive and useful and that children should grow up into that, and that most existing work is "boondoggling". It has a sort of dry, hectoring tone that grows on you as you read it.

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Most everyone seems to like this book, but my Russian novelist reading has skewed Bulgakov and Dostoevsky in the past. Set in the end of aristocratic Russia, this is a story of how a vast cast of characters deal with the competing demands of social expectation and personal desires. Tolstoy has a knack for breaking complex personality traits down into a simple sentence, and a real talent for knowing which characters to do that with and which to keep mysterious.

The Brain Audit, by Sean D'Souza

I hate the idea of "selling"; a part of my brain recoils at the thought of it. But the thing is, we're selling all the time, and it's great to be able to do it well. The Brain Audit is a great little book that walks you step by step for how to put together a sales pitch, and as I was reading it I was adapting the steps in my head to stuff in my career (which has next to nothing to do with "Sales"). It's also a really quick read.