My Twelve Months of “Reading”

I’ve been reading a superhuman number of books (for me) over the last year. I have always been a very poor reader and when I was working full time reading was a luxury, I just didn’t have time for. I recently started listening to books on Audible. Many people I know say they have low comprehension when listening to a book, I’m quite the opposite. To put this in perspective it literally took me 2 years to read Neal Stevenson’s book Cryptonomicon. While most of the reading happened on vacations, I I went through three physical books, it’s still unbelievably how slow I read.

The one counter point to this was always computer programming books. Back when people learned to write code via books, a time long ago, I could read an entire programming book of 500 or more pages in a day. This would suggest that my poor reading performance was not a technical problem. but rather of attention. Perhaps, but I don’t think so. There is something different happening in my brain when reading books that are “reference material” like programming books.

I think as a kid I had some kind of learning disability that was undiagnosed. I know I’m an experiential learner. If I really need to understand something, I have to do it. I need to assemble things, watch things, break things, and finish things to really understand them. It’s the long way around, but it’s the only thing works for me.

Another by-product of being a poor reader is I’m poor at spelling. You only need to ask “Everyone I have ever worked with or known” to get verification of that. In spite of that, my vocabulary isn’t too bad. I think that’s more about being 55 and surrounding myself with smarter people than me for most of my life. I have had the good sense to hang out and work with very smart and very successful people over the last 30 years and I guess that just rubs off on you!

Below is my reading list over the last 12 months. You will notice I’m not a fiction reader.  I enjoyed Cryptonomicon and tried to read SevenEves but my suspension of disbelief was shattered when everyone in the book thought the moon breaking up was cool rather then horrifying.  (Come-on people where did people think those moon chunks were going to go?)

You may also notice I’m attracted to various themes. Some of those themes are Nuclear Energy in its explosive as well as power generating forms, although sometimes the two collide. I like aerospace and accident investigations. In addition to the books on the subject, I have read nearly every NTSB accident investigation of commercial aircraft accidents dating back decades (these I read-read, as they are written like reference material and easily consumed in a day or two). I do read some political stuff, but just to confirm my own beliefs and anger myself 🙂

I intend to do some thematic posts about what I learned in these books as there are some interesting threads to pull on in the list.

Here’s the complete list:

  1. The Making of the Autonomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes
  2. Red, Sammy Hagar
  3. Fear, Bob Woodward
  4. The Dream Machine, M. Michell Waldrop
  5. Elon Musk, Ashlee Vance
  6. The Right Stuff, Tome Wolfe
  7. A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of Apollo Astronauts
  8. Quiet, Susan Cain
  9. The Threat, Andrew McCabe
  10. The Plane That Wasn’t There, Jeff Wise
  11. Scapegoat, Emilio Corsetti III
  12. The Crash Detectives: Investigating the World’s Most Mysterious Air Disasters Christine Negroni
  13. Last Days of the Concorde, Samme Chittum
  14. Bringing Columbia Home, Michael D. Leinbach
  15. Skunkworks, Ben R. Rich
  16. Area 51:An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base, Annie Jacobsen
  17. Chernobyl, Serhii Piokhy
  18. Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster, David Lochbaum, Edwin Lyman, Susan Q. Stranahan
  19. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in Silicon Valley, John Carreyrou
  20. Idaho Falls, William McKeown

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