Dec 2020 and January 2021
The end and start of a new year
I hope you had an enjoyable holiday season and that 2021 is more boring than 2020.
In the last two months I’ve published two articles.
The first one, Speeding up Magit with the native-comp branch of Emacs, explores the bleeding edge of Emacs. It experiments with a feature branch of Emacs that compiles elisp code to native code. Overall, my experience with it has been 99% enjoyable and generally Emacs feels snappier.
The second one is my annual review of the previous year of reading article. I read a fair amount of books a year and this post highlights some of my favorites. The reviews are a little light this year but the list of books is pretty great.
I’ve finished many books since my last newsletter. Links all go to Goodreads.
I read I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid pretty immediately after watching the movie with the same name. It is a creepy book that you should read if you want a little extra creepiness in your life. Even though I knew the story from the movie, I was sucked into this book and finished it quickly. The movie is also weird and good and left me feeling off.
Next came The Vexed Generation by Scott Meyer. This is the sixth book in his Magic 2.0 series. The Magic 2.0 series is about a world where some folks have figured out they are actually living in a computer program and you can edit the code, effectively giving you magical powers. The series is fun and light and takes the idea that software controls the world to a whole new level. This book was a nice addition to the series. The series doesn’t contain the best writing in the world but it is a fun, light-hearted story.
Provenance by Ann Leckie followed and I really enjoyed it. It takes you back into the universe she’s constructed in her debut Imperial Radch trilogy (books 1, 2, and 3 on that page). You don’t really need to have read the trilogy to enjoy this book. It focuses the story mostly on a single planet and deals in a lot of political intrigue. This book focuses on a small set of main characters and does a great job. I’m pretty hooked on Ann Leckie’s world and am hoping I get to read more books about it.
Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel was the first book I read where I took notes on my reMarkable2 while reading it. I’m hoping that actually taking written knows while reading and going back to review those ends up being more useful than just making highlights in my Kindle. Historically and to my detriment, I rarely review notes or highlights and am trying to get better at that. Here is the author’s review on Goodreads. I’d recommend reading that and following the notes & highlights link from the review as well. Those give you a pretty good idea about what the book is about.
I finished up 2020 by reading Both Flesh and Not, a collection of non-fiction essays by David Foster Wallace. I deeply enjoy DFW’s writing and this collection didn’t disappoint. Some of the topics I don’t care about and felt meh about those, others I didn’t care about but really enjoyed reading, and others I was eager to read. Here is a quote from one of the essays that I feel like sharing.
In sum, to really try to be informed and literate today is to feel stupid nearly all the time, and to need help.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Marry Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows was consumed as an audiobook while driving. The audiobook had quite the cast of voice actors which made it a pretty enjoyable experience. Still, I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as I think I would have if I read it in print.
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline was alright. I’m not sure I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to someone but if you enjoyed Reader Player One, I’d guess you enjoy Ready Player Two but probably enjoy it less. I didn’t find it as compelling.
I really loved Dept. Of Speculation by Jenny Offill. I experienced the full range of emotions while reading this relatively short story. Because of how much I enjoyed Dept. Of Speculation, I picked up another book by Jenny Offill, Weather, a couple weeks after finishing Dept. I enjoyed Weather, but not nearly as much as I enjoyed Dept. Of Speculation.
The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson is a depressing book that deals with climate change. Parts of this I really enjoyed. Other parts of it just dragged on. Given the topic, this might be an important book to read.
I really enjoy Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and she published a new short story, Zikora, recently. It did not let me down. It is pretty great.
And that is all for this update. Usually I’d link to some articles and suggested reading but instead, I’ll just suggest that if you aren’t reading Matt Levine’s Money Stuff that you follow that link and subscribe to the daily newsletter. It will definitely be more interesting to folks that have an interest in the finance world but it truly contains some of the best, humorous writing on ongoing finance world dramas. It has had some excellent writing about the recent Gamestop drama. (also, this is good)