Nonfiction

Nonfiction

  • Draft No. 4 was the only thing I’ve read that prompted me to pay for a subscription. I picked it up The Tattered Cover in Denver along with Stephen King’s On Writing. I chewed through No. 4 in as many days and immediately subscribed to the New Yorker (which I’ve continued to enjoy). New Yorker plug aside, No. 4 was engaging for both its insight into the world of professional writing (“Green 15”) and exposure to John’s adventures. He takes you from idea, to draft, to revision, to publishing. It’s a suprisingly wild ride. He focuses on the humanity of the participants, but also manages to share tactical writing advice (how should you structure the story?). He doesn’t spout rules in the abstract. He takes you along for the journalism and invites you to review the structure of the resulting narrative together. There’s even a fairly entertaining and lengthy anecode about John’s favorite text editor, KEDIT. It doesn’t get much more tactical than that. Even for those not consciously working on their writing, highly recommend.

  • GCHQ collects professional puzzlers. As part of a fundraiser, they published two fun puzzle collections: The GCHQ Puzzle Book: Pit Your Wits Against the People Who Cracked Engima and The GCHQ Puzzle Book II. My wife and I worked through some of these puzzles on early dates. I’d estimate that 15% require some UK-specific knowledge (names of towns, old prime ministers, etc). For other pieces of esoteric knowledge however, there are resources in the back of the book. The books are built to entertain puzzlers who may be in isolated environments who can’t rapidly google helpful material (the phonetic alphabet, countries and their capitals, etc). If this book’s for you, you already know it.

  • The Book of Why explores the lacking formalism surrounding causality and how traditional statistics fall short in certain areas. Pearl establishes the ladder of causation and counterfactuals and applies them in an entertaining way. You’re bound to find interesting applications to your own research.