Twenty sixteen. Woof. A year of subtle ups and conspicuous downs. To live through this year was to hear the somber announcement that Prince had died, but then, in its wake, get to experience Purple Rain in theaters, where fans sashayed down the aisles and crooned into the high rafters in remembrance of the little purple one. A year of bad news that we got through.
In honor of the ups, I’m ending the year the same way I started it: top five lists.
For those who missed last year’s top five post, I got the idea from one of my favorite movies High Fidelity. You can top five list anything: 90s movies, Olympic sports, vegetables. This post will focus on my favorite reads and listens from the year.
This will be my last blog post of the year. Number fifty two. To all of those who followed along, provided feedback, and were part of the general conversations that turned into these posts, thank you! And, as always, thanks for reading.
Into the new year we go.
Top 5 Tech Reads
Steve Yegge’s Google Platform Rant. An ex-Amazon Googler rants to fellow Googlers about the hard decisions a company needs to make when pursuing a true service-oriented architecture (and how his former employer accomplished the feat.) A great memo and story of what’s needed to institute change across a large organization.
Japanese-Style Entrepreneurship: An Interview with Softbank’s CEO, Masayoshi Son. Found this early 90s interview with Softbank’s CEO after they acquired ARM earlier this year. Masayoshi Son discusses the company’s early days: “Many people were laughing at me. They said, that guy’s really dumb. He’s a nice guy but dumb. I said, OK, I’m dumb. But I’m going to keep at it, and someday, somebody will find out what I can do and what real software distribution means.” Lots of inspiration here.
How Google is Challenging AWS, Ben Thompson. Good summary on cloud computing space and the role company culture plays in how each vendor will fare within it.
Uber’s Atomic Meltdown, Eli Schiff. Funniest design read of the year.
Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet, Bruce Schneier. We’ll look back on 2016 as the year when cybersecurity came to the forefront of our national dialogue.
Top 5 Long Reads
After Last Call: A Bartender Trades SoHo for Serbia to Reclaim His Mansion, Alex Vadukul. My first year in New York, after late nights at the office, I’d often swing by Fanelli Cafe for a quick bite and drink. This piece on the departure of the cafe’s legendary bartender is classic New York.
How I Wrote Arrival, Eric Heisserer. A neat behind-the-scenes look at one of the coolest sci-fi movies of the year.
Alone in the Alps, James Lasdun. For lovers of mountains and solitude.
The U.S. Navy’s Big Mistake — Building Tons of Supercarriers, David Wise. There’s an innovator’s dilemma analogy in here somewhere.
Hiroshima, John Hersey. Seventy years ago The New Yorker devoted an entire issue to Hersey’s story of six survivors at Hiroshima. This year the magazine moved the piece in front of the paywall in honor of its 70th anniversary. A true long read but worth your time.
Top 5 Non-Fiction Books I Read in 2016
Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin. My favorite book of the year and a good way to get to know President Lincoln. I was sad when it ended.
The Everything Store, Brad Stone. A great profile on Amazon, Bezos, and the early days of the Internet.
The Intelligent Investor, Benjamin Graham. This book combines folksy style and sharp logic to present a philosophy of investment and security analysis that dispels the whims of the market and, instead, focuses only on what can be known about a business.
Complexity, Mitchell Waldrop. A read about the complex adaptive systems that reside at the edge of chaos — the point between order and chaos where dynamic, patterned behavior emerges. It also details a gnarly hang gliding crash.
Creation: Life and How to Make It, Steve Grand. A fun book from Steve Grand (developer of the early-90s game Creatures) about life and how to recreate it.
Top 5 Fiction Books I Read in 2016
The Leopard, Giuseppe di Lampedusa. The Italian One Hundred Years of Solitude.
The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton. Boy meets girl in old New York. Boy and girl find themselves suspended between two generations and are forced to compromise, accordingly. This book is one of the greats.
Still Life with Woodpecker, Tom Robbins. "Hostess Twinkies mate for life."
Plays, Anton Chekhov. Plays from the mid-19th century about unhappy people aspiring for something more: “In two or three hundred years life on this earth will be gorgeously beautiful and glorious. Mankind needs such a life, and if it is not ours to-day then we must look forward to it, wait, think, prepare for it. We must see and know more than our fathers and grandfathers saw and knew.”
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline. 80s and video games. A fun read for anyone else who used to be really into RPGs.
Top 5 Albums Released in 2016
Blonde, Frank Ocean. In it’s entirety, the best album of the year. There are a lot of great parts here -- “Pink + White”, “Solo”, “White Ferrari” -- that stand on their own, too.
Teens of Denial, Car Seat Headrest. It’s been too long since we had a good Strokes-y album.
Nonagon Infinity, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. A wild ride on an infinite loop.
DJ-Kicks Mix, Moodymann. An eclectic mix from Detroit legend Moodymann.
Cody, Joyce Manor. I listened to a lot of Blink-182 as a kid.
Top 5 Old Albums I Re-discovered in 2016
To Bring You My Love, PJ Harvey. Worth a visit if you haven’t heard this before. Lots of range on this album.
Bee Thousand, Guided by Voices. The album the Beatles would have produced had they been a lo-fi basement band in the early 90s.
Special Beat Service, The English Beat. A fun cooking album. “Save It For Later” is my highlight.
Music for 18 Musicians, Steve Reich. Beautiful pulsing compositions that make for great work music.
J.S. Bach: Suites for Cello, Pablo Casals. Pablo Casal’s recording of Bach’s Cello Suites. The suites are one of the most popular pieces of classical music around today — the Yo Yo Ma version is all over the place. But I like Casal’s recording best. The suites were unknown and destined for oblivion until he stumbled across the sheet music in a thrift shop in the early 20th century. He recorded them in 1936 at Abbey Road and they’ve since become legend. A cool story and a beautiful piece of music.
Top 5 Blog Posts I Published in 2016