After a stroke that erased his memory, Giambattista “Yambo” Bodoni, the renowned antiquarian book dealer, resolved to go back to his family house in the Italian Piedmont, the same house where he spent all his childhood. He was looking to recover the remnants of his past now turned into a void, and assembling them like they were the pieces of an impossible jigsaw. For days he scrabbled through piles of comics books, newspapers, vinyl records, and magazines but to no avail. It was only when he was about to call off his search that he discovered, hidden in the books of his grandfather, an original copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio, triggering in him such a severe shock that it finally lifted the veil concealing his past. Like a cascade, the memories fell haphazardly and intensely upon him, finally giving the poor antiquarian a sense of who he really was. But tragedy was lurking, as one memory remained forever lost: that of the face of the girl he once loved.
A man splits the roots of a cattail – a tall plant that grows near marshlands – and mashes them until he creates a soft, moist mass of unappealing green and brown colour. He tells you to apply the poultice on a wound that you just got in your leg.
Would you do it?
Surely your answer depends on the circumstances.
If you happen to be in the city, not far away from a pharmacy, it is most likely that you refuse, and prefer to get some antiseptic jelly, some bandages, and a pill or two of acetaminophen.
But if you are in the forest, far away from the comforts of civilization, and the man offering you the remedy happens to be a survival instructor, you will definitely hurry to put as much of the paste on your injury. Or at least that was my choice when I fell while hiking during a bushcraft course, opening a mild but painful cut in my leg.
Here is a list of my favorite ten non-technical books that I read this year. I prepared it with the explicit goal of covering most of my interests these days; however, I realized that topics that are becoming my priority, such as Climate Change, are not represented here.
Tell me if you have read any of them, or if one intrigues you, and we can have a chat. I also would love to know what were your favourite books in 2019.
- There are no dead here (Violence in Colombia)
- A New Compact History of Mexico (Latin America History)
- The Storm Before the Storm (History of Rome)
- The Willpower Instinct (Popular psychology; self-help)
- Irrational Exuberance (Finance)
- Radical Markets (Economy)
- The Deep Learning Revolution (Artificial Intelligence)
- The World According to Wavelets (Popular mathematics)
- Nonsense on Stilts (Philosophy of science)
- The Other, The Same (Poetry)
The following are some personal notes about them.
In my previous entry, I wrote that CO2 emissions are the sole metric that you should be tracking if you want to make changes in your life that help mitigate your environmental impact. Despite the abundant material you can find online about it, the calculation of this number does not seem straightforward. Your specific circumstances typically don’t fit the assumptions behind these sources of information that promise to help you. Worst of all, they almost never tell you how they arrive at their estimates.
You eat a burger. You drive your car. You put your clothes to wash. You buy a plastic bottle of water. You turn on the lights.
Miniscule actions that you take every single day have been suddenly reframed as wicked gestures of recklessness that put our planet in grave danger.
If you have developed some environmental consciousness lately, and you want to make some positive changes in your life to help mitigate the climate crisis, you may feel overwhelmed with the avalanche of messages that kind of urge you to stop living.
Since last year I have developed an interest in elections, not in specific instances, but rather in the phenomenon as a whole. It may seem odd that in a world convulsed with an avalanche of catchy affairs, such seemingly bland topic as elections is the one that captures my attention. After all, they are so entrenched in our societies that they may seem as natural as clouds in the sky. And what kind of person finds clouds fascinating?
This year I have been reading a few good books on climate change. I enjoy the more technical ones, particularly those written a few years ago, rather than the new, wishy-washy ones that are cropping up bookstores these days. The minimum knowledge needed to grasp the surface of climate change is quite extensive, and I know I need all those numbers, figures and tables to make sense of the problem.
Something I have noticed though is that none of these books starts with a discussion of the graph that I think encapsulates more information relevant for the current crisis. The figure is the following: Continue reading “Billions of Humans need Trillions of Trees”