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Monday
Dec172018

Books in 2018 - Part 2

Some more books consumed in 2018, as recommended by Maxim Kuschnerov and Andrew Schmitt.

Maxim Kuschnerov, senior R&D manager at Huawei.

It is hard to believe the book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff was published in 2018. Judging by what has happened since Trump’s inauguration, this recollection of his first days in the White House seems outdated. But it was fun to read while the memory of the election was still fresh. It is hard to judge whether all the book’s sources are truthful but the main message is certainly not too far off.

John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup deals with the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and her infamous blood testing start-up, Theranos. If it wasn’t for the fact that Holmes endangered the lives of thousands of people with her erroneous tests, one could be almost amazed on how she secured $1 billion from investors based on absolutely no technology whatsoever. It is also hard to believe how big chains could go along deploying Theranos tests without qualification of the products or the necessary Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

As a westerner working for Huawei, Henry Kissinger’s On China was an important read to understand better how China sees itself and the world. There is no other nation capable of looking decades ahead like it is the fourth quarter of the next financial year. This is a worthwhile book for anyone wanting to make sense of the world.

Being a huge poker fan, buying the book Poker Brat: Phil Hellmuth’s Autobiography was a no-brainer. Hellmuth has his place in poker history, being one of the youngest World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event winners and the record holder with 15 bracelets. However, the book offers little insight on poker strategy. Or maybe it is the lack of strategy which makes Hellmuth who he is. If someone is really interested in learning from a great poker player, I’d recommend Every Hand Revealed by Gus Hansen. Hansen may have lost more than $20 million in online playing, but his book offers a better view on poker strategy back in the day of the big poker boom, before German maths wizards and game theory optimal strategy rewrote poker rules once again.

If a book has already been turned into a movie starring Brad Pitt, it means I am very late to the party with Michael Lewis’s Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. But being an artificial intelligence and machine-learning aficionado, everything is about recognising the underlying patterns, whether it is in images, optical signals or in such a beautiful and simple game like baseball. Most likely baseball strategists already apply machine learning to further optimise their strategy.

 

Andrew Schmitt, Founder and directing analyst at Cignal AI

The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler's Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb is my pick of the year. I can’t believe this story isn't already a movie. It is about the Allies’ attempt to destroy the heavy-water plant in German-occupied Norway that was critical to the development of a German Atomic Weapon. Norwegians in exile in the UK, working with locals, pulled off a stunning attack that crippled the plant and set back the German effort. But the book is mostly about the events leading up to the mission, as well as the escape afterwards. The men who pulled it off were as hardcore as they come, and the sacrifices and impossible decisions they faced need to be shared. It is a story I imagine most Norwegians know, and it is a story that should be told to the world.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance is a good autobiography of someone who managed to escape people and situations that could easily have misdirected him. I am not going to join the chorus of folks who point to this book as reasoning for Trump getting elected; I avoid political discussions at all costs in a work environment. But reading this makes you appreciate the positive advantages you may have had growing up. The author, on the surface, had none but he highlights the people and situations that were formative for him and how they guided him on the right path. The best part about the book is that it isn’t preachy and Vance goes out of his way to explain that the problems he avoided have no easy or clear solutions.

Ray Dalio’s whitepapers, essays and explainer videos have always impressed me with concise formats and clear ideas. However, his book, Principles: Life and Work, is a big meal that I didn’t finish. I would recommend his YouTube videos and whitepapers and unless you are a hardcore self-help reader, which I’m not, then skip this.

My son had to read War by Sebastian Junger over the summer for High School. We read it together; a highly recommended thing to do with your teenagers. Junger was embedded in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan with the US Army and was in the thick of some of the worst fighting. He also wrote The Perfect Storm which was a great book (and a terrible movie). In this book, he brings you right in the midst of events. If you want to know what being at the sharp end in Afghanistan is like, and the physical and mental sacrifices soldiers are making, then read this.

Michael Lewis is one of my favourite authors so I had to read his latest book, The Fifth Risk. It is well-written but it is about politics. I’m tired of politics. I don't think we need more of it so I won't recommend it.

I ripped through two volumes of Martha Wells’s The Murderbot Diaries on the way back from China. It’s about a security robot that figures out how to disable its governor software and become self-aware. A killing machine with a conscience, struggling with the details of being human. Some of the best Sci-Fi I’ve read in a long time. Netflix or Amazon need to give their money to this author right now and turn it into a series.

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