What I read: April/May/June 2019

April/May/June 2019

I’m back at work so reading is slowing down. A bit more variety and more New Yorker articles as I’m cracking on through the pile I’d built up. Only the articles I really enjoyed here.


  • Milkman by Anna Burns. Outstanding book. For anyone who has lived (or particularly grew up) in a culture of hierarchy, gaslighting, spoken and unspoken rules, anger and otherness. Can’t tell you how much this book churned me up, in a good way.
  • Africa’s tarnished name by Chinua Achebe — a few short essays from the Nigerian master. All very good, “Travelling white” a particular highlight.
  • Kudos by Rachel Cusk — so I completed the triology, pretty much the day the paperback version of Kudos came out. It maintained the fantastic quality to the end. My favourite of the three was Transit.
  • The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo — very good exposition of what management should look like in contemporary technology organisations. I agree with, and try to implement, almost everything in this book. In some ways is this is pretty odd, given how awful a company Facebook is overall (see Wired article below). You can read this as a book that shows how you can build high functioning teams utterly divorced from any idea of doing the right thing.
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré — don’t remember when I read this but I did. I love the book and it reminded me how good the old school Alec Guinness TV show is.


  • All will be well by Yiyun Li — one of my favourite writers. Story that reminded me a little of bits of Americanah. As Li works through the death of her son in her writing she is getting into challenging territory that is emotional and thought-provoking.
  • Color and light by Sally Rooney — a writer who has a strong effect on me:
  • The Making of the Fox News White House by Jane Mayer — how Fox News is a propaganda machine for the Trump White House. Superb article.
  • The Female Chef Making Japan’s Most Elaborate Cuisine Her Own by Helen Rosner — ostensibly about kaiseki in LA but underneath is a description of achieving great things through gentle, sensitive determination. A model for a different path to greatness.
  • 15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook by Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein — long long article about a difficult year for Facebook. The sad part is that they weathered it using all of their usual crappy tactics.
  • Rhiannon Giddens and What Folk Music Means by John Jeremiah Sullivan — Black musicians are reviving the Black lineage of folk music in the US. Singers that regularly drew tens of thousands to their concerts have been totally airbrushed from the historical record. Also introduced me to the wonderful Rhiannon Giddens, an extravagantly talented musician and ethnographer.
  • The Airbnb Invasion of Barcelona by Rebecca Mead — I was talking to a Barcelona resident about AirBnB just before reading this article. Lots to think about in the balance between economic growth through tourism and the destruction of local communities (see also: gentrification).
  • Outdoor Voices Blurs the Lines Between Working Out and Everything Else By Jia Tolentino — Jia Tolentino is fast becoming a go-to New Yorker writer for me. This is an article about the founder of the “Outdoor Voices” clothing line, a woman who sounds like the high priestess of our “influencer” moment. There was a line in this that I loved:

    I introduced myself, and she instantly recalibrated her vibrancy to fir the contours of my attention, like a phone screen adjusting its brightness according to the light.
  • Can Elizabeth Warren win it all? by Sheelah Kolhatkar — I think Elizabeth Warren is my favourite Democratic candidate for 2020. This article explains how many of her views were formed by her time fighting for the rights of ordinary people who become bankrupt. And just how she is a bit of an all-round badass.
  • Inside the Cultish Dreamworld of Augusta National — Augusta National is Disneyland, if Disneyland was designed for hedge fund managers and southern businessmen. This look inside makes it clear how genuinely bizarre the whole spectacle is, and explains how they keep it looking so pristine.

Okay, there were a few more but I think that’s a decent selection.