2021 Mental Diet Log Oct 9, 2021 | 13 minutes

Books read this year: 61

Title Author Rating Notes Private Thoughts
Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology Adrienne Mayor C+ Enjoyable read highlighting the history of machines and their interactions with man.
Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis Michael Ward A Amazing work suggesting a compelling interpretive framework for The Chronicles of Narnia.
The Horse and His Boy C. S. Lewis A+ One of my favorite of the Narniad
King Solomon’s Mines H. Rider Haggard B Fun, well-written adventure story
Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative Edward R. Tufte C Interesting read with some helpful principles for good visual design. The discussion of the Challenger explosion is fascinating.
The Elements of Style William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White B Very good read even for those who are not writers by trade or hobby.
Talking God: Philosophers on Belief Gary Gutting C Good read introducing philosophical arguments for/against the existence of a God.
The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It Peter Enns D+ Raises some good (and some poor) arguments against considering the Bible as a reliable source of information. My primary complaints are: (1) he does very little to prove any of his claims and (2) he seems very quick to listen to the claims of liberal scholars and slow to consider any conservative interpretation.
The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable Nassim Nicholas Taleb B+ Very insightful and impactful book; a bit repetitive and, at times, rambling - but he raises some great points on the whole.
Confessions Saint Augustine A One of the most worshipful books I have ever read. Highly recommended.
Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith Michael Reeves A Fantastic book!
Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction Justin Earley B Great book
Introduction to Algorithms (chapters 1 - 4) n/a C Read through the first four chapters with friends.
Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder Nassim Nicholas Taleb B+ Fascinating read that has implications on numerous areas of life (engineering, programming, finance, politics)
Common Sense; Addressed to the Inhabitants of America, on the Following Interesting Subjects. Thomas Paine A Very well-written treatise on the case for liberty of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain practically, politically, and theological
The Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the American Constitution Thomas L. Pangle B+ Fantastic series of lectures investigating the debate between the Federalists and Antifederalists (and oft forgotten period of American history)
Feeding the Mind Lewis Carrol B Fun, short read drawing analogies between the feeding of our physical bodies and that of the mind
One to One Bible Reading David Helm C Interesting book highlighting the value of reading the bible with others (whether Christian or not)
Knowledge and Christian Belief Alvin Plantinga B+ Great introduction to Epistemology as it relates to Christian Belief showing the Christian belief can be rational (having warrant and proper function)
Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz C Insightful history of gun rights, gun control, and gun ownership in America (primarily noting the racial and ethnic abuse that necessitated the use of guns)
More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws John R. Lott Jr. C+ Insightful work presenting numerous statistics showing, as the title implies, that the more guns possessed by private citizens, the less crime is likely to occur in a given area
Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind: Literature’s Most Fantastic Work Eric S. Rabkin B+ Fascinating foray into literature of the past 4-500 years
Time Machine: An Invention H. G. Wells B+ Fascinating and fun science fiction story which introduces the idea of time travel and contains some fascinating political commentary
The Island of Doctor Moreau H. G. Wells B+ Gruesome and violent read full of commentary and analysis on the nature of man vs. animals, the role of science, and the role of religion/tradition in a society
War of the Worlds H. G. Wells C+ Fun, imaginative read which does a fantastic job of describing how human society would respond to a sudden invasion - not as good as his other works, though
Out of the Silent Planet C. S. Lewis B+ Amazing work of science fiction (which certainly is influenced by and is a spin on H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds) pondering the interaction of a fallen man with unfallen creatures on Malacandra
The Abolition of Man C. S. Lewis B An amazing work critiquing moral subjectivism - I think he is, at times, oversimplifying his opponents' views and oversimplifying the evidence in favor of his own, but still think it is a thought-provoking read
A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love Milton Vincent B Very good work celebrating (and encouraging us to daily celebrate), in various forms and genres, the beauty of God the Father’s love for us as shown in the Son, Jesus Christ, and mediated by the Holy Spirit.
From the Earth to the Moon Jules Verne C- Mild interesting story in Verne’s style
Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce John Piper C+ Fascinating biography of a wonderful man who fought to end the slave trade and slavery in England
Modern Introductory Analysis Mary P. Dolciani B+ Very good math text that is approachable, readable, and consistent. Does a great job of introducing the value and uses of vectors.
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions Randall Munroe B+ Very fun read which is very well communicated and shows the remarkable power of mathematics to describe even “Absurd Hypothetical Questions”
The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography Simon Singh C+ Informative and clearly written
Software Design Decoded: 66 Ways Experts Think Marian Petre and André van der Hoek B Highly recommended. Insightful, simple, and practical proverbs for engineers, project managers, and creators of all kinds.
The Benedict Option Rod Dreher B+ Very insightful read which offers, I believe, an accurate assessment of the state of the Western World and poignant solutions for escaping and weathering this maelstrom.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe C. S. Lewis B+ Fantastic read (as always with Lewis). “Peter held the door closed but did not shut it; for, of course, he remembered, as every sensible person does, that you should never never shut yourself up in a wardrobe.”
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress Robert A. Heinlein A Honestly, one of the best works of science fiction I have ever read. Involved questions about AI, ethics, political theory, and mathematics. Very fun and fascinating read.
The Wrong Shape G. K. Chesteron D Perhaps I missed an underlying theme of this work (I did listen to it while otherwise occupied), but I did not find this to be one of GK’s better works.
Prince Caspian C. S. Lewis C- Not one of Lewis' better works. I appreciated it a bit more this time, but still feels rushed and hastily written.
Whose Body? Dorothy L. Sayers C+ Not bad as far as murder mysteries are concerned.
Unnatural Death (see above)
Cloud of Witnesses (see above)
The Necessity of Reforming the Church John Calvin B- Good work presenting the complaints of the reformers against the Roman Catholic Church. Interesting to hear the complaints in their own words and fascinating how much John Calvin quotes from the church fathers.
Little Book on the Christian Life John Calvin B Very good book. Recommended for Christians.
Five Red Herrings Dorothy L. Sayers B Very fun and tantalizing read. Enjoyed this one more than some of the others.
Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Cultural Liturgies) James K. A. Smith A Fantastic read highly recommended for Christian scholars. He, appropriately I believe, addresses the overly rationalistic mentality that is common in the conservative, evangelical church today. I appreciate his focus on the value and import of daily, ‘common’ practices (read ‘liturgies’) that are shaping us.
NutureShock: New Thinking About Children Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman B Insightful book providing recent research about raising children.
Last Days According to Jesus R. C. Sproul B+ Very approachable and comprehensible overview of eschatology (with a focus on the partial, preterite view).
The ZDoggMD Show ZDogg A+ Not a book, but a very highly recommended podcast in which ZDogg investigates various aspects of medicine. He does a better job than anybody I know at communicating nuance and complexity of things like the covid vaccine and whether or not masks do anything helpful. If there’s one thing you take away from this list, it’s to read some C. S. Lewis. Second to that is listen to this podcast :)
Civilization and Its Discontents Sigmund Freud C Sometimes thinkers appeal to what they perceive is a general consensus to prove their point which I do not share. I find Freud does this a bit. I agree with Freud’s own comments late in the book viz that the work is, at times rambling. Perhaps I lack the taste necessary to appreciate Freud or maybe this is not one of his great works, but I found it disappointing for someone so highly regarded and oft cited as Freud.
No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind Daniel J. J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson C+ Good book w/ helpful principles for disciplining children. I appreciate the emphasis on connecting with kids and redirecting them toward better behaviours rather than flying off the handle in spur-of-the-moment frustration.
Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know Emily Oster A+ Valuable book applying an evidence-driven approach to conception, pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Very informative and thorough in both depth and breadth.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave Frederick Douglass A This is an powerful and compelling narrative describing the horrors and inner workings of slavery. Also, a powerful indictment of the kind of religion which was complicit in slavery. “I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of the land… The dealers in the bodies of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other—devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.”
Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions Edwin Abbott B Funny and fascinating read. It is funny as a critique and commentary of Abbott’s victorian society and fascinating to consider what a two dimensional world would be like and the complexities of moving from one dimension to another in either reality or imagination.
He Saw That It Was Good: Reimagining Your Creative Life to Repair a Broken World Sho Baraka C+ I still do not know what I think this book. I recommend it and there is some great, thought provoking content therein. I am saddened and confused by an attitude in the book that seems to say (and I sincerely hope I’m not misrepresenting the book) that Christians of different ethnicities should be separate so they don’t lose their cultural identities and creative resources. While I whole-heartedly support the preservation of cultural identities and creative resources, I also believe that a Church can be ethnically and culturally diverse without eclipsing many of the constituent ethnicities (although, I grant, this is rarely accomplished). I could have misunderstood Sho Baraka, but I understood him as advocating for christians of different ethnicies to remain relatively distinct and I do not see that as a desirable goal.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse Charlie Mackesy A+ “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “Kind” said the boy. 6065,2419,4748,1988,1627,35,3613,4382,2549,4732,3907,84,3010,5785,1134,2844,1853,1849,3996,2162,1325,1551,1051,4316,2616,689,5218,4342,3987,4352,2329,3181,3570,3874,4874,5119,5957,372,5731,5414,5650,3798,4857,5948,3604,2669,1673,1293,5530,4801,1014,2975,5321,1922,4807,1005,2965,3538,2785,4112,2499,5901,3178,2600,470,943,2457,5448,5799,2021,2784,5640,4274,3826,127,80,2237,5396,4464,2361,4462,2143,5684,1375,2793,897,2443,141,5530,332,5255,5765,5684,1739,443,4275,6104,6097
Replacing Darwin: The New Origin of Species Nathaniel T Jeanson C+ Interesting book. The first bit (half?) is introductory biology and genetics (both history and theory). The second half of the book makes the argument that speciation occurs rather rapidly (one new species every couple of years) and that “shifts from heterozygosity to homozygosity are the major genetic mechanism of speciation”.
The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth Edward O. Wilson C+ Good book, written by a secular humanist scientist to a hypothetical pastor, presenting the case for preserving the created world. As the author expresses, I find it fascinating that Christians who believe God created the world have bought into political ideologies (the current, Republican mantra) which treats our planet with very little dignity.
The Most Beautiful Mathematical Formulas: An Entertaining Look at the Most Insightful, Useful, and Quirky Theorems of All Time Lionel Salem B Fun book to read with some fascinating mathematical principles and formulas. 5550,862,707,4731,1715,803,5084,5535,4931,1508,1161,473,5361,2264,4030,5021,5443,4609,5359,5912,2521,2625,5103,4884,5155,5244,1005,5979,3953,924,3794,2449,567,3869,1512,817,3840,4622,3340,519,4149,146,143,442,798,1789,14,4276,3226,5215,2872
Better Left Unsaid Curt Jaimungal B Pertinent and poignant analysis of what’s going on in America today and the bifurcation of discourse in America. 4658,29,5430,5450,4170,2429,1137,2415,2890,2380,2855,4102,2816,3573,339,2991,442,5198,4085,1697,878,247,2308,3845,3932,3546,2638,1129,5370,460,3173,524,2617,5171,187,3695,127,1892,5300,2098,2582,1877,2893,2088,5246,932,4259,2811,832,4887,3674,3255,1207,4896,2266,3861,3265,3963,2040,1817,1280,5350,2044,4792,116,3257,1848,4292,5818,3951,3549,2639,95,2761,3072,3385,3330,5727
Flowers for Lisa: A Delirium of Photographic Invention Abelardo Morell B Beautiful collection of creative and imaginative photos!
Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation Bill Nye C Neither Bill Nye nor Ken Ham (a creationist Bill Nye debated which prompted this book) are very nuanced in their views and they both overstate their position. For example, Bill overstates the advantage and evolutionary world-view holds over a creationist view with respect to the joy of discovery and exploring the world around us. Both the evolutionist and creationist can passionately explore the world around us. Bill does raise some good objections to Ken Ham’s distinction between ‘historic’ science and ‘present’ science (as he did in the debate). I will say, Bill Nye’s rebuttle to the creationist objection that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics by requiring that order come from energy released in a closed system was very poor. He objects that earth is not a closed system because it gets energy from the universe around it. This ignores the fact that the argument still works if one just expands the objection to the universe. In other words: granted that the earth isn’t a closed system, but the universe is, so the same problem applies. Why is there order in the universe if, according to an evolutionary worldview, the universe is a closed system into which energy is released.
Kubernetes in Action (2nd Edition) Marko Lukša C+ Great introduction and overview of kubernetes. Link.
The Montessori Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Nurturing Your Baby with Love, Respect, and Understanding Simone Davies (Author), Junnifa Uzodike (Author), Sanny van Loon (Illustrator) C+ Very practical tips and guidance for parents. Very repetitive (not necessarily a bad thing, but can be a bit bothersome at times). 192,474,3954,4980,3194,1664,2375,913,5154,2087,3594,2574,5231,5797,77,2661,5,2053,1664,5616,4227,1608,5287,4511,4832,2097,4590,3297,2498,2189,1947,2889,1275,2274,5717,2725,4242,874,630,4787,136,524,4042,2340,2804,758,1956,71,1016,407,4577,3107,3315,6030,6095,1474,5907,3790,4642,5355,3242
The Chess Player’s Bible: Illustrated Strategies for Staying Ahead of the Game James Eade, Al Lawrence C+ Approachable, insightful, and enjoyable read.
The Gospel in Dostoyevsky: Selections from His Works Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Introduced by J. I. Packer, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Ernest Gordon) C I read a few of the selections in this book. I’m not a huge fan of books which are selections of works (I didn’t realize it was selections from his works when I checked it out), but the book does a good job of capturing some of the most powerful passages.
The Symmetries of Things John H. Conway, Heidi Burgiel, and Chaim Goodman-Strauss B+ This book is a very enjoyable read. I highly recommend it as part one is very approachable to anyone with a basic math backgroud. The notation is simple and powerful but be warned: once you get the hang of it, you’ll start seeing and describing symmetries everywhere! Part three was beyond my current abilities, but still worth skimming for the beautiful diagrams.
Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine Wayne Grudem B+ Great theology book. I appreciate the author’s views on a number of issues like creation, spiritual gifts, and eschatology.
Red Couch Podcast Propaganda and Dr. Alma Zaragoza-Petty C+ Fun podcast with insightful, funny, and interesting discussions

© 2021 Floyd Hightower

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About me

Welcome! I’m Floyd Hightower.

I am a programmer who is passionate about making the world a better place using technology.


Life Principles

Here are some of the principles I try apply to every area of my life:

  • Let your ideas see the light of day
  • Always be willing to accept feedback and criticism (even when it is poorly delivered)
  • Rome ne s’est pas faite en un jour (Rome wasn’t built in a day)
  • Don’t be too proud to follow a good example
  • Loose ends always unravel
  • Unanswered questions never go away
  • The Tisroc won’t live forever whether you want him to or not
  • Talk less; listen more
  • Use more semi-colons
  • Use oxford commas
  • Learn how to politely say “No”
  • Don’t let the possibility of failure scare you away from starting something
  • To do something, you have to do something
  • A whiteboard is worth a thousand laptops
  • Ideas have consequences