You can look at my home page for more information, but the short answer is that I'm a dilettante who likes thinking about a variety of subjects. I like to think of myself as a systems-level thinker, more concerned with the big picture than with the details. Current interests include politics, community formation, and social interface design. Plus books, of course.
Shopgirl, by Steve Martin
Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) wrote this little novella about a shopgirl in Los Angeles and her affair with a successful older businessman. In some ways, it's a more meditative and thoughtful version of his movie, LA Story, focusing more on the isolation and desperation of those who came seeking their fortune in LA and have settled for much less. And it explores the different relationships we can have and the different reasons we pursue them. A quick little read, but with some interesting thought behind it.
posted at: 14:36 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/fiction/general | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal
Wittgenstein's Poker, by David Edmonds and John Eidinow
On Oct. 25, 1946, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper, two great philosophers of the twentieth century, met for the first and only time at a philosophy club meeting at Cambridge University. Recollections vary as to exactly what happened, but strong words were definitely exchanged, and Wittgenstein may have picked up the fireplace poker and threatened Popper with it. This book (subtitled "The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers") uses the incident as a springboard for exploring the careers of both men, as well as touching on the lives of various people who interacted with them. It's a quick overview, with less philosophical discussion than I had hoped. But as somebody who know nothing about Wittgenstein, and very little about Popper other than my appreciation for this theory of falsifiability, this book served as a good introduction to their work. Now I'll have to go track down some of their work and read their ideas firsthand, I think.
posted at: 09:01 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/nonfiction/general | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal
The Innovator's Dilemma, by Clayton Christensen
This was a short book on how and why dominant companies consistently get undercut by disruptive technologies. It uses the disk drive industry as a case study to illustrate the decisions that get made by market leaders which make sense in context, but inevitably lead to obsolescence. I thought the second half of the book, exploring how to cultivate disruptive innovation, was more interesting, in its ideas of how to construct a company and its culture that would be open to new ideas. Sounded like the kind of place I would like to work at.
posted at: 17:04 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/nonfiction/management | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal
A Year at the Movies, by Kevin Murphy
Kevin Murphy, formally associated with MST3K, decided to embark on an unusual (some might even say foolhardy) quest. He decided to watch a movie a day, every day, for an entire year. And to watch movies under as varied conditions as possible. He sees movies at film festivals in Norway and projected onto a bed sheet in Mexico, as well crashing the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals. It's an amusing memoir of his travails trying to stick to his self-imposed duty, with lots of insights into the movie-going mind in the process, and why we love the movies so much.
posted at: 16:58 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/nonfiction/fun | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal
What Management Is, by Joan Magretta
This book, recommended by The Economist, is a short treatise on the basics of management. The author, a former editor of the Harvard Business Review, seeks to distill management down to its most elementary components, which she breaks down into Design ("Why People Work Together and How"), and Execution ("Making it Happen"). I didn't really feel that there were any earth-shattering insights in here, but it was a good summary of modern-day management best practices. And a useful reference if I ever want to explain to a bad manager how their tactics are sub-optimal.
posted at: 16:49 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/nonfiction/management | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal
Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud
This is one of the few books that takes a close look at the medium of comics. Scott McCloud uses the comic book format to explore the conventions of comics, and how comics use our brain to do most of the heavy lifting for them. It's an interesting look into what makes the medium work, and as a guide to studying the ground rules in any medium.
posted at: 16:43 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/nonfiction/fun | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal
Memory and Dream, by Charles de Lint
Caitlin reminded me when I saw her over Christmas of the works of de Lint, one of the best urban fantasists around. I've read only a couple of his books, so when I noticed one in the library recently, I picked it up. As seems to be common in his novels, a straightforward story quickly involves elements of the fantastic sneaking in at the periphery. This one in particular does a good job of exploring dreamlike elements and how they come to pervade the protagonist's life. And of exploring the thin line between memory and dream...
posted at: 16:37 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/fiction/scifi | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal
Poker Nation, by Andy Bellin
This book is an interesting peek into the world of professional gambling from one of its practitioners. With chapters ranging from poker strategy to the history of Vegas, the book necessarily is shallow in its exploration of various topics. But it definitely whets the appetite. After Bellin describes the thrill of bringing a huge bet home, it got me tempted to go out looking to play poker someplace. Instead I settled for downloading a shareware Texas Hold'em Poker game. I'm currently down $500 from my stake of $2000. Perhaps I'll hold off on the casino a while longer...
posted at: 16:28 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/nonfiction/fun | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal
Nicole Griffith's Aud Torvingen series
I read these two novels (The Blue Place and Stay) in January after having them recommended by a friend. Aud Torvingen is an heiress and former cop who gets sucked into some bizarre and tragic circumstances. The novels were well written, with a wealth of descriptive detail, but I didn't really identify with Aud as strongly as my friend obviously did. Interesting and worth reading, but not books that I'll be taking off my shelf to read over and over again.
posted at: 16:22 by Eric Nehrlich | path: /books/fiction/mystery | permanent link to this entry | Comment on livejournal