Rob Dominguez

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Books: 2021

Monday, December 13, 2021 at 7:46 PM

There's no real need for a big preamble here. I read some books this year; not all of them were great. However, I was able to glean some insights from a few of them and felt like it was worth sharing for those interested. Take a look, it's in a book 🌈

Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight

This was a surprisingly good read. It focuses on the juxtaposition of human vs. machine flyers in relation to spaceflight. This book provides an intriguing background on the history of manned spaceflight leading directly to the Apollo landings on the Moon. It's long but worth reading in entirety.

The Key Takeaway(s)

  • There's always different perspectives.
  • Do your best to see things from different angles to understand the complete picture.

Project Hail Mary

My very first blog post was about The Martian by Andy Weir. He has other novels, but this is the second of his I've read. Without giving too much away, this novel is about a scientist who links up with an engineer to try and save the world. Much more far-fetched than Weir's first novel, but with the same level of problem-solving and creativity thrust upon an unlikely hero.

The Key Takeaway(s)

  • 'Work the problem'!

2034: A Novel of the Next World War

I read a lot of Tom Clancy as a kid. I couldn't get enough of his writing and the overwhelming intrigue of espionage and power politics. That being said, I haven't touched prognostic fiction grounded in reality in quite some time. This novel, though, was incredibly entertaining. Its value came mostly from the real-feeling predictions that the authors, Elliot Ackerman & Adm. James Stavridis, create for the reader. Given the global political climate, the very-real possibility of a next-level international conflict involving major powers seeking to redistribute the global balance of power isn't so far fetched...

The Key Takeaway(s)

  • We're always on the brink of something massive [internationally].

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

There's a reason this book has been at the top of the New York Times bestseller list for - at the time of writing this - 134 weeks. I used to teach Geography to middle school students. If you're not aware, middle schoolers are angsty, self-absorbed, socially-concerned, wonderful kids. Whenever we reached the point in the year when we'd discuss East Asia, I always made a big deal about the tenets of Buddhism. Why? It's exactly what angsty, self-absorbed, socially-concerned kids need to hear: a self-effacing, outwardly-focused philosophy that focuses on suffering...perfect.

The Key Takeaway(s)

  • The greatest piece of wisdom I've been fortunate enough to encounter this year comes from this book. Manson writes, "We choose our own suffering." This has been eye-opening to say the least. While it can seem like a reductionist perspective, it's brought me so much composure and tranquility. The next time you get pissed off, stop and think. Did you choose your suffering? Are you sure you didn't...?

The Order of Time

Okay...I bought this primarily because it was read by Benedict Cumberbatch. And, of course, after enjoying it I quickly searched what other books were available on Audible where he was the reader; sadly, nothing else worthwhile. Fortunately, Cumberbatch's voice isn't the only star of this book. Carlo Rovelli's writing is mesmerizing; don't worry, this book on physics isn't heavy on the physics. In fact, he makes the point that there will be only one formula in the entire book; a simple equation for entropy.

The Key Takeaway(s)

  • There are no 'things' in the physical world.
  • Instead, there are only events. Events can span milliseconds or millennia, but nothing is permanent due to states of entropy.
  • This means the same thing for time: there is no past or future, only changes in entropy.

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly [reread]

I've probably read this book more times than any other. For a kid who worked in kitchens during high school and dreamed of travelling the world, this book was formative to say the least. Not to mention Anthony Bourdain was nothing short of an idol for me and my friends who thought we had the same levels of cynicism, grit, and life experience of a former heroin addict turned writer. Every now and then I go back through and read it when I'm feeling nostalgic about the gloriously degenerate lifestyle that was my brief foray into the service industry.

The Key Takeaway(s)

  • If you want to experience life, you have to experience life by getting out there.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Holy crap. What a great book. I spent a fair amount of my undergraduate career studying game theory within the context of international relations. One notable area of research that captured my attention was an idea called prospect theory: basically, how gamblers make decisions relative to how much they're up or down. When I was listening to a podcast and heard the host mention this theory - the first time I'd heard it in nearly a decade - it sparked a journey down the proverbial rabbit hole of Wikipedia. I stumbled upon this work by Daniel Kahneman (who, by the way, won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for this research).

The Key Takeaway(s)

  • Our cognitive hardwiring is 'off' and - as a result - we have inherent biases.
  • Our brain utilizes heuristics (or shortcuts) to make things easier for us; this is where our wiring is 'wrong'.
  • As Kahneman says, "If you've spent 10,000 hours doing it, blink. Otherwise, think."

Those that didn't make the cut but were still good reads:

  • The Circle
  • How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World's Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs
  • The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time
  • High Fidelity [reread]
  • ZAG
  • Show Your Work!
  • Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone