This page is a constantly evolving list of my favorite things in a number of categories. Hopefully these inspire you to check some new things out, even though there's probably nothing too out of the ordinary here. I'm always looking for new things to read, watch or listen to. Feel free to email me or reach out on twitter if you have things you recommend.
A tremendously inspirational book for me, that I read at a pivotal moment in my life. The Art of Innovation (and the ideas that went into early IDEO) changed how I think about products, and set me on a course to build my own solutions to specific problems. I owe a great deal to the ideas around collaboration and innovation in this book, even though there might be better introductions to some of the same concepts in other works.
The book, and its author, require no introduction. Predictably irrational is a not-so-subtle reminder that we all have our biases (knowingly or not). It is a solid explainer for a number of things in our world, that mostly boil down to how we're often not as in direct control of our decisions and behaviour as we may think.
Like Predictably Irrational, this is a book on behaviour and the way our brain works. It goes deep into the 2 systems that guide our thinking, between intuitive and rational. This is a foundational book in behaviour and pretty much ground zero for behavioural economics. Highly recommended.
While there is a lot of debate about the irony of the book being written by a rich person, and being recommended by other rich people, I think the underlying theme of Factfulness rings true, and I recommend the book for it. Underlying the book (which talks about specific problems in the world and explores the data around them), is a reminder that we often don't know as much about things as we think we do. I read Factfulness at a mentally challenging part of my life (which if I'm honest, I'm still not over), and it helped me stay grounded. Hopefully going through the problems you see in the world with a more data-driven, rational approach, ends up helping you too. We have a lot of work to do.
Probably controversial for some, but certainly eye-opening for me. The book is about Michael Pollan's exploration of the world of psychadelics, including a description of his own experiences and what they meant for him. I would recommend the book to people sitting at any particular spot in the psychadelic skepticism spectrum. There is a tremendous amount of stuff we don't know about how we work, and this is an interesting take on the subject.
I don't read a ton of fiction, but Ted Chiang's collection of short stories really captivated me, and it is by far, the book I have recommended the most in the last year. I don't want to spoil it for you, but for the curious, my favorite short story in this particular collection is The Great Silence. If you're into Exhalation, check out his other compilation too: Stories of Your Life and Others (Stories of Your Life, specifically, is the short story base for the movie Arrival).
Vonnegut requires no introduction, and to me personally, this is his best work. It also includes one of my favorite quotes - "I hope that we’ll meet again in a world of peace and freedom in the taxi cab if the accident will." Slaughter-house Five is a bit of a cult classic for good reason. It explores the effects of war on people, in a way that isn't immediately obvious.
Cory Doctorow is pretty smart in the way he explores possible futures. This is a collection of 4 short novellas, and "Unauthorized Bread" is scary in how prescient it feels - in fact, there are already examples out there of the subject matter he explores.
Another collection of short stories, this time by Ken Liu. While Exhalation (above) explores more sci-fi topics, Ken Liu has a more personal approach to his fiction. There are some beautiful stories in this collection, my favorite being "The Paper Menagerie", which explores the evolving nature of a person with their mother.
Okay hear me out - this is a tremendously large book, and requires a ridiculous time committment to read. But DFW's writing is just so incredibly good, that even if you made this a multi-year ordeal (which many have), it would still be a rewarding experience. I read parts of this, heard others, and went back and forth multiple times.
To this day, Black Swan is the only movie I ever saw in the theatres, and then watched again immediately as soon as I got home (how I obtained a copy at the time is outside the scope of this page). I should also say that it was hard not to include more of Aronofsky's work in this list, because his work is stellar. For the longest time I didn't have a favorite movie, but just a top 10 with no specific order. But if I had to force myself to have a #1, Black Swan would be it.
If I had a favorite director, it would have to be a toss-up between Kubrick and Aronofsky. Kubrick though... Think about it. This movie came out in 1968, and is still relevant today. The filming is incredible, the story is great (I really like the original book, too), and it is probably the best (or maybe 2nd best - see below) movie at exploring ethics in Artificial Intelligence. Again - 1968. Crazy.
Ex Machina is an exploration of ethics in artificial intelligence, and my favorite movie on AI in general. Alex Garland is great, by the way, and if you like Ex Machina, you may want to check out Devs, his tv series and this interview he recorded with Lex Fridman. Another aside? The soundtrack is great.
From the soundtrack, to the eerie setting of the movie, I love all about Donnie Darko. It is a cult classic, which started with a very limited release, for a reason. I have watched it countless times, and still think it is one of the best time-travel movies, because it doesn't try to be fancy about anything, and still nails the narrative. "Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?"
Shockingly good movie, produced on a total budget of $7,000. Because not a lot of people have seen this one, I am going to stick to the basics and just say that if you are into any of the movies above, you should definitely watch Primer too. Shane Carruth is a genius.
While cable television is mostly bad, the competition between cable and streaming services has made the medium more exciting lately. I personally don't watch much television, but am a sucker for good tv series (and documentaries, which should probably have a section on this page at some point). Here are some TV shows I recommend, in no particular order:
This is possibly the show I have recommended most often over the years. I'm a sucker for good writing, and Angels in America delivers that in spades. It is relatively small, as a 6-part mini series, but it is moving, surreal, and extremely sharp. Oh, and it has an insanely good cast. Definitely worth the watch.
I didn't know what to expect from Sharp Objects going in - I only knew it was on HBO and that it was based on a novel by Gillian Flynn (who is also the author of Gone Girl). Sharp objects is a fascinating dark show about people, that I most definitely won't spoil any more than that. This is a masterpiece.
What can I even say about Chernobyl that hasn't been said before? If you happen to be reading this and haven't watched this series yet, stop reading, and watch it. Even though there are some adaptations from the real event to the show (Emily Watson's character is a composite of several real people, for example), word is that this is a faithful recreation of what took place in Chernobyl in the 80s.
Six Feet Under is a long, 5 season TV show, but still resonates deeply with me, years and years after watching it. It changed my perspective on death and dying, and runs the gamut between a drama and a comedy. There are some pivotal moments throughout the show, but I'll never forget that finale. Also I just realized that the song on the finale is by Sia. I had no idea.
Who would have thunk it - that a tv series based on a graphic novel would be one of the best critiques of the world today? Watchmen tells an alternate story of the world, set in the universe of the graphic novel with the same name, and finds a way to explore racism, inequality and philosophy in a way that isn't obvious.
If you tried to convince me that the guy in Dumb and Dumber was going to be the lead character in a beautifully written, moving show about network television (and politics, and so many other things), I might call you crazy. And yet, Jeff Daniels is absolutely amazing in this. The Newsroom had one big problem: it ended. Its way of doing critique will be missed.
A painful, painful show to watch. While The Handmaid's Tale is a work of fiction ultimately portraying a dystopia, Margaret Atwood has said in interviews that she was inspired by real events that take place around the world - everything you read in the book (or watch in the show) happens in some way to women. An important watch. Oh, and this has Elizabeth Moss at her best.
The first season of True Detective is surprising in many ways. Great (and unpredictable) storytelling, in a show that keeps changing slightly as the season progresses. There's also one particularly great scene, shot all in one take that I kinda want to spoil, but won't. You can ignore seasons 2 and 3 (they're all independent of each other), by the way. Still fine, but definitely not as good ast the first.
Black Mirror is now a series on Netflix, and if you ask me, the quality has gone down a little bit since it got aquired by the streaming service. That said, it is still a series of speculative, interesting ways to look at the world we are creating. Most of the episodes are dystopian in nature, but the thing that is likely to stick with you is how plausible most of it is.
What did I miss? Send me your recommendations! Thank you!