The “Lennon and McCartney of Video Games”: David Kushner’s Masters of Doom

MastersOfDoomIt’s rare for me to read a book more than once, but I’ve read David Kushner’s Masters of Doom about…eight times. So far.

Why? Well, there’s undoubtedly a nostalgic element to it I’ll come back to. But I firmly believe that, if you give this book a chance, you’ll find it’s one of the best biographies out there, one of the best books about a start-up business (inspiring, I’d say), and maybe the single best book about video games ever written.

That’s because Masters of Doom is ultimately the story of John Carmack and John Romero – the John Lennon and Paul McCartney of video games, according to the back of the paperback edition. The Beatles reference is apropos, given that their rags-to-riches story calls to mind the rise-and-fall archetypal stories most famous bands have (although in their case, both are still quite rich). But I think what makes this book so memorable and so gripping is that, at its core, it’s the story of two friends, who we come to understood so much that it’s a punch to the gut when their friendship is torn apart, even if the split was inevitable.

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A Book Smarter Than You: Gottlob Frege’s The Foundations of Arithmetic

FregeI’ve recommended a lot of books on this blog, but I’m certain that none of them will be a harder sell than Gottlob Frege’s The Foundations of Arithmetic. Despite being a pretty slim book, it’s an extremely dense read, it has a title that would bore most people, and it’s about analytic philosophy, which there’s a good change you either haven’t heard of or would be equally bored by. Plus, it’s so hard to understand that even I, who voluntarily read it wanting to comprehend it all, only feel like I grasped about 60-70% of the content.

So why am I writing about it? Because I think reading this book makes you a better reader, a stronger reader. And so even if you aren’t exactly thrilled by the title, I hope you’ll read on and allow me explain just how valuable this book – and books like it – can be.

And by books like it, I’m referring to books smarter than you.

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Dissecting Medicine: Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Laws of Medicine

LawsOfMedicineUncertainty in medicine sounds like a pretty bad thing. But Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Laws of Medicine argues that the science of medicine is indeed rife with uncertainty. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, though. Rather, Mukherjee insists that this “youngest science” (in the words of Lewis Thomas – an author who had a profound influence on Mukherjee) must confront and address the various forms of uncertainty inherent to medicine if medicine is going to be considered a science at all.

I don’t want to give you the impression this is a heavy or dense book. At a mere 70 pages, it’s a quick read, made all the quicker by the light prose style and frequent use of anecdotes to flesh out more general ideas. But I particularly want to recommend it to you because, while brief, this work offers an entirely new way of looking at a discipline that impacts every single one of us.

So let’s look at the two main reasons you should read The Laws of Medicine.

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A Grueling Past: Jeremy D. Popkin’s A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution

HaitianRevolutionIn my last post, I admitted that, while I could point Puerto Rico out on a map, I knew nothing substantial about this U.S. commonwealth (i.e. colony) in terms of its history.

In the case of Haiti, I can’t even be 100% sure in retrospect I could have pointed it out on a map.

But I certainly can after reading Jeremy D. Popkin’s A Concise History of the Haitian Revolution. This excellent book tells the harrowing story of Haiti’s tumultuous past – a past that sadly continues to haunt the beleuagured nation to this day.

And Popkin does indeed manage to accomplish all this concisely.

But its reasonable length (for an introductory text) is just one the reasons I wholeheartedly recommend it. Above all else, you owe it to read this book because if you think the American or French Revolutions were instigated by a desire for more freedom and democracy, trust me when I say they’ve got nothing on Haiti.

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Two Great Books on Puerto Rico’s Colonial History for the Complete Novice

Puerto RicoPuerto Rico has been in the news a lot lately for obvious reasons. But as I read more about the Hurricane Maria, its horrific effects, and more, something occurred to me:

I knew nothing about Puerto Rico.

Sure, I knew of its existence and could point it out on a map, but it’s history? It’s culture? Anything substantial at all? No, in that regard, I can honestly say I was profoundly ignorant.

So I’ve been reading quite a bit about Puerto Rico over the past few weeks and, in this short period alone, I’ve discovered not only a fascinating story as dramatic as the national narrative of any society, but that the imperialist crimes which mar its history have directly influenced present events post-Hurricane Maria.

Reading Puerto Rican history has been a revelatory experience, and I would certainly suggest you start with two outstanding books on the subject – Manuel Maldonado-Denis’ Puerto Rico: A Socio-Historic Interpretation and Juan Angel Silen’s We, the Puerto Rican People: A Story of Oppression and Resistance.

Continue reading “Two Great Books on Puerto Rico’s Colonial History for the Complete Novice”

Second political article published on AlterNet

AlternetAlterNet has published my second political essay.

This one is about free speech on campus – specifically, seven real threats to free speech that don’t get talked about nearly enough.

I’m currently working on the follow-up article, which will analyze and refute the usual arguments we hear from people like Richard Spencer, Milo Yiannapolous, and the rest of their ilk about why Nazis who want to spew racist, sexist, and often outright fascist venom are the victims of those pesky college students who, shockingly, disagree.

Feel free to send me a message here if you have any thoughts on these arguments you’d like me to consider as I write my article.

And please check out Jennifer Berkshire’s blog and podcast, who is a great resource for anything regarding education policy in the United States.



Closing the Space Between Us: The Jarring Experience of Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me

BetweenTheWorldAndMeIt’s a bit difficult to know where to begin talking about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. On the one hand, Coates does an incredible job not only constructing a seamless narrative (more on that in a second), but making experiences I, as a white man, will never have to endure, feel visceral on a deep, personal level. And those are just two of the reasons I feel compelled to write this post and enthusiastically recommend this short, but powerful, book. But on the other hand, the fact that I cannot personally identify with the injustices Coates documents in such painful beauty makes me reluctant to say much about it at all.

In short, Coates is the kind of author I want to listen, not talk to. Or, if I want to talk, only so I can ask questions.

I do want to highlight some of the things I loved most about this book, but I cannot stress enough that this is a book that defies objective analysis or summary. I don’t know what you’ll find most powerful in Coates’ writing – all I can guarantee is that it will have a powerful, and lasting, effect on you long after you’ve finished reading it.

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Approaching An Incredibly Complex Subject: Stanley Wolpert’s India and Pakistan

Pakistan and IndiaIt’s cliché to say that the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. But it’s a cliché that happens to be true. It’s also one of the best parts of being a reader – you get to just say, “Huh, I don’t know anything about x…” and then you find the right books.

But there’s a grave flip-side to this approach, because it’s frankly insulting to some subjects to approach them as if there were mere curiosities, a topic to peruse out of curiosity before moving on to something else. I’m talking primarily about history books, because intertwined with the complex figures and maps and geopolitics there are human lives and have always been for the entirety of this all-too-true story.

I bring this up because I recently decided to read up on a subject I knew almost nothing about – the relationship between India and Pakistan. And if you’re interested in learning about a fascinating subject that can’t help but influence our lives in this hyper-connected world, I’d recommend you check out Stanley Wolpert’s slim, but deeply informative, India and Pakistan: Continued Conflict or Cooperation?

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First political article published in AlterNet

AlternetGood news!

AlterNet has published a political essay I wrote about gun laws and college campuses. I purposely don’t include political posts on this blog, but if you’d like to check it out, you can find the article here.

In case she’s reading this, thank you, Jennifer Berkshire, for giving me a chance to publish this article and potentially more articles in the future. Speaking of her, you should all check out her blog and podcast.

Excited about upcoming blog posts, including a review of a book which gives an overview of India, Pakistan, and the intricate problems, to say the least, between the two countries.

That ends this post…so I guess read all my previous posts…or just have a good day. Maybe both?