Essential black authors to read

I realise its Black history month in America, while in the UK its November but regardless this is a really good list of black authors with plenty of interesting subjects for reading over the year. I have already added a few to my 12 audiobooks to read this new years resolution.

Once again don’t read the comments, who down votes something like this? Actually don’t answer that, I know too well.

Some of the excellent books I read in 2020

I watch a lot of TV and Films but I also consume a lot of Audio (likely more than visual media). As mentioned in my new years resolution for 2021, I have been listening to a lot of audiobooks now I’ve been working from home for 10 months now.

Its worth noting I don’t really read fiction books for entertainment (this seems to be a common thing with some dyslexics?) because I think I get the fiction or entertainment part from TV & Films? Or maybe I was put off in earlier age by stuff like Lord of the rings?

So I thought I’d share some of the great books I read/listened to, not in order as such.

  • Winners Take All
    Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
    Anand’s book is a excellent look at the corruption of power. Its a great true story which is inter-sliced with cases from history of how Anand came to tell the people who he points the finger at, during their own conference.
    Anand also makes clear the problem of inequality and how its driving a lot of the ills, just like the book the inner level which I also read and highly recommend to everyone!
  • The Inner Level
    The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Well-Being by Pickett, Kate E and Wilkinson, Richard G.
    This book is incredible, I can’t stop not thinking about it and recommending it. There is so much in the book but the examples really make the overall backbone of the inner level and the previous book the spirit level. Inequality is the bedrock of so many problems and ills in this world, I’m very convinced by this now. For example here is the start of chapter 5: The human condition.

    Larger income gaps make normal social interaction increasingly fraught with anxiety, and, as we have shown, stimulate three kinds of response. Some people are overcome by low self-esteem, lack of confidence and depression; others become increasingly narcissistic and deploy various forms of self-aggrandizement to bolster their position in others’ eyes. But, because both are responses to increased anxiety, everyone becomes more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol and falls prey to consumerism to improve their self-presentation. As social life becomes more of an ordeal and a performance, people withdraw from social contact and community life weakens. Crucially, we have seen that the bigger the income differences between rich and poor, the worse all this gets.

  • How To Be an Antiracist
    How to Be an Antiracist by Kendi, Ibram X.
    What a book, as said elsewhere its not great if its your first book on systematic racism. Ibram X, makes some excellent points and later gets right into the subjects of feminism, LGBTQ+ and ultimately intersectionality. He makes very clear you can’t be antiracist if you are against queer rights for example.

    To be queer antiracist is to understand the privileges of my cisgender, of my masculinity, of my heterosexuality, of their intersections. To be queer antiracist is to serve as an ally to transgender people, to intersex people, to women, to the non-gender-conforming, to homosexuals, to their intersections, meaning listening, learning, and being led by their equalizing ideas, by their equalizing policy campaigns, by their power struggle for equal opportunity. To be queer antiracist is to see that policies protecting Black transgender women are as critically important as policies protecting the political ascendancy of queer White males.

     

  • White Fragility
    White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin DiAngelo
    I read this book again just after the murder of George Floyd. I know some people are not keen on it but I found the examples and approaches extremely useful when talking about racism. For example the notion of white women tears.

    …well-meaning white women crying in cross-racial interactions is one of the more pernicious enactments of white fragility. The reasons we cry in these interactions vary. Perhaps we were given feedback on our racism. Not understanding that unaware white racism is inevitable, we hear the feedback as a moral judgment, and our feelings are hurt. A classic example occurred in a workshop I was co-leading. A black man who was struggling to express a point referred to himself as stupid. My co-facilitator, a black woman, gently countered that he was not stupid but that society would have him believe that he was. As she was explaining the power of internalized racism, a white woman interrupted with, “What he was trying to say was . . . ” When my co-facilitator pointed out that the white woman had reinforced the racist idea that she could best speak for a black man, the woman erupted in tears. The training came to a complete halt as most of the room rushed to comfort her and angrily accuse the black facilitator of unfairness. (Even though the participants were there to learn how racism works, how dare the facilitator point out an example of how racism works!) Meanwhile, the black man she had spoken for was left alone to watch her receive comfort.

     

  • The Guilty Feminist
    The Guilty Feminist: From Our Noble Goals to Our Worst Hypocrisies, Deborah Frances-white
    I am a keen listener to the podcast with the same name and the book is well written with guests injections now and then. Like Ibram X, Deborah talks a lot about intersectionality and its absolutely importance.
    In a earlier chapter Deborah breaks down feminist by waves (second wave feminism for example) its quite powerful and makes super clear how different things have been over time. She also dispels some of the awful common stereotypes (bra burning & men hating for example) but thoughtfully uses intersectionality too.
    I listened to most of the book while waiting in long queues at Alton Towers. Well worth the read even if you listen to the podcast.
  • This Could Be Our Future
    This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World by Yancey Strickler
    Previous co-founder of Kickstarter Yancey Strickler’s book is a welcomed read while looking at the state of the mainstream internet. Its a rallying call for longer term focus and is a refreshing read coming out of the epicentre of America’s hyper-capitalistic silicon valley. Yancey starts the book this way

    This book is about a simple idea.That a world of scarcity can become a world of abundance if we accept a broader definition of value. We recognize that there are many valuable things in life—love, community, safety, knowledge, and faith, to name just a few. But we allow just one value—money—to dominate everything else. Our potential for a more generous, moral, or fair society is limited by the dominance of money as the be-all and end-all. It puts a ceiling on what we can be.

    On a similar topic, I also had a read of Amy Lui’s Abolish Silicon Valley. Both are good reads and fit right alongside the R&D work into human values. Yancey is also one of our extremely knowledgeable guests in our Human values podcast series.

 

Wishes for a better e-reading experience

Likebook mars ebook reader

I was listening/reading My wish for a better device for reading and enjoying books. I found it a interesting read with some good points

I’ve been thinking that I don’t want to settle with a simple e-reader anymore. I want more. I want an all-new gadget that’s dedicated to enhancing my reading experience.

This is why I ended up buying the Likebook Mars. It was time for something new which was a pleasure to read. Especially since the latest update which dropped a few days ago.

I understand that among the things that make an e-reader so successful is the e-ink display. But the Kindle also works well because its a less distracting device. But even then I’ve often found myself holding my Kindle in one hand and checking my smartphone notifications in the other.

This is something I imagine lots of people struggle with. Having a Android device in your hand is tricky because the temptation is to put a lot of apps on the device and make it a duplicate of the phone. But it simply doesn’t make sense to put a lot of the apps on the ereader. Try scrolling through a twitter feed on a e-ink screen is just painful. However respect to anyone who wants to give it a try for what ever reason.

Instead of limiting the capabilities of the device to make it free from distractions, we can choose our own distractions, ones that will keep us engaged with the device. Imagine an iPad with a dedicated reading mode, as part of the Screen Time feature, where you could turn off all distractions, and focus on reading. Or the device could have a “Reading Mode” where you could add reading and productivity apps…

Ideally the device would be capable of both an eink and LCD screen. This is why I found the Yota phone interesting and  although Goodereader wasn’t quite right about the trend for eink phones. It still could be a future trend with colour eink getting really good too.  Reading mode could simply be an adjustment rather than a mode. For example the Lenovo Thinkpad plus has a eink display on the lid.

…or a redesigned version of Goodreads, where you could engage with the community, and celebrate reading. If you wanted to take a break from reading a book, instead of checking your Facebook or Instagram, you could read articles or update your Goodreads. So you’d still have access to distractions, just better distractions.I want someone to redesign Spotify as a reading app, right now.

The idea of a goodreads or spotifiy for ereading can easily be dismissed but its actually important.

Once you get into the world of ereaders with standard android apps, you get the diversity of experiments and applications. Yes you can have your Amazon Kindle app on a android ereader but thats just the start. Its time for a better way to not just read but annotate, share and remix. The modes should work smoothly but due to the silo mentality of the different services we can’t rely on any changes from them. Why would Amazon do anything but the minimum for android devices?

While we already have subscription models for reading books and articles, and are listening to audiobooks, no one seems to be fighting Amazon or Apple for a share of the market. Maybe reading isn’t as big a market as music, or television, or even gaming. Or maybe the big players are not ready to look in this direction, yet. This could be about the size of the market, the potential for growth and a largely Amazon-dominated marketplace.

This is a market which could do with some changes but it will come from the smaller players. The same way authors like Cory Doctorow convinced his publisher to support some Creative commons versions of his books.

Unlock the ebooks and see things change I and others have been saying for a long long while. Its something which the author Sumit never actual mentions. Its the one thing which underpins everything he wishes for.

I was once at the World book fair for Oreilly’s Tools of change conference. One of the sessions I went to was about ebooks and their locked down DRM containers. In short DRM is a major killer and won’t get the creativity till its  restrictions are changed. There was so much hate given to Amazon for this reason.

Its clear DRM holds back so much of what ebooks could be and that effects the devices, the systems and ultimately the experience.

My booklist challenge

Every once in a while you get some viral challenge, where you have to tag someone else in. Its a little annoying but I thought this might be interesting. From a friend on Facebook…

I have accepted a challenge to post seven books I love, one book per day, no exceptions, no reviews, just covers. Each day I will ask a friend to take up the challenge. Let’s promote literacy and create a book list!

Tagged in ianforrester

I just seen this and I’m more than a few days late… As I only ever use Facebook for signing up to my volleyball team events and the monthly occasional post of the public service internet notes. I pretty much missed it and very unlikely to post anything daily. I decided to do the challenge on my own blog.

So here is my booklist with books which were pivotal…

SundayRebeccas world

MondayFree culture

TuesdayStrange attrators

WednesdayUncertain vision

ThursdayMindbenders

FridayDesign for community

SaturdayThe dyslexic advanage

 

Imagine if you could remix books?

Cooking for Geeks cover

There is something about Simon Lumb, something that everytime we chat creative juices start flowing (wipe that smile off your smutty face, you know what I mean)…

Off the back of a conversation in Wagamama about Richard St John’s 8 Traits to be great, which I have a physical signed copy of after a TEDx. We got talking about how I tend to own a physical copy of most books although I also own the ebook version. Then we got talking about Instapaper and Readitlater, how they give you the ability to pull together elements from a range of sources…

Imagine if you could do the same thing as a published book? Remix books!

Books right now are like Albums, but imagine if they were more like singles and EP’s?

They could be like the Mixtape of the written word? Fits perfect with the self publishing trend.

  • Example 1: Custom cookbook. Pick a your favourite menu items and self publish your own cookbook. A bit of Jamie, dash of Heston and a lot of Nigella (yes please). Arrange them into a new type of cook book which is custom for you, or reflects your cooking style. It could be a cookbook for you or for someone else…
  • Example 2: The best of… Many times in the past, people have said the best way to learn about Z is to read chapters Y & X of book W and chapters A, B and C of book D… Want to know the best to learn how to skateboard or surf? I recommend reading my custom book which is made up of… you get the idea
  • Example 3: The best places in the world. Could be a nice mix of places you’ve never been to before, places you inspire to go or places you have been to before. Actually it kind of reminds me of off beat guides, but instead of building it from raw components its from previous decent reviews.
  • Sure there are many more including books for young children, books for different learning styles, etc, etc…

The remix methodology is actually very apt, because instead of building your own from the components, your remixing parts of others. Like a Dj remixing other peoples tunes.

The copyrights framework will be a nightmare to work out (we’re not kidding ourselves about that) but to be honest it could be something like the music rights framework for albums and singles? Might even increase the amount of readership for some books? It could be massive changes, or little changes like the art work in the book. Instead of lovely glossy pictures of food in a cook book, it could be technical diagrams for those more interested in seeing those? Maybe the remixes will cost more than the originals but to the person who gets it, its worth so much more. You get the idea…

Crazy idea? Tell me and Simon why? Maybe you love it and want to run with it? Well all we require is attribution… This idea is open to the world… Run with it and tell us when you get rich by changing the publishing industry. This is what places like Lulu have been crying out for right? Just like… My lifestreaming dating idea and my dreamscape idea. Go get them, change the world or go Lazy web make it so…!

Hacking together my digital artifacts with a wifi picture frame

My Wifi UPnP digital picture frame

For a long time now

I’ve been thinking about the problem of digital artifacts in a physical world. I remember clearly, a fantastic conversation I had with the amazing Jas Dhaliwal about this exact subject when he was up in Manchester recently.

He was looking through my book collection and DVD collection and we got talking about how most of the books on my shelf I’ve never actual read through. Not because I don’t read but because of my dyslexia and I far prefer to read digital books. Which begs the question, what am I doing with a ton of interesting books? Why don’t I just get rid of them and buy the digital equivalents?

Well two reasons…

  1. Physical artefacts are much easier to lend to people and much more likely to be taken seriously by friends currently.
  2. Physical artefacts are easier, cheaper and better suited for display.  And I want to display who I am through my choices of the media I buy (rightly or wrongly*)
* Now you could have a massive debate about should you be defined by the things you own or what but… frankly this isn’t the time do that.
As Jas said in the latest techgrumps, its all about the digital artefacts representing you… And with that all in mind, I bought a wifi enabled picture frame for a very good price at my local Currys outlet store.
I bought one before but it was crap because it couldn’t connect to anything on my local network, just remote services. However this one does have the advantage of Universal Plug n Play, which raises it above most of the wifi enabled picture frames.
I complained on the same techgrumps podcast that I couldn’t get anything to talk to it but I finally used Ushare and bingo everything started working. So right now, I got the plan to either,
  1. Install Ushare on my xbmc box so I can share movie fan art and titles from XBMC
  2. Setup a rsync between my xbmc box and my server (already running uShare)
  3. Move the xbmc database to my server which has the benefit of a shared library system.
  4. Investigate the built in xbmc UPnP server
Either way, it looks like I’ll be keeping the photo frame strictly for the purpose of replacing my digital film collection with something an analogue artefact. This is also where a large scale eink display would be ideal.
I’ll post something along these lines on the XBMC forums to see what people think. Maybe they might even be able to help, the recent fan art stuff certainly will help too

Swap your kindle for a ton of books?

Do you love books?

Do you love books so much that you’d buy a kindle and sell your kindle for a stack of books? Yeah I thought not…

But just in-case your thinking about giving up on your kindle. Microcosm Publishing will take your bet.

I think its all stupid but to be fair Microcosm must have knew it was going to get there name in almost every news site and blog. So to be fair to them, good on them. I wonder how many people have taken up there offer. Although I think the swap is for new books, so its hardly cost effective but then again a 2nd hand kindle can’t be worth that much, can it?

Its also worth noting that Amazon ebooks outsold Hardbooks

E-books have hit a significant milestone. In each of the last three months, Amazon reports that sales of books for Kindle have outpaced the sale of hardcover books, and that growth is only accelerating.

…and Paperbacks just recently

The ebook revolution has swept past two more milestones in its ferocious advance upon the bastions of literary culture. As the Man Booker prize embraces the digital era, the online retail giant Amazon has announced that sales of Kindle editions have overtaken paperbacks in the US.

Booktour.com and geekdinners

Book Tour. Where authors and audiences meet

I was listening to Technation on ITconverations today and Moira Gunn was talking to the guys behind booktour.com. It sounds fantastic, and really useful for getting guest for future geekdinners. But what suprised me was the fact Chris Anderson was behind it too. Hummm, I wonder if his experience of selling the Long Tail around the world might have convinced him that this would be a good idea? Also I wonder if last year when we had that geekdinner for him (within 7 days of him saying yes by the way) could still be good memory for him? That night we had about 140 people turn up and Chris was really looking forward to chilling out with Geeks after a quite aggressive book tour. He stayed pretty much till the end and signed books with a huge smile on his face.

Who knows maybe one day we will get the likes of Steven Levitt, Malcolm Gladwell, Stowe Boyd and Joi ito

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