What I read last week
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories (Ken Liu)
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories spans an impressive range of genres ranging from fantastical sci-fi stories to heartfelt narratives on Chinese history and culture. Liu is a great writer, and his stories are highly immersive. The sci-fi stories in particular are striking in how Liu manages to imagine genuinely alien scenarios. On the other hand, a majority have a good amount of Chinese perspective, and some are deep explorations of topics such as the Asian-American experience and the controversial history of 20th-century Asia. As for individual stories, I particularly enjoyed reading The Litigation Master and the Monkey King, and State Change, and The Paper Menagerie. Overall, I highly recommend this read – it’s one of the best anthologies I’ve come across.
Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal (Joel Salatin)
Before reading this book, I was well aware that modern food production is highly concentrated and fraught with ethical concerns. Reading Salatin’s book, however, it appears that the current state of agriculture is messed up on many additional levels. Blanket rules set by the USDA largely target large-scale operations by the members of the agricultural oligopoly while stifling innovation by individual farmers. Moreover, from Salatin’s perspective, the bureaucrats at the federal and state level are frequently unaware of the unique challenges that farmers face. The result is the overwhelming production of food that is not only made through environmentally harmful and morally questionable methods but ultimately of poor quality as well. In general, this was an eye-opening look at the many ways modern food production is broken, ranging from regulatory capture of the USDA to the misaligned incentives behind scientific funding.
What I’m reading this week
Creativity, Inc. (Ed Catmull)
Ed Catmull was a co-founder of Pixar who later served as president of Disney Animation Studios. In this book, he recounts his journey as a pioneer of computer animation and the building of his company’s unique culture.
Seeing Like a State (James C. Scott)
In the 20th century, many well-meaning attempts to create centralized utopian societies ended in horrific failure. Here, Scott examines why these states failed and how governments can do better.