Notable discoveries in 2019

Notable Books

I had a pretty productive year when it comes to reading. Following are some of the notable books from the ones I read this year.

Poetry

  • Mary Oliver’s poetry was one of the best discoveries for me this year. I ended up reading about five poetry collections from her and I liked all of them. Among the collections, Felicity, House of Light and Red Bird contaied some of the favourite poems by her.
  • Native Guard - Another stellar poetry collection which left a mark in my mind, especially to learn about a dark period in American history, as in the titular poem of the collection.
  • Delights and Shadows - One of the best books of poetry I’ve read this year. Definitely worth reading a couple of times more!
  • The Selected Poems of Donald Hall - Some heartwrenching poems on loss. Poems on nature and the craft of poetry itself are not shabby either.

Science and Science fiction

Novels

  • Snow - A powerful story about love, religion, freedom and poetic expression. Looking forward to read other novels by him!
  • The Virgin Suicides - I have not seen the film, but it has been on my to watch list for a while. So, I was extra keen to read the book first and I hooked to the story pretty quickly. I felt like at times I was one of them wanting to know about the girls in the story, and perhaps rescue them.
  • Ham on Rye - Although I’m not the biggest fan of Bukowski’s writing style, or for that matter his subject matter, I quite liked Ham on Rye novel. He does have a knack of delivering truths about human nature which shines through at times and nobody can accuse of him not being genuine which is an admirable quality!
  • Laughable Loves - This is the first book I read by Milan Kundera and I enjoyed the short stories very much. Looking forward to read his more celebrated works such as The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
  • Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories - I was surprised how short the Rashōmon story was having seen the film a while ago. There are many other equally intersting and throught provoking stories by Akutagawa in this collection.

Philosophy

  • The Bhagavad Gita - I really liked the accessible translation by Eknath Easwaran. One does not have to have a background in Hindu philosophy to read and get the most out of this translation, although in my case I was familiar with most of the Hindu concepts due to closely shared background from Buddhism.
  • How to Be Free: An Ancient Guide to the Stoic Life - This is a new translation of Epictetus’s handbook on Stoicism.

Blog posts

Music

Following are some frequent listens this year which broke trends from past years but not necessarily new music for me,

Videos

  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - It was quite easy to like this series from Amazon for me.
  • The Big Bang Theory - This was a nostalgic rewatch for me, except from 9th season onward. It was nice to see the episodes with Stephen Hawking and the fun side of him.
  • GM Hikaru - I think I spent more time watching Chess videos on Youtube than TV series or films combined! GM Hikaru’s streams are quite entertaining as well. And there’s always something an amateur player like me can learn from his play as well, although I do not think watching a super-GM play rapid games is the best way to improve at amatuer level.
  • GM Matthew Sadler - Another superb Chess channel in YouTube. I especially enjoyed his expositions on Stockfish vs AlphaZero play. It was amazing to see AlphaZero outwit a finely tuned Chess engine like Stockfish sometimes in a very dominating fashion like a boa constrictor. If Stockfish had feelings, it must have felt like human players playing against itself!

Programming

Although none of the following languages are new to me, I enjoyed using them in various contexts,

  • Prolog - Playing with Logic programming after a long time was quite fun.
  • Rust - Rust ticks a couple of boxes for me to keep intersted to explore further in coming year.
    • Safe systems programming where it has a real chance to be an alternative to domains currently dominated by C/C++.
    • Fearless concurrency2.
    • cargo is a breath of fresh air compared to C++ build systems I’ve used in the past. I only wish Haskell had such a stellar build tool (although stack is pretty good)!
  • Clojure - Got a chance to play with Clojure Spec3 which is an EDSL to express constraints which are difficult to expressed in types themselves.

Leave a comment