Books i’ve read with a four-star rating. Links lead to Goodreads. Reviews prefixed by a πŸ‡³πŸ‡± are in Dutch.

2021

  • πŸ‡³πŸ‡± Het recht van de snelste door Thalia Verkade (2020). De Correspondent-boek over hoe we onze straten inrichten voor autoverkeer in plaats van de mens. Het geeft een verrassend nieuwe blik op verkeersveiligheid: ruimtelijke inrichting is vooral een sociaal en politiek dilemma, en dat moeten we niet alleen overlaten aan verkeerskundigen. Helaas wel geschreven met die typisch schmierige Correspondent-toon, waardoor je het gevoel krijgt dat er onder elke passage huilende violen klinken en je wordt gedwongen om constant “Ja maar Thalia, dit is héél erg!” te denken. Daarom geen drie maar twee sterren. (β˜…β˜…β˜†β˜†)
  • Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin (2008). Shubin writes about the evolution of the human body, and how organs have surprising origins in fish, flies and worms. Shubin co-discovered the prehistoric ‘missing link’ specimen Tiktaalikeen in 2006, and knows better than anyone how evolution works. He writes a very readable explanation, but too often assumes the reader has a good basic knowledge of biology. I don’t have that, and because of that I feel i got less out of this book than possible. (β˜…β˜…β˜†β˜†)
  • πŸ‡³πŸ‡± Mark Rutte door Petra de Koning (2020). Biografie van NRC-journalist Petra de Koning. Ze schetst Rutte als een man die vanaf zijn prille jeugd al wist Γ©n uitsprak dat hij premier wilde worden. Het “plan Catshuis” voerde hij uit met een obsessieve hoeveelheid routine en bewustzijn over hoe beeldvorming allesbepalend is. Zeer leesbaar geschreven als een serie anekdotes. Daardoor mis je soms wel iets van diepgang en duiding. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†)
  • πŸ‡³πŸ‡± De ontdekking van Urk door Matthias M.R. Declercq (2020). De Vlaamse Declercq woonde een half jaar op Urk en dook diep in de cultuur van het voormalige eiland. Het resultaat is een boek dat de herkomst laat zien van de clichΓ©s over cokesnuivers en zwartekousenkerken. Vooral in de sterkere tweede helft legt Declercq bloot hoe Urk door de globalisering begin jaren negentig radicaal veranderde. Jaarlijks wordt er bijna anderhalf miljard(!) euro omgezet in de visverwerking. De Urker lijkt een nieuwe God te aanbidden: die van het kapitalisme. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†)
  • Chatter: The Voice in Our Head by Ethan Kross (2021). About the ‘voice’ in your head and how that (negatively) affects your life. Based on scientific research, with a touch of a self-help. Subject seems very promising, but the definition of ‘chatter’ is very broad according to the author. Young gays who have trouble coming out? Must be chatter. Hostages threatening to execute people? Chatter. I feel uncomfortable by this reduction of complicated matters to broad blanket statements and simple solutions. Life is more complex than that. (β˜…β˜†β˜†β˜†)
  • How Music Got Free by Stephen Richard Witt (2015). An exhaustive investigation of the development of music piracy around the turn of the century. The protagonists: the inventor of the MP3, the biggest record label boss and the employee of a CD pressing plant who leaked thousands of albums by the biggest stars prematurely. Non-fiction, but reads like a detective full of cliffhangers. Highly recommended for anyone who ever had an iPod with gigabytes of ‘found’ music. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…)
  • Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch (2019)
    McCulloch writes about how the internet is changing the English language and social communication. Writing digital means writing informally, and for the first time in history this is happening on a global scale. How people communicate online has everything to do with you growing up with ICQ, MSN or WhatsApp. When you read this book you will finally understand why your mother uses emojis lavishly but always messes up her punctuation. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…)
  • The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook (2016)
    Seabrook describes the process of making the major hits by artists such as Katy Perry and Rihanna using the Swedish invasion as the main narrative. That started in the early 1990s with track and hook producers like Denniz PoP and Max Martin. It never stopped, thanks to the rise of Spotify at the beginning of the last decade. Thanks to a generous sprinkling of witty anecdotes the book is a delightful read. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†)
  • The expedition by Bea Uusma (2013)
    In 1897, three Swedish men attempted to reach the North Pole by hydrogen balloon. They did not return. It took 33 years for their bodies to be found. Bea Uusma spent fifteen obsessed years writing this book, tracing all the steps that led these men to their mysterious end. Sometimes a tad too artistic in form, but nevertheless a very strong personal account of her quest. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†)
  • Uncanny Valley by Anna Wienier (2020)
    Memoirs in the form of a novel by Anna Wiener, who gave up an underpaid job at a New York publisher for a career at various startups in San Francisco. As an outsider (being non-technical and a woman), Wiener writes revealing, sharp and witty about the prevalent bro culture that has hints of a religion. Mandatory for everyone who works in this business, or who wants to understand it better. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†)

2020

  • Apollo’s Arrow by Nicholas Christakis (2020)
    The coronavirus has not even reached its first birthday, but this American physician and sociologist already managed to write a book about it. It honestly contains little news if you’ve been following some of the better news outlets. The focus of this book is also pretty US-centric. But it does provide an excellent overview, and a proper reminder that the strange things happening right now have all happened before. (β˜…β˜…β˜†β˜†)
  • In the City of Bikes (De Fietsrepubliek) by Pete Jordan (2013)
    An excellent overview of the history of cycling in the Netherlands, particularly in Amsterdam. Littered with delightful anecdotes, gathered from a plethora of sources. Nicely interwoven with a personal history of integrating in Dutch society as an American. (β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†)