By Jason Snell
September 30, 2018 8:20 PM PT
A Thing We Like: A look at books
I like books a lot. I read a lot of books, mostly novels, but there’s often some nonfiction mixed in as well. And in recent weeks I’ve had a few different books bounce my way, including a couple that I think you might be interested in. (Also, iOS 12 and macOS Mojave both introduced a new version of iBooks called Books, and it’s pretty good! Maybe you could read one of these books in that app. Or not. Use paper if you like. Or a Kindle! Books are available in all sorts of forms these days.)
The first one is, of course, Ken Kocienda’s “Creative Selection”, which I reviewed on Six Colors. It’s not a reported tell-all about Steve Jobs and Jony Ive, but refreshingly, a memoir of Apple at the top of its game from someone who was in the trenches building key software tied to the Mac’s comeback and the birth of the iPhone. If you’ve ever been curious what it was like to work for Steve Jobs (and Scott Forstall), or what the origins of Safari were, or just how the iPhone keyboard came to be, Kocienda’s book covers it. Yes, like any book in this category, you’ll need to deal with the fact that there are important business lessons to be learned—look, those lessons sell a lot of books to businesspeople and students at business schools—but they’re easily navigated. Kocienda’s story is worth reading, and I say that as someone who does not love reading computer-industry books.
Closer to my heart is Glenn Rifkin’s Future Forward (Apple Books), which is about Pat McGovern, the founder of International Data Group. I worked at IDG for 17 years and got to spend a few hours a year with McGovern, who is the most interesting tech billionaire and entrepreneur you’ve probably never heard of. He didn’t just found a tech-media empire (Computerworld, Macworld, PC World, InfoWorld, the list goes on), but he was also one of the first Western investors in China. He kept a somewhat low profile and his individual media brands took the spotlight, so many people haven’t heard of him, but that was part of Pat’s secret sauce, if you asked me. He empowered his employees and the brands they helped build to do what was right for their customers. If you were in Germany, you made the right decisions for IDG Germany—nevermind what they were doing over in the UK. If you were at Macworld, you made the right decisions of Macworld—nevermind what they were doing over at PC World.
Pat passed away not too long before I left IDG. I’m glad to have known him even a little bit. He was an enormous supporter of editorial independence, and we all knew it—editors and non-editor types alike. I’m glad there’s a book that details some of the things that made him special. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed for the book and am quoted in it!)
So those are the tech books. Let me toss some fall reading in here for you, as well.
Sports fans, I’m currently reading The Shift: The Next Evolution in Baseball Thinking (Apple Books) by Russell A. Carleton, which is a delightful combination of an acceptance of modern baseball analytics as well as an understanding that as much as number crunching has dramatically improved our understanding of sports, it remains true that sports are played by human beings—and human beings are complicated. Carleton is a trained psychologist as well as a baseball writer, and that combination is pretty delightful. I am a huge believer in sabermetrics—but I also understand that the dynamics in the game are much more complicated than some of our statistical understandings can uncover. Carleton makes the case, for example, that the most important job of a baseball manager is not setting a line-up or deciding a pitching order, but being a manager in the business sense, making sure that the 25 young men under his care keep an even keel during the high pressure of a baseball season. It’s really smart.
Novel time: I just finished a couple of sequels, Imposter Syndrome by Mishell Baker and European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss. I highly recommend both, but you should start at the start: Baker’s Borderline (Apple Books) is a noir detective story in L.A. except the detective is a multiple amputee dealing with severe mental illness and the person she’s been hired to find is not a person, but a fairy. Goss’s The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (Apple Books) is a 19th century mystery adventure starring the daughters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the bride of Frankenstein, a puma woman created by Dr. Moreau, and a few other characters from classic literature. Also, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are major supporting characters. It’s incredibly fun. I also devoured Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars (Apple Books) and The Fated Sky (Apple Books), two books (both released this summer!) set in an alternate history where we get into space a decade or so before we actually did… and with a few interesting twists along the way.
I like books! I mostly read them on my Kindle these days, but give it a spin in dead-tree form or in your sparkly new Books app if you like. And happy reading!