Winston Hearn, who is me, is a person who reads and writes and fumbles towards better questions to ask. This site is where I collect my thoughts on books I'm reading, the tech-driven world we're building, and anything else I find interesting. I currently work for Vox Media as a Sr. Front End Engineer.
My Year in Reading: 2017
In 2017 I recovered from a severe depression and remembered how to read. Here’s an overview of what I read, both what I loved and what I didn’t finish.
A Disability History of the United States
A helpful survey of American history (pre-white settlers to now) focused on how disability was understood and how people with disabilities have been treated within various periods.
The Master Switch
As a history book, The Master Switch is a good examination of how various communications mediums and industries (telephone, cinema, radio, tv, etc) have grown and shrunk in the past 150 years or so. But Wu claims that these histories unlock for us principles that we can use to understand these patterns; a claim I felt unsupported after finishing the book.
Hope in the Dark
Solnit wonderfully explores the concept of hope by centering it in many civil rights fights from the past few decades. Hope, she argues, must be cultivated and is not something we have because we expect to win, rather it is something we fight to retain even if victory is unclear. The book is relevant, fierce, and helpful for anyone seeking a framework for staying inspired as we look forward to the next few years.
Networks of New York
This small guide is an attempt to help readers see the physical infrastructure that underpins the internet. Burrington helps us step away from the strange metaphors and simplistic descriptions we use when talking about the internet to get a sense of how it functions and where all the tubes live.
A brilliant novel that spans decades and cultures and countries to tell a beautiful story. I read the entire thing in less than a week and was tempted to immediately start it over once finished.
The Sixth Extinction
In the history of the world – as far as scientists have discovered – there have been five mass extinction events on earth. All have seemed to relate to sudden climate shifts. In this compelling and clearly-written book, Kolbert presents the evidence that we are in the midst of the sixth such event, and furthermore, the evidence implicates humans as the motivating force behind the event.
This short, straightforward book tells the story of America since the end of the civil war, the story of injustice after injustice being perpetrated against the black community in America by white people in America.
The Empathy Exams
A fantastic collection of essays meditating on our humanity and the ways that we relate to others. Jamison is interested in what exactly empathy is; how we are constantly being shaped by it; how we delude ourselves into faking empathy.
On Web Typography
A small, incredibly informative book that gives you a simple education on the importance of typography, the language of typography, and then a great deal of practical advice for choosing and using typefaces. Jason knows his shit and knows how to teach you what he knows.
Design for Real Life
A book that helps one recenter the consequences of our product design decisions by building empathy and imagination for the myriad contexts people may use the things we build. A must-read for anyone creating things that other humans will use.
An enjoyably written book covering the depressing and yet somehow simultaneously inspiring ways that humans have worked to preserve endangered species. A meditation on the the vast ways we impact the earth and how hard it is to change course once the scope of our impact becomes obvious.
Merchants of Doubt
What if the most controversial scientific issues in public policy in the past half century weren’t actually controversial? This book lays out a well-documented case that specific scientists conspired to influence issues ranging from the danger of smoking, the influence of CFC’s on the Ozone, to the ongoing denial of climate change.
A Web For Everyone
A book focused on helping the reader develop accessible web experiences by applying Universal Design principles.
Living With Complexity
Norman seeks to help readers understand the ways people handle complexity in their lives, then derive a set of tools that designers can apply when working with complex problems.
A short book that wrestles with the current controversies over vaccinations by contextualizing it in the larger history of vaccination and illness. Quick to read with plenty to think on.
How Buildings Learn
Stewart Brand researches and extensively documents what happens to buildings after they are built. His research reveals patterns based on what the initial architecture enables, what building users commonly need, and ideas for embracing the unknown future with our buildings.
Roxane Gay’s book of essays challenged me, inspired me, taught me, and humbled me. What a beautiful collection of writing.