April 2020

These are some of my favorite things I read this April.

Designing a New Old Home (part 1, part 2) by Simon Sarris

These posts are about Sarris and his wife’s experience building a new house in a traditional style. What stands out most is the level of care they put into each room to make their home a good place to live.

They made a lot of interesting choices. Some highlights:

  • They chose to use marble countertops and brass not despite the fact these materials show wear but because of that “character they bring with them through the years”
  • They didn't include any closets in the house except for a space under the attic stairs
  • They purchased many of their door knobs and other pieces of hardware from salvage stores, eBay, and yard sales

For the Union Dead by Daniel Mason

"There were some old Sears catalogs, some shoeboxes organized on unclear principles: paperweights with watch parts, and keys to far more houses, cars, and lockboxes than my uncle possessed. While they seemed to me completely anonymous, my father lingered. Yet when I wondered aloud whether there was a story to any of these artifacts, he shook his head."

Since college, I’ve had trouble reading fiction (I’m working on it), but this short story was a joy to read. The characters, their relationships with one another, and their circumstances all have this texture and authenticity. They seem real in a way that I don't recall from any fiction I've read in a long time.

Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber

Debt: The First 5000 Years is a sprawling book, so much so that I think its title doesn’t do it justice. It’s not just about debt: it’s about governments, money, and markets; it’s about war and slavery; it’s about philosophy and religion; it’s about anthropology, economics, and history as disciplines. It’s also engaging and very readable!

I’m planning to write in detail about my takeaways from Debt after I read some of the many responses and rebuttals to the book.

It's Time to Build for Good by Isaac Wilks

"We attempted a total separation of production from the political... Under this ideology, no distinction can be made between a billion dollars in GDP generated from Netflix consumption and a billion dollars in GDP generated by domestic machine tool production."

This is a response to Marc Andreessen’s essay IT’S TIME TO BUILD. Its primary thrust is that, contrary to what Andreessen writes, the US’s ability to build is not “constrained by politics”. Wilks argues that if we’re actually going to build the US’s industrial capacity, we need concrete and ambitious ends (better cities / space travel / preventing climate change), and that deciding on these ends is inherently political.