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Matt Lehrer

Joined 10 months, 1 week ago

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Matt Lehrer's books

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2023 Reading Goal

Success! Matt Lehrer has read 59 of 40 books.

The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1988) 5 stars

Here for the first time, in rich, human, political, and scientific detail, is the complete …

Fascinating path to the nuclear age

5 stars

I could not put this down, I absolutely loved it. It does not celebrate the bomb itself but it does celebrate the process. And the process was fascinating.

Rhodes does a wonderful job of explaining the science that made the bomb possible, the step by step exploration of the atom from the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th. It would be worth it just for that.

The leadership examples and the risk taking of so many people involved would also make the book worthwhile.

But the story is also fantastic. The ways genius manifested and the ways so many of the smartest people of their generation worked together on an enormous project. The fears of those people and the ways they kept such a big secret. The fact that they had one test of one of the two bomb designs before Hiroshima and that the …

The Deficit Myth (AudiobookFormat, 2020, Hachette B and Blackstone Publishing) 4 stars

The leading thinker and most visible public advocate of modern monetary theory - the freshest …

Clear, important, and interesting

5 stars

I highly recommend this book to everyone who cares about how governments spend and collect money, which should be everyone. The explanations are clear, important, and interesting.

Right from the beginning the story about about where the first US dollar (or any fiat currency) comes from had me hooked on the book. I listened to the audiobook of this one so I don't have kindle highlights. But the gist of this one is: the government could not possibly have taxed people without first spending some dollars in the economy.

The main takeaways for me were

  • We don't have to fear deficits, which are just surpluses for private industry.
  • Taxes are unnecessary for government spending but serve only to create incentives and disincentives and to redistribute wealth and resources.
  • Balancing the budget would limit the supply of Treasuries and, taking the argument to the extreme, eliminating the market in Treasuries is …
The Mom Test (2014, CreateSpace) 5 stars

Hm. How to tell this. I read this book for exploration and found much more …

Essential reading before starting work on a product

5 stars

Essential reading for anyone thinking about starting a business. The idea is simple, but important: It's too easy for someone to tell you that they like your idea and would buy. So don't talk about your idea, at least not at first.

Start by finding out what their problems are and what they're doing to solve them. Are they paying for something? Have they tried to find a solution? If not, it's not that painful.

The book shows you how to have these conversations in a way where even your mom would tell you the truth.

In theory, this is perfect and while having an actual conversation with this idea in mind, I can do it. My only issue is trying to get introductions to potential customers. How do you ask someone to take time to talk to you without leading them at all? I think the answer is to …

Right Stuff, The (Paperback, 1983, Bantam) 4 stars

What it means to be a national hero

5 stars

I've seen the movie a few times and had a general sense that I wanted to read this book as it was recommended in a few places. Then Chuck Yeager died and William Zinsser recommended Wolfe and The Right Stuff specifically in On Writing Well and I moved it up my list.

It's a great story about what it means to be a hero and to represent a country, covering the beginning of the space age in the face of the Cold War. It filled in a lot of gaps and history with some of the same people from Rocket Men, which is about Apollo 8.

There are lots of moments that prove Zinsser's point that Wolfe is a master of nonfiction storytelling. One thing that really stood out to me – especially after thinking that Trump ruined it – was his use of the exclamation point. The key …

The Spy and the Traitor (2018) 4 stars

Somewhat slow building, well worth some patience

4 stars

A few months after finishing The Bureau (definitely one of my favorite TV series ever), I was craving more spy stories. I kept seeing this book recommended. I don't think I even knew if it was fiction or non-fiction before starting it (it's a true story).

For the first half of the book, I thought it was going to be filled with interesting facts but lacking the intensity and drama that I wanted from it. Then I realized that nearly all of the drama was going to be saved for one story, the escape. It turned out to be worth the wait.

There are lots of important, interesting, and fun facts in this book. There are lessons about leadership and planning and trust.

Here are some of my favorite parts:

On some gadgets:

During the war, the Hanslope boffins produced an astonishing array of technical gadgets for spies, including secure …

Truman (AudiobookFormat, 2011, Simon & Schuster Audio) 5 stars

Truman is a 1992 biography of the 33rd President of the United States Harry S. …


5 stars

Excellent. Like the other McCullough books I've read, it takes some time to get rolling. But once it got going, I couldn't put it down (err, couldn't stop listening).

Truman didn't go to college and seemed to fall into his political career. He was one of the last major players in the US who was backed by a "machine," like in the Tammany Hall, graft, and corruption sense. Because he didn't go to college, was raised in a small town, and knew economic hardship, he had an easy way of relating to people.

And everyone liked him. It seems like no one who ever worked with him ever said a bad thing about him.

The Truman presidency happened as a last resort: he was picked at the last minute to be FDR's VP in 1944 essentially because he would offend the fewest people. Jimmy Burns, known as "Assistant President" and …

What Got You Here Won't Get You There (2013, Profile Books Ltd) 4 stars

Good concise advice on becoming a better person

5 stars

Great, short read. It's not what I expected when I had seen it recommended. I thought it was going to be about how to adjust your strategy in business. It's not that at all. The point is how to be a better person, and it has some great advice.

One of the easiest pieces of advice to implement is to say "thank you" instead of getting defensive.

– originally written 2021-06-30

The Way Through the Woods (2019, Random House) 4 stars

Well titled

4 stars

I saw this book recommended on Twitter and I honestly did not know what I was getting myself into. The subtitle – "on mushrooms and mourning" – is a great description. The mourning part that is hard to read if you're not in the mood for it is just at the beginning. The way out (or through) is most of the book. Litt Woon finds her new life in mushroom foraging at home in Oslo and around the world.

The book is filled with interesting facts about wild mushrooms, the culture of foraging, and her experiences going from beginner to certified expert. On a deeper level, it's about how foraging helped her create a new life for herself. That she could begin alone, when she was in no mood for company, and transition into new friendships and community built around her new interest made foraging a great fit.

I have …

The Code Breaker (Hardcover, 2021, Simon & Schuster) 4 stars

A scientific biography of Jennifer Doudna, a founder and co-developer of the CRISPR gene-editing mechanism, …


3 stars

I wanted this to be great and it was... fine. There's a lot of politics and competitiveness, which is interesting. I also liked the parts about how different scientists enjoy the business side of things and, especially, how Stanford does a great job of helping their faculty and doctorate students make money. Berkeley, where Doudna is, is doing its best to keep up. Isaacson's discussion on the moral aspects of using CRISPR on humans, how different cultures may view this, and the practice in humans to date – only in China – was excellent.

– originally written 2021-06-30

Man's Search for Meaning (Paperback, 2006, Beacon Press) 4 stars

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in …

Find a "why" to deal with any "how"

5 stars

This book was by far the most common answer in a thread I saw on Twitter about books on happiness. Based on Frankl's survival of Auschwitz, it's more intense than I had assumed. It's a great book, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

tl;dr: "Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how.'"

– originally written 2021-06-30

Lonesome Dove (Paperback, Pocket Books) 5 stars

A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize— …

Incredible characters

5 stars

Larry McMurtry died today and in tribute I'm recommending this book, my favorite novel. There are so many deep, interesting, lovable characters in this book. I was intensely sad that I could not spend more time with the characters as I approached the end, a feeling I had only experienced with The Goldfinch.

It's a love story and a western (or anti-western). It's about friendships, fatherhood, adventure. It's about life and forgiving yourself. It does not have enough women.

One unusual thing that's stuck with me is the extent that the American West itself is a character. The rivers are almost characters. The idea of judging distance not by miles or hours but by days or weeks to the next river or the next source of water. The idea of understanding geography as anchored by the Rio Grande, the Red, the Arkansas, the Missouri.

It's the kind of writing that …