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Book Reviews, Reading List Updates, #1

I am going to start adding humor and fiction books to the reading list. The first humor book is below.

Infinite Crab Meats by Byron Crawford

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While I think I’m a good writer, one thing I always envy is people who can write funny and make it appear effortless. I think in real life I’m actually a pretty funny guy, but I always find writing funny to be way harder than just being funny. In reverse, I’ve met many people who write funny, yet aren’t very funny at all in daily life. Then there are those people who can write somewhat funny, but are obviously straining to do it, to the point there’s a slight air of desperation.

So when I see people who write funny, and appear to do it effortlessly, I get very impressed and envious. Byron Crawford is one of those bloggers who is great at writing funny effortlessly. His gift is the ability casually, seamlessly insert a joke within a serious sentence, all with the same straightforward, deadpan delivery, such that you don’t see the joke coming and it totally catches you by surprise. Sometimes you don’t even catch it until 10 seconds later, when you pause and think “Wait, what?”

Byron’s blog is a hip-hop humor blog, with a flair for being controversial. Infinite Crab Meats takes the tone, as well as some of the more popular topics from his blog, and expands on them in a way he can’t on his blog, in the form of a book of collected essays.

His humor is very cutting, caustic, and dry, but delivered in a matter-of-fact way with so little emotion or evidence of personal enmity that it never feels draining or excessively negative. He’s also as hard on himself as he is on others, as the book is also relentlessly self-depracatory. In some instances though, the hip detachment, world weariness and cynicism work against him, because after a while you want him to drop the shtick even for a few pages and show some cynicism and passion for something, anything, even if it’s just for the effect of contrast. It’s one thing to get all that cynicism and detachment in blog post sized chunks, but over the course of a book it could get a little monotonous. The closest I see him come to dropping the nihilistic pose and showing some sincerity and passion is when he takes to discussing cultural tourists like the founders of the website Rap Genius, which to me is easily the best part of the book.

Although Crawford is laugh out loud funny, he’s also clearly very bright and insightful, and you can see that in some of his cultural analyses and pop culture discussions. Topics include Rick Ross, Kreayshawn, Odd Future, the joys of Tumblr, porn, and Tumblr porn, self-shooters, drinking with El-P, smoking weed and hitting strip clubs with Killer Mike, Wyclef and Haitian foreign ad, white hipster rap reviewers, the Rap Genius website, Das Racist, and cultural tourism in general. I have to warn you, though, if you know little to nothing about hip-hop, this book may not be for you. It assumes you have at least a basic knowledge of who’s who in hip-hop.

Recommended. Best of all, it’s only $2.99 to buy the Kindle version. At least at the time of this writing.

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Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life by Len Fisher

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This book is a great introduction to game theory. I recently discussed game theory concepts like Prisoner’s Dilemma in recent blog posts, and this book is the first game theory text I ever read. It is light on equations and math, and instead mainly focuses on being relatable for laypeople and providing plenty of real-world, everyday examples for illustrative purposes.

I think this book is a great entry point for anyone who wants to learn more about game theory.

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