With a talent for seeing things anew, Rockefeller could study an operation, break it down into component parts, and devise ways to improve it. In many ways, he anticipated the efficiency studies of engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor. Regarding each plant as infinitely perfectible, he created an atmosphere of ceaseless improvement. Paradoxically, the mammoth scale of operations encouraged close attention to minute detail, for a penny saved in one place might then be multiplied a thousandfold throughout the empire. In the early 1870s, Rockefeller inspected a Standard plant in New York City that filled and sealed five-gallon tin cans of kerosene for export. After watching a machine solder caps to the cans, he asked the resident expert: “How many drops of solder do you use on each can?” “Forty,” the man replied. “Have you ever tried thirty-eight?” Rockefeller asked. “No? Would you mind having some sealed with thirty-eight and let me know?”34 When thirty-eight drops were applied, a small percentage of cans leaked—but none at thirty-nine. Hence, thirty-nine drops of solder became the new standard instituted at all Standard Oil refineries. “That one drop of solder,” said Rockefeller, still smiling in retirement, “saved $2,500 the first year; but the export business kept on increasing after that and doubled, quadrupled—became immensely greater than it was then; and the saving has gone steadily along, one drop on each can, and has amounted since to many hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Rockefeller performed many similar feats, fractionally reducing the length of staves or the width of iron hoops without weakening a barrel’s strength[...]
First, it seems like a marketing photo-op for the CEO. In your opinion, is the author trying to make Rockefeller relatable? You can see how it works with HN readers.
These days his success is attributed to business acumen and notorious practices, not engineering, but I haven't read much about him. What impression does the book give?
Also, I would argue that the time he spent on solder drops was a waste of company resources much more valuable than solder: his time. What would he say if he saw the machine operator similarly wasting company time or resources? Rockefeller would have helped his company much more by improving his own efficiency.
Finally, in most companies when Rockefeller asks if you can reduce the number solder drops and you are the lowly solder machine operator, you reduce the solder drops no matter what. There is no way that story could have ended differently, and nobody would reveal that the boss's idea had bad consequences: The barrels had to be handled more carefully, they leaked at a higher rate, they had to increase some other sealing process to compensate, etc.
All my cynicism may be unfair, however.
EDIT: A bunch of edits
Promoting such a story within the company spreads the word that a good way to impress the boss is to question processes and look for improvements. Especially if he asked similar questions frequently.
People could start to think, what if the boss comes by, is there anything inefficient in my task that I can improve before that happens.
It depends on how the author represents the story. If he represents it as an example of Rockefeller's leadership technique and skill, that's one thing.
If the author represents it as Rockefeller's exceptional efficiency and engineering acumen, or is trying to show how relatable Rockefeller was, then the author is doing PR too.
1) "It seems like a marketing photo-op for the CEO."
2) "Rockefeller would have helped his company much more by improving his own efficiency."
Surely the photo-op helped create a culture of efficiency and optimization throughout Standard Oil?
In related news, Titan just got bumped to the top of my reading list.
Unfortunately, manufacturing has taken this road in developing fragile products. Even the food industry "optimizes" production to maximize taste preferences at the expense of nutrition: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/72/6/1424.full
In general the book shows him to be very good at seeing opportunities and at optimizing. I recall similar behavior in the sections about issuing stock and shipping via rail as well.
Your point about the lowly solder machine operator is belied by the fact that he first suggested 38, then went back up to 39 after there were too many leaks. One other trait which is omnipresent in the book is that he was very careful with the ledger. He would have noticed if costs were increasing elsewhere.
> He would have noticed if costs were increasing elsewhere.
My guess is that you haven't worked in many large organizations! :)
As a former bookkeeper, Rockefeller devoted special attention to ledgers. One accountant recalled him stopping by his desk and saying courteously, “Permit me,” then flipping quickly through his books. “Very well kept,” he said, “very, indeed.” Then his eye leaped to a tiny error. “A little error here; will you correct it?” The accountant was flabbergasted by the speed with which Rockefeller had scanned so many dense columns of figures. “And I will take my oath,” he reported, “that it was the only error in the book!”
- Grit - I can see why it's caught on, it's pretty well-written and informative, but it's not one of the stronger books in the genre and I don't think it will stand the test of time. I recommend The Willpower Instinct - by Kelly McGonigal and Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise - by Anders Ericsson in its place.
- The Rent Is Too Damn High - Matt Yglesias is an intellectually dishonest pundit and I recommend staying away from anything he publishes. He's a leading representative of what Nassim Taleb calls the Intellectual Yet Idiot. He deleted 3000 tweets praising Obamacare that look bad in retrospect. He's also mentioned directly in the Podesta emails as a pundit to be "cultivated." This article from 2011  points out numerous examples of his sloppy reporting and intellectual dishonesty where he doesn't own his mistakes, deletes critical comments, etc.
3. https://twitter.com/JimmyPrinceton/status/791127776388583424 (check the whole thread)
You can see in the 2nd link is my previous post that someone caught a screenshot of a tweet-deleter app spamming his timeline (this was in late October, I also saw those tweets in real-time), which means he's done another round of cleansing, basically deleting his entire tweet history.
For example, a great programmer turns down a job at Facebook because they want to have a family or afford a house. Instead, she takes a job at an insurance company in Columbus, OH. Or someone gets an aerospace degree but doesn't want to live in LA, so they don't work at SpaceX. It's hard to give examples that don't sound like they're demeaning the life choices people make, and the book is much better than my off the cuff ones. Plus he gives data as well as better explanations.
The edition pictured, translated by Edith Grossman, is extremely approachable. It uses mostly modern language which makes the original humor of the book really stand out. It's incredible that a book written over 500 years ago can still be funny and engaging. I'd recommend it to everyone, after reading this translation it moved from 'boring book I couldn't finish' to 'one of my favorite novels ever'.
It has the added bonus of providing an alternative biography of Steve Jobs which in itself is interesting.
It's much more than a story about Pixar. It's a great insight into some of the very problems you deal with as you build and try to maintain a culture.
I can't recommend it enough.
If you want a peek into the books content Ed Catmul did a great talk at Standford.
I say this with reverence for the work of Peter Drucker and W. Edwards Deming.
So, every silver lining has a cloud, it seems.
So it's selv congratulatory but only to make a very different point; Where do you go from success?
The Enemy (mentioned in the list) is a prequel, though. But it is special in the sense that it is narrated in first person. Special because (no, not a spoiler): Reacher, the protagonist, doesn't say much, but the internal thinking is described in a very attractive way through out (so readers naturally long to hear in first person). The most common thing you read in the books is: "Reacher said nothing". Heck, it's so common that there's even a book written with that phrase as the title; it shadows the author, Lee Child, to investigate what it takes to make the popular character -- http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/529959/reacher-said-...
FWIW, other books from the author I enjoyed and recommend: Echo Burning, Die Trying, Tripwire, Persuader. (/me fondly recalls reading 17+ books (even saving money as a student 10 years ago to pre-order) until a few years of years ago; will resist making a comment on the Reacher movies; but makes a sincere please to read the books first, and ignore, as best as you can, the movies).
Related author: Robert Crais (characters: Elvis Cole and Joe Pike).
The Global Minotaur: America, Europe and the Future of the Global Economy by Yanis Varoufakis 
The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future By Stiglitz, Joseph E. 
The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War by Robert J. Gordon 
Also you might like Dean Baker's latest book. You can get it free from his website in all formats, or via Amazon
How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer"
I consider it "The Great American Non-fiction Novel".
Have you read "And the Weak Suffer What They Must?"? It's fantastic. Really helped shape my view before the EU Referendum here in the UK.
The negative review you've given seems to be a content-free screed: most of what the writer criticizes is fairly innocuous phrasing (e.g. "my Tea Party friends" rather than "my friends"). The only substantive point is the claim that she lumps people into overly broad categories, but honestly, I've yet to see that. Do you have any sources that dislike the book and point out flaws in her analysis?
Would you care to summarize the review?
The phrase that comes to mind is epistemic closure.
You will only accept a description of your reality from inside of your reality. Contrast that with the author who actually moved to Louisiana and lived there to find out what they think. Advantage the author.
No, I think its a poor choice when you are trying to tell the story of a people so that you can gain an understanding of them and they don't like or agree with the book, but their opposite number does and sees it as a revelation. Living among the natives to write a book is an old ploy that has been done poorly for a long time, but since I live here full time, clocking hours isn't really part of my argument.
Confirmation bias would be a nice way to put it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias
BTW before you can cite confirmation bias you have to engage the material. She did. You didn't.
anyway, I'm done with this as I don't have an idea what your definition of "engagement" is and since I'm having flashbacks to running into trouble with the changing meaning of "socialize", I'll go think pleasant thoughts.
The "conservative intellectual" niche may be the most politically irrelevant group in the country.
>The "conservative intellectual" niche may be the most politically irrelevant group in the country.
Trump won the Presidency, not the Movement. The rest of the GOP, though shell-shocked, has not suddenly ditched conservatism and embraced Trumpism. The vast majority of the GOP members of the House and Senate, and those in state governments, are conservative, not Trumpist.
Conservatives, not just Republicans, have far more power in the US right now than at any point in recent memory.
And thankfully, the Founding Fathers, sharp blokes that they were, crafted a system of checks and balances. I suspect we'll hear fewer cries of "obstruction!" when Congress blocks President Trump's policies than we did for Obama's.
It's a subcase of "blue team criticizes red team for action X, but conveniently ignores blue team performing action X". Problem is this accusation gets thrown constantly by both red and blue teams. And it's probably true most of the time: teams are partisan. It's also hard to objectively evaluate.
Political discussion on the net is mostly just replaying these well-worn tropes.
Again, nothing personal - I have been thinking since the politics ban how we can have good political discussions.
Any governing action is entirely political; I think your problem is that it was entirely partisan.
And quite frankly, they succeeded. I think you're unfairly discounting how much of that was ideologically driven, rather than the result of simple partisanship.
The notion that they wanted to make government work worse in order to bolster their claim that government doesn't work is what progressives tell each other, not what motivates conservatives. Ditto working class voters "voting against their interests", etc.
Given how much of it was their own agenda from 20 years back, what the hell was the point of that?
Every Republican voted against it. At no point did Republicans in Congress try to improve any of its manifest flaws, but instead they held hundreds of symbolic votes to repeal it and return to the status quo ante (which, prior to that, everyone had agreed was unacceptable - no presidential candidate of either party in living memory had failed to include healthcare reform in their platform). Republicans who had never objected to the individual mandate when they proposed it now claimed it was unconstitutional (Obama didn't help, by claiming for political reasons that it is not a tax). Romney ran for president on a platform that his healthcare plan was a good idea when he did it but a bad idea when Obama did it.
To liberal ears, it's really hard to explain how this was a principled stand against wacky liberal ideas run amok, and not simply an attempt to regain power by obstructing even previously-bipartisan ideas, even at the cost of damaging the country, to ensure that the other side couldn't take credit.
To my ears, it comes across as a desire to have no health-care reform at all, and blame it on the Democrats to boot. They just want to dismantle and privatize every public service they can, regardless of whether people actually rely on it or not.
David Frum argued against this and got booted from polite conservative company for his troubles. The Obama administration inserted poison pills into the bill, like some of the impositions on small businesses, as bargaining chips they could give up to Republicans in exchange for their support, but he seriously misjudged the Republican mood.
Fact is, in the middle of a massive recession when the government had just rammed through a really ugly trillion dollar bailout and the deficit was going through the roof, no conservative was going to vote for a massive new entitlement program. They wouldn't vote for it now, either.
You also have to understand how immensely unpopular Obamacare is with the Republican base, which has very little to do with Fox News and everything to do with how it's a massive wealth transfer from working taxpayers to the nonworking poor. Obama likes to crow about giving 20M people health coverage, but think of what that means: 300M already had it. And for those 300M, their health care coverage got worse and more expensive.
And Obama's "Elections have consequences. I won." line to Eric Cantor might, in retrospect, not have been the ideal way to get Republicans on side. Just throwing that one out there.
>Romney ran for president on a platform that his healthcare plan was a good idea when he did it but a bad idea when Obama did it.
Which was obvious bollocks, and one of the reasons he lost--there was absolutely no appetite for Romney among the Republican base. He was the Republican's Hillary Clinton.
>To liberal ears, it's really hard to explain how this was a principled stand against wacky liberal ideas run amok
Conservatives believe government is generally terrible at everything. They think the health care system needs less government, not more. Your default position when it comes to "will conservatives support x policy proposal" should be, "if it shrinks the government then yes, otherwise no".
The US currently has around $100T, with a 'T', in unfunded liabilities in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. That gap is going to close one way or the other, either through increased taxes, decreased spending, or a sovereign debt crisis. Adding another massive chunk to that is a very bad idea that conservatives simply do not like. Paul Ryan isn't trying to cut Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security because he's a nasty man who hates poor people, he's doing it because the US simply cannot afford those programs and the only way to pay for them would be to massively raise taxes. If you're okay with that, vote Democrat.
>simply an attempt to regain power by obstructing even previously-bipartisan ideas, even at the cost of damaging the country, to ensure that the other side couldn't take credit.
There's a real divide in the GOP between the line-in-the-sand types and the responsible government types. You've got people like Boehner, who thought it was necessary to compromise with Obama on some things, and people like Cruz, who thought it was vital to take a stand and ensure the government did not continue to grow, even at the cost of shutting it down. While electoral politics certainly play some role in that, it really is driven by ideology. Ted Cruz, whatever else you might say about him, is not a flap-in-the-wind sort of guy. He's a true believer. Ditto Ryan.
Most GOP voters are not conservative true believers. The fact that Trump won the GOP nomination is proof enough of that.
I suspect the trillion-dollar infrastructure spend will happen. But the "Muslim registry", and similar illiberal proposals, will not.
How can a trillion dollars infrastructure spend under Trump and yet a health care plan that would save money be blocked by under Obama?
I applaud your constructive approach in this conversation BTW. And I hope you are right about blocking Trumps craziness.
>a health care plan that would save money be blocked by under Obama?
Which plan was this? Obamacare was a massive expenditure. If you're talking about proposals to improve it, why would Republicans try to fix a program they thought was ill-conceived and detestable in the first place? They now have the opportunity to repeal and replace Obamacare whole cloth. Let's see what they do with it.
>I applaud your constructive approach in this conversation BTW.
Thanks. I'm trying to be civil, hopefully with some success. I realize SV types aren't a natural audience for conservative views, but I think HN is a pretty good forum for people to discuss opposing views rationally and civilly.
>And I hope you are right about blocking Trumps craziness.
You and me both. I'm more hopeful than optimistic, at least in the first year while Congressional Republicans find their legs. My appraisal is that they'll probably pass some legislation that's anathemic to conservatives, but they'll stop short of endorsing illiberalism. There's a personal, moral difference between doing things you think are wrong and doing things you think are Wrong, and the latter will remind Republicans of who they are and what they believe.
The money shot:
"The great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions."
My hope is that Trump Twitter fatigue sets in very early.
I've been hoping that for a year now :(
Washington Post has asserted the claim that it is unconstitutional as a "3 pinocchios" falsity
 - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/03/...
I can't recommend a primary source that answers your question, as I've yet to find one. Vance aside, the white working class is not known for its prodigious literary output. But I found this article enlightening. Granted, I'm a middle-class coastal professional, so my personal ability to discern its truth is limited. And the author injects a little too much of her own progressivism for my taste. But it passes the sniff test for me.
I'm not trying to be cute here btw.
That's rich considering the popularity of conservatives books with titles like 'Liberalism is a mental disease' and 'Liberal fascism.'
How about Victoria (2014) by William S. Lind? There's a good conservative author for you. I would recommend everyone interested in politics to become familiar with his ideas.
In fact, I am commenting on the contents, not the title.
I have not read Victoria (2014) by William S. Lind, so I have no comment on that.
Regardless, I don't think that unhappiness of a work's subject with the portrayal therein necessarily carries any weight. Demonstrable inaccuracy would be a valid critique, but portraits can be both truthful and unflattering.
I also notice that I didn't say if I agreed or disagreed with the practice, nor have I read either book. Marketing is quite a nasty subject in its own right.
"Regardless, I don't think that unhappiness of a work's subject with the portrayal therein necessarily carries any weight. Demonstrable inaccuracy would be a valid critique, but portraits can be both truthful and unflattering."
raisspen found a nice review that points out the flaws https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13162277
It's almost like a horizontal scroll version of this blog post. I guess it's the small sample size.
The latter half of the book, however, was by far the weakest. There he attempts to recommend fixes for the issue from a libertarian perspective. His beliefs are not surprising given his current employment in a Thiel hedge fund. This part of the book had little insight and seemed to be an ideologically driven argument by, ironically, a newly minted financial elite that his own community distrusts.
“Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter, on how they built a culture of openness, honesty, self-reflection, and risk-taking that protects new ideas and creativity instead of squashing them.” –Aaron Epstein
I wonder if it comes with any helpful pointers on how to execute long-term, systematic wage-fixing schemes.
The top one-star review on Amazon sums it up nicely.
I'd recommend Marryat's Mister Midshipman Easy over Forester's Mister Midshipman Hornblower. Marryat speaks from authority when he speaks of the sea and of naval warfare. Neither Forester nor Patrick O'Brian sailed.
Worth a read? Absolutely. Better? I enjoy both better than Marryat, but especially O'Brian.
The ideas explored in these books are fascinating and could not be more timely. The historical notes are interesting. The reading is fun! "Dictator" is the third book in the trilogy & its Wikipedia page links to the rest: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictator_(Harris_novel) The narration on the Audible editions is fantastic.
"Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future"
"What the Luck?: The Surprising Role of Chance in Our Everyday Lives"
"Shrinking the Earth: The Rise and Decline of American Abundance"
I might pick up "City of Gold". "Make it so" could also be interesting those are the only two that immediately grabbed my interest.
It traces the history of advertising and attention capture from billboards through Facebook.
"Infomocracy" -by Malka Order.
+++ some other favorites:
When Breath Becomes Air. -by Paul Kalanithi.
Arkwright. -by Allen Steele.
The God's Eye View. -by Barry Eisler.
Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley. -by Antonio Garcia Martinez.
Ego Is the Enemy. -by Ryan Holiday.
(I'd suggest reading Thinking Fast and Slow, and High Output Management. I just track everything I read on Goodreads, though -- https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3960665-ryan-lackey
And even you should read him, if for no other reason to be sure you understand what you're disagreeing with. Then, once you can actually state his position in a way that he would recognize as accurate, then disagree as much as you please.
He's on TV, he's in the NYTimes, he's on NPR, he has a book. Am I being closed minded if I say enough already? What has he ever been right about? What continued claim does he have on the national discourse?
I mean, no, I'm not going to read Friedman's book. No, I'm not a fan. No, I'm not defending his positions. It's fine that you don't agree with Friedman. I don't agree with stoicism, either. But deciding that the list "took a dive" just because he has a book on it? Yes, you're being closed minded.
now would you kindly speak to me like a real person?
I submit that you were not. You were in fact speaking like a person whose mind is made up, and who thinks that everyone else's mind should also be made up, and there's nothing that's even worth talking about or considering. I'm not a philosophy major, bored or otherwise, but that's rather close to my understanding of "epistemic closure". (Ah, however, actually looking up the term shows that it means something rather different. My bad.)
that's exactly what I meant. it's an opinion. it's not a claim of any kind of universal truth. it's a statement of taste and therefore does not require justification. I didn't anywhere say "automatically worthy of...". You said that. You're trying to put words in my mouth, which is a discredited rhetorical trick.
you are really getting carried away with word games. knock it off.
No, what I was really doing was mentally combining you with the OP, cylinder. But you said "valid opinion"; OK, I can go there. I think (at least partially) discrediting the whole list because of Friedman is still a bit much, but I think you were actually agreeing with that, when you said "ok" in the post that is five parents up from this one.
But now you're being rather careless with accusations toward me - that I'm playing word games. Maybe you should knock that off, too.
It feels like most people here read books to acquire knowledge and philosophy to apply to real life.
Most fantasy books are read for entertainment and imagination. There's no hidden message to parse and put toward your next start-up project. That doesn't mean Fantasy books are a waste of time though if they're engrossing and entertaining. That's why I read them.
Some fantasy recommendations:
The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
The First Law series, by Joe Abercrombie (especially the standalone books #4, #5 and #6)
The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
Fantasy is a useful way to explore how technology might work in a world with unlimited resources. For example, Dor the magician in Piers Anthony's Xanth novels is able to talk to inanimate objects. In some ways that fantasy approximates a future state for how we interact with AI enabled objects like Amazon Alexa or Siri.
The USC Worldbuilding Institute (http://worldbuilding.institute/about) has been researching how fiction can serve as a catalyst for engineering, business, and social breakthroughs.
(this is my favorite place to apply the Arthur C. Clarke quote "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.", whether he meant it that way or not)
I feel like I could've learned a lot more about society if I'd read more non-"genre fiction" books and not all those Larry Niven stories where everyone just trades facts about particle physics as conversation.
Her Star Trek books are quite good, and the audible books of the Young Wizards series are narrated by Christina Moore who does a very good job on all her audiobooks.
I'll also admit to a bit of resentment towards him and GRRM, the combination of which has given me some aversion to reading series that aren't finished yet.
Think about how The First Law series is different than Lord of the Rings. Now think about how our relationships and trust in those in authority have changed in between the publications of those two series.
Fantasy is about the world we're living in right now and our hopes and dreams for it.
However, I do get a feel that they're more "escapist" than the books YC readers (and people like Bill Gates) read. Many of the recommendations are more in line with what they're building (people going through similar struggles or role models or understanding the world).
And the engrossing fantasy books can take good chunks of your time (which I guess an YC alumn ought to be devoting to his startup or personal life).
In the same vein, I don't expect most YC alumni to recommend lengthy TV series :)
I think this is unfortunate. Fiction is as important a reflection of society as non-fiction and I would hope that everyone will take time to appreciate art, fiction, music, etc. We understand many now gone societies through their fiction. Not just what they did, but they way they thought and behaved.
Even if you dismiss this as a worthwhile goal, science fiction and fantasy are worthwhile in understanding the world. I'm thinking of Star Trek, The Hainish Cycle, or a Stranger in a Strange Land. All of these explore contemporary problems by abstracting them.
Book two he gets a little too nuts with sailing junk and wow that plot device at the end is awfully familiar, but it's still got some nice world building. Three's back to form (though I'd favor the first one, slightly).
Of course that might be the implied problem of a "2016 winter reading list", its not the 1985 winter reading list and you probably should have read Mythago Wood back in 1985 when it was new. On the other hand in the sci fi discussion people are arguing about a hard sci fi book that's over 20 years old, so allowing a 30 year old book isn't too ridiculous...
Thanks for the recommendations!
I'd add in the Malazan series by Steven Eriksson. Gardens of the Moon is the first one. Great books, but definitely a long undertaking.
Since that's over (right?) - perhaps people can now share their opinions on the book list itself...
It would have been over by now regardless.
Link to original post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13117521
I'm not familiar with Steyn and haven't read much by D'Souza. Ann Coulter isn't a good pick if you're trying to dispel stereotypes, seeing as she's the walking strawman.
Spare us the martyrdom schtick.
Mark Steyn Dinesh D'Souza, Mark Levin, or Ann Coulter would be a much closer approximation
Oh come, you have much greater intellectual heavyweights on the right. Why not cite William S. Lind or Paul Weyrich, or the brilliant strategic analysis of the Council for National Policy?
Oscar Wilde, Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Sir Walter Raleigh and Thoreau all spent time in jail or prison. Should we discard them as well, or should we evaluate their works on their individual merit of those works?
Is Gibson also mediocre?
Cryptonomicon is fun, Baroque Cycle is great, Anathem is his best work (from a literary perspective), and Seveneves is 2/3rds awesome 1/3rd bad scifi pulp.
Snow Crash is how most people first encounter him. It's a warmed over cyberpunk book that repeats a lot of what Gibson did, but is also good.
The Diamond Age is one of the best pieces of speculative fiction written in the last 20 years except that it fails badly to have a coherent story with an ending that makes sense. Which is a shame considering the ideas in the book are so good.
REamde is shit and should never have been published. Dude was playing too much World of Warcraft at the time and decided to write a novel about playing too much World of Warcraft. Bad book. Avoid.
Regarding Gibson, I only read Neuromancer, and enjoyed the writing. Obviously the concepts were ahead of its time, so reading it much later didn't have the same impact. But neat story.
The Diamond Age was the most frustrating of them, because it starts off so good, but by the end it's a total mess. There's a whole scene in the last third that exists just to have one character tell you what another's motivation has been since a few chapters in, since it's entirely obscure to the reader. Not in a big reveal kind of way, but in a "uh oh, I let some friends read a draft and they are really confused by this major character, better fix it, but, like, without working very hard" way. I mean, at least he bothers to tell us, but wow.
Like you, I enjoyed Neuromancer quite a bit (and I read it after Stephenson—only last year, in fact). The other two in that trilogy are somewhere on my mental to-read list.
The only real problem Diamond Age has from a hard sci fi perspective, is its 20 years old and everyone knows about additive manufacturing and 3-d printing and slicing objects to be printed and feedstock issues and compiling and analog analogies to digital logic gates and compilers and natural language processing and the dangers of closed source, the idea of more or less tablet computing and wikipedia rolled into one. Its all really boring today of course, other than he got quite a few details wrong and its fun to spot them. Twenty years ago, of course, its ideas were absolutely mindblowing. I really enjoyed exploring and daydreaming about the new engineering and new computer science and new concepts in Diamond Age. Sure there was some fluffy interpersonal story to fill it out, but I mostly ignored it for the fascinating hard sci fi concepts.
In the late 90s it was a truly awesome hard sci fi novel. Not a very good soft sci fi novel, but whatever. Someone should suggest a modern hard sci fi novel... published in the last year or two.
I don't think it's very good hard SF, either. It does so much that its explorations of the social implications of the advances—which are the whole point of fleshing out an entire novel from the "gee, wouldn't it be cool if we could X?" concepts that the book is full of, rather than writing the short essay or even (these days) tweet that would suffice to explain them as well as the book does—are underdeveloped and/or feel false. The density of these drops off quite a bit early in the book, too, leaving little to chew on but the confused characterization and the increasingly unsatisfying story.
Thanks for the future warning.
Now I could see liking those early books and disliking the later output of both authors; they became wordier, softer, more pretentious - while keeping a lot of merit.
The summer reading list is also available here:
Thanks for the wonderful recommendations to everyone at YC!