2021 is coming to an end, and I reflected a bit on the things that have enriched my life this year. People first, of course, from loved ones to friends, colleagues to acquaintances, random encounters. Experiences second, the most memorable being the ones shared.
And then books. Not reading enough when I was younger is one of my few regrets. I can't get that time back. Rediscovering the pleasure of reading as an adult was like reconnecting with an estranged family member; I regret taking so long, but I'm glad I did.
Top 10s are popular, so I thought I would do short reviews of the ten books I found the most enriching in 2021, one book a day, in no particular order. Without further due.
When Einstein walked with Gödel, Jim Holt
As with many things in the last few years, I discovered Jim Holt while aimlessly roaming on Youtube, watching with great enthusiasm the videos its algorithm recommends--should I say dictates?--me. If I remember correctly, it was a TED presentation about why there is a world instead of nothing. Charmed by the presenter, I searched for books with his name and stumbled upon one entitled "When Einstein walked with Gödel." I was sold on the prospect.
This book is a collection of essays of various sizes but never longer than 10~15 pages each. I like reading while taking a bath, and the format is perfectly suited. Each essay covers a historical intellectual and his or her contributions to our collective wisdom, touching a wide variety of topics from mathematics to physics, philosophy to religion, but always in a way that the layman can understand.
One such essay features the friendship between Albert Einstein and Kurt Gödel. Einstein doesn't need an introduction. Gödel might. Gödel is primarily famous for his Incompleteness Theorem, which single-handedly sent an entire generation of mathematicians into depression. He also happened to be paranoid and was in constant fear of being poisoned as retribution for his work. He starved himself to death.
Many of the intellectuals featured in the book died in unenviable conditions. We remember them for their contributions, not always for the people they were or the lives they lived. Holt gives us a sneak peek at what it meant to be them. His style is easy on the eyes, engaging, funny, and rewarding. I thoroughly enjoyed the book in its entirety.