My 2019 Reading List

With the new year comes a new resolve to start a list of all the books I want to read. Until now, the approach has been to keep a haphazard list in my head. Unfortunately, this mental list is generally inaccessible when it comes time to choose something new to read.

Below are the books I’ll be reading in 2019. The list isn’t exhaustive and isn’t meant to be. More of a selection of must-reads. No doubt I’ll get pulled into reading a bunch of other stuff, but if I only finish the books below I’ll be happy.

The Linguistics Wars by Randy Allen Harris

Covering the revolution and inevitable controversies brought about by Chomsky’s work in the early 60s, this book looks like a romp as far as I’m concerned. I love a good linguistics beef. And, boy, is this the mother of all linguistics beefs. Excited to nerd out to this one.

Getting Things Done by David Allen

I’ll say right away that I don’t like productivity books. NY Times bestselling productivity books especially so. But I also don’t like feeling overwhelmed by mountains of work and to-do lists. So despite taking a rather dim view of the genre, I’m going to give this classic a try.

Essentially, the Getting Things Done (GTD) system involves capturing everything you need to do in a trusted, regularly reviewed system, coming up with a ‘next step’ for each item, i.e. some sort of concrete action, then organizing and executing these actions accordingly. Put simply, getting everything out of your head and then focusing on completing actions rather than ‘trying to finish project X.’

Getting Things Done for Hackers by Lars Wirzenius

This is a much shorter, more tutorial-oriented, account of someone applying to principles of GTD in a largely digital setting. Seeing Allen’s system in action will hopefully be much more motivating than slogging through his book’s buzzword-laden prose.

It’s also freely available online.

Much of this organizational enthusiasm stems from the fact that I’ll probably be heading back to uni this year to start a Master’s/PhD/something equally terrifying. Feeling like I’ve got a robust organizational system in place will likely make me less apprehensive about the whole thing.

Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language by David Crystal

Early Modern English. David Crystal. Superb cocktail party fodder. I don’t see any reason to explain my choice further.

This book has some very mixed reviews on Goodreads, which makes me even more curious. Though to be honest, I’ll be surprised if I don’t enjoy it.

Natural Language Processing with Python by Steven Bird, Ewan Klein, and Edward Loper

Now this is a book I’ve started a couple of times. It’s a really nice introduction to working with the Natural Language Toolkit (NLTK) for Python. There’s heaps of great examples, tutorials and practice questions in here.

Sadly, I’ve only ever got through the first few chapters. Time to get serious.

Again, with more study likely later on in the year it’d be crazy not to start sharpening my (very limited) coding skills. Even if I don’t end up working with NLTK specifically, feeling comfortable with Python adds another string to my bow.

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

I’m a huge fan of Fiat Lex, the podcast Kory does with Steve Kleinedler. As a result, I’ve become much more interested in the fiddly, technical, laborious and downright fascinating world of lexicography. Her book should be a treat.

My intention is to review all these too (the two productivity books being likely exceptions, unless they proved to be interesting linguistically). Hopefully I’ll get through everything before my academic reading load starts clobbering me…

Anyway Happy New Year! Feel free to get in touch if you think I’ve missed any must-reads.