March 18, 2020

Other Musings

From the Desk of…

James J. Williams III


As all of our days have been upended and the world takes measure of the gaps and connections in our foundation, I have been taking a focused look at specific interests. Studying the individual parts of a system is often as important as understanding the whole. Each of these books tells a story about creation and close observation during the moments and movements that overturn us.


1. Now You Know—Tony Arcabascio

Tony is our Art Director and one of my oldest friends and mentors. This book is a re-read. An excellent how-to guide to common sense told through succinct autobiographical episodes. Beautiful and funny.


2. Semicolon—Cecelia Watson

I love books about words and style (e.g. Word by Word by Kory Stamper) and I am incredibly excited to dive into Semicolon. Watson treats her subject, the semicolon, as a historical figure at the center of myriad controversies. Hansel and Gretel as punctuation.


3. American Innovations—Rivka Galchen

Rivka is one of my favorite authors and one of the best readers. Her sense of humor and seriousness is so bizarre and haunting, you constantly feel two steps behind the punchline. If the world seems stranger than fiction right now, think again.


4. The World of Yesterday—Stefan Zweig

One of Nanotronics’ advisors recommended Zweig’s memoir to Michael Vassar, who recommended it to us. Zweig’s portrait of Viennese society undergoing the cataclysmic effects of a changing world order is instructive to readers today.


5. The Art of NoticingRob Walker

In the spirit of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies and Paul Smith’s You can find inspiration in everything and if you can’t…look again, Walker lays out 131 ways to look at the world to enhance the creative impulse.


6. Rise of the Machines, A Cybernetic History—Thomas Rid

A thorough and well-researched history into cybernetics and technology’s influence on the 20th and 21st centuries by a major thought leader on geopolitics, security, and industry.


7. Progress and Poverty—Henry George

I found this book while watching a PBS documentary. With today’s greater wealth disparity and vocal political divisions across communities, it’s worth diving into Georgist philosophies on a “free and fair society.” If it is possible, or where there have been successes do not matter, we must continuously redefine and reevaluate how we embrace liberty.


8. The Art of Objects—Luca Cottini

Cottini focuses on fifty years of Italian industry after the unification of the Italian states. The objects, inventions, and craftsmanship of this time tell a story of a nation coming together for the first time and the impact this unification had on art and industry.




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