Book Review: Forged in War: How a Century of War Created Today’s Information Society by R. David Lankes

Cover of the book Forged in War: How a Century of War Created Today’s Information Society by R. David Lankes
Forged in War: How a Century of War Created Today’s Information Society
by R. David Lankes
Rowman & Littlefield, 2021

This review was first published by Booklist on May 1, 2021.

Modern knowledge infrastructure is a fractured complex of filter bubbles, tracking our every move across platforms, websites, and apps, gathering our personal data to sell to the highest bidders. To understand how this came to be, Lankes studied the origins of knowledge systems from the time of the world wars through the twentieth century. Most of our communication systems and technology were designed to be weaponized in response to wartime threats. Propaganda, manipulation, and ubiquitous surveillance are built in as data analysis is optimized for the cold calculations of war. These tools weren’t intended for commerce or entertainment, and certainly not to protect the privacy of users. But these are precisely the features businesses and designers use to capture attention and increase profits. Lankes argues for more humanist values to redesign our knowledge infrastructure: policies and systems that prioritize privacy and give users control of personal data, intellectual property rights that better serve the common good, and nuanced data analysis instead of algorithmic dataism. Lankes’ historical perspective is compelling and his arguments convincing.

2020: My Year in Reading


I read 41 books this past year, which is one more than the least amount I’ve read of any year since I started tracking (2014 only had 40). Honestly, this is more than I thought it would be because… well, because 2020. This was not an easy or normal year. 22 titles were assigned to me by Booklist to review.

2020 is the first year in the past six that I didn’t track my reading in depth. I kept a list of titles but I didn’t record start or end dates, or the number of days spent on each book. I explained why I chose not to keep a detailed reading list anymore in a previous post.

Now it’s time to assess: Was this a good choice?

Continue reading “2020: My Year in Reading”

2019: My Year in Reading

All of the data that follows was collected by me throughout the year using a combination of Google Sheets and Google Calendar. This year, I analyzed my reading using both the start and finished dates for each title: for example, I totaled how many books I started reading each month and also how many I finished each month. I calculated separate averages for both and found the overall totals work out the same either way. Average days to read titles are based on the number of days actually spent reading each title, and not necessarily the full span from starting date to finished date.

A complete list of all the books I read in 2019 is at the bottom of this post.


For a list of my favorite books I read this year, go here >

I participated in #LibFaves19 on Twitter. See my selections here >

I didn’t create a “Least Favorites” list this year. I started to but then realized I enjoyed even my least favorite books too much to justify such a list. It was a good year for reading!

Continue reading “2019: My Year in Reading”

Year End Lists Are Coming

Starting Monday, December 9, I’ll be posting my top 10 books from 2019 on Twitter under the hashtag #LibFaves19. In preparation for this, I’ve begun creating my overall favorites and least favorites lists for the year, and prepping for my annual Year in Reading post.

This has me thinking more about my recent post on reader burnout. And I’ve made a decision:

This will be the last year I do a Year in Reading post for a while. I won’t track my reading in 2020.

This will be the sixth year I’ve tracked it and it’s not working for me. I think it does more harm than good. My hope is taking that obligation off my plate will relieve much of the stress I feel around my reading life. Which means I won’t be able to do a comprehensive Year in Reading report next year.

I’ll still participate in #LibFaves and I’ll continue to post lists of my favorites and least favorites of the year. But no more tracking or reporting. I just want to let my reading be what it is without worrying about it.

2018: My Year in Reading

All of the data that follows was collected by me throughout the year using a combination of Google Sheets and Google Calendar. All seasonal and monthly calculations are based on the date each title was begun. Average days to read titles are based on the number of days actually spent reading each title, and not necessarily the full span from begun date to completed date.

A complete list of all the books I read in 2018 is at the bottom of this post.


For a list of my favorite books I read this year, go here >

For a list of my least favorite books of the year, go here >

I participated in #LibFaves18 on Twitter. See my selections here >

Continue reading “2018: My Year in Reading”

2017: My Year in Reading

All of the data that follows was collected by me throughout the year using a combination of Google Sheets and Google Calendar. All seasonal and monthly calculations are based on the date each title was begun. Average days to read titles are based on the number of days actually spent reading each title, and not necessarily the full span from begun date to completed date.

A complete list of all the books I read in 2017 is at the bottom of this post


First things first: I’m a hypocrite.

In 2016, I wrote a post about the importance of reading more widely in genres I don’t normally read. I even posted lists of titles and swore to spend some amount of time in 2017 reading them.

I didn’t. I didn’t read any of them.

Continue reading “2017: My Year in Reading”

2016: My Year in Reading

All of the data that follows was collected by me throughout the year using a combination of Google Sheets and Google Calendar. All seasonal and monthly calculations are based on the date each title was completed. Average days to read titles are based on the number of days actually spent reading each title, and not necessarily the full span from begun date to completed date.

A complete list of all the books I read in 2016 is at the bottom of this post.


I read 70 books in 2016. This year I overwhelmingly read fiction:

Continue reading “2016: My Year in Reading”

2015: My Year in Reading

All of the data that follows was collected by me using a combination of Google Sheets and Google Calendar. Once again, I elected not to track pages read—too much discrepancy between formats to generate meaningful comparisons.

A complete list of all the books I read in 2015 is at the bottom of this post.


I read 66 books in 2015. Fiction titles outnumbered nonfiction by 2-to-1:

Continue reading “2015: My Year in Reading”

The Relevance of Libraries

On April 10, 2015, KCUR’s “Up to Date” program interviewed Prof. John Palfrey about the future of libraries in the Digital Age, the day after he gave a talk on the subject at the Kansas City Public Library. During the interview, KCUR tweeted a question meant to provoke discussion about the future of libraries:

Prof. Palfrey offers an optimistic and robust vision for the future of libraries, but even he frames the discussion in a way that implicitly fuels the fire for those who question their relevance.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the data and I have to say—I can’t understand how the relevance of libraries has come into question in the first place. It bothers me that we’ve allowed this question to define the discussion about their future. I can’t think of any other public or civic institution or service that can boast the kind of numbers that libraries do. I tweet-stormed some of the most powerful:

Continue reading “The Relevance of Libraries”

Infographic – 2014: My Year in Reading

My friend Bil liked my 2014: My Year in Reading post so much, he made an infographic of it:

Infographic - 2014: My Year in Reading
This image is entirely the property of Bil Gaines.

He asked me to name an animal and I chose the three-toed tree sloth.

Bil is an amazing writer / artist / father / husband / shark lover / bland car enthusiast / SEO guru. Please read his blog. Also, if you want any fancy-schmancy infographics, drop him a line.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE added December 27, 2019: I was going through my old tracking spreadsheets and discovered an error in my original post. I had listed my longest stretch without reading as 28 days from August 11-September 8. I miscalculated this information. My longest stretch without reading in 2014 was actually 35 days from April 4-May 8. I can’t update this infographic, though.]