As far as I can tell, there are two types of readers: Singles and Severals.
Singles focus on one book at a time. Some, out of a sense of overwhelm (“I could never handle more than one book at a time!”). Some, out of a sense of order (“Everything in its place, damn it”). Others, out a sense of ceremony. Real monks, these people. But, whatever the reason, all Singles subscribe to a single credo: I shalt not open another book until finished this one I am.
For better or worse, I am of the other sort— a Several.
Severals read multiple books at the same time. In any given week, they’re reading a chapter from this one, a chapter from that one. It’s not uncommon for their wandering noses to be stuck in six or seven books over a given period. A lifetime of can’t-make-up-my-mind dilettantism is the likely diagnosis.
If you’re a Several, you’ve probably had the fascinating experience of explaining this unfocused habit to a Single. Often—after briefly losing consciousness— the Single gasps: how!? How could you possibly do that?! Then they pass out.
I try to reason with these nutter-butters. What about TV shows, I ask. Plenty of people watch multiple shows over the same period of time. You’ve got at least one show, sometimes two, for nearly every night of the week. Black Mirror on Sundays, The Voice is Tuesdays, Ted Lasso is on Fridays. Or how about taking various classes in school? Reading at nine, arithmetic at noon. Not exactly a high-wire act.
Well, it’s the same with books. In the morning, maybe on the train to work, you’re feeling self-helpy, so you read a chapter out of Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro. Then, during lunch, you’re feeling businessish, so you grab Shoe Dog. And at night, before you slumber, you’re feeling storyish, so you pick up Beloved. Just like a TV show or the next class, you pretty easily pick up the next thread.
TO BE SURE, there are disadvantages to the Several approach. One is the always present risk of losing track of all of these balls in the air. Many books I start, I often forget to finish. I’ll be cleaning out an old bag or closet, like, a year later, and recall that I dropped this one after chapter 1. Mostly, this just means that book didn’t do much for me. Other times, it just simply got crowded out, or (moves to a whisper) unfinshed (!): a Single’s biggest fear.
But there are distinct advantages to the ancient way of the Several. I count… several.
The first advantage is a sort of serendipitous overlap. When you’ve got five books open at once, there’s just a higher probability of connection– even for seemingly unrelated topics. Often, these connections don’t make much sense in the end– like the ones made while dreaming. But sometimes they do. And such connections have the ability to increase creativity, as creativity is often nothing more than connecting two previously unrelated things.
Another advantage to the Several approach is to more easily read thematically by time of day or week. For example, over the course of a few weeks in the Summer of 2020, I was reading a philosophy book, a history book, a health-related book, a novel, and an autobiography. I find that this actually increases the overall amount I read, and the amount I want to read. Why? Because at certain times (usually mid-day), I’m feeling more “how-to-ish,” while other times (usually before bed), I’m feeling more story-ish. And like my therapist said over my hushed sobs: you should listen to your feelings.
You can, of course, read thematically if you’re a Single (tone: disdainful), but it would have to come sequentially. So let’s say you read a book a month, which, in America appears about average (tone: arrogant pity). That would mean if you’re feeling particularly reverential one evening after visiting the confessional, you wouldn’t be able to read the Book of Matthew for another few weeks until you finish that etiquette book you picked up in seminary school. And those books can take a long time.
The third advantage is the ability to read in projects. So say, like I did in 2020, you want to learn about political history and theory. Maybe every other month you read two books, one from the left, the other from the right. And then maybe each month in between, you read a politically relevant topic— the Wealth of Nations, for instance, or Michael Sandel’s great political philosophy book, Justice. This allows you to get a well-rounded hold on the topic from which to form a viewpoint, rather than just reading one of Zinn’s A People’s History of The United States or Rand’s, Atlas Shrugged, and pretending you’ve taken a comprehensive look.
Of course, it’s possible for Singles to do these things, just not as effectively. Even if you read a lot—a book a week, say— you’d either have to dedicate the entire month to this project, and always be in the mood for this kind of book, or read them weeks or months apart, and therefore have a worse hold on the previous material.
In short— all Severals are cool; all Singles are dweebs. End of debate.
Now that that’s taken care of, let’s get to my favorite books of my 35th Year (Feb 29, 2020 – Feb 28, 2021).
The List (2/29/20 – 2/28/21)
Books by “Project”
I’ve laid the books out in terms of theme or project I was interested in this past year. They fell in the following six buckets:
- Develop an *Informed* Political Opinion
- Do a Better Job Understanding The Race Problem
- Learn More History
- Reading and prep for my forthcoming book called foodwise (diet + behavior + psychology)
- Fiction and Biography
- General Learning, Essays, Interviews, Personal Improvement
I’ve listed my top pick from each bucket, followed by the
Severals—feel free to snoop around. Singles – you may want to take these in order, and sitting down if you can. We wouldn’t want you to get dizzy, would we, you delicate, delicate dears.
Project #1: Develop an *Informed* Political Opinion
My Pick: Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do? By Michael Sandel.
“To ask whether a society is just is to ask how it distributes the things we pride— income and wealth, duties and rights, powers and opportunities, offices and honors. A just society distributes these good in the right way; it gives each person his or her due. The hard questions begin when we ask what people are due, and why.”Justice
Justice is a book that developed from one of the most popular courses at Harvard by Professor Michael Sandel. It seeks to ask the question: how do we want our society to be set up? Who do we want to reward? To do this, it examines hard questions ranging from organ donation to bank bailouts to immigration to the role of markets.
I think that this is a book that basically everyone should read. It was by far my favorite book re: Political Theory and History this year. I wrote more about it here.
It was my favorite book for three reasons:
- It made me think. This book isn’t easy. It introduces philosophical concepts which were the origins of a lot of political thought. Ones from Thomas Paine and Aristotle and Kant. Thinking through these problems helps to inform the basis and justification your political leanings.
- He had a viewpoint. This wasn’t a mere survey of problems, it was also clear that Sandel has a perspective. His seems to be that the “Common Good” — things done for the virtuous benefit of society — has been often ignored in favor of what Sandel feels are less ethical, market-driven pursuits.
- His message was not his viewpoint. Probably the most attractive aspect of Justice is that the overall point he wants you to take fro the book is not to agree with his specific point of view. This distinguishes justice from nearly every other political book I’ve read. Sandel is looking to influence something more important than his own POV: to think, to rethink, and to talk. By think, he means that when you get into a political argument, first understand the basis of the point of view. When someone says we shouldn’t be taxed— what is the basis of their philosophy? What are they really saying? That the government shouldn’t control us? That they should find money by other means? That they shouldn’t have money? By rethink, he means to reconsider your own stances in light of this understanding— of what value or philosophy that opinion is supporting. If you are for gun control— are you supporting all kinds of control? Are you consistent with the idea of state control over purchase choice? Where’s the line? And by talk, what Sandel is pleading for, is for us all to come together in public forums and discuss these topics and their merits. What sort of society do we want to live in? What do we value? Not to be right, but to figure out what is best.
OTHER BOOKS ON POLITICS:
Political Philosophy, Jonathan Wolff.
A good overview on the main topics of political philosophy and their origins, written by a professor at the University College of London. I wanted to start with a book like this so that I could identify the issues most debated, get a sense of both perspectives, and then read more from there. This book is good if you’re looking to start such a diagram.
Strangers in Their Own Land, Arlie Russel Horschild.
A book about a Berkeley-born sociologist who goes into the Deep South, interviews 100s of people, and tries to make sense of it of the country’s political chasm. I wouldn’t say the book is a complete success. For one thing, I don’t like how Hochschild continuously inserts her pre-baked opinion or “fact” in the same paragraph as she’s relaying another’s perspective. It’s clear she has an agenda. I also found a little basic and demeaning her categories of Deep South conservatives. Having said that— I felt it was a genuine attempt and felt a lot of headway was made. There were perspectives that made sense and it helped me to make connections. I’d like to read the opposite— a conservative who goes to Berkeley or Williamsburg on the same assignment. Anyone know of one?
Common Sense, Thomas Paine.
You can’t read about political history without running into Paine’s, Common Sense, a 47 page pamphlet which Paine published at the age of 40. Not bad for a life-long drifter, with basically no money, who just barely made it to America without dying. But this pamphlet is widely agreed to be what historian Gordon Wood wrote: “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era.” I found a lot of Paine’s writing to be captivating and I liked a lot of sections. What also has to be understood, however, is that this is a man who is coming from (a) an oppressive English government and (b) from low socioeconomic standing. This matters more than you might think.
One thing I’ve learned in reading books on philosophy, history, and psychology over the last decade, is that, often, the context from which someone writes is as important as the content. And that once pushed one way, the reaction tends to be, as Newton would have it, the equal and opposite reaction. So that when you read Ayn Rand, you should probably note that she grew up where the government was not only an unsuccessful communist regime, but also brutal and criminal. It wasn’t like she grew up in perhaps a happier version communism— like on a Kibbutz or today’s Vietnam. Or let’s say you read some Leftist tract like A People’s History, by Zinn, that he is writing a purposely single-sided view, in reaction to the overlooking of the perspectives of the “losers” of American prosperity. Similarly, Paine is coming from a Tyrannical Britain and he’s also coming from a lower-middle class— so he’s also writing for his own voice.
My point: we should expect these people to be writing with a lot of emotion and that they probably reach a bit too far, and swing the weight of the see-saw to the other end.
Project #2: Understand The (And My) Race Problem
Even more uninformed than my political knowledge, was my understanding of the BLM movement, and contending with my own bias, implicit or otherwise. I set out to begin the long haul of changing that dynamic, or at the very least, understanding it.
To do this, I read multiple books by black authors, both fiction and nonfiction, both directly and indirectly addressing the topic.
Of course, this is just the beginning. As i’ll focus on in my forthcoming book, foodwise, awareness is just the crucial first step. You shine the spotlight on an issue, and already you begin to rectify it, if only to remain consistent. But the real, long-term, and significant change comes, not in that “initial awakening,” as the buddhist saying goes, but in the “constant cultivation.” The months and years afterwards of engaging and re-engaging in the problem– and most of all, the people– over and over and over. And that’s this year’s plan.
My Pick: Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We, Jennifer Eberhardt, Phd
“..Personal connections can override implicit bias, especially when those relationships involve intimacy, mutual dependence, or working together toward a shared goal.”
I thought Professor Eberhardt’s book was not only a great review of the science on racial (and other forms of) bias, but a good look into some of the personal stories and struggles (including her’s). It was also hopeful– because I believe what she hit on most was the way forward.
It begins with awareness and hope. “The first step toward ending those disparities is to discard the assumption that they are inevitable, Dr. Eberhardt wrote. But in addition to awareness and training, the answer is, as it often is with issues of human error, anger, and misunderstanding– relationships and active engagement.
“Research shows that close attachments between people from different groups can puncture holes in stereotypic beliefs and negative attitudes,” she wrote. “And the openness of that relationship can leave a mark that lasts well beyond the moment and extends past that particular person… Science has shown that intense relationships that cross racial, religious, or ethnic boundaries can quickly undo fundamental associations that have built up slowly over time.”
Other books dealing with race:
Beloved, Toni Morrison.
Just a wrenching book, written by one of the best authors of the last 100 years. It’s clear you’re reading the story of a master.
“Me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.”
Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead.
Whitehead got his second pulitzer prize in a row for this book, based on the horrifying, true story of a reform school in Florida. The book is written with wit and effortlessness, the entire story is gripping and engaging, and the end is enough to drive you insane for at least a night.
“We must believe in our souls that we are somebody, that we are significant, that we are worthful, and we must walk the streets of life every day with this sense of dignity and this sense of somebody-ness.”
Project #3 – Learn History
My Top Pick: The Life of Greece (Vol 2 of The Hisotry of Civilization), Will Durant
“No great nation is ever conquered until it has destroyed itself.”
“All the problems that disturb us today—the cutting down of forests and the erosion of the soil; the emancipation of woman and the limitation of the family; the conservatism of the established, and the experimentalism of the unplaced, in morals, music, and government; the corruptions of politics and the perversions of conduct; the conflict of religion and science, and the weakening of the supernatural supports of morality; the war of the classes, the nations, and the continents; the revolutions of the poor against the economically powerful rich, and of the rich against the politically powerful poor; the struggle between democracy and dictatorship, between individualism and communism, between the East and the West—all these agitated, as if for our instruction, the brilliant and turbulent life of ancient Hellas. There is nothing in Greek civilization that does not illuminate our own.”
About 6 or 7 years back, I came across the one of the great 20th century philosopher-historians: Will Durant. I believe my friend Brian handed me Durant’s Story of Philosophy. It was a fortuitous day.
In Story, Durant picks about 20 Philosophers, beginning with the great Greeks (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) and ending in the early-to-mid 20th century (James, Dewey, Santayana). What you’ll instantly notice, if you pick up that book, is that while the topic can be dense, Durant delivers it with the rhythm, style and ease of a romantic poet. He, with little apparent effort, converts what can be dry history into pleasurable and rich stories and profiles. I’ve not seen it done better. Durant converts history into a novel.
In 1935, already an accomplished international lecturer on history and philosophy, and after publishing several books, including The Story of Philosophy (which put him on the map), Durant started what must be the most ambitious project in the history of history. He set out, with the help of his wife, Ariel, to write the history of all civilization— starting with the very first societies of which we have record, and continuing to his present day.
From that year, until his death in 1981, Will and Ariel would write over 10,000 pages of history, winning them the Pulizter and the Medal of Freedom.
After Philosophy, I read a few of Durant’s other short books (including: The Lessons of History, The Greatest Ideas and Minds of All Time, Fallen Leaves), but I promised myself I’d have to read his 11-Volume History of Civilization. This past year I read volumes One and Two – Oriental Age and the Age of Greece. They were both phenomenal (and combined for a whopping 1600 pages) but the Age of Greece captured more of my attention, given Greece was, in many ways, the beginning of big ideas. You learn about all the greats: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. About Sparta and Athens, about the Gods and the peasants. About the rise and fall. It was really exciting.
And now, on to Volume III, The Age of Caesar and Christ.
OTHER NOTABLES FROM HISTORY:
Our Oriental Heritage (History of Civilization Vol 1), Will Durant.
I really enjoyed most of this book— stories of King Akbar and Ashoka in India, the gods and pharaohs of Egypt, the origins of the Jewish people, where the Buddha and Confucius came from. But the best part might be the introduction, which is the introduction to the entire set of 11 volumes.
“A nation is born stoic, and dies epicurean. At its cradle (to repeat a thoughtful adage) religion stands, and philosophy accompanies it to the grave…At last men begin to doubt the gods; they mourn the tragedy of knowledge, and seek refuge in every passing delight. Achilles is at the beginning, Epicurus at the end. After David comes Job, and after Job, Ecclesiastes.””
A Little History of Science (Bynum), A Little History of Philosophy (Warburton), A little History of Economics (Kishtainy).
These books are a lot of fun, especially on audio. They are just good overviews of topics from which you can dive in deeper. Often, it’s a stringing together of profiles of people and incidents in history. I find the story based structure, though less academic, makes it more readable and memorable.
Project #4 – Book Writing Research (Nutrition, Behavior, Psychology)
My Pick: Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss.
“As a culture, we’ve become upset by the tobacco companies advertising to children, but we sit idly by while the food companies do the very same thing. And we could make a claim that the toll taken on the public health by a poor diet rivals that taken by tobacco.”
What’s clear from the very beginning of this book is, first, that it’s written by a Pulizter-caliber journalist (Moss won one in 2010. His 3rd nomination). Second, that food corporations go to incredible lengths— whether by psychological marketing tactics, or chemical engineering— to keep us purchasing their food. Reading it is just, practically speaking, in everyone’s interest. If companies are using well-trodden and effective tactics against you in order to get you to buy their product, awareness is a good first defense.
Although the sheer amount of advertising money deployed by the food industry to draw us to salty, sugary and fatty foods can be startling (McDonalds spends about half a billion per year), you probably already have a sense of that. But what struck me, was the roster of PhD chemists, psychologists, and engineers hired by these companies. That’s worrisome.
Consider this: right now, there are scientists— not just a bunch of lackeys in ties, but Stanford-trained chemists, but safety goggle, CRISPR-comprehending research nerds— sitting in some Kraft Foods laboratory, testing out various combinations of fillers and oils and sweeteners to get the addictive properties of a potato chip to be that much closer to perfect. Those Lunchables you used to eat and love—ya, they were created with formulas, beakers and a budget of millions.
The main takeaway from the book, in my view, should be this— eating healthfully (and keeping your kids healthy) cannot just be left as a matter of your body, your problem. It’s a societal issue— like smoking, or a legal limit for blood-alcohol. When you have M.I.T engineers calculating the exact ratio of Ketchup irresistibleness, and Harvard psychologists tricking you into wanting more, it’s not just your sweet tooth you’re facing. That was hard enough to overcome on the farm in 1850. Now, you’re facing you, some of the biggest corporations in the world, powered by science.
Sure, you’re an adult. You can set up systems, and goals, and create a healthy kitchen. Bloomberg’s not telling you how big your cherry coke can be. But, your kids on the other hand– they have no chance.
Other Really Good Books on diet, behavior and psych:
In Diet—- The Longevity Diet by Valter Longo.
I referenced Dr. Longo, a researcher at USC, in my articles about fasting (water-only and intermittent). This book discusses how he came to learn about intermittent fasting and the largely plant-based diet + intermittent eating schedule he advises for longevity.
In Behavior— Good Habits, Bad Habits by Wendy Wood.
Wendy Wood, is one of the world’s foremost experts on habits— their function and creation. Some practical takeaways in this book about when habits work, when they don’t work, and how to control for the difference. There are tons of other popular books on habit, including one I also read this year Atomic Habits by James Clear. Clear’s book was solid, but I prefer Wood’s as the expert take on it.
Psychology— Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) by Elliot Arronson and Carol Tavris.
I wrote about Arronson last year in his seminal text on social psychology, The Social Animal— the best introductory textbook-that-reads-like-a-novel in psychology. This book is all about Arronson’s specialty: cognitive dissonance. This is essentially the pain and resistance that comes from the awareness of personal inconsistency. When something you do or say is hard to reconcile or contradictory with past thought or action. And the book basically explains why and how good people can do things against the interest of others, or themselves. On a positive note, it also shows how knowing about dissonance and taking action to right it, can build a more thoughtful, even resilient character.
Project #5 – Fiction and Biography
I’ve made it a point the last couple years to read a lot more biography and fiction. I did this for two reasons: (1) it’s often easier for a lot of very smart people (think: Shakespeare, Dickens, or Ben Franklin) to put their insights into either fiction or their own story (which occasionally are the same thing) and (2) it’s often a lot easier for me (and probably you) to internalize the concepts when I learn them in a story.
My Pick: Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth
“Men often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even If I didn’t have it in the beginning.”
I wrote more about this book in my Summer stories last summer.
Basically, I read MLK’s autobiography and he referred a few times to Gandhi when reflecting on his approach of nonviolent resistance. At that point I realized something: I knew next to nothing about one of the most important people in history.
The book is great for understanding about Gandhi and where a lot of his ideas developed. But it’s even better to see the very relatable struggles of even the best, most honorable of people. Even Gandhi gets off track. The difference is, he makes it a point– he feels it’s his duty– to right the ship.
The second thing it’s great for: seeing the way out of this B.S. we are involved in. The most important understanding from MLK, Gandhi, Mandela– people who changed contries without guns or hate— is not only that it’s possible, but that– and this is crucial– it is the only enduring way to do it.
Yes, guns, and vigor, and brutality, and “dog eat dog” can change things for a time– maybe a long, oppressive time. But, b/c of their nature and their contempt on the people on the other side, it seems to me, they set in motion a chain of events that inevitably bubbles up down the road in rebellion, revolution, or, in some, very fortunate scenarios, an extraordinary leader comes along, and wills the change with words, patience, and love.
““Hate the sin and not the sinner is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world… It is quite proper to resist and attack a system, but to resist and attack its author is tantamount to resisting and attacking oneself. for we are all tarred with the same brush, and are children of one and the same Creator, and as such the divine powers within us are infinite. To slight a single human being is to slight those divine powers, and thus to harm not only that being but with him the whole world.”
Other Great Fiction and Bio
The Choice, Edith Eger.
I wrote more here. A great quote: ““Time doesn’t heal. It’s what you do with the time. Healing is possible when we choose to take responsibility, when we choose to take risks, and finally, when we choose to release the wound, to let go of the past or the grief.”
Will and Ariel Durant: A Dual Autobiography. If you can’t tell, I sort of have a thing for the Durant’s. This book was really fun, but perhaps only if you have a Durant-crush. It tells of their lives together prancing all over the world, following Durant’s career as a world-wide lecturer, including their encounters with the most famous people of the day, from Charlie Chaplin to Will Rogers, to FDR.
Letters to a Young Scientist, Edward O Wilson. When I noticed that Edward O Wilson won two nobel prizes, I thought it was probably time to start learning about how he thinks. I’ve long been a fan of the “letters to a” kind of books, starting with my first one, Dershowitz’s, Letters to a Young Lawyer, to Rilke’s timeless, Letters to a Young Poet. This one did not disappoint, stringing together the stories of a young, hungry life scientist to a latter-career transformation into a social scientist of sorts. My favorite quote: “..successful research doesn’t depend on mathematical skill, or even the deep understanding of theory. It depends to a large degree on choosing an important problem and finding a way to solve it, even if imperfectly at first. Very often ambition and entrepreneurial drive, in combination, beat brilliance.”
“Now that I’ve won a slam, I know something very few people on earth are permitted to know. A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last long as the bad. Not even close.”
From The Outside, Ray Allen. Great story about determination, hard-work, and overcoming obstacles by a future NBA Hall of Famer.
You always have an opportunity to stand up for what is right. It doesn’t mean others will always follow you. And by taking a stand, you might put up barriers that will not be easy to break through. But if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.Ray Allen, From The Outside
Project #6: Business
The overt goal for this project is simple: gain a better understanding of what has worked and hasn’t worked in business. But the less overt goal might be more interesting. Business is nothing more than a person or a group of people’s effort to build something and impact the world (even if it’s just for money). So understanding business is to understand how things are made, how uncertainty is dealt with, and how to engage successfully with the world. So that even if you’re not in business, even if you’re a photographer or a lab researcher or an astronaut, it’s likely that books about business will benefit you.
My Picks –a Tie: Rework by David Heinimeir Hannson and Jason Fried and Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras.
“When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.”Rework
“Indeed, if there is any one “secret” to an enduring great company, it is the ability to manage continuity and change—a discipline that must be consciously practiced, even by the most visionary of companies.”Built To Last
These books are essentially the opposite. It’s practical versus big-picture abstractness, it’s experiential versus research-based. There are always those that say experience trumps research, or the other way around. But, as usual, both sides miss the point. Which one is more valuable? Both.
Rework is a book about personal experience, and practical lessons derived from, growing a start-up into what is now Basecamp, a billion dollar (with a “b”) business. It’s also a tad counter-culture and a bit fuck-you-tradition-and-mainstream-ish, thus the “reworking.” They read the book, so it’s an immediate add to the best audio books, read by the authors. I’m now listening a second time.
Built to Last is the famous management book by a professor and researcher, whom, to my knowledge, didn’t run a business per se, until he sort of started his research / media firm that specializes in business consulting and research. Nonetheless, the book has impactful insight, including the chorus of the book which is the dueling mode of successful, lasting companies: stimulating innovation while preserving the core values, purposes, and ideals. I also read Good to Great, which I thought was more good than great, and a few other Collin’s papers.
Other Great Business Books:
The Long Tail, Chris Anderson. Most people watch and listen to the top 10 documentaries and music hits. However, Anderson (the ex-WIRED mag editor-in-chief, not the TED guy), tells us why there is a lot of value, perhaps even more value, in the next 50 or 100 choices. All people have unique quirks. When they know they can access their particular interest, have a simple way of accessing it, and find a small community also interested, they move away from the top hits and travel to their specific interest down the “long tail,” of choices.
“In a world of infinite choice, context—not content—is king.”
The Mom Test, Rob Fitzpatrick. Back to the practical. This book is all about how to test a business idea, identify a market for it, and get dependable feedback from customers, or future customers. It’s also entertaining. Fitzpatrick is a serial entrepreneur, and it’s obvious right from the start.
“Learning that your beliefs are wrong is frustrating, but it’s progress. It’s bringing you ever closer to the truth of a real problem and a good market. The worst thing you can do is ignore the bad news while searching for some tiny grain of validation to celebrate. You want the truth, not a gold star.”
Project #7 – Grab Bag: Learning, Self-Improvement, Entertainment, General Interest, Essays and Interviews.
The Practice, Seth Godin. Vintage Godin, all about finding a method to get to your goal and then putting in the consistent, thoughtful, and effortful work, each day– at least a little– over a long span of time. It turns out that the practice of the thing, as well as the goal, are equally interesting.
“The only choice we have is to begin. And the only place to begin is where we are. Simply begin. But begin.”
Tribe, Junger. We used to live in tribes and now we don’t. Using his experience as a war journalist, Junger explains why this is a large problem– namely, the degradation of human connection and meaning. It would have been nice to hear more of his thoughts on how to solve this problem, but at least he is shining a light on it. The book is razor sharp, brief, and well written too.
“The beauty and the tragedy of the modern world is that it eliminates many situations that require people to demonstrate a commitment to the collective good.”
The Paris Review Interviews. This series of books is just a ton of fun. Get thoughts on writing and life out of long-form interviews of the best writers of all time: Hemingway, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, T.S. Elliot, Kurt Vonegut. My personal favorite interview: James Baldwin- I believe from Volume 2 (here’s the link to that).
Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization, Kaufman. This book, written by a widely respected psychologist, is an explanation and update on the famed psychologist, Abraham Maslow, his Hierarchy of Needs, and how to get to that level of self-actualization. Very strong book.
And that’s the list. Please send me a note at email@example.com if you have some good recommendations based on any of the above projects. Or just to say hello 🙂