I’m constantly reading. I used to do book reviews on here, but that got old pretty fast. From now on I’ll just give a list of what I’ve been reading recently, and a short blurb about each book. Here are some books and collections I’ve been spending time with lately.
Good to Great by Jim Collins
This was a phenomenal book. Collins basically takes an enormous amount of data, collected from interviews, stock statistics, and news articles, and then rationally debates what the data mean and simplifies it down to a few easy-to-follow lessons. The whole time, he keeps his conclusions logical and empirical, instead of drawing conclusions solely from his own experience, which you see all too often in business. This definitely ranks up there with some of my other favorite business books: The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, Made to Stick by the Heath Brothers, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene… I think that about covers it (for now).
The Lean Startup by Eric Reis
Quick read, and covers some great methods and mindsets for quick and reasonable product development. Unfortunately, I’m not running a software startup, I’m in the biotech space, so most of this was irrelevant to my current situation. Nevertheless, the principles Reis expounds can be applied to just about anything with a bit of creative thinking. Worth a read.
Fiction and Literature
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
As a philosophy student, it was fascinating to read this book. Stephenson basically takes the history of philosophy, transports it to another world (actually a parallel universe), and then changes the names of everything and weaves it into an intricate and interesting story. One example: instead of Occam’s Razor, you have the Steelyard.
Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
The prototypical beat generation book of poetry. I really liked it, but I’m taking a step back and currently reading a collection of Alexander Pope’s poetry. For some reason, I find poetry to be a more interesting form of literature than the novel. I also really like short stories…
I picked up this and the collection of Pope poetry after seeing this speech by Ray Bradbury. I find short stories to be immensely intellectually and creatively stimulating. Especially when you consider possible metaphors, symbolism, etc that the author wove into his story.
I actually read Branden’s book on romantic love almost a year ago, but I revisited it last month for a paper I was working on, which lead me to become interested in his other works on self-esteem. As I work more on my own projects, I’m realizing how important self-confidence and self-esteem are. Sure, you have to be comfortable with yourself before you can even think about substantial relationships with high-quality people (both friends and girlfriends), but the same goes for anything you create. Making a company and making love are like two sides of a single coin – you have to put your whole being and energy and focus into each in order to do it the right way. And giving your whole self to a project or a person necessarily requires that you are confident in your abilities. (Not arrogant, which is just blind and stupid, but confident in an enlightened-sort of way.)
I highly recommend all three of Branden’s books, but especially The Psychology of Romantic Love.
So, that’s what I’ve been perusing for the past couple of weeks. I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading.
“Successful people suffer through catastrophes and bankruptcies. The successful person fails many times and bounces back. The failure fails only once, letting that one failure become a judgement of his worth, and thus his label.”
Every once in a while you find a book that speaks to you in a way you don’t understand. The story in itself ebbs and flows like the tide of water on a beach of characters that teach you more about yourself than you can consciously comprehend. The elegant prose so enraptures you in its profundity that you find yourself questioning whether you are remembering a part of the book or a first-hand experience—or that you have imaginary dialogues with the characters, as if they entrusted to you a part of themselves that intimately found its way into your conscience—and the winding narrative contains in it a symbolism that intrigues in a uniquely unorthodox, enigmatic fashion.
I’ve found very few of those kind of books.
A River Runs Through It is one of those books.
I’m smack in the middle of a personal challenge to read at least one book every week. The erudition section of this blog is my attempt to chronicle my challenge and galvanize a lifetime of curiosity and learning. If you have read any of these books before, or happen to pick one up and find it interesting, I’d love to hear your thoughts too.
Remember Tripod.com? You know, back in the dinosaur age of the internets, when only the über-smart and curious intellectuals (read: nerds) were the ones who ventured into the land of dial-up? Yeah, I was there, and I’m pretty sure I had a “homepage” on Tripod.
Well the guy behind Tripod, it turns out, was a kid—Bo Peabody. After nursing Tripod as a pet project through college, he hired hippie programmers to wrangle the code that he himself didn’t know how to write. Supervised by his economics professor, Tripod.com began as a how-to site for-and-by college students. As soon as he unleashed the code monkeys, however, they transformed it into a publishing platform, allowing anyone with an Internet connection to create their own personal homepage.
Fast forward six years. Peabody sells his company to Lycos for a reported $58 million in stock. Rock on.
Pictured above is part of my anti-library. The first bottom row are unread or partly-read books. The back row and shelf are either read or reference books.
What’s an anti-library? In The Black Swan, Taleb talks about Umberto Eco’s collection of 30,000 unread books. These books represent Eco’s anti-library, the reservoir of information that Eco doesn’t yet possess. This unknown knowledge is of greater importance than what Eco does know because it represents the blind spots, the uncertainty, and the relative frailty of his knowledge. It also serves to humble and remind him of how much he really doesn’t know.
Awareness of one’s anti-library and the unknown information it holds is critical to any right-minded individual.
So, I am posting here my anti-library as of today, the 6th of August, 2011. A tip of the hat goes out to the inimitable James Steele II for posting his anti-library and giving me this idea. In about six months I’ll check back in with new books to read.