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Several Short Sentences About Writing

Several Short Sentences About Writing

Verlyn Klinkenborg

Read: July 29, 2023 • Rating: 10/10

This is the most insightful book on writing I've read. The author's philosophy is simple: the sentence is the fundamental unit of writing. If you focus on making each sentence great, your writing will be great.

He gives practical tips on how to improve your sentences by eliminating non-essential words and he shares his method for sentence creation.

Beyond the quality of the author's writing philosophy, the book is written with a level of intention and concision I didn't know was possible.

The value density of this book is what all books should aspire to be (and only the best books can compete, like Zero to One).


Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon

Daniel Keyes

Read: July 15, 2021 • Rating: 10/10

This book is written as if it were the journal of the mentally challenged Charlie Gordon, who undergoes an experimental surgery to increase his intelligence.

It's a beautiful story, as well as an exploration of the effects of intelligence on the human psyche, but I also especially love the attention to detail in each character's psychology.

It felt like every interaction with each character was written with careful consideration of each indiviuals temperament and motivating functions, allowing the reader to effectively understand their personalities and goals through subtle signals, just like you could in real life.


The Power of Now

The Power of Now

Eckart Tolle

Read: February 8, 2021 • Rating: 10/10

One of the best philosophy books I've read, especially as an introduction into more nuanced spiritual thinking.

Eckart Tolle is as close to enlightenment as any public spiritual leader. This book is dense with insights on happiness and how to live a peaceful life.


High Output Management

High Output Management

Andy Grove

Read: May 3, 2024 • Rating: 9/10

An insightful guide to management strategy and tactics, formed by Andy Grove's decades of experience leading Intel. Explains all of management in terms of its first principles - this sounds straightforward but is extremely challenging given the breadth of the subject matter.

Opinionated in the best way possible - Grove has personally experimented with all the different approaches to common management challenges, and asserts the belief system he has developed from this experience.


The Lessons of History

The Lessons of History

Will & Ariel Durant

Read: May 1, 2024 • Rating: 9/10

A concise history book full of unique observations and wisdom. After writing their 11 volume series The Story of Civilization documenting the entire history of the West, Will & Ariel Durant organized their meta-observations and reflections into this short 100 page book.

It highlights what history teaches us about biology, morals, character, religion, economics, government, war, and more. By turning to the past, it also reveals many of the unintuitive empirical truths about human nature & civilization.

Beyond their insights on history, they also offer a beautiful perspective on what it means to be a historian, what history has to offer us, and what progress means for humanity.


Think And Grow Rich

Think And Grow Rich

Napoleon Hill

Read: February 20, 2024 • Rating: 9/10

The defining work on the principles and pscyhology of achievement. This book is famous, but still underrated. It isn't about becoming rich - it's about achieving anything you desire. The philosophy can be applied to building wealth and everything else worthwhile.

It guides you through the thirteen steps to achievement, starting with creating a burning desire for a well-defined future. Each one is an insightful and unintuitive lesson demanding reflection.

Everyone should read and reference this book as many times as necessary for its principles to be fully adopted and applied - they're that critical to success.

If you feel like you're drifting through life without direction, spending your time working toward the dreams of others without your own dream, and you don't want to remain that way, you especially have to read this.


7 Powers: The Foundations of Business Strategy

7 Powers: The Foundations of Business Strategy

Hamilton Helmer

Read: January 17, 2024 • Rating: 9/10

The defining work on business strategy. This book contains an exhaustive list of the business strategies that yield long-term value, framed in the context of benefits offered to incumbents and barriers to competitors.

Beyond it's exploration of strategy, it provides a high-level map of building companies that's often missing in the way startup common knowledge is communicated, and is critical to understanding the big picture.

The examples in this book are concise and strictly add to the main points, which is refreshing compared with the standard unnecessary use of stories in many books.


Fundraising

Fundraising

Ryan Breslow

Read: October 28, 2023 • Rating: 9/10

A concise and tactical guide to fundraising with everything you need to know. Must-read for anyone planning to raise venture capital.

Ryan has formed his intuitions on the topic the hard way through trial-and-error, and has the results to backup his strategies with his company Bolt raising huge venture rounds.

His framework for an ideal pitch is also the perfect minimal narrative to explain any venture-scalable company.


On Writing Well

On Writing Well

William Zinsser

Read: April 15, 2023 • Rating: 9/10

Another concise and high value density book on writing, second only to Several Short Sentences on Writing.

William Zinsser has a minimalist approach to writing that focuses on stripping out everything unnecessary and making sure that every word serves a purpose.

He also has great perspective on the purpose of writing and what writing in your own voice actually means.


Ego is the Enemy

Ego is the Enemy

Ryan Holiday

Read: January 30, 2023 • Rating: 9/10

Excellent required reading for all ambitious young people that want to build successful careers.

Covers almost all of the classic pitfalls of ego that plight young people - especially those in Gen Z exposed to startups & Silicon Valley at a young age (a group that includes most of my friends and me).

Each chapter is a new powerful lesson on restraint, humility, attitude, and more. The chapter on "The Canvas Method" is especially valuable.


The Last Question

The Last Question

Isaac Asimov

Read: December 18, 2022 • Rating: 9/10

Isaac Asimov said this was his favorite of his own writing, which made me curious to read it.

I don't want to spoil anything, but you should read it right now and then come back. It takes less than 30 minutes to finish. You can find it here. It's worth it. You can click into my notes after.



Zero to One

Zero to One

Peter Thiel

Read: July 3, 2022 • Rating: 9/10

The bible of starting a massive technology company. Anyone interested in startups needs to read this.

The first principles on (1) what to work on (2) how to work on it to create massive value and (3) how to capture part of the value to build a valuable company.


Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits

James Clear

Read: May 25, 2021 • Rating: 9/10

The definitive book on building habits. I hesitated to read it because I thought it would be like most self-help books with a few simple concepts that are generally intuitive.

I was very wrong. The book is extremely information-dense with useful strategies to effectively build habits. Every new chapter introduces new actionable tips.

Building habits is a critical skill, so reading this book is critical.


On Intelligence

On Intelligence

Jeff Hawkins

Read: December 27, 2020 • Rating: 9/10

On the theory of intelligence, how its created in the brain, and how we could replicate it in machines.

The best explanation on the neuroscientific basis of intelligence. Hawkins highlights the intuitions behind the key principles that enable intelligence in the brain: hierarchical structure, memory-prediction frameworks, invariant representations, and auto-associations.

The book was written several decades ago before modern day deep learning. Impressively, many of the most defining advancements in AI directly correspond with the implementation of concepts he highlights here.


Antifragile

Antifragile

Nassim Taleb

Read: May 16, 2024 • Rating: 8/10

In a world full of randomness and disorder, building things that benefit from volatility is the only way to ensure robustness. Taleb calls these things that gain from disorder antifragile.

He highlights how everything that has stood the test of time is antifragile, and shows us how to use antifragility to understand the world, improve our decision making, and build more robust systems.

He constantly makes fun of people he disagrees with throughout the book, making his writing unique and entertaining (and also very salty, likely distasteful to some).

His discussions on the barbell concept (on managing risk and reward), iatrogenics (on harmful intervention), the value of optionality, and via negativa (on improvement through removal) are particularly insightful.


Feeling is the Secret

Feeling is the Secret

Neville Goddward

Read: April 15, 2024 • Rating: 8/10

A surprisingly concise book on the power of feeling and belief in achievement. Similar to Think And Grow Rich, but focused just on the metaphysical and less targeted to a general audience.

Powerful lessons about the relationship between the conscious & the subconscious, and how to use this knowledge to enable creation.

Best introduced with an excerpt from Neville - "the world, and all within it, is man's conditioned consciousness objectified. Consciousness is the cause as well as the substance of the entire world. So it is to consciousness that we must turn if we would discover the secret of creation."

If this excerpt sounds like bullshit to you, this book is not for you. If you recognize the truth in it, you will enjoy the rest of the book.


Common Stocks & Uncommon Profits

Common Stocks & Uncommon Profits

Philip A. Fisher

Read: March 24, 2024 • Rating: 8/10

One of Warren Buffet's two favorite books on investing. The guide to the most effective and proven strategy for retail investors.

Fisher advocates for a long-term approach where you ignore short-term price action, and focus on identifying a small number of very high quality companies with great management and large growth opportunities, buying them while under-valued, and then never selling.

He shows you how this strategy has always offered the opportunity to make massive returns, and he breaks down the specifics of how to identify great companies and what mistakes to avoid.

Beyond stocks, this book offers timeless insight on investing as a whole and is essential reading for everyone.


Immune

Immune

Philipp Dettmer

Read: March 11, 2024 • Rating: 8/10

An introduction to the immune system written by the founder of Kurzgesagt that far exceeded my expectations. Philipp Dettmer breaks down this traditionally unapproachable subject so well that it feels simple and intuitive.

He's done a great job sharing his appreciation for the beauty & elegance of the defense systems our bodies have somehow developed through natural selection. He also constantly uses useful analogies and interjects with his own entertaining commentary, making the book highly readable.


The Surrender Experiment

The Surrender Experiment

Michael A. Singer

Read: March 10, 2024 • Rating: 8/10

Are we better off fighting with reality to bring our desires into existence, or letting go of our desires and allowing our will to be directed by the same forces of reality that created the perfection of the universe?

Michael Singer dedicated his life to answering this question. This book is about his unexpected journey to creating a multi-billion dollar company through complete surrender.

His story highlights the surprising unpredictability of life and challenges the consensus views on how to live. His lifestyle synthesizes the wisdom of eastern philosophy with youthful ambition and the will to create.

It has changed my perspective on embracing uncertainty and opened my mind to the possibilities of achievement aligned with inner tranquility and the beauty of following the flow of life.


Wild Problems

Wild Problems

Russ Roberts

Read: January 29, 2024 • Rating: 8/10

Life is made up of decisions. Most of these decisions can be evaluated using ordinary decision making frameworks using specific optimization functions.

But some of these decisions - like deciding where to live, who to marry, and what to do with your life - force you to make life-defining choices with incomplete information to questions with no obvious answers.

This book is about how to deal with these "wild problems." It offers great counter-intuitive frameworks on how to make these decisions and what to optimize for to maximize flourishing.

I read it after making a big decision in my life, and all the advice resonated in hindsight. I wish I had read it sooner so I could have made the decision with more confidence.


The Dark Forest

The Dark Forest

Cixin Liu

Read: December 30, 2023 • Rating: 8/10

Cixin Liu's biggest strength is his abundance of genuinely insightful & creative ideas that populate his sci-fi worlds. The core concept behind The Dark Forest is genius.

The book struggles in its character development and pacing at times. Its slow to get started with its sci-fi plot, which many people criticize, although I enjoyed Liu's writing in the first half regardless.

It became a slog midway through the book to the point where I didn't want to finish, but I held out to read the ending. There are some plot holes in the build up, but the ending was mind-blowing and worth it.


Blitzscaling

Blitzscaling

Reid Hoffman

Read: December 19, 2023 • Rating: 8/10

Blitzscaling is the process of scaling a company by strategically prioritizing rapid growth above everything else. The largest software companies, including Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, etc. have successfully used this strategy to reach massive scale.

This book covers how to execute a blitzscaling strategy and mitigate its negative effects. The idea of scaling rapidly to dominate the market after hitting PMF gives me an adrenaline rush.


The War of Art

The War of Art

Steven Pressfield

Read: November 24, 2023 • Rating: 8/10

Anyone who strives to create faces Resistance at some point on their journey. Resistance is what prevents us from achieving what we want to, and it comes in many forms. This book is about how to identify & defeat Resistance.

It presents a unique attitude toward creation that focuses on remembering the nature of Resistance, overcoming it through consistency, and maintaining humility and appreciation for the divinity from which art flows through us.


The Gardener and the Carpenter

The Gardener and the Carpenter

Alison Gopnik

Read: November 23, 2023 • Rating: 8/10

A book about the philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology of caring for children written by a grandmother who also runs a cognitive and developmental science lab at Berkeley.

Her sentences are full of wisdom, and her mindset toward raising children is beautiful - "loving children doesn’t give them a destination; it gives them sustenance for the journey."

She presents a full picture of the evolutionary roots of parenting and uses this to inform her advice. She does a good job of exploring the nuances of raising children in each age group, and offers perspective on how we can use the science of parenting to improve the education system.


Mandukya Karika

Mandukya Karika

Swami Gaudapada

Read: September 13, 2023 • Rating: 8/10

The Mandukya Upanishad is the most concise of the Indian philosophy texts. It's considered an exhaustive overview of Advaita Vedanta, which is basis for non-dualism and has inspired many Western philosophies.

It usually comes with the Karika, which is a short commentary on it written by Swami Gaudapada, one of the famous original thinkers behind Advaita.

It's filled with great analogies for understanding non-dualism, along with several overly religious or complex descriptions that could benefit from simplification.

You can find it here - be warned, it's a challenging read.


The Changing World Order

The Changing World Order

Ray Dalio

Read: July 25, 2023 • Rating: 8/10

All great nations go through cycles of rise and decline. With this in mind, Ray Dalio develops a framework based on key indicators to evaluate where in its cycle a nation is. Using this framework, he makes the case that the United States is on the decline from it's peak, and that China will be the next dominant global power.

This book is dense with insights about how societies function, how great nations are created, how power dynamics shift over time, etc. I'd consider this essential reading for anyone curious about how the world works.


The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem

Cixin Liu

Read: March 14, 2023 • Rating: 8/10

Unique spin on the contact with aliens theme with a compelling reveal. It's also nice variety to have the backdrop of the Chinese cultural revolution - an uncharacteristic and unique setting for a typical sci-fi novel.


Affective Neuroscience

Affective Neuroscience

Jaak Panksepp

Read: January 18, 2023 • Rating: 8/10

A perfect introduction to the neuroscience of emotions, taught by one of its most insightful teachers.

Panksepp covers emotional systems from a variety of perspectives, laying out neuroanatomical, neurobiological, and neurochemical foundations, while taking into account relevant psychology an philosophy.

This textbook goes far beyond telling the facts. Panksepp also lays out his thought-provoking personal insights and theories.

He often takes a step back from the facts to offer computational and philosophical theories about the brain, appreciate the beauty behind different aspects of neuroscience, or to offer thoughtful reflections on the nature of emotions.


The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

Eric Jorgenson

Read: December 13, 2022 • Rating: 8/10

I went into the book expecting another iteration of self-help or life advice books, but ended up really liking it. The author organizes all of Naval's online advice into a nice structure around achieving happiness and financial freedom in life.

Very high readability, like reading through a series of tweet storms for the entire book, and great boiled down insights on time allocation, what to optimize for, how to be happy, and more.


On The Shortness of Life

On The Shortness of Life

Seneca

Read: November 5, 2022 • Rating: 8/10

Seneca has one message here which is quite simple: life is short, but we make it much shorter by spending time on things that are unimportant.

As simple as it is, it's necessary reminder, and Seneca delivers it in a unique way that brings up relevant points and makes you seriously think about how you're spending your time.


Sapiens

Sapiens

Yuval Noah Harari

Read: March 29, 2021 • Rating: 8/10

A creative non-traditional history book about humanity that explores how stories have our species.

The core concept is that religions, businesses, language and much more are all shared myths. This lens casts a more high-clarity perspective on the world.


How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Dale Carnegie

Read: Jan 9, 2021 • Rating: 8/10

The definitive handbook on being a genuine, likeable, influential, and positive-sum person with many practical tips and anecdotes.

It would be great if everyone operated with this philosophy.

This book is the conceptual opposite of The 48 Laws of Power.


Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned

Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned

Kenneth Stanley & Joel Lehman

Read: April 27, 2024 • Rating: 7/10

Definite objectives dominate modern incentive structures. But achieving ambitious goals & defining innovation rarely comes from optimizing toward such objectives. You may disagree with this premise right now.

This book will explain why the premise is both true, and critically important. It will show you why it's so easy to retro-actively misattribute what led to the great creations of the past - which is exactly what society has done.

It then provides an alternative approach to achieve greatness that has truly enabled all great science, innovation, arts, and progress - a strategy focused on individual stepping stones instead of big detailed plans.

Everyone needs to understand this. If you're intrigued, this 30 minute talk by the author communicates the point well - the book makes interesting additions but also gets redundant.


Mindset

Mindset

Carol Dweck

Read: March 31, 2024 • Rating: 7/10

People with fixed mindsets believe the qualities that determine their success are predetermined. People with growth mindsets believe these qualities can be developed through their own intentional direction and effort. Carol Dweck explores the outcomes of people with each mindset in-terms of personal success, sports, business, and relationships and shows the importance of adopting a growth mindset.

This book was far better than I expected, in part because I underestimated how critical the growth mindset is. After reading, I'm reminded that this mindset is not just a useful, but a necessary ingredient for all sustainable forms of success. Its also the root of the most antifragile approach to personal growth in anything, which involves constant action, observation, and iteration.


Chip War

Chip War

Chris Miller

Read: March 27, 2024 • Rating: 7/10

The entire history of the semiconductor industry. Covers the stories of all the famous founders & scientists involved, the important technical breakthroughs, the developments in the manufacturing value chain, and the geopolitical forces that have shaped and been shaped by this technology.

Interesting to learn about the dynamics of how economic incentives have made this the most rapidly innovating industry in human history. Also made me appreciate the urgency of the United States vs. China conflict over who controls the chip manufacturing supply chain.


Steal Like An Artist

Steal Like An Artist

Austin Kleon

Read: February 14, 2024 • Rating: 7/10

A short and highly readable book about how to hone your craft as an artist. Similar to "How to Do Good Work" by Paul Graham, but with more targeted advice and a more creative format.

Good insights on the importance of taking inspiration from other places, curating your taste, staying creative & consistent, and sharing your work with the world.


Organizing Genius

Organizing Genius

Warren Bennis & Patricia Ward Biederman

Read: January 20, 2024 • Rating: 7/10

A deep dive on exceptional groups and what unifies them all. Covers the stories of the original group at Disney that created Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Xerox PARC, the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign, Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works, the school for artists at Black Mountain, and the Manhattan project.

Reading the stories of these groups helps to develop your own intuitions, although I wish the stories were told in more detail. The list of insights at the end about the commonalities between great groups could have used more development.


The Great CEO Within

The Great CEO Within

Matt Mochary

Read: December 24, 2023 • Rating: 7/10

Matt Mochary coaches the CEOs of Coinbase, Plaid, Reddit, Brex, OpenAI, Flexport, Rippling, and many more multi-billion dollar tech companies. This book is his guide to being an effective CEO.

The most valuable part is his guide to the individual habits that make a great CEO - he lays out the ideal execution system & best-practices for wellbeing.

The rest of the book provides tactics for running each unit of a startup. He provides a good overview of every important concern, although many of these topics are more thoroughly covered in other tactical startup books.


Disciplined Entrepreneurship

Disciplined Entrepreneurship

Bill Aulet

Read: December 22, 2023 • Rating: 7/10

A rigorous first-principled approach to starting businesses that will give you confidence that you're working on something with J-curve potential.

Goes over selecting and evaluating a market, understanding customer needs and decision making, designing a business model, validating key assumptions, and developing a product plan.

The concepts are simple, but many founders skip some of these steps and suffer because of it.


High Growth Handbook

High Growth Handbook

Elad Gil

Read: September 1, 2023 • Rating: 7/10

A value dense tactical guide on growing a company from initial success to scale.

Many books focus on how to build something customer's want. Many books focus on how to operate a large company. Few explain how to scale from Series A to IPO, since few people have successfully accomplished this.

Useful insights for early founders to develop awareness of problems they'll face later, although most people need to worry about getting to Series A first. I'll come back and read this book again when I'm in this stage of building a company, and I'm sure the advice will resonate even more.


Principles

Principles

Ray Dalio

Read: February 25, 2023 • Rating: 7/10

I scanned the section on Dalio's life and skipped to his principles. The principles are more like meta-principles on how to prioritize.

Most were too broad to extract actionable insights from, but they were all thought-provoking.

The most valuable idea I extracted from the book was the concept of creating an explicit set of personal principles for decision making. Personal principles are usually implicit and come from inuition - making them explicit is valuable.


Good to Great

Good to Great

Jim Collins

Read: Feb 10, 2023 • Rating: 7/10

A few simple ideas on how to turn a good company into a consistently great company, backed by a data-driven study on real companies.

The strategies are all intuitive. This is also more of a correlative study than a causational one, so it's hard to say that the factors Collins choose's to highlight are the exclusive set necessary to succeed.


Awaken the Giant Within

Awaken the Giant Within

Tony Robbins

Read: December 17, 2022 • Rating: 7/10

From the title, I expected that this would be more about manifestation and the psychology of achieving big results. Instead, it's more about emotional regulation and mastery of your mind.

The most valuable concept is the process of neuro-associative conditioning, where Robbins shows you how to control your motivations and actions by conditioning your brain.

The examples are dated now, which made it less engaging, and some of his messages are communicated better in other books, but the core psychological principles are valuable and worth reading.


From Third World To First

From Third World To First

Lee Kuan Yew

Read: October 11, 2022 • Rating: 7/10

Lee Kuan Yew accomplished one of the most impressive feats of all time - he turned Singapore from a third-world to first-world country under his leadership alone.

This book is his reflection on how he did it, with insights on everything from leadership and diplomacy to economics and gardening.

I read the first section about the foundations of each major Singaporean department and learned a lot. I skipped over the rest, which covered Singaporean history and diplomacy.


Building An Elite Organization

Building An Elite Organization

Don Wenner

Read: August 23, 2022 • Rating: 7/10

A good overview of the frameworks needed to build a high performing organization.

Mostly focused on building out hiring pipelines and attracting talent, leading effectively and strategic planning, and effective execution at a team level.

The first half was good, then it got repetitive toward the end.


The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman

Read: August 4, 2021 • Rating: 7/10

Loved this book in middle school so I decided to read it again. It still has the same dark and uneasy tone, along with the bittersweet inevitability of how Bod's life will need to end up that makes it a nice read.

I didn't like it as much as when I was younger - but maybe because it's easier to appreciate closer to the age and mentality of Bod.


Moonwalking with Einstein

Moonwalking with Einstein

Joshua Foer

Read: June 19, 2021 • Rating: 7/10

About how to hack your memory, and the world of memory competitions.

You learn the strategy that all professional memory competitors use to memorize long lists, called "the memory palace." The method uses a hack in how your brain prioritizes spatial information and is surprisingly effective.


Life 3.0

Life 3.0

Max Tegmark

Read: June 4, 2021 • Rating: 7/10

A broad introduction to what the future of AI and general intelligence could hold for humanity, and the ethical consierations that should be taken into account as we move forward.

The thought experiment in the introduction is a cool imagination of what general intelligence could look like.

The book has become slighlty outdated with the recent developments in AI.


Give and Take

Give and Take

Adam Grant

Read: 2019 • Rating: 7/10

Grant lays out three styles of building interpersonal relationships: givers, takers, and matchers.

He goes over how each strategy plays out, and tries to figure out what the optimal style is over different time horizons (I won't spoil the conclusion).

The framework of thinking about relationships in this way is useful, and highlights the importance of positive-sum people.

He attempts to position the book as if the ideas come from research and data, which I find to be over-conclusive, but his intuitions seem correct to me.


Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done

David Allen

Read: December 8, 2023 • Rating: 6/10

This book reduces the art of execution to its most essential form and structures it into a set of memorable principles.

Worth reading the first part for its philosophy on productivity. The second part gets into tactical advice which is several decades outdated.


How the World Really Works

How the World Really Works

Vaclav Smil

Read: Feb 17, 2023 • Rating: 6/10

More like how fossil fuels underlie core systems that the world depends on. A climate book on how technologists overestimate how easy it is for technology to displace current fossil fuel dependence.

It shows why the energy, materials, and food production systems will likely depend on fossil fuels for longer than we expect.

Vaclav Smil has a purist writing approach. He believes in only writing facts without injecting opinion or his own thoughts.

It makes the book unbiased but also lacking in narrative or insight, making it hard to get through. I appreciated (but didn't fully agree with) his opposition toward techno-optimism since it's a less common perspective in my environments.


Choice Upanishads

Choice Upanishads

Avula Parthasarathy

Read: June 26, 2021 • Rating: 6/10

A breakdown of the Upanishads by Parthasarthy. A decent analysis of the texts and explains some concepts well.

When it comes to the more difficult Upanishads, especially those covering non-dualism, Parthasarthy gives an unnecessarily flowery and poetic explanation in a way that wouldn't be helpful for people new to the concepts.

Generally good just because the Upanishads themselves have a lot of wisdom within them.


This Is Marketing

This Is Marketing

Seth Godin

Read: June 10, 2021 • Rating: 6/10

Seth Godin presents an unconventionally personal and holistic view of marketing.

He provides lots of useful frameworks to think about howto approach marketing for your own business, and what it takes to market a product well.

The book didn't resonate as much with me on my first read, but when I read it again, I suspect that I'll get more out of it and my rating will increase.


The ABC Murders

The ABC Murders

Agatha Christie

Read: May 28, 2021 • Rating: 6/10

After reading Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None I got accustomed to the levels of creativity in those mysteries, which are widely considered to be Agathie Christie's best books.

This one felt more like a regular mystery book - still entertaining and enjoyable, but not at the same level as those books.


When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air

Paul Kalanithi

Read: May 20, 2021 • Rating: 6/10

A memoir by a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at 36. The book is a reflection on his life and his experiences with death. The letter to his daughter at the end was beautiful.


Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

Bronnie Ware

Read: May 16, 2021 • Rating: 6/10

The author, who has been a palliative care nurse for many years, shares what she's learned about life from the most common regrets of her dying patients.

The regrets are a good reminder for everyone - although they aren't anything unexpected.


Refactoring UI

Refactoring UI

Adam Wathan & Steve Schoger

Read: February 28, 2024 • Rating: 5/10

A guide to UI design, written by the creators of Tailwind CSS. I was hoping for insight on the first-principles of great web design along with more tactical tips. Instead, this book focuses entirely on tactics.

It leaves you with many useful suggestions to improve the visual appeal of web interfaces, but not much around how to think like a designer.


Start With Why

Start With Why

Simon Sinek

Read: July 28, 2023 • Rating: 5/10

The core concept of this book is important, but it could've been better explained in a 5 page blog post than in this 300 page book.

The idea that you should start with the "why" of your business before doing anything else is valuable.

Unfortunately, the book spends hundreds of pages explaining to you why "starting with why" is the correct approach with the same examples.

Instead, I wanted to see more explanation about how to actually start with why. The book also missed out on how relevant it's philosophy is to personal decisions.


The Courage To Be Disliked

The Courage To Be Disliked

Fumitake Koga & Ichiro Kishim

Read: Feb 4, 2023 • Rating: 5/10

A highly readable philosophy book about the beliefs and psychology of Alfred Adler, a lesser known rival and equal to Freud and Jung. Told in the format of a young skeptical student debating with a wise old philosopher in Japan, which was a very creative and digestable way to teach philosophy.

The philosophy has some novel ideas, but it plays too much in extremes (like saying that "all problems are interpersonal relationship problems" or "true freedom is the ability to be disliked", which both offer nuggets of wisdom, but lack nuance).

The student-teacher dialogue could also use improvement. The student should have been directing his questions at debunking the teacher's arguments, but instead he just rejects every statement the teacher says. Most of the ideas are covered better in other books.


Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

Alfred Lansing

Read: July 26, 2021 • Rating: 5/10

A crazy story about grit and the limits of the human will.

It follows the famous crew assembled by Ernest Shackleton to try to make the first succesful expedition across Antarctica - except their boat gets trapped in ice near the beginning of their voyage, and they're forced to survive the brutal Arctic winter.

Stories like these are always a gratitude shock - they put things into perspective for how bad things could be. The book got very slow at points, but still an interesting read.


The Charisma Myth

The Charisma Myth

Olivia Fox Cabane

Read: June 20, 2021 • Rating: 5/10

From the blurb, I expected a first principled breakdown of charisma and what creates it, and some insightful and actionable steps to increase it. Instead, there are some decent generic tips on how to increase your confidence, but nothing really new or groundbreaking.

For people interested in the topic, I would consider How to Win Friends And Influence People and The Art of Mingling to be better books within the same category.


A Brief History of Time

A Brief History of Time

Stephen Hawking

Read: June 16, 2021 • Rating: 5/10

The history of our universe, but with too much unmotivated technical detail and not enough context.

I love technical details when they're explained well, but Hawking often dives into details without ever framing them with why they're relevant.

The readability wasn't great either - I was hoping for a narrative about the history of the universes creation with technical details to fill in the gaps, but instead it was several losely strung together technical details without any broader narrative.


A Thousand Brains

A Thousand Brains

Jeff Hawkins

Read: May 6, 2021 • Rating: 5/10

An interesting new theory for thinking about how brain systems operate at a high-level. Hawkins argues for the significance of independent cortical-columns in the brain as individual functional units to synthesize information.

The theory seems plausible but unlikely to capture the full picture, which can describe most theories.

I wish the book went into more technical detail on the theory itself and it's implications, but instead only the first third of the book is dedicated to it.

The next two-thirds of the book are Hawkins talking about his theories on AI and the future of humanity, which are unrelated and also a bit incongruous.


DMT: The Spirit Molecule

DMT: The Spirit Molecule

Rick Strassman

Read: May 1, 2021 • Rating: 5/10

Accounts from the father of American psychedelic research on the nature of DMT experiences as observed during the first ever clinical trials of the drug.

An interesting book for anyone curious about psychedelics. The book has many patient trip stories which is useful at first, but can get repetitive.


Solaris

Solaris

Stanislaw Lem

Read: April 23, 2024 • Rating: 4/10

Unique alien-contact sci-fi with great ideas that suffer from incomplete execution. Explores the possibility of true communication with alien intelligence and highlights the futility of academia trying to fit the incomprehensible into boxes understandable by humans.

Many interesting themes that aren't fully explored to their potential, like the nature of identity, and the definition of intelligence.

Great perspective on the covert closed-mindedness of humans to true space exploration, summed up well by this sentence from the book - “we don’t want to conquer the Cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the Cosmos.”

Lem also loves to write long expositions about the history of science around Solaris, which are great for world-building but are a painful read. I also read the original English translation, which the author himself dissaproves of which may have contributed to my dislike. Reading the new translation may change my opinion.


Six Easy Pieces

Six Easy Pieces

Richard Feynman

Read: December 17, 2022 • Rating: 4/10

My rating here is an unpopular opinion, given that Feynman is one of the best physics teachers of all time, and this series is typically considered excellent.

I think I expected more perspective-shifting insight on how to intuitively understand different principles of physics in unique ways, which I found at times, but there was also a substantial amount repetition from standard high-school physics, with similar pedagogical approaches.

My rating is mainly motivated by my expectation of more unique insight characteristic of Feynman, which I didn't find much of in this book. Still a good explanation of the relevant physics.


The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

Eliyahu Goldratt

Read: March 17, 2024 • Rating: 3/10

One of the 3 books Jeff Bezos requires all executives at Amazon to read. Also the most painstakingly boring book I've finished in a long time (only finished because I was reading it with a friend).

The book attempts to explain Eliyahu Goldratt's Theory of Constraints philosophy through the fictional story of Alex Rogo, the operator of a failing factory who has three months to turn his business around.

The philosophy itself, which teaches the importance of operational excellence and focusing on bottlenecks, is critical and deeply insightful.

However, the narrative is dragged out far longer than it needs to be, with an irrelevant side plot about the factory owners failing marriage, and every sentence of insight taking several chapters of predictable dialogue to be revealed. All the useful information in the book could be condensed into less than a page, and the stories don't contribute enough effective intuition building to justify their length.


The Way of the Superior Man

The Way of the Superior Man

David Deida

Read: May 9, 2021 • Rating: 3/10

A controversial but thought-provoking book on how men should act toward women. Many interesting ideas, mixed with Deida's unjustified claims stated as if they were apparent fact.

I gave it a low rating because there are many arbitrary/unjustified ideas that are somewhat destructive to spread - but I actually do like how unconventional Deida's ideas are and he has many good tactical tips around maintaining attraction and sexual polarity in relationships.


Range

Range

David Epstein

Read: July 3, 2021 • Rating: 2/10

I was excited at the concept of a book about generalists and why being a generalist is useful. Was expecting some insight on how to be a generalist effectively and some of the potential downsides.

Instead it basically just turned into one of the classic "story -> lesson -> repeat" books, with lots of stories that don't add much to the book, all boiling back down to the same baisc idea. I was pretty dissapointed in the end, with such an interesting topic, but very little actual value or insight delivered.