The Last Question

The Last Question

Isaac Asimov

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

Isaac Asimov said this was his favorite piece out of everything he had written, which made me curious to read it. I did, and definitely wasn't dissapointed. This is one of the best science fiction stories I've ever read.

I don't want to spoil anything in the summary, so I'll just say, everyone should read this, it takes less than 30 minutes. You can find it here.



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 great story, as well asexploration 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 seems as close to enlightened as any public spiritual leader. This book is dense with insight on happiness and how to live a peaceful life.

I would consider it necessary introductory reading for anyone that's interested in philosophy or spirituality, or who wants to live a peaceful life.


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 impactful and successful careers. Covers almost all of the classic pitfalls of ego that plight so many young people - especially those exposed to the startup, tech, and Silicon Valley scenes at a young age.

Each chapter is a new powerful lesson on restraint, humility, attitude, and much more. The chapter on "The Canvas Method" is especially powerful, and should be read by everyone.


Zero to One

Zero to One

Peter Thiel

Read: July 3, 2022 • Rating: 9/10

The bible of starting a valuable technology company. Simple but true principles about what to work on and how to work on it to create massive value and capture part of the value to build a valuable company.


Life 3.0

Life 3.0

Max Tegmark

Read: June 4, 2021 • Rating: 9/10

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 introductory story at the beginning of the book is a classic thought experiment on what general intelligence could look like in the future. A worthwhile read for anyone interested in the future of aritificial intelligence or alignment problems.


Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits

James Clear

Read: May 25, 2021 • Rating: 9/10

The definitive book on building habits. I hesitated to read this one because I thought it would be like most self-help books with a few simple concepts that are generally intuitive. I was definitely wrong. The book is extremely information-dense with useful tips/strategies to effectively build habits, pretty much every new chapter introduces new strategies that you can actually use.

Especially valuable considering how important of a life-skill building habits is. I just wish I implemented some of it right after I read the book, but I ended up using one of the tips in there (habit stacking) a year after reading and it's been very effective.


On Intelligence

On Intelligence

Jeff Hawkins

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

Great book on the theory of intelligence, how it is created in the brain, and how it could later be replicated in machines. Hawkins gives a great intuitive understanding of many different properties of all brain systems that give rise to intelligence.

Amazingly, while the book was written several decades ago (before significant advancements in AI), many of the most game-changing advances in AI have been due to implementations of the same concepts he elaborates in this book.


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.

However, this textbook goes far beyond a relation of the facts as Panksepp also lays out his thought-provoking personal insights an 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 a very 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. A short read, and I would say a worth-while one.


Sapiens

Sapiens

Yuval Noah Harari

Read: March 29, 2021 • Rating: 8/10

The compelling history of humankind that explores how the power of stories has shaped the past and the present of our species. The core concept that religions, businesses, language and much more are all shared myths is a powerful one that casts a more high-clarity perspective on the world. A necessary read for everyone. I would consider this a non-traditional history book - and one of the most unique/interesting history books I've ever read.


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 main premise is that we can most effectively control what we do in every domain by conditioning ourselves to associate certain positive emotions with actions that we want ourselves to take. He also sprinkles in lots of other wisdom about a variety of topics in life mastery, including insights on personal, financial, and relationship success.

The examples are very dated now, which made it a bit tougher to get through, and I think some of his messages are communicated better in other books now, but the core psychological principles are very 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 turned Singapore from a third world country into a first world country under his leadership, which is probably one of the most impressive feats anyone has ever accomplished. In this book, he reflects on his experience - effectively a guide on "how to build a country," with insights on everything from leadership and diplomacy to economics and gardening.

I read the first part of the book about the foundations of each major Singaporean department and learned a lot. Wasn't as interested in the later sections, which seemed to be more about Singaporean history and diplomacy, but I may come back to them in the future.


Building An Elite Organization

Building An Elite Organization

Don Wenner

Read: August 23, 2022 • Rating: 7/10

Great 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 great, then it got a bit repetitive toward the end. The books is especially useful for engineers and others who haven't been as exposed to the operational side of business.


The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman

Read: August 4, 2021 • Rating: 7/10

Reread this classic after reading it in middle school and really liking it. It still has the same dark and uneasy tone, along with a somewhat bittersweet truth and inevitability of how Bod's life will need to end up in the end 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 at a younger age, closer to the age and mentality of Bod.


Choice Upanishads

Choice Upanishads

Avula Parthasarathy

Read: June 26, 2021 • Rating: 7/10

A breakdown of the Upanishads by Parthasarthy. Mostly a good analysis of the texts and explains the concepts well.

But when it comes to some of the more difficult Upanishads, specifically covering non-dualism, Parthasarthy gives an unnecessary 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.


Moonwalking with Einstein

Moonwalking with Einstein

Joshua Foer

Read: June 19, 2021 • Rating: 7/10

Great practical read on how to hack your memory, and on the world of memory competitions. Teaches you specific actionable strategies to improve your memory.

The coolest method you learn is the "mind palace" method, which is the strategy all professional memory competitors use to memorize large amounts of information like lists, phone numbers, stacks of cards, books, and more - you learn the method in the book, and you get to try it yourself - and it works surprisingly well, almost immediately.


This Is Marketing

This Is Marketing

Seth Godin

Read: June 10, 2021 • Rating: 6/10

Seth Godin shows us a much more personal and holistic view of marketing then is conventionally propagated. He gives lots of useful frameworks to think about how you should be approaching 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 I suspect that if I come back and read it again, 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 creativity level of those mysteries, which are widely considered to be among Agathie Christie's best books.

This one felt more like a regular mystery book - still entertaining and enjoyable to read, but not at the same level of creativity of 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 the age of 36. The book is a reflection on his life and his experiences with death. I particularly loved his letter to his daughter, which I thought 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, relates what she's learned about life from the most common regrets of her dying patients.

The book can be a bit bleak at times, but the regrets are certainly a good reminder for everyone - although they aren't anything unexpected.


DMT: The Spirit Molecule

DMT: The Spirit Molecule

Rick Strassman

Read: May 1, 2021 • Rating: 6/10

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. A very interesting book for anyone curious about psychedelics and the breadth of the types of experiences they can produce.

Gets a bit long with the individual accounts, and also I suspect that the accounts are a partial picture of the DMT experience/what we can gather from it given the importance of set & setting in psychedelic experiences and the nature of the suboptimal clinical setting of these experiments.


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 story of the famous crew assembled by Ernest Shackleton to try to make the first ever succesful expedition across Antarctica - except there boat gets trapped in ice an submerge near the beginning of their voyage, and they're force to survive the brutal Arctic winter in the cold, with few resources.

Stories like these are always a nice gratitude shock - they put things into perspective for how bad things could be. I thought the book could get quite slow at times, hence my rating, 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

A somewhat dense book about the history of our universe. I found it difficult to get through as Hawking frequently gets into considerable technical detail without first providing enough context to make the reader understand why they should be interested in what he's talking about/why it's significant.

I also felt like the readability wasn't great - I expected more of a narrative about the history of the universes creation with technical detail injected to fill in the gaps, but instead it was mostly losely strung together technical details without much broader context.


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, as can describe most theories.

I wish the book went into more technical detail on the theory an it's implications, but instead only the first third of the book is dedicated to it. Then the next two-thirds of the book are dedicated to Hawkins' theories on AI and the future of humanity, which are largely unrelated and also a bit incongruous.


Six Easy Pieces

Six Easy Pieces

Richard Feynman

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

My rating here is definitely an unpopular opinion, given that Feynman is definitely 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. I think my rating is mainly motivated by my expectation of more unique insight characteristic of Feynman, which I didn't find as much of in this book.


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 ought to act toward/with women. Many interesting ideas, mixed with Deida's largely unjustified claims stated as if they were apparent fact. I think there are many concepts in here which I don't currently agree with, which I could see myself being plausibly convinced of.

I gave it a low rating because there are many arbitrary/unjustified ideas that are somewhat destructive to spread - but I actually to quite like how unconventional Deida's ideas are and suspect that if I read this again in the future and spend more time thinking about what he has to say, my rating could improve.


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.