This is the first of what I plan to be an annual book roundup. The roundup will comprise a list of every book I read that year, as well as a list of my 10 favorites with summaries and comments.
(Note that these are not books released in 2017 but books that I read in 2017.)
The Top 10 are judged based on impact they had when I read them, the quality of their writing/ideas, and they are loosely grouped based on the areas of my life they informed and influenced.
After that, I’ve provided a list of every book I read this year in the order which I read them. After that is a list of every book I started reading at some point during the year, but chose to stop reading, as well as a brief explanation of why I stopped. (You could treat this last list as almost a “most disappointing books of 2017” list.)
But first, the numbers:
This year I read 66 books. 35 were general non-fiction, 13 were biography/memoir, 11 were fiction, and 7 were philosophy. In total, I read 22,378 pages, averaging 61.3 pages per day, and 339 pages per book. I also started and failed to finish 14 other books.
Of the 66 books, 16 of them (or 24%) were written by women. That’s not a great percentage. Although, I’m sad to say it’s probably better than previous years, as I was actually trying to read more books written by women this year. While I can definitely do better with this, unfortunately the genres that most interest me (philosophy, science, politics, fantasy) are all male-dominated, thus it’s an uphill battle. This gender thing is something readers point out to me every time I do a books post, so I’m just getting in front of it now. Yes, I’m aware of it. Yes, I’m making an effort. No, it’s probably not going to stop being a thing any time soon. Unfortunately.
Finally, for those who care (and to preempt another 50 emails asking me about it): here are my reading habits.
- 30-60 minutes first thing in the morning
- 30-60 minutes before bed at night
- If I’m researching something (for the blog or book), I schedule reading as part of my workday.
- I travel a lot and a sizeable chunk of my reading happens on airplanes. Depending on the length of the trip, I can usually knock out anywhere from two to five books in a single trip.
For those who want advice for reading more efficiently, there’s also an old post here: How to Read Faster and Retain More
MY 10 FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2017
1. Fundamentals of the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant
At the risk of sounding like a pretentious fucktard, this little 90-page classic from Kant possibly changed my life. And it was easily the most profound book I read this year.
It all started when a friend and I, while riding the train to a concert, got in an argument about Sam Harris. I admire Harris, but his moral philosophy has never sat well with me. It seems logical and coherent on the surface but starts to fall apart upon further scrutiny. I mentioned to my friend that Kant’s philosophy always had appeal to me although I had never read about it.
Kant’s moral philosophy gets kind of shat on these days among intellectual podcasts and pundits. It’s usually caricatured into some ridiculous example, like if getting into a car is not the correct thing to do in any situation, then it must be the incorrect thing to do in every situation. As such, my friend started teasing me about it and I got a little pissed, both at my friend, but also at myself for not being able to actually defend something that appealed to me on an instinctual level. So I resolved that night to at least introduce myself to Kant’s philosophy and read it myself to determine whether it really was as ridiculous as all the podcasts and pundits made it sound.
If there’s one big lesson I’ve taken from this year, it’s that reading and understanding summaries of philosophy is no replacement for reading the philosophy itself. And reading the original Kant was the clearest example of this for me.
Kant is no easy read. But in 90 short pages, his insight and clarity on ethics penetrated far deeper than any summary or argument I’ve heard about it in the last 10 years. Put simply, hearing a summary of Kant’s ethical arguments is like reading a summary of a football game, rather than playing it yourself.
That said, allow me to summarize (hah!) Kant’s moral philosophy as simply as I can, and why it matters so much to me. Kant basically says that any ethics based on emotion or pain and pleasure cannot be a rational morality, because emotion, pain and pleasure are relative from individual to individual. Some people benefit from their pain. Others suffer from their pleasure. What brings one person pleasure brings another pain and vice-versa.
The only rational way to determine morality, Kant argues instead, is to remove individual contexts from it at all. To essentially find abstract principles that should apply in ALL situations, to ALL individuals equally. Put another way, if it’s immoral for me to lie to someone, it must be immoral for you or anyone else to do it too. You cannot have a behavior be moral in one context and immoral in another.
So what does Kant suggest is the basis of morality? What is his “categorical imperative” — that is, the moral code that is universal and applies equally in all contexts?
Well, I’ll explain it as best I can (read: not well):
“All rational, sentient beings must be treated as ends in and of themselves, not means to other ends.”
I know, not very sexy. But let’s unpack it. This means:
- The ultimate value in the universe is consciousness, and everything else must be secondary.
- All actions and behaviors directed towards others must be unconditional, that is, made without expectation of something in return (sound familiar?) They must be made by putting consciousness itself as a highest priority. Everything else must be secondary.
- All actions that we traditionally consider damaging (lying, cheating, stealing) are damaging because they treat other humans as means to some other end, not ends in and of themselves. You lie to someone to gain an advantage over them (i.e., they are a means to your end). You kill someone to protect yourself (they are a means to your end). You cheat at school to compensate for what you believe is an unfair advantage your classmates have over you (you treat them as a means to your own end). Kant would unequivocally consider all of these behaviors wrong.
Kant’s morality is also radical in that it extends beyond humanity (he was one of the first, if not the first, to consider this). He argued that if we ever discover that some animals are capable of reason, that we must extend the same moral behavior towards them. He also argued that if we ever discover some other race of beings (aliens) capable of rationality, this morality would extend to them as well. This is because, for Kant, the root of morality is not the soul or happiness or pleasure, but rationality. Rationality, to Kant, is sacred because it is, as far as he can tell, the only thing that is truly unique to the human condition. A mosquito feels pleasure and pain, yet we care little about it. An amoeba can grow and evolve and discover new ways of being. But it’s rationality and the consciousness that arises as a result of rationality that is its own special engine within the universe, capable of creating and inventing new meaning where there was none before. This must be cherished at all costs.
This last idea blew my mind wide open. I had spent much of the 2016 and early 2017 in a bit of an existential fog and mild depression. The success of Subtle Art did a real number on me existentially speaking. A lot of my dreams were accomplished, and therefore, destroyed. I felt aimless and constantly questioned what the hell was I supposed to do next? Nothing I considered seemed to matter. Nothing seemed to make sense.
Until I read Kant.
My thinking has continued to evolve and the next three books on this list are books that I read as a direct result of my perspectival shift that began with Kant. Together, they’re adding up to a new worldview I haven’t had before. They are also largely informing the subject matter of the next book I’d like to write.
2. Why Information Grows by Cesar Hidalgo
I saw Why Information Grows referenced in Harari’s Homo Deus (discussed below) as a good explanation of what Harari calls “Data-ism:” a new quasi-religion arising around big data and global connectivity.
Hidalgo starts with a fascinating question: in a universe dictated by entropy, how does order arise and maintain itself, much less increase exponentially? One could look at life itself as merely the emergence of a self-directing order in a vast sea of inanimate, random matter. So where does this order come from?
To me, this book dovetailed perfectly with Kant’s point about the sacredness of rationality. Hidalgo, early on, makes the point that the Earth is the only place in the known universe where information both thrives and expands at rapid rates. That we are the equivalent of a black hole of order — a rare phenomenon where information approaches infinity and order expands seemingly endlessly.
The second half of the book then looks at calculating information and processing power across the world and attempts to explain global economic dynamics based on the amount of information present in various societies. It’s quite ambitious. And while it doesn’t always hold up, it’s one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a long time.
3. GÖdel, Escher and Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter
I’m going to be honest. I’ve tried to read Gödel, Escher, Bach two different times in the last three years and failed (spoiler: there’s a bunch of math and stuff). But this time I powered through and I’m extremely grateful I did. Two comments here:
1) Not even considering the content of the book, the format is absolutely a joy to go through. Hofstadter pulls from number theory, music theory, visual arts, molecular biology, Zen Buddhism, ancient philosophy and funny little dialogues with talking animals and somehow ties them all together neatly into a 800 page book about paradoxes, self-referential systems, AI and consciousness. The amount of thought and effort that went into this book is dizzying as well as breathtaking. It may be the most impressive book I’ve ever read in my life, for whatever that’s worth.
2) The central point of the book takes a long time to get to. In fact, you spend almost 700 pages leading up to it. Hofstadter complains in the preface to the anniversary edition that most people who read GEB actually don’t even get the main point of it. And part of that is likely because he doesn’t get to it until the last chapter. His point is that systems, be they DNA strands or formal logic or computer programing languages or the human brain, are self-referential and inherently incomplete. This self-reference and incompleteness creates a sense of paradox, like:
The following sentence is false.
The preceding sentence is true.
He then argues that it’s the emergence of these self-referential systems that make up the basis of consciousness. That essentially, what we understand as the “self” is merely a symbol constructed within the mind that is always interacting with every other symbol the mind constructs. In that sense, what we perceive as consciousness is a constantly fluid system of interactions between the mind’s “self” symbol and its “other” symbols.
I’m not doing his thesis justice, of course. But the other reason I loved this book is that it tied in well with the two books above quite well — it explains how matter can order itself into such patterns of information that it can “spin up” and start processing greater and greater amounts of information to the point it becomes “conscious,” and how this is a very special and rare thing indeed.
4. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
One of the last books I read this year is also one of the most startling. I bought The Sixth Extinction because I wanted to learn more about the details and effects of climate change. That and the book won a Pulitzer Prize, so it should be good. What I got was actually a deeper insight into the history of our understanding of life, and our place as humans in that history.
Throughout the history of Earth, there have been five “mass extinctions.” These mass extinctions have caused the death of anywhere from 50% to 90% of all species on the planet in a short amount of time. The most famous mass extinction is the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs (and almost everything else).
The book leans into the idea that humanity, when looked on a geological time scale, is arguably the sixth mass extinction — the first time any single species has had the honor of causing such calamity.
There’s a lot more than climate change involved, too. Apparently, the global transport of species, bacteria and fungus wreaks havoc on local habitats and ecosystems. The effects we’re having on the ocean are likely just as disastrous, if not more, than the rising temperature or disappearing forests.
But most importantly, the book gave me a greater appreciation for the diversity of life. I’ve always known there’s a lot of plants and animals out there. But it’s always been this abstract concept, like, “Oh yeah, there’s lots of life and stuff.” But the degree of biodiversity going on on the planet is just as staggering (and therefore, arguably, as special) as the size of the universe or the complexity of the atom. I slept through most of my biology classes in school, so this was a nice slap in the face for why I should care about these sorts of things.
I don’t know if this book has changed my habits or behaviors yet (I just finished it a few days ago). But it has gotten me seriously thinking. And when combined with the Kantian morality and seeing life not as some magical thing but rather an incredibly rare form of complexity that must be taken care of, I feel like I’m slowly building a new ethic for myself that will eventually trickle down into new lifestyle habits and behaviors.
Overall, these four books (as well as, to a limited extent, Homo Deus below) have deeply altered my understanding of reality this year. And while they were all individually powerful reads, it’s the combination of the ideas between them, the way they support and buttress each other, that has resulted in real questioning for me about my purpose and place in this world.
The next four fit together as well, although the theme is different, and a little more unsettling…
5. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
The Swerve started a bit slow and it was hard to see where it was going, but it turned out to be incredible. I won’t spoil the specifics, but let’s just say that a handful of highly educated transcribers in Medieval Italy with a passion for ancient Roman philosophical texts are the only reason the Renaissance (and therefore, arguably, modernity) ever happened.
The book focuses primarily on the hunt for the text On the Nature of Things by Lucretius, a Roman poet and philosopher who lived around 50 BC. The fact that this text survived 1,500 years is a marvel in and of itself, as the Catholic Church had banned it during the Roman Empire and burned all known copies of the text (or so they thought). What’s in the text is just as spectacular as the fact that anyone found it. Let’s just say that Lucretius called pretty much everything we take for granted as obvious and true today (atoms, evolution, earth being round, etc.) way back in 50 BC.
What was most shocking about Swerve though, aside from how incredible the story is, is the realization of how intellectually and economically punishing the fall of the Roman Empire really was. I had always assumed that Christianity had more or less worked out as a net positive for humanity. Now, I’m not so sure. They call it “The Dark Ages” for a reason. The leading thinkers and scholars of antiquity were almost entirely lost. The western world became less educated and more violent. European civilization would require another 1,500 years to catch up to where it was before.
One lesson here is that history is not a straight line. Things don’t always improve. In fact, they can easily fall apart and get worse. We take for granted that things will simply always get better because that’s all we’ve known the past few centuries. But western civilization already took one detour that lasted 1.5 millennium, there’s nothing saying it can’t happen again.
This last point is actually the “big” realization that holds this and the next three books together in my mind, and why they were so impactful for me this year. While I tend to be skeptical of people who think something like Trump or North Korea is going to cause a civilizational collapse (collapses happen over the course of centuries, not years), it has reoriented my understanding of the incredible progress the world has made the past few centuries, and how fragile it may be.
6. Escape from Evil by Ernest Becker
That progress is fragile, Becker says, because humans naturally gravitate towards cultures built on tribal and supernatural beliefs.
Becker is the author of one of my favorite books of all time, Denial of Death (which I also re-read this year). Escape from Evil was a half-completed follow-up before he died of cancer. His wife gathered his notes and had it published shortly after.
Denial of Death was profound in that it argued all personal motivation, meaning and purpose stems from the avoidance of the reality of our own death. We are terrified of our own mortality and so we erect “immortality projects” to temporarily convince ourselves that our identity will last forever. (This is the same concept I reference in the last chapter of Subtle Art.)
Escape from Evil takes this same realization and applies it to cultures at large. Much of what we consider culture and religion, are merely socially-agreed upon practices that help us all escape the reality of our own meaningless lives.
If it sounds bleak it’s because it fucking is. Becker argues that wars, mass violence, prejudice, bigotry, etc. all become rational when you consider that people are literally fighting for their own psychological sense of immortality.
7. The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce
I saw The Retreat of Western Liberalism discussed on Vice’s website this summer and it sounded like another part of the “Trump is the end of the world” hysteria, which I generally try not to take part in. But then I saw it pop up a few more places and mentioned as a serious historical critique of liberalism and some of our assumptions about it.
Luce essentially picks up where Becker left off with concrete historical examples. He demonstrates that democracy and western liberal values (free speech, etc.) are almost non-existent in human history. And that while we often take for granted that all human progress will naturally follow the liberating progress of Western European culture, there’s nothing guaranteeing that. For all we know, the past 200-300 years could have been an anomalous blip of human history (much in the same way Greek and Roman democracy was).
Luce points out that, in the 21st century, we’ve seen an abandonment of the adoption of democratic values across the world, as well as seeing those values recede here at home. It’s a deeply depressing, yet important book.
8. Homo Deus: The History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
I thought Homo Deus was much weaker than Harari’s previous book Sapiens. I’ve heard that Sapiens took him almost ten years to write, so the fact Homo Deus showed up a mere two years later suggests either he rushed through it, or that it contains a lot of extra stuff that never made it into Sapiens.
But I digress, there was one section in here that really made the whole book worthwhile. Harari’s whole thing is that human society is constructed around myths. And not just religious myths, but money is a myth, government is a myth, corporations are a myth, legal systems are a myth. They’re myths we all believe in because they help organize larger groupings of society. This “myth” thing was the big mindblower in Sapiens.
The mindblower in Homo Deus, for me, was not all the futurism stuff, which is what I think other people get excited about. None of the futurism stuff was new to me.
What was new to me was his criticism of humanism.
To Harari, humanism is just another myth — a form of “secular religion” — based on the ideals of providing as much freedom and little suffering as possible, to the most people possible.
Harari points out that with all of the amazing progress humanist values have granted the world, they also bring with them flaws and problems that the old religions never had. One is the existential anxiety that comes with believing you’re responsible for everything that happens in your life. Another is the overestimation of individualism, the idea that acting on our own behalf is always better. Another is the implicit belief that greater freedom equals greater happiness.
Harari also points out that the most destructive wars in human history emerged through the conflict of different denominations of humanism: communism, capitalism and fascism.
The big takeaway here, as with all of these four books, is that a) the great western philosophical success of the past 400+ years is a brittle anomaly in the grand scheme of human civilization, and b) that we may actually end up being on the losing side of history here. It got me thinking about what the blind spots in our own humanistic religion may be. And what a more effective religion may look like.
9. Sum by David Eagleman
My buddy Derek Sivers recommended this little book to me, saying it was one of his favorite books ever. There are 40 chapters, each of which is only 3-4 pages long. Each chapter is a different hypothetical situation when you die. There’s the afterlife that’s one gigantic airport waiting room. There’s the afterlife where you get to choose what you want to be reincarnated as. There’s the afterlife where you discover that actually we’re the AI invention of some inferior race.
Every vignette punches you with either a fun or emotional lesson. Many of them get you thinking to the point that you need to put the book down for a few minutes. The creativity/page ratio in this thing is higher than almost any other book I’ve come across. A real joy to read.
10. The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
Perhaps the most readable nonfiction author since Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis returned this year with The Undoing Project, a biography on the superheroes of psychology and behavioral economics researchers: Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. These two guys are the brilliant minds that shook up all of psychology and economics and are behind a lot of the ideas that show up on this blog. As always, it was a real treat to let Lewis’ storytelling magic take me through their careers together and how they arrived at their conclusions.
ALL BOOKS READ IN 2017
At the beginning of 2017, I thought I wanted to write a book on relationships. So, as I usually do, I lost my mind and bought 25 relationship books and completely burnt myself out on the topic by February. In the Spring, I decided that relationships likely wasn’t the direction I was going to take with the book anymore and started branching out my research. Around this same time, I re-sparked my interest in philosophy and for whatever reason, started getting into fantasy stuff.
- Fear of Intimacy by Robert Firestone (re-read)
- Rebirth by Kamal Ravikant
- Attention Merchants by Tim Wu
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
- The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Putin by Steven Myers
- Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance
- Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz
- Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
- Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay Gibson
- Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward and Donna Frazier
- Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum
- Out from the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction by Patrick Carnes, PhD
- Seven Principles to Making a Marriage Work by John Gottman PhD
- Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant
- What I Wish I had Known Before I Got Married by Gary Chapman
- Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
- The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
- Originals by Adam Grant
- Toxic Parents by Susan Forward and Craig Buck
- Nabakov’s Favorite Word is Mauve by Ben Blatt
- Masks of Masculinity by Lewis Howes
- On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder
- The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
- Hit Makers by Derek Thompson
- Fundamentals of the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant
- But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (re-read)
- Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics by Immanuel Kant
- Why Him, Why Her? by Helen Fisher
- Boundaries (re-read) by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (re-read)
- Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- Explaining Unhappiness by Peter Spinogatti (re-read)
- Reasons and Persons by Derek Parfit
- A Feast for Crows (Game of Thrones Book 4) by George RR Martin
- The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce
- The Last Wish (Witcher Series, Book 1) by Andrzej Sapkowski
- The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (re-read)
- Sword of Destiny (Witcher Series, Book 2) by Andrzej Sapkowski
- Essentialism by Greg McKeown
- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
- Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
- Escape from Evil by Ernest Becker
- First We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson
- The Butterfly Effect by Jon Ronson
- Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
- The Thin Book of Trust by Charles Feltman
- Why Information Grows by Cesar Hidalgo
- I Love You But Don’t Trust You by Mira Kirshenbaum
- Submission by Michel Houellebecq
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shinryu Suzuki
- Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber (re-read)
- Dance of Dragons by George RR Martin
- Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
- The Infidel and the Professor by Dennis Rasmussen
- A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
- Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
- The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
- Hourglass by Dani Shapiro
- Sum by David Eagleman
- The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon
- The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
- Godel, Escher and Bach by Douglas Hofstadter
- Impossible to Ignore by Carmen Simon
- Blood of Elves (Witcher Series, Book 3) by Andrzej Sapkowski
BOOKS I DIDN’T FINISH
- The Three Marriages by David Whyte – I love the central concept behind this book (that we all have three marriages in our life: with ourselves, with our partner and with our work) but found the writing to be rambly and long-winded. Lost interest fairly quickly after the first chapter.
- The Great Transformation by Karen Armstrong – This book is about how the major religions evolved and spread throughout the world. This is one of those books that gives way more details than I was looking for, and after a couple dozen pages of reading about various forms of paganism in the Caucasus mountain region in 4,000 BC, I put it down. I may go back to it one day when I have more patience/interest in the subject.
- Ernest Hemingway by Mary Dearborn – Ryan Holiday said recently that there are two types of biographies: those that give you every tiny detail of the person’s life, and those that give a summary of the person’s life and attempt to extract some lesson or theme. This is one of the former. And needless to say, as interested as I am in Hemingway, I don’t really care what his father’s politics were or what his neighbors’ houses looked like.
- Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg – Found myself already knowing much of the research presented here. And as cute and clever as Aziz is, having written a dating book myself (and now being married), I can’t help but find the genre a total bore. That said, this is a good book. Just not for me.
- What Happened by Hillary Clinton – Ugh. Do I really have to say anything?
- Draft No. 4 by John McPhee – There is a certain portion of the literary establishment that I simply do not get. I’ve decided John McPhee is one of them. This guy is revered everywhere, yet I still have no idea why. That’s not to say I think he’s bad. It’s just to say, I don’t get it, whatever it is. I’ve tried reading his famous New Yorker articles and his book about tennis. I bought this book because I thought it’d be about his process of writing, and it was more of a loosely-thrown-together memoir of how he wrote those same journalism pieces that I didn’t find interesting in the first place.
- Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss – I’ve been a fan of Tim’s work for 10 years now. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him. But I’m going to be harsh here. This book stunk of a shameless money-grab. It’s the kind of book I would expect some guy with a cheesy info product business putting together, not one of the most influential voices of our generation. It was disappointing, to say the least.
- The Dictator’s Handbook by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith – Like dating books, I think geopolitical books often fall in the, “surprising for most other people, but seems kind of boring to me” category. This is what I studied in school. I basically did nothing but read about corrupt governments for three years. None of this was surprising. But it’s important stuff nonetheless. I do see why this book gets recommended so much. We shouldn’t be naive about what democracy is.
- I Am That by Sri Nisagadatta Maharaj – Wanted to read this for years. Unfortunately, it’s just 100 or so dialogues thrown together with no organization or context and it became extremely repetitive after about 50 pages. It’s not the type of book that you sit down and read front to back, I think. More of a book you pick up from time to time and read a few pages at random. Then put back down.
- The Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe – This one was ruined for me for the simple reason that I’ve read so much about their theory for years, that by the time I got to the book, it was all stuff I had heard already. To be honest, I found the book long-winded — one of those books that could have easily been 100 pages if they just got straight to the theory. Wikipedia is often not a good replacement, but here I’d say it actually is. The page for the authors’ theory is surprisingly comprehensive, including the (large amount of) criticisms of it.
- Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen – Another of those books that I’ve done a ton of research in this area many years ago and found little new offered.
- Trust by Francis Fukuyama – I’m a Fukuyama fanboy and his ideas around social trust have always fascinated me when mentioned in his other books, so I was excited to dig into this one. For whatever reason, this one wasn’t nearly as tight as his other books are. It felt repetitive and unfocused at times. I had already been exposed to some of his biggest conclusions from reading his other books, so it felt that there was little new ground to cover here.
- Principles by Ray Dalio – I enjoyed his memoir about his investing career. The actual principles and life advice I found pretty generic — stuff you can find in most other decent self-help books. The last ⅓ of the book is about workplace principles and ideas about leadership and teamwork which weren’t very applicable to me. Ended up skimming the last ⅔ of this.
- The Religion of Tomorrow by Ken Wilber – One of my long-standing criticisms of Wilber has been that once he won his place of cultural and intellectual influence in the late 90s, he stopped having new ideas. Everything in the last 20 years has more or less repeated his ideas from the late 80s and 90s and he spent much of that time surrounding himself with a bunch of sycophantic true believers who praise everything he says. He’s a brilliant yet deeply flawed thinker who, if he patched up some of his mistakes from the past decade or two, could blow the world open once again. It’s in this context that he launched his latest book. And unfortunately, it was a letdown. It’s the same Wilberisms, recycled and reworded–or in some cases, not even reworded. It’s just the same shit, different decade and frankly, with even more condescension added. Oh, and it goes on for 800 pages this time. I wanted to love this the way you want to love an ex-wife/husband when you see them again, but in the end, you’re only reminded why you divorced them in the first place.
Looking for more books to read?
The School is a collection of 6 brand-new video courses each with a pretty printable workbook, plus 3 bonus courses, ebooks on my favorite topics, commentaries on all my books, and a “library” of best books to read. Oh, did I mention I also do a live monthly webinar with members where I’ll answer all your questions and talk about tacos?
I also have an all-time recommended reading list which non-members can access. You’re welcome.