Archives For March 2007

books I’ve quit.

March 31, 2007 — 1 Comment

Yesterday I posted the books I’ve read in the last few months–all 40 titles, and nearly 50 reads. I feel like I should be totally transparent here, and publish the books I’ve bought and never managed to finish. Unfortunately, there were a few that I either couldn’t comprehend, didn’t enjoy, or decided weren’t worth my time.

Knowledge and Decisions–Thomas Sowell

Tucker told me to pick this one up, but honestly, I’m just not smart enough for it yet. I told him about my troubles with it and he said that the first half was ridiculously dense and that I should start in the middle. Problem was, I’d already made it half-way and was just too burned out to continue. I had too much respect for the author to keep reading when I wasn’t truly grasping his message. I did learn a lot–mainly the animistic fallacy–so I’ll be picking it up within the next 6 months to give it a go.

The Mind of War–Grant T Hammond

I flew into a rage after picking up this piece of shit. Honestly, I’m still baffled as to even the possibility of writing a boring, dry book about John Boyd. But Hammond pulled it off–it reads like a 6th grade essay. Read the Coram book.

Unleashing the Killer App–Downes

This is an interesting one, it’s just a bit dated. It has some cool concepts like the Law of Disruption. Which essentially states that societal change is incremental while technological change is exponential, so the law states that technology disrupts society–often turning the system on its head. I think I just got distracted here and that’s why I didn’t finish.

The Histories-Herodotus

I LOVED Thucydides, and figured I’d feel the same about Herodotus. It’s a much more difficult read in that it’s not as linear or focused on a single series of events. But there are some great parts, Thermopylae of course. I’ve probably read enough of this book to consider it “read” but I decided only to include books I’d finished, cover to cover. It’s a good reference piece, so I’ll continue to leaf through it.

Sept. 15th marked a relatively monumental transition in my life. My 3+ year relationship left that weird breakup limbo and officially died. I entered what would be a whirlwind of depression and acquisition of knowledge. I dedicated myself fully to intellectual pursuits and swore off–with a few regretful exceptions–women entirely. Within that cycle, I was fitfully productive, reading at one point, 3 extracurricular books a week, running 25-30 miles, interning at Rudius, holding an editorship, and going to class everyday. Of course I see now, that I was doing everything I could to keep from analyzing what I’d done and why I’d gotten there. And now, in a better place, I’m finally able to look at the mistakes I’ve made objectively. But even as I was–literally and figuratively–running away from what ailed me, I got a lot done. And I got to know myself.

I know what I like. What I believe. Who I agree with. What’s bullshit. Where to find truth. Who speaks it. Where we came from. What we are. How I want to live life. Where I want to live it. How to do it. And most importantly, the dire consequences of a life without that sort of self-awareness.

The meta-lesson though, is that I realize (again, with many a relapse) that in the big picture, I know very little. And though I have what I’d call a head start, it’s worthless if I let up for even a second to breath. I must continually reaffirm the crucial answers that I found at the bottom of the hole I crawled into. I must ask myself again and again “What do I like, What do I believe, What’s Bullshit, What is truth, Have I found it, How can I keep it?”

And I was able to do that through the following books. So I thought I’d share them. I’d link them through Amazon to get the affiliate links, but honestly, it’s just not worth the time. Seriously though, read every single one of them. There isn’t a single I wouldn’t recommend–even if just to do the opposite of what the author says.

Rules for Radicals–Saul D. Alinsky

The Long Tail–Chris Anderson

The Moral Animal–Robert Wright

An Army of Davids–Glenn Reynolds

Sex on the Brain–Deborah Blum

The Discourses–Epictetus

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt–Edmund Morris

The Big Picture–Edward Jay Epstein

The Meditations–Marcus Aurelius (4 times)

Fight Club–Chuck Palahniuk (2 times)

Choke–Chuck Palahniuk

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind–Julian Jaynes

My Bondage and My Freedom–Frederick Douglass

Liar’s Poker–Michael Lewis

Next–Michael Lewis

The New New Thing–Michael Lewis

The Autobiography of Malcolm X–Malcolm X, Alex Haley

History of the Peloponnesian War–Thucydides

On War–Von Clausewitz

Gates of Fire–Steven Pressfield

The Virtues of War–Steven Pressfield

The War of Art–Steven Pressfield

Sperm Wars–Robin Baker

A Man in Full–Tom Wolfe

48 Laws of Power–Robert Greene (Again)

33 Strategies of War–Robert Greene (Again)

The Tipping Point–Malcolm Gladwell

Blink–Malcolm Gladwell

The God Delusion–Richard Dawkins

The Gift of Fear–Gavin De Becker

Made to Stick–Chip and Dan Heath

East of Eden–John Steinbeck

The Origins of Virtue–Matt Ridley

Wisdom of Crowds–James Surowicki

Boyd: The Fight Pilot who Changed the Art of War–Robert Coram

The Secret–Rhonda Byrne

Caesar–Christian Meier

Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know your values and frame the debate–George Lakoff

Whoever Fights Monsters–Robert K. Ressler

The Strategy Paradox–Michael E. Raynor

(And for class I read a few others that didn’t totally blow. The Sweet Hereafter, The World According to Garp, The Awakening, In the Bedroom, and then some textbooks…)


March 29, 2007 — 18 Comments

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work–as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for–the things which I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’

–But it’s nicer here…

So you were born to feel “nice?” Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

–But we have to sleep sometime…

Agreed. But nature set a limit on that–as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota. You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash and eat.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Every morning I have that dialog with myself, and so long as I come away siding with Aurelius, I feel like I’ve won. It’s not fun and surely it’s not easy. In some cases it borders on insanity and OCD. Little, meaningless things take on monumental importance–because I cannot NOT do them because it means appeasement. And I know that it is indeed a slippery slope, that once you begin the practice of capitulation to the Resistance, it never ends. There’s that Russell Banks book–The Sweet Hereafter–where the bus driver mentions that in 50/50 situations she always “errs on the side of the angels,” meaning she always gives God the benefit of the doubt. That’s the policy I’d like to base my life on, erring on the side of dedication, of hard work, of commitment.

And that’s the crucial question that Aurelius’ passage poses: You’ve had plenty of sleep…but have you had enough work?

….and fully aware of the irony, I’m enjoying my mini-vacation in Santa Barbara.