My life since September 15th…

March 30, 2007

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…)

Ryan Holiday

I'm a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

5 responses to My life since September 15th…

  1. Took a class with Lakoff last semester. Pretty good book, and I’d suggest Moral Politics for a more extensive elaboration of the themes that Elephant sets up.

    But genius he may be in his field, the guy’s a terrible professor. His classes are basically like an hour and a half of echo chamber of his viewpoints. Ugh.

  2. I wish sophomore year Holiday could read this. It’d make for a hilarious scene…mainly for my own enjoyment.

    As for the books, I’ll give them a gander. I got out of that bad place reading “Cosmic Banditos” and “The Sun Also Rises.” Reading about nihilism is a good map to where you don’t want to be.

  3. What you did -run from people and surround yourself with work- is exactly what I’m doing right now, but I didn’t realize it until reading your post.

    A couple of relationships have fallen apart lately and, in retrospect, I suppose that it’s no coincidence that these relationship-disasters coincide with my decision to enter Med School, surrounding myself with as much work as possible.

    That’s interesting.

  4. Great list. Of course I have to thank you for the “War of Art” recommendation, which has benefitted me greatly. I also just finished “Gates of Fire,” which was freakishly good.

    I think I’m going to try “The Tides of War” next, as Pressfield lists it as his favorite on his website. How was “The Virtues of War”?

    I really like reading your posts, so keep it up.

  5. The Virtues of War is really good. It kind of glosses over the fact that Alexander was essentially a slave to his greed and it literally killed him. Instead it romanticizes that–and makes it almost admirable.

    But I mean, it’s fucking Pressfield, so of course the prose is amazing and the characters are awesome.