what i've been reading

October 21, 2011

These are the last few books I’ve read.

The Revolution by Ron Paul - My favorite libertarian discusses how we need to revisit the principles of our Founding Fathers to get our country back in order. The biggest problem is with our over-zealous military. We spend about as much on military as the rest of the world combined, and we have troops in 130 countries. This is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind. Being the world police does not make us safer, and it’s terribly expensive. We would be safer and spend less money if those troops were in our own country protecting our borders.

The Big Short by Michael Lewis - A nice look at the financial crisis through the eyes of the people that saw it coming. Obviously this disaster was a huge failure on the part of many people - policy makers, banks, ratings agencies. But ultimately, the investment bankers come across as the most unethical. There were a lot of stupid people involved that had no idea what they were doing, which is more of a policy failure. But many of the bankers knowingly sold off bad products (labeled good by ratings agencies) for personal gain, and they have not been held accountable at all. They get to keep their fortunes, and the rest of us pay the price.

The Unincorporated Man by Dani and Eytan Kollin - The only fiction book I’ve read for a while, it’s a sci-fi story that takes place in a 24th century society, where every individual is “incorporated” and traded like stock in an open market. The idea is if you need money, you have to put your stock up for sale. Whoever buys your stock is now a shareholder and has a say in your life decisions. If someone is successful, their stock price will increase, and all shareholders share in the success. So by everyone acting in their own self interest, everyone ends up better off. The trade off is that you lose your freedom until you are able to buy back the majority of your shares. If you don’t have majority, then the shareholders decide where you live, work, go to school, etc. It’s a very interesting idea for a political system that is highly efficient but comes at the cost of freedom.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie - The book about dealing with people, written in the 1930’s, and stood the test of time. The most important idea is that people want to feel important and appreciated more than anything. We don’t react well to criticism or the implication we are wrong, no matter how justified it is. If we keep these things in mind when interacting with people, it goes a long way to having successful relationships.

The Game by Neil Strauss - A highly entertaining story about the pickup artist community. From what I heard about this book, I thought it was just a handbook for picking up women, but it’s actually more of a biography of the author Neil Strauss during a period of time he spent with various pickup experts as a part of his job as a reporter. These guys have essentially broken down attracting women into a science based on primal instincts and social dynamics. It’s very interesting to read about their various adventures as a community.

The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss - The book that inspired me to quit my job and redesign my lifestyle. It contains probably the best advice I’ve ever gotten from a book. It helped me refocus on what I really want for myself instead of just following the standard school, work, retire path. We shouldn’t set our goals in terms of money. It’s all about defining what excites us most, how we want to spend our time, and then figuring out the income necessary to support it. It’s probably not as much as you think. There’s also the 80/20 principle (80% of results come from 20% of time/effort) that can be applied to many things to strip out unnecessary clutter and free up our minds and time. If we focus on just the important things and automate or outsource whenever possible, we can live more freely and happily.

Javascript: The Good Parts by Douglas Crockford - The absolute best book on Javascript. Not for beginners, but if you know some programming already, this will help you really understand how the language works and how to best use it.

And these are the next books in my reading list:

Moneyball by Michael Lewis
Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston
Coders at Work by Peter Seibel
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes by Peter Schiff