“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
– Ray Bradbury
I wanted to briefly reflect on my year of reading. This has been the best year of my life, and I think reading has had a lot to do with that goodness. This reflection will allow my to see which books have had the biggest impact on my life and my beliefs. I have catalogued everything I have completed in April through December. I started with April because The Black Swan was the first book to really make me a reader. The book challenged some of my unconscious beliefs and inspired me to learn more. As this list only includes reading from about 80% of the year, I think that 30 non-audio-books is a good goal for the next year. I have included books that I did not complete due to whatever reason as they still may have had an impact on me. Unfortunately, the classic, The Wealth of Nations, was the only book that I found too boring and unrelateable to complete.
Books (or close to books)
- The Black Swan
- Fooled by Randomness
- The Wealth of Nations (partial: too boring)
- The Way of Men
- Mere Christianity (partial: I couldn’t accept the initial premise of fundamentally flawed)
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
- The Management Myth
- The Dao of Capital
- Against Empathy
- Born Anxious
- The Birth of Tragedy
- The 4 Hour Work Week
- Designing Your Life (partial: it made me question too many things which conflicted with some of the book’s beliefs; I feel like I got the primary benefit of the book to look for activities that give you energy)
- Thus Spoke Zarathustra
- Bed of Procrustes
- Hillbilly Elegy
- How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big
- Who are You Really?
- Seneca Six Pack (partial: I didn’t want to read the plays)
- Side Hustle (partial: I got stuck with the assignments and it didn’t feel like the right time)
- The Search for Meaning: A Short History
- Born for This
- Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky
- Atlas Shrugged
- Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
- The Obstacle is the Way
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
- The Brothers Karamazov
- The Happy Atheist
- Art of Seduction
- Einstein: His Life and Universe
- Leonardo da Vinci
As mentioned previously, The Black Swan had the biggest impact on my life. I was recommend the book some 7 years earlier, but I shrugged off the suggestion because I didn’t like the person who recommended it. I can only speculate whether it would have changed my 21-year-old self or I would have not been mature enough to appreciate it. I was recommend it at the very time I was studying econometrics which lead me to believe that data could tell us absolute truths. The Black Swan challenged my unconscious beliefs: statistics and data have all the answers, research could add to the collective knowledge and improve society, and nerdiness is good; it awakened me to a new ideal of constant questioning.
Antifragile lead me to question the cultural norms of modern society. It taught me that the good life is a life of learning, questioning, and relaxing (philosophy).
Thus Spoke Zarathustra was difficult to fully understand but had immense inherent appeal with his repeating motto of “man is something which must be overcome.” I have always felt immensely capable, but I have been consistently frustrated about never come close to tapping into what felt like my true potential. The book and The Search for Meaning have lead me to believe that there may be nothing objective and that could be OK, as it gives conscious beings the ability to make their own meaning.
I found Sapiens to be very appealing with it’s detached, postmodernist views. I also thought it had some interesting insights regarding credit and the growth of the modern economy that I hadn’t seen or considered before.
Einstein was probably the most pleasurable listen of the year. I just really enjoyed hearing about his life, beliefs and science even if it wasn’t “meaningful.”
In addition, to 30 books, I would like to write at least 50 articles this year which would make reading and writing my two biggest hobbies. What books have had the biggest impact of your life?