Lessons, Notes, and Reviews of Books I’ve Read

For the last 4 years, most of the important things I’ve learned have come from books, articles, speeches, and other media. After seeing how Derek Sivers publicizes his book notes, I decided I would publicize all of my lesson notes, from any medium I was using to learn.

To get the notes, click on any linked title. I included short snippets and ratings to give you an idea of what you might find interesting. I’ve roughly categorized it by topic, some of these are broad, some are narrow, it’ll change with time.

The notes are meant to be concise, reminding me of high-level concepts and not trying to recreate the whole book. You can use them to remind yourself of something you read, or to decide on something new to read.

  1. Biography
  2. Communication
  3. Creativity / Art
  4. Decision Making
  5. Education
  6. Entrepreneurship
  7. Finance
  8. Fitness
  9. History
  10. Language Learning
  11. Leadership
  12. Longevity
  13. Management
  14. Marketing
  15. Masculinity and Dating
  16. Mindfulness and Meditation
  17. Memory
  18. Other (Uncategorizeable)
  19. Philosophy
  20. Politics
  21. Productivity
  22. Psychology
  23. Science
  24. Sex
  25. Skill Acquisition / Learning
  26. Technology
  27. Travel
  28. Writing
  29. Fiction


Endurance by Alfred Lansing (10/10). Holy shit what a ride! Absolutely amazing story of perseverance and leadership, a must read. Whatever struggles you think you are going through simply cannot compare.

The Fish that Ate the Whale by Rich Cohen (9/10). One of the craziest, most impressive stories of business smarts I’ve come across and from someone otherwise unknown. Like a real-life Francisco d’Anconia from Atlas Shrugged.

Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman (9/10). This book sneaks up on you. You’re reading these fun stories about Feynman’s life, and then you look back and realize you learned about the scientific process along the way. Extremely readable, packed with wisdom, and fun!

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big (8/10). A fun book of life advice built around stories from Adams’s experience becoming a famous cartoonist, among other endeavors. Nothing that “new” per say, but a fun read and the endorsement of affirmations is curious.

Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez (7/10). Half of why this is so good is the author’s own hubris. It’d be a dull story without it, but with it, you get an entertaining look at the inner workings of startups and silicon valley tech giants.

Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero (6/10). An interesting story about the life of Seneca, though it made me realize that I care much more about his ideas than him as a person.


Getting to Yes by Robert Fisher (9/10). The best book on negotiation and effective argumentation. Useful even if you’re not in business, since in some form, you’re always negotiating.

Words that Work by Frank Luntz (9/10). One of the best books on speech and copywriting. It’ll take your awareness of political messaging to new heights, and give you a greater ability to influence others through your word choice alone.

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (9/10). The best book I’ve found on crafting a memorable message. Useful for speaking, marketing, writing, any time you need to make people listen, believe, and act.

Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun (8/10). The best book on public speaking I’ve found. If you want to speak better, or improve your confidence speaking, this is for you.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi (7/10). The quintessential networking book. I do find many of these behaviors annoying, though…

To Sell is Human by Dan Pink (7/10). Useful insights on how to sell in a world with information equality, especially for people who generally don’t like “Selling” (like me). Also lays out the argument that everyone has to become a salesperson of some type now if they wish to advance.

Creativity / Art

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (9/10). If you do anything creative, you’ll fight the resistance. Pressfield personifies it, then shows you how to beat it in a philosophical way that will aid any creative (especially writers).

Make Good Art. “The old rules are crumbling, and no one knows what the new rules are, so make up your own rules.”

Decision Making

Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin (10/10). Simply the best book on improving your decision making there is. It’s dense and hard to get through if you’re not truly interested, but it’s well worth it.

Smartcuts by Shane Snow (8/10). Smartcuts is a useful tool for thinking about problems differently. The most frequent path or obvious path is usually the worst, and if you can approach problems differently using some “smartcuts” you’ll typically do much better, or get to the goal much faster.

Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath (8/10). The book that originally sparked much of my interest in heuristics and biases, which this site would be limping without. Great tools for making better decisions, and when we make bad ones.

Mistakes Were Made but Not by Me by Carol Tavris (8/10). Fantastic introduction to biases and how to identify them in ourselves and others. Read it! Sort of like the other-minded companion to Paradox of Choice.

The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz (6/10). This is an excellent book for someone who is new to cognitive biases and heuristics and who wants to improve their decision making. I didn’t get much out of it since I already knew a lot of it, but if you’re just getting into the topic it’s a good place to start.


Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz (8/10). Very important! College students are stuck on traditional, “safe” paths and end up with jobs they don’t like so they can buy shit they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. This book is perfect for the college student who is stuck on that path, or the parent who put them there. The only criticism I have is that his solution doesn’t go big enough in its ambition.

College Unbound by Jeffrey Selingo (7/10). Interesting info on how the college system became so messed up, felt fluffed though.

The Price of Privilege by Madeline Levine (6/10). The first 1/3 is a great primer on the problems of popular parents styles and how that leads to depression, angst, and the excellent sheep problems. The rest is how to parent better, which I (obviously) did not find quite as useful (but if you’re a parent, read it!!


The 4-hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss (9/10). The book that originally inspired me to make Programming for Marketers, I don’t think I’d have the freedom to put all of my time into writing and reading if I hadn’t found it. It’s a tad dated, but the principles are timeless.

Zero to One by Peter Theil (9/10). This is, in my mind, the best book on starting a real COMPANY. Lean startup is great for something that won’t die, but this is the book on making something that lasts. Definitely worth re-reading for founders.

The Magic of Thinking Big by Barry Schwartz (8/10). Want to do something big, or unsure if you should go after something big? You need this book. It is also an excellent book on simply being a better person. I think anyone would be improved immensely from reading it.

The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar (8/10). Be happy now, don’t put off being happy till later and get stuck on the “deferred life plan,” ESPECIALLY if you do a “high power” or “high-income” job. If you already believe that, you don’t need this book, but you might enjoy the stories.

Good to Great by Jim Collins (8/10). Primarily about what makes a business great, but also a useful tool for making your own life great. Where do you want to be great, not just have success?

The Lean Entrepreneur by Brant Cooper (8/10). I found this book most useful of the lean startup related books. The roadmap at the end is gold, and worth referring back to regularly when you aren’t sure what to do at a given stage of growing a business.

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau (7/10). A useful book for someone getting started with microbusinesses, or lifestyle businesses, and wants some more guidance. Nothing revolutionary, though

Bold by Peter Diamandis (7/10). The first 2/3 of the book is an excellent primer on being bold as fuck, then the last third is a confusingly placed foray into crowdfunding (??). The first 2/3 are great though if you want to start thinking bigger with your goals.

The E-Myth by Michael Gerber (7/10). The central message is to focus on building your business , such that it shouldn’t require you. This is an important thing to keep in mind for distinguishing between having a job, and building a business. If your business needs you, it’s not a business yet.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport (6/10). I didn’t get as much from this as I did from Deep Work. This one kind of made me go “duh,” but I think that’s a me thing. Cal does make a great argument about why “following your passion” is bad advice, so if you believe it’s good advice, I recommend reading it.

The Lean Startup by Eric Reiss (4/10). I think there are better books out there for introducing you to these ideas, even though this is “the book” on them. Surprisingly light in useful detail.


Money Master the Game by Tony Robbins (9/10). The best book on personal finance I’ve read. Particularly important is the “goal setting” so you know how much money you’re really shooting for.

I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi (7/10). A good primer on being smart with your finances, but not as good as Money Master the Game. It is shorter, though, and an easier entry point to being smarter with your savings and investing.

Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis (7/10). Mostly it’s a great story. Not sure I “learned” anything, but a fun ride!

Flash Boys by Michael Lewis (7/10). A scary and interesting overview of the high-frequency trading world. Definitely got me scared for the next potential crash, which I imagine was part of the idea behind it.

What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars by Jim Paul (6/10). A more story-focused version of many of the lessons in Fooled by Randomness. If you understood that book, you won’t need this one.


The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss (9/10). The first 1/5 is an amazing resource on learning. The 2nd fifth is a great introduction to cooking. The next 3/5 is a confusing mix of food and cooking related skills and I don’t know why Ferriss added it. But the first 1/5 is excellent, and I return to it regularly.

The “Metabolic Winter” Hypothesis: A Cause of the Current Epidemics of Obesity and Cardiometabolic Disease (8/10). This research suggests that much of modern obesity, or even just extra weight, comes from rarely fasting and rarely being cold. Simply adding cold stress, and some hunger stress (through intermittent fasting) can significantly aide in weight management.

Grain Brain by David Perlmutter (7/10). I think this book is, maybe, a little over the top, but it’s compelling. Grains = bad. Especially gluten. Also sugar. Cut them out. Any argument to the contrary is of the “you can’t prove that’s bad” vs “that’s good” variety.

Psych by Judd Biasiotto (3/10). Some interesting thoughts on peak performance, but a bit too woo-woo without enough to back it up. Takeaway: meditation is good for performance.


The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant (9/10). One of the most knowledge-dense books I’ve ever picked up. It’s short, but you’ll learn more than you expect about how trends of the past can influence our thinking about today.

Why Don’t We Learn from History by B.H. Liddell Hart (8/10). An excellent collection of lessons from history based primarily around warfare. The author died while writing it, unfortunately, but it’s still jam packed with insights.

Language Learning

Fluent Forever by Gabriel Weinberg (8/10). The best book on language learning that I’ve found. You can skip a lot of this if you have full immersion available to you, but either way, the techniques are useful for picking up a language quickly.

Fluent in 3 Months by Benny Lewis (3/10). Speak the language from day one, use visualizations to remember words. The rest of the book is mostly fluff on those two concepts. I’d read his blog instead.


The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh (8/10). Written in short chapters on different ideas for leadership and success in competitive fields, Walsh’s memoir on leadership is excellent even if you know nothing about football.

Who by Geoff Smart (8/10). An excellent tactical resource on hiring, needs to be re-read when I’m actually hiring people.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (8/10). A fantastic resource for someone starting a company, and especially growing one. The nice thing about this book is that it’s less on “starting a startup” and more on all the hard parts that come after, which is a refreshing change.

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene (7/10). Fantastic stories broadly applicable to success in life, though a bit overwhelming in scope and heavy to work through. That said, it was banned from US prisons for a reason.

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (5/10). Awesome stories, not so awesome conclusions. I had confirmation bias and availability heuristic alarm bells going off the whole time I was reading it. But if you want some great stories from Navy SEALs on the front line, with some interesting thoughts on leadership, pick it up.


Blue Zones by Dan Buettner (8/10). Simply the best book on what we can infer about how to live longer from a lifestyle point of view.


Remote by Jason Fried (6/10). A light read on the benefits of remote work. Some bias since the authors work in a leading remote company…


The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries (9/10). The quintessential marketing book. Always worth referring back to. Yet to be outdone in its straightforward usefulness.

Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares (9/10). Hands down the best startup marketing book out there, and the first one I recommend to people who want to get into startup marketing. I still use some form of the Bullseye Method in it for thinking about digital marketing, and the list of channels to brainstorm new ideas.

Different by Youngme Moon (9/10). The message of this book is HUGE! Do NOT try to make sure your weaknesses are up to par as everyone else, love your weaknesses and accentuate your strengths. Be DIFFERENT!

The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert (9/10). Likely the only copywriting book you’ll ever need. Fantastic, and extremely readable.

Hello My Name is Awesome by Alexandra Watkins (8/10). The most useful book on naming that I’ve found. Good to read for the stories and examples, but you could also use my summary.

Hooked by Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover (7/10). A useful tool for brainstorming how to make your products more habit forming, and thus addictive.

Contagious by Jonah Berger (7/10). Required reading for all marketers, with some great stories in it. I want a $100 cheesesteak.

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim (6/10). Mental model: create blue oceans, don’t fight in the “Red oceans.” The figures are useful for determining how to find your blue ocean strategies.

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday (4/10). Some interesting ideas, but read Immutable Laws instead.

This Book Will Teach You How to Write Better (3/10). Borrows heavily from other copywriting books without attribution. I’d strongly recommend reading Boron Letters instead.

Masculinity and Dating

Models by Mark Manson (9/10). The best book I’ve seen on attraction and dating strategy. It’s not about being scummy and pickup-y, rather focusing on becoming a more attractive, honest person, and getting over the insecurities that get in most guys’ way. Highly recommend it, as do most of my friends who have read a few dating books.

The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida (9/10). Way of the Superior Man, better than any other book I’ve found, made me more comfortable with the important distinctions between masculine and feminine behaviors and recognizing and working with those differences instead of pretending that men and women are perfect equals. Also, the distinction between rape and ravishment is helpful in helping men get over their cognitive dissonance with rough, aggressive, dominant sex.

The Truth by Neil Strauss (9/10). Every guy should read this book, especially after reading The Game. It covers the struggle between monogamy and desire, and how Neil experience and dealt with it.

The Game by Neil Strauss (8/10). Great, compelling story. The parts on pickup and dating aren’t as good as a book like Models, but the story here is fantastic.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (8/10). A fun and informative look at modern dating culture. Nothing that “new,” persay, but having it presented by Aziz makes it fun. Their data is interesting too.

The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene (8/10). It’s much more than about sexual seduction, it’s about how to seduce anyone, politically, socially, and yes, sexually. Extremely interesting analogs from history, highly recommend it.

Mate (What Women Want) by Tucker Max (7/10). Not as good on “dating” as Models, but a very useful book on “Being a better guy.” The psychology on understanding women’s POV in dating was interesting too.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind (9/10). Primarily useful in its ability to inspire introspection, worth reading for practicioners of mindfulness. Keep the concept of beginner’s mind present to avoid hubris, or limited potential.

10% Happier by Dan Harris (8/10). Great participatory journalism exploring the world of modern mindfulness and meditation. If you’re skeptical of the benefits of meditation, especially if you think it’s “too spiritual” or “woo-woo” for you, I highly recommend reading this.

Waking Up by Sam Harris (8/10). I love Waking Up as a compelling argument for meditation and mindfulness for the otherwise non-spiritual person. I think Harris spends too much time bashing on religion, but aside from that, it’s excellent.

Essentialism by James McKeown (5/10). I didn’t get much from this book, it’s sort of in-between Paradox of Choice and some of the psychology of 4-Hour Workweek, but doesn’t do as good a job as either. That said, a lot of people like it a lot…


Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foyer (8/10). A fun book about one journalist’s journey to learn to become a “master of memory” and ultimately win the US memory championship in under a year. It teaches you how to significantly improve your own memory through the story of his journey, making it both highly tactical and a fun read.

Other (Uncategorizable)

Principles by Ray Dalio (10/10). Absolutely phenomenal. One of the best and most concise guides to creating an order and direction for your life, from the most successful hedge fund manager in the world. It’s short, you can get through it in one sitting, and come back to it regularly.

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss (5/10). I was disappointed. I love Tim’s work, but this didn’t deliver in the way his past books have. There’s zero thematic organization, so you can’t reference certain topics you want to learn more about except in a few cases. While this has some interesting pieces, I doubt I’ll refer back to it like I have with Workweek, Body, and Chef.


The Dialogues of Socrates (10/10). Socrates remains the greatest foundational influence on philosophy, and to understand his method, you have to read his dialogues. The rhetoric is brilliant, and at times, even hilarious.

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (10/10). The book that’s most influenced my thinking. If you enjoy the content on this site, you’ll love Antifragile.

Letters from a Stoic by Seneca (10/10). Second to Antifragile for books that have influenced my daily thinking and life. Stoicism remains one of the most tactically useful and pragmatic philosophies, and I return to it regularly.

The Bed of Procrustes by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (9/10). No other book can get me into a good groove of thought as quickly as this one. The joy of aphorisms is that they’re bite sized pieces of thought meant to get you going, so you can jump around and find ones that fit the moment and you’re off. Don’t read this as your first Taleb book though.

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson (9/10). Fantastic modern stoic wisdom. Reading this with a bit of background in Seneca or Epictetus makes it evident where Emerson drew his inspiration from, but he adds a bit more of a “RAH! GET AFTER IT!” attitude that makes it more invigorating.

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (9/10). Complete game changer in thinking about sudden, unexpected events. Not only does it help you be less foolish in interpreting the world around you, it provides a model that anyone (not just entrepreneurs) can use for maximizing the potential for sudden success in life, while decreasing the risk of sudden ruin.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl (9/10). Broken into two distinct pieces, Frankl tells the story of his experience in Nazi concentration camps, and how that led to his theories on the importance of meaning in one’s life. It provides a compelling argument for each of us finding a reason to live while reminding us of how terrible humans can be to one another.

The Bhagavad Gita (9/10). Fantastic, many similar ideas to Stoicism and Virtue Ethics, though with more mystical elements thrown in. Would highly recommend it as a “first taste” of eastern religion.

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (9/10). Some of the oldest food for thought in the world. Needs to be re-read regularly, you’ll find new things each time.

Striking Thoughts by Bruce Lee (9/10). Excellent, one of my favorite books of aphorisms. It’s clearly influenced by Taoism and Zen Buddhism, but with some more aggressive Stoic-style undertones to it as well. Highly recommend.

This is Water by David Foster Wallace (9/10). Powerful, concise, worth reading multiple times to redigest what is both a simple yet profound idea.

Discourses by Epictetus (8/10). One of the three pillars of stoic writing, Discourses is interesting since Epictetus was a freed slave. Useful aphorisms and quotes as always with the stoics. My second favorite Stoic philosopher after Seneca.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (8/10). My least favorite of the 3 famous stoic philosophers. Still motivational and interesting to read, especially considering these were his reminders to himself while he was essentially emperor of the world.

Lying by Sam Harris (8/10). Short, but the premise is excellent and well reasoned. Since reading it I’ve worked on cutting down my “white lies” significantly, and seen that it does, indeed, lead to better relationships.

As a Man Thinketh by James Allen (8/10). Short, you can read it in an hour, but a motivating meditation on the importance of “right thoughts.” The belief that powerful thoughts, pointed in the right direction, are the foundation and base on which all happiness and success is built. Reminds me of the power of affirmations.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (8/10). It’s not just about tidying up (though it’s an excellent book on that). Underlying it is a powerful philosophy on handling our cluttered lives. Highly recommend, you can read it in one sitting.

Maxims and Reflections by Goethe (8/10). A book of aphorisms, it’s a useful tool for sparking your own clear thoughts.

Nassim Taleb’s AUB Commencement Address (8/10). Some fun thoughts if you’re already a Taleb fan. Namely, ignore most advice and keep making good art, and it’ll all work out fine.

In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell (8/10). A must read for anyone who has trouble relaxing, or who works 8+ hours a day. I like re-reading it when I start to feel guilty for not buckling down and working all day every day.

Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart by Gordon Livingston (8/10). It’s an interesting set of reminders on life from someone who’s gone through more emotional hardship than most of us ever will. Some might feel familiar, other topics new, but it’s definitely worth reading through.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau (8/10). I really loved every part of Walden not about the mechanics of living there. The philosophy is beautiful and empowering, discussing taking your own path, living simply, happiness, and standing out confidently. Skip over the financial statements, if you try to trudge through them you might get bored and not finish.

Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau (7/10). Important piece of political philosophy, though I found it a little dull to get through. Might be relevant in the current (2016) political climate…

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday (7/10). Better than Obstacle, it has some useful advice and good stories about how ego can lead to your downfall. It’s a tangent to stoic philosophy, so if you enjoy those concepts you’ll probably get something from this book.


The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria (7/10). Thought provoking on how America might lose its global prominence, and the steps we ought to take to preserve it.

It’s Even Worse Than it Looks by Thomas Mann (7/10). An interesting (and depressing) overview of the problems in American politics. Even more relevant with the recent Trump shenanigans.


Deep Work by Cal Newport (10/10). Your quality and quantity of output will be chiefly determined by the amount of Deep Work you can create in your life. This book shows you how, and why, to do it.

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker (10/10). The best book on getting your most important work done. Read this instead of every other “productivity” book.

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman (10/10). Everyone needs to read this book. The observations were made in a pre-internet era, and they’re 10x as relevant today. Nothing will do more to help cure your information addiction that the healthy dose of reality provided in these pages.

Getting Results the Agile Way by J.D. Meier (8/10). Perhaps the most useful and tactical book on personal productivity and goal setting that I’ve found. I’ve followed some form of this system for 4+ years.

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (5/10). Checklists are good for making sure things get done, even in complex fields like medicine. Make more of them. (That’s most of the book).

Manage Your Day to Day by Jocelyn Glei (2/10). Basically a bunch of guest posts rolled into a book. I’d look elsewhere.

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy (1/10). Rehash on other productivity information, skip.


Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins (10/10). Any book on self-improvement or harnessing your own psychology written since this one is merely a footnote. You could forego every other pop-psych book, just read this one, and you’d be set.

The 50th Law by Robert Greene (10/10). Fantastic, one of Robert Greene’s best. The idea of fearlessness is essential for individual success outside of a traditional path, and even within it. If you can master fearlessness and take control of your own destiny, there is no limit on what you can accomplish.

The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce (10/10). My favorite article on the Internet. If you want to do crazy big things like Musk, this is the mental foundation you need.

The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal (9/10). Willpower is a finite resource, and our environment is constantly trying to sap it away from us. But by training our Willpower, and using it more strategically, we can get more of it and apply it where it matters most.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (9/10). Habits make up 40%+ of everything we do. By understanding their cycle, we can break the bad ones, and build new good ones. I’ve used this book constantly ever since reading it 4+ years ago.

Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (8/10). Always love Taleb. I found this book less practical than Antifragile, but it lays a conceptual groundwork for Black Swan and Antifragile to “warm you up” for his next books.

The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler (8/10). The best book on getting a basic understanding of Flow states and how to get there. Highly recommend it since it’s much more approachable than the landmark book “Flow.

Mindwise by Nicholas Epley (7/10). Good for breaking down the notion that you have any idea why you do what you do, or why other people do what they do, or that you understand how you or others behave or what you or others think. Basically, we know nothing.

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers (7/10). Full of fun tidbits of philosophy on life and business, this is a great book for anyone who feels overworked and stressed.

Simple Rules by Donald Sull (7/10). Absolutely essential concept, and one that I’ve been a fan of for a while. The book is useful in exploring simple rules and giving examples, but I get the sense they padded it a bit because it could be much shorter. You can get most of it from my notes, but I’d recommend picking up a copy to go deeper on the concepts.

The Power of No by James Altucher (3/10). Say No to more things, even if it hurts. Think Hell Yeah or No. Got it? Good. Saved you a few dollars and hours.

Brain Rules by John Medina (2/10). Really didn’t find much new value here.

The Fighter’s Mind by Sam Sheridan (2/10). Found this hard to read, and got little from it. There are some nice quotations, though.


Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (9/10). Fantastic history of humankind! Read it! Very interesting, you’ll learn about history, psychology, economics, it’s many lessons rolled into one compelling narrative.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (8/10). Makes you think about… well everything. Excellent history, I highly recommend it.

Global Catastophic Risks by Nick Bostrom (7/10). An interesting though very dense and heavy book. If you want to become depressed over the potential of going extinct, well, here you go!

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr (7/10). A somewhat frightening overview of how our brains are being shaped by the Internet. A compelling case for spending less time “surfing.”


Extended Massive Orgasm (8/10). Fantastic resource on moving beyond the typical “peak” type orgasms, both for men and women. Also a good primer on communicating more during sex, sharing what you both want, and making sure you’re both satisfied.

How to Think More About Sex by Alain de Botton (8/10). A lovely and quick read on reframing how we think about sexuality. Less practical, more for affecting our mental attitudes towards it and conversations around it.

Skill Acquisition / Learning

Mastery by Robert Greene (10/10). Dense, but an excellent read on the good and bad of obtaining mastery. It’s less practical than a book like Peak, but the stories are excellent.

Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool (10/10). The best book I’ve read on refining and mastering your craft. Anders created the principle Deliberative Practice that was behind Outliers among other books. He’s the expert on it, and this is everything he knows about it.

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin (8/10). A wonderful collection of stories on learning from Josh’s own life. It gives a look into the practicing mind of a master, instead of pure prescription. It’s less directly tactical than Peak, but it gives you many of the ideas through an ongoing story that’s exciting to read.

The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle (7/10). Good, but you should read Peak instead if you’re interested in increasing your skills, and in how Talent is a myth.

The Little Book of Talent by Daniel Coyle (7/10). This one is a good reminder of the principles in Peak and Talent Code. It’s quick, should only take you an hour, and has some useful tips on improving your skills. If think that if you read this without either of those books complementing it, you’d miss out on a lot though.

The Practicing Mind by Thomas Sterner (7/10). Somewhere between Peak and Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind, The Practicing Mind provides a good framework for thinking about your art in a nonjudgemental way. It helps with the spiritual side of skill development, instead of always just focusing on go go go.

The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman (3/10). Skip it, read 4-Hour Chef instead.


The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly (5/10). An interesting collection of thoughts on where the future might be headed, but I found myself bored during it. It just feels like Kevin rambling over a couple drinks about what might happen. That said, if you’re in the tech startup space (or want to be), this will probably give you a lot of ideas.


Vagabonding by Rolf Potts (8/10). Not convinced you can travel for a long period inexpensively? This is your book!


On Writing Well by William Zinssler (9/10). My favorite explicit, directional book on writing better. A must-read for anyone who does any amount of writing.

On Writing by Stephen King (9/10). Of the books on writing better, this is my favorite. It has less direct, tactical advice than “On Writing Well” but it caries you along better and has more stories in it. I think you should read both though.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk (8/10). Some very important lessons for the aspiring writer. The best way to use it is to read through it and find the examples where you can’t immediately tell what is wrong, study the explanations, and then apply those learnings to your own writing.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (3/10). I didn’t get much from this one, not sure why there’s so much hype around it. I don’t write much fiction, though…


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (9/10). The wonderful thing about a story like The Alchemist is that it’s packed with bits of wisdom you can believe from the story, but also validate through research. Finding meaning in life, spinning bad situations to their positives, learning through action, downsides of fearing failure, perceptions shaping reality, appreciating what you have.

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (9/10). A wonderful mix of literary and science fiction, I enjoyed this much more than Slaughterhouse 5.

East of Eden John Steinbeck (9/10). Absolutely beautiful, a must read. No crazy plot, but there doesn’t need to be.

Accelerando by Charles Stross (9/10). One of my favorite pieces of science fiction. Fantastic adventure through the singularity, I highly recommend it!

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchel (9/10). Beautiful, gripping story. It’s six different points in history and the future that overlap and influence each other, you might find the first one kind of dull but keep going! Also, don’t watch the movie first, the book is much richer.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (9/10). At the time I’m sure this reality seemed much more far-flung than it does now, but it remains a prescient look at what the emerging VR/AR Metaverse could be like (and a great story to go with it!)

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid (9/10). Absolutely beautiful language and commentary on the human condition. At the end, you have lived and died a full life.

What Makes Sammy Run by Budd Schulberg (8/10). I found it hard to get through at times, but the ending is very satisfying. The last few pages are amazing, but you do need the entire story to get there and understand it. Worth a read for anyone who tends to work hard at the expense of everything else in life.

The Martian by Andy Weir (8/10). Amazing science and a gripping story. The dialogue can be a little jarring at times, but the quality of the SF more than makes up for it.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (8/10). Darker and crazier than the movie, though the twist is a little more obvious. Highly recommend it if you enjoyed the movie.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (7/10). I’ve never come so close to throwing up from reading as I did with this book. Not for the faint of heart. Oddly gripping, but you’ll feel guilty for enjoying it.

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk (7/10). All sorts of messed up, but a gripping read! If you liked Fight Club then check this out too.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (7/10). I had a hard time getting into this, I know it’s a “great book,” but it didn’t grip me. Not sure why not. The ending is exciting though.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (7/10). This was another one I had a hard time getting into, I think because I didn’t particularly like any of the characters. Except Levin. Levin was great.

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (6/10). It’s kinda like if The Secret was a novel, I wonder how many people read this and believe it’s real…