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 summaries and notes from books, speeches, articles, and other things I was reading.
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 and summaries 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.
Antifragile by Nassim Taleb (10/10) The book that’s had the greatest influence on my thinking and writing. A must read, and if you enjoy the content on this site, you’ll love Antifragile.
Letters from a Stoic by Seneca (10/10) A massively influential work of philosophy, I've enjoyed this book every time I go back to it. Great entry point for anyone into virtue ethics.
Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool (10/10) This is the best book on mastering a skill that I’ve found. Anders is the real deal, doing most of the research that other books on this topic are based on. If you only read one book on mastering your craft, read this one.
The Cook and the Chef: Musk's Secret Sauce (10/10) The “cook vs chef” dynamic is one that I’ve been thinking about more and more. WBW gives the best start to finish overview of the difference between reasoning from first principles and following the crowd.
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.
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...
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.
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 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.
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.
Principles by Ray Dalio (PDF version) (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.
The Sovereign Individual by Davidson and Rees-Mogg (10/10) One of those few books where you see the world differently after reading it. The next couple decades of technological advancements will give us unprecedented ability to live in ways that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago.
Gödel Escher Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter (10/10) This book stretched my mind more than almost any other book I’ve read. It’s tough at parts, it’s long, but you’ll come out of it thinking about brains, minds, intelligence, and AI in an entirely new way.
Principles by Ray Dalio (Book Version) (10/10) Much better organized and fleshed out than the original PDF. It gets very slow in the work principles, definitely skim those based on your interest. The life principles are phenomenal, though. Would highly recommend.
The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (10/10) Phenomenal book on how our fear of death is the core of our psychological disturbances, and our motivation for life. It will make you think about why we do things and behave in certain ways in an entirely new fashion, and the language within it is delicious.
The Elephant in the Brain by Robin Hanson and Kevin Simler (10/10) A phenomenal book on understanding your own "hidden motivations in everyday life" and why we do what we do. Widely applicable to all parts of life, and the kind of explanations you can't stop thinking about after reading.
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (10/10) Fantastic history of humankind! Read it! Very interesting, you’ll learn about history, psychology, economics, it’s many lessons rolled into one compelling narrative.
Hiroshima Diary by Michihiko Hachiya (10/10) A painful and gruesome story about life in Hiroshima right after the bombing. Hachiya kept a diary of his experience nearly dying, then working to save his friends and peers as a doctor working in Hiroshima before and after the bomb went off.
Crony Beliefs by Kevin Simler (10/10) A “crony belief” is a belief that we have for social and political benefit (virtue / tribal signaling), instead of for accurately modeling the world. An easy way to tell if a belief is crony is whether you feel offended by it being challenged, vs. happy to have your knowledge improved.
12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson (9/10) Fantastic, it’s everything you expect from Peterson and more. Billed as a “self-help” style book, it beautifully interweaves history, religion, science, and philosophy into a highly pragmatic book on how to be a fulfilled, successful, better human being.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss (9/10) Massively influential in my life, giving me the idea that I could pursue my own entrepreneurial projects to sustain myself immediately after college. Haven't gone back to it in a while, but it's still one of the first books I recommend for someone going down the entrepreneurial path.
Nassim Taleb's AUB Commencement Speech (9/10) “For I have a single definition of success: you look in the mirror every evening, and wonder if you disappoint the person you were at 18... Let him or her be the only judge; not your reputation, not your wealth, not your standing in the community, not the decorations on your lapel."
The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss (9/10) This is the most disjointed of his three books, but the first section alone makes it worthwhile. Tim breaks down his methodology to learning anything which has been incredibly useful to me for writing and marketing, and a number of other skills I’ve picked up bits and pieces of.
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.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl (9/10) 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 Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (9/10) Finding meaning in life, spinning bad situations to their positives, learning through action, downsides of fearing failure, perceptions shaping reality, appreciating what you have.
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 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.
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...
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...
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...
Zero to One by Peter Thiel (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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (9/10) The best book I've found on crafting a compelling message. Useful for speaking, marketing, writing, any time you need to make people listen, believe, and act.
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.
On Writing Well by William Zinsser (9/10) My favorite explicit, directional book on writing better. A must-read for anyone who does any amount of writing.
Surely Your 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!
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.
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.
Zen Mind Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki (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.
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 Boron Letters by Gary Halbert (9/10) Likely the only copywriting book you'll ever need. Fantastic, and extremely readable.
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 by 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 Mitchell (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!)
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.
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.
The Photographer's Eye by Michael Freeman (9/10) Extremely useful book for the beginning photographer, full of heuristics for better photo taking. It was fun reading it then going through the National Geographic award-winning photos, since I could pick out some of the elements discussed in the book and how they helped make the photos work.
How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff (9/10) The book is a fantastic primer on how we're tricked, daily, by the sneaky use of statistics. It's a must-read for anyone.
The Defining Decade by Meg Jay (9/10) It's a guide to not feeling lost in your 30s and 40s from a clinical psychologist who sees young people. It's a must read if you're in your 20s. Some of the research and examples are suspect, but the advice is excellent.
How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne (9/10) An excellent primer on pursuing more freedom in your life. Very impersonal egoist influenced, and it makes good arguments around honesty, priorities, and the traps that we put ourselves in. One of the few self-help books I'd recommend.
Pragmatic Thinking and Learning by Andy Hunt (9/10) Probably the best, non-charlatanic book on improving your thinking that I've found. I only wish I'd found it sooner.
Landscape Photography III: Pro Editing With Lightroom & Photoshop (9/10) Fantastic guide to photo editing, this was the first post-processing course I took so I gained a ton from it.
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell (9/10) A fantastic book told through 8 interviews done on the power of myth in our lives. It really made me think about how we lack cultural traditions and narratives, and how few people go through rites of initiation or make sacrifices for big commitments in their lives.
Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse (9/10) It’s an oddly written, extremely concise, very thought-provoking book. It definitely needs to be re-read 2-3 times. Make sure you’re thinking on the plane of infinite play.
The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt (9/10) Very much a “zero to one” book, where after you read it you see the world differently. Extremely helpful meta-tactic for evaluating how to improve systems, and I wish I had read it sooner.
Design Your Work: Praxis Vol. 1 by Tiago Forte (9/10) Some of the best writing on productivity and knowledge management that I’ve found. Definitely worth reading through, and since it’s a series of essays you can easily jump around if any of them doesn’t speak to you.
What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro (9/10) Extremely useful for learning to interpret other people’s body language. One of the best books on the subject. After you read it you’ll be noticing these little cues everywhere--it’ll be impossible to unsee them.
The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch (9/10) A phenomenal wide-ranging book touching on everything from physics to history to economics. If you like books like Sapines or Godel Escher Bach, check it out.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (9/10) A novel that completely changed how I thought about the world the first time I read it. The characters are a little flat, true, but it's a highly motivating look at what can happen when we stop appreciating our own and others' ability to change the world.
Training the Best Dog Ever by Larry Kay and Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz (9/10) Great book on basic dog training. It was really helpful with learning some of the basic foundational stuff around shaping, training, reinforcement, and especially how to make sure your puppy doesn’t develop bad habits.
The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey (9/10) It’s about much more than Tennis. It’s about how to get out of your own way so you can perform at your best. How to “get out of your head” so you don’t try to control your unconscious processes with your conscious mind. Kind of like a guide to zen for people who aren’t into all of the “zen-y” parts.
Mastery by Robert Greene (9/10) Learn Robert Greene's step-by-step process for becoming a master of your craft, based on the lessons of the greatest masters throughout history.
Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins (9/10) 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.
Blue Zones by Dan Buettner (8/10) A great overview of how you can live forever, drawing from what we can learn from the regions of the world where people are more likely to live to 100+ (the Blue Zones).
The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle (8/10) I like that this book breaks down some of the mystique around learning, but I think it goes too far by suggesting that NOTHING is innate. There is certainly room for both.
Getting Results the Agile Way by J.D. Meier (8/10) This was one of the first productivity books that really changed how I thought about life and work. I'd highly recommend it for anyone looking for a more robust productivity system.
Lying by Sam Harris (8/10) Don't lie, it's not worth it, here's why. Thinking about how we erode trust through white lies told in front of other people was particularly interesting.
Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath (8/10) I love Decisive, I think it’s one of the most practical “decision theory” books out there. They break down many of the biases and heuristics covered in other books in a way that makes them easier to manage, instead of simply pointing them out and saying “well, have fun!”
The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin (8/10) The Art of Learning is 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.
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.
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer (8/10) A fun book about one journalists 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.
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.
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.
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...
How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams (8/10) A fun book of life advice built around stories from Adams's experience becoming a famous cartoonist, among other endeavours...
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...
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...
The Magic of Thinking Big by David 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.
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..
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...
Extended Massive Orgasm by Steve Bodansky (8/10) Fantastic resource on moving beyond the typical "peak" type orgasms, both for men and women. Also a good primer on communicating more...
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.
Vagabonding by Rolf Potts (8/10) Not convinced you can travel for a long period inexpensively? This is your book!
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.
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.
Who by Geoff Smart (8/10) An excellent tactical resource on hiring, needs to be re-read when I'm actually hiring people.
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (8/10) Makes you think about... well everything. Excellent history, highly recommend it.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Maxims and Reflections by Goethe (8/10) A book of aphorisms, it's a useful tool for sparking your own clear thoughts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What Makes Sammy Run by Budd Schulberg (8/10) The last few pages are amazing... 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus (8/10) An ancient book of stoic wisdom, it’s remarkable how many of these aphorisms are common phrases today. Since it’s aphorisms, you’ll get different things out of it each time, and you can open it to any page and find something to ruminate on.
Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker (8/10) The most successful people manage themselves. Drucker outlines how to do that, including effective questions to ask yourself and others in order to make sure you're playing to your strengths and that everyone is lifting each other up. Not allowing differences to become conflicts.
The Millionare Fastlane by MJ DeMarco (8/10) As a heuristic and set of ideas for distinguishing between the "slowlane" traditional wealth method and the "fastlane" superior method, it's fantastic.
The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracian (8/10) A lovely book of aphoristic wisdom. You'll find different parts speak to you on each readthrough. It echoes of the stoics.
The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi (8/10) The sword fighting lessons aren't as useful, naturally, but the underlying strategy and wisdom is fascinating. A great read for strategy or philosophy.
Extraordinary Everyday Photography by Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring (8/10) A fantastic resource for finding great photos all around you. Helpful ideas for when you can’t travel but want to get practice near home, and for finding more photos in any setting you’re in.
The Art Science and Craft of Great Landscape Photography by Glenn Randall (8/10) Great book on landscape photography, for novices and intermediate photographers alike.
Enchiridion by Epictetus (8/10) Epictetus’s aphoristic Stoic wisdom. It flows less than other stoic works, naturally, but it’s a good reminder of the underlying principles.
The Way of Zen by Alan Watts (8/10) The most helpful overview of Zen Buddhism that I’ve come across. I didn’t realize there was such a difference between Southern Indian Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism, and I realized that I like the style of Zen Buddhism much better.
The Dip by Seth Godin (8/10) A helpful little book for figuring out when to stick out your project, and when to quit. I think the most useful piece is learning to distinguish between Dips and Cul-de-Sacs, and keeping in mind that it’s not worth being in the middle.
Emergency by Neil Strauss (8/10) A fun, easy to read journey from zero to full apocalypse readiness. It definitely falls more on the “story” side than the “how to” side, but it provides a good overview of prepping and how you can get started.
Work Clean (Everything in its Place) by Dan Charnas (8/10) One of the best “productivity” books I’ve read. It discusses how chefs work, and how you can apply it to your daily life. I’ve implemented a number of the strategies into my personal system, and I think most people could benefit from reading through it.
The CIO’s Guide to Breakthrough Portfolio Project Management by Michael Hannan, Wolfram Muller and Hilbert Robinson (8/10) A fantastic productivity resource on how to get more done when you’re managing multiple projects. Even if you’re not a CIO (which I’m not) you can learn a lot from this book about how to better manage your many projects.
Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett (8/10) A wonderful book about evolution and what it means for our interpretation of life. It’s tough to get through at parts, there’s a ~100pg section refuting his critics that you can mostly skip, but it’s brilliant and makes you rethink the meaning of life.
The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus (8/10) Should we commit suicide? Is life absurd? What is meaningful? This thoughtful essay from Camus makes you question the nature of our existence.
The War on Normal People by Andrew Yang (8/10) Is Universal Basic Income a good idea? Yang makes a compelling case in this book that it's at least the best option for a pretty terrible situation. Lots of great statistics and historical data.
The Nicomachean Ethics by Artistotle (8/10) One of the original works of virtue ethics, this book on living a good life by Aristotle has some great advice on being a good, thriving person, through moderating your excesses and deficiencies and striving to improve yourself.
Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (8/10) Great ideas around skin in the game and having some stake in the advice you’re getting, but I didn’t find this book as mind blowing as Antifragile or Black Swan. Still worth a read, though.
The Trusted Advisor by David H. Maister (8/10) Extremely useful if you do any kind of advice-work, like consulting, freelancing, or working on an agency.
The Straight Dope on Cholesterol by Peter Attia (8/10) Peter Attia's multi-part series on what you should know about cholesterol may as well be a short book, so I took notes on it as if it were one. Enjoy!
Basic Income, Not Basic Jobs: Against Hijacking Utopia (8/10) This is a great summary from Slate Star Codex about why "basic jobs" are a terrible idea compared to "basic income," despite the amount of positive coverage the idea seems to be getting.
The Acceleration of Addictiveness by Paul Graham (8/10) The world is getting more and more addictive. If you don't take direct actions to fight the addictiveness, you'll get swept up in it and lose greater and greater control as the years go on and tech gets better.
How to Hire the Best People You've Ever Worked With by Marc Andreesen (8/10) A great overview from Marc Andreesen, of a16z, on how you can hire amazing employees.
Ads Don't Work that Way by Kevin Simler (8/10) We think ads "incept" us with associations between products and unrelated states of mind or status symbols, but this isn't true. Kevin Simler explains why.
Digital Minimalism: On Living Better with Less Technology by Cal Newport (8/10) A useful book for reducing your addiction to and reliance on technology, while increasing the benefits you derive from it. Good for being mindful about controlling your tech, instead of letting it control you.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (7/10) A fun quick read on productivity and creativity, beating your "inner resistance." Skip the last 1/3 about angels and god.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (7/10) A useful book on improving your habits, but maybe a little over simplistic. Still useful if you want to get more control over your life, though.
Contagious by Jonah Berger (7/10) One of my favorite marketing books, it's a useful overview of why some things catch on, others don't, and how we might better engineer our messages.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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!
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.
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene (7/10) All 48 of the Laws of Power, my notes on them, and more details to help you quickly learn or review these timeless lessons from Robert Greene.
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.
Global Catastrophic 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!
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.
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.
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.
Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi (7/10) The quintessential networking book. I do find many of these behaviors annoying, though...
The Shallows by Nicholas Carr (7/10) An interesting, and somewhat frightening overview of how our brains are being shaped by the Internet. A compelling case for spending less time "surfing."
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
College Unbound by Jeffrey Selingo (7/10) Interesting info on how the college system became so messed up, felt fluffed though.
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.
The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles (7/10) Many of the ideas in this book were warped into ideologies like The Secret, but the underlying concepts here are good.
Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant (7/10) A short, powerful reminder to not be so hard on ourselves, and a few practical techniques for getting in the habit of respecting ourselves and treating ourselves better.
Landscape Photography I: Interpreting Place Through Light on Skillshare (7/10) Quick, and gives you some nice new ways to think about landscape photography. I didn’t know about the different kinds of lighting, so that was helpful, just a little low on details.
Landscape Photography II: Advanced Tools and Techniques on Skillshare (7/10) More good material on landscape photos, going into more detail on different situations than he did in the first part of the series. I think it rambles at times, though, could have used a bit more editing.
Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit by Steven Pressfield (7/10) It’s a good book for some writing tips on making your stories more compelling. Especially important in a world with so many information sources competing for people’s attention. Very readable, quick, and you’ll get some good notes from it.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (7/10) Good history of Franklin’s life, but I found it kind of hard to get through at times, likely from the older language. Still worth a read, though, especially for some of his thinking around self-improvement. Also, I never realized how old he was during the revolution!
The Motivation Hacker by Nick Winter (7/10) One of the best “bang for your buck” productivity books. Many of the concepts are presented elsewhere, but it’s a fun way of getting reintroduced to them and a good way of framing productivity.
The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant (7/10) It’s a great overview of the history of philosophy, told as a story where one set of ideas leads into the next. It’s just a bit dense and hard to get through at times.
Early Retirement Extreme by Jacob Fisker (7/10) An excellent introduction to many of the early financial freedom concepts, it just felt like the narrative drifted too much at parts and had to be skimmed. Definitely some good lessons and takeaways, though.
Aphorisms and Thoughts by Napoleon (7/10) More quotations than aphorisms, still some good wisdom here though. It’s short, too. You can get through all ~500 in a couple sittings. These ones were my favorites.
Own the Day Own Your Life by Aubrey Marcus (7/10) One of the better health / self improvement books I’ve come across. It’s very no-bullshit and compact, well researched, and fun to read. One of those useful tactical books that can replace at least 3 or 4 less condensed ones.
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari (7/10) Not as good as Sapiens, but an interesting look at where our species might go in the future and what we should watch for over the coming decades.
Financial Intelligence by Karen Berman and Joe Knight (7/10) A useful overview of how to read and interpret financial statements for non-accounting people, great for helping you know what to do with your money as an early stage founder.
The Gervais Principle by Venkatesh Rao (7/10) In this series of essays, Venkatesh explores the workings of organizations through the lens of The Office.
The Family that Built an Empire of Pain by Patrick Keefe (7/10) A fascinating history of how the Sackler family created the modern opiate epidemic through their work at Purdue pharma, and how they've tried to cover it up. Well worth the long read.
Atomic Habits by James Clear (7/10) The most useful book on changing your habits, more than The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I’d recommend this book over most books aimed at helping you get control over your life.
How to Invest in Real Estate: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Getting Started by Brandon Turner, Joshua Dorkin (7/10) The most important notes and details from the beginner’s guide to real estate investing from Bigger Pockets
Deep Work by Cal Newport (6/10) Learn how to focus intensely on your work to get more done in less time with this book from Cal Newport.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport (6/10) Don’t “follow your passion,” focus on getting really good at something and passion will follow. This summarizes the entire book, without offering as much tactical advice as Deep Work (to me). Many people think this is his better book though, so try it for yourself.
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (6/10) While I think the ideas are compelling, and agree that leaders should take responsibility for their teams, there were plenty of cases in the book where the opposite of the concept could have been an equally valid argument.
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.
Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero by James Romm (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.
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!!!)
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.
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...
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 Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson (6/10) Some good ideas, but I would suggest an old philosophy book instead. If you enjoy his blog you'll enjoy the book, but to others, the writing style might seem unnecessarily coarse.
Worldly Wisdom: Quotations and Aphorisms by Josh Kaufman (6/10) An assorted collection of quotations and aphorisms on various subjects. Unrated since it didn't really introduce anything, just curate them. Good for a skim through to find interesting ideas and thinkers.
Street Photography: Capture the Life of Your City (6/10) The heuristics for good street photos are great, but all of the editing is done with VSCO filters which was kind of annoying. Wanted to learn more about doing the editing myself.
The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley (6/10) It’s just okay. There are some interesting stats on global prosperity, but it was kind of hard to get through at parts and felt overly optimistic in others. I’d rather read a more balanced perspective on the subject.
Daily Rituals by Mason Currey (6/10) A little dull just reading through summaries of everyone’s routines, but it was cool to see how different famous people whose work I like worked. Lots of drugs, alcohol, bad habits, but also strong routines and rituals.
Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison by Michael Foucault (6/10) Confusing… and one of the harder books I’ve ever read. I’m not sure I recommend it, but it’s good. Definitely gave me a much better understanding of postmodernist thought than by just going off of how it’s described in the popular media.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (6/10) More about capitalism than the meat packing industry, it's an entertaining book, but fails to make a compelling case for socialism.
Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes (6/10) Interesting, tough to get through at parts. It’s very “this happened, then this happened, then this happened…” Disturbing to see how few people could have such a large negative impact on the public understanding of science and health, though.
Happy Accidents by Morton A Meyers (6/10) An interesting overview of the role of serendipity in scientific and medical breakthroughs. It got a little dry at times, though, and somewhat repetitive. Still an interesting medical and scientific history though.
Smoke Signals by Martin A. Lee (6/10) An interesting history on the medical and legal history of weed in the US. I didn't realize how bad the misinformation around it has been, or how much money and energy has been wasted in fighting its spread. Lower rating is just because it gets a little slow at times and it's LONG.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil Degrasse Tyson (6/10) An entertaining read on science and astrophysics, but ultimately it felt a little shallow compared to books like A Brief History of Time.
I Used to Be a Human Being by Andrew Sullivan (6/10) Technology has made us inhuman, this piece argues. I'm not sure how compelling it is since most of these habits are just deeper human desires manifest in new technology, but it's an interesting argument nonetheless.
Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got (6/10) A decent book on getting more clients for your services business. You can probably just read the summary, lots of repetition.
Unconventional Medicine by Chris Kresser (6/10) A good introduction to functional medicine, and the many issues plaguing the medical, insurance, and health world of today.
Long-Distance Real Estate Investing by David Greene (6/10) My notes and takeaways from David Greene’s book on how to invest in real estate in different cities from here you live.
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal (5/10) A good book on willpower, but I no longer recommend it since it seems like most of the research in it hasn't held up.
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.
Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday (5/10) 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.
Bold by Peter Diamandis (5/10) 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.
Essentialism by Greg 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...
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).
Million Dollar Consulting by Alan Weiss (5/10) It’s okay, not sure why it’s so popular. Most of it felt fairly intuitive. The outline for creating a good proposal was great, though, and easy to incorporate into my own work.
The Lean Startup by Eric Reis (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.
Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday (4/10) Some interesting ideas, but read Immutable Laws instead.
Unshakeable by Tony Robbins (4/10) It's essentially a spark-notes for "Money Master the Game," I'd recommend reading the full book instead since it's much more thorough and worth the time investment.
The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg (4/10) I didn't feel there was much here, he's mostly commenting on other books and giving a textbook demonstration of narrative fallacy and confirmation bias.
How We Learn by Benedict Carey (4/10) I didn't get much from this one, I think some people like it, but I felt there was a lot of bias and bad research. I'd read other books on learning.
The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau (4/10) It's a good quick read on principles of thinking for yourself in today's economy. Worth reading through if you like Chris's blog, or if you're a student trying to get out of the typical school / career path.
The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman (3/10) This is basically a much worse version of 4-Hour Chef. Kaufman doesn’t bring nearly as much to the table as Ferriss, and it feels a little rushed and under researched. Wouldn’t recommend it if you’re trying to quickly develop skills, I’d read 4-Hour Chef instead.
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...
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.
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 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.
Choose Yourself by James Altucher (3/10) I found this book very hard to take seriously. Too much pumping you up rah rah you can do it, not enough substance. I think that's what his audience wants, though.
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss (3/10) 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.
Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim (3/10) A few useful ideas, but felt like it was reiterating a lot of entrepreneurship stuff you'll see in other books. Read 4HWW and Millionaire Fastlane instead.
The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran (3/10) It's okay, didn't feel like there was anything groundbreaking here in the planning, productivity, or business space though.
Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday (3/10) I don’t expect this will be a perennial bestseller. Fairly shallow marketing and writing advice, I’d recommend reading something else.
This Book Will Teach You How to Write Better (2/10) Borrows heavily from other copywriting books without attribution. I'd strongly recommend reading Boron Letters instead.
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.
Black Hole Focus by Isaiah Hankel (2/10) Nothing new, just rehashes.
Brain Rules by John Medina (2/10) Really didn't find much new value here.
Manage Your Day-to-Day by Jocelyn Glei (2/10) Basically a bunch of guest posts rolled into a book. I'd look elsewhere.
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (2/10) It's kinda like if The Secret was a novel, I wonder how many people read this and believe it's real...
Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy (1/10) Rehash on other productivity information, skip.
You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero (1/10) Don’t read it, she starts off with a bit of interesting material then gets into aligning your energy with the universe and anyone who respects reality has to stop at that point.