Thursday, July 23, 2020

Fourth 10 Books I Read in 2020

Reading Period: July 23 - December 31

1. The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris

    Important conversation for sure, but I am not entirely convinced that science can determine values in the same objective sense Sam speaks of. It is pretty clear that a lot of the fundamental premises are not grounded, but this is a difficult task given that moral philosophy is so speculative in general. A step in the right direction, a important move, but understandably lacking in many senses. Sam says "if the word bad is to mean anything, it is the worst possible misery for everyone." Who says it has to mean anything? Who says consciousness of our sort even matters? Overall, you can play this "why" game of infinite regress with most of Sam's claims. Still, worth the read to see a potential glimpse of hope science may end up presenting between the relativist and the theologian.

2. Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey Moore

    Unfortunately, I am not currently trying to bring cutting edge technology to the mainstream market. If I was, I am sure this book would have been very useful. Probably the most useful takeaway is this: even with an amazing product, you will fail without the right messaging. The best products do not always win out, and getting the right group of genius engineers together in a room is not enough. Without a strong marketing strategy, your product might be picked up by the most innovative and tech-driven individuals, but all that investment will be worthless when it flops with the mainstream market. Important lessons, simply not relevant to me.

3. Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu

    Interesting read, but I didn't particularly enjoy the book. Religious texts like these are simplistic and overhyped most of the time. Most of the teaching can be distilled into two words: be humble. Also, "renouncing learning" and "attaining primitive simplicity" seem like pretty terrible life advice if your goal is to reduce the suffering in the world. I'd point to this teaching of ignorance/simplicity common in Eastern Philosophy as one of the main reasons I avoid books like these.

4. The Emperor's Soul, by Brandon Sanderson

    I've heard a lot about Brandon's books online, and decided to dip my toes in by reading this novella. Wow, this guy can write a hell of a story. Right after finishing, I bought four of his other books and watched his ten hour lecture series on YouTube about writing fantasy. This book has an intriguing story, compelling characters, and an immensely satisfying ending. All in around 100 pages!

5. Zero to One, by Peter Thiel

    Really compelling business book. Probably one of the best pound-for-pound business books I have read, clocking in at under 200 pages but full of insight. I see a striking similarity between Thiel's thoughts and my own, and a lot of overlap between his writing and my experience. Probably a 9/10 book in general, I would recommend to anyone in the business field.

6. The Bond Book, by Annette Thau

    The full title of this book is "The Bond Book: Everything Investors Need to Know about Treasuries, Municipals, GNMAs, Corporates, Zeros, Bond Funds, Money Market Funds, and More." There really couldn't be a more exhaustive title, and this couldn't have been a more exhausting, I mean exhaustive book. If you are not very motivated to learn a lot of detailed information about every nook and cranny of the bond market, this is not the book for you. Very textbook-y, and very long. However, as an introductory book into the world of bonds, this book more than serves its purpose. I felt ignorant before, now I know way too much. Not a bad trade-off! Probably much more relevant for financial professionals than retail investors, despite Annette's wishes.

7. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stephenson

    Good mystery novella, short and captivating. The influence of this book is readily apparent, although I won't go into any detail to avoid spoilers. Impressive that this was written in 1886; I'm adding more of Stephenson's work to my reading list.

8. The Art of War, by Sun Tzu

    I read half of this book a few years ago. Given the short page count and since I only have two weeks to hit my reading goal (40 books in 2020), I decided to give it another shot. This is a surprisingly insightful book. Some of the lessons are still relevant today. However, if you take these insights as as gospel for how you should act in the business world, you should probably spend more time with your family.

9. The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch

    Randy delivers insight into how we can all achieve our childhood dreams, and dies shortly after. Depressing, bittersweet, and useful. However, I would actually recommend watching his actual last lecture on YouTube instead of reading this book. Randy is a better lecturer than a writer, and the content in this book is much better packaged for a video format. Overall, compelling story that changed my perspective on life.

10. Mistborn: The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson

    My reading goal of 40 books in 2020 is now complete! Brandon is a master at worldbuilding, interesting magic systems and satisfying endings. A  fun fantasy novel, with twists, turns, and happy endings all around. A bit more young-adult than I was expecting, and probably not his best writing. Still, I’m excited to start 2021 with three new Sanderson books on my bookshelf.

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