Friday, December 24, 2021

Last 2 Books I Read In 2021

 Reading Period: December 17 - December 31

1. The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller


    Imagine the Illiad, but you replace the story with poorly written gay fanfiction. I am only slightly joking, the extremely high praise for this book is undeserved. I understand that I have a bias against gay romance stories. Generally, the popular ones are Oscar-bait. Underdeveloped, boring romances where if you switched one of the characters with a female, the flaws materialize immediately in front of your eyes. Patroclus imagined as a woman is a boring, useless, pestering nitwit whose only purpose is to worship the sexy, godly, flawless Achilles. That is it. No need to read the book.

    The intelligence of the average character is staggeringly low. Patroclus gets all the way to Troy before he realizes, in complete shock and bewilderment, that he will have to fight in the war. Don't worry, he doesn't do anything except admire the softness of Achilles's feet as he ruthlessly slays Trojans. His character is truly ridiculous. An offensive caricature of a doormat. Such a boring book, quite a shock Madeline was able to improve so much by the time she wrote Circe.

2. Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson


    As the highest rated book on Goodreads, this book had quite the expectations to live up to. Guess what? My expectations were shattered, this book is truly amazing. Definitely my favorite fantasy novel of all time, it's crazy that The Way of Kings could be surpassed so easily. Brandon builds off of his previous worldbuilding and characterization in order to make a truly thrilling story. There are some moments in this book that are truly iconic, some of the best plot points and character moments I have ever read. There is a two page sequence of events at the end of this 1,100 page book that I re-read multiple times, out of pure shock, and pure glee. This book is truly unlike any other I have read. I am going to take a break from The Stormlight Archive for now, but I will definitely be back. This book concludes as my 52nd book for 2021, and I couldn't have chosen a better book to end the year on.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Fifth 10 Books I Read in 2021

 Reading Period: August 3 - December 17

1. Stoner, by John Williams


    After crushing my reading goal of 40 books in 2021, I couldn't help myself and continued on. Since I'm spending most of my waking hours working or studying, audiobooks are proving to be a godsend, a chance to listen to books while I work out, drive, and shower. I decided to continue with the fiction route for audiobooks, to listen to things I might not have the patience to read word for word. Surprisingly, this book, Stoner, is one of the best books I have ever read. 

    The book follows the life and death of William Stoner, a college literature professor. It sounds boring, but trust me, it is. Stoner leads a plain, uninteresting life. He doesn't fight for much. He has basic conversations with basic people. Of all the books I have read, the main storyline of this book is by far the most boring. Why then, was the actual reading captivating? I think it is because John nails the human experience to an unparalleled extent. The menial tasks, the indifference of nearly everyone towards nearly everything. I honestly hated pretty much every single character, I hated their pettiness, their boringness, and most of all, their indifference. But they didn't care what I thought of them, they cared very little about anything. John paints such a realistic portrait of life, and then life ends, leaving the reader to wonder about the meaning of any of  it. Tedious, depressing, and well worth the read.

2. Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome


    Likely my last book for 2021. My audiobook craze lasted for about a month, but I am likely back to reading print versions of everything going forward. This is quite the turn of events, given how much I raved about audiobooks my past two reviews. It is too hard to pay attention to the storyline, and this book was so hilarious that it would have been nice to re-read or highlight sections. So after four audiobooks (my only audiobooks ever), I have canceled my Audible subscription.

    This book, really, is hilarious. I would say probably the funniest book I have ever read. Jerome, George, and Harris are unforgettable characters. It is strange to me that many comedy movies do not hold up after 30 years, but this book is still funny 150 years later. Many of Jerome's relatable insights stand true to this day, and the overall wit and silliness deserves high praise.

3. The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson


    The Way of Kings is my favorite fantasy novel of all time. There are very few books that I obsess over and scramble to finish, reading 200 pages a day for multiple days. This is one of those books. One of those books where I realize my eyes are getting dry, because I haven't blinked in quite a while due to how focused I am. Brandon has a specific way of writing stories, popularly called a "Sanderstorm." He has a collection of characters with independent storylines, and each chapter switches off between the list of characters. Around the last quarter of the book, these storylines converge. Every loose end that can be tied up is wrapped in a bow. Every storyline is closed in an immensely satisfying way, but in a way that is unpredictable and novel. Some of the characters interact, and they interact in a very sensible and coherent fashion. This is Epic Fantasy, and indeed this story is epic.

    Brandon is likely the best world-builder around, and the world he has constructed in this first book of The Stormlight Archive is masterful. As with any story by him, the magic system and the storyline take the front seat. His weaknesses as a writer are very clear and predictable. His prose is nothing special, which is fine, but there are times when his characters speak in a way that is very, I don't know of a better way to say this, but very corny. This can ruin the immersion a bit. You have to expect that these are stories of good versus evil, and good will win. Try not to think too much when reading. Sit back, enjoy the ride, and you will love this book.

4. All Systems Red, by Martha Wells


    This was a solid novella. The story and the main character were surprisingly intriguing for such a short book. Murderbot, the main character, is a half-human half-robot with social anxiety. This makes for some hilarious moments, as they begrudgingly are forced to interact with humans throughout. I think the storyline was a very predictable, but it's hard to complain about a novella that is meant to be short and fun.

5. Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, by Bob Rotella


    Golf is not a passion of mine. However, I was told this was the absolute best book on golf around and that the lessons taught could be applied elsewhere in life as well. The differentiating factor for high level performers is all mental, and thus you as a golfer your mental strategy matters just as much as your talent and skill. This book discusses the ideal mental game. Treating every shot as independent, being conservative, playing with confidence, etc., are all aspects discussed at length. Really, the overall message of this book is simple: the perfect is the enemy of the good. Being decisive is more important than being correct, and you have to realize you will make mistakes and avoid dwelling on them. Overall, probably not worth the read unless you are passionate about improving your golf game. Still, a very well put together book.

6. The Myth of Sisyphus, by Albert Camus


    "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest— whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories—comes afterwards."

    This might be my favorite opening to a book. Albert tackles the most important question: is life worth living? As a human, you can either commit suicide or be condemned to die at a later, unknown date. This book reflects on this topic, drawing from a range of authors to explain and defend Absurdism. Absurdism is Albert's philosophy, as he endorses living in spite of the absurd contradiction between the human desire to find the meaning of life and the apparent absence of any meaning in life. The simplest example is that of Sisyphus, who was condemned to push a rock up a hill for eternity. Once the rock reaches the top of the hill, it rolls back down, and Sisyphus must walk back down the hill and push the rock up again. This eternal repetition seems meaningless, but Albert asks us to imagine Sisyphus as happy, walking down the hill with a grin.

    The overall summary of this book is very intriguing, but I was very confused at the execution. It could be that I do not understand the references of that time, but the most frequent example of the "absurd man" is notorious womanizer Don Juan. It could be that I am missing something, but the examples and defense of Absurdism do not make any sense. Living in spite of the universe does not give someone's life meaning, and I can't seem to find Albert's argument against the idea that "everything is permissible."

7. The Shadow Over Innsmouth, by H.P. Lovecraft


    A surprisingly good horror story. I've never read a Lovecraft novel before, and I can understand what all the rage is about. This was a quick tale of a traveler who visits a creepy, mysterious fishing town in order to chronicle its architecture. As you can imagine, things go sideways and he is forced to spend the night. Overall, a nice quick read that made me add a few more Lovecraft books to my reading list.

8. Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher


    Probably my last Dresden Files book. I decided to read the first three books in the series, and they have all been disappointing. This book was leagues better than its predecessor, Fool Moon, but it was still clunky and the writing in some parts was, well, just bad. Like Brandon Sanderson says, you want your characters to be smart. You want them to be able to solve problems as you would, as it is frustrating to read dumb characters make dumb decision. The main character's girlfriend, a reporter, sneaks into the vampire headquarters in order to get the "inside scoop," accompanied by a bag full of garlic. I wonder how long it takes to write a book this elementary. The overall plot lacks anything of substance or intrigue. Well, at least I can say that I tried.

9. Recursion, by Blake Crouch


    Exhilarating book. Without getting into the details, this is an awesome mind-bending sci-fi book that doesn't pull any punches. My only complaint is that it is pretty similar in style to Dark Matter and Replay, two other books that I read this year. Regardless, Blake takes the reader on a thrilling, mysterious ride through time, memory, and death. I really enjoy these action packed books that have a philosophical twist. I think this novel contains everything I want in a book, and I'm likely going to add a few more like this to my list.

10. We are Legion (We are Bob), by Dennis Taylor


    Coming in at book #50 of the year, We are Legion was a fun Sci-Fi book about a man named Bob who gets turned into an artificial intelligence. He then gets implanted into a space ship and is tasked with colonizing other planets and saving what is left of humanity. This was an fun, young-adult level audiobook, and a damn good one. I was expecting a bit more of a hard science fiction book, but now that I know Dennis's writing style I think I'd enjoy the next books in the series more.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Fourth 10 Books I Read in 2021

 Reading Period: June 23 - August 3

1. Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, by Michael Lewis


    Surprisingly, this was my first Michael Lewis book. I would say that I enjoyed it and learned a lot, but I was a bit disappointed with the execution. The book starts out really strong, with a short detour into the story of a man's ambitious project to lay a straight line of fiber optic cable from Chicago to New Jersey. The financial markets are all about speed, and shaving off a few milliseconds of travel time between two exchanges is worth billions. This fiber optic story is portrayed well in the movie The Hummingbird Project. However, Lewis then moves on to the meat of the book, a story of some RBC trades who learn that the stock market is unfair, due to front-running and other manipulative practices by High Frequency Traders, and set off to create their own stock exchange. 

    I learned a lot, but it seems that Michael's viewpoint through the book is far from unbiased. Even the story of Sergey Aleynikov, the Goldman Sachs programmer jailed for stealing code, is a bit frustrating to read. On one hand, it seems ridiculous that he was given such a lengthy prison sentence. On the other, Michael defends him to no end, and willfully speeds over less flattering aspects of the story. Sergey sent proprietary code by mail while he was in prison? Also, Michael criticizes Goldman from taking code from open source and then not contributing back to it. Isn't this true of every company? Why would you contribute specialized code in such a competitive industry directly to your competitors? Overall, I was expecting a bit more of an unbiased viewpoint. Still, this was a very interesting book to read, and parts of it certainly made my blood boil. Worth the read, I'm adding a few more of Michael's books to my reading list.

2. Liar's Poker, by Michael Lewis


    I loved this book. Endlessly quotable, memorable characters, and ridiculous sums of money. Probably the perfect guilty pleasure of anyone involved in the world of finance. It struck me that the plans of undergraduates have not changed since 1982: 

"Use your economics degree to get an analyst job on Wall Street; use your analyst job to get into the Harvard or Stanford Business School; and worry about the rest of your life later."

    Other memorable quotes:

"Knowing about markets is knowing about other people's weaknesses"

"Fear and, to a lesser extend, greed are what make money move"

3. The Big Short, by Michael Lewis


    This was a perfect follow up to Liar's Poker. The Big Short follows a handful of people that made crazy amounts of money betting against the subprime mortgage market that ultimately collapsed in 2008. Most people have probably seen the movie, but I actually liked the book a bit better. It was less whiny, more detailed, and easier to understand. It is astounding and depressing how unprepared and oblivious financial institutions were to some pretty glaring risks. On the bright side, this book shows that you can lose your company 9 billion dollars and still walk away a millionaire. Welcome to Wall Street. 

    The characters are great, the story is infuriating, and the lessons are obvious. Classic Michael Lewis. Also, right at home is the clear bias of the story. I understand downplaying the role individual home owners played in the financial crisis. However, it seems Michael missed any mention of the government and Fannie/Freddie/Ginnie having even a sliver of blame? Nevertheless, an interesting story and an easy read.

4. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir


    10/10. Such a solid, fun read. I crushed this book, reading cover to cover within a day. From the writer of The Martian, comes a story about a man with amnesia who wakes up alone on a spaceship. Yeah some parts are corny, but this will probably be my #1 book recommendation going forward. It's just so fun and accessible. 

5. Zen in the Art of Archery, by Eugen Herrigel


    I really don't "get" Zen Buddhism.

6. Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch


    The first mind-bending book I've read in quite a while. I am confident this is kicking off a trend, and I already have some more slated to read next. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This book is one part Enemy (one of my favorite movies) and one part Meanwhile (a choose your own adventure comic I had in middle school). The initial half of the book was predictable, but the second half really let loose with the twists and turns. Also, the underlying commentary on the decisions we make and the lives we lead was perfect and really made the narrative seem deeper than it would have otherwise.

"We're all just wandering through the tundra of our existence, assigning value to worthlessness, when all that we love and hate, all we believe in and fight for and kill for and die for is as meaningless as images projected onto Plexiglas."

7. Replay, by Ken Grimwood


    I delivered on my promise, to read more fascinating, mind bending books. This story follows Jeff Winston, who is stuck in a time loop between ages 18 to 43. I loved this book. I don't know what it is about this sort of narrative that speaks to me so much. I think reading about a man who constantly repeats life forces you to confront the horrific fact that you have only one life, you have no idea why you are here, and you can't re-do any of it. This was a beautiful, engrossing novel that I will be thinking about for a long time to come.

"We're here, and we don't know why. We can philosophize all we want, pursue the key to that secret along a thousand different paths, and we'll never be any closer to unlocking it."

"For all that they had struggled, all they'd once achieved, the end result was null. Even the happiness they had managed to find together had been frustratingly brief; a few years stolen here and there, transient moments of love and contentment like vanishing specks of foam in a sea of lonely, needless separation."

8. Practical Vim, Edit Text at the Speed of Thought, by Drew Neil


Yes, I read books about text editors in my free time. I would be embarrassed, but I’m too busy flying through code at the speed of sound to have time to care. Over the course of three weeks, I read this book, set Vim as my default text editor, and set up Vim plugins for all of my IDEs. I would guess this style of editing has increased my speed and productivity by about 15%. However, it has increased my sense of superiority by at least 50%. This was a fun detour, :q!

9. Animal Farm, by George Orwell


    My first audiobook, ever? I've always looked down my nose at people who claim to have "read" books when they mean "vaguely listened to while distracted and doing something else." Maybe it is the elitist in me, who scoffs at those without the patience to sit in a chair and read hundreds of pages of software engineering books in a week. I was wrong. This was an enjoyable experience that I can see continuing for the rest of my life. In the shower, on my way to work, working out, and more, I can be reading books! It's funny, reading is one of my favorite things to do, and now I can do it 24/7. Animal Farm was a great satire, and something I would not have been interested in reading on paper. I've started a collection on Audible, and I am planning on "reading" many more classics like this in the future.

10. Circe, by Madeline Miller


    Beautiful book, really. This book chronicles the story of Circe, a Greek goddess, nymph, and witch. Great story, compelling characters, and just a joy to listen to. This was another audiobook, but I'm sort of wishing I read it in print so that I could keep a list of quotes. Some have stuck with me, such as: "a golden cage is still a cage." This is an empowering, female-driven tale. I can't think of any way the book could have been improved. For the story told, and the perspective given, this was pretty much a  perfect book.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Third 10 Books I Read in 2021

 Reading Period: May 18 - June 23

1. Neuromancer, by William Gibson


    The original cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer is a 1984 novel well ahead of it's time. William coins terms like "cyberspace" and "the matrix" in this book, and pits artificial intelligences against humanity. The read was interesting, as it is clearly the initial domino leading to thousands of mimics in literature, television, and video games. Unfortunately, it is too outdated to be worth the read. No fault to William, but as time has passed, the universes we can explore with current science fiction are much more compelling.

2. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King


    The best writing guide on the market, written by an obviously qualified master of the craft. The book starts out of an autobiography, transitions to writing tips, and finishes with Stephen's commentary on the writing process as a whole. Definitely worth the read, even if you are never planning on writing a novel.

3. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry


    I read this 900 page monster is less than a week, it was that brilliant. Granted I was on vacation and not doing much else, but still, a wonderful book. The characters are engaging, the storytelling is masterful, and before you know it you've spent your non-reading time daydreaming about driving cattle from Texas to Montana. 

    This epic adventure carries the personalities of a dozen characters, but the two central cowboys are  Capitan Call and Gus McCrae. After beating a man to the brink of death, the Capitan merely states to the crowd of onlookers "I hate a man that talks rude. I won't tolerate it." Gus has too many great quotes to count, but one that stuck with me was "the earth is mostly just a boneyard. But pretty in the sunlight." This is a hilarious, beautiful, heartbreaking book that I would put at the top of my recommendation list.

4. Night, by Elie Wiesel


    This short book chronicles Elie Wiesel's time spent in the Auschwitz concentration camp. This book is horrifying, a first hand account at the worst humanity has to offer. Babies are burned alive, a son kills his father for a crust of bread, and Elie's entire family is killed. An important read, but also a brutal and worrying one.

5. The Death of Ivan Ilych, by Leo Tolstoy


    I read this novella in order to determine if War and Peace would be worth the effort. Leo is no doubt a brilliant writer, and this was a great story about suffering and death. There are some slivers of optimism that can be taken away from this book, and my dislike of these parts made me realize I am becoming way to cynical and pessimistic. Still, this is an authentic, frightening, and meaningful take on death.

6. Python for Data Analysis, by Wes McKinney


    This is an extensive guide to pandas (a Python package for data analysis) written by the creator Wes McKinney. This book isn't well structured and a bit all over the place, and even after reading the whole thing I don't think I learned anything new. If you are completely new to Python or data analysis, I'd recommend sticking with the online documentation or learning through projects. There was one quick chapter on applications for finance that was worth the read, Wes could have written a useful book about that.

7. Web Scraping with Python, by Ryan Mitchell


    Easily the best Python book I've ever read. Extremely well written, concise, and entertaining. Running the pre-defined scripts feels like magic. Ryan wasn't joking when she said web scraping takes very little effort and looks extremely impressive. I particularly enjoyed the tangential items Ryan includes throughout the guide: image recognition, natural language processing, and the legality/ethics of web scraping. Even if you have no programming experience, I would still highly recommend this book. The abilities of a proficient web scraper are just too cool to pass up.

8. The Course of Love, by Alain de Botton


    This is a book with a crazy amount of insight, most of it extremely useful and interesting. However, as I moved along the chapters, I started realize that the book is right on the edge of greatness, but it just doesn't cut it. I'm not completely certain why this is the case. Alain does have a tendency to talk a lot but say very little, and criticisms of  pompousness or overgeneralization are probably valid. I think what didn't sit well with me was the  discussion of infidelity and secret keeping. Alain seems to have some very strange beliefs on this topic. Honesty is less important in Alain's world (he should read "Lying"), and unfortunately it creates some sense of justified moral ambiguity for certain plot points. Without spoiling the plot, I will say Alain is stretching to rationalize selfish behavior and most competent readers will find the attempt laughable.

    I've highlighted more of this book than any other book I've read. Paraphrasing, Alain believes love is a skill rather than an enthusiasm. People know far too much about how love starts, and recklessly little about how it might continue. There are no soul mates, no perfect marriages. There can only ever be a "good enough" marriage, and everyone has major flaws. Recognizing that you have major flaws and are very hard to live with is needed for your marriage to work. Having similar tastes to a partner is not important, what is important is finding someone who can negotiate differences in taste with intelligence and good grace. I would be interested in reflecting on these ideas in 30 years, and seeing how much my view on the book as a whole has changed.

9. Be Prepared, a Practical Handbook for New Dads, by Gary Greenberg


   My reason for reading this book is on part due to a quote from the previous book A Course of Love, where Alain de Botton is describing the ignorance of the main character asking his girlfriend to marry:

 "He has never read any books on the institution; he has in the last decade never spent more than ten minutes with a child; he has never cynically interrogated a married couple let alone spoken in depth with a divorced one and would be at a loss to explain why the majority of marriages fail, save from the general idiocy or lack of imagination of their participants.

    Upon reading this, I thought oh, he's also describing me. I've read a previous book on marriage, but the part about never spending more than ten minutes with a child rings true. How am I convinced that I want to have children if I am entirely clueless about the subject? Reading this book was an attempt to expand my knowledge of the subject, and at least get a feel for what fatherhood is like. Gary explains in great detail the requirements of raising a child through their first year of life. This was a funny, easy to read, and enlightening book. Gary makes the tough, gross, thankless job of early fatherhood into a fun and understandable project. Also, this book is a great gift idea I will be getting my friends once they start having kids.

10. The Pragmatic Programmer, by Andy Hunt


    This was a fairly easy read that I learned a lot from. The approaches taught in this book mirror the approaches I have found extremely valuable on my own. Kaizen is the first important principle of programming: continuous improvement every day. My best projects have been slowly chipped away at over time, and these daily optimizations have created some really cool functionality. The second important principle is orthogonality. This principle focuses on independent functions, DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself), and an overall focus on flexibility. It is interesting that a lot of common knowledge,  such as premature optimization is the root of all evil, are things I had to learn the hard way on my own. Reading a book like this will help you avoid these common traps, and learn how to code the right way the first time. Overall, I would say this was worth the read. It is a bit dated (1999), but I think the concepts still translate well today.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Second 10 Books I Read In 2021

Reading Period: April 15 - May 18

1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz


    Unlike a lot of business/management books, Ben really brings hardcore CEO experience to the table. His lessons use a much different format from previous management books, since every page is directly tied to Ben's experience. The only book I've read about leading a company during wartime, and the only business book that made me laugh out loud. Ben tapped Marc Cranney as head of sales for his company, Opsware. The board of directors were not pleased, as Marc was a controversial and disruptive individual to say the least. I love the following quote from the book:

    "Mark Cranney walks up to the podium, looks at the crowd of fresh new recruits, and says, ‘I don’t give a fuck how well trained you are. If you don’t bring me five hundred thousand dollars a quarter, I’m putting a bullet in your head.’ ”

    This was a pretty original and modern business book. I'd recommend it as a bit of fresh air after the rigidity of something like Crossing the Chasm.

2. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman


    The world would be a much, much better place if every single person read this book. John uses a data-driven approach to solving the mysteries of a happy marriage. Through exercises, examples, and data, John shows the reader exactly what they need to do to be successful in marriage. One quote that I could not agree more with is "working briefly on your marriage every day will do more for your health and longevity than working out at a health club." The most important decision most people make is who they marry, and the most important relationship in your life is likely your marriage. Walking into this commitment armed to the teeth with knowledge is the only sensible path forward, and this book is an incredible start.

3. Irrational Exuberance, by Robert Shiller 


    This book was a bit slow, but as a finance guy I found a lot of the material interesting. Most of the initial material is decided to Robert proving that the stock market is current in a bubble. He was right of course, as the book was published in the year 2000, but with the benefit of hindsight this doesn't make a very captivating read. The last 50 pages however, are worth the wait. Robert gets into the weeds on exactly how governments should deal with speculative bubbles, and he discusses various topics such as retirement and social security. Overall, this book falls pretty low on my list of finance book recommendations.

4. The Mythical Man-Month, by Frederick Brooks


    This collection of essays on software engineering was likely a very good read 40-50 years ago. Unfortunately, due to the time jump it reads as extremely outdated. Some of the lessons (eg: Brooks's Law) are interesting, but the sheer change in technology and programming since the initial publication in 1975 makes me not recommend this book.

5. The 4 Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferris


    This is such a weird book. Half of the advice is incredibly useful and thought provoking, and half of the advice is corner-cutting, manipulative, unethical garbage. Tim would be the worst kind of person to hang out with, but he may have a point! It is comical how far he takes his own advice (he has his outsourced Indian assistants write apology letters to his girlfriend). And Tim is also a massive douchebag (he says if you have a girlfriend, you should still ask for five girls numbers each week to keep up the practice, just throw the numbers away after). But, Tim has quite a few things right. Working yourself to death in the age of automation is ridiculous. Fire bad customers. Quit your job if you are unhappy. Bend the rules to win. Wait, maybe not that last one!

6. The Conspiracy Against The Human Race, by Thomas Ligotti


    A masterpiece. The most interesting, thought-provoking book I have ever read. It is extremely impressive the amount of negative psychological side effects I have experienced as a result of this book. After finishing, I am wondering if the misery of all life experiences will now pale in comparison to the misery I have experienced pondering this concentrated dose of pessimism. An obvious literary achievement. Likely the greatest book I've ever read, and I will carry this reading experience with me the rest of my life. Every dark, depressing thought I have ever repressed in a neat 240 pages, what's not to love.

    I would compare the experience of reading this book to conscious breathing. Breathing is an automatic, unconscious activity when we don't think about it. However, once you become aware of your breathing, you have to remember to breath, at least until you are distracted enough for it once again to become an unconscious activity. This book will open the floodgates of your mind. You can recognize the ideas and try to live with them (aka remembering to breathe), or you can distract yourself and hope they fade away. Despite it's brilliance, most people should avoid this book at all costs. Even now, I am wondering if I chose the wrong color pill.


"He who hasn’t experienced a full depression alone and over a long period of time- he is a child"

"The knowledge that life is worthless is the flower of all human wisdom"

7. Quantitative Trading: How to Build Your Own Algorithmic Trading Business, by Ernest Chan


    A detailed guide for setting up your own quantitative trading business. Ernest, a previous institutional trader, guides the reader through the necessary strategies, equipment, and skills needed for setting up a trading office in the comfort of your own home. The structure was pretty hard to follow, and this book is targeted towards an extremely niche set of people. Probably not worth the read, but the arguments  for retail investing over institutional were at least interesting.

8. Beginning Ethereum and Solidity with React, by Greg Lim


    Free books are never good, and this is no exception. I'd like to learn Solidity, and since book was short and free on Amazon I figured I'd give it a shot. Unless you already know Solidity and JavaScript, this book will not make any sense.

9. So Good They Can't Ignore You, by Cal Newport


    I'm not a huge fan of single idea books. For example, the book Black Swan by Nassim Taleb is a 500 page book about a single idea, and the entire concept could be summarized in 10 pages. This is another one of those books, except it can be summarized in two sentences:

    "Follow your passion is bad advice, as the vast majority of people don't have pre-existing passions waiting to be discovered and matched to a career. The key to a successful and fulfilling career is to acquire rare and valuable skills, called career capital, and leverage this capital to gain freedom and control over your career."

    This advice is certainly true in practice. Acquiring career capital is the only way to guarantee job security, work-life balance, and financial freedom. Even with the repetition and filler apparent in this book, it was worth the read to hammer home the two sentences above.

10. Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher


    First fiction book of the year, pretty disappointing. I went in with low expectations, since I've read the first two books of The Dresden Files are rubbish, but this was still disappointing. Easy read, I read it in two days, but the writing was corny and it had a boring and predictable plot. I started the third book to see if the series can be redeemed.

Monday, January 4, 2021

First 10 Books I Read in 2021

Reading Period: January 1 - April 15

1. Mastering Mountain Bike Skills, by Brian Lopes


    Mountain Biking is my favorite sport. I bought my first mountain bike over a year ago: a full suspension beast that I have spent countless hours with since. However, I never learned much about the basics (cornering, hitting drops, avoiding injuries). This book was very informative, and I'm sure I'll make use of all the valuable lessons!

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglass Adams


    Pretty hilarious book, probably one of the most laugh-out-loud books I've read. I had very high expectations going in, however, and that spoiled it a bit for me. Easy read though, and well worth the minimal amount of effort required.

3. A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing, by Lawrence Krauss


    Embarrassing attempt at solving the question poised by the title. I kept reading and reading, hoping to come to a point where there was some genius insight, and then the book ended. Richard Dawkins ends the books with probably the most cringeworthy, yet hilarious takeaway in his afterword:

"Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, 'Why is there something rather than nothing? ' shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages."

    Did he read the same book? Krauss's arrogance is the only clear theme, and the cosmology is backed by extremely lame attempts at philosophy. Far from a genius put-down, far from even competent arguments. I admit that the overall discussion in the book is interesting, but the takeaway that Krauss has solved this problem is laughable.

4. The ETF Book, by Richard Ferri


    Comprehensive guide to all things ETF. This book was published in 2007, and with any rapidly growing field in finance, that means this book is very obviously outdated. However, the introduction to ETF's, open-end mutual funds, and closed-end mutual funds, is extremely interesting. The later chapters are less useful, as many of the lists provided are decades old at this point. Overall, I seem to really enjoy books with the title The ___ Book. This book is the complete overview I desired, but most people would be better off skipping due to the likely irrelevant details.

5.  The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson


    Probably worth reading, but less interesting and thought provoking than the title suggests. There are some wise, well-known lessons in this book. However, the popularity of this book is very obviously due to marketing, not content. If Mark went a few feet deeper with some of his thoughts, I think this would have been a lot more enjoyable.

6. The Infinite Machine, by Camila Russo


    Camila documents the origin story of Ethereum, a decentralized, open source blockchain technology. She chronicles the cryptocurrency backdrop that inspired Ethereum, the personalities of the various founders, and the early history of the Ethereum foundation. This is the most interesting and most mind blowing financial technology to emerge since the Internet. As a financial professional, the fact that I had no knowledge of decentralized finance, decentralized exchanges, or smart contracts before 2021 is alarming. After finishing this book, I felt a paralyzing fear. I am an early adopter, a financial professional aware of the potential of this technology. How do I capitalize on this foresight? I've since invested in a market weighted basket of smart contract cryptocurrencies, but I am sure that I need to attach myself to the future of these platforms in a more direct way

7. On Love, by Alain de Botton


    Quite a change of pace from the other books I've read over the past few years. Alain tells a first person love story, with romantic and philosophic lessons woven throughout. Short but interesting read. It is clear Alain is an expert on romanticism and relationships. I've listened to his YouTube lectures, and this book is essentially a short summary of his ideas. Worth the quick read.

8. Waking Up, A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, by Sam Harris


    A deep dive into consciousness, meditation, and the brain. The word Spirituality in the title is a misnomer, this book is essentially all about exploring the illusion of consciousness, or at least the illusion that there is a separate "self" behind all of your ideas and actions. I was a bit disappointed by the flow of the book, as there were many detached ideas strung together in a muddled way. However, there is some clear insight, and Sam is extremely direct in how that insight is conveyed. Sam discusses psychedelic drugs, near death experiences, gurus, and the brain through a scientific lens. Since he spent his 20s tripping on LSD and searching for enlightenment in India, he has a lot of very interesting stories to back up his claims.

9. Mastering Ethereum, Building Smart Contracts and Dapps, by Andreas Antonopoulos


    After getting a history lesson in The Infinite Machine, I started looking for deep technical guides to Ethereum. This was exactly what I was looking for. A detailed, complex, textbook-style dive into the fundamentals behind the Ethereum Virtual Machine, smart contract programming with Solidity, and defensive programming. I would not recommend this book to anyone lacking a decent grasp of blockchain and cryptocurrency. Andreas skips over any definitions and expects the reader to be well versed in the concepts underlying Ethereum. The more detailed computer science and blockchain parts were incomprehensible to me, but I think I understood around 70% of the book. Andreas's discussion of smart contracts is fascinating, and he walks through many real world examples and asks the reader to try to determine their weak points. Educational read with absolutely no filler content.

10. Effective Python, 59 Specific Ways to Write Better Python, by Brett Slatkin


    Working through this book opened my eyes to a lot of simple ways to increase efficiency and readability when coding. The first half of the book is easy to understand, easy to implement, and even beginner Python users will find the content useful. After this section, we hit a lot of more technical material, and while I read all of this too, I doubt it will be useful going forward. I'd suggest stopping once the terminology gets over your head, as this book assumes a lot of prior knowledge.