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This book was published in 2007, and with any rapidly growing field in finance, that means this book is very obviously outdated.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.