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

Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18176747-the-hard-thing-about-hard-things?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=MSa5DccX2M&rank=1

    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

Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/849380.The_Seven_Principles_for_Making_Marriage_Work

    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 

Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/100132.Irrational_Exuberance

    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

Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13629.The_Mythical_Man_Month

    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

Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/368593.The_4_Hour_Workweek

    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

Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8524528-the-conspiracy-against-the-human-race

    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

Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4977694-quantitative-trading

    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

Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40407197-beginning-ethereum-and-solidity-with-react

    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

Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13525945-so-good-they-can-t-ignore-you

    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

Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/91477.Fool_Moon

    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.