What I’ve been Reading (June 2014)

Books, books, books! Like a warrior beating a drum my chant for books continues.

In case you missed it, I started writing a monthly book review for the Productivityist blog. You can find my reviews for How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big and  What The Most Successful People do Before Breakfast with more to come. I’ll also tweet them when they go up and you can follow @Productivityist for the reviews and more.

June has been a great month of books, it starting with something nearly two-thousand years old and filling out the middle with a pair of new ones and ending with a book about the future.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. It might be two full years since I was suggested this book and it took me to reading on Reddit that the translation by Hays was especially good. I am very happy I got it. Stoicism has been a huge theme in my life, so much so that I’m working on another writing project that includes applying the idea specifically to parents.  Some of the tenets put forth by Marcus Aurelius include:

  • Why worry about something? If you can change it, then begin that process. If you can’t, then think about it as much as you would the moon or a flower, something that merely exists.
  • Are you perfect each day? Probably not. Are other people perfect? Again, probably not. Then why do we expect so much? Remember that you will deal with at least one idiot each day and you may as well use the skill of patience.
  • Challenges can end in success or failure. If you fail then appreciate going through a challenge and look at it as being good training for next time.
  • Do you have patience? If so, why not use it?

The book was interesting throughout and it’s replaced A Guide to the Good Life (which is also good) as the book I point people to if they want to learn more about stoicism.

The Up Side of Down by Megan McArdle. Tyler Cowen wrote that this book was full of new examples which I was excited for. Little did I know that the new examples were from McArdle’s professional and personal life. I wanted this book to be better than it was, a tighter examination of failure and the common themes. I described it to a friend like the television show Lost. Parts of it are good but you hope rather than expect, that things get tied in neat conclusions.  Maybe that’s just a reflection of life and failure though, that there are no neat conclusions.  The essence of the book is to remember that failure is not only an option, but it might be options A, B, and C.  Only after exhausting those might you find D.  Segments of the book show this very well.

Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.  Another book that I had higher expectations for that fell a bit short of them. My problem with it is that I read both Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics as well as listened to their podcast. I had heard almost every example and even their concept of this being a more meta book about thinking seemed a stretch. I would have preferred a one more personal book about how people have applied specific Freakonomics thinking. If you’re interested in this go directly to the podcast.

Old Man’s War. After seeing it come up at 27 Good Things.com and on Twitter I bought it while on vacation. It’s lukewarm through the first half  and my view of the characters is a diluted by the Na’vi from Avatar. The second half warmed up a bit and I found myself hoping for a lot of resolution in the last 15% of my Kindle copy. Though I enjoyed the book, I probably won’t continue on in the series. There is something about space science fiction that doesn’t resonate with me. Dragons, magic, and London below I’m fine with, but fiction that might someday be reality? Not for me.

I’m also – slowly – reading Fooled by Randomness. Slowly because it is dense. Each sentence carries a bit of argument, counter-argument, or wit. It is like doing a puzzle. Sometimes you open the box to see only 50 pieces, some of which are stuck together from the last time (this is like having a larger grasp of the concept of a book, like reading Think Like a Freak after hearing the Freakonomics podcasts). This is not one of those books. This is the 1,000 piece puzzle of blue sky and clouds that needs to be completed meticulously.

What did you read this month? Let me know @MikeDariano.

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