Category: Book Notes

What You Remember from the Book Isn’t Always the Important Part

Do books even work well at transmitting facts? I recently read an interesting essay making the case that they don’t. After all, how many individual lessons or facts do you really remember from the history book in your senior year of high school? What about the book you finished last week? Our memories tend to […]

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The Mistake That Brought Down the Berlin Wall, and the Fragility of Tyranny

Today I was fascinated by one woman’s biography of 40 years of a German family’s life under East German rule. Forty Autumns is mostly about the small (heartwarming as well as heartbreaking) stories of family members trying to stay connected and build a “family wall” against socialism. One of the most fascinating geopolitical details is […]

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Good Fiction Is Like Case Law

Good fiction is a lot like case law. Stick with me here. You’ve probably been in moral dilemmas before that are harder than some court cases. And you’ve had to play the judge. Should you cover up a friend’s misdoing? Expose it and rat him out? Or expose it and take the blame? Should you […]

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Three Generations of Manhood in Homer’s “The Odyssey”

Today I finished reading The Odyssey, that complex, brilliant, violent, old, relevant epic poem about the journey home of Greek hero Odysseus. I have many thoughts about this book (“why is the ending so abrupt?” “Wow, Odysseus is wily and violent.” “These feast descriptions make me hungry.” “Athena is one super-cool lady.”) here at the […]

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Incarnation: the Forgotten Second Step of Reading a Book

I read a lot of books when I was younger. I read books in restaurants, in the car, at school events, even while deer hunting. Books and I were inseparable. But for all the adventures and risks and decisions and significant actions I read about (fictional and non-fictional), there was little reality to them (at […]

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Biographies Are Reminders of the Bigness of Life

If you ever for a moment feel bored with your existence, you need to start reading more biographies and autobiographies. Humans have a breadth of potential beyond what you can appreciate day to day. Through the stories of others, you get to see see that your way of living isn’t the only one that’s possible. Besides […]

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How To Learn a Career Without Losing Your Personality

In Mastery, Robert Greene paints a thorough picture of apprenticeship and the power it has had to shape great creative careers throughout history. In one form or another, apprenticeship has been part of the path for masters from Leonardo da Vinci to Benjamin Franklin. Apprenticeship sounds very rosy, but the truth is that (in its purest form) it was designed […]

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Book Notes: “Sabriel” Resurrects the Hero’s Journey for a Story About Life and Death

It seems that so many fantasy stories center on the relationship between death and life – and the various ways in which it can go wrong. From Tolkien’s Numenoreans to Rowling’s Deatheaters, the villains in many stories become villains because they refuse to acknowledge death as a part of life. In fantasy and in reality, […]

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What’s On My Reading List for the Second Quarter of 2018 (So Far)

We’re now well into Q2 of 2018, and I’ve gotten a surprising amount of reading done by way of audiobooks from Scribd and Audible. I’m still dipping into the paperbacks and hardbacks, too, but the listening format is letting me keep up a good pace of learning even with rigorous work and commuting. Pro tip: get a […]

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Book Notes: In “The Graveyard Book,” Death Teaches Life

Tim Ferriss said it was one of his favorite audiobooks. Neil Gaiman writes great, original-yet-grounded fantasy stories. That was enough for me. I recently finished an audiobook version of The Graveyard Book, read by the author in all kinds of wonderful accents: Scottish, Russian, and multiple English accents (high and low) from multiple eras in time. […]

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Psychology Goes Toe-To-Toe With Totalitarianism in Carl Jung’s “The Undiscovered Self”

I’m a big believer that good mythology and stories can teach us how to live well. In the past year or so, that has led me to thinkers like Joseph Campbell and Jordan Peterson, who both have left a big mark on the popular study of mythology and its intersections with philosophy and psychology. One common thread of […]

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My 2018 Reading List So Far – Q1

I’m anything but monogamous in my reading. And that hasn’t changed in 2018. I continue to read some (too many at once) great books in favorite topics like personal development, spirituality, or fantasy. I don’t expect that I’ll finish all of these, but right now they’re giving me a lot to work with. Here they […]

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How To Read Physical Books and Still Be a Minimalist

I love physical books, and I love large, curated libraries. But the minimalists have some pretty good arguments against accumulating stuff, and books are no exception. How often are you really going to go back and reread (or even just peruse) a book sitting on your bookshelf?  How much actual social esteem do you get from […]

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The Power and Danger of Being a Geek

There is great power to being a geek. Our Star Wars fandom, Game of Thrones viewing parties, Wheel of Time reading sprints, and Lord of the Rings rewatches aren’t just weird passions. They’re an important part of how we see the world. Our passionate love of story gives us access to some of the best, richest characters and situations. Story gives us moral examples, great […]

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The Books I Keep Coming Back To (and Why I Do)

I’m not a fan of retreading old ground where knowledge is concerned. Once I know something, I want to use it. I don’t want to just read it again. There are a few books that get an exception to that rule. Somehow I continue to get deeper and better value from them on each successive read, […]

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Better Than a Library Card: Why Scribd Is My Favorite Way to Read eBooks

If you’ve had a Spotify account for more than a week, you’ve probably come to take it for granted that you can play just about any song ever recorded with a click of a button, anywhere you have WiFi or cell data access. What if you could do the same thing for books? Meet Scribd. It’s one […]

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The Best Fantasy Has Roots in History

This week I came across a popular Reddit thread exploring how Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin created his fictional land of Westeros. It looks remarkably like England. Landmass shape isn’t the only thing Martin borrowed from the British Isles. The whole history and characterization of the book/show bears strong impressions from England’s War of the […]

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The Paradox That Makes Shakespeare Great

HAMLET: “What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals.” – Hamlet CHIRON: “Thou hast undone our mother.” AARON: “Villain, I have […]

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A Running List of Books I’ve Read in 2017

Earlier this year I set a goal to read 100 books by the end of 2017. Now you can track my progress and see an abbreviated selection of what I’ve been digging into this year so far. For a very good reason why you shouldn’t set a goal to finish 100 books, read this. You can […]

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Read Ugly Books and Treat Them Poorly

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” That’s what *they* all say. And usually *their* advice is aimed at people who choose books with engaging titles or cover art. I think you should judge a book by its cover, but not for the reasons you think. Sure, the cover might give you a good idea […]

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My Running List of Fiction Reading Recommendations

I’ve made the case that reading fiction is one of the most practical things a self-improvement-minded person can do. As promised, here are the books or series that stand out in my memory as powerful, interesting examples of transformative fiction. I’ll continue to add to this list over time as I gain new experiences with old […]

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My Reading Recommendations for New Startup Employees

When I talk to other young people about what it’s like to work in a startup environment, I often get asked about the books that have helped me most. As anyone who has received gifts from me could tell you, I am happy to oblige a request for reading recommendations. Here’s a quick rundown of the books […]

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