What I Learned In 2015 — Cover To Cover

It’s been my best year for reading in terms of impact … I started 23 books in 2015 and I finished 22 of them, here’s a list of what I read. The 1–5 rating is solely the impact it had on me personally. The 3 books that stood out are Being Mortal — Atul Gawande, The User Illusion — Tor Norretranders, and Waking Up — Sam Harris.

The Road — Cormac McCarthy

Release: March 28, 2006
Pages: 287
1–5 Stars: 3.5

Thoughts: A sad story that’s hard to put down. A man and his son travel around and fight to stay alive… it stresses the most important things to our life: food, shelter and safety and paints a picture of life and death that make you grateful for everything you have.

The Big Short — Michael Lewis

Release: February 1, 2011
Pages: 291
1–5 Stars: 4

Thoughts: Extremely informative book, I had to go back and re-read quite a few sections and research some of financial technicalities. Chances are you’ll enjoy the story and learn a lot about the construction of financial markets. And they made it into a movie!

The Art of Learning — Josh Waitzkin

Release: May 27, 2008
Pages: 288
1–5 Stars: 3.5

Thoughts: I heard about this book from Tim Ferriss’s podcast. The book is a bit too autobiographical for my tastes, but Josh is an amazing guy becoming a master of chess and tai chi martial arts. One must be really ready to learn and have an appetite for knowledge to really benefit from the tactical advice he gives to get to expert status.

Daily Rituals — Mason Currey

Release: April 23, 2013
Pages: 304
1–5 Stars: 3.5

Thoughts: This book was exactly as it states, it literally just listed out historically significant people’s daily schedule (typically focusing on the morning). Quite interesting, but with so much rote information, it’s difficult to retain.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius — Dave Eggers

Release: February 13, 2001
Pages: 437
1–5 Stars: 1

Thoughts: This book was a bit of a struggle for me, and I stopped about 50% through… based on a true story of his life, Eggers writes about the slow death of his parents and his struggles. He writes about the consuming nature of cancer and with a dark perspective he provides a brutally honest interpretation of reality. This book definitely isn’t for everyone it’s incredibly self-reflexive.

Meditations — Marcus Aurelius

Release: July 11, 1997
Pages: 112
1–5 Stars: 4.5

Thoughts: I’ve been fascinated by “ancient writings” and have realized that most of life’s important lessons were realized by Roman and Greek philosophers, of which Marcus is top 5. I believe modern day philosophy doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves as essentially all our complex decisions should be guided by core philosophical believes, otherwise societal entropy takes over and bad things happen. Read this twice, it’s short.

A Guide to the Good Life — William B. Irvine

Release: November 4, 2008
Pages: 336
1–5 Stars: 4

Thoughts: This book does a great job at explaining philosophical ideals of stoicism in modern day practical interpretations better than any other book I’ve seen. It provides instructions to live stoically such as negative visualization techniques that do make you appreciate your life more. In many ways philosophy can replace religion, and if you’re in “discovery mode” spiritually this is a good start. I think the title is too cheesy, but once you get past that you’ll find it very valuable.

Blue Ocean Strategy — W. Chan Kim, Renee Mauborgne

Release: January 20, 2015
Pages: 256
1–5 Stars: 2

Thoughts: While the book claims to be systematic, I found it to be 256 pages to back up one message: Companies are either battling for existing market share by being better, or opening up new markets by being unique. You can read the summary of this book and check it off the list.

The Ascent of Money — Niall Ferguson

Release: October 27, 2009
Pages: 448
1–5 Stars: 3.5

Thoughts: The amount of research that went into this book was amazing! While it was information heavy in the specifics, it gave such a fascinating historical context to how money evolved into what it is today. If you’re intrigued by history and payments (I am!) than I highly recommend this one.

The Motorcycle Diaries — Che Guevara

Release: August 1, 2003
Pages: 175
1–5 Stars: 2

Thoughts: Quite a few people suggested I read this book and I can see why! It’s a short read that gives a unique view into the everyday live in South America while providing a vivid reminder that we’re not trapped in our jobs and we can leave it all behind to travel if we so choose (which has only been true for .0001% of human civilization)… a pleasant thought.

Your Brain at Work — David Rock

Release: October 6, 2009
Pages: 304
1–5 Stars: 4

Thoughts: I recommended this to our whole team at HomeHero. I found this to be the most practically beneficial book on the list. Basically it dissected the struggles of everyday live and offered psychological explanations to why we feel certain ways and how we can (with out too much effort) change them. A great book if you’re looking to become more productive at work by understanding how our minds interpret the world. Highly recommend this one.

Guns, Germs and Steel — Jared Diamond

Release: April 1, 1999
Pages: 480
1–5 Stars: 4

Thoughts: This book was insanely dense and long, but worth it. I started with a kindle version, but couldn’t handle the face time required so switched to audible (recommended). Even if you extract 5% of the contents in this book, it’d be worth it and humanity would be significantly improved if everyone read this as it provided the historical context to why our world looks the way it does. Which is important when thinking about how it will look in the future…

Why Does the World Exist?— Jim Holt

Release: April 8, 2013
Pages: 320
1–5 Stars: 3

Thoughts: Make sure you’re ready for the philosophical and intellectual journey that Jim takes you down. He gets very metaphysical with thoughts about “Why is there something instead of nothing?”, which can be insightful and inspirational to you or frustrating and confusing… depending on your propensity and appetite for such a discussion. I’m quite moderate on this one, it contains great learnings but there are better books on the subject.

The Bottom Billion— Paul Collier

Release: August 22, 2008
Pages: 224
1–5 Stars: 4

Thoughts: This is a great example of what to do with all our of philosophical knowledge acquired in the above books. He draws on decades of his and others’ research to explain four traps that keep most of the bottom billion in captivity and why globalization as it is currently configured will do little for these poorest nations. He goes on to explore how each of a whole array of policy instruments can play a key role in helping the bottom billion get on track towards growth. It’s a very educational and inspiring read, I recommend it.

What If? — Randall Munroe

Release: September 2, 2014
Pages: 320
1–5 Stars: 2

Thoughts: A really fun book that gets you thinking about crazy worldly circumstances like “What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?”. It was written by the same guy who makes xkcd.com so that should explain a lot…

Catastrophic Care — David Goldhill

Release: November 5, 2013
Pages: 400
1–5 Stars: 4

Thoughts: Having spent the last 3 years obsessively learning about the Healthcare industry in America this book was incredible educational for me as David explains WHY the costs became so exorbitant in the first place. Goldhill shows persuasively that the costs are the result of the very design of our current medical system and provides a solution (which unfortunately I can’t imagine actually happening) to replace it all and move to a consumer type model. Extremely interesting, educational and quite depressing.

The Little Prince — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Release: May 15, 2000
Pages: 96
1–5 Stars: 3

Thoughts: This was a book written (selling over 140 million copies worldwide) from a beautiful French play remarking on the strangeness of the adult world through a story of philosophical and social criticism.

Waking Up — Sam Harris

Release: September 9, 2014
Pages: 256
1–5 Stars: 4.5

Thoughts: Sam is one of the most interesting people I’ve come across with an incredibly unique background he provides an interpretation of the spiritual world with a dedicated objective lens for science. With a stance of atheism, he describes how one might interpret consciousness and the world we live in. This was a really impactful book for me at the time.

The User Illusion — Tor Norretranders

Release: August 1, 1999
Pages: 480
1–5 Stars: 5

Thoughts: I’m actually incredibly excited to be interviewing Tor on my podcast (aroundthecoin.com, I’ll post when it goes live!). Brian initially recommended I read this book and for good reason. The sub Conscious edits 98% of the input it receives from your senses and present a Believable concept of the world. It also reacts to all inputs and responds in most cases before you have even made your conscious choice. This all happens in a proven 1/2 second delay between the reaction of your conscious mind to any input. Tor provides great analytical background from scientific experiments over the last 100 years that lead us to some remarkable conclusions and questions. Here is a great video to explain the concepts in more detail. Highly recommend.

So good they can’t ignore you — Cal Newport

Release: September 18, 2012
Pages: 304
1–5 Stars: 2

Thoughts: This is a book you should re-read every few years (or at least remind yourself of the concepts). The central premise that sets this book apart from so much life advice that is out on the market is that following your passion is terrible advice. There are two main reasons for this: first, very few people at a young age know enough about life to choose something to be really passionate about, and even if they do, they are bound to be wrong. None of the ideas in the book will surprise you, it’s the blatant realization of their impact on our world that is so impressive. My biggest criticism is the lack of scientific data (or any data for that matter) that was used to support his claims.

Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis — James Rickards

Release: August 28, 2012
Pages: 320
1–5 Stars: 4.5

Thoughts: This was the second most dense book, behind “Guns, Germs and Steel”, but with a more captivating plot. Warm up your appetite for political and historical discussion as this goes very deep with the main theme of the book being that the world is already heading toward a full-blown currency war which will bring even harsher economic turmoil to the world economy than the one we experienced in the last three years since the housing bubble burst in the U.S. This is a fascinating economic history and shrewd analysis of the current and coming global crisis. Dive in, you’ll be better for it.

Food of the Gods — Terence McKenna

Release: January 1, 1993
Pages: 311
1–5 Stars: 4.5

Thoughts: This one was in a category of its own… The main premise of the book is that due to climate changes human ancestors were forced to adapt eating habits to include previously untried foods, such as psychoactive plants and mushrooms, and that this led to an evolutionary jump for the species. He makes a strong case and I can’t see why this wouldn’t be true, and one can take this story deep down the rabbit hole. However, whether you believe his story or not it’ll make you realize the possibility and think deeper.

Being Mortal — Atul Gawande

Release: October 7, 2014
Pages: 304
1–5 Stars: 5

Thoughts: I’ve been a big fan of Atul since his publication of the Checklist Manifesto. This book provided a rich historical context to how, over the last 100 years our healthcare industry came to be (which is especially interesting to me as we attempt to improve it at HomeHero). He explains the emergence of hospitals and that nursing homes were constructed as run offs from hospitals, which explains why they are so safe, but also an awful place to live. The book was heavy on anecdotal stories, which slowed it down for me, but the entertainment value and gems scattered throughout made it well worth it.