A More Detailed Way of Rating Books

I’m updating my list of short book reviews – it’s slow going, but it’s coming along.

Normally when I finish reading a book, I’ve been rating it out of 10, and then turning that into a 5 star rating for Goodreads. After rating so many books with similar ratings, I’ve concluded that I need to make a more detailed rating system to be a little more objective about rating books. The rating system I’ve made has 5 categories I consider important in books, with 50 total points, and is easily converted to a 5 star rating.

Writing Quality: Is it written well? How often did you put it down, and was it for positive or negative reasons?

  • 0 – The editor had a heart attack
  • 3 – Difficult to get through
  • 5 – Could be better, could be worse
  • 7 – Pretty well written
  • 10 – I couldn’t put it down or didn’t want to stop

Good writing is subjective, but important. Some books have great reasons to read them despite being badly written, but bad writing gets in the way of enjoyment or learning.

Accuracy/Believability/Content: How accurate, usable, or revolutionary is the information? Or how accurate is the book’s setting? How believable is the information – is it too good to be true? Or how believable are the story and characters?

  • 0 – Complete bullshit/What story? What characters?
  • 3 – A lot of misinformation/stretching my suspension of disbelief
  • 5 – Some information could be better/the story could be worse
  • 7 – Learned a few new things/pretty good story
  • 10 – Revolutionary book that changed my life/one of the greatest stories in human literature

A good book isn’t just written well, the content is also amazing. It should teach you something useful, the information should be true, or the story should be brilliant.

Rereading: Do I want to reread this? If this is a reread, has it changed how I feel about the book?

  • 0 – Don’t mention this book to me ever again
  • 3 – I’d rather not reread this
  • 5 – I could reread this if I’m bored
  • 7 – There’s some value in rereading this
  • 10 – I’m going to reread this multiple times in my life

Good books aren’t just read once; the best books get read more than a dozen times. Each reading should teach something different or give a new perspective.

Gifting or Recommending: If an open-minded person with an interest in the genre/topic was looking for their next book, would you gift or recommend this? If the book is controversial or the author is disliked, is there a reason people should read it anyway?

  • 0 – I wouldn’t give this to my worst enemy
  • 3 – It would be better if they read something else
  • 5 – Maybe I’d recommend it, maybe not
  • 7 – I’d consider giving/recommending it
  • 10 – I would be proud to give it to them, and if they’ve already read it I want them to read it again

If a book is really good, I want to recommend it to people – and I want to give the best books to people I care about most, to enrich their lives. If I can’t do that, it’s a problem.

Longevity: Will this book be readable, useful, or interesting to readers in the future? Would it be better for them to read a different book in the same genre/topic?

  • 0 – Dead on arrival
  • 3 – Already has huge issues, and will only get worse in the coming years
  • 5 – A handful of issues, but future readers will still get something out of it
  • 7 – Maybe there’s an issue or two, but still good/useful for the foreseeable future
  • 10 – Timeless, a book people will read/have read for centuries without issue

Every book carries a risk of becoming outdated, or of showing off the ignorance of the times. The best books are timeless, and will be read long after the author has died.

There’s still plenty of room for personal opinion – the point is to make my ratings a little more objective, not spend hours judging punctuation or fact-checking the whole book.

Terrible books will still get a handful of points, and really good books will lose a few points unless they’re perfect – both are better than just saying “That was great/terrible!”

Has anyone done something like this before? Probably, but most people don’t. Then again, most people don’t read as much as I do, and don’t need to be be that detailed.

Books Proteus Read in October 2019

Happy Halloween! I read 8 books in October! Now that the month is over, it’s time to give a short review for each book, and then post all of these reviews to my big list of reviews.

simulationAre You Living In a Computer Simulation? by Nick Bostrom

Rating: 10/10

An essay about advanced/post-human civilizations and “ancestor simulations” (high-fidelity supercomputer simulations that are advanced enough to simulate previous historical eras and all of the human brains of those eras – overly simplified, think Sid Meier’s Civilization meets The Matrix). Bostrom argues that one of three things is true: 1. all advanced civilizations go extinct before making ancestor simulations, 2. all advanced civilizations decide not to make ancestor simulations for mysterious reasons, or 3. there is an absurdly high chance (I infer it’s something like 1 in a trillion or a 99.9999999999% chance) that we are currently living in an ancestor simulation right now. One of the most influential essays of contemporary philosophy – and one of the most interesting. Most probably won’t count this as a book, but 1. Goodreads does, and 2. this little essay is arguably more thought-provoking and influential than 99% of books being written. The problem I’ve seen is that most people don’t understand probability very well (or at all) and can’t wrap their head around why Bostrom gives such a high chance to you and I living in a simulation – as long as you understand probability even just a little bit, you should absolutely read this essay.

5lovelanguagessecretThe 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman

Rating: 8/10

A simple book about a simple idea: people in relationships express love in different love languages – Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Keeping the “love tank full” in a relationship requires speaking your partner’s love language, and your partner speaking yours back to you. Mark Manson calls this the “Harry Potter of relationship books” for a reason: it’s a simple idea, everyone’s read it (or says they’ve read it), and you can find this book in every airport bookstore in the world. If you’re in a relationship, read it. Even if you’re not in a relationship, it might be a good idea to spend an afternoon reading it to figure out your own love languages.

radicalhonestyRadical Honesty: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth by Brad Blanton

Rating: 7/10

Brad Blanton wants you to tell the truth – all the time, about everything. Blanton lays out the case that lying is the major cause of all human stress and illness, and for the sake of your health (and literally the survival of humanity), you should adopt radical honesty. Honestly? I’m not sure I fully buy it. I agree that lying will destroy you inside, and it’s best practice to tell truth. I’m skeptical of lies causing all illness and stress though. I’m skeptical of other stuff: Blanton tirades against moralism, resulting in moral-relativism-in-everything-but-name – which is followed by a 14 part political agenda that basically combines Bernie Sanders with Eckhart Tolle (which seems a little moralistic to me). Even if I think Blanton is a bit of a hypocrite (Blanton also thinks he’s a hypocrite), I think Blanton is onto something, and Radical Honesty is a thought provoking book.

unlimitedpowerUnlimited Power: The New Science Of Personal Achievement by Anthony Robbins

Rating: 5/10

Tony Robbins’ first book, written right at the beginning of his career as a self-help juggernaut. It has a lot of interesting ideas (some of which match other good advice I’ve read), plus some unique advice (he’s the first I’ve read recommending trampolining for superior health). Make no mistake though: Unlimited Power is a deeply flawed book. There are many references and quotes, but few citations. The book is unmistakably a product of the 80s, and many parts are severely outdated. Plus, the book is dominated by Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a form of psychotherapy that isn’t widely respected outside of self-help books. From what I can tell, Robbins’ later books are better (or at the very least contain less NLP), and you should just skip Unlimited Power unless you love Tony Robbins.

datalovestoryData, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match by Amy Webb

Rating: 9/10

An absolutely riveting tale of a woman on a mission: stop having bad online dates, define exactly what she wants in a husband (from height and build, to his opinion on cruise ship traveling), and crack the code of online dating to find the Jew…ish Prince Charming of her dreams. While this book is mostly aimed at women, it combines three things I love reading about: data science, relationships, and neurotic smart people solving problems. I’ve been fascinated by this book ever since I saw Webb’s TED Talk, and read it in an afternoon (not because it’s short, but because I couldn’t put it down). You’ll laugh, you’ll be embarrassed for her, you’ll learn something about the algorithms that dating sites rely on (which might not apply as much to recent swiping apps), and if you’re like me you’ll facepalm over Webb stress-smoking after bad dates (to be fair, these were some really bad dates). The book probably won’t be for everyone, but I absolutely loved it. Spoiler: She finds her Jew…ish Prince Charming.

luciddreamingExploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge

Rating: 9/10

A classic book about being conscious during your dreams, and even learning to control them, from the pioneer of lucid dreaming. This is not a book about dream interpretation, Freudian psychology, or about anything magical like astral projection or souls: this is a book about lucid dreaming. LaBerge keeps his book focused on scientific information and practical steps for achieving lucidity, drawing from his PhD work in lucid dreams and from ancient texts related to lucid dreams. Even if there are newer or better books about lucid dreaming (this was written in 1990), this seems to be the classic book on the subject, and one I plan on rereading.

jlscompleteJonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Rating: 8/10

A novella about individuality, self-perfection, and the willingness to be different – told with seagulls. I *suspect* a lot of people who know me wouldn’t expect me to like a book like this – it grew on me. The first part wasn’t very promising – Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a special seagull! He doesn’t want to spend his days working for food! He wants to be free, and master the art of flying! The other seagulls don’t understand him, and then they kick him out of seagull society! And then he spends the rest of his days flying until he dies. But then it turns out he *didn’t* die, and things get way more interesting. It’s deeper than it sounds, at least to me. I can understand the mixed opinions people have about this book, but I liked Seagull – I just hope I don’t reread this later, and react to it the same way a lot of people react to rereading Catcher in the Rye.

greatestmindsThe Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time by Will Durant

Rating: 8/10

A collection of essays by master historian Will Durant, covering a handful of topics from the most important thinkers in history, to the 100 books to read for a complete education. After reading The Lessons of History (which is a masterpiece), I’m now dedicated to reading as much of Durant as I can get my hands on. There are parts of Greatest Minds that are incredible – Durant’s soaring rhetoric about humanity and heroes, the list of 100 best books (I’m attempting a similar project), and the brief inclusion of Marquis de Condorcet (who in my opinion is the most underappreciated thinker in all of western philosophy). There were parts I didn’t like as much – while I love how Durant talks about humanity in general, I’m not as enthusiastic about how he talks about “savages/primitives.” And while I love Durant’s book list, I’m not as interested in Durant’s long chapter about the best poets. With all that said, read Greatest Minds with an open mind, right after reading The Lessons of History.

Books Proteus Read in August 2019

Here’s something new I’m going to be doing on the blog. Every month at the end of the month, I’m going to make a dedicated post for reviewing every book I read that month. Those reviews then get posted to my page of short book reviews. Simple enough.


He: Understanding Masculine Psychology by Robert A. Johnson:

Rating: 4/10

A man must consent to look to a foolish, innocent, adolescent part of himself for his cure. The inner fool is the only one who can touch his Fisher King wound.” A book by Jungian psychologist Robert A. Johnson exploring masculine psychology, primarily through the the Camelot myth. It starts off with an interesting discussion of childhood psychological wounds (the “Fisher King” wound) before getting bogged down by weird interpretations (not to mention unsupported assertions and free-association) of old meanings of words, comparative mythology, and numbers. This really put into perspective what I find frustrating about Jungianism: lots of interesting concepts, but too often it relies so heavily on myth and interpretation that it eventually gives up on logic or rules of evidence.


The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden:

Rating: 9/10

“The tragedy of many people’s lives is that they look for self-esteem in every direction except within, and so they fail in their search. The ultimate source of self-esteem is, and can only be, internal. In what we do, not what others do. When we seek in the externals, we invite tragedy.” Psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden explores the nature of self-esteem, its two key foundations, and the six pillars for building and supporting self-esteem. In addition, he covers external factors that can affect self-esteem, such as parents, teachers, workplaces, religion, and the relationship between self-esteem and tribalism. You don’t have to agree with Branden’s libertarian politics to appreciate the message: you are enough, you have the right to exist, and you have value. For me the best part of this book wasn’t just the content, but the fact that the content echoed a lot of other great books I’ve read (especially Models by Mark Manson). If you’ve ever struggled with self-esteem, confidence, or self-love, I highly recommend this book.


Way of the Superior Man by David Deida:

Rating: 6/10

“As long as life continues, the creative challenge is to tussle, play, and make love with the present moment while giving your unique gift.” A book about sexual polarity between men and women, and how to become a spiritually aware superior man. I have mixed thoughts. On the one hand, there are some interesting ideas, mirroring other books I’ve read, and I can see why this was recommended to me. On the other hand, this book is far more spiritual and poetic/flowery than books I usually read. Plus there are some parts that are just… weird. Parts where you’ll go “Huh? Where’d that come from?” or “Why is he even talking about that?” With all that said, here’s my overall take: if you’re a man interested in relationships with feminine women, there’s going to be some value for you, even if some parts are kind of weird (I’d also suggest checking out Models by Mark Manson if you’re looking for rock solid men’s advice).

Tribalism and Self-Esteem: Excerpt from “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem” by Nathaniel Branden

This is an excerpt (or really three excerpts) from the book “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem” by Nathaniel Branden. If you’re like me, and you’re very disturbed by growing tribalism in America and other countries, you’ll find this interesting.

Throughout human history, most societies and cultures have been dominated by the tribal mentality. This was true in primitive times, in the Middle Ages, and in socialist (and some nonsocialist) countries in the twentieth century. Japan is a contemporary example of a nonsocialist nation still heavily tribal in its cultural orientation, although it may now be in the process of becoming less so.

The essence of the tribal mentality is that it makes the tribe as such the supreme good and denigrates the importance of the individual. It tends to view individuals as interchangeable units and to ignore or minimize the significance of differences between one human being and another. At its extreme, it sees the individual as hardly existing except in the network of tribal relationships; the individual by him- or herself is nothing.

Plato, the father of collectivism, captures the essence of this perspective in the Laws, when he states, “My law will be made with a general view of the best interests of society at large … as I rightly hold the single person and his affairs as of minor importance.” He speaks enthusiastically of “the habit of never so much as thinking to do one single act apart from one’s fellows, of making life, to the very uttermost, an unbroken concert, society, and community of all with all.” In ancient times, we think of this vision as embodied in the militaristic society of Sparta. In modern times, its monuments were Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Between the ancient and the modern, we think of the feudal civilization of the Middle Ages, in which each person was defined by his or her place in the social hierarchy, apart from which personal identity could hardly be said to exist.

Tribal societies can be totalitarian but they need not be. They can be relatively free. Control of the individual can be more cultural than political, although the political is always a factor. What I wish to point out here is that the tribal premise is intrinsically anti-self-esteem.

It is a premise and an orientation that disempowers the individual qua individual. Its implicit message is: You don’t count. By yourself, you are nothing. Only as part of us can you be something. Thus, any society, to the extent that it is dominated by the tribal premise, is inherently unsupportive of self-esteem and more: it is actively inimical. In such a society the individual is socialized to hold him- or herself in low esteem relative to the group. Self-assertiveness is suppressed (except through highly ritualized channels). Pride tends to be labeled a vice. Self-sacrifice is enjoined.”

One encounters the tribal mentality again in the technologically advanced society of George Orwell’s 1984, where the full power and authority of a totalitarian state is aimed at crushing the self-assertive individualism of romantic love. The contempt of twentieth-century dictatorships for a citizen’s desire to have “a personal life,” the characterization of such a desire as “petty bourgeois selfishness,” is too well known to require documentation. Modern dictatorships may have a better grasp of individuality than did primitive tribes, but the result is that the hostility is more virulent. When I attended the First International Conference on Self-Esteem in Norway in 1990, a Soviet scholar remarked, “As Americans, you can’t possibly grasp the extent to which the idea of self-esteem is absent in our country. It’s not understood. And if it were, it would be condemned as politically subversive.”

The United States of America is a culture with the greatest number of subcultures of any country in the world. It is a society characterized by an extraordinary diversity of values and beliefs in virtually every sphere of life. And yet, if we understand that we will be speaking only of dominant trends to which there are any number of countervailing forces, there is a sense in which we may legitimately speak of “American culture.”

What was so historically extraordinary about the creation of the United States of America was its conscious rejection of the tribal premise. The Declaration of Independence proclaimed the revolutionary doctrine of individual, inalienable rights and asserted that the government exists for the individual, not the individual for the government. Although our political leaders have betrayed this vision many ways and many times, it still contains the essence of what the abstraction-America-stands for. Freedom. Individualism. The right to the pursuit of happiness. Self-ownership. The individual as an end in him- or herself, not a means to the ends of others; not the property of family or church or state or society. These ideas were radical at the time they were proclaimed, and I do not believe they are fully understood or accepted yet; not by most people.”

The Descendant’s List – What it is and How to Make One

When most people read books, they don’t bother reviewing the book. When they do, they might talk about what they liked or disliked, and give a number out of five or ten for how much they liked it.

When I review books, I’m not just reviewing the overall quality; I’m also looking at whether the book would fit onto a hypothetical list. I’m calling it the Descendant’s List.

What is a Descendant’s List? Why should you make one? How do you make one? I’ll be answering these questions and more.

What is a Descendant’s List?

A Descendant’s List is a list of books that, in your opinion, form the best and most important resources for success in life. Reading these books (especially these books, rather than the alternatives) would give the reader the essential resources for success in as many fields as possible. Whatever their goal in life is – billionaire, Olympian, Nobel laureate, President of the United States, bestselling author, or anything else – reading these books would lead whoever reads them to an increased chance of success.

Whenever I finish a book, I ask myself question:

If I created a list of the 100 most useful books of all time, and my descendants read that list to have the greatest possible chance of success in life, would this book be on that list?

This isn’t just a list of “books you like” – if it was, it would only be books you gave 5 stars to (and sometimes, the best book available on a topic isn’t perfect). It’s not just a list of good books either – for any subject, there are lots of good books, while this list is for the best possible book on the subject. And it’s not just a list of books that are useful right now – the future is uncertain, and a book that’s useful today might be outdated or even useless tomorrow.

The key thing about the books that appear on this hypothetical list is that they will be useful for your descendants. They will be useful for your children, and their children, and their children. Including a book on this list implies that it’s not just useful now, but you predict it will be useful for multiple generations into the future. You’re not just trying to help yourself (though you obviously should) – you’re also trying to help your children, grandchildren, and other descendants.

And because you’re trying to help your descendants, it’s especially important for this list to not just be books that you like. You have no idea what your descendants will be like, what problems they’ll run into, what their ambitions will be, and so on. That said, you can make some educated guesses, based on 1. your predictions for the future, 2. common experiences most people have, 3. problems that people from your culture/background face. The more a book deals with one or more of these areas, the more helpful it will be to your descendants.

Why 100 books? The number is honestly pretty arbitrary – you could make arguments for a very exclusive list (25 or less), or for a more expansive list of every good book a person should read in their lifetime (250? 500? 1000?). But 100 has some advantages – it’s large enough to include a moderate number of extremely good books, while also being small enough to force a choice about whether the book you’re reading is not just good, but one of the most important books of all time.

Why should I make a Descendant’s List?

I’ve come to believe the following: while there is specific knowledge about how to succeed in specific areas, there is a body of knowledge, skills, and mindsets that enable success in all areas of life.

If you wanted to go full-on Napoleon Hill, you’d say that there was a philosophy of success. I’m not saying that. But I am saying that there are certain ideas or mindsets that won’t just enable a person to be successful at one field, but enable them to be successful at multiple fields or any field. Better yet, those ideas would enable two different people, with very different goals, to both achieve success in completely different areas of life.

So, assuming this is at all the case, how would you learn this body of knowledge, skills, and mindsets?

My answer is pretty obvious: Books. Lots of books. But which books? Out of the literal millions of books that have been published, which books are most likely to teach you these essential ideas, skills, and mindsets?

How do you make a Descendant’s List?

The first step is the unstated one: Read. Read lots of books. Read as much as you can. Read to expand your mind, expand your skills, and expand your life.

But again, which books should you choose to read?

Part of my answer comes from one of the best books I read in 2018: Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss. Tools of Titans is made from the interviews Tim Ferriss has done with over a hundred mega-successful people (such as billionaires, icons, and world-class performers…). One of the questions he asks is “What book have you gifted most to others, and why?,” creating this huge list of books.

What’s the big deal about a list of books? The big deal is that 1. the people Tim Ferriss interviews are the best of the best from wildly different fields (sports, politics, academia, entertainment, etc.), and 2. many of these books get recommended multiple times, by different people – implying that they’re useful across fields.

That’s one place to start – but don’t just stop there. Look at the books recommended by other successful people. Start creating a mega-list of books to read. The more often a book gets recommended, the more likely that it’s an essential book to read.

You’ll end up with a huge list of books to read, possibly 1000 or more (if you’re like me, several thousand). But you don’t have to read all of them. Over the years, you’ll get a better sense of which books are actually helpful, and which ones aren’t. And also over time, you’ll pick out the most essential books that aren’t just good for you to read, but also good for your descendants.

What does a finished Descendant’s List look like? I don’t know. Many people throughout history have made recommended book lists – but as far as I can tell, a “Descendant’s List” specifically is an original concept created by me, and I just started the quest to make it last year. It takes a lifetime to make, constantly adjusting it as you go.

But creating this list doesn’t end with picking the 100th book. That’s the beginning. The next step is the one taken by the descendants this list is gifted to.

Let’s say that I successfully make this list. I give this list of books to my children, along with me giving these books credit for my success in life. Assuming I have a moderate or even high amount of success (and assuming my children are as curious as I am), they read these books earlier than I did, such as in their teenage and college years. If I’ve chosen correctly, these books will also lead them to a moderate or high level of success in their chosen fields.

Further, if my children are anything like me, they won’t just stop reading with those 100 books – they’ll read more books, including books from two groups I will logically never be able to include in my original list: 1. books that I didn’t read yet, and 2. books that haven’t been published yet. They’ll take the least useful or most outdated books from my original list, remove them, and include even better books in their place. Over time, each of my descendants will make improvements on my list to make their own Descendant’s List – which they will give to their children, who if they’re anything like their parents, will also improve on the list they were given.

That’s an optimistic scenario – I give my original list to each of my children, and they each make an individual improved Descendant’s List to give to their children, who repeat the process. This ends up creating many varied lists, each claiming to be the list of 100 most essential books.

The Collaborative List

But there’s an even better scenario, one that’s even more optimistic – but possible with the right incentives.

I give my original list to my children, who then read the books on the list – my children then start exploring which books are even better that they can add. But rather than each of my children making their own improvements, they come together to make a single list that they improve together. They democratically decide which current book on the list is least useful or most outdated, and then vote on what book to include in its place. The idea would be to do this slowly – maybe once a year, and only one book a year – keeping the list at at total of 100 books.

Books that get voted off or almost included aren’t just forgotten. Instead, the voted off or almost include books get put on an extended list (“Extended List”) of books that almost made it, noting why they’re not on the main list (voted off and when, how many votes they received short of the required number, so on). Over time the main list evolves slowly, to prevent any malevolent descendant from ruining the list. The extended list is used not only as a record, but also as list of suggestions for which books could be included in the future (or re-included if a book was removed by mistake).

Further, as the number of descendants grows, they bring their own priorities and knowledge about the modern life to this decision process. For example, while my immediate children might be determined to include Tools of Titans on the list, my grandchildren might decide that the book isn’t that useful anymore, instead wanting to include Human-Android Communication or something else suitably futuristic. The list improves with each generation – and with each version of the list, the chance that the reader will be successful at life grows with it.

Closing Thoughts

This is a difficult idea to make work. There are multiple points of failure, even before the collaborative list idea. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing anything like this (at least publicly), and I can’t be sure if it’s because it’s completely new… or because it’s hard to make it work. Whatever the answer is, I’m going to attempt it – not just for my own success, but for the success of every single one of my future descendants.

Books I Read In 2018

My final list of books I read in 2018. Ultimately I read approximately 25 books. That’s pretty good, I probably only read five in a year normally. I plan to read over 50 next year, and as many as I can on top of that.

Here are the books, and short impressions.

  1. 9/10: Giant of the Senate by Al Franken – Not sure if I read this in December 2017, or January. I’m counting it anyway. The autobiography of comedian and Senator Al Franken. Awkward to read now that Al Franken has been exiled from U.S. politics in the #MeToo era. Still, I gave it a 9/10 at the time, interesting read on the last several years of U.S. politics and legislation.
  2. 8/10: Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker – Imperfect book on improving your mindset to be more like rich people, for the purpose of becoming rich. Light on discussion of socioeconomic mobility, like the rest of the genre. I suspect that some or most of the content is similar to Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (which I’m FINALLY reading this year), and that this will become a 7/10 afterwards.
  3. 8/10: The Philosophical Investor by Gary Carmell – Medium length read on philosophy being useful for success in investing. Also includes sections on the author’s personal life.
  4. 9/10: Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven – Short read on habits and mindsets for success/life fulfillment from a retired admiral. Emphasis on short. Based on the viral 2014 commencement speech that the author gave.
  5. 9/10: The 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss – Quit your job, delegate everything possible, cut meetings and email down 95%, fire the 20% of your customers giving you 80% of your problems, deliver on time, and travel the world on a shoe string budget. I should probably reread it this year.
  6. 10/10: Tools of Titans by Timothy Ferriss – Basically, “Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur’s Soul.” Advice and tools from all of the interesting people Tim Ferriss has interviewed on his podcast. Bulky. If you’re skeptical, pick it up just for the section with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  7. 9/10: The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss – Health and fitness advice from human guinea pig/wrestler/dancer/martial artist Tim Ferriss. If the idea of “biohacking” yourself appeals to you, pick this up. I’m not a doctor, he’s not a doctor, self-medicate responsibly.
  8. 8/10: Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss – Similar format to Tools of Titans. Read Tools of Titans first to see if it would be beneficial to you.
  9. 9/10: The 4-Hour Chef by Timothy Ferriss – A book on learning anything, written around learning to cook. I need to reread the cooking parts this year, since the first time I was just concerned with the meta-learning parts.
  10. 10/10: Foundation by Isaac Asimov – One of the classics of science fiction. I really need to read the rest of the series though.
  11. 9/10: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford – Tells the history of Genghis Khan, the Mongol empire, and their effect on the civilized world in narrative form. Makes the case that Khan/the Mongols were surprisingly enlightened for nomadic raiding warriors in the 13th century.
  12. 10/10: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance – The approved biography of evil genius billionaire Elon Musk. Will need to be updated in a few years though, doesn’t cover the flame throwers he sold to fund digging tunnels under L.A.
  13. 5/10: Principles (106 page pdf) by Ray Dalio – Read in preparation of the full book. Great content, but for whatever reason I really hated reading this. Read the full book instead.
  14. 7/10: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin – An interesting little book on personality. Rather than creating an overall framework (e.g. the MBTI), Rubin creates a framework of Four Tendencies around the question “How does a person respond to expectations?” Not academic or rigorous at all (and she says so), but I still think about the framework every now and then.
  15. 8/10: It’s All Relative by A.J. Jacobs – Jacobs goes on one of his year long quests, this time to explore how all human beings are related to each other and throw the largest family reunion in human history. I liked it because I love A.J. Jacobs’ books, but I’d suggest The Year of Living Biblically to get a taste of how he writes.
  16. 4/10: Mastery by George Leonard – Good information and ideas about the process of mastering skills and mastering your life. Mind the sections on energy healing and 90s anti-consumerism (you’ll know what I mean if you read it, or better yet, you won’t).
  17. 7/10: The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker – Highly recommended to me as a must-read for anyone interested in business or self improvement. The fact that it’s out of date (Drucker is an AI skeptic, and Australia is referred to as a developing country) made me enjoy it less.
  18. 9/10: Superforecasting by Phillip Tetlock – A book on accurately predicting the future, particularly around economics and geopolitics. If you’re at all interested in politics, economics, world events, or on becoming a rational person more generally, this is the book for you.
  19. 10/10: Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio – Billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio’s principles for success. Radical openness, radical honesty, constant self-improvement, and effective decision making, among other principles. Top quality stuff, one of the best books that I read this year.
  20. 7/10: Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut – A dystopian future where all low skill jobs have been automated, and only the construction, management, and engineering jobs are left. Mind the fact that it was written in 1952. If you’re interested in AI and machine learning, read just for the part where Vonnegut predicts Deep Blue and AlphaGo decades beforehand.
  21. 8/10: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – A pop science book on habits and habit formation. Also includes some discussion about Big Data and free will. Pretty good for a pop science book.
  22. 2/10: 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson – Clinical psychologist/internet sensation Jordan Peterson gives his 12 rules for life based on a viral Quora post. This ended up being one of the most frustrating books I’ve ever read. I went into this with high expectations, and ended up stopping somewhere in Rule 8. While there are parts about self-help or evolutionary biology I found interesting, and other parts I found frustrating, the thing I found most frustrating was that Peterson is basically trying to use Nietzsche/Dostoevsky/other authors to create a secular/existential/pragmatic Christianity, thus preventing metaphysical chaos in the West. It doesn’t matter if God or Jesus exists, be a Christian anyway. This isn’t an idea I (or many of the authors Peterson quotes) can support, and Nietzsche especially would have scratched their head at Peterson’s bizarre theology. Maybe I shouldn’t be so blunt – but Rule 8 is “Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie.”
  23. 10/10: Models: Attract Women Through Honesty by Mark Manson – Quite possibly the best dating advice book for men that currently exists. I recommend it to all men, and if you’re a woman with a single man in your life, you should recommend it to them. No lines. No pickup. No bullshit. Just dealing with your desires and with intimacy in a healthy and attractive way.
  24. 5/10: As A Man Thinketh by James Allen – EXTREMELY short read on mindset and the importance of thinking. If you’ve ever read anything in the self-help genre (and are familiar with it’s flaws), this won’t be of much help to you. Although, I do want to read it again and do at least a Notes and Quotes post – there were a few quotes I liked.
  25. ?/10: Dataclysm by Christian Rudder – I’m reading this right now, and am going to finish it either today or tomorrow.  Using Big Data from OkCupid (and other sites) for insights into love, sex, and the human condition. Tentatively giving this an 8/10, possibly a 7 or a 9.