Here’s what I read in December 2014. Numbers are for chronology, not rank.
1 – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig (audiobook): Great title, but not a great book. The narrative is a little weird, but that didn’t bother me. The author’s insistence that he was smarter than anyone who has ever lived, ever, bothered me. Especially since it obviously wasn’t true. This bugged me despite the fact that I like an author who writes with bravado (see Taleb’s Antifragile for a good example of this).
2 – The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (audiobook): The book is better than the movie, but not by much and it follows the text closely. The symbology is legitimate, at least according to my knowledge of it. But, if that’s the draw for you, you can get better symbology in works focused directly on that. Save yourself some time and just watch the movie.
3 – Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir (audiobook): Very interesting, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in social psychology stuff. Unfortunately it’s repetitive and could’ve been a third of the size without losing anything. The idea here is that scarcity is more of a “mental bandwidth tax” that decays further decisions as opposed to the “mindset” that self-help authors have been throwing around. That would coincide with what the willpower researchers say about that, too.
4 – Coraline by Neil Gaiman (audiobook): Fun novella. Echoes of Alice in Wonderland.
5 – 50 Lessons I Learned From the World’s #1 Goal Achiever by Vic Johnson (audiobook): So there were more like 30 lessons and a bunch of re-phrasings. But I took a lot of notes and got a few good ideas. That’s more than worth it.
6 – Candide by Voltaire: Voltaire said so much in so few words, like all great comedians seem to. Next time you hear someone complaining that today’s world is so fucked up and wonders how humanity ever got here, recommend this book so they’ll know that in this best of all possible worlds, things are because they could be no other way.
7 – How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler: Jim Rohn recommended this book in many of his programs, and I finally got around to reading it. I don’t know if I would recommend it to anyone, though. It’s dry and academic, and I don’t know if it’s really useful to many people outside of students working on theses. Adler himself was a philosopher and his style is sort of Aristotelian. The best part of this is the reading list, and you can get that on the wiki page.
8 – Built to Last by James C. Collins and Jerry Porras (audiobook): Very good, but the ideas in this book have been used so ubiquitously in other writings that nothing here was new to me. If you read less, this would be a great business book.
9 – Built to Sell by John Warrillow (audiobook): Great book in the style of Gerber’s E-Myth Revisited. Useful checklist/to-do list at the end. Avoid the audio though, the narrator drove me crazy by drawing out the last syllable of every sentence.
10 – Boomerang by Michael Lewis (audiobook): Entertaining book about the recent financial crisis from a global perspective. I especially enjoyed the “Germans are fascinated by shit” part after having read Becker’s Denial of Death recently.
11 – 52 Mondays by Vic Johnson (audiobook): Sort of a pep-talk/action plan for every week. Really cheesy when read all at once, since most sections end with the same bromide. But again, a couple good ideas came from this, so that’s worth a lot.
12 – How to Speak How to Listen by Mortimer J. Adler (audiobook): Starts out strong with oratory and rhetoric, but then circles back to the same style as How to Read a Book. At one point, Aristotle – I mean Adler – actually writes that most people think a “heart to heart talk” is two hearts talking, but it really is two minds talking to each other. I punched myself in the face at that point. Also, there is a huge appendix/afterword section with limited relevance.
13 – How to Use a Journal by Jim Rohn (audiobook): Nothing revolutionary here, but just some good basic ideas. Running time less than 50 minutes might make it worthwhile.
14 – Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson (audiobook): Cute story about getting over your fear of change.
15 – First Things First by Stephen Covey (audiobook): “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” That pretty much sums up the whole book, and now you don’t need to read it.
16 – Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Noah J. Goldstein, Steven J. Martin, and Robert B. Cialdini (audiobook): Lots of tips that can help position you or your product. I had never heard of this before Amazon’s other recommended titles, but would definitely recommend it.