Here’s what I read in June of 2013. Numbers are for chronology, not rank.
1 – I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (audiobook version): A collection of short stories linked together by an overarching narrative of Asimov’s fictitious history of robotics. Each story revolves around the “3 laws of robotics” – which are central to the plot. Dr. Susan Calvin, robopsychologist, then solves the puzzle involving the interaction of the laws. Very CSI-like. This was, to me, a much better story than his Foundations Trilogy which I read back in March.
2 – The Essays of Warren Buffett by Lawrence Cunningham: I read the first edition, which I don’t recommend if you want to read the book, because the updates here are important. I read it because it was available, and because I only wanted a place to start reading Buffett’s writing without trying to dig through all the Berkshire shareholder’s letters to get a sense of it. Now that I have read this, I will definitely be reading all the letters to shareholders. So I guess if you’re interested in WB’s wisdom, and you trust my recommendation, you could just start there as well. Look for it to be mentioned in next month’s list.
Also, I think I should include something I read that took me a long time to figure out on my own: “Of course, some investment strategies – for instance, our efforts in arbitrage over the years – require wide diversification. If significant risk exists in a single transaction, overall risk should be reduced by making that purchase one of many mutually-independent commitments. Thus, you may consciously purchase a risky investment – one that indeed has a significant possibility of causing loss or injury – if you believe that your gain, weighted for probabilities, considerably exceeds your loss, comparably weighted, and if you can commit to a number of similar, but unrelated opportunities. Most venture capitalists employ this strategy. Should you choose to pursue this course, you should adopt the outlook of the casino that owns a roulette wheel, which will want to see lots of action because it is favored by probabilities, but will refuse to accept a single huge bet.” – from the 1993 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.
This is something any serious gambler deals with, and can be explained best by a game: We flip a coin. If it comes up heads you pay me a dollar, if it comes up tails I pay you a dollar. Neither of us has an advantage here.
Now we modify the rules: Heads you still pay me a dollar, but tails I pay you two dollars. Now you have an advantage, and you would probably like to play this game as much as you possibly can. But, this doesn’t always work out in your favor. Say we multiply the wager to a size you’re uncomfortable with (the nominal amount will depend on personal situations), but let’s say: heads you pay me $10,000 and tails I pay you $20,000. It’s still a great game if you can afford it, but if heads goes on a run most of the population is in deep shit. And, obviously there’s always a number that will make you flinch, no matter who you are.
3 – Six Days of War by Michael B. Oren (audiobook version): I’m not sure where I got this recommendation, but it was labelled as “the best book about entrepreneurship I’ve ever read.” I’m not so sure that is a very accurate description, but organizing a war and strategically planning a business venture are probably similar in a lot of respects. Personally, war histories are not my thing, but that isn’t a knock on this book – it was pretty good. My favorite aspect was the propaganda reporting. Israel claiming they were attacked first, when they really were the aggressors, Egypt’s PR guy telling the nation they were crushing the opposition when in reality their entire air force had been destroyed while they were sitting around with their dicks in their hands (Baghdad Bob, anyone?)
4 – Wizard and Glass (Dark Tower book 4) by Stephen King: This was not the book I wanted after finishing book 3. First off, it is a monster of a book, coming in at 752 pages, and I was surprised by it’s length because it’s on my Kindle and in a digital format you don’t really have a sense of the weight you’d associate with a huge book. Plus this series has been short books thus far. At some point, I thought to myself, “Fuck me, I’ve been reading this book forever!”
Next, this book is mostly back story of a younger version of the hero in the deadly choke-hold that is first love. Yes, he’s oblivious to the world around him, and desperately gasping for breath while treading water. Been there, done that. I get it. I don’t need 400 pages of it. Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t think that sort of thing is very interesting to anyone besides the people involved. Or maybe I’m just a grumpy douche – I’ll let you decide.
Anyway, when the story finally picks up the pace, it REALLY comes together. I felt pretty satisfied with the resolution. At the end it picks up back to the current timeline, and goes right off the fucking rails into some Wizard of Oz shit (I’m not even joking).
5 – The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (audiobook version): I’ve read this before, but wanted to put it on my iPod so I could refresh when I’m feeling down about something I’m working on not coming together like it should. Solid read. Recommended for anyone who deals with creative work.