I love books because I’m a mind peeper. It’s fun to find out things you think by reading what other people think. Sometimes books have something to teach, sometimes they have something to entertain you with, and sometimes they are a demonstration of a stupid mind. Books can take more time to go into something than a blog post. When somebody has an idea big enough for a book – not an idea stretched to fit a book – then it takes time to soak in. Most books are stretched ideas or non-ideas, they don’t offer anything. As I understand it, Fifty Shades of Grey offered some moist panties because it mentioned butt plugs. That’s cool. I think that book probably made a lot of lives better. Once the end came and you found out she was on heroin the entire time and her lover was actually a fourteen year old boy (I’m nearly positive that isn’t the case) the magic was over. There aren’t a lot of books that you remember. There are even fewer books that take your mind and warp it so hard that you can never forget what they taught.
A lot of my close friends read solely non-fiction. “HA! Childish stories? Have fun Kyle…” I think they’re missing out on a lot of life-knowledge that can’t be told through somebody teaching a lesson in a book. The more subtle lessons of this world need to be wrapped in a story. I included some below to change a mind or two.
These are books that put ideas in my head that got stuck. Then they started growing. Then they started mating with other ideas in my head. My life is significantly better every day because at some point I was willing to blast open my head and let their ideas pour in and grow.
[I mentioned this at the bottom, but I just considered that the best books I will read are the ones I haven’t yet. And the books that really have effected me are probably the ones I forget about, maybe from my childhood, the hidden ones. Help me here – what books could we all use in our head-minds?]
Thus Spoke Zarathustra is Friedrich Nietzsche‘s (my collection of his quotes here) best known (and known as his best) work. It is a book that cannot be summarized or talked about without really missing the point. When you read it you realize the importance of poetry. He doesn’t write ideas down so they can be clearly understood by each and every person. He writes in a way that embodies his philosophy more perfectly than any perfectly logical groupings of words can. You read this book and you realize just how subjective this world really is. He kills our hypocrisies and then sets them loose again, but knowingly. Nietszche went insane when he saw a horse being beaten in an ally. He was probably a little insane before that. And that’s probably why I love him so much. Stanley Kubrick features a songs in 2001: A Space Odyssey named after this as well.
The creator wanted to look away from himself, so he created the world.
But wherever I found the living, there too I heard the language of obedience. All that lives, obeys.
And this is the second point: he who cannot obey himself is commanded. Such is the nature of the living.
But this is the third thing I heard: that commanding is more difficult than obeying. And not only because the commander bears the burden of all who obey, and because this burden may easily crush him: –
All commanding seemed to me to be an experiment and a risk: and whenever it commands, the living risks itself.
Yes, even when it commands itself, it must still pay for it’s commanding. It must become the judge and avenger and victim of its own law.
Dune by Frank Herbert will teach you about power politics, how religions evolve, and intricacies of the human mind. Herbert’s grasp on so many varying ideas is fantastic. And the story is awesome. [fear, mentat]
Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. (ZenPencils did a great comic for this.)
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s magnum opus was the first book I read that showed me how much ideas can shift the experience of living. Objectivism is the shit, just not the shit it thinks it is. I think my generation could use a dose of Ayn. It’s much better than “Who is John Galt?” bumper stickers and hating poor people. The philosophy, in the right light, is actually loving and fun. Then it fucks up at other parts – but so does everything else guys! Oh, Objectivism is Rand’s philosophy that she demonstrated through Atlas Shrugged. It’s god is productivity and the respect of the individual. [My Ayn Quotes]
If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose – because it contains all the others – the fact that they were the people who created the phrase ‘to make money’. No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity – to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted, or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality. – Francisco D’Anconia in the fantastic money-speech (one of the several speeches in the book that I touch myself to while others yell about.)
The 4-Hour Workweek is the book Tim Ferriss had to write for himself after his girlfriend left him for working too many hours to make millions of dollars on some supplement company. He essentially created the lifestyle design movement with the ideas in this book. It outlines very specifically how to cut down the amount of time you spend at work, how to travel cheaply, how to understand how much money you need to live your dreams, and how to create on online business. It’s eye-opening. And I spent years after reading that sitting on the internet waiting for Tim to say something else so I could go worship that new idea. (I’m hesitant to include a quote – his art isn’t in words.)
But you are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable is the smartest book I’ve read from a living author. Nassim Taleb (who also wrote an even more smart collection of aphorisms The Bed of Procrustes) blew my mind with this book. Like Thus Spoke Zarathustra, you can never really get the point from a retelling because he is such a great writer. He talks about how the probable impact of an event is much more important to look at than the possibility of it happening. He points out that some markets are robust to Black Swans because they can take advantage of them. The movie and publishing industries are examples of these – they plan on losing money until the improbable massive bestseller/blockbuster hits. He shows that most things we consider to be measurements are actually bad guesses (banks’ risk management algorithms). Reading this book will make you think better. He also has great design sensibilities.
Narrow-minded prediction has an analgesic or therapeutic effect. Be aware of the numbing effect of magic numbers. Be prepared for all relevant eventualities.
The narrative fallacy addresses our limited ability to look at sequences of facts without weaving an explanation into them, or, equivalently, forcing a logical link, an arrow of relationship upon them. Explanations bind facts together. They make them all the more easily remembered; they help them make more sense. Where this propensity can go wrong is when it increases our impression of understanding.
We have a natural tendency to listen to the expert, even in fields where there may be no experts.
Physics has been successful, but it is a narrow field of hard science in which we have been successful, and people tend to generalize that success to all science. It would be preferable if we were better at understanding cancer or they (highly nonlinear) weather than the origin of the universe.
Beauty is enhanced by unashamed irregularities; magnificence by a facade of blunder.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy(written by some british asshole Douglas Adams, who is not actually an asshole as I understand it) is my first experience with a funny book that hits all the big worries of life. It reminds you every day that it’s possible to laugh at the giant unknowns in the universe. And keeps us honest about what we consider an ‘answer’ to life. 42.
- Old Man: come, come now or you will be late
- Arthur: late? What for?
- Old Man: what is your name, human?
- Arthur: dent. Arthur Dent
- Old Man: Late, as in the late Dentarthurdent. It’s a sort of threat, you see. I’ve never been very good at them myself, but I’m told they can be very effective.
You Are The World was the first book I read by Jiddu Krishnamurti. He actually doesn’t write, people just record what he said and puts the words in books. If you are interested in eastern thought at all you need to get some Krishnamurti in your life. His constant reminders of the direct, clear, completely attentive possibilities of living in life force you into having an experience with him instead of reading words.
Confusion implies choice and choice is the product of thought. Shall I do this or that – the “me” and the “not me,” the “you” and the “not you,” “we” and “they,” and so on, all that is implied by thought. And out of this arises confusion and from that confusion we choose; we choose our political leaders, our gurus, and so many other things, but when there is clarity, then there is direct perception. And to be clear, the mind must be completely quiet, completely still, then there is real understanding and therefore that understanding is action. It isn’t the other way around.
Self-Reliance is the single greatest essay ever written. Ralph Waldo Emerson is my Virgin Mary and that painfully shaped baby of Self-Reliance is my Baby Jesus. Come to think of it, I don’t even know anything about what the Virgin Mary represents. And an essay telling you about the importance of your experience can’t be a rule-maker. What a confused analogy. You have to read it though. I even made a skimmable version with action questions. It’s so important that I can’t say anything else about it. It’s the best. The single thing I’ve read more than twenty times in my life and teaches me more every time. Here is the PDF to my version of it.
Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakspeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is a unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow. Shakspeare will never be made by the study of Shakspeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much… Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart, and thou shalt reproduce the Foreworld again.
We do not know today whether we are busy or idle. In times when we thought ourselves indolent, we have afterwards discovered, that much was accomplished, and much was begun in us. All our days are so unprofitable while they pass, that ’tis wonderful where or when we ever got anything of this which we call wisdom, poetry, virtue. We never got it on any dated calendar day. Some heavenly days must have been intercalated somewhere.’
Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your reading have been to you like a blast of triumph Shakespeare, Seneca, Moses, John and Paul.
If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not ‘studying a profession,’ for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances.
Stranger in a Strange Land is Rober Heinlein’s book about a martian that looks a lot like us. But he can blow people up. And he doesn’t have our sexual baggage. And he loves everyone. And “Thou art god.” And groks things. And shows us what a religion could be. And tells us what tattoos could be. It’s fucking awesome. It presents so clearly a radical possibility of what society could be.
I mean it. A confidence man knows he’s lying; that limits his scope. But a successful shaman believes what he says — and belief is contagious; there is no limit to his scope. But I lacked the necessary confidence in my own infallibility; I could never become a prophet … just a critic — a sort of fourth-rate prophet with delusions of gender. – Jubal Harshaw (badass character)
A desire not to butt into other people’s business is at least eighty percent of all human ‘wisdom’…and the other twenty percent isn’t very important. – same old Jubal
The Phantom Tollbooth is the children’s book that made me realize what could go in a children’s book. There are massively interesting ideas tackled in this book in no simple way. The story is fun and the ideas are better.
The only thing you can do easily is be wrong, and that’s hardly worth the effort.
Expect everything, I always say, and the unexpected never happens.
The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what’s in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that.
Annnnd those are some good books. But of course I didn’t mention
- Ender’s Game
- 1984 – I learned to see Big Brother.
- Brave New World – I learned to see when I kill my brain.
- Alan Watts book – I read like six of them and it taught me the importance of repetition and the difference between knowing something and knowing it in your bones.
- A whole bunch of business books
- All the others
I think that probably the books that matter most in my life are the ones I forgot about. Actually, they are definitely the ones that I haven’t read yet.
What books should I read? Tell me!!