Category Archives: Erudition

Recent Reading

I’m constantly reading. I used to do book reviews on here, but that got old pretty fast. From now on I’ll just give a list of what I’ve been reading recently, and a short blurb about each book. Here are some books and collections I’ve been spending time with lately.

Business Books

Good to Great by Jim Collins

This was a phenomenal book. Collins basically takes an enormous amount of data, collected from interviews, stock statistics, and news articles, and then rationally debates what the data mean and simplifies it down to a few easy-to-follow lessons. The whole time, he keeps his conclusions logical and empirical, instead of drawing conclusions solely from his own experience, which you see all too often in business. This definitely ranks up there with some of my other favorite business books: The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, Made to Stick by the Heath Brothers, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene… I think that about covers it (for now).

The Lean Startup by Eric Reis

Quick read, and covers some great methods and mindsets for quick and reasonable product development. Unfortunately, I’m not running a software startup, I’m in the biotech space, so most of this was irrelevant to my current situation. Nevertheless, the principles Reis expounds can be applied to just about anything with a bit of creative thinking. Worth a read.

Fiction and Literature

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

As a philosophy student, it was fascinating to read this book. Stephenson basically takes the history of philosophy, transports it to another world (actually a parallel universe), and then changes the names of everything and weaves it into an intricate and interesting story. One example: instead of Occam’s Razor, you have the Steelyard.

This was almost a 1000 page book, so it took a while to finish. But I’m glad I read it all. Next I think I’ll read Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, as recommended by Mark Conrad.

Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg

The prototypical beat generation book of poetry. I really liked it, but I’m taking a step back and currently reading a collection of Alexander Pope’s poetry. For some reason, I find poetry to be a more interesting form of literature than the novel. I also really like short stories…

The Best Stories of Guy de Maupassant

I picked up this and the collection of Pope poetry after seeing this speech by Ray Bradbury. I find short stories to be immensely intellectually and creatively stimulating. Especially when you consider possible metaphors, symbolism, etc that the author wove into his story.

Psychology Books

The Psychology of Self-Esteem, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, and The Psychology of Romantic Love by Nathaniel Branden

I actually read Branden’s book on romantic love almost a year ago, but I revisited it last month for a paper I was working on, which lead me to become interested in his other works on self-esteem. As I work more on my own projects, I’m realizing how important self-confidence and self-esteem are. Sure, you have to be comfortable with yourself before you can even think about substantial relationships with high-quality people (both friends and girlfriends), but the same goes for anything you create. Making a company and making love are like two sides of a single coin – you have to put your whole being and energy and focus into each in order to do it the right way. And giving your whole self to a project or a person necessarily requires that you are confident in your abilities. (Not arrogant, which is just blind and stupid, but confident in an enlightened-sort of way.)

I highly recommend all three of Branden’s books, but especially The Psychology of Romantic Love.

So, that’s what I’ve been perusing for the past couple of weeks. I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading.

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean — Sometimes You Just Can’t Help

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

Every once in a while you find a book that speaks to you in a way you don’t understand. The story in itself ebbs and flows like the tide of water on a beach of characters that teach you more about yourself than you can consciously comprehend. The elegant prose so enraptures you in its profundity that you find yourself questioning whether you are remembering a part of the book or a first-hand experience—or that you have imaginary dialogues with the characters, as if they entrusted to you a part of themselves that intimately found its way into your conscience—and the winding narrative contains in it a symbolism that intrigues in a uniquely unorthodox, enigmatic fashion.

I’ve found very few of those kind of books.

A River Runs Through It is one of those books.

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Lucky or Smart by Bo Peabody — “Smart Enough to Realize I Was Getting Lucky”

I’m smack in the middle of a personal challenge to read at least one book every week. The erudition section of this blog is my attempt to chronicle my challenge and galvanize a lifetime of curiosity and learning. If you have read any of these books before, or happen to pick one up and find it interesting, I’d love to hear your thoughts too.


Lucky or Smart by Bo Peabody

Remember Tripod.com? You know, back in the dinosaur age of the internets, when only the über-smart and curious intellectuals (read: nerds) were the ones who ventured into the land of dial-up? Yeah, I was there, and I’m pretty sure I had a “homepage” on Tripod.

Well the guy behind Tripod, it turns out, was a kid—Bo Peabody. After nursing Tripod as a pet project through college, he hired hippie programmers to wrangle the code that he himself didn’t know how to write. Supervised by his economics professor, Tripod.com began as a how-to site for-and-by college students. As soon as he unleashed the code monkeys, however, they transformed it into a publishing platform, allowing anyone with an Internet connection to create their own personal homepage.

Fast forward six years. Peabody sells his company to Lycos for a reported $58 million in stock. Rock on.

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The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco — See the Process Behind the Product

I’m smack in the middle of a personal challenge to read at least one book every week. The erudition section of this blog is my attempt to chronicle my challenge and galvanize a lifetime of curiosity and learning. If you have read any of these books before, or happen to pick one up and find it interesting, I’d love to hear your thoughts too.


The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco

First, the bad: MJ DeMarco isn’t an elegant writer, nor is he particularly scholarly in the way some business-minded people are. Just take a look at his blog where he posts videos of himself sitting poolside in his mansion, wearing a backwards ball cap, and seriously discussing the parallels of a supermarket conveyor belt and business strategies.

DeMarco also seems to be a lucky dot-com millionaire. He started and sold a limousine chartering website for both limo rental companies and individuals looking for limos. Now that’s a pretty good gig, considering how most people looking for limos are also either looking to spend a bunch of money on a special occasion, or have a bunch of money to spend regardless. Continue reading

My Anti-library

My Anti-libraryPictured above is part of my anti-library. The first bottom row are unread or partly-read books. The back row and shelf are either read or reference books.

What’s an anti-library? In The Black Swan, Taleb talks about Umberto Eco’s collection of 30,000 unread books. These books represent Eco’s anti-library, the reservoir of information that Eco doesn’t yet possess. This unknown knowledge is of greater importance than what Eco does know because it represents the blind spots, the uncertainty, and the relative frailty of his knowledge. It also serves to humble and remind him of how much he really doesn’t know.

Awareness of one’s anti-library and the unknown information it holds is critical to any right-minded individual.

So, I am posting here my anti-library as of today, the 6th of August, 2011. A tip of the hat goes out to the inimitable James Steele II for posting his anti-library and giving me this idea. In about six months I’ll check back in with new books to read.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho — Follow Your Personal Legend

I’m smack in the middle of a personal challenge to read at least one book every week. Because of school and work, I’m currently 13 books behind and playing catch-up. The erudition section of this blog is my attempt to chronicle my challenge and galvanize a lifetime of curiosity and learning. If you have read any of these books before, or happen to pick one up and find it interesting, I’d love to hear your thoughts too.


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

For a long time I didn’t read fiction, even after some of my favorite authors and idols insisted that it helped them become better writers. I always believed that, aside from a few superstar novels, fiction couldn’t teach me anything I couldn’t learn from real-life.

I now see that as an extremely myopic view of fiction. When you read a book, you shouldn’t just read the book. Look deeper and try and get inside the author’s head. Why would she phrase a sentence this way, or why would he reveal such-and-such about this character at this point in the book? You don’t learn just from the words that are written on the page, but from which words are written, the way they are written, and the structure and story of the book in whole.

That said, The Alchemist is… Continue reading