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Reading List Updates, end November '10

Just finished:

Think and Grow Rich: A marvelous book, but I was having a hard time finishing it. Then I realized - the last three chapters are pretty much fluff that repeat points already covered. I skimmed the last three chapters... it starts very strong, ends weak, but I'm happy it's finally done.

The Alchemist: What a masterpiece by Paolo Cuehlo. Read it in one day, couldn't put it down. Got me thinking a lot... lots of great quick ways to think, quick heuristics and mantras in there. Really wonderful short little book with some great lessons.

If I Did It: I read OJ Simpson's autobiography on a whim when I saw a copy. It's a weird book. It's about a guy trying to be a decent husband and having his marriage fall apart. Then he kills his wife. Oh, and it's OJ Simpson, and the most famous trial/legal story of the last 20 years. Weird to read the guy's perspective... it's weird in how surreal and normal it is. A famous guy marries a beautiful 18 year old girl but they don't have a really deep or mature connection. She doesn't take well to money and stability, gets unhappy, starts acting kind of crazy in the marriage. OJ acts crazy in response. They divorce. Then he keeps hearing her partying around town and doing drugs, flips out, and kills her. Weird reading it in his own words - I lived in Los Angeles for awhile, and the first part read like a fairly normal L.A. story with a rich, famous guy making a bad choice in a young beautiful woman without much depth or character. Then it gets kind of crazy at the end. It wasn't sad so much as weird. It's sureally normal in parts, and then ends with... well, you know. I wouldn't recommend you go out of your way to read it, but it's interesting for a few hours if you get a chance.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: Eliezer Yudkowsky's fanfiction is exceptionally good. If you're a reader of LessWrong at all, you'll love it. If not, you still might like it. He wrote it in "serialized" format where each chapter is a mostly self-contained adventure with plot arc, and then a cohesive whole. It works well, reads well, lots of good insights. He didn't really hit his stride and tone until chapter 15 to 20... if you like Yudkowsky's normal writing, give it until chapter 20. Trust me on this - Eliezer sets up a lot of backstory and forces some humor in the early chapters, and the tone isn't quite smooth... still good, but then wow, it kicks into overdrive around chapter 20 and it's just a page-turning must-read. It's free online at fanfiction.com and you can also find pdf compilations with some googling.

What I've Been Consuming

On Imported Blog

This is a monthly series that documents what I've consumed and, from music to movies and video games to books. It doesn't include everything I've consumed this month, but things that have made an impact or left an impression on me. This is for my own personal tracking, so if this doesn't interest you, feel free to move right along.

After my Kindle broke, I didn't read for months. Ryan Holiday's writings changed that dramatically. Once I had to buy books for school, I snatched up the opportunity to pick up some books that had been on my to-read list, which recently jumped from 10 or 20 books to 556 items as of today. (Buy me books?)

So here's what I've read over the course of August and September, a dramatic increase over the amount I'd read when I had to rely on a library:

I bought books waiting to be read, including Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, and The Trial by Franz Kafka. I'm very excited to get to them, but I hope to finish Ben Franklin's Autobiography first. We're also reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald in class, and I'll comment on that next month.

Quick Note About Book Series: I absolutely despise book series. I understand it's a way to get kids to read more, but it's a cheap way to extract more money out of an audience that can't afford it (I got $4-5 a week in allowance). The books are repetitive and waste precious space reminding the audience of certain constants, and if you don't have the creativity to put your series into one book--no matter the size, please stop publishing. I have stopped many series halfway because I simply outgrew them. And now I'll never know the endings...

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