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Derek Sivers just posted more book reviews. That makes today a good day.

So, I've mentioned Derek before around these parts. He's a very sharp guy. Actually, I think his book reviews here - http://sivers.org/book - are basically the best on the internet.

You can get more nuanced, flowery, beautifully written reviews elsewhere. But you can't find as much raw distilled practicality as you will in Derek's reviewing. He takes notes and excerpts as he's reading, and puts his notes online when he's done with the book. 90% of one of his reviews are excerpts, with only 10% commentary.

This in and of itself is actually kind of rare, but other people do that too. What really sets Derek's reviews apart is that he picks the right stuff to excerpt. He's able to separate the fluffy parts of a book from the most actionable and impactful parts. A long, fluffy story that's meant to rouse the heart might get a single line in a Sivers review, but then he'll distill down the most practical elements into a mixed summary checklist that becomes extremely valuable. Since I personally look for practical advice rather than flowery emotional content, this suits me very well.

For instance, check out his review of Chet Holmes "Ultimate Sales Machine" - http://sivers.org/book/UltimateSalesMachine - first, I gotta agree with him on the 10/10. It's one of my top five favorite business books. But then look at how he chooses to excerpt -

TEN STEPS TO IMPLEMENT ANY NEW POLICY: 1. Get everyone to feel the pain 2. Hold a workshop to generate solutions 3. Develop a conceptual solution or procedure 4. Leader personally performs procedure or task 5. Set a deadline for testing the conceptual procedure 6. Document step-by-step procedure or process 7. Have show-and-tell role playing 8. Have another workshop on how to improve 9. Monitor the procedure directly 10. Measure and reward the outcome

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.

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