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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.

Back In The Fight

On The Slippery Kangaroo

I recently started reading Back In The Fight by Sergeant First Class Joseph Kapacziewski (Kapa-chess-ski) and Charles W Sasser. The story follows Kapacziewski as he goes through Army Ranger training shortly after 9/11 and his experience fighting in the war.

Before I go on, I want you to know that I don't usually read the synopsis of a book, I like to go in not knowing what to expect. I did notice that the guy on the cover of the book had a prosthetic leg, but that was ALL I knew. I didn't know how he got it (fighting I supposed) or when, or what he meant by "back in the fight."

After reading the first few pages (taking place in Afghanistan 2009) I felt that Kapacziewski was very inspiring (as most military men/women are in my opinion). That first chapter is only six pages, and the last line makes you realize how amazing Kapacziewski really is and why his story is worth telling.

SFC Kapacziewski started basic training a week after the attack on the twin towers. Prior to 9/11 most enlisted soldiers were unlikely to actually see combat, this is the mindset SFC Kapacziewski had when he enlisted. That being said he wanted to go to war, he wanted to fight, in his mind he had entered the army at the perfect time.

In 2005 SFC Kapacziewski shattered his right leg below the knee after a grenade fell into his Stryker vehicle.

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