Book Notes

Here are a bunch of books I’ve read. This page was inspired by Derek Sivers books page, with some variations on things like how I recommend books. The detailed notes for each may be terse, or long form prose, depending on how I’m feeling.


Quicksilver

Neal Stephenson

Date read: December 3, 2019

As a long-time Stephenson fan, it took me a long time to get to this one, and to the Baroque Cycle in general. A change of pace from books like Snow Crash or Cryptonomicon, it retains Stephenson’s maximalist style, humor, and creative story structure in a different setting than his normal flair. David Fincher would need to direct the movie.

Training for the Uphill Athlete

Steve House, Scott Johnston, Kilian Journet

Date read: December 1, 2019

Despite the size of the book, this is a quick read. Its filled with sprawling mountain vistas and side bar advice from elite athletes in the field, all of which is designed to motivate the hell out of you. It covers similar ground to Steve Magness’ Science of Running, with more emphasis on vertical trail races and ski mountaineering, which requires some tweaking to the general runner’s training plan. Not a beginner’s book. I would recommend Krissy Moehl’s Running Your First Ultra or Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning if you’re new to the sport. Actually, just start with Powell’s Relentless Forward Progress.

The End is Always Near

Dan Carlin

Date read: November 22, 2019

As a long time fan of Hardcore History I thought I’d like this book more than I did. But Carlin’s voice, translated to book form, didn’t seem to fit the page. The most obvious problem is the constant use of footnotes. This is signature Carlin, but in book form it’s distracting. Still a good read, especially for those new to some of the history, but it lacks depth for those who read the same source material as Carlin. I’d consider it a modern version of Durant’s Lessons of History, which I think you should read first.

Letters from a Stoic

Seneca and Robin Campbell

Date read: October 12, 2019

This is one of my desert island books. It’s hard to feel down about your circumstances when you read Seneca, and Campbell’s translation is clear and concise. These are selections from a larger body, but they are the best ones.

Can't Hurt Me

David Goggins

Date read: October 11, 2019

I don’t go in much for self-help books, but the story of David Goggins as told by him is hard to escape. I find him both praise-worthy but also somewhat hard to take seriously. At a minimum what he has accomplished cannot be ignored, and hearing how he got there is a place to learn a lot of lessons.

Fabric of Reality

David Deutsch

Date read: August 8, 2019

I’ve been resisting the multiverse as lazy thinking for a long time, but after reading Fabric of Reality I am closing to being on the fence. I read this after Fall; or Dodge in Hell, and as a non-fiction follow-up it was fantastic. Movies like Donnie Darko, Mr. Nobody, and shows like Dark are much more comprehensible after reading this.

Antifragile

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Date read: July 24, 2019

This is the first book I’ve been excited about in years. Taleb’s honest writing and often crass sophistication made the book entertaining. I left the book feeling like I’d been let in on a secret as old as time.

Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Douglas Hofstadter

Date read: January 1, 1999

I can’t get enough of this book. Every few years I pick it up and read it again, and each time go a little deeper. Like Zeno’s paradox, I will only ever get a little closer each time. Read ‘I am a Strange Loop’ before this one, even though it was published much later.