By popular demand, and like last year, a list of recommended books follows, keeping with the format of one book per month.
Realistically, not everyone will be interested in every single book, so for next year, the list will be longer, and you can mix and match, smorgasbord style.
Also like last year, I’m linking to Amazon purely for convenience and because that’s where the most reviews are. Feel free to buy, borrow or otherwise obtain the books elsewhere, as works best for you.
Without further ado, enjoy:
This book accurately predicted many effects of modern information technologies (such as non-state issued money) that looked absurd at the time of publishing, and was widely ridiculed by all the respectable experts, only to look profoundly prophetic in retrospect.
One could criticise the repetitive prose and dotcom-era jargon (everything is “cyber”), but the book is substantially on point and got a lot of things right. Even the things, I expect, that have not yet happened. First place on the list for good reason.
Ironically doesn’t exist as an ebook ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
A tentative biography of Elon Musk who, if humanity is lucky, is barely getting started. Provides fascinating insight into the habits and modus operandi of Mr. Machine Jesus. Think of it as “The story so far”. Musk is still young, and may he live long and prosper – so that we all fucking may.
Some say Henry Kissinger is a war criminal. Those people might have a point.
But geopolitics is messy by definition, and it’s impossible to go into gardening without getting one’s hands dirty – much less for fifty years. Kissinger’s insight is based on having done a lot of gardening indeed. If you want to understand the world a bit better, this is a fascinating read.
Another bestseller by human guinea pig and pusher of boundaries in personal wellbeing Tim Ferriss.
Tim interviews impressive people about their methods, habits and routines in the areas of of health, wealth and wisdom. I am slightly butthurt for not having been included, but then I’m not Schwarzenegger-famous yet and Tim will have opportunities to correct this in time for his next, even better books. There are things to be critical of if you wanted to – half the part on health is essentially product placement wrapped in anecdotal evidence (sorry Tim, I’m saying this as a loving fan) – but this book will change your life, and I see it becoming a standard reference manual for living well.
Read it read it read it. Drop everything, make yourself fifty litres of rum cocoa, snuggle up in a blanket and read it. There is a central split running down the whole of human history and politics, and Karl Popper will help you see it – and once seen, it can’t be unseen.
Don’t get discouraged by the title – it’s not just about tennis, which I haven’t played since that one uncoordinated time without a net or an opponent at age 5, but about the psychology of mastery in general. If you want to do anything well, it is useful reading.
Robert Cialdini, author of the all-time classic on influence and persuasion, and consultant to several presidential campaigns, is back decades later with another bombshell. Most persuasion advice focuses on the “battlefield tactics”, but Cialdini shows you how to set up the battlefield in advance to influence the outcome before the battle even starts. Expect a lot of this stuff in articles to come ;)
The title is idiotic. The contents are factually correct.
Simply the best history available of the most important intellectual movement in human history (prior to me).
While Peter Gay was objectively a leading authority on the history of the Enlightenment, it is clear he was not always entirely sympathetic to it, and motivated by a notion of academic impartiality that strayed into false equivalence between sense and nonsense, he occasionally took an admonishing tone towards the likes of Voltaire, Hume and Diderot – whom he considered arrogant, smug, impatient and lacking in humility, audaciously dismissing centuries of tradition with dick jokes, withering wits and smirks, on top of, as he was forced to admit, being penetrating minds of the first order and making excellent points. What he failed to see was that these things go hand in hand.
First rate minds are usually trolls, because it’s one of the only ways to not go insane(r) with boredom, and the archetype of the equanimous “serious scholar” is a sad secondrate, doomed to analyze what others are doing, but never do much himself.
Basically, the Republic of Letters was the 4chan of powdered-wig-era Europe. Many of the leading thinkers of the Enlightenment were, on top of being the sharpest minds of their time, essentially the equivalents of pepe-meming shitlord trolls, whose irreverence, butt jokes and utter disdain for “respectability” have landed them in trouble always, outside “polite society” usually, in exile often, and in prison occasionally, but also brought down the oppressive monsters of monarchism and hegemonic religion, and opened the door for the exponential explosion of scientific progress in recent centuries. You can be pretty sure you wouldn’t be reading this on a device that downloaded it from fucking space if it wasn’t for them.
If they were arrogant and disrespectful, it was because they were right about essentially everything and everything essential, and their opponents deserved less than zero patience or respect. Professor Gay, so critical of their brazen insolence, owed his very ability to even write about them, to them. No point being humble, circumspect and diplomatic when you’re up against idiots, tyrants and criminals, as the giants of the Enlightenment were.
Of which medicine, it might be added, humanity desperately needs a second and stronger dose.
The exception on this list, this is a book of fiction. But what great fiction it is…
A book that represents the turning of the tide in academia on the old nature vs. nurture controversy – fortunately in favour of science, i.e. nature.
For decades, a dogmatic, political and irrational nurture-centric orthodoxy prevailed in social sciences and politics, ignoring or shouting down mounting evidence from real scientists that people actually are born with a lot of firmware already preinstalled.
The “blank slate” doctrine was favoured because of its political usefulness – at once enabling academics, group-think-tankers and politicians to virtue-signal by distancing themselves from eugenicists (for arguably not bad reasons), and justifying interventionist social engineering that, by a happy accident, happened to morally mandate handing them vast political powers and extensive funding.
There’s just one thing. It wasn’t true.
This book is the opening shot from the Aurora against such politically correct collective magical thinking.
Except this one is starting a revolution against the communists.
Surely, the author of such a book has to be some sort of alt-right pepe-flailing neonazi, right? Actually, Harvard university professor of psychology.
Every word is a refreshing elixir.
The title of the book is self explanatory. The reason this is interesting, of course, is because understanding why nations fail directly translates into understanding how they succeed.
I understand there’s a significant South American and Central-Eastern European readership here. This book might be useful if you/we want to make our corners of the world work a little bit better. You’re welcome.
Actually, everywhere can benefit from people reading this stuff.
Many happy hours reading the books as well as the coming stream of articles here!
If you want next year’s edition to include a book by yours truly, you should buy me a beer.