While March was a challenging month for reading, due to my race directing the U.S. National Snowshoe Championships, I still managed to listen to five books, three of which were quite long, and technical.
Decoding Reality – Vlatko Vedral ***
Solve For Happy – Mo Gawdat **
Skin in the Game – Nassim Taleb ***.5
The Strange Order of Things – Antonio Damasio ****.5
Enlightenment Now – Steven Pinker ****.5
(if you are not yet an Audible member, you can get one of these books for free, by signing up for a 30 day trial – use this link, and you’ll help support my work as well – Audible Trial Membership)
Of these five, ‘The Strange Order of Things’, is my top pick, with ‘Enlightenment Now’, coming in a close second. Both of these books are very important reads, and if you don’t mind taking your time, to wade through LOTS of quite technical information, you will come out the other side with some very useful, and currently applicable perspectives.
In the past, I’ve given quite high marks to any book written by Nassim Taleb (Antifragile, The Black Swan, and Fooled by Randomness), due to principles that relate quite well to what I’ve learned as an athlete, and practical knowledge seeker, but ‘Skin in the Game’, is filled with just as much vitriol, as it is with mind-opening content. When not engaged in ad hominem attacks on other thinkers, Taleb makes some very good arguments, and describes a foundational philosophy that resonates quite strongly with how the world has shown up for me. It’s a good read, for sure, but you have to look past his arrogance and pejorative dismissal of differing viewpoints, in order to see the value in his ideas, as they stand on their own merit.
One book in the above list, that I would strongly recommend that you NOT spend your money or your time on, is ‘Solve For Happy.’ The author purports to have used the principles of engineering to create an equation that solves for ‘happy’, and this definitely piqued my interest, but the book fails to deliver. More insidiously, this book is actually a bait and switch gimmick, that quickly discards the empirical rigor of an engineer, and replaces it with the hopeful spiritual beliefs of the author, and the presenting of his son as an infallible, almost Christ-like figure. I’m not sure what the author’s intentions were in writing the book. If they were to understand the grief that he experienced at the loss of his son, then I wouldn’t mind. But he seems to go far beyond that… entering into the territory of messiah creation, and apologetics. In any case, this book is all over the map, and fails to offer anything of lasting value.