Some books I've read since ~2014 in chronological order.
- Breakfast with Socrates
- The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test
- The Dharma Bums
- Coronado High: Fun, short, crime story.
Money is energy. A frictionless medium for amplifying your will.
- How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia: Beautiful book with a unique style. People on goodreads say it's a gimmick but I thought the self-help book disguise was clever and added to theme. I loved the ~1 page run-on sentence paintings of the lives of minor/background characters. These seemed more "real" than the main characters.
- The Stranger: Boring as fuck. Am I just a pleb incapable of understanding the deeper meaning? I get that Camus wanted to convey Meursault's emotional detachment through the frank writing, but that didn't make the book any less boring. I didn't need to read a hundred pages of apathy to get that Meursault was a nihilist. I also felt that the ending was a wash, I don't get what Camus was trying to convey. Is Meursalt creating a purpose for himself by embracing the role of the stranger that everyone hates? Does that not contradict the whole "benign indifference of the universe" thing? Why even create a role for himself? I don't know whether he's accepting meaninglessness or making some futile grasp for meaning at the end of his life. I enjoyed the straightforwardness of the Myth of Sisyphus.
- Ghost in the Wires: I love reading hacker biographies, but this got old fast. It's mostly about social engineering, not actual computer hacking, and the author seems like a tool.
- Gang Leader for a Day: Compelling portrayal of the Chicago projects. Sudhir is one brave dude.
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Funny at a few points, but I had to slog through it, and this is from someone who loves drug-fueled romps. I get that it's a critique of American culture, but that didn't make it any less boring. Kind of like The Stranger in that sense
- Everything Matters: A big page turner and a good read, but I felt the question of why everything actually matters was never really answered. The protagonist just kind of suddenly started believing everything mattered through some internal conflict resolution not presented to the reader. I'm left still not thinking anything matters.
- Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
- Downtown Owl
- Moth Smoke
- Crime and Punishment
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
- One More Thing
- Consider the Lobster
- Taipei (Tao Lin): I have a little Tao Lin fan page over here.
- On the Road
- Hillbilly Elegy
- Bed (Tao Lin)
- One Year A Bike: Beautiful design, photography, and print. The story was inspiring at first, but became tedious and repitive. Like it'd just be, "Day 203: Still on my bike. In a desert for another 300 miles. This is pretty shitty."
- Obey: Supply and Demand
- The Bell Jar
- The Everything Store
- How Information Grows: Loved the first few chapters, but while Hidalgo is a great teacher, the writing felt awkward and there was so much valueless reptition the book could've been compressed into a fourth of the size.
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
- Trip (Tao Lin): I came into this book a hyper-rationalist/skeptic, I hadn't yet begun to respect tradition. But, because I respect and relate to Tao Lin more than any other author, I approached the conspiracies and health topics discussed in the book, topics I normally dismiss on sight, with a radically open mind, and the book changed my worldview more than anything else I had read before, making me confront deep-seated biases and conditioning, mental traps I naively believed I was immune from, and putting me on a path towards happiness and comfort. I no longer think New Age Hippie Bullshit is all bullshit.
I'd already read a lot about psychedelics a few years prior to reading this book, but if you're new to the literature, I haven't seen descriptions better than Lin's. He's is a master at observing his own mind. A few chapters read like a literary Erowid.
- Tulsa (Larry Clark): Got me interested in photo books.
- Freedom (Jonathan Franzen): This book has the best dialogue and characters I've ever read. The characters felt real and close, like people I've known. My emotions for them had concrete, real life targets, doubling my emotional investment in the story.
Only con were the boring as fuck, self-indulgent descriptions of various bird species.
- All the Sad Young Literary Men
- Inadequate Equilibria: Insightful with fun abstractions and thought experiments while still being incredibly practical. I love Yudkowsky explanations, especially his dialectics. He's the best author I've read at anticipating counter-arguments.
- The Death of Cool: McInnes seems like a shitty person but the early years of his life and the story behind Vice make a fun and motivating read.
- Alchemy of Herbs
- Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom
My favorite articles
- The Beat Generation Worldview in Kerouac’s On the Road - Great article explaining the Beat Generation's infatuation with life.
- Tradition is Smarter Than You Are - Changed my worldview. I had very little respect for tradition before reading Trip, then this, and then Antifragile. Everything had to have a reason and a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial behind it. Now I hit up the herbalism and Ayurveda sections of alternative bookstores on the regular.
- ~11,000-word post with tao lin & kevin sampsell emails & thoughts re editing - Enlightening article from someone with a sharp fundamental understanding of people, loneliness, and art.
if i'm ever angry at anything it's existence itself not a specific person or group of people. nothing is detached or separate from the first event that created the universe, therefore nothing can be blamed except for existence itself; you blame a person, then you have to blame their mom, then their mom's mom, so on, until the first event, after which maybe all that can be done is to learn to stop thinking or maybe kill yourself
- What Happens When a State Is Run by Movie Stars?
- Great article about South India's fucked up politics.
- Dangerous: an in-depth investigation into the life of John McAfee - John McAfee is one interesting dude.
- Great explanation of Hough Transforms
- Your Move: The Maze of Free Will - The last quote is my view on determinism and moral responsibility.
I see no necessary disjunction between having no free will (those arguments seem watertight) and assuming moral responsibility for myself. The point is ownership. I own my past, my beginnings, my perceptions. And just as I will make myself responsible if my dog or child bites someone, or my car rolls backwards down a hill and causes damage, so I take on full accountability for the little ship of my being, even if I do not have control of its course. It is this sense of being the possessor of a consciousness that makes us feel responsible for it.
- The Myth of the Soul - My favorite argument against immortality and the existence of a soul.
When we fully understand the brevity of life, its fleeting joys and unavoidable pains; when we accept the facts that all men and women are approaching an inevitable doom: the consciousness of it should make us more kindly and considerate of each other. This feeling should make men and women use their best efforts to help their fellow travelers on the road, to make the path brighter and easier as we journey on. It should bring a closer kinship, a better understanding, and a deeper sympathy for the wayfarers who must live a common life and die a common death.
- Geniuses, Or Whatever: Tom Lehman and Ilan Zechory - I think the Genius founders are hilarious and this interview was inspiring.
- The Teens Who Hacked Microsoft's Videogame Empire—And Went Too Far - A gripping longform true crime read from Wired. I have a huge softspot for the genius teenage hacker trope (I think I just want to live vicariously through bad-ass, anti-establishment, computer prodigies, something I failed to be).
Quotes I've Kept
Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.
We have convictions only if we have studied nothing thoroughly.
Playing away games is like taking a shit in someone else's house.
Leisure is permissible, we understand, because it costs money; idleness is not, because it doesn’t. Leisure is focused; whatever thinking it requires is absorbed by a certain task: sinking that putt, making that cast, watching that flat-screen TV. Idleness is unconstrained, anarchic. Leisure – particularly if it involves some kind of high-priced technology – is as American as a Fourth of July barbecue.
Am I a good person? Deep down, do I even really want to be a good person, or do I only want to seem like a good person so that people (including myself) will approve of me? Is there a difference? How do I ever actually know whether I'm bullshitting myself, morally speaking?