Book Thread 2024

The 4-hour Work Week blew me away last year when I read it. The first half of the book is pretty remarkable. He makes it clear that with some diligent thinking and a few exercises you can get past a lot of your mental blind spots and into meaningful action very quickly. No more beating around the bush, just actual forward movement on stuff that really matters to you. Dreamlining and fear setting are both pretty awesome practices, and a great way to realize how many options you actually have.

The middle section is more about how to shift away from your day job and the individual techniques are less useful. Things like how to radically limit your time spent on the phone, and other ways to move yourself out of the office. The concepts are important, and the examples he uses give a good sense of the level of radical change he suggesting, but the individual techniques don’t feel terribly relevant or realistic.

Then on the fully bad side are his suggestions for exploiting What he calls, wage arbitrage or something like that, but which boils down to paying someone in a developing country to do really crappy stuff you don’t like, automating everything else, and creating yourself as some sort of weirdo expert in some space so that you can give yourself passive income.

There’s a pretty great episode of the If Books Could Kill podcast on this book that goes into detail on the last part, and also acknowledges that the early part is pretty good.

That is a pretty decent overview. I would say that his wage arbitrage stuff never appealed to me. The tasks I have to do are such that I would lose money getting someone in India to do them, and I am not so busy that I can’t manage my diary.

One thing I really took away from the book was how he calculates what time is actually worth, which made me re-evaluate the job I had at the time, which was teaching English. I was getting 20 euros/hour, which is not bad on the face of it, but for a 2 hour class I had to spend an hr driving, often more with traffic, and had to refuel the company car (And then get it reimbursed later) and at least half an hour preparing my lesson (because I actually prepared my stuff) and 15 minutes after dissecting the lesson (yeah, I actually did that, sharpening the saw etc) so the actual pay per hour was 40/3.75 hours, maybe 4 hours.

That’s 10 euros/hour. Almost any job I can think of gets the same or more, and requires much less effort.

You should read his Tools of Titans. It is quite fascinating. Some good stuff there (diet, fitness) and some imho rather odd (psychedelics!) but he warns you in advance that there are bits you will bounce off.

The biggest mistake, which I do, with his books is try and read them linearly. Like 4 hr body, you should consider that a collection of mini books.

Currently reading:

Identically Different, by Tim Spector

This is an interesting book. It’s about your genes, and how they are much more plastic/malleable than commonly believed, and also how Lamarck( of the giraffe necks) may not have been entirely wrong, and Darwin may not have been entirely right.

I’ve always been a big fan of paperback thrillers, and just read Point Of Impact by Stephen Hunter. It’s the Bob Lee swagger character that turned into the movie Shooter with Marky Mark, and he’s just this side of a Gary Stu. The difference-maker is that he’s well characterized and interesting, not an obvious self-insert.

The plot goes deep into what makes snipers good. It’s fascinating stuff; how wind and angle affect bullets, the various types of shots you take, when NOT to take a shot, and so on. The plot also manages to flop between the hero and the villains being on top. Also, despite a deep respect for the fighting men and women of the world, the plot is also very concerned with the ways the government and fighting forces go awry, and use their power for deeply unethical things.

Overall, highly recommended as a piece of very well done Men’s Fiction, if you’re into that. :slightly_smiling_face::roll_eyes::nauseated_face::mask:

I’ve read (and enjoyed) most of Stephen Hunter and the Bob Lee series, despite not being a gun advocate in any way.

Surprisingly**, the book that I most enjoyed was Time to Hunt, which he wrote in ‘98. Point of Impact was the first in the series from ‘93. Time to Hunt has a lot of the back story and takes place in Vietnam, also Washington D. C. Tells the tale of his spotter, Donnie, his demise and Bob the Nailer’s near death and the aftermath that ensued. As was said, not for the squeamish but a heck of a thriller !

** I say surprisingly because of the success of the movie Shooter, which was based on the first book in the series, Point of Impact. I really like it when an author gets better over time, and for me, the backstory etc. in Time to Hunt was a far better tale than was told in the movie Shooter and the book Point of Impact.

You should try his Earl Swagger books. Earl is Bob Lee’s father, a WW2 hero turned vigilante in the post-war era.

Stephen Hunter is a good writer, and his books are real page-turners, even if he is a bit of a nut.

I expected some similarities between Thomas Sowell’s Social Justice Fallacies and his previous book, Economic Facts and Fallacies, but I still found myself surprised by just how much similarity there was. Some chapters (the one on the Chess Piece Fallacy, for instance) looked like the same talking points had been lifted wholesale and rewritten. There’s a different slant to the presentation, of course - this book focuses on the difficulties that come from regulating outcomes across broad groups, leading to unintended consequences. But it’s largely the same points underneath - different racial/cultural/ethnic/gender groups have different outcomes because they have different priorities leading to different choices, and Sowell argues that systematic discrimination is a minor factor in outcomes. The various data that Sowell presents is fine, as far as I can tell as a layman, but his conclusions tend to go only one step - it’s bad to have government step in to address discrimination when the real causes of poverty and inequality are cultural and economic - and then stop, not asking the logical next question of how we as a society should apply ourselves to addressing those other causes. I do think he points out some good areas where government policies have had bad effects, and that’s good information, but not going into what should happen instead left me feeling as that the discussion wasn’t finished.

I think Sowell’s interest in the social problem wanes once you’ve drowned the government in a bathtub. That’s the objective, not solving the social problem.

Just finished “Danmark: De første 1000 år” (Denmark: The First 1000 years), which is basically what it says on the tin - a history of the first 1000 years of Denmark’s history. In this case, the history from ~400 AD till 1400 AD. Anders Lundt Hansen is a fairly new historical author in Denmark, but is fast becoming my favorite. If his books manage to make the jump to an English translation, I’d strongly recommend them.

I don’t think this particular one will - not because it is bad (it is excellent, IMO), but because it is perhaps too “Denmark centered” to be attractive to readers from other countries. Though personally, I would love to read a historian who writes their country’s history like this. Because Hansen doesn’t just write history - he writes history based upon the latests archeology and theories, and in doing so absolutely savages most ot the nationalist-romantic myths of the country. As he - quite correclty - notes, so much of what we think we know about the past was determined - and in some cases fabricated - during the 19th century when the nation states were formed, and that lens still colors so much of our understanding. Those nations looked to the past to justify their existence and “manifest destiny” and thus arose the idea of a tribe of Danes, of a “Denmark” founded in the 800s, of “Vikings”, and of a glorious (and sometimes inglorious) line of Kings stretching forward to this day.

The reality is of course a lot less straightforward. What he shows, instead, is a loose federation of nobles existing in the 400s called the “Danes”, but crossing ethnic/tribal boundaries. Already in the 700s (and possibly earlier) there was a single King of the Danes. When the sail developed in the North Sea, that network of federated increased its reach, stretching eventually into England, Ireland, et al (he makes the case in one of the other books, that the Viking attacks were essentially just a continuation of “standard politics” in the North Sea area). And in the course of the book he destroys “nice” national myths (also putting in a few kicks at the magna carta and similar myths in other countries) and explains what we know about how we went from a loose federation of nobles, to a centralized, bureucratic medieval Kingdom.

I love these kind of books, and - as mentioned - I wish more historians were capable of divesting themselves of the nationalism/tribalism that we all inherently have, and write history that is truly neutral, based on “just the facts”. As he points out, the organic or nationalistic view of history, where countries come from some origin or unique point is not only wrong - it’s horrific. But there is nothing in our past that guarantees the existence of Denmark - differing choices of aristocrats and random chance might have resulted in thousands of different historical outcomes than what we actually got. And this idea is anathema to nationalists. As he notes, it is no coincidence that every dictator or dictator-aspiring politicians for the past century plus invokes historical determinism and manifest destiny. Because the implication of this is that we have no choice; which is the perfect way to legitimize the greed, brutality and terror that these people inevitably wish to unleash on other people.

When did Denmark “begin”? As Hansen points out - it’s an eternal process, where we create a “new” Denmark every day. Because ultimately, Denmark is an “idea”. Every time a new law is introduced, new words are added to the language, new inventions and discoveries are created, “Denmark” is changed and becomes something slightly different than it was before. Change is the only constant.

As he says, history does not tell us who we are. History tells us how we have reached the point we are at today. It tells us that we, ourselves, create our identities and are responsible for our own choices. But you need an understanding of the past, when you plan for the future, and that is what (good) history can provide.

He also has one about grandfather Charles.

I have the latest which has a novella for all 3 generations in one book on my to be read pile…

I have read 2 or 3 of his books now. Wealth, Poverty and Politics and Economic Facts and Fallacies.

There are repeated themes, or rather the same themes get addressed again, and the biggest one I can see so far is the impact of benefits and identity politics.

I got a different take on that. He talks about how in the immediate post civil war south, there was a concerted effort to educate the newly liberated population, and how establishments (throughout the USA) that focus on educational results, as opposed to what he terms as pandering, get results.

He mentions one school that had very high achievements for black children, until it was (my paraphrasing) ghettoised or “made black.”

He doesn’t make it explicit, but implicit to this, to my understanding, is an advocating for establishments that teach people what works, instead of promoting the idea that they are helpless victims (again, my paraphrasing, usual caveats) and need special help.

So, basically, change the culture, don’t just give money etc.

Basically, his recurring theme seems to be that certain traits produce better outcomes, and therefore those should be taught, whereas the current system advocates for handouts for those deemed disadvantaged.

His arguments rest, as far as I can tell, on pointing out that certain groups that were considered (or were) just as, or more so disadvantaged than those who are currently considered such, have managed to turn things around to the extent that these former groups are now often called privileged (a term he dislikes by the way.)

That last sentence is clumsy, so an example to illustrate:

Chinese and other Asians came to the USA dirt poor, experienced crazy racism, and are now over represented in every higher education establishment.

He ( Sowell) would argue that the start point of these immigrants was lower than that of the black Americans at the time (just after the end of the civil war) and yet, somehow, Blacks as a demographic are still lagging, and are lagging more and more.

He blames, as far as I understand it, civil rights and the welfare system. I don’t quite get the connection here, need to re-read/read more to be able to summarise his argument here.

I suppose, if one wanted to make it into a slogan, it would be “fewer handouts, more helping hands” or something.

I would like such a treatment of the UK and the USA.

When I was at university and studying History, we did cover some of the national myths and legends, such as the kilt in Scotland etc.

I found it utterly fascinating, and sometimes wish I had pushed more in that direction, and gone into the history and analysis of ideas side of things, to be better able to answer questions such as how does facet x of culture y begin, how does it get propagated etc.

I don’t mean to minimize the racism that Asians have faced in the USA, but the idea that they somehow started from a lower point than African Americans did or faced more of a racist system is not accurate at all. Asians definitely faced racism on a systematic and personal level in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, after the Civil War, there was a century long (and still continuing) effort by the governments of the southern states to systematically deprive former slaves of their rights.

The data I found here suggests that the Asian and Pacific Islander proportion of college students is roughly in line with their proportion of the general population. In any event, it’s an unfair comparison as Asians have been subject to limits on immigration in the past few decades that require higher levels of income and education to gain entry. Sowell is comparing one population that has been preferentially selected to have higher levels of education and advancement to another population that has been systematically prevented from accessing educational opportunities. It’s like breaking someone’s leg and complaining they can’t win a foot race.

…which is a crazy thing to argue, really.

I’m quite likely not really sunmarising it well.

The 2 books I read are dense.

You can substitute asians for jews or any minority here.

And he claims the further point that the black population were on the same path until the 1960s.

He says the “legacy of slavery” is an excuse, because from the end of the civil war to the 1960s, most black families had both parents, were low crime etc.

I’m unfamiliar with much of US history but this doesn’t quite ring true to me, because the civil rights movement was not nacio ex nihilo, was it?

I’m really not doing his claims justice here. After all, he has written at least 2 books going over the same stuff.

What I was trying to get at is that from his books, I got the impression he was advocating for programs to teach “what works,” and move away fron what he says doesn’t work (welfare, social justice stuff).

Admittedly, it isn’t explicitly stated, from what I can remember, but I don’t think that he just states a problem and leaves it hanging.

Anyway, I’m still reading “Identically Different” which is all about genes, and the other explores some surprising, possibky disturbing, lines of enquiry.

Less controversial is the idea that if the mother is calorie restricted, or starved, during part of the pregnancy, the child is born with a greater tendency to gain fat, like the mother’s environmental information is being passed on to the child.

That part is not so new or strange, after all, smoking in pregnancy has been linked to asthma in the child etc.

What’s really interesting is that this apparently persists until that child has children.

In rats, females who are calorie restricted, more specifically protein restricted, during pregnancy produce granddaughters who are smaller, and who have diabetes.

And even more interesting, it’s not just the mother.

And it’s not just hunger.

Human males who had good harvests, and thus feasted in the year their children were born, ended up having grandchildren with a higher risk of diabetes, and who died 6 years earlier than their famine counterparts.

But famine males had grandchildren with mucb higher levels of schizophrenia.

It’s fascinating stuff, and has interesting implications for managing obesity.

Your fat grandfather might make you more likely to be fat, to out it simply.

So far, so interesting but not really controversial.

Far more worrying is the possible link of genes and a tendency for sexual abuse and other deviancies.

In his books he makes the case that the educational opportunities are there, and it is the culture, the “ghetto culture” as he terms it that is holding people back.

He uses Nigerian immigrants as an example to counter the very point you raise.

They are typically starting from a low point but their ethic is very much in education and hard work, and they are also apparently somewhat over represented.

Incidentally, something very interesting to me, is Sowel’s claim that this ghetto culture has its roots in southern US culture (not particularly controversial) which itself has its roots in … England.

I’d love for a linguistic and cultural historian to check this, as it is a fascinating claim.

This is veering off into P&R so I’ll let it drop, but I disagree about the existence of a “ghetto culture” that is exclusive to African Americans, and even if I didn’t, you can’t ignore the role of centuries of slavery and 150 years of Jim Crow contributing to that culture.

I finished the fourth book Siege Tactics in the series listed below,

Some of you may know the author as the writer of the Fred the Vampire Accountant series.

For those folks that were wishing the Dungeon and Dragons movie actually had a real game being played with dice throwing and the like you may want to give this series a whirl. It has two focuses: One being about NPCs taking over from real live role players and the other is about another group of real players that venture into world and learn that there is something funny about this particular role playing module they are trying out. The game is not DnD itself but something similar.

It is well written and a good adventure that grows as the series continues.

Read his books!

That way, even if you dis/agree with them, you are addressing the source arguments, not my second hand summaries that are probabky missing half the correct context.

Back on thread, a completely different book to the last few mentioned, is one I have recently re read for the 5th or 6th time.

Crossfit Endurance, by Brian MacKenzie.

Crossfit is one of those movements where the core idea seems sound (take what works from various fitness regimes, very Bruce Lee) but the practice seema to attract a fair few charlatans.

But this book, although a bit technical, is actually fairly useful.

It is strange to run with a metronome, although it is effective in teaching fast cadence.

And I wiped out on one workout, which seemed like a sudden spike from what went before (10 rounds for time…)

Anyone else read this?

After libertarian economics and CrossFit, surely your next book will be on veganism?