Last time I wrote this type of post was in November 2014. Here are my other bookshelf reviews: #1 #2 #3 #4. I read more than 25 books ever since. I also read a lot of research articles, mostly as a basis for my recently released title, Periodic Fasting.
To get an idea on how I do my reading (which makes it extremely productive for me), here’s a post I wrote on the topic.
From the books I read since Nov. 2014, here are some titles.
The List #5
1. Peter Thiel – Zero to One – Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
Paypal co-founder, for those of you who don’t know him, Peter Thiel, released his book sometime in late 2014.
What I enjoyed most about it is Peter’s advice to focus on building monopolies instead of ever struggling in a perfectly competitive market. This means that wherever the rest of the world is heading to, you should go the other way.
A perfectly competitive market exists when there’s a very low or no barrier to entry and where all the players generate similar revenues. Think about street fast food, restaurants, shops, etc. In this type of market there are tons of players and the price range is very limited. Whoever tries to set the price outside this range will run at loss.
Conversely, in monopolies, there is no competition. You are the only player. You are free to establish your own price and the market is all for yourself. Even though governments do not allow monopolies to establish, some companies, as exemplified by Thiel, can disguise their monopoly status by framing their market as the union of several large markets (i.e. Google):
search engine + mobile phones + wearable computers (google glass) + self driving cars + etc.
Google, Amazon and Facebook do not market themselves as monopolies, even though they display such status.
Elegantly put by Thiel:
Tolstoy opens Anna Karenina by observing: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Business is the opposite. All happy companies are different: each one earns a monopoly by solving a unique problem. All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.
If you want to take your business to the next level, Peter’s book may come in handy.
2. Catherine Shanahan – Deep Nutrition – Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food
I try to limit the books I read on nutrition because most of them seem to advocate a certain type of diet, hence promote some sort of biased thinking. That’s why I read research papers. The thing with research papers is also tricky, as one may have to learn how to critically read these papers: many of them are poorly designed and conducted, leading to misguiding results.
Anyway, Cate’s book is well written and it does not promote following a certain dietary protocol. Instead she encourages people to consume real food with no labels. It is similar to my approach, though I’m taking things to a different level, where I’m focusing on consuming real food and also maintaining ketosis.
That is why low-carb breads, biscuits and all the related packaged foods have no entry in my pantry.
What I learned from Cate is how nutrients can impact gene expression (nutrigenomics). She also goes into detail about other factors from the environment that may affect wellbeing, such as quality of sleep, artificial light, electricity, etc. This is also similar to my holistic approach on wellbeing, where food is important but it is only a small part of the protocol.
What really caught my attention is the symmetry with which our bodies develop and grow: certain nutrient imbalances may affect the symmetry of different parts of the body. An average or low symmetry suggests nutrient deficiencies during fetal development or even during adult life.
Deep nutrition may also be recommended for folks considering having a baby. The author provides a powerful rationale about how pregnancy should be carried, how much time should a mother allow between pregnancies so that the health of the former baby is not affected, and also how births should be delivered naturally, making C-sections a last resort. If a mother gets pregnant immediately after giving birth or if she does not allow a couple of years between pregnancies, both her and the future baby’s health may be affected (the why is widely explained in her book).
3. James Altucher – The Power of No – Because one Little Word Can Bring, Health, Abundance and Happiness
Altucher’s book gave me permission to say ‘no’ more often. It may sound like a cliché but as long as you keep things simple and as long as you focus on fewer goals, your chances to achieve big in your endeavors may increase tremendously.
I asked Altucher to let me copy a few pages from his book and post them on this blog because I considered I had to share them with my tribe. In this world where we’re bombarded by information everyday, it takes courage and discipline to stay focused and also to say ‘no’ to most of the bullshit that tries to reach you every so often. You can read the pages from Altucher’s book in this blogpost. Thank you James.
Back in January 2015 when I wrote that post I made a promise to myself that I will read it once a week. So far, so good…
4. Nick Bostrom – Superintelligence – Paths, Dangers, Strategies
This may be a challenging read for many non-technical folks, but it is somewhat straightforward. While most of us are fascinated by the wonders of modern day technology, very few are aware of the potential road-blocks it may lead to; and even to the self destruction of life as you know it.
Nick talks about how nanotechnology and AI (artificial intelligence) can go out of hand and wipe-out humanity. His approach, even though very sophisticated, is required so that the more advanced readers can understand that he is not bluffing, but outlining some very likely pessimistic scenarios in the near future. The book is not all a big drama, because Nick Bostrom also provides mitigation strategies for these possible scenarios.
Alternatively, the AI might use its hacking superpower to escape its confinement. Spreading over the Internet may enable the AI to expand its hardware capacity and knowledge base, further increasing its intellectual superiority. An AI might also engage in licit or illicit economic activity to obtain funds with which to buy computer power, data, and other resources.
Let your imagination build on top of that…
5. Marcus Aurelius – Meditations
Numerous successful people put this book on top of their reading list. And it’s no wonder why they do that:
Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone – those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the “what” is in constant flux, the “why” has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right here. The infinity of past and future gapes before us – a chasm whose depths we cannot see.
Embracing this as motto:
No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be good. Like gold or emerald or purple repeating to itself: “No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be emerald, my color undiminished.”
The book is a treasure. Read it for the sake of your soul and for the peace of your mind.
6. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Total Recall – My Unbelievably True Life Story
If anyone saw me laughing while reading a book, they may think I’m a fool or that I lost my mind. If you know Arnold, you cannot resist laughing when he tells you (in an amusing tone) about his modest early life in Thal, a village in Austria…
It is unbelievable how this man was able to rise from such poor upbringings to win world bodybuilding competitions several times in a row, to become a successful entrepreneur (real estate), to earning a fortune in movie making, and then to switching to politics and making a difference for the state of California. If you want to have a modern day role model, you got the extremely detailed autobiography of Arnold. You have no excuse for not becoming great.
7. Martin Blaser – Missing Microbes – How the Overuse of Antibiotics is Fueling Our Modern Plagues
My interest in studying the gut microbiota led me to read Martin’s book. He is an illustrious researcher, currently the director of the Human Microbiome Program at NYU and also the Chair of Medicine at NYU. He’s been studying how bacteria affect human disease for more than 30 years. So, yes, he’s got a strong portfolio.
Besides providing deep insight about H. Pylori and its complex implications in human health, he also talks about the wide misuse of antibiotics, not only in the inappropriate treatment of illnesses, but also to feed the industry:
Most antibiotics produced in the United States go not to humans but to these massive feedlots and their equivalents for swine, chicken, and turkeys. They are modern, integrated, industrial operations for fattening up millions of animals for slaughter, billions in the case of chickens…
But it has also led to antibiotic resistance in the microbes inhabiting livestock and to antibiotic residue in our food and water.
Blaser does not totally bash the amazing utility of antibiotics as they cure conditions that killed millions of people until a hundred years ago. But, as they went mainstream and as they’ve been adopted as top products by the pharma industry, they have been marketed and used massively and inappropriately.
Another great book on the same topic is Peter Gotzsche’s Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How big Pharma has Corrupted Health Care, which I may review in a future post.
8. Cal Newport – So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work you Love
I always had a hunch that “follow your passion to succeed in life” may not be so true, especially because passion may come second. As you start working in a field for which you have no affinity and as you progress into this field, as you see that you become better at what you do, and as you start earning more money, passion may come, surprisingly, last.
That’s what I learned when I started tutoring students online in economic and management related topics. I disliked economics and everything that had to do with it. However, I forced myself to learn about it as I wanted to make some money. As I became more familiar with that, as I became better, and as I started earning money, I discovered I was passionate about it, go figure…
Cal’s book provides dozens of similar examples. Sadly, many folks today are goal-less and directionless. They think they have no passion.
Heck, forget about that! Start doing something, become better at it, climb the ladder, and you’ll discover your passion. Reinforce this by reading James Altucher’s suggestions on how to become better at [fill in the blanks…].
9. Peter Diamandis & Steven Kotler – Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think
I started reading Diamandis’ book as a follow-up of listening to a podcast of him and Tim Ferriss. Diamandis thinks big. That’s why he created X Prize. That’s why he created Singularity University.
I empathize with what he does because he tackles problems with global implications. He’s teamed up with folks like Ray Kurzweil (one of the brightest minds of today’s society), Nick Bostrom (seen earlier), Robert Freitas (nanomedicine), Eric Ries (lean startup), Marc Goodman (cyber security), and many others. These guys are into solving world problems by innovating in the fields of synthetic biology, nanotechnology, exponential medicine, space exploration, and many others.
Abundance exposes the many challenges humanity currently faces, as well as possible solutions for these challenges. It is left to the humble entrepreneur to try and implement these solutions through various approaches.
Food and clean water supply, sanitation, transportation, and education are only few of these fields. This is the kind of thinking (big) that I’m currently focusing on.
If implemented along Peter Thiel’s earlier suggestions, it can provide limitless abundance, contrary to the limited thinking that many people derive and drive their lives today. Many think that it’s difficult to make money today as there are ever fewer jobs, ever fewer domains to innovate in, an ever sicker and growing population, and the trend can go on and on; when the reality may be the exact opposite.
10. Matt Ridley – Genome – The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
Written in 2000 by a great thinker and writer, Genome is a good starting point for those trying to become more knowledgeable in genetics and the human genome. However, some facts may be outdated because the advancement of technology provided for clearer and more accurate observations with respect to the human genome and genetic diseases since the writing of the book.
More importantly, the book was written before the human genome was fully sequenced. Even with these limitations, Matt Ridley is the type of author I’m trying to partially emulate, especially because he’s able to convey a strong message by packing scientific information into a digestible format. Not sure if you understood anything I said so far, but if there’s one thing to take away, that is that I warmly recommend this book.
11. Nicholas Nassim Taleb – Antifragile – Things That Gain from Disorder
I hate habits and patterns. I dislike regularity and I particularly dislike mediocrity. There are no other contexts where I can use the word hate.
Taleb made me embrace randomness and disorder because they allow me to become a better self.
I could write an entire book on applying randomness to eating, to feeding regimens and to feeding regularity. In fact, I briefly mentioned my approach on becoming anti-fragile in my recently (April 2015) released title Periodic Fasting.
Habits may bore you to death (even the habits of success). Doing the same thing everyday, eating the same way, going to the same places, is probably the recipe to turn yourself into a zombie, or into a robot (by recent standards – no offense to robots).
Injecting randomness into your eating habits, fasting in a random fashion, visiting new places, meeting new people and all the similar experiences may make your life much more colorful and worth living. It will also, scientifically proven, increase the number of neurons inside your brain. See Mattson’s recent findings about hormesis, fasting, and neurogenesis.
Increasing your antifragility (abstract) is like achieving superpowers. Taleb’s book, unquestionably, will end up in the pile of titles I revisit constantly. It is now one of my reference books.
12. Marc Goodman – Future Crimes – Everything is Connected, Everyone is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It
Goodman’s book has been a deeply disturbing read. I hate to use absolute words, but I have to do it from now and then.
Most of us are fascinated by technology and the huge connectivity of today. Most industries are trying to make internet connections available all over the world even in the most remote places. Most of us try to connect every device to the Internet (cars, refrigerators, mobile phones, smart TVs, smart houses, etc). Yet, we are extremely naive and deeply unaware of the risks attached to the progression of such event.
We have very vulnerable security protocols for all these devices. Anything that goes online can be hacked. Your phone data, your Facebook profile, your cloud account, your precious photos, and all your credit card details and bank information can disappear in an instant; they can be deleted, while your financial information may fall into the wrong hands.
Honestly, 99% of us are deeply vulnerable. We further increase our vulnerability to cyber threats by not following any security protocol. Marc, who’s been working with federal agencies and with the Interpol, is very intimate with uncovering such illicit practices.
There’s too much to be said about this book. And I will let you read it and learn how to increase your protection in this widely and wildly connected world. One thing to keep in mind, as Marc puts it, is that you will never be entirely safe.
You may increase your protection by 80% if you implement his UPDATE technique, which would be enough to remove major cyber security threats, but you may not increase it to 100%, sadly.
His book is currently at the top of 3 best seller categories on Amazon, so I believe he deserves your attention.
I read books from various different topics at any given moment. Even though my strategy may seem diversified, it is not. I focus only on a couple of categories that represent my greatest interest. This prevents me from getting biased (to a certain extent) and allows me to see a bigger picture instead of becoming fully immersed into and absorbed by a single topic.
I also revisit the books that I previously read so that I can enforce or reconsider thoughts I left in those books. I use different annotations techniques for the books I read. It allows me to interact with the book. I also listen to audiobooks. I wrote about it in this post.
If you have any book recommendations or if there’s one book that you’ve enjoyed most, please tell me which one it is in either of the comment sections below.