A few books I've read recently

Here is a list of books I've read (since late May 2017) with zero or more notes (including my overall opinion) about each. They are in reverse chronological order (most recent first).

If you can think of any books that you think I ought to read then please let me know, either in the comments section below1 or via email and, if I read them, I'll post zero or more notes about them here. I can't say fairer than that.

If you find it difficult to make the time to read, look at this.

This list was last updated on 13th September 2018.


21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari (started 13th September 2018).

Only just started. Where Sapiens was a history of humankind and Homo Deus was a possible future, this book deals with the present. Quite interesting so far.


Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman Ph.D. (started 30th August 2018)

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Happy, Derren Brown (started 18th August 2018)

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Techniques for Retraining Your Brain, Jason M. Satterfield,

The Great Courses (started 10th August 2018)
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This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, Adam Kay (started 7th August 2018)

Very funny and poignant.


Disrupted: Ludicrous Misadventures into the Tech Start-Up Bubble, Dan Lyons (started 19th July 2018)

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Mindful Compassion, Paul Gilbert (started 18th June 2018)

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The New Science of Persuasion & Influence: Amazing Techniques to Get Everything You Want, Craig Beck (started 12th June 2018)

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Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About The World - And Why Things Are Better Than You Think, Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund (started 5th June 2018)

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Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, Nassim Nicholas Taleb (started 29th May 2018)

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Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams, Matthew Walker (started 22nd May 2018)

We all know that sleep is important, but I have a feeling it may be significantly more important than most people realise. Let's see...


12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan B. Peterson (started 10th May 2018)

This book contains twelve principles by which you might aim to live a meaningful life and, indeed, the author cautions against the pursuit of happiness, advising instead that you should pursue meaning. This is a thought-provoking book as Peterson (an acclaimed clinical psychologist) is obviously a very deep thinker, has some very definite ideas and he doesn't sit on the fence. I found some parts of the book seemed to go on a bit longer than I would have liked (past the point where I felt I'd got the idea) but don't let that put you off, it's a very good book.


Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys' Club of Silicon Valley, Emily Chang (started 4th May 2018)

As a person who has worked in the tech industry for a long time, it has not escaped my notice that there are a lot more men than women. I've also worked with some idiots whose behaviour has been such that I'm surprised that anybody could tolerate working with them. However, the stories in this book (the veracity of which I don't doubt) are much, much worse than I was expecting. Really bad. I was expecting some juvenile behaviour, but the arrogance and lack of morality of some of these people is staggering. You should read it (or listen to it) and then try to decide how you can help to fix the problem. It's high time the tech industry started treating everybody with some human decency, especially considering how large an influence this industry has on our everyday lives.


Mythos, Stephen Fry (started 10th April 2018)

You know Greek mythology (as I once said to a lad at university, to which he replied in the negative and went on to explain that he was not aware that such a thing existed)? Well, Stephen Fry does and he has done a really good job of rewriting (and reading out loud) the Greek myths. If you like Stephen Fry, then you'll like this. Of course I already knew some of the stories, but I learnt lots (including some interesting etymology) and enjoyed the process massively.


Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens, Eddie Izzard (started 31st March 2018)

This is Eddie Izzard reading his own autobiography and I believe (!) it's a companion to the documentary, Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story. This is a very funny/touching/poignant/etc account of the comedian's life and, unless you're some kind of emotionally bereft psychopath, there are parts that will probably make you cry. As you would expect, he goes off on a lot of (very enjoyable) tangents and there are lots of extra bits which aren't in the book. I think he comes across as being extremely bright and a nice person. I really enjoyed this.


David Mitchell: Back Story, David Mitchell (started late March, 2018)

This is a brilliant book which I enjoyed massively. David Mitchell is obviously extremely bright and also very funny. I reckon that the audiobook is far better than the real book, as it's being read by David Mitchell himself.


Oversubscribed: How to Get People Lining Up to Do Business with You, Daniel Priestley (started 24th March 2018)

I listened to this book whilst decorating my house (which is not something I enjoy doing). The basic premise is that, if you have more customers than capacity, then you are oversubscribed and, at that point, great things can start to happen. You probably know of expensive restaurants at which it's nearly impossible to get a table and various other businesses which seem always to be sold out. In this book, Daniel Priestley tries to explain why this happens and there's lots of practical advice of how you might go about achieving it (warning: you will actually have to do some work). There are also interesting examples and, as the author has a decent track record of walking the walk (and the book isn't very long), it's certainly worth listening to.


Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, Jocko Willink, Leif Babin (started 2018)

This is a book from two Navy SEAL veterans about succeeding in business by. You get the overwhelming impression that these are two people who are happy to take responsibility for their actions and don't hide behind bullshit. There's a mixture of both combat and business stories and, as both I and the book's title have alluded to, Willink and Babin advocate taking ownership of your mistakes and problems early and then working hard to fix them. I enjoyed this audiobook. Particularly as somebody who has worked in various companies over the years and has seen more than my share of people not willing to take responsibility for anything.


Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport (started 2018)

In this book, Cal Newport bemoans the fact that most people are subjected to a barrage of interruptions in their working life. People bombard each other with emails and instant messenger requests and often expect instant answers. That's bad. He posits that, if you can avoid these distractions and focus deeply on work, you will set yourself apart from the masses and great success will surely follow. The book has lots of practical advice and there's also a comprehensive PDF full of references with the audiobook version. This is a good book.


Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman (started 2018)

Whilst this book is well written and is a nice introduction to Norse mythology, for some reason, I didn't enjoy it as much as I was expecting. It seemed to pall after a bit. I'm fairly sure that's my fault, though and I think it's the sort of book I should read (or listen to) in short chunks, with a bit of a gap for something else in between. Or perhaps I just wasn't in the right mood.


Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression - and the Unexpected Solutions, Johann Hari (started 23rd January 2018)

Would it surprise you to learn that it's normal for people to feel sad when something really bad happens to them (e.g. a bereavement)? No, me neither, but apparently this is something of a revelation to some people. It's also the case that feeling lonely makes you sad and feeling connected to people in a good way makes you happy. Okay, that all seems fairly obvious, but what about the idea that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain being a load of nonsense that was made up by a pharmaceutical company? If you have an interest in mental health (which you should), then it's certainly worth listening to this book.


Short Stories by Saki, H. H. Munro (started 3rd December 2017)

These are great fun. You need to be aware that they were written (and are set) in Edwardian England and they capture the period exactly. I mention this only because I have read some criticism of Saki’s short stories from modern people bemoaning the behaviour of some of the characters and yet they are exactly right for the period. Highly amusing. One or two are extremely poignant. For example, I challenge you to be unmoved by The Image of The Lost Soul. Also, I have listened to some of these again (this time on a longish car journey with my mother) only a few months later and they're still hilarious.


When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Daniel H. Pink (started 19th January 2018)

If you've read (or listened to) all of the other books listed below, then a lot of this will feel very familiar to you (stuff like when you want to be interviewed for a job, what time of day you want to be tried for a crime, should you take naps?, etc, etc). There's a fair bit of practical stuff too, such as how to figure out your chronotype, when you should drink your first morning coffee, etc. Despite much of it not being new to me, I still enjoyed this book and it's worth buying. In fact it's possibly worth buying (via audible) for the accompanying PDF alone.


The China Study, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health, T. Colin Campbell, PhD, Thomas M. Campbell II, MD (started 10th January 2018)

Having finished this book, it seems that my initial impressions were largely correct, so I will leave them below. The last third of the book did seem somewhat to descend into a series of rants about the dishonest nature of various large corporations, but it's still worth listening to and, as my friend Jackie (Chris) predicted, it caused a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. e.g. I know that I need to eat lots of protein to get strong and lean, but apparently I also need to eat hardly any protein for my health and can still be strong and lean. One of these ideas is not correct, but which? This warrants further investigation.

Initial impressions: I'm about three hours in (out of 18 hours) and so far it seems that cancer feeds off protein (at all stages) and that eating more than a tiny amount of protein is a really bad idea, especially if any of it is animal protein. The authors seem so far to be describing how eating a diet composed of 5% protein is significantly safer than one composed of, for example, 20% protein. I'm not yet sure what level of protein consumption they're advocating (I'm less than 20% of the way through the book). However, these are real scientists and I don't believe that this book is quackery, so I'm very interested to see how it develops (especially as I am a person who tends to consume a lot more than 20% of his calories from protein). To be updated...


Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently, Steve Silberman (started 12th December 2017)

Anyone who knows me in real life won't be surprised that I'd be interested in such a book. Whilst the book feels somewhat disjointed, it contains lots of interesting information. It explores whether autism is a developmental difficulty, a lifelong disability or simply an example of neurodiversity (i.e. everybody is different, get over it). Personally, I think society should be a lot more tolerant of people who are unconventional in some way, as long as they are not causing harm to others. Surely everyone feels like this? Not so, according to the book and it features some alarming examples of ill treatment and even murder.


Meditations, Marcus Aurelius (started 3rd December 2017)

As well as being a Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius was a stoic and his Meditations are considered by some to be one of the greatest ever works of philosophy. This is really good and I will be obtaining a hard copy as the correct way to read these is, almost certainly, to dip into them and then to spend a bit of time thinking about what you've just read. Other than the works of Epictetus (to whom Marcus Aurelius makes reference), I would say all of the self help books (that are any good whatsoever) ultimately make reference to Marcus Aurelius. So this is one of those situations where the phrase, "All roads lead to Rome" is actually correct. You should read it.


The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, Mark Manson (started 30th November 2017)

I've only just started this one. So far it seems like a sweary version of stoicism... that's what I wrote after the first few chapters and my opinion didn't alter much. Which isn't to say it's not a good book, because I enjoyed it quite a lot, especially the bit near the end when he was at the top of a cliff. The general tenor seems to be that you should chill out and not get so het up about trivial stuff. And rather than trying to turn lemons into lemonade, just learn to like lemons. Stoicism, as I said.


Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, Daniel H Pink (started 27th November 2017)

This is an interesting book. Dan Pink talks about motivation and how it is often not well understood. There is some very interesting stuff about how giving people rewards doesn't actually motivate them and how bribing your kids to do chores is a bad idea, etc, etc. There is talk of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and how the ultimate aim is to get into a state of flow (intrinsic motivation). If you've ever had any issues with motivation, it would be worth your while to read (listen to) this. Doubly so if you're a manager and have had issues with staff motivation.


Life Leverage: How to Get More Done in Less Time, Outsource Everything & Create Your Ideal Mobile Lifestyle, Rob Moore (started 21st November 2017)

In some ways this reminded me of The Four Hour Work Week (although I read that ages ago, so I may possibly have misremembered it), except it's written by an English person and feels more relevant to English people. Rob Moore's enthusiasm shines through and it's hard to argue with most of what he says. If you're the sort of person who begrudges spending a lot of time on things you don't want to do, then you should read this. It includes advice on how to work out the value of your time and points out the (rather obvious) fact that you should pay other people to do stuff when that would be cheaper than doing it yourself. There are some quite good ideas in here and I enjoyed it. Oddly, my version claims to be narrated by Rob Moore, but is in fact narrated by Peter Baker. I'd have preferred Rob.


The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin (started 15th November 2017)

This is an interesting book. Benjamin Franklin was clearly extremely bright and seems to have understood a lot about the human psyche. He comes across as a very likeable and reasonable man. I know that it's his autobiography, so he'd be an idiot if he painted himself in a bad light, but so far it feels very authentic and honest. The book is imbued with humility and some very useful life lessons. It's clear that many of the other books I have been reading refer back to this (even if not explicitly).


The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle (started 9th November 2017)

The basic premise of this book is that you should live in the present, rather than dwelling in the past or focussing on the future. This is good advice and is somewhat similar to that of the stoics. There were lots of pieces of advice/wisdom that I felt that I already knew and, consequently, I didn't really enjoy the book that much. This was exacerbated by the author's voice. I'd be an idiot to recommend against a book for that reason but, if you're thinking of buying this one, please make sure you listen to an audio sample first (like I didn't). Finally, I should mention that if you listened to this book and it persuaded you to remain in the present a bit more, it would be well worth the £6.


The Richest Man in Babylon, George S. Clason (started 8th November 2017)

This was actually quite fun and is full of very good financial advice. Listen to it and you'll have cause to reflect on some of your bad habits and, possibly, to change some of them. I could attempt to summarise it, but it's actually not very long and you should probably listen to (or read) it yourself. Sorry for not being more specific.


You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, Jen Sincero (started 4th November 2017)

This is a self-help book which, like most such books, is full of things that will almost certainly resonate with you. Thus, if you've ever feared that you are a hopeless idiot for certain aspects of your personality (such as your inability to get started on things, or your procrastination, etc), then this book does at least offer comfort and reassurance that you are in no way unique in this respect. It also offers advice on how to change which may or may not help you. I know people who think this is an awesome book and others (me, for example), who felt that it seems somewhat to foray into the realms of fantasy a bit too much. Mind you, I could be wrong and I still enjoyed it. Read or listen to an excerpt first to see if you'll like it.


Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money - That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!, Robert T. Kiyosaki (started 2nd November 2017)

I read this book about ten years ago when my brother gave me a copy. Listening to it now, I discovered I had managed to implement a couple of the sensible ideas therein without particularly being aware of having done so and that they had paid dividends. Some people have criticised this book, complaining that the main premise seems to be "get lucky by speculating on real estate in a bubble" with a smattering of "buy my other products" thrown in. However, the general advice is sound; work on ways to get your money to work for you to generate income. And don't spend your capital.


The Practice of Autosuggestion by the Method of Emile Coué, C. Harry Brooks (started 1st November 2017)

This book was written in 1922. Emil Coué is the originator of the phrase, "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better", which I first encountered when watching Frank Spencer (Michael Crawford) in Some Mother's Do 'Ave 'Em.
Something to consider: once upon a time (a long time ago) I was driving to a job interview and spent the entire journey doing impressions of Frank Spencer saying the above. I have no idea why, although I suspect it had been on tele the night before or something. Maybe it was just a diversionary tactic to stop me from worrying about the interview. I got the job.


Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill (started 29th October 2017)

Principles: Life and Work, Ray Dalio (started 20th October 2017)

Money: Know More, Make More, Give More, Rob Moore

I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. Rob Moore has an infectious enthusiasm. In spite of wanting to think he was a twat (which is precisely the word he'd use), I felt that if I met him, I'd really like him. Plus, he was brought up in Peterborough, which is quite near where I spent my formative years. And he is a strong advocate of helping others by giving some of your money away.


The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness, Steve Peters

I really enjoyed this book. Professor Steve Peters is a consultant psychiatrist and seems to know what he's talking about (he narrates this, as well as having written it). We each have an inner chimp that is our emotional, irrational self. This book deals with how to recognise when it's taking over and what to do about it. How to tame your inner chimp. There are obvious parallels to be drawn between this book and Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman (see below). This is a good book.


Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

Zero to One, Peter Thiel, Blake Masters

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari

I listened to these books out of order (Sapiens should have been first), but I don't think it mattered.


Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari

I listened to these books out of order (Homo Deus should have been second), but I don't think it mattered.


Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Stephen Fry (finished all 71 hours and 58 minutes of it having previously listened to A Study in Scarlet)

If I have a favourite book2, it's this. And if I had a favourite narrator (which I probably don't), it'd probably be Stephen Fry. So I loved every minute of this (all 4318 of them) and will listen to it again at some point. And it only cost £6. A real bargain.


The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz (started 31st July 2017)

The Enchiridion and Discourses, Epictetus (started 20th July 2017)

Some of this was a bit dry, but there were some real gems. If you're new to the Roman Stoics I'd recommend reading A Guide to the Good Life first (see below).


A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, William B. Irvine (started 17th July 2017)

Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions, Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths (started 13th July 2017)

Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want, Nicholas Epley (started 9th July 2017)

So Good They Can't Ignore You, Cal Newport (started 6th July 2017)

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, Gary Keller, Jay Papasan (started 27th June 2017)

Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman (started 12th June 2017)

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, Eric Ries (started 6th June 2017)

Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success, Matthew Syed (started 1st June 2017)

The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win, Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford (started 31st May 2017)

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Stephen Fry (started 25th May 2017 - only listened to A Study in Scarlet so far)

I have now finished this and written a review further up the page. I'm leaving it here as it was one of the audiobooks that got me back into "reading".


The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change, Charles Duhigg (started 23rd May 2017)

  1. What comments section? Yeah, good point. I should fix that...

  2. It's not really a single book. Except it's available as a single volume, so it is.