Reading is digesting wisdom. I have found that it is possible to read too much, but I can’t say that I’ve regretted reading anything. So long as you can say that you are reading something that you’re fascinated by, I don’t think anybody can claim you are “wasting” your time. That being said, I have evaluated which books to recommend based off what I think will provide you the most intellectual bang for your buck.
Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin To Munger (2004) by Peter Bevelin
“If you want to avoid irrationality, it helps to understand the quirks in your own mental wiring and then you can take appropriate precautions.”
– Charles Munger
In this dense, sagacious book, the evolutionary ideas of the famous Scientist, Charles Darwin, are connected to the business-savvy ideas of Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s partner (who Buffett accredits much of Berkshire Hathaway’s success to).
Consisting of four parts (see below) with 26 total subsections, Bevelin weaves together numerous quotes from the greatest thinkers in history into an interconnected web of wisdom.
The Singularity Is Near (2005) by Ray Kurzweil
“Our technology, our machines, is part of our humanity. We created them to extend ourselves, and that is what is unique about human beings.”
– Ray Kurzweil
If you care about the evolution of technology (as everybody should) then this book is a must read. Ray Kurzweil is a leading futurist, inventor, author of several books, and the head of engineering at Google. In this book, he dives deep into the subjects of biotechnology, artificial intelligence, full immersion virtual reality, and immortality.
The term ‘singularity’ here refers to the technological singularity, which Kurzweil predicts will take place in 2045.
The One Thing (2013) by Gary Keller
“The key is over time. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.”
– Gary Keller
In today’s world it is easier than ever to get distracted from taking the right steps to achieve one’s goals. In The ONE Thing the chairman and cofounder of Keller Williams Reality, Inc. (the largest real estate company in the world) provides the reader with paradigms that help one cut through the clutter, stay focused, and achieve.
Visit The1Thing.com for tools and resources related to the book’s theme.
Steve Jobs (2011) by Walter Isaacson
“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”
– Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs is definitely one my top 10 favorite entrepreneurs. His vision of an innovative, sleek computer company was executed upon stunningly and, to a large degree, has given birth to the notion what one can think of as ‘designer technology’. Apple’s technology doesn’t just get the job done, it creates a sleek, aesthetically pleasing experience for its user. This attribute can mainly be accredited to Steve Jobs.
Steal Like An Artist (2012) by Austin Kleon
“What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.”
– Austin Kleon
Plagiarism is for losers. This book isn’t about stealing in the traditional sense, but in the aesthetic sense.
If a painter sees a painting he or she likes, they should take note of the kinds of brushstrokes and use of color to make use of the technique in a future painting. If a writer is enjoying a novel, then he or she ought to take note of the style it was written in so that they can include a different shade of the same colored flair in their own writing. I have used these ideas in my own creative endeavors, and my creativity has flowed very easily since reading this book. I highly recommend it to anybody who would or would not call themselves a ‘creative’, because anybody has the capability of being creative, and I think expressing one’s creativity is one of the greatest phenomena that happens in life.
How To Win An Argument: An Ancient Guide to the Art of Persuasion (2016) Written by Cicero (106 B.C.- 43 B.C.), Translated by James May
“It does not seem possible that mute wisdom, devoid of speaking ability, was suddenly able to turn people from their accustomed ways and lead them to different modes of living.”
– Marcus Cicero
The ancient wisdom of the great statesman Cicero is thoughtfully arranged in this read on rhetoric. Many important ideas in communication are in here, including notes on ethos (appeal to the speaker’s character), logos (appeal to rational argumentation), and pathos (appeal to emotion). To Cicero, our ability to put into words the meanings in our minds is what separates Man from Animal.
Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth (1968) by Buckminster Fuller
“Nothing seems to be more prominent about human life than its wanting to understand all and put everything together.”
– Buckminster Fuller
The genius of Architect Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller (1895-1983) is too often forgotten. Often cited as the Leonardo da Vinci of the 20th century, Bucky thought that a lot of the problems in the world were due to education systems that focused on narrow specialization. He felt that most people in the world weren’t thinking about the big picture and how things connect synergistically (Bucky loved the word synergy, which means the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects). This was, he felt, the result of a society that didn’t educate their people holistically.
Fuller has had a huge impact on my philosophy and reading him helped me connect ideas into my Spectrum of Wisdom, which is to be the title of my new book.
Sophie’s World (1991) by Jostein Gaarder
The word ‘philosophy’ is derived from the word Greek ‘philosophia’ (meaning love of wisdom) which evolved into ‘philosophie’ in Old French. Hence, the name ‘Sophia’ or ‘Sophie’ came to mean: wisdom; wise. In this work of philosophical fiction, the History of Philosophy is told through the means of a philosopher character, Alberto, whom Sophie Amundsen (the main character) has made her mentor. Throughout the novel Sophie learns of the philosophical greats like Aristotle and Socrates, and their contributions to Philosophy. Some of the more obscure thinkers like Baruch Spinoza and John Locke make it into the novel as well, and in addition certain philosophical eras are mentioned such as The Middle Ages, The Renaissance, and The Baroque periods. The thinkers and their times are introduced at first by the means of mysterious letters that appear at random around Sophie’s house in Norway. Throughout the novel, the author lays down a philosophical puzzle for the reader to discover, one that I will not give away here. One thing I can say is that the plot is very entertaining. I imagine it would be especially entertaining for a reader new to philosophy, who would identify with one of the characters, Hilde.
Ready Player One (2011) by Ernest Cline
Video game players will instantly recognize ‘Player One’ as a gaming reference. Dive into this book and you’ll get lost as Reader One in Cline’s futuristic, dystopian world where the virtual reality of the ‘Oasis’ has got more going for it than real reality. The year is 2044 and the main character, teenage Wade Watts finds that the only goal worth setting is to win the Easter Egg, which is found only by solving riddles that identify where various keys (needed to find the Easter Egg) are hidden. Wade takes on the virtual alias of Parzival, and ends up searching all over the virtual world of the Oasis for clues regarding the Easter Egg. James Halliday (based off Willy Wonka), the creator of the Oasis, promised massive wealth and glory to the winner of the contest. Along the way, Parzival makes friends, battles enemies, and struggles for his life both in the virtual world and the real world. This is a very fascinating novel, especially for those who are curious about technology and the future, or for those who are serious gaming nerds (I used to be).
The Fountainhead (1943) by Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand’s first hit, The Fountainhead, is a highly controversial novel. I am not here to defend Rand’s philosophy (Objectivism) although I do think that it has some good ideas, some that can be deciphered through reading this story. The book is set in the earlier half of the 20th century and features 4 main characters, two of which whom are architects. Howard Roark and Peter Keating are the architects, both with very different ideas of success. Keating bends over backwards to please people, believing that this is the key to a successful career. Roark’s career strategy is to design and build structures the way he sees they ought to be built. Because of his intransigent nature and the shallow society they live in, he lacks much of the people-pleasing success Keating finds early on. However, throughout the novel, Roark begins to slowly build a reputation as an architect, and Keating finds that his idea of success wasn’t actually an idea at all. Full of fame, fortune, sex and philosophy, one would have to be pretty lame to dislike The Fountainhead.
Atlas Shrugged (1957) by Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand’s magnum opus. Maybe even more infamous than The Fountainhead, Miss Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is the most insightful book I’ve ever read. The novel conveys the similar theme of individualism (Objectivism is an individualistic philosophy) as The Fountainhead, but Atlas Shrugged incorporates its theme by means of political actions that are unseen in its predecessor. The main idea is that Dagny Taggart is the Vice President of a railroad company called Taggart Transcontinental. She has to deal with her villainous brother, James Taggart, who is also on the board of Taggart Transcontinental. James and his buddies from Washington D.C. don’t give a damn if the company sinks or not. All James wants is to help those who are struggling, without ever identifying why. He uses his friends in Washington to make it hard for Dagny to run the railroad, and hard for other entrepreneurs like Hank Rearden to run theirs. For instance, Rearden invents new metal that is both lighter and stronger than steel but James Taggart’s buddies in Washington pass laws that outlaw the use of Rearden Metal because it “destroys competition”. Despite the insane amount of criticism and praise this book has been dealt over the years, I think that its themes are more real than ever as we have a nationalist President, Donald Trump. Even if you’ve heard bad things about Ayn Rand, you won’t regret reading this book. It’s insight into how people like Donald Trump come to power is unparalleled.