Posts in Category: Book Review

2019 Reading Goal

This morning, I took a tour of the Hemingway House in Key West, FL. I have deeply enjoyed reading and re-reading many of Hemingway’s works. It was meaningful to see his writing studio and learn that it was the room in which he completed Green Hills of Africa, Death in the Afternoon, To Have and Have Not, Snows of Kilimanjaro, and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

I began reading as an adult in 2011. In this self-motivated pursuit, I went on in one year to read more than in the previous five (of reading only books as academic assignments). As of the time of writing this, I have read about 265 books as an adult. I track the books I’ve begun and the dates I started reading them in Evernote. Each time I complete one, I move it to the list of completed books with the date and then add the book to Goodreads as ‘read’. If there are quotes from the book worth sharing, I will put them in the review.

I push myself to read broadly and prolifically. In 2012, I set the goal of 35 books for the year and met it. In 2013, I set the goal of 104 books (2 books per week) and settled by years end for 53 books (1 book per week + 1). In November of that year, I found myself consciously targeting the shortest interesting books I could find to be sure I would clear the measure of 1 book per week. Ever since, I have read without a specific book count as a goal and averaged 29 books per year.

Book count makes for an inaccurate gauge of total reading. As one illustration of this, compare the page count of the 53 books I completed in 2013 to the 42 books I completed in 2016.

Despite reading 11 more books in 2013, I completed more total pages in 2016.

For 2019, my reading goal is to complete 20,000 pages. This averages to about 55 pages per day (ppd) for the entire year. I set the goal in early February and had read about 45 ppd as of that point. I first brought my ppd for the year above 55 on April 8th when I completed Cryptonomicon.

To track page count, I am using Goodreads. Unfortunately, even page count isn’t a perfect measure. For a large book, the paperback and hard cover editions of the same content can vary by hundreds of pages (not to mention large print editions that stretch to even higher page counts). Many of the books I read are on audiobook, and I need to pick the edition that best reflects the true page count read.

To see what books I have completed so far this year, the list is available on Goodreads.

Update: As of year end, I completed books totaling 20,201 pages.

2019 Books

Money: Master the Game

Money: Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom – by Tony Robbins

Money Master the Game

ISBN: 1476757801
READ: 2015-06-14 to 2015-12-15
RATING: 8/10
Amazon page for details and reviews.
WorldCat page to look for it in a library near you.

Smart thoughts about investing and the use of money. A must-read for anyone who struggles with money or long term financial planning. Written in the verbose Tony Robbins style you know and love, this book stays on message and is packed with practical advice. Page numbers below correspond to the hardcover edition. Interjections from me personally are contained in [square brackets].

Book recommendations from within the book:

As a Man Thinketh – by James Allen
Think and Grow Rich – by Napoleon Hill
Happy Money – by Elizabeth Dunn

[reading subjects:]
“… psychology, time management, history, philosophy, physiology. I wanted to know about anything that could immediately change the quality of my life and anybody else’s.” P19

Biographies of leaders, thinkers, doers – Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, John F. Kennedy, and Viktor Frankl.

Link recommendations:

National Debt Deconstruction – 19:40 video
Ray Dalio’s 31 min video explaining the principles of economics

My notes

The book is laid out as “Seven Simple Steps to Financial Freedom,” which are outlined in the checklist at the book’s end. Here are the steps, which correlate to the 7 sections in the book:
1. Make the most important financial decision of your life
2. Know the rules before you get in the game
3. Make the game winnable
4. Make the most important investment decision of your life
5. Create a lifetime income plan
6. Invest like the .001%
7. Just do it, enjoy it, and share it

Step 1: “Make the most important financial decision of your life” [The decision to automate the transfer of a percentage of all income you ever receive into your freedom fund (retirement account)].

“Find a way to do more for others than anyone else does. Become more valuable. Do more. Give more. Be more. Serve more. And you will have the opportunity to earn more.” P6

“People who succeed at the highest levels are not lucky; they’re doing something differently than everybody else.” P9

“Money is simply a behavior for trying to meet our needs.” P74

“If we get underneath what you’re really after, it’s not money at  all. What you’re really after is what you think money is going to give you.” P75

The fastest way to fill base needs [thrive] is to “… find a way each day to appreciate more and expect less.” P79

Step 2: “Know the rules before you get in the game”

This section is an in-depth review of the technical concepts that shape the battlefield of modern investing. Definitely worth the read because it truly would be impossible to successfully navigate the field of play without knowledge of the pitfalls that await you.

“Never again will you tolerate the “herd” mentality in your own life.” P104

By law a broker is only required to provide “suitable” advice. P125

Fiduciary – registered financial advisor, legal fiduciary, registered investment advisors (RIA) – by law must remove or disclose conflict of interest.

Fiduciary selection criterion: P132
1. Make sure registered with state or SEC as registered investment advisor or is an investment advisor representative (IAR) of a (RIA)
2. Percentage fee is only fee
3. Make sure they are not compensated for trading stocks and bonds
4. No affiliation with broker-dealer
5. Hold money in reputable 3rd party such as Fidelity, Schwab, or TD Ameritrade

Directory of fee-based advisors P132

“You never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.” – TR P161

“You get what you tolerate” Learned helplessness devours if it is tolerated

“Most people start out with high aspirations but settle for a life and lifestyle far beneath their true capabilities.” P199
Next time you come up with a reason why you can’t do something, call bullshit on yourself. “Change your state. Change your focus. Come back to the truth. Adjust your approach to go after what you want.” P199

Step 3: Make the game winnable

Anchor your dreams to to an actual number.

Do the math! [This section walks you through the calculations step by step.]

Ultimate truth: “Life is not about money, it’s about emotion.” P209

Money itself is not the goal.

Places money takes us, freedom, and time are what really after.

Take a moment to consider what you want your money to buy.

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho

You are the creator of your life.

“Wherever focus goes, energy flows.” TR p227

“It’s not conditions but decisions that determine our lives.” P244

“It isn’t about money. It’s about choice; about freedom. It’s about being able to live life on your terms, not anybody else’s.” P245

“Find your gift and deliver it to as many people as possible.” P246

“What you get will never make you happy; who you become will make you very happy or very sad.” – Jim Rohn p246

Rule of 72

Section 4: Make the most important investment decision of your life

Asset allocation is the most important tool you have.

Division of investment:
A. Security bucket: sanctuary of safe investments; unshakable core; aversion to risk P300
B. Risk/growth bucket
C. Dream bucket

“Your dreams are not designed to give you a financial payoff, they are designed to give you a greater quality of life.”

“When you give your all, the rewards are infinite.” P343

“So much of what makes us wealthy is free” TR P347

“The secret to wealth is gratitude.”

Step 5: Create a lifetime income plan

This section includes an asset allocation presented as the All Seasons Strategy, which is crafted from Ray Dalio’s reply to: “What kind of investment portfolio would one [average investor] need to have to be absolutely certain that it would perform well in good times and in bad — across all economic environments?” There is a much more in depth backstory to Ray and his elite, ultra-successful fund the All Seasons Strategy is based on. In short it give you a recommendation on how to evenly balance the risk faced in each of the 4 economic “seasons.”

Develop a modus operandi to expect surprises P372
“Expect surprises” – Ray Dalio
Always be asking: “What don’t I know?” – Ray Dalio

Step 6: Invest like the .001%

This section includes interviews from 12 investing thought leaders with proven track records of peak performance. Many of their reccomendations had common themes.

Four obsessions of self made billionaire investors: P455
1. Don’t Lose.
Focus on protecting downside at all times; defense is 10x importance of offense.

2. Risk a Little to Make a Lot.
Asymmetric risk/reward.

3. Anticipate and Diversify.
Research till certain then still anticipate failure case & diversify against it.
Brilliant people are terrible investors if they are not prepared to make decisions with limited information.

4. You’re Never Done.
Earn, learn, grow, give.
Keep your hunger.
To whom much is given, much is expected.
Life is really about what you have to give.

Step 7: Just do it, enjoy it, and share it

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” Dali Lama XIV

“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” Henry David Thoreau

Our decisions control the quality of our lives. We make 3 key decisions every moment of our life. Most make these unconsciously. Make these decisions consciously and you can literally change your life in an instant: P577
Decision 1: What are you going to focus on
Decision 2: What does this mean
Decision 3: What am I going to do

“You can’t be fearful and grateful simultaneously.” – Tony Robbins, Money: Master the Game, P584

10 min daily exercise to prime for gratefulness: P585
3 minutes to feel gratitude for things big and small
3 min to [send love by] asking for health and blessings to all you know, love, and will meet
4 min on “Three to Thrive” – three things want to accomplish and visualize them as if completed (including the sense of celebration and gratitude for having completed them).

“Every day stand guard at the door of your mind, and you alone decide what thoughts and beliefs you let into your life.” P585 Tony Robbins paraphrasing Jim Rohn

“Give freely, openly, easily, and enjoyably. Give even when you think you have nothing to give, and you’ll discover there is an ocean of abundance inside of you and around you.” Tony Robbins, Money: Master the Game, P606

Each day “be a blessing in the lives of all those people I meet and have the privilege to connect with.” Tony Robbins, Money: Master the Game, P606

Alone on the Wall

Alone on the Wall – by Alex Honnold

Alone on the Wall

ISBN: 0393247627
READ: 2015-11-09 to 2015-11-13
RATING: 9/10
Amazon page for details and reviews.
WorldCat page to look for it in a library near you.

“There is no adrenaline rush. If I get an adrenaline rush, it means that something has gone horribly wrong.” -Alex Honnold

My notes:

Alone on the Wall is a phenomenal book from a phenomenal adventurer. I first learned of Alex Honnold’s feats of climbing through the short film by the same name as this book. This book provides a deeper look into the journey that brought him to the public spotlight and the epic feats of adventuring he has completed since.

It’s incredibly inspiring to read in detail these accounts of Alex’s ascents, link-ups, and expeditions. I was pumped every day that I was reading the book & got in lots of hiking and gym climbing.

The book worked well with two authors. The narration alternates between italicized sections where Alex accounts his climbs first hand and the general text written by David Roberts that provides a third party perspective to the full spectrum of Alex’s story. David tied in key snippets of information about Alex from his climbing films, historical context for the climbing accomplishments, and enough technical explanation to allow even non-climbers to enjoy the narrative. David did an excellent job covering the philosophical side of the high stakes environment that is the cutting edge of climbing.

FINAL TAKE: Highly recommended to all who want inspiration to elevate their dreams and continue pushing their personal adventures. 9 of 10 stars.

“I think of all the people who inspired me as a kid, and I sort of realize they were all normal people, too. I just do my normal life, and if people choose to be inspired by the things I’m doing, then I’m glad they’re getting something out of it.” – Alex Honnold


The transformative effects of reading are clear. Reading is education and enjoyment. There are so many resources available to let you do more of it.

Reading Resources

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes” – Erasmus, Letter to Jacob Batt (12 April 1500)

There are extensive resources available that allow you to read without cost and without acquiring every book you read as possession.

The most important tool people overlook in searching for books is WorldCat is a search engine that scans more than 10,000 libraries worldwide and helps you find items nearest to you. It allows you to filter search results by zip code so that you find the best source local to you to acquire the book for free. It is superior to a search at your regional library because it includes all the university libraries, which often allow any citizen a membership as well. A quick search on WorldCat should be a prerequisite for almost any book purchase.

Another library related tool is OverDrive, which allows you to download and borrow digital materials such as the newest releases of ebooks and audio books that are available from your library.

Additional tools for accessing fantastic books are Gutenberg and Librivox because they allow you to tap into the wealth of works contained in the public domain, which is where books “relocate” to when their term of copyright expires. Basically, you should never again pay for a book published more than 90 years ago. Not only will this type of book be available in almost every library around, they are given away free in digital format by communities working to make these classics available to all. Because Project Gutenburg has more than 45,000 ebooks available, a good place to start for many is their most downloaded books.

Librivox volunteers create audio recordings of public domain books and make them available for download but also as free podcasts in the iTunes Store. They sync great with an iPhone or iPod. Among many others listened to, I personally have enjoyed listening to Librivox recordings of John Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Rudyard Kipling’s Kim.

Learn to Listen

Listening to audio books can be meditative. In graduate school, I eliminated television watching by listening to about a chapter a day of a Hemingway or Jack London story. It became part of my unwinding routine before bed. I listened on long drives out to trail heads, and I reclaimed time while cooking meals or cleaning dishes. Audio books give you a chance to rest your eyes from screen time bombardment. In my opinion, it is much easier to adjust to listening to fiction than it is to non-fiction. It took many months of familiarity with audio books before I really enjoyed the transition to non-fiction audio books.

How to Get Started

The key to awakening as an avid reader is finding a book that really excites you. In 2011, I picked up my first volitionally selected book in close to a decade. All it took was finding that right book that would spark a fire, and, before I knew it, I found myself reading 30 to 50 books each year with my sights set on many more.

Check out these reading lists for recommendations of books you might like. To see my full reading list, checkout my Goodreads profile.

Reading Lists

“If we encountered a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he read.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims (1876)

Reading lists can be a good way to find new and inspiring books.

I’ve gathered up a handful of the book lists posted around the web by successful people.

Send me a message if you have a good reading list to suggest be added.

Reading Lists:

Brett Anderson: Five of My Favorite Books

Derek Sivers: Book Reviews

Simon Black: Seven Books Every Sovereign Man Should Read

Bill Gates: Book Reviews

Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose: Top 5 Must-Read Books

Ryan Holiday: Books to Base Your Life On

Sebastian Marshall: Ten Must-Read’s For Creative Builders

Mark Manson: Seven Books That Will Change How You See The World

Craig Ballantyne: Top 10 Business Books

Tucker Max: Most Influential Books

Fast Company: Six Must-Read Book Recommendations From Business Leaders

Connor Grooms: Road to Excellence Reading List

5 Book Recommendations

Each book below is included for slightly different reasons that I address in the first sentence after listing the book title and author.

1. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

This book is a favorite because it taught me at an early age that I can create my own happiness. I first read this work quite some time ago at the age of 13, and completed it again at age 17. I talked about this book in my college application essay and in my application video for the entrepreneurship program I attended in 2012. In both of these cases, I discussed the role of this book in my personal realization that no matter the circumstances around me I controlled my reaction, and that by adapting my reaction, I could literally create my own happiness in situations others would find miserable. If you are not familiar with the book, the entirety of the ~110 page book is set to a single day of a prisoner at a Soviet labor camp. The reader steps into the minute details of grueling labor, injustice, and the harshest of winter conditions. This was quite a moving day to relive vicariously knowing that it is but one day of a ten year sentence at the camp. My favorite part of the book comes in the concluding pages and is what ties the jarring conditions to my realization that happiness is rooted largely in one’s perception. Though it’s not a complete spoiler, you may wish to skip ahead from here to the next paragraph to avoid it. As the main character lays down to review his day, he finds that it was a day with ‘not a dark cloud in the sky’ and, that, despite all the abuse and suffering, which I as the reader had observed with shock, the day in the book had been ‘an almost happy day.’

Similar Books that I’ve Enjoyed: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

2. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

This book is a favorite because it is a beautiful compression of life and love to the 4-day timeline of the story. I consider it a favorite because the deep emotional response the writing elicited from me. Without getting much into plot specifics, I will simply say I recommend this story highly. I’ll also point out that I find it interesting that two of my favorite five books include stories told in great detail over a very short timeline. Previous reflection on this, lead me to read The Art of Time in Fiction by Joan Silber and Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman this past fall and to continue to evaluate why timelines of this slowed time nature appeal to me.

Similar that I’ve Enjoyed: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway, Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

3. Trail Life: Ray Jardine’s Lightweight Backpacking by Ray Jardine

This book is a favorite because it’s the innovation from a life’s work explained in terms simple enough for novices to follow. The lightweight backpacking system presented is one the author developed from the ground up over decades that covered more than 25,000 miles of long distance backpacking. Jardine has a phenomenal repository of knowledge and he provides an incredible representation of this knowledge in Trail Life. This book expertly covers the fundamentals of long distance backpacking knowledge from A to Z for your planning, conditioning, and time on the trail.

Similar that I’ve Enjoyed: Walking the Entire Appalachian Trail: Fulfilling a Dream by Accomplishing the Task by Warren Doyle

4. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

This book is a favorite because it helped me remember why I lived and breathed running during five of my teenage years. I devoured this book in three days and found myself at the end of the book with delusions that I’d be running an ultramarathon in the following month. This book taught me the value of prescribing the reading of running/high intensity books to a fixed amount per day or a fixed amount per number of runs completed so that I could translate the intensity of the story into intensity in my training. Born to Run discusses the forefoot running style associated with barefoot running and also introduces the basics of the evolutionary case for humans as runners (the ability to cool off while in motion by sweating, our Achilles tendon, our arched feet, etc.). My favorite single thing in the book was the account of a persistence hunt in which a group of bushmen in the Kalahari Desert chase an antelope and relentlessly run it to a death by overheating — talk about awakening a primal desire to run!

Similar that I’ve Enjoyed: Ultramarathon man by Dean Karnazes, Eat & Run by Scott Jurek, Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr.

5. Currency Wars by James Rickards

This book is a favorite because it thoroughly explains the insanity that is present day international monetary policy. I’ve been reading for years in articles and newsletters about how crazy it is to allow a small handful of men to control the majority of the world’s monetary supply. This text takes a much deeper dive into how we arrived in the present situation, why the current situation is so fragile, and the extremely unlikely actions that would need to be taken to avoid further economic turmoil.

Similar that I’ve Enjoyed: Anatomy of the State by Murray Rothbard

The Edge Effect

The Edge Effect: Achieve Total Health and Longevity with the Balanced Brain Advantage – by Eric Braverman

Edge EffectISBN: 1402722478
READ: 2013-01-08 to 2013-02-08
RATING: 8/10
Amazon page for details and reviews.
WorldCat page to look for it in a library near you.

My notes:

Think of this book as an owner’s manual for your brain.

It gives readers power to prevent and take action against minor or serious illnesses, which can be largely traced to imbalances in the brain.

There are 4 major neurotransmitters in the brain: Dopamine, Acetylcholine, GABA, and Seratonin. The exact balance and production of these neurotransmitter levels varies from person to person.

According to Braverman, every person has one dominant neurotransmitter, which indicates your “Braverman Nature.” The book contains thorough information about using knowledge of your nature and any presenting symptoms to make tweaks that will improve your health.

In addition to learning about your dominant nature, you want to learn of and address any neurotransmitter deficiencies that may be present in your brain.

These deficiencies can be of any of the four neurotransmitters. Deficiency in your dominant nature is fairly common but your dominant nature is not synonymous with having a deficiency.

To assess BOTH your Braverman Nature and any deficiencies, there is a “Braverman Nature Assessment” in “The Edge Effect.” It’s a paper assessment of T/F questions, which I trust as a reliable measure.

Additional copies of the assessment can be printed here: Nature PDF

Although it’s just one data point, my results from this paper test for my deficiencies matched perfectly with results from a saliva panel I had done!

Print out the test & take it in one sitting while you will not be interrupted.

Good luck!

Amazon Link Goodreads Link