The books I’m reading in 2024

brown opened book on black surface
1. Same as Ever Morgan Housel
What I learned:
This one was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, it’s filled with interesting thoughts on a huge variety of topics covered in a pretty succinct way. On the other, it feels like the author mixed all the posts from his blog in the book and tried to find vague connections to link them without even starting a new chapter. The end result is a book that feels more like a bunch of notes than a book. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, but I think you have to read it more than once (and take notes all the time) to get more out of it.
2. The Daily Stoic* Ryan Holiday
What I learned:
What you learn from this book is… everything, pretty much. It’s daily reflections about stoicism, and I always find it pretty amazing how valuable nearly all of them are. This is another one of those books that I’ll read every year.
3. The Daily Dad * Ryan Holiday
What I learned:
I’ll probably be reading this book over and over for the next few years, that’s how much I love it. Like The Daily Stoic, you read one page per day, and in this case, it’s a reflection on parenthood, always with a stoic angle to this. What I really like about this book is that it makes me feel that I’m not alone in the way that I approach being a dad (excluding my wife, that is).
4. The Courage to Be Disliked
Ichiro Kishimi
What I learned:
I really tried to like this book. I started it last year and couldn’t finish it because I got bored. I tried again this year because I feel bad when I leave books unfinished, but again, I failed to finish it because it was a struggle to read it. So I’ve given up. It just felt like a very long and tedious version of things that I’d read elsewhere before. The main thing that caught my attention was the idea that trauma doesn’t actually exist and that it’s you who chooses to be miserable, which is a peculiar view, to say the least.
5. No Death, No Fear
Thich Nhat Hanh
What I learned:
Imagine your life as a wave. While you are a wave (hence alive), everything is great as you enjoy being a wave. But one day (let’s pretend waves can last for days), you suddenly stop being a wave, that is, you die because waves don’t last forever. Normally, at least in the Western world, you’d be sad that you are no longer a wave (you died), or that some other wave that you loved is no longer around.

So, the idea behind this book is that, while you are no longer a wave, you are still water, which is what you were before you were even a wave. So dying is not something sad or tragic, but just a transformation into something different. It’s a concept that I’ve read about in plenty of books that talk about Buddhism, so not a new idea to me, but I continue to struggle with it.

I like to think about death because I feel it helps me prioritise the right things in life (memento mori, etc), and that has led me to read books like this that try to explain death from a different perspective.

As I said, while I like the concept, I’m still not sold on it because I struggle to think how no longer being with the people you love can’t be sad, regardless of how many wave-like metaphors you can think of.

6. Ego is the Enemy *
Ryan Holiday
What I learned:
As someone who is often surrounded by people with big egos, this book always serves as a good reminder of the downsides of that, which is why I’ve read it like four times. The main takeaways for me are that a) The world doesn’t revolve around you AT ALL, so don’t act like it does, and b) Entitlement is such a terrible personality trait that we need to avoid at all costs. This book puts your ego in check.
7. Show Your Work
Austin Kleon
What I learned:
If you ever have any sort of creative ambition – whatever that is, and no matter how big that ambition is – this is a book that’s full of inspiration. It’s short and sweet, and chances are it will make you feel like sharing more of your work and thoughts on the internet.
8. Make Your Bed
William H. McRaven
What I learned:
The book’s tagline is “Little Things That Can Change Your Life”, but in reality, it’s not a book about habits. Certain parts sound like it, but in the end, it’s more a memoir than anything else, all based on the author’s experiences in the Navy. While some of the stories are interesting, they are all based on war-related stuff, so the author’s achievements might rub you the wrong way very often, despite his intention to share a positive outlook on anything. It’s a very short book, but even so, I don’t think it’s worth it.
9. This Won’t Help
Eli Grober
What I learned:
Well, he was right: This didn’t help. The book is basically a compilation of tweets (not literally), making fun of a lot of the issues in the world right now, from stuff like social media to climate change, and from politics to Amazon’s monopoly. There are some funny bits, but for the most part, I found the jokes pretty simplistic. It was like watching a stand-up routine that makes you laugh from time to time, but that you wouldn’t watch again.
10. The Stoic Guide to a Happy Life
Massimo Pigliucci
What I learned:
This book is literally 53 short Stoic concepts listed, so of course is worth reading. It’s free wisdom, this time in the form of a re-interpretation of Epictetus‘ philosophy. It’s short and sweet, and a good starting point for people who want to learn about Stoicism.
11. Six Sales Skills Everyone Should Know
Stefanie Boyer
What I learned:
I downloaded this book as it was included in my Audible subscription and I needed something to listen to while working out. That usually leads to ending up with books that I have no clue what are about, which was the case here. It’s a risky strategy that often doesn’t work out, which again was the case here. It’s actually a pretty practical book on a few techniques to “sell”, although applied to human behaviours. It’s not bad, but it’s another case of “This could have been a blog post.”
12. The Molecule of More *
Daniel Lieberman, Michael Long
What I learned:
I don’t know why, but I don’t remember having read this book, but I had read it already… It’s about how dopamine drives the world in more ways than you can imagine, which is both scary and enlightening if you apply some of the cases to yourself and your decision-making process.
13. A Thousand-Mile Walk To The Gulf
John Muir
What I learned:
On the one hand, you have to value the appreciation the author feels for all the flora he encounters on his 1000-mile walk from Indiana to Cuba and then to California. On the other, the descriptions of the plants and places he finds become too long and tedious to keep me hooked. The interesting parts are his stories about the people he meets and the experiences he goes through as sort of a Boy Scout at the end of the 19th century.
14. Clear Thinking
Shane Parrish
What I learned:
There’s nothing special or sensational about this book, but in fairness, the author sort of admits that at the start. There are no new ideas in it, and it’s just a compilation of stuff from other writers, so its value will depend on how much you’ve read about things like stoicism, mindfulness or decision-making before reading this one.
15. On the Shortness of Life
Seneca
What I learned:
“It is not that we have so little time but that we waste so much of it.” That’s the essence of this essay, which is not very long. The bottom line is basically to stop focusing on meaningless shit and start paying attention to the important stuff. Easy.
16. The Perfect Mile
Neal Bascomb
What I learned:
Coming soon
17. A Little History of the World
E. H. Gombrich
What I learned:
Well, this is basically the history of the world, so there’s an awful lot to learn. I feel that if I had had to learn history from this book when I was studying, I would have learned a lot more than I did. In theory, it’s aimed at younger readers, which makes it simple and easy to read. It was written around 1935 and in just six weeks, but the author lived until 2001 and adds an epilogue with thoughts about things that happened after the book was originally published.
18. Arbitrary Stupid Goal
Tamara Shopsin
What I learned:
I can’t remember why I picked up this book, but I knew nothing about it going in. And, well, I knew nothing new after I finished it. It turns out that just because you live in New York, your life doesn’t automatically become interesting. Hard pass.
19. A World Without Email
Cal Newport
What I learned:
For a book about how to be more productive, I felt that about three-thirds of it were way too much noise and a waste of my time, a common theme with Cal Newport’s books, for me at least. I love the guy’s ideas, but his books just go on and on about things that are not really connected to the main subject. I know what’s he’s trying to do, but it’s just a turn-off for me. This one is no different. To sum up: Can we live without email? No. Can we optimise our work to avoid being so distracted all the time? Yes. There, you don’t need to read the book now.
20. The Psychology of Money
Morgan Housel
What I learned:
More books should be like this one: short and to the point, without pages and pages of pointless fluff. It’s 20 ideas based on common sense to help you make good financial decisions. Definitely worth a read.
21. Zen in the Art of Archery
Eugen Herrigel
What I learned:
While this is a very painless book to read, I didn’t find it very inspiring or interesting. I suppose it’s about the process of mastering something (in this case archery), but I just didn’t get much out of it.
22. The One Thing
Gary Keller
What I learned:
Focus on one thing at a time. There, I saved you about six hours of reading. I hate to be that guy, but this could have been a blog post, or even a tweet. Too many useless words for a book about focusing on one key thing.
23. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
John Gottman, Nan Silver
What I learned:
There’s a lot of sensible advice here. And no, you don’t need your marriage to be in trouble to read it. In fact, read it before you have problems in your marriage. Some of the excersises in the book could make you uncomfortable, but I guess that’s the point. The downside is probably that there’s too many quizes and it can get repetitive.
24. Slow Productivity
Cal Newport
What I learned:
Do less, work at a natural pace, focus on doing great work. That’s about it, really. If you want to read examples of famous people who got success by doing less, you can read this book. If you don’t need that, skip it. If you have to work at a certain pace or you’d get sacked, skip it. If you are not a “knowledge worker”, skip it.
25. Meditations *
Marcus Aurelius
What I learned:
This book is everything, and if you haven’t read it, shame on you. This time I’m re-reading it to highlight all the bits I enjoy, because there’s certainly a lot that you only need to read once.
26. Lying
Sam Harris
What I learned:
Mark Twain said that if you tell the truth all the time, you don’t have to remember anything. This essay (because it’s more an essay than a book) makes a point about taking that to extremes, and never, ever, tell a lie, not even to your kids about Santa. Is it a practical thing to do? Probably not. But I felt it’s a good thought experiment and something to consider, perhaps not in every conversation you have, but in a lot of them.
27. Right Thing, Right Now
Ryan Holiday
What I learned:
I love Ryan Holiday’s formula: Stoic philosophy mixed with lessons from history with a focus on lives of great (and not so great) people. This book is another example of that, although funnily my favourite part was the foreword. “Our job is to try to save the world, and failing that, we can at least try to not be part of the problem.”
28. Discipline is Destiny *
Ryan Holiday
What I learned:
Work out. Wake up early. Do hard things first. Avoid superfluous stuff. Clean up your desk. Keep showing up every day. Work hard on the small things. Hustle. Slow down. Practice a lot. Seek discomfort. Manage the load. Sleep. Focus on the important stuff. Done is better than perfect. Get help. Say less than necessary. Curb your ambition. Don’t waste your money. Get better every day. Say no. Be kind to yourself. Make others better. Be strict with yourself and tolerant of others. Endure.
29. The Anxious Generation
Jonathan Haidt
What I learned:
Hot take: Children should’t be using smartphones, let alone social media, until they are 16. This book is filled with indisputable evidence about the damage a phone-based life is having on children and how we are not doing enough to curb the massive psychological and emotional damage generated by it. It’s a great read, but also somewhat depressing because it makes it so evident how serious the problem is and how little is being done about it.
30. Overheated
Kate Aronoff
What I learned:
Understanding how capitalism has caused the current climate crisis helps with seeing even more clearly how there is very little hope that the world will act (or rather not act) before it’s too late to prevent a disastrous humanitarian catastrophe. It’s very sad, but it’s the truth. This book is extremely good at doing that, but it also offers solutions to change that (solutions that you can feel governments will not use). It takes a lot to read it cover to cover, though, not only because of all the bad news, but also because it’s like an extremely long textbook.
31. Eating Animals
Jonathan Safran Foer
What I learned:
Coming soon

(*) Re-reading

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