t]Here are some reviews of some non-fiction and fiction books I’ve been reading over the past few months. Before I get to that, I’ll overview how I read and assimilate information, since I get a lot of questions about this.
As always, I am usually reading one non-fiction book (usually business, self-improvement, or history) and one fiction book (almost always fantasy, with some exceptions). In my opinion, and this is purely an opinion, filling yourself up with non-stop fiction or non-stop non-fiction is not a good idea. Guys who binge business or self-help books never seem to actually get off their asses and get out into the real world and take action on making things happen. (I know for a fact there are many of you in my audience).
Guys like this get into the habit of reading self-improvement books for fun rather than for results. They burn through a good business or self-improvement book, finish it fast, say, “Wow! That was a great book!” then immediately start onto the next book and repeat the process.
I was guilty of this myself for many years before I realized what I was doing.
Today, I only read non-fiction books that directly relate to projects I’m working on right now. Then, as many of you already know, I take very careful notes on these books and have my staff transcribe these notes into my Life Manual (something I’m selling at my Alpha Male 2.0 World Tour seminars). I then use my Life Manual as a basis to draw action items from to formulate my plans to hit my goals.
This way, I’m reading for results, not just for fun.
On the flip side, guys who do nothing but read fiction novels all the fucking time aren’t doing themselves any favors either. I think you need a mix of both in order to be a more well-rounded man. As a matter of fact, I think reading fiction is more important now than ever before since the quality of other entertainment mediums (TV, movies, video games) seems to be declining. Fiction novels may indeed be the last refuge for high quality, thought-provoking entertainment, or will become so soon.
In terms of how I read, I do so in three ways:
1. Kindle, on the go, like when I’m traveling or running errands and have downtime, reading on my phone.
2. Audio books whenever I’m driving, or in the bathroom getting ready for the day, or performing any other brainless task. I used to use an iPod for this but now I use the Audible Android app on my phone which is much more convenient. I always listen to audio books on 1.4X speed to get through the book faster since most audio books are spoken very slowly, and my mind moves much faster. (I watch YouTube videos the same way, usually on 1.5X speed and sometimes even on 1.75X.)
3. Paper books, sitting in my nice recliner in my living room, overlooking the mountains. I do this for 30-60 minutes about 2-4 times per week.
So that’s that. Here are the reviews.
by Neil Gaiman
I’ve been wanting to read this book for at least 15 years. Over and over again I kept seeing it in the bookstore, flipping through it, telling myself I need to read it, but never doing so. I have always thought about the concept of old Greek and Norse gods existing in today’s modern age and have always considered the concept very interesting. I also really liked Harlan Ellison’s Deathbird Stories which is essentially a very R-rated version of this concept.
I am well aware that Neil Gaiman has a huge fan base and I’ve heard nothing but good things about him, but I’ve never read any of his stuff. And I wanted to.
On top of all that, there’s now a TV series based on this book, and I wanted to make sure I read the book before even glimpsing the series, just in case the series sucked and pre-ruined my view of the book. This is exactly why I made damn sure to read the entire Dark Tower series before I saw that movie (which, of course, sucked).
So, I figured reading American Gods would kill several birds with one stone.
The book was fine. Not bad, not amazing, just fine. It had a few good moments, but overall I felt it was average. The main character is really boring and I could not relate to much of his thoughts, and perhaps that was the biggest reason why I didn’t think this book was outstanding.
Many of the side-characters, particularly the villains, were really good. The problem is there weren’t more of them. If this book had focused more on them and less on the boring protagonist, this book would have been amazing.
I’m glad I read it though. One less thing on my to-do list.
By Al Ries and Jack Trout
This is a marketing classic that snuck past me for some reason, written by the same guys who wrote The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, which is one of those core marketing books all business owners need to read.
Positioning is much like that book, in that there is so much data packed into it that you really need to be taking constant notes as you read it or else you’ll miss (or forget) all the good stuff. This makes this book a hard read, but an important read. I recommend it, but I only recommend you read it when you can 100% focus on it in a quiet environment when you have a pen and paper (or Kindle highlight ability) easily accessible.
by Larry Niven
I don’t normally read sci-fi these days, but Ringworld is one of those classic sci-fi books that I’ve heard about my entire life and yet never read. It made me feel left out in a nerdy sort of way. I’m not sure what made me grab it, but I did.
Wow. This is a great book. If I loved sci-fi now as much as I used to, this would have probably been the best book I read in 2018. The setting, plot, setups, and characters are all extremely good. I can see why this book was such a big deal and resonated with so many people.
The biggest thing about this book is the science aspect. It’s almost as if it was written by a scientific genius (and hey, maybe Larry Niven is; I don’t know). The author doesn’t just describe something to you like in most sci-fi or fantasy novels, but instead, he actually explains the real-life science behind it. He does it in a very convincing way, so much so that you’re actually convinced the crazy shit in the novel could actually exist.
The story is about a rag-tag team of two superhumans and two aliens who discover a giant ring the size of many planets circling a star. Again, Niven explains the science behind all of it, making it really interesting.
I highly recommend this book if you like sci-fi. He has several other books in the series that I may get around to.
Money – Master The Game
by Tony Robbins
This damn thing was sitting on my shelf for an eternity before I got around to reading it. It’s hard for me to review these kinds of books because I’ve been reading stuff like this for almost 30 years, so books like this are usually a lot of repeat material for me that I already know and am already practicing.
So here’s the bottom line on it: If you’re new to finance and investing, the book is very good and I recommend it.
If you’re an old pro, the first two-thirds are going to be very boring and you’ll find yourself skipping over entire sections. Yet, the final third is very good and I took a lot of good notes, so I recommend that part at least.
Off To Be The Wizard
by Scott Meyer
I always read a “candy” book every once in a while, a book of pure insane fun that isn’t serious at all. That’s this book. Holy shit. I’ll just describe the basic plot and you’ll see what I mean.
It’s about a young computer nerd in Colorado who inadvertently discovers that all reality is just a computer construct. He finds the computer file that represents this reality and is able to manipulate it. He can edit the number that represents his height, and instantly he’s taller. He can edit his location coordinates and instantly teleport to anywhere he wants. And so on.
He’s young and stupid, so after adding thousands of dollars to his bank account, the FBI comes after him for bank fraud. To escape, he puts on a Harry Potter costume and teleports himself to England in middle ages where he uses his powers and pretends to be a wizard. Hilarity ensues, and that’s when the real story begins.
If it sounds silly, it is, and the author is well aware it is, which makes it fun. Much of the book is very funny and I laughed out loud several times.
Much like Ready Player One, Off To Be The Wizard is written specifically for guys like me, ex-Commodore 64 nerds who grew up in the eighties. So if you’re not in that demographic, some of the references may go over your head. It’s still entertaining though.
I really liked the first third of the story, where he discovers everything and figures everything out. It’s both very serious and funny at the same time. About a third of the way in, the silliness factor shoots way up. This is fine, and I still enjoyed the book, but I expected the story to go in a very different way. I would actually like to see a “realistic,” serious, adult take at exactly what would happen if a guy from our time went back to the middle ages. I have yet to see that story written (and no, Michael Crichton’s Timeline doesn’t count, sorry, that book sucked).
There are about four more books in this series; not sure if I’ll read them. Maybe I’ll try one more down the road.
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sweet I’m getting into sciency stuff so I’ll keep an eye out for ringworld.
Caleb, can you post an update on your opinion about the future of China and SE Asia? Things are changing a lot right now and I don’t know if the future is as bright as you said in the past. China is cracking down on personal freedom, there are conflicts in Hong Kong, etc. And how do the conflicts with the West affect us westerners who might want to live there?
Totally agree about American Gods. I loved it at the start and gradually realised that Shadow didn’t have much personality, which made it hard to care about him. Still worth a read though.
I’m currently reading a series called the Grim Company by Luke Scull. Much like Joe Abercrombie but with much more magic – so probably right up your alley.
If you first finish one of the two books you’re currently reading, for example your non-fiction book, do you then move onto reading the next non-fiction book on your list? Or do you finish the fiction book first, before moving onto a new two set of books of fiction and non-fiction?
Off To Be The Wizard sounds very much like Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (freely available at hpmor.com). I liked it subverting the fantasy cliches, I liked having smart characters for once, I liked certain real-life ideas. I disliked some chapter-long passages where the author went, in my opinion, way too deep into certain topics, and the overall plot is rather basic.
Check out Peter Zeihan’s work. Solar will never happen, and Shale Oil combined with america’s river system ensures the US will be a self sufficient superpower for 200 more years… unless we literally fuck ourselves like Venezuela. China has neither oil nor rivers for cheap transport. Their economy relies on manufacturing exports, which means they need to strike oil somewhere or conquer somebody who does.
Positioning is a great book. Do you keep google doc notes on business books? I highlight in my kindle and it shows up in the cloud reader when i review.
Avoid the American Gods series unless you want a ton of faggotry. It started off good then they made a point of having a hardcore gay scene. That was when I deleted all the episodes and never bothered with that bullshit again.
It’s almost at a point with shows and movies that I have to fucking google details about them before watching to avoid this shit.
Then of course there’s the ‘tough bitch’ stuff that’s ruining everything too.
My long-term outlook hasn’t changed. Short and medium-term they’re going to have some very serious problems.
As I’ve said in the past, the USA had civil wars, depressions, mass violence, economic collapses, and all kinds of other really horrible stuff while on its way to number one in the world. China will be the same. Tons of fucked up problems, but it will eventually become number one.
Again, same as I’ve said before. Unless we actually go to full-scale war with China (which really can’t happen economically) little to zero of this stuff will affect the non-citizen Westerner with location independent income and a good VPN living or spending time in China (unless you become a dissident and/or spend a lot of time publicly denouncing their government, but seriously, are you going to do that?).
The former. And if there’s some weird overlap sometimes then I don’t care.
Wow, I pretty much disagree with all of that, but it’s too off-topic for me to get into.
No it’s all in a giant Word doc. When I take notes with Kindle I use its export function and put it right into the Word doc so everything is in one place.
Oh yeah, towards the start of the book. I didn’t mind it enough to stop reading it, but damn, it was extremely explicit and it completely came out of nowhere. I was like, “Whoa! Where the hell did this come from? Jesus!” (I’ve never seen the TV series.)
I haven’t yet read the AG book, or got round yet to seeing the Amazon American Gods TV adaptation, but my understanding is that it went way over budget, the showrunner was fired and some actors also left and refused to come back for season 2, that was heavily panned as being mediocre. It didn’t even need a season 2, so my suggestion is only watch season 1 and stop there.
Amazon is also adapting Ringworld as a mini series for its streaming service.
How long do you spend doing this, Caleb? Do you only take a few hours out of your day to do it, or do you set aside an entire day to do it?
I’d love to read more, but my problem is when I read I tend to lose myself in the book and then I’ve wasted the entire day reading when I should have been working. It’s becoming a concern
Neither. Audiobooks and Kindle I do on the fly as I’m doing other things. Reading a paper book I do for about 30-60 minutes 3-5 times per week, and when I have some down time (like on a plane).
Same deal as playing video games. Set a 30 minute or 60 minute timer on your phone, read, stop when the timer goes off. Or you can designate one day per week as “reading day” where you can immerse yourself for as long as you want, but I wouldn’t do this more than one day a week if you haven’t hit your financial goals yet.
great insight/finer detail on reading time mgmt
There’s comic books too. Though most of DC’s and nearly all of Marvel’s current output is shit, there are lots of “indie” publishers. And then there’s european and asian comics.
Anyway, thanks for the Al Ries and Tony Robbins recommendations, Caleb. Putting both on my reading list.
By the way, for the rest of you guys, a trick that has worked for me when it comes to reading books: set a timer for 3 sets of 20 minutes. That way you can force yourself to read for an hour with steady attention (not drifting off with those hard books, nor getting too excited and using up too much of your day on the easy ones).
This is a post of yours I refer to quite often on how to read and retain non-fiction book.
Thanks for sharing.
Can you please elaborate on how fiction books have benefited your success or perhaps write an article on that?
I don’t want to overstate it; they’ve only helped a little. But they have helped. Mainly to improve my vocabulary (which has a direct correlation to success in life because it expands your thinking) and my overall creativity (which helps business innovation).
You’re absolutely right, Caleb. I’m still not thinking optimistically enough. Thanks for always inspiring me with your positivity.
Caleb, if this is what you need, you will LOVE the book Cross-Time Engineer by Leo Frankowski
Its about a Polish Engineer who accidentally goes back in time to 20 years before the Mongols raze Europe, and intends to stop that from happening. The protagonist is absolutely unapologetic, no-fucks given Alpha Male 1.0 slowly transforming into AM 2.0. He does not know the next thing about medieval war, so he decides to go full MacGyver, and upgrade European defenses through crazy jury rigging technology
The story is very, very manly, very “enginery”, anti-feminist and sexist, but in an endearing, tongue in cheek way.
THe opening disclaimer from the author is basically: “This is a book about a manly man doing manly stuff. If you are a woman, especially a feminist, a gay guy, or a left wing liberal you are unlikely to enjoy it, so read on at your own risk” .
Basically, if you liked Conan, MacGyver, Army of Darkness or Game of Thrones, this is all of those combined.