2014 A Powerful Year Of Book Reading. The Review.

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For the last 3 years I’d made the same New Year’s resolution: to read more books in this year than I’d ever done before. After 2 years of this I realized I had a problem. I wasn’t keeping track of how many books I’d read.

That changed with the help of My List. I wrote down all the books I’d read as soon as I finished them in 2014 and I highlighted the entry in blue. If my records are correct, and I’m not sure they are, I read a total of 19 books in 2014.

That’s weak, not even a book every 2 weeks. I need to do better. In 2015 I will beat that number.

By keeping a list you can notice trends. The biggest trend in my reading this year was reading more fiction.

I stayed away from fiction for several years. I wanted to spend my reading time learning, so I read non-fiction books about business and history.

In 2014 I finished my first draft of my book about recovering from the avalanche and self-pity. It took 2 years for me to write and it is utter garbage. By struggling to write my own book I gained an appreciation for high quality fiction writers. The skills it takes to write dialogue that is worth reading are immense. Currently I’m obsessed with Michael Crichton’s books.

Sleep is important to me.

In researching how to get better sleep I came upon the technique of reading fiction for an hour before bed. Reading fiction turns off the problem solving part of the brain that produces stress and anxiety. You have to suspend your disbelief with fiction. To me this is relaxing and a good way to prepare for sleep. I got this idea from Tim Ferriss.

Enough of the blabber! What did I read? What was the best? What was the rest? In no particular order here it is.

A Case Of Need by Michael Crichton:
This is a work of fiction that Crichton wrote when he was 26 years old under the pen name of Jeffery Hudson. Crichton’s Harvard Medical School training is obvious here. The book is about a botched illegal abortion that leads to the death of Karen Randall, the daughter of a prominent Boston surgeon. It’s a touchy and technical subject and Crichton educates the reader with medical and legal terms so that even a reader that knows nothing of medicine or law can follow along easily.

This is what I love about Crichton’s writing, his ability to explain highly complex medical, legal, and scientific language so that the reader can not only follow along with the story, but also learn something.

A doctor is jailed for the botched abortion. His friend, the protagonist and fellow doctor, decides to become a detective and figure out what really happened. There are many twists and turns in the book and well as some gnarly medical procedures. If you like to learn something while reading fiction you’ll enjoy this book. It’s a page turner.

The Swerve: How The World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt:

I often learn more from reading a book about a great book than by reading the book itself. That was the case with The Swerve which is about the history of the book On The Nature Of Things (De Rerum Natura) by Lucretius. On The Nature Of Things was written 2000 years ago. A few hundred years after it was written the book was lost, or burned, or melted away in time. Humanity lost Lucretius’ book. Which was sad because among other things Lucretius deduced the existence of atoms about 2000 years before modern scientists could prove their existence.

The Swerve tells the story of a papal scribe named Poggio Bracciolini who found one of the last copies in existence of On The Nature Of Things rotting away in a German monastery and brought it back into the world. This was in the 15th century when the papal court in Rome claimed that it ruled the entire world.

Lucretius’ ideas that the universe functions without the aid of gods or if there were gods they couldn’t care less about humans, that life was made up of atoms and void, and that seeking pleasure was a good thing, did not sit well with the ruling elite. So what did the ruling elite do? Lots of nasty things to anyone that agreed with these ideas, including burning folks alive for simple thought crimes.

The Swerve gives you the background, the history, and context that is the story of the finding and reintroducing into the world On The Nature Of Things. After reading The Swerve I had to read On The Nature Of Things and man, am I glad I read The Swerve first.
On The Nature Of Things is a didactic poem that explains philosophy and it is confusing as fuck. It was super hard for me to read. I’m glad I read The Swerve first otherwise I wouldn’t have known what was going on in On The Nature Of Things. I recommend you read them both.

And Thank You Stephen Greenblatt for writing this book!

Beyond The Bear by Dan Bigley:

This book made me feel like a whining, full of self pity, piece of shit. It was very difficult for me to read. I had to skip over a page or two. This book is graphic. Dan Bigley went fishing for salmon in Alaska one day and got attacked by a brown bear. The bear ate his face. He goes into detail. Dan gets lucky and survives and has a lot of surgeries. He loses both eyes. It’s gnarly. My friend knows Dan and let me borrow his copy of this book.

Because of my own trauma and facial reconstruction, this was a very hard book for me to read. It’s a good book though. If you ever feel sorry for yourself, read this book, it’ll vaporize your feelings of self pity. Life is unfair to everyone in its own weird way. It’s right there with books like Touching The Void in terms of human carnage.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

I struggle with the Great American Novel, but I keep trying to read them.  The last G.A.N. I tried to read was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is The Night.  I gave up on that one half way through because it was too much like a boring teenage love story.

The Sun Also Rises is way better than Tender Is The Night.  And I read the entire book.  And I liked it more or less. But I still had no real idea what the hell was going on in the book.

It’s about a group of American expats in Paris that like to go to cafes and eat and drink. And drink a lot. Then they all take a trip to Spain to watch the bullfights.  It’s a bunch of dudes and one girl and everyone wants to bone her.  She takes a few of them up on it.

What I liked most about the book was the sentences.  They were short and direct.  If sentences can be beautiful, then this book is chock full of beautiful short sentences.  As for a story… I don’t have a clue.  It’s weird.

My favorite quote from the book. “How did you go bankrupt?  Two ways, gradually and then suddenly.”

Letters From A Self Made Merchant To His Son by George Horace Lorimer

This was my favorite book that I read in 2014. Like every great business book it’s not just about business, it’s about human psychology, which essentially never changes. This is a timeless classic.

Damn! In doing a simple search on this book I found out that this is a work of fiction. I’m a fool. And it’s not the first time.

I thought this was a real collection of letters that a father had written to his son over the years. Apparently it’s the work of fiction. Well, ok… it’s still awesome and I love this book. I highly recommend it. There are all sorts of good stuff packed in this book that is just as applicable today as it was when the book was published in 1901.

This book has a ton of great quotes. One of my favorites is this: “Give fools the first word and women the last.” You can’t go wrong there.

Read this book. It’s awesome.

And it no order at all here’s the other books I’ve read in 2014:

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore – fiction. Death has a job like everyone else. Good Fun.  Moore has become one of my go to fiction authors.
American Gods by Neil Gaimen – fiction. A fantasy novel about a strong dude named Shadow that goes on adventures all over the American Heartland.
Arrian’s Discourses Of Epictetus translated by W.A. Oldfather. This was research I was doing on Epictetus, the slave/philosopher whose ideas helped me recover from devastation. Difficult to read but worth it.
Flash Boys by Michael Lewis. This book ignited a hilarious shouting match on CNBC Lewis takes a super boring topic, high frequency trading, and makes it interesting. The guy is a master. I have to read any book he writes.
The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe – fiction. Wolfe has a style that’s instantly recognizable as his own. The 60’s, a bus, a boatload of LSD, California,rock n’ roll, and… Kesey!
Predators Ball by Connie Bruck. The rise and fall of junk bond king Michael Milken and Drexel Burnham.
Tree Of Smoke by Denis Johnson – fiction. A novel about the Vietnam War. It’s ok but I like his book of short stories Jesus Son much better.
Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield. Quit feeling sorry for yourself and get to work. I liked it.
What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars by Jim Paul. A successful commodities trader holds onto a trade until it bankrupts him. This books dissects the psychology of our decision making process. Timeless.
When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein. Business book about the blowup of the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management.
Wine And War by Don & Petie Kladstrup. The Nazis weren’t completely crazy, the liked the finest French wines. Tales of the lengths the French went to, to protect their wine from the Nazis. If you like wine, you’ll probably enjoy this quick and easy read.
Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton – fiction. Someone found this finished novel on Crichton’s computer after he passed away. Apparently he started writing it in the 1980’s. A fictional story involving real historical figures. I thought it was great.

The Socratic Dialogues by Plato. I’ll write more on this book later.

That’s it for 2014!

What about you? Did you read anything fascinating in 2014? Let me know at brucepaulson1@gmail.com. I’m always looking for another great book.

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