Semi-Annual Book Report… 3 months too late.

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Procrastination has always kicked my ass.  This book review should have been written at the beginning of summer not the end.  Here’s what I’ve been reading so far this year:

All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr – fiction

This book takes place in Europe in World War II. The work follows the two young children, a blind girl in France and an albino hair orphan in Germany. I thought it was a beautiful book. The description and imagery is vivid and real. It is a sad story but then again most WWII stories are. The author made it seem like it was real. I was impressed and definitely recommend this one.

Deep Simplicity: Finding Order in Chaos and Complexity – John Gribbin – nonfiction

This book is deep. Did you know that there were laws that dictate everything from the way coastlines are formed to the pattern of traffic jams? Me neither. If you did you are probably an astrophysicist like the author. I did not understand everything that was going on in this book, but I got the main points. The author did a good job of making it accessible to average folks like me. Here’s a friendly warning: Put you thinking cap on for this one. This book is also a Charlie Munger recommendation. I liked it too, check it out.

How We Decide – Jonah Lehrer – nonfiction

This book was recommended to me by Pat who is wicked smart. I told him I read Deep Simplicity. He said if I liked that then I’d probably like How We Decide. Pat was correct. How We Decide is fascinating. We all know humans are not rational, right? It turns out we need the emotional side of our brain to make the best decisions. We need our emotions to cut through the noise so we can act. This book challenged my thinking. It’s well written and full of good information. Check it out.

Lamb – Christopher Moore – fiction

One of the brilliant things about Moore is that he is one of the few writers that can be funny and tell a good story. This book is about Biff, Jesus’ childhood friend. I stayed away from this book for years because of the religious aspect. That was a mistake. Moore did a great job. What if Jesus was a ninja, a yoga master, and could make himself invisible? What if he had a best friend that he forced to sleep with a bunch of prostitutes so that he could learn about sex, because he was celibate? What if?

My Life In Advertising – Claude Hopkins – non

If you want to learn about business or marketing read this book and Hopkin’s Scientific Advertising. If you cross a value investor with a marketing wizard you’d get Claude Hopkins. I also like his short sentences. The short but powerful sentences reminded me of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Because of that I think this is a good read even if you don’t care about learning marketing.

Outrageous Advertising – Bill Glazer – non

If you’re trying to something, learn from someone who has accomplished what you’re trying to learn. Bill Glazer learned effective marketing. His main point is You Have To Get Noticed! Otherwise no one will care. This book is full of good info, but if you’re not trying to learn marketing they are other books to read.

Siddhartha – Herman Hesse – fiction

In looking for balance in my life I’m spending time thinking about Spirituality. My buddy Jason recommended this book. This is a short but powerful story of a man who spends his whole life searching for inner peace. He goes through successes and failures. He learns all his life. He learns to listen. And that is the key. Check this book out.

“Wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom which a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish.”

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson – non

I’ve never cared about Steve Jobs. I didn’t have an opinion. I was never an Apple hater or lover. I found myself fascinated with the story and playing with my ipad with renewed interest while reading this book. Isaacson did a great job portraying a complex and difficult man. Steve Jobs was a little crazy but not stupid. He was influenced tech, movies, and music. He was the definition of one who is creative. I will also be reading Isaacson’s book on Ben Franklin. Well done.

The Black Count – Tom Reiss – non

First read The Count of Monte Cristo. Then and only then can you read this book. I admire the amount of research Reiss did to uncover this fascinating story. General Alex Dumas’ mother was a black slave from Haiti and his father was a white French degenerate aristocrat. His father sold Alex’s siblings and his mother, but kept Alex and brought him to France. He rose to become one of the most powerful leaders of the French military. Napoleon didn’t like him. Which was not good for General Dumas. A sad and powerful story of the man that would leave a mythical impression on his young son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas. I highly recommend this book—but—don’t read it until AFTER you’ve read The Count of Monte Cristo.

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas – fiction

Holy Smokes! This is one of the best books I have ever read. Do not leave this earth without reading this book. As a guy that struggles to put words together I was blown away by the skill of Alexandre Dumas. The book builds pressure in a way that will make you itch and fill with anxiety. The story is amazing. At times I was crying, and shaking, and angry. Just read the damn thing. It’s epic. It’s beautiful. A masterpiece.

The Survivors Club – Ben Sherwood – non

I read this book because I was wondering if it could provide any insights into my avalanche experience. It did. Thing is everyone joins the Survivors Club at some point. If you read this book you might get a few pointers that will help when life gets tough. There are some crazy stories. This women fell out of a jetliner that exploded from a bomb. She fell 30,000 feet. And lived. I’m not joking. The last part of the book was lame because you’re supposed to take an assessment on the website and then read and see what type of survivor traits you have. The website doesn’t work. Don’t even bother reading the assessment part. Other than that I liked it.

The War Of Art – Steven Pressfield – non

This is a very popular book and one of the most recommended books around. For good reason. It is a short and accessible read. Pressfield cuts through the crap and forces you to see you hang-ups and get to work. Read this book.

“Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.”

The Wild Truth – Carine McCandless – non

Don’t read this book until you read Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. Carine McCandless is Chris’ sister. She unloads all the family dirt that lay hidden. The story of her brother’s death had a massive impact on her. Over the years she saw people take advantage of the story and wanted to set the record straight. Lots of messed up stuff happened in her family, so she’s normal like the rest of us.  Parts of the story made me cringe.  If you liked Into The Wild you’ll probably like to read this part of the story.

In Search of Captain Zero – Alan Weisbecker – non

This is a book about surfing. Weisbecker drives his truck from California, well he starts in New York, then down south all the way to Costa Rica. He follows the coast all the while looking for his friend he hasn’t seen in 6 years. He stays camped on a beach until the surf dies down, then moves on south to the next camp site. It’s introspective and at times slow. Weisbecker put words together that were above my comprehension level. His description of surfing though, was top notch. That was his strength, describing the waves and Big Blue. This book was ok.

Bank On Yourself – Pamela Yellen – non

This book is about setting up a dividend paying whole life insurance policy to use as your own bank. This concept has been called Bank On Yourself, Income For Life, and the most popular Infinite Banking Concept. I set one of these up for myself and wanted to learn more. If you’re interested in looking for an alternative saving vehicle—give this book a read—if not, read something else.

The Authentic Swing – Steven Pressfield

This is another of Pressfield’s short but powerful books. In The Authentic Swing he tells the story of how he wrote the novel The Legend of Bagger Vance which was his first novel. He finally broke through after trying and failing for decades. I love how Pressfield explains his thoughts and techniques. His writing style is deceptively simple. It seems like he’s in the room talking to me. That’s when you know your reading good writing. Pressfield believes in putting in work, in having your butt in the chair and trying, and listening to the Muse. I always learn something from his writing. I liked this book. I recommend it even if you haven’t read The Legend of Bagger Vance or seen the movie. I hadn’t experienced either and I still enjoyed this book.

Pressfield gave this book away for free over the summer to subscribers to his emails. I recommend these emails as well, they’re always well written and you get to learn something at the same time.

These are the books I’ve read so far this year. I liked them, hopefully you will like one of them. If not, no worries!

Of course you can purchase these books. I am a ski bum at heart and often try to find the cheap way around, I get most of my books for free from the library.

A friend recently told me that you can get some books for FREE on iBooks. Mostly old books that are “Public Domain.” I just picked up some Descartes, Plato, Montaigne, Proust, and Seneca for free. Haven’t read them yet though. Bruce is happy.

Hopefully these books will bring you something extra than just time spent reading. They all had an effect on me that made me contemplate and want to share them.

If you’ve read one of these books and liked it, let me know at brucepaulson1@gmail.com. And if you have a book that made a huge impact on you let me know about it.

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