A list of material I've read that has greatly influenced my thinking and worldview. While many of these are books, I've also included other writing that has impacted me.
All Time Favorites
- Seneca, On the Shortness of Life. If you only read one thing on this page, read this. The piece with perhaps the most influence on my life.
- Peter Singer, The Drowning Child and the Expanding Circle. Exploring our moral obligations to those in need.
- Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea. In my opinion, Hemingway's finest. He touches on life's journey, the nobility in struggling against forces that you cannot possibly defeat, and our attempt to leave a small mark on the world when ultimately we will all die and be forgotten.
- J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye. When I read this as a teenager, it expressed my itch to make an impact on the world and the angst I felt. I should revisit as an adult; I've heard this book resonates differently at other stages of life.
- Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior. My introduction to Zen Buddhism.
- Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Combine with Homo Deus. A metahistory of humanity. Most of the concepts were familiar, but Harari nevertheless develops a compelling overarching model of what it means to be human. My main insight from this book can be summed up with the Steve Jobs quote: "Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you."
- Robert Wright, The Moral Animal. Evolutionary psychology, explored through the context of Darwin's life. Raised questions for me about what it means to be human, why we act the way that we do, and whether or not God exits.
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment. One man's descent into madness and an argument against utilitarianism.
- K.A. Applegate, Animorphs. I loved this series as a kid. For children's books, they do a remarkable job of exploring very adult themes: consciousness, morality, and the impact of war on the human psyche.
- Brian K. Vaughan, Y: The Last Man. Amazing post-apocalyptic graphic novel series that deals with how society functions and collective consciousness.
- Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree. Selfless love? Or an abusive relationship? Pair with The Velveteen Rabbit.
- Andy Dunn, The Risk Not Taken. On the Shortness of Life, 2000 years later.
Antilibrary (Up Next)
- Graham Greene, The Quiet American
- Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind
- David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
- Robert A. Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
- Jack Weatherford, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
- Douglas R. Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
- Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Relationships (Love & Loss)
- Mark Manson. Psychology, philosophy, personal development, and relationships. Mark's insight is that all of these are interrelated; good relationships with others stem from having a solid value system and a healthy relationship with yourself.
- Esther Perel. The relationship guru.
- Neil Strauss, The Truth. Is it possible to have all of your needs met by just one person? A memoir about the best way to go about relationships, love, and raising a family.
- Marina Keegan, Cold Pastoral.
Entrepreneurship, Startups & Career
- Paul Graham, Essays. The startup bible.
- Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. The best book out there on management.
- Noam Wasserman, The Founder's Dilemmas. Startups fall apart due to cofounder issues. This book helps you get out in front of those.
- Scott Adams, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Systems > goals. "Find your passion" is awful advice. You can either try to be top 0.01% in the world at something (incredibly difficult to succeed) or be top 25% at 2-3 things that you combine in a unique way (surpisingly achievable & likely more fun).
- Ben Thompson, Stratechery.
- Elad Gil's blog.
- Michael Lewis, The Big Short. The best way to gain an in-depth understanding of the 2008 financial crisis.
- Nassim Taleb, Incerto. Broadly, how the conventional wisdom for risk and uncertainty in financial systems (and life) lures us into a false sense of security.
- Matt Levine, Money Stuff. I have no idea how he writes this newsletter every weekday. Tons of insights.
- Byrne Hobart. The finance articles no one else is writing. Start with The 30-Year Mortgage is an Intrinsically Toxic Product.
- Kurt Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron
- Haruki Murakami, Kino; Barn Burning
- Ernest Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants
- Trevor Shikaze, Parasite Air
- Ken Liu, Mono No Aware
- Richard Connell, The Most Dangerous Game
- Ted Chiang, Story of Your Life
- Rafael Zoehler, When I'm Gone
- John Lanchester, Signal
- Steven King, The Long Walk
- Shirley Jackson, The Lottery
Journalism & Essays
- Robert A. Caro, The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives
- David Foster Wallace, Up, Simba!
- David Graeber, On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: A Work Rant
- David Grann, The White Darkness
- Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind
- Raffi Khatchadourian, The Doomsday Invention
- William Nack, Pure Heart
- Chris Stucchio & Lisa Mahapatra, A.I. 'Bias' Doesn't Mean What Journalists Say it Means
Additional blogs (not listed above) that have helped develop my mental models.
- Slate Star Codex/Astral Codex Ten. Perhaps the best blog on the Internet. Rationalism, metascience, and a refreshingly nuanced perspective on the current culture wars. Start with The Control Group Is Out of Control, I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup, and Meditations on Moloch.
- Matt Lakeman. Formerly known as Dormin. Deep dives into intellectual rabbit holes.
- Ribbonfarm. Tough to categorize. The philosophy of work; technology's impact on people, culture, and society's future. Start with The Gervais Principle and The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial.
- Marginal Revolution. A window into Tyler Cowen's brain.
- Melting Asphalt. Kevin Simler writes about philosophy, human behavior, and technology. I also recommend his book: The Elephant in the Brain.
- Tynan. An all-around interesting person with a unique take on life.