In 2019 I created new space in my life to read and it has been one of my most rewarding and transformational years. Books express ideas with a level of depth and richness that is not possible to achieve in a blog post, podcast, or tweet. Choosing which book to read can be challenging given the millions of books available, so I am eternally grateful to my twitter followers and friends who recommended some of the books I read this year.
This post presents the books I read and the value they added to my life. It is my hope and desire that everyone has the benefits of the knowledge and perspective I have gained as a result of this reading. Before I dive into the books, I would encourage those of you who don’t have a habit of reading to develop the habit because through the habit of reading you develop your mind and enhance your opportunity to create the life you always wanted. If you are having trouble developing such a habit, then I suggest you start with the book Atomic Habits by James Clear.
My recommended reading list is wide and varied, but ultimately it is all interrelated in that it gives me a better understanding of reality. Some books are deeply scientific and others semi-spiritual but nonetheless practical in helping design your life.
Reading books is pretty much the only way I have found to gain a deep understanding and insight around complex ideas. If you cannot create the time to read, then repurpose your commute and listen to them as audio books. I cannot stress enough that the information and perspective on life gained from reading these books is valuable and will pay huge dividends in your life to the extent you apply what you learn.
As a result of these books I have lost 30 pounds, started working out 3+ times per week, get up at 6AM every day, meditate every day, have become more organized, am a better communicator, have more friends and deeper relationships and eat healthier than ever. I also managed to escape the mental trap of “everything is meaningless” and access new power to realize my mission to secure life, liberty, property and justice for all. This is only the tip of the iceberg of the transformation I have seen in my life in 2019. I truly hope that you can realize similar breakthroughs in your life through these books.
Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto)
Antifragile, by Nassim Taleb changed the way I view everything from investing to exercising. This book can be a bit challenging in places, but understanding the distinction between fragile, resilient, and antifragile is critical. Prior to this book the word antifragile wasn’t even in the dictionary and the concept wasn’t available to us. It is like trying to understand the world prior to the word “blue” being distinguished. The color blue would still exist, we would just have a hard time describing the color of the sky to people. It was through reading this book that I started to reliably exercise three times per week. It also informed countless software design decisions, investment decisions, and other subtle aspects in my life. It reaffirmed my belief that the complex centralized institutions of society and attempts made by the government to keep us “safe” will ultimately backfire in spectacular collapse as the loss of volatility and prevention of “small failures” weaken society when a real challenge comes. Plants, animals, and people shielded from volatility and randomness are weak and ultimately unable to support themselves and die. Evolution itself depends upon volatility and only those most adapted to volatility survive in the long run.
Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
Skin in the Game, also by Nassim Taleb, is a somewhat more consumable application of the concept of antifragility. If you are interested in understanding why incentives are misaligned and institutions suffer from small and large forms of corruption then book lays it out. It turns commonly accepted practices on their head. All of a sudden you will think twice before taking the “unbiased opinion” of someone who has no financial skin in the game.
Our society creates many situations where the people making decisions are not impacted by the decision they make. Regulators are incentivised to say “no” because they get no benefit from the success of new endeavors but can be held accountable if they fail. Most laws and regulations are written by people who are not responsible for the consequences of their actions: they are spending other people’s time and money. If you are looking for ideas on where incentives are misaligned in a way that could come back to hurt your company, family, or community, then this is a great place to start.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson changed my life and transformed the way I view culture and religion. This book built upon ideas I gleaned from Antifragile in that it showed the relationship between honesty and integrity and life and death very clearly. I have always considered myself a moral person with a sense of “justice”, and this book raised the stakes on “telling the truth, or at least don’t lie”.
I gained new insights into the value, wisdom, and psychological significance of biblical stories. For the first time since I abandoned my “faith in the bible” I have seen and realized the deep wisdom and value embedded in the stories. I can listen to people talk about religious concepts without being disgusted or bored. I now see the value of culture and the unstated benefits society has derived by adopting a belief and tradition that isn’t completely justified by science. Through reading this book I took new responsibility for my life and gained new courage to face the truth regardless of the consequences. If we aren’t able to face the truth then we are living a lie or causing others around us to make decisions based on a lie. Any action that is derived from belief in a lie is out of alignment with reality and takes ourselves and mankind closer to death.
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
The Four Agreements by Don Ruiz is another great book which helps you break free from unhealthy thought patterns and other “agreements” which you unconsciously make with yourself and society. By bringing your attention to the unconscious agreements which you act out every day you gain freedom to choose your own future.
The first agreement, being impeccable with your word, speaks to integrity and a commitment to truth. This builds upon a common theme from The 12 Rules for Life and Antifragile that highlights how life just doesn’t work if we cannot trust ourselves or others without a commitment to the truth. Absent a commitment to the truth we are stuck dealing in lies and misinformation and no “solutions” to the problems in life can be found outside the truth.
The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor
The Fourth Phase of Water by Gerald Pollack is one of those eye opening books that will forever change how you see water. Those of you with a strong appreciation for physics, chemistry, and electricity will like how grounded this book is in reality and the scientific method and how aligned it is with the generally accepted “laws” of physics. That said, this book fundamentally changes how we view water and its impact on the nature of life and energy.
After reading this book you will have a new appreciation for just how willfully blind the “scientific” community has become and the utter lack of curiosity by traditional scientists in the face of numerous previously unexplained phenomena surrounding water and its structure in the fourth phase.
The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles
The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton is one of those books that will change your perspective about the fundamental nature of individual cells. Written by a cellular biologist with a materialistic view of reality, this book gives deep insight into the nature of how single cell organisms operate and what “gives them life” and how they “think”.
Common notions such as the role of DNA and the “Nucleus is the Brain” are demolished as Bruce makes a startling discovery that single cell organisms are guided by something “outside” their cells and that the “cell membrane” has a similar structure to computer chips. Bruce’s view of the nature of life and reality was fundamentally transformed through his study.
This book is all the more compelling if you have already read the Fourth Phase of Water. Once again you are left feeling that science as blessed by government funded research and presented in mainstream media is willfully blind and serving some other agenda.
More importantly it gives you insight that “mind” really is over “matter” and can explain the placebo effect and its powerful ability to heal. After reading this book it is hard to remain a die-hard materialist with a Newtonian view of biology. It is time we adapt our view of biology to the Quantum era.
Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World
Folks, this ain’t normal by Joel Salatin is one of those books that opens your eyes to the corruption of our agriculture system and the food we eat. I had the opportunity to meet Joel and see his farm, which is just a couple hours from my home. Our society today is largely disconnected from our food and how it is grown, and there is nothing we have more “skin in the game” than what we eat.
Ever wonder why people are so sick and fat? It is time we started looking at our food system. Freedom over what we eat and who we buy it from is critical to maintaining an antifragile food system and society. This book and Joel’s other book, Everything I want to do is Illegal, highlight how our government is mandating unhealthy or downright poisonous food while making healthy nutritious and natural foods illegal to sell.
Farm to Fork Meat Riot
Farm to Fork Meat Riot by Niti Bali is a book I discovered while visiting Joel Salatin’s farm. It tells the stories of people who transformed their health and “cured” the incurable by adopting a strict policy of only eating food from local farmers utilizing the best regenerative (beyond organic) practices. The premise of the book is that there is no 80/20 rule with poison.
This book demonstrates just how backward our “sick care” industry is and how much damage we are doing to ourselves and our loved ones by consuming a continuous diet of low-dose poisons.
It is certainly challenging to live a life eating food of the quality she describes, but it might just add decades of high quality living to your life and cure your chronic illnesses. Once again we see a theme of government regulations interfering with the freedom of people to promote “healthy food” as having “medicinal” benefits. The food and drug industry doesn’t want people getting the idea that their bodies are capable of healing themselves given proper nutrition and eliminating the poisons we continually inundate ourselves with.
Vaccines, Autoimmunity, and the Changing Nature of Childhood Illness
Vaccines, Autoimmunity, and the Changing Nature of Childhood Illness by Thomas Cowan builds on top of the knowledge we learn from Antifragile, Biology of Belief, and the Fourth Phase of Water. It asks the an important and fundamental question: why are there so many chronic illnesses in children today? Something has changed in the past 60 years which has fundamentally altered the health of our society and children. A pandemic of unexplained chronic illnesses, allergies, and autoimmune disorders is crippling our medical system.
The book touches on the topic of vaccines and asks questions that we are not allowed to ask. I encourage everyone with an open mind and a belief in the scientific method to read this book. It also highlights the problem with our food system and effectively recommends the same kind of diet as Niti Bali and Joel Salatin. What if everything you think you know about how the immune system works is wrong? What if our government and the media cannot be trusted? What do you really know about the side effects of vaccination? What if we are fundamentally undermining our health and weakening our immune systems ability to fight other diseases? This book is too important to skip, please, will somebody think about the children!
The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life
The Three Laws of Performance by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan is an outstanding case study in how our beliefs shape our reality. This book covers many of the ideas and distinctions of the Landmark Forum which I highly recommend for anyone looking to transform their lives, put their past behind them, and author their own future.
The three laws of performance shows how to transform businesses from the inside out and goes over a number of high profile case studies in how companies utilized these laws to turn their companies around.
Once again the theme of integrity to your word comes through strongly which ties into the principles from other books on my list including: The Four Agreements, 12 Rules for LIfe, Seven Habits, Biology of Belief, and others.
The Flaw of Averages: Why We Underestimate Risk in the Face of Uncertainty
I found The Flaw of Averages by Sam L Savage to be incredibly enlightening, especially because so many people rely upon averages to make decisions. This book explains how it is possible to drown while crossing a lake that is on average 1 foot deep. It shows how you cannot mathematically combine averages with other averages to derive meaningful information.
Once again many of the mathematical concepts from Antifragile are on display. Once you read this book you will no longer look at any average the same again and will have a healthy skepticism for all of the conclusions presented by the mainstream media based upon “statistical facts”.
Will You be Richer or Poorer
Will you Be Richer or Poorer by Charles Hugh Smith is one of those books that makes you look at the true nature of wealth. We live in a society where anything that cannot be measured is discounted and undervalued by the economy. Our monetary system lacks integrity and creates the perception of gains in wealth even as our purchasing power erodes. We strip mine our planet of resources to profit today and leave nothing to future generations.
If you have read the books by Joel Salatin you will appreciate the impact our farming techniques are having on our future. Each day industrial farmers think they are “growing richer” meanwhile our soil is dead and dying. Our media and government are systematically destroying our ability to discern truth. Our health is undermined by a system that values monetary profit over all else.
One of the things I took away from this book is that if you don’t attempt to measure and quantify the qualitative aspects of life then you may actually be getting poorer as your bank account grows. What good is it to gain the whole world but lose your soul? What good is it to have all the gold you earn from selling food after people are no longer able to produce food? What good is financial freedom if society is too dangerous to leave your house? This book provides some much needed perspective on how we account for profit and loss in our life and as a society.
Recommended Reading from 2015
It has been 5 years since I last published a recommended reading list. So for those who didn’t catch it here is the quick list:
- How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World
- Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth
- The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
- Mises on Money
- Adventures in Legal Land
- Cracking the Code - The Fascinating Truth about Taxation in America
- Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?
- A New Sacred Geometry: The Art and Science of Frank Chester
- Against Intellectual Monopoly
- Atlas Shrugged
- No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority
- Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
I would venture to say that the 2020 list is largely more valuable, but I cannot deny that the perspective on life I gained from my 2015 recommended reading list contributed significantly to how I interpreted the books I read in 2019.