recent books i’ve been reading

nishant costa rica december 2014 use in blog on reading

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I especially did during the holiday break in Costa Rica back in December. Did I only listen to rok’n’rol surf tunes the entire time?? NO. Not me.  I took advantage of the dead time sitting on the plane and laying by the beach by READING!!

I did a lot of  fun activities too, but I wanted to make sure I finally caught up with ze books.

Reading is a great way to turn dead time to alive time. Alive time is where your learning and acting on your intended future. In my case it was taking down notes and working through the following:

The Fish That Ate the Whale by Rich Cohen.

Holy shit this book is excellent. The best business book I read in 2014.  I’m holding the book in the above pic.

This is the insane untold tale of Samuel Zemurray, the self-made banana mogul from Russia who went from penniless roadside banana peddler to kingmaker and capitalist revolutionary.  It reads like a James Bond tale. It’s insider’s look at the American Dream filled with great insights on business strategy, leadership and even geopolitics.

The story hit me even harder, when I realized my hostel in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica sat right next to a banana plantation.  Costa Rica is the birthplace of United Fruit (The Google of the 50’s).

You will also have a desire to visit New Orleans after reading this.

Going to have to read the authors other books.

Obstacle is the Way By Ryan Holiday.

This book is a modern take on stoicism. It’s written by Ryan Holiday, who also runs an book email list that I’m proud to be part of. Actually many of the books I read are directly because of his recommendations, (including all the ones in this blog post except Agassi) .

This is one I will definitely go back whenever I feel I need to re-frame problems. I’ve read Seneca and Meditations, but I enjoyed his for the modern examples he used to explain out ideas.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Agassi

Before this book, I didn’t know much about Andre Agassi, except that he was half Persian, was very good at tennis and married Brook Shields back in the 90’s.

This book caught me by surprise early on as he mentions he hated tennis growing up.  Super entertaining sports biography. Tennis is an intensely psychologically tough sport.  I love watching it, but reading about the emotional swings from a world class pro is another thing.

How he courted Steffi Graf was also super entertaining! what a playaaaah 😉

Napoleon by Paul Johnson.

I’ve read his other ones – Socrates, and Churchill. I love these quick 200 page biographies by Paul Johnson. You can tell he knows the history very well. He gives you solid primer on what makes up these epic characters of history in concise manner.  He has strong opinions, but I tend to believe him since he alludes to so many previous biographies of Napolean (He’s one of the most written about world leader in history).

By the way, Napoleon was no hero. He’s mentioned as an early predecessor to the 20th century monsters of Hitler and Stalin.

The Boys in the Boat

Before this book, I knew nothing about rowing nor did I really care for it. This beautiful book, however, made the sport seem amazingly interesting.

It’s one of those books that will get your adrenaline pumping and YOU will want to finish in 3-4 days. There is a lot of sadness in the early stages of the book. It’s about how this working class kid was abandoned by his own father at age 10.  His mother died at an early age, his step mother was quite cold to him.This part of the book might make you CRY.

Yet through all the obstacles and emotional issues, not to mention tough economic times of the 1930’s, he made  it to the University of Washington Rowing Team.

Eventually his rowing team won every championship in the United States and was chosen to be the national team to compete in the Olympics in 1936 in Berlin hosted by Hitler. Enjoyed the side Nazi storyline as well.

It’s quite motivating read. I’ve started warming up in the gym with 2000 m row since reading. go figure.

Plutocrats

I was a little obsessed with 1% vs. 99% movement back in 2011. So I’ve naturally been a bit curious about the global super rich since then.

No idea how the author had privy to so many people from the 1%.

How did the plutocrats came to be in the first place? Some forces include: globalization, technology and also a lot hard work by these self-made people.  Raises a lot of questions and kinda of left me feeling sick. Sick in the sense that these people psychologically don’t seem to be thinking what they aren’t doing is unethical.

One nugget from Dan Ariely in this book: “when you have financial incentive to see reality in a certain way, you will see it that way, not because your bad, but because your human.”

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