In the beginning of 2020, I’ve set myself a challenge to read 52 books that year, one per week. While setting such an arbitrary goal isn’t anything good in and of itself, it certainly helped me stay on track with my reading habit. I think the books I’ve read are one of the influences that profoundly changed my thinking over the last year, so I consider this arbitrary challenge a huge success.
There were months, especially during the summer, in which I read mostly blog posts and other stuff online. For example, I only finished 1 book in May and August, each. But then I bounced back and finished 8 in September, 7 in October, 6 in November and 5 in December.
Some books I read for pure joy, others for their insights, still others for both.
I do take notes often; in order to read more carefully and to come back later and review them, but I also really like the perspective Emerson had:
I cannot remember the books I have read any more than the meals I have eaten; but they have all helped to make me.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
But now, buckle up, here they come.
Do not wish that all things will go well with you, but that you will go well with all things.
The Enchiridion or The Manual is one of my favorite books ever. It’s a foolproof and short introduction to Stoicism and I believe everybody should read it at least once. I’ve read two different translations in 2020.
Recently, I’ve noticed that I oftentimes play the devil’s advocate in discussions, simply for the sake of provoking interesting – especially new and unconventional – thoughts. This book gave me some more perspective on how (and why) to play that role. I’ve also learned that I’ll definitely have to read more books by Hitchens.
This book profoundly changed my views on consciousness/artificial intelligence and life/simulation theory and lead to a lot of highly interesting thoughts. I wouldn’t give 5 stars for the story alone, but certainly for all the thought-provoking implications.
A philosophical novel containing highly interesting thought experiments with implications on consciousness, artificial intelligence/life, simulations, immortality and adjacent topics. It was written in 1994 by a mathematician (which is very noticeable) and I found most projections to be very realistic. In the beginning, the story takes a few pages to really build up momentum, but this is rewarded by all the intriguing thoughts spun later on. I didn’t really like the last, action packed part though.
This book sparked some interesting thoughts and an even more interesting discussion on Hacker News.
Likely one of the best novels I’ve ever read. The setting and scenery are just beautiful, the characters are deeply interesting, and undergo interesting developments. When looking up the backgrounds on Wikipedia, I’ve found a lot of the stated facts to be based on truth, even the photograph of Nietzsche, Rée and Salomé! Also, the conversations (and emerging similarities) of Nietzsche and Breuer towards the end of the novel are just rich of great quotes and inspiring thoughts.
I’ve noticed one logical flaw while reading the book though:
In chapter 20, the character of Nietzsche assumes that a finite amount of what he calls “force” (I think he means something like matter in the universe), stretched out over an infinite amount of time must imply that every constellation of “force” has already occurred in the past and does so an infinite amount of times, which in turn has interesting implications on the psychological discussion that’s taking place in that chapter. The concept is called “The Eternal Recurrence of the Same”, and you can read more about it here and here. But the argumentation represented in the book is mathematically flawed. Now, whether the idea holds really just depends on its definition (isn’t that always the case though?): If the sole argument is that there is a finite amount of states (i.e. possible worlds) and an infinite amount of those states must be picked, then that of course doesn’t imply that there are infinite occurrences of each state. However, if the premise is that every state has a non-zero probability to be picked and states are chosen at random, then Nietzsche’s implication holds.
Huh?! A Harry Potter fanfiction series spanning 2000 pages?! I’ve never really been into the original Harry Potter series nor did I think I’d ever enjoy fanfictions, so why on earth should I read this monster?
Well, this book (the whole series really) was heavily recommended to me so many times since I started to learn more about Rationality, that I finally just had to try reading it myself.
And well, it turned out to be one of my absolute favorites! Don’t wait, just listen to the first chapters of the audiobook today; you can thank me (and those who recommended it to me) later.
When you are feeling upset, angry, or sad, don’t blame another for your state of mind. Your condition is the result of your own opinions and interpretations.
This is the second translation of the Enchiridion I’ve read in 2020.
A friend gifted me this for Christmas 2019 and I just loved the insanely sneaky plot. One of the greatest crime novels I’ve read this far.
This biography inspired me to work harder myself, and I also learned a lot about all the different things Musk already achieved or is still doing currently, that I didn’t know of. I also think it was the first audiobook I’ve really listened to, so it got me started on a great habit of listening to (some of) my books while preparing my meals.
This was so much fun to follow along. I learned a lot about Haskell, Scheme and parsing along the way.
Wittgenstein now decided to return to Norway and live in isolation for the next two years, ‘doing logic.’
Wittgenstein showed extreme passion and fanatic determination in his work ethic. He also seems a little crazy, but that’s how I like ’em.
This books was very entertaining to read and a great primer in Wittgenstein’s life, philosophy and person.
I love Derek’s bite-sized wisdom and his unique perspective on things. He’s also a really nice person, always open for conversation.
I had to read this one for school before, but decided to reread it in 2020. It was an especially interesting read this time, having already analyzed parts of the story before and remembering all those interwoven details. Admirable use of stylistic devices that creates uncountable wonderfully quotable passages.
A somewhat game-theoretic exploration into why some fields are saturated with good solutions and others are not. Very interesting!
I’m fascinated by formal systems, especially by their power and boundaries. Quite theoretical at times, but who would’ve expected that?
This book really inspired me to think about my sleeping habits. Although it received some shockingly justified critique, I still think it helped me do better regarding my sleep.
A great discourse into philosophy and some of the more fundamental questions about reality. While I couldn’t remember the exact differences between various positions presented, I do remember that it’s certainly an incredibly complex topic.
We all need fuel. Without the assistance, advice, and inspiration of others, the gears of our mind grind to a halt, and we’re stuck with nowhere to go.
Great compilation of tips from various interesting people. The interludes and questions/methods from Tim are also great nudges into the right direction.
A highly interesting read, especially during Covid times.
I mostly enjoy the pragmatic approaches to life that Stoicism offers, but this book focused on the Stoic Logic and Physics, as well as more theoretical views on their Ethics. It did so in a great way, which perfectly framed the pragmatic “tips” I already like so much as the implications of those more fundamental thoughts.
I got this one for just a pound while in London. An interesting early manifestation of the Slow movement.
This book contains many tips on optimizing the struggle as a student, some of them common sense, others not. I’d recommend this to anyone that hasn’t really thought about studying smart before.
Well, while this was a nice introduction, it most certainly wasn’t all one needs to know.
This one was my least favorite of the whole series. Still funny, though.
Very light, but entertaining reading material.
I’ve been interested in Buddhist practices for quite some time now and thus decided to read some more on the subject. With this little book, I hoped to get an easy and quick overview, but actually didn’t learn many new things at all.
Nice tips, but mostly just common sense.
Loved by both children and adults alike.
Not by me though.
I really didn’t enjoy this book, although I know that a lot of people do. The main point it makes just seems a little too trivial to me, but maybe I’m being too harsh here. Just didn’t catch me.
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