Another year, another bunch of books read. I try to read at least 20 every year and to make some of those fiction. I’m much better at doing the former than the latter.
And like I do every December, I like to skim through my notes and list out my favorite two passages or things I’ve learned from each book I read.
Text in quotes is taken straight from the author:
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Actually a simple style is the result of hard work and hard thinking; a muddled style reflects a muddled thinker or a person too arrogant, or too dumb, or too lazy to organize his thoughts. Remember that what you write is often the only chance you’ll get to present yourself to someone whose business or money or good will you need. If what you write is ornate, or pompous, or fuzzy, that’s how you’ll be perceived. The reader has no other choice.” Adjectives you would squirm to use in conversation–‘wondrous’, ‘dappled’, ‘roseate’, ‘fabled’, ‘scudding’–are common currency. Half the sights seen in a day’s sightseeing are quaint, especially windmills and covered bridges; they are certified for quaintness. Towns situated in hills (or foothills) are nestled–I hardly ever read about an unnestled town in the hills–and the countryside is dotted with byways, preferably half forgotten. In Europe you awake to the clip-clop of horse-drawn wagons along a history-haunted river; you seem to hear the scratch of a quill pen…. [and] chimneytops sing their immemorial song of welcome.”
Actually a simple style is the result of hard work and hard thinking; a muddled style reflects a muddled thinker or a person too arrogant, or too dumb, or too lazy to organize his thoughts.
Remember that what you write is often the only chance you’ll get to present yourself to someone whose business or money or good will you need. If what you write is ornate, or pompous, or fuzzy, that’s how you’ll be perceived. The reader has no other choice.”
Adjectives you would squirm to use in conversation–‘wondrous’, ‘dappled’, ‘roseate’, ‘fabled’, ‘scudding’–are common currency. Half the sights seen in a day’s sightseeing are quaint, especially windmills and covered bridges; they are certified for quaintness.
Towns situated in hills (or foothills) are nestled–I hardly ever read about an unnestled town in the hills–and the countryside is dotted with byways, preferably half forgotten. In Europe you awake to the clip-clop of horse-drawn wagons along a history-haunted river; you seem to hear the scratch of a quill pen…. [and] chimneytops sing their immemorial song of welcome.”
A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson
That’s what they were envisioned to be: parks you could drive through.”
Not just very fine or splendid, but perfect, unimprovable. You don’t have to walk miles up mountains to achieve this, don’t have to plod through blizzards, slip sputtering in mud, wade chest-deep through water, hike day after day to the edge of your limits—but believe me, it helps.”
The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb
The study revealed that experts’ error rates were clearly many times what they had estimated. His study exposed an expert problem: there was no difference in results whether one had a PhD or an undergraduate degree. Well-published professors had no advantage over journalists. The only regularity Tetlock found was the negative effect of reputation on prediction: those who had a big reputation were worse predictors than those who had none.”
How Soccer Explains The World by Franklin Foer
Because of their dandyism, the world has Vespa, Prada, and Renzo Piano. With such theological devotion to aesthetic pleasure, it is truly perplexing that their national style of soccer should be so devoid of this quality.”
For that matter, so are most of the Rangers players. Since the late nineties, Rangers routinely field nearly as many Catholics as Celtic. Their players come from Georgia, Argentina, Germany, Sweden, Portugal and Holland, because money can buy no better ones. Championships mean more than religious purity.”
The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley
Whenever our shadow is shorter than we are tall, we can say with certainty that the sun is higher than 45 degrees. Therefore if our shadow is shorter than we are tall, we will never see a rainbow.”
Next you find the “pointer” stars—these are the two stars that a liquid would run off if you tipped up your “saucepan” by its handle. The North Star will always be five times the distance between these two pointers in the direction that they point (up away from the pan). True north lies directly under this star.”
The Wander Society by Keri Smith
We never get to hear our own inner voice—we don’t develop a relationship with ourselves and our minds. We don’t get to know who we are because we’re not listening.”
The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson
People who become great at something become great because they understand that they’re not already great—they are mediocre, they are average—and that they could be so much better.”
Born For This By Chris Guillebeau
1. Solving problems of daily life is usually the easiest and most successful approach
2. Solving specific, measurable problems is much better than attempting to create huge behavior change
3. To avoid getting off track, always ask, ‘Why should people care about this?'”
The winner gets two weeks off and $1,000 to spend however they like, but there’s one strict rule: the employee must leave immediately and have no contact with the office while gone. Winners are also encouraged to do something that contributes to the Motley Fool’s overall mission (“to help the world invest better”), but aside from not checking work email or phoning into conference calls, there’s no restriction on what people can do.”
The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
The right condition for him is that in which his work is not only convenient but unavoidable.”
Our great technology is a God-given chance for adventure and for progress which we are afraid to attempt. Our ideas and our ideals remain exactly what they were and where they were three centuries ago. No. I beg your pardon. It is no longer safe for a man to even declare them!”
Stand And Deliver by The Dale Carnegie Institute
On the contrary, they want to feel what you’re sincerely feeling. They want to share the experiences of your life for the few moments that you’re standing before them.”
1. Share a vivid, personal experience that’s relevant to the action you ultimately want your listeners to take. This should be a story that led to a positive change in your life. This will take the most time.
2. Call directly on the audience to take that single, well-defined action. Make it seem easy. This should take you only 2 minutes to explain.
3. Clearly and convincingly describe the benefit that listeners will get by taking the action. This will take the least time; as little as one second.”
Olympic Weightlifting by Greg Everett
To simplify, we want to close the knee joint maximally while maintaining upright posture and a correctly arched back.”
This is a classic logical fallacy—post hoc, ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this). In other words, because following sport training these athletes remain short, it is assumed that this training was causative of the athletes’ stature. This chronology however, in no way demonstrates causation.”
God’s Debris by Scott Adams
When it wanted to come up heads, and heads was the result, the penny would confirm its belief in its power to choose. When it came up tails instead, it would blame its own lack of commitment, or assume God had a hand in it.”
Conversation reminds us that we are part of a greater whole, connected in some way that transcends duty or bloodline or commerce. Conversation can be many things, but it can never be useless.”
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Hang heavy items on the left side of the closet and light items on the right. Heavy items include those with length, those made from heavier material, and those that are dark in color. As you move toward the right side of the closet, the length of the clothing grows shorter, the material thinner and the color lighter.”
The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday
The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Take Your Eye Off The Puck by Greg Wyshynski
Technology being what it was in 1974, there weren’t many ways for the NHL to check the credential on this “star center”, according to Imlach. The league rubber-stamped it; rival NHL general managers immediately wondered who this mysterious rookie was.
Weeks later, Imlach came clean. There were no Tokyo Katanas–“Katana” being Japanese for “sabre”–and there was no Taro Tsujimoto. Imlach was exasperated by the length of the draft and decided to have a laugh at the its expense. So he made up the pick and submitted it.”
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
By June the stench from the river had become so bad that business in Parliament was affected, and the curtains on the river side of the building were soaked in lime chloride to overcome the smell. The measure was not successful, and discussions were held about possibly moving the business of government to Oxford or St Albans.”
Beginning Songwriting by Andrea Stolpe
This is the diminished triad that results by playing a triad starting on the 7 of the C major scale, the B. When we stack the B, D, and F, we call it a B diminished chord, or Bdim for short.”
After everyone has contributed a paper ball, have the songwriters each choose a crumpled paper and unfold it. Each songwriter will write a song based on the idea they chose, perhaps even using the language on the paper as the actual chorus section of the song. Have everyone perform their songs next time the group meets.”
Antarctica by Claire Keegan
Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett
His earthly assets, all of them, were down in the street in the counting-house, measured in ounces and pounds, and by morning, he would have lost his grasp on them. He did not even have a will, having been dissatisfied with simply giving his hard-earned estate to one who had not worked for it. He yearned for someone to tell him his life had been successful, to affirm that the single turn he had gotten upon earth had been well spent.”
What was your favorite passage from a book you read in 2016?