This year I read 24 books and countless articles. While I read about as much as I did in 2020, this year saw my interests shift to reading more fiction—particularly science fiction. I also found myself reading about nutrition, economics, crypto, philosophy, and methods for how to learn.
In no particular order, these are the five books and five articles I found most valuable.
The Best Books I Read in 2021
Dune by Frank Herbert
One of my favorite science fiction works (along with the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy) got revisited this fall in anticipation of the new movie, which I also highly recommend. If you've seen the movie and want to dive deeper into the world of Arrakis, I can't recommend Dune enough.
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Part memoir, part instruction manual on what it takes to become a professional writer by one of the best to do it. King doesn't spend much time on tactical advice but instead lays out what it takes in terms of sacrifice and commitment to become a professional writer while mixing in a good bit of humor.
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.
Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse
I've read this book twice and still come away thinking there's so much I don't fully understand. Still, Finite and Infinite Games is an excellent philosophical work. Carse argues that we play two types of games. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning (sports, business, politics, war, etc.), an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play. Don't be fooled by the book's short length; there's a lot to unpack here.
There at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
A dense work of philosophy disguised as a murder mystery. Dostoevsky tackles the fundamental question of how one should choose to live through the story of three brothers: Dmitri, Ivan, and Alexei. The book examines how each brother evolves and deals with their struggles based on their differing worldviews. I recommend taking your time with this one and reading along with a friend if you can.
Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.
Death's End by Liu Cixin
The third and final book in the Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy beginning with the bestselling work, The Three-Body Problem. If you're a fan of science fiction, you're probably familiar with the series if not already read the first book. While each book in the series is incredible, Cixin manages to continually blow your mind as he explores the depths of space and time. A truly frightening yet beautiful series.
Time is the cruelest force of all.
The Best Articles I Read in 2021
Half-Assing It With Everything You've Got by Nate Soares
How hard should you really work? Society has conditioned us to believe that we should work as hard as possible instead of slacking off. But both hard workers and slackers are doing it wrong. If you want to be highly effective, you have to remember what you're fighting for.
The slacker in you rebels against pointless tasks, and the tryer in you wants perfection. So satisfy both: aim for the minimum necessary target, and move there as efficiently as possible.
In Praise of the Gods by Simon Sarris
Being rational is a powerful tool, but when used by itself, it becomes dangerous. Modern society and, in particular, the West has become obsessed with functionality and efficiency over making things beautiful for their own sake. There's still immense value in mythology, tradition, and trusting your intuition.
There is this tendency to think that you must understand everything, or that a thing must be proven, to enjoy it or derive serious meaning from it. This mistake is at the heart of the disembodied rationalist worldview.
You and Your Research by Richard Hamming
What's the most important problem in your field, and why aren't you working on it? This is the essence of the 1986 lecture by mathematician Richard Hamming. He makes a compelling argument that the desire for excellence is an essential feature for doing great work. Without such a goal, you'll wander aimlessly.
If you do not work on important problems, then it is obvious you have little chance of doing important things.
The Great Online Game by Packy McCormick
Nobody does a better job at breaking down what's going on at the intersection of internet culture, future or work, and crypto than Packy McCormick. And his piece on the Great Online Game is superb at exploring how we can leverage our digital selves to achieve rewards in the real world. Anyone can play the Great Online Game; all you need is knowledge, curiosity, and willingness to share.
We now live in a world in which, by typing things into your phone or your keyboard, or saying things into a microphone, or snapping pictures or videos, you can marshall resources, support, and opportunities. Crypto has the potential to take it up a notch by baking game mechanics -- points, rewards, skins, teams, and more -- right into the whole internet.
A Chemical Hunger Series by Slime Mold Time Mold
A detailed multipart series makes a compelling argument for what might be driving the obesity epidemic. Here's a hint: it's probably not at all what you think. This series pairs well with my 2020 recommendation, What's Driving Chronic Disease. Slime Mold Time Mold is easily one of the most exciting blogs I discovered this year, with honorable mention going to Applied Divinity Studies.
Only one theory can account for all of the available evidence: the obesity epidemic is caused by one or more environmental contaminants, compounds in our water, food, air, at our jobs and in our homes, that change how our bodies regulate weight.
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