Books I loved

With every year comes the occasion to read new books!

I’ve assembled a small collection of books that I love, so that you can discover them and share the love around! Since there are twelve months in a year, you’ll find twelve books. They are presented in no particular order, even though there’s a thread…

martin-franck-cartier-bresson

Martine’s legs – Henri Cartier-Bresson (1967)

Ringolevio (Emmett Grogan)

Ringolevio is a sort of autobiography by Emmett Grogan, a leader of the Diggers in San Francisco just about when it was becoming cool (early 60s). It is a great book in that it is written with a punch, and has a deep sense of social awareness. It is quite fun to read Timothy Leary and other fake-prophets of the revolution getting thrashed.

Emmett wondered whether anything viable was going to come out of it: whether the powerless might for once obtain enough power to make some sort of relevant change in the society. He immediately dismissed as ridiculous the notion that everything would be all right when everyone turned on acid. It was noted that LSD was used during World War Two to solve naval tactical maneuvers, and they concluded that although the drug might facilitate understanding or the process of doing something, it offered no moral direction or imperatives.

There is no road (Antonio Machado)

This is my absolute favorite poem books. It is very short, and has the deepest thoughts ever assembled in a book. This book is a treasure, and I have offered it to people I care about. This book is often out of print, but don’t settle for a different collection, this one is really unique if you can find it, and by far the best translations I’ve found.

Between living and dreaming there is a third thing. Guess what it is
– Antonio Machado

The Art of Being Right (Arthur Schopenhauer)

This is a classic from the funniest and most profound German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer. It is worth reading, especially in these times where the veracity of information is no longer decisive in getting a message across. Here’s a summary, and an excerpt:

Claim Victory Despite Defeat.

This, which is an impudent trick, is played as follows: When your opponent has answered several of your questions without the answers turning out favourable to the conclusion at which you are aiming, advance the desired conclusion, — although it does not in the least follow, — as though it had been proved, and proclaim it in a tone of triumph. If your opponent is shy or stupid, and you yourself possess a great deal of impudence and a good voice, the trick may easily succeed. It is akin to the fallacy non causae ut causae.

(There’s an updated version of these techiques by Tenaillon, in French)

The Edge annual questions

I found these books ideal to keep up with the latest news in all fields of science and arts.

From Hans Ulrich Obrist’s 2013 entry “The Relative Obscurity Of The Writings Of Édouard Glissant

Gerhard Richter says that art is the highest form of hope. I would add that art is the primary form of resistance to homogenisation and extinction. To quote Zweig again: ‘art still exists to give shape to multiple ways of being’.

You can find all the questions and responses here, and every year a book is edited. This a great thing to read when you’re traveling, because each response is a few pages long, ideal when you cannot focus too much

2017 : WHAT SCIENTIFIC TERM OR CONCEPT OUGHT TO BE MORE WIDELY KNOWN?
2016 : WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST INTERESTING RECENT [SCIENTIFIC] NEWS?
2015 : WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MACHINES THAT THINK?
2014 : WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT?
2013 : WHAT *SHOULD* WE BE WORRIED ABOUT?
2012 : WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DEEP, ELEGANT, OR BEAUTIFUL EXPLANATION?
2011 : WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY’S COGNITIVE TOOLKIT?
2010 : HOW IS THE INTERNET CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK?
2009 : WHAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING?
2008 : WHAT HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND ABOUT? WHY?
2007 : WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT?
2006 : WHAT IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA?
2005 : WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?

Godel Escher Bach (Douglas Hoffstadter)

helps you understand what is logic. This is not an easy text, since it requires more than basic notions of mathematics, but it blends together music, painting and logic.

The Dubliners (James Joyce)

This a classic, from probably to most interesting English author of the 20th century.

“What about the song? Why does that make you cry?”
She raised her head from her arms and dried her eyes with the back of her hand like a child. A kinder note than he had intended went into his voice.
“Why, Gretta?” he asked.
“I am thinking about a person long ago who used to sing that song.”
“And who was the person long ago?” asked Gabriel, smiling.
“It was a person I used to know in Galway when I was living with my grandmother,” she said.
The smile passed away from Gabriel’s face. A dull anger began to gather again at the back of his mind and the dull fires of his lust began to glow angrily in his veins.
“Someone you were in love with?” he asked ironically.
“It was a young boy I used to know,” she answered, “named Michael Furey. He used to sing that song, The Lass of Aughrim. He was very delicate.”
Gabriel was silent. He did not wish her to think that he was interested in this delicate boy.

The consolation of Philosophy (Boetius)

A nice consequence of the last book. Why action is desirable, and why life is about unexpectations

The Black Swan (Nicholas Nassim Taleb)

Deep thoughts about the role of chance.

Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman)

Few cool thoughts.

Odean began by studying the trading records of 10,000 brokerage accounts of individual investors spanning a seven-year period. He was able to analyze every transaction the investors executed through that firm, nearly 163,000 trades. This rich set of data allowed Odean to identify all instances in which an investor sold some of his holdings in one stock and soon afterward bought another stock. By these actions the investor revealed that he (most of the investors were men) had a definite idea about the future of the two stocks: he expected the stock that he chose to buy to do better than the stock he chose to sell.

To determine whether those ideas were well founded, Odean compared the returns of the stock the investor had sold and the stock he had bought in its place, over the course of one year after the transaction. The results were unequivocally bad. On average, the shares that individual traders sold did better than those they bought, by a very substantial margin: 3.2 percentage points per year, above and beyond the significant costs of executing the two trades.

It is important to remember that this is a statement about averages: some individuals did much better, others did much worse. However, it is clear that for the large majority of individual investors, taking a shower and doing nothing would have been a better policy than implementing the ideas that came to their minds. Later research by Odean and his colleague Brad Barber supported this conclusion. In a paper titled ―Trading Is Hazardous to Your health, they showed that, on average, the most active traders had the poorest results, while the investors who traded the least earned the highest returns. In another paper, titled ―Boys Will Be Boys,‖ they showed that men acted on their useless ideas significantly more often than women, and that as a result women achieved better investment results than men.

The Selfish gene (Richard Dawkins)

Since biology is hotly debated, this helps you to understand what it’s about

(I particularly loved the chapter on dynamic game theory)

Walden (Henry David Thoreau)

Fascinating book.

The sun is but a morning star

Steppenwolf (Herman Hesse)

 

There are also many other books to read — Bertrand Russell “Science and Religion”, Nietzsche’s “Birth of Tragedy”, Stefan Zweig’s “The World of Tomorrow”, Albert Camus “The Myth of Sisyphus”, and many others…

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If you’re looking for other good reads, I recomment subscribing to Maria Popova’s Brainpickings weekly newsletter. There are always great books, interesting thoughts and I always love the illustrations:)