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Reading List

This is a list of some books I have enjoyed reading, in no particular order.

How To Live: A Life of Montaigne

Wonderful book by Sarah Bakewell about Michel de Montaigne and his Essays. Very insightful and extremely entertaining. I somehow find the cover of the softcover edition very beautiful.

See also At the Existentialist Café by the same author.

Extreme Ownerhip

Book by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin about a topic I have encountered repeatedly recently: Accepting responsibility for absolutely everything in your life and owning every situation you find yourself in—​a radical change in perspective.

The Bullet Journal Method

Book by Ryder Carroll, inventor of the Bullet Journal, about the method of Bullet Journaling.

Rome’s Last Citizen

A compelling biography written by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni about Cato the Younger, Stoic and last defender of the Roman Republic against Caesar. I especially appreciate the well-balanced account of Cato’s life; instead of presenting him as an example of a perfectly moral man, as is often done (not the least by the Stoics themselves), also his darker and less-than-perfect facets are illustrated.

Digital Minimalism

Important book by Cal Newport. I was delighted and a bit disappointed at the same time: Delighted because this books makes it very clear how dangerous social media can be if it is used in an uncontrolled way. Disappointed because “digital” almost exclusively refers to social media throughout the book, while I think the problem discussed is much more general. Still a highly recommended book to read.

Quiet

By Susan Cain. Great book about introversion and the (underestimated) power of introverted people. Provides an entirely new perspective on the personality traits of introversion and extroversion. Read it, now matter whether you are an introvert or an extrovert! See also the authors' TED talk The power of introverts.

At the Existentialist Café

Another wonderful book by Sarah Bakewell, just as thrilling as How to Live: A Life of Montaigne. I highly enjoyed reading this book, which is just as entertaining as it is insightful. Sarah Bakewell really understands how to tell good stories conveying tons of interesting information about her subject at hand.

The only thing I was slightly disappointed about was that she has rather little to say about Albert Camus and instead maintains a strong focus on her two main characters, Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre. While I understand that it makes sense to focus on a few key figures only (otherwise, the length of the book would explode), I would have preferred to read more about Camus. This is an entirely personal view, however, which is simply due to the fact that I always felt much closer to Camus than to Sartre.

Altogether, another exceptionally well researched and hilariously written book by Sarah Bakewell.

Atomic Habits

I knew of James Clear’s writings before, but had never read much by him. However, when I got to know about his book, it was immediately clear to me that I had to read it. It is about the theory and practice of habits and habit formation. Highly readable and contains a lot of highly practical and actionable information.

Lessons of History

By Will & Ariel Durant. A concise treatise (based on their eleven-volume work “The Story of Civilization”) about the lessons that can learned from history. Each chapter examines the lessons to be learned from history from the point of view of a different discipline. Very insightful.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

By Greg McKeown. Having been published in 2012, I read this book only recently, seven years after its release. It is about focusing only on what is truely essential in life and discarding everything else (even if it is “only” important). It resonated deeply with me, and I highlighted many passages in it.

The Stranger

I have long wanted to read this novel by Albert Camus in which he presents his philosophy of the absurd in prosaic form. I have read his essay “The Myth of Sisyphos”, in which he explains the philosophy of the absurd, twice, and it resonated much more with me when I read it the second time about a year and a half ago.

I found “The Stranger” touching in an odd, hard to describe way. Two passages that stuck with me: “I realized then that a man who had lived only one day could easily live for a hundred years in prison. He would have enough memories to keep him from being bored”, and “Anyway, it was one of Maman’s ideas, and she often repeated it, that after a while you could get used to anything”. Also, of course, the famous sentence “I looked up at the mass of signs and stars in the night sky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world”.

Pensées

The “Thoughts” by Blaise Pascal belong to the weirdest, yet most interesting things I have ever read. His thoughts are often rather scraps of thoughts, collected with the intention to write the definite apology of Christianity. While many of his thoughts in which he tries to express his religious belief and his views on mankind are rather hard to digest, one thing is beyond any doubt: These are the thoughts of a man who is absolutely serious in his search for God. In them, nothing is feigned; they express the struggle of a man who desparately wants to find God and believe in him.

I especially like his thoughts about distraction, which I consider highly valuable even (or in particular) in our times.

Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business

This book by Paul Jarvis is a thorough exposition of the ideas put forward in his weekly newsletter Sunday Dispatches. The subtitle says it all: There is a rather recent trend in small businesses that no longer focus on growing to eventually become large businesses, but in deliberately staying small. The ideas detailed in this book resonated deeply with me; definitely recommended for anyone who wants his business not to make as much money as possible, but to facilitate a certain lifestyle instead.