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Ask HN: What book that you read in 2015 significantly affected how you think?
51 points by BreakoutList on Dec 19, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 35 comments
Mine (they were read in this order, and I have left off many that weren't as good): Zero to One, Poor Charlie's Almanack, Snowball, The Outsiders (8 CEOs, not the fiction novel), Sapiens, Principles by Ray Dalio, Overcoming the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, The Road to Character

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

It's a short book with a bias toward action that's changed how I interact with my work and share it with others.

Key takeaways:

- good work doesn't market or promote itself [writing a great library doesn't matter if you don't have docs and examples to make it accessible to people]

- give people a convenient way to access your work [convince yourself that having a personal mailing list does not make you too self-important]

- share your side projects to create a feedback loop early [maybe they could help solve other people's problems too] / stop telling yourself "i'll ship this after i fix one more thing"

- let good ideas bubble up from "flow" to "stock" -- for example, a few well received tweets might lead to a blog post which might lead to a whole book

- reuse the things you create across projects and mediums

- life is messy and uncertain, but you choose how you crop and present your experiences [share the interesting parts!]

My full chapter-by-chapter notes: https://github.com/tedmiston/notes/blob/master/books/Show%20...

Your notes repo is a great idea, and seems to flow from some of Kleon's principles.

A new 2016 resolution unlocked!

## Things I've been doing this year that's a change from last year:

* switched jobs from full time permanent to better paying less interesting contract work

* moved house to reduce expenses

* growing vegetables

* donating to crowd sourced environmental lobbying campaigns, attending the odd climate change rally

## Thinking that's influenced these actions

+ our civilisation is geared towards pursuing economic growth, that was a reasonable idea in earlier times, but is now an arguably terrible one, as we near/exceed planetary environmental boundaries. changing reality, old thinking. our goals are wrong.

+ if i learn to be more self sufficient and live modestly i can retire in a few years, and will be more resilient against things going amiss with the economy / society.

## Books I've read that have influenced my thinking:

* a stack of climate-change related books. e.g. here's a few book recommendations from a post i made earlier this year: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10053960

* personal finance blogs

Warning: it's probably best not to read a bunch of climate change books if you are in a place in your life where you are prone to depression.

@shoo Have you seen http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/? Also, message me if you want to collaborate on an environmental advocacy platform. http://writegreen.org/ Unfortunately, it's not currently working because I need to migrate the app to Cedar 14 on Heroku. I haven't been hacking since 2011 (http://mbahacks.com/), so not feeling confident I could successfully migrate myself. Here is the old writegreen site that talks about the idea a bit more: https://writegreen.wordpress.com/problem/ . The Nature Conservancy and NRDC were interested in the tool, but I wasn't able to invest any more time into it at the time (I had a family to feed).

Anyhow, I'm looking to get back into trying to make a dent on this topic. Would love to connect with others to collaborate on something. Writegreen, or otherwise. I'd like to leave this world to my children better than I found it. Right now, it's not looking that way. You can message me directly via ed dot castano at gmail.com

Honest question: Does any of these books predict any positive change due to climate change ? I can hardly believe that climate change will be a catastrophic event, without any further qualifier.

Other than that, your lifestyle change is something that has been on my mind for years now. Kudos for "shipping".

If you haven't read it yet, I recommend this: http://www.amazon.com/Zeitgeist-Movement-Defined-Realizing-T...

Climate change does make for difficult reading, I just finished Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall. It was a fascinating read but pretty grim.

Curious, although not altogether unsurprising, to find so few fiction books being mentioned. :)

For me, it would be a toss-up between James Clavell's «Shogun» (but I wouldn't really be able to explain how or why), and then perhaps «Waking Up» by Sam Harris (a bit more obvious).

>>> then perhaps «Waking Up» by Sam Harris (a bit more obvious).

Bought it 1 hour ago. Great reading so far. Thanks for the pointer.

I agree with you about Shogun. I think the transformative properties of that book relate to the Samurai mindset.

Positive Intelligence. I was able to "label" my personality and all of those of my teams and reports. I know how I need to change, and know what drives the people I work with. I never thought of the over achiever as a problem, but they "prevent" others from stepping up. Emotional Intelligence 2.0. Much easier read than the original. We are humans, driven by emotion, we need to be smart about it.

Atomic Accidents

This is a series of detailed retelling of accidents involving nuclear power, weapons, and radioactive materials generally. It starts with some 19th century hunters wandering into a cave full of radon and ends with Fukushima. The twist here is that the author is a major proponent of nuclear energy and research. It's fascinating to see someone take an in depth look at the flaws of a cause they support, it has just the right amount of technical detail for me, and it really sheds light on how the wildest bugs get into any system.

Dept. of Speculation

A mostly unflinching look at a difficult modern relationship from a woman's perspective. There are some hard truths in it that are surprisingly easy to swallow.

Moby Dick

I read this novel in high school but it didn't have much impact on me then. It is an unbelievably rich experience now, filled with all the wonder, terror, joy, and boredom that comes from trying to find your own meaning.

On Intelligence, by Jeff Hawkins — At some point, he off-handily mentions that what we call “consciousness” may just be what it feels like to have a neocortex, similar to how vision is nothing more than just what it feels like to have eyes.

Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman — Among lots of other ideas, he defends the thesis that /writing/ is still humankind’s greatest invention, and that our thoughtless eagerness to replace it with newer forms of media, such as television and computers—just because they're newer—is dumb and dangerous.

My answer to a recent similar but tech oriented question:


Pretty interesting book with obscure yet consequential assessment and history on a controversial topic today: Religious Extremism in the Lives of Contemporary Muslims https://ia902506.us.archive.org/17/items/ReligiousExtremism/... (* written and translated well before September 11).

Another valuable read: What Is Islam? http://d1.islamhouse.com/data/en/ih_books/single/en_What_Isl... Both made it less nebulous to me of what is otherwise a largely irreconcilably contradictory narrative (http://nypost.com/2015/11/22/missing-paris-attacker-loved-ga...).

Bad Samaritans, Ha-Joon Chang : a neat illuminating read on economic development matters that are not typically articulated in discussions of relevance and dominance.

Reading it now, so that technically counts.

"Say this not that." by Carl Alasko

I've gone through a metric shit ton pile of self help and relationship help books in my time. But I think this one, while it repeats some well worn wisdom, it presents them in a concrete enough way that the advice is finally gaining traction in my own head. I think the key is that it presents the advice in real world vignettes as both bad and good idea formats. Like that bone guy on Animaniacs.

Karen Horney - Neurosis and Human Growth

The book attempts to describe the complete process of neurotic personality development: how and why it starts, how it affects a person's behavior and life choices. It's full of references to real-life cases Horney encountered as a psychoanalyst.

Many concepts presented in this book where a revelation to me, and I believe it significantly deepened my understanding of myself and human psychology in general.

I think anyone could benefit from reading this, because even if you're not neurotic at all, you will inevitably meet someone who is.


Is this work still state-of-the-art, given that it has been written in 1950?

I honestly have no idea. I did a quick search and I couldn't find any notable further works on neurosis in the field of psychoanalysis (perhaps E.Fromm, Adler? But this is the same generation). Surely other branches of psychology keep studying the subject.

To me personally, Horney's observations felt enough accurate and complete, so I wasn't really looking for other books on the subject.

"The Internet is Not the Answer" by: Andrew Keen

FINALLY! a scathing, rake-that-rich-a$$-across-thee-coals dive into our superficial obsession with the digitally privileged. Muah!Best book I've read in years + the appendix/biblio holds 20 pages or so of FURTHER awesome reading.

"Human Use of Human Beings" by: Norbert Weiner

An awesome transportation into 1950 MIT professor who calls out the problems of "progress" and explores communication in the neatest way. Everything he mentions is still a problem today! I just really dug this book.

The War of Art | Steven Pressfield

May have turned me into a workaholic though...

I couldn't get on with that book, there seemed to be a lack of anything useful in it, for me anyway.

https://intelligence.org/rationality-ai-zombies/ and http://hpmor.com/ gave me a great model of how to plan and think about difficult issues. Excellent (and very long, each one is the length of 5+ books) primers on rationality.

Trust Me, I'm Lying by Ryan Holiday. It's Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent" for the social media age.

The goal. I was really surprised by the number of new insights I had, even after reading the Phoenix project multiple times.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Free Will by Sam Harris. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein

How did Atlas Shrugged change your way of thinking? I've read The Fountainhead, but felt like Officer Barbrady when I started Atlas Shrugged many years ago. Maybe it's worth another shot?

While I'm not the OP, I'll answer anyway. It changed how I thought about Atlas Shrugged; previously, I thought it was some kind of political tract cum morality tale, but after reading it I thought it was a fairy tale and was slightly concerned at how seriously it was taken.

Some of the books that made me think and look at things differently (from 2015 readings only):

- In the Light of What We Know

- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

- Bathing the Lion

- The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help

- The Tears of Dark Water

- God Is Dead

- A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life

- The Water Knife

Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy

Not sure about "significantly affected how I think", but here are a couple of the standouts from 2015 that come to mind:

The First World War: A Complete History

Predictable Revenue


The Master Algorithm

Natural Born Heroes

The Moral Landscape - Sam Harris

River Out of Eden - Richard Dawkins

The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins

the millionaire fastlane by mj demarco.

It has the same problem as the 4hww where the name sounds very scammy, but the idea behind the book is really good.

A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life

The 48 Laws of Power - Robert Greene. I began reading it with a "know your enemy" frame of mind, similar to why I read some Ayn Rand, hoping that I'd better understand why some people behave certain ways. As I got further into the book I began reflecting upon the past, becoming consciously aware of all the faux pas I've made over the years. I started identifying with all the honest, outspoken historical figures that would speak their mind and end up without a head. I used to pride myself on my honesty above all else way of life, thinking how virtuous it was to be like Socrates or Galileo. Now I realize that more often than not, I'd just seem like a dick, and probably wouldn't have a head if the guillotine were still in use. Now I put more energy into understanding others points of view, and understand others better as a result. Much of my old behavior was childish.

Others that changed my way of thinking in some way or another:

Rework, Getting Real, and the recent Reconsider post - DHH & Jason Fried: I'd always considered external funding as the best way to grow things I've built in the past, and wrote off the few bad experiences with this approach as being outliers. After also reading others' bad experiences throughout the year, now I'm wondering if my experiences were perhaps representative of the industry as a whole. Confirmation bias? Maybe. I'm sure there are the rare few good angel/VC's somewhere out there (no doubt someone will reply with "YC"). However, after watching several things I'd passionately built over significant amounts of time be driven to failure by others, I'd much rather bootstrap future projects. I learned a lot from each failure, but trial and error is a shitty way to spend years of your life. Far better to learn what worked from those who succeeded.

Business Adventures - John Brooks: Until this book, reading about businesses was one of the most boring things I could imagine. Some of it is dated, but there are also many valuable gems that still hold true 50 years later. I now see that with a good storyteller, even seemingly boring subjects can be fascinating.

Freshbooks: Breaking the Time Barrier - McDerment & Cowper: This tiny book (free from their website) helped me think of new ways to improve my consulting services and emphasize value instead of focusing on hourly rates, which made it easier to make more money.

Various online sales & marketing resources: My viewpoint on the importance of sales & marketing has also completely flipped since the beginning of the year. I used to have the mental image of a used car salesman whenever I heard the word sales, and of Mad Men when I heard marketing. Now I understand that if you don't market what you build, nobody will know that it exists. If you don't experiment with different sales tactics, you'll miss out on a huge amount of users who would otherwise love using your product, but who avoid it because it's priced wrong, or you're unable to convince them of why they'd want to use it.

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