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Derek Sivers: Books I've Read (sivers.org)
221 points by rweba 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

Surprised to find this here.

For what it's worth, for anyone interested, a few things:

#1 : That list is sorted with my top recommendations up top. You can also click to re-sort it by newest or by name, but by default, I highly recommend the ones at the top of the list.

#2 : These aren't summaries of the book! These are just the little points that I personally found surprising or inspiring. If a book wasn't surprising to me - like if I'd already read a few books on the subject - then I'll have very few notes. It doesn't mean the book isn't good. These notes are really just for me, and I started sharing them as an afterthought.

#3 : If you want summaries, I hear https://www.blinkist.com/ does that.

#4 : If you want the see code for my site, it's all open at https://code.sivers.org/ - basically a little self-made static site generator in Ruby.

If you have any questions, just email me. Email address in my HN profile here.

- Derek

Regarding the Mindwise book, I recently read Jonathan Haidt's The Happiness Hypothesis where he talks about (at least what I interpreted) the silliness of good vs evil and differing beliefs. I haven't read his 2nd book but the title - " The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion", suggests it might be something similar to the Mindwise book.

Thanks for the great list Derek. I just bought Ego is the Enemy - I live by the same author's Daily Stoic book, so I am looking forward to this one as well.

I am an aspiring writer (I have written about 20 books, some of them are pretty good). I am addicted to writing and your book Anything You Want helped me understand what I needed to work on. Thanks again!

Wow! Thanks Mark!

A small basic question.

How do you implement all the different ideas for a good life that you find in all different books that you read?

It's very tough for me to do so. More often than not, I get lost and drift aimlessly.

Thanks for the excellent list :)

I'm still working on this.

Best idea I've got so far is to save all my notes as individual ideas in a database, tagged, then use them for deliberate lateral thinking - randomizing - reflecting. But also searching for themes when needed.

Email me if all this interests you.

Not the OP but chiming in to ask this as well. I've read a few books of your list, and I'm interested in how you organise all the knowledge acquired from books and apply them to your life. It's easy to forget, lose focus and get lost.

I'm a pitifully slow reader, I like to stop often and think about new concepts or insights so I can internalize them better. This way of reading is my biggest obstacle in finishing books. I've tried speeding reading and while I can finish chapters faster, I retain much less information like ~40% of concepts.

Any tips for readers like me? Thank you for the wonderful list, I'd like to get through it in this decade if possible :(

I read slowly too! I think it's an advantage. The real learning comes when you reflect upon what you've learned.

This great book - "How to Read a Book" - https://sivers.org/book/HowToReadABook - has a great methodlogy for reading books deeply.


Derek, as you probably already know, most of your writing is of great inspiration for many people, including me. I have tried to create a list of "books I've read" like you, and I failed (many excuses not to do it, apparently). I think it's a great exercise per se, besides whether people would find it interesting or not.

I promise I will give it another try :)

p.s. I highly recommend 1491 and 1493, two of my all-time favorite books.

What are 1491 and 1493?

Great list, Derek. Do you use Goodreads to organize your reading, by any chance? Your author profile would seem to be unclaimed over there:


I don't, no. I just keep plain text files.

My Sivers, I've been reading about you for years. I love your story about how you scaled CD Baby with People instead of Algorithms. I think its of greater advice now in a startup world where every thought of every startup is that everything has to operate with a robot brain.

I lost my value in most books in 2010, We have lots of reads in common 2010 and my feeling about books is that lots fall under motivational porn and they provide instant gratification then things you can apply.

Seeing your list now I want to read Arnold Schwarzenegger book Total Recall and tempted to read Zero to One.

I would love to aspire to your level of success you had with CD Baby.

I lost my value in most books in 2010 ... my feeling about books is that lots fall under motivational porn and they provide instant gratification then things you can apply.

Plenty of great fiction exists, too, you know...

I have not appreciated Zero to One much, and I know I might be in the minority here. My feeling is that most of that book is so specific, and so unique about Thiel's experience, that I found very little use in a normal life. My 0.02.

It’s definitely not advice for the average Joe or someone’s Mom and Pop. It’s about what it takes for a business to be monumental and transformative.

Always found your notes useful, helps me decide whether to read a book.

An alternative to blinkist is https://www.getabstract.com/en/

Given how extensive your notes are on most of those books, it would be interesting to know what process you have to take them while reading. I've always been a very lean note-taker and find this is the reasons I quickly forget many valuable insights from the books I read. Any tips?

When reading a paper book, I just underline or circle the bits I find surprising or useful. Then when I'm done reading the book, I type those bits into a text file.

On Kindle, I just highlight the bits I find surprising or useful. Then when I'm done reading the book, I connect the Kindle by USB, copy the documents/My Clippings.txt file, and edit from there.

Blinkist asks you to pay after some time. That's what deters me.

I found your site through Ferriss' podcast and have been using that list for a while. It's a gold mine, thanks for sharing it!

Any further progress on that list of short, straightforward maxims to live by?

How do you read so many books? I want to get into the habit of reading more but I always seems to struggle finding the time.

Lunchtime and weekends. Don't save it until night time. Prioritize it over other things.

I would not recommend this as a book list. There is just one book here written before about the year 2000. If you are not reading a regular amount of classics, you are doomed to be historically parochial.

Some people will love these books. If you are not already in that category, I would urge you not to go there. Pop social science and business self-help books are like chocolate - healthy in small doses, as part of a balanced diet.

Sorry to be a nabob of negativism.

> If you are not reading a regular amount of classics, you are doomed to be historically parochial.

Precisely. Often, I cannot relate to classics, and therefore end up feeling let down and questioning the hype. But the reason it is a classic is because it stood out from peers at the time. It is this quality of classics that I believe you are referring to.

> Pop social science and business self-help books are like chocolate - healthy in small doses, as part of a balanced diet.

I suppose it's more like sugar for the brain. Too much of it is bad. But I see what you mean.

I think most readers here are in that category though, but I feel the same way as you do towards this kind of books and their readership.

I don't know how many self help and sometimes slightly spiritual books my mother will have to go through before finally feeling good enough with her life. She read a ton of them and yet the benefits seems scarce to the outer eye. Here it looks the same but with an entrepreneur vibe, which doesn't make it better.

Dude, there's so much you can learn from books before 2000. If for no other reason than that it's an amazing way to get out of your filter bubble.

I have a lot of books that get suggested to me that are on your list, on topics like Stoicism and Self-help, but I ignore most of them. Many feel like reading them would just be rehashes of early books I have read on the topic with nothing new to contribute.

I like that your approach was to actually read these anyways, most of the time you rate them low because there was nothing new, gives me an idea of what to avoid. Thanks for posting the list!

Derek's book notes inspired me to post my own [1]. Making the effort to clean up my notes and go through them strengthens the lessons learned.

However, I'm not sure how valuable these types of notes are for others. Often I find a passage that resonates with me falls flat for others, and vice versa. It depends on other books you've read, life context, etc.

I do try to indicate who might find the book helpful, or who should probably skip it.

[1]: jamesstuber.org/booknotes

Slight OT, I had two questions: a. how do you guys apply the stuff you read? b. How many re-reads helps you get most out of the book?

I am on a recent reading spree and as I read the books I keep forgetting the lessons therein. While I have set of highlights, using Play Books and Google docs combo, one thing I found was that 2nd read seems to be better than the first one.

I use Paul Graham's advice from his "How You Know" essay http://www.paulgraham.com/know.html

"Reading and experience train your model of the world. And even if you forget the experience or what you read, its effect on your model of the world persists."

Also check out It’s Okay to “Forget” What You Read https://medium.com/the-polymath-project/its-okay-to-forget-w...

Similar to what Cal Fussman says, "the good shit sticks."

To me, reading is more about developing an internal vocabulary that makes it easy to bridge two ideas together—ultimately enabling you to create ideas of your own. With more ideas to pull from, you can ask yourself better questions.

Here's an interesting perspective on the matter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vR2P5vW-nVc

I tend to remember a general evoked feeling from waht I've read rather than the details of each "wow" moment. If I remember a book having some profoind effect, it's worth reading again sometime down the line.

Nice. I've read a bunch of books and I'm also looking to make something like this. Just a question: I'm not an American, how does copyright work for things like this? Can I write something like a "10 things I learned from <BOOK>" with a few (like < 20) lines copied (or should I paraphrase it?) from the book?

I kept my book notes private for years because I assumed it would violate some copyright law to post them.

But one day I tried it anyway. Kept it quiet. But after years, people kept discovering it.

Now the authors contact me thanking me for highlighting their book. And publishers offer to send me new books asking to be included in my list.

So... I guess they don't mind!

I think if you encourage people to buy the book, and aren't trying to replace the book, nobody will complain.

I’d also like to know the answer to this question. My interpretation is that adding some commentary alongside lines copied from the book would fall under Fair Use of Copyrighted Material. But it’s so gray.

Well, the debunking of many of Daniel Kahneman's insights was covered here earlier:


I would everything on whatever this list is with a huge grain of salt along with any other social-science heavy book.

Many? The link only talks about chapter 4 of his book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Derek is such an inspiring guy - check out the Tim Ferris Podcast with him if you haven't already.


The one with James Altucher is great as well

Wow, that is a lot of self help, is it too much?

No amount of self help books is too much, because they have no effect anyway.

I agree many books in the self-help genre are basically just "motivational porn", but I wouldn't dismiss all of them. I have read some self-help books that gave me genuine insights that I have put into successful practice with real effects.

If I said the same about technical documentation, I bet you'd tell me I was either reading it wrong or I wasn't the target audience in the first place.

No, I'd tell you that you are taking a statement about one class of books and apply it to a different one, with different target mission and utility.

Technical documentation has a very narrow scope, and deeply technical writers. It's target users also are engineers directly applying what they read or looking at it for reference to something very specific.

It hasn't been historically the province of any hack and/or snake-oil salesman.

Nor do people buy book after book of technical documentation trying this and that fad to no avail to fill some psychological void. Hmm, now that I read this last sentence again...

I love this. Just as cigarette packs state: "Smoking kills", self-help books should state "This book will have no effect".

I think I might write a self help book around that idea.

It's a long list, and reading from the bottom up (where the lower rated books are) is good fun.

Awesome list. Good way to top up my Audible account!

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