Books reviews

This page is, in theory, constantly updated. In practice, I rarely ever update it because I forget. This page was last updated in April 2023.

The Selfish Gene
by Richard Dawkins

This book explains how genes are basically immortal survival machines. To clarify: Genes build bodies in order to make copies of themselves and survive over long periods of time. Our bodies will eventually die. But if our genes can get us to have children, then they live on. Genes are a set of instructions for how to build a body. And the better the instructions, the more immortal the genes will be. Genetics explains much of our behavior. Such as why we have sex, and why sex feels good. Why the offspring of pair-bonded parents (love as we call it) do better in some social animals. Why ducks get a handful of children per pregnancy, while humans get just one. And why there’s altruism and collaboration baked into many successful species. I read this book at the age of 17. At that time I still believed that there must be some sort of a God to explain the perplexities of nature. Needless to say, this book shook me to my core.

Flash Crash: A Trading Savant, a Global Manhunt, and the Most Mysterious Market Crash in History
by Liam Vaughan
A few years ago financial markets in New York had a steep, sudden decline. On the other side of the world in the UK, there was a lonely Indian guy named Navinder Sarao (or Nav) who lived in a shitty neighborhood surrounded by crack addicts and criminals. Nearly no one knew that he was an incredibly wealthy stock trader. The author did a lot of investigative research and spoke to everyone except for Nav himself (he’s very private and somewhat autistic). I couldn’t stop reading this book, I read it all day, and during my short work breaks. It was digestible and well-written.

The Psychology of Money
by Morgan Housel
Full of interesting history lessons about stock markets and wealth and the biases about it in the media and our psyche.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
This is an interesting book about the daily habits of historical figures. Think presidents, authors, scientists, painters, etc. Each chapter covers a short summary with the person’s daily habits. Some start the day walking their dog, while another person eats breakfast with their wife. Some force themselves into a pattern of work, while others wait for weeks until inspiration strikes them. I did not recognize any patterns or even commonalities, except for this one weird thing: chainsmoking. A surprisingly high amount of people covered in this book were chain smokers. Many mentioned that smoking helped them think, write, and see things clearly.

The Big Short
A lot of retards call Michael Burry a “one-hit wonder” because Burry predicted and made money off of the subprime crisis in 2008. Such people should forget about the film and read the book. The book goes into a lot of interesting details, including juicy personal information about Burry’s life, his hedge fund, its clients, and everything else. If you don’t want to read it, the most important thing to know about it is that Burry autistically dove into detailed filings of mortgage bonds and was the first to conclude that they were time bombs waiting to explode. He then figured out the perfect way to bet against them. He didn’t short housing stocks. That would be super expensive. Burry’s methods have a surgical precision to them that is detailed in the book. He contacted big banks to craft a customized version of the Credit Default Swap (CDS), just for him. None of this was luck. The book also covers other investors who copied his trade, and numerous other highly successful investments that Burry had made long before his subprime bet. For example, during a multi-year downmarket in the early 2000s, Burry’s fund was making 40% per year.

Investing for Dummies
Forget about The Intelligent Investor and read Investing for Dummies. All the vital information is well explained. I’ve carried the lessons with me all my life. This should be the first book that an investor picks up. It wouldn’t even hurt for some experienced investors, or people who have no interest in investing at all, to read this book. Disclaimer: I read the Dutch version as a teenager. The English version is written by a different author and I’ve never read it. Still, I trust the for Dummies brand to always do a good job!

Nomad Capitalist
A book about investing around the world, leaving the West, and going where you are treated best. Lots of interesting stories. I honestly can’t stand the guy on YouTube, but his book is well-articulated, digestible, and fun to read for any international-minded person.

The Price of Time
A book about interest rates. Contains many fascinating stories about debt and interest from hundreds, even thousands of years ago. Also busts some popular myths about interest in the modern day era.

The Hidden Habits of Genius
Looks into the daily lives of many geniuses. Early in the book, it makes an important distinction between famous people and geniuses. Not everyone who’s skilled and famous is necessarily a genius. It goes on to reveal how many geniuses have troubled personal lives, traumatic childhoods and developed a critical mind.

Pragmatic Capitalism
An excellent primer on investing and economics. Highly underrated book. I recommend it not only to beginners, many “advanced” investors will pick up valuable insights from this book.

The Dangerous Passion
A fascinating book solely focuses on sexual jealousy in relationships.

Elon Musk biography by Ashlee Vance
If you hate Elon Musk and believe his success is solely due to his privilege and his father “owning an emerald mine”, read this book and you’ll have your ideas shattered.

Option Greeks in Plain English
An excellent explainer for options traders. Easy to understand. Read it from cover to cover within an hour or two.

The Intelligent Investor
Most overrated book in investing. Skip it. People only talk about it because they think it makes them feel smart. In fact, if you read it, you realize that the author repeatedly says “None of this stuff works anymore since we published the book.”.. If you read it, you realize how its strategies no longer work, as admitted by the authors. Markets have simply become far more efficient for most normies to find an edge. I think Alpha is out there to be made, but it’s not from reading this book. Read whatever books that other investors are not reading to get your edge.

P.S. Dit is vertrouwelijk
by Gerard Spong & Peter R De Vries (Dutch)
A Dutch book that contains an exchange of letters between a criminal lawyer and a crime reporter, both well-known in their respective fields. Their emails are written so poetically, making mundane topics enjoyable to read. They ask each other questions and share their perspectives on topics such as being threatened by criminals, and which climate they prefer (the lawyer prefers cold while the journalist prefers tropical).

The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley
A book about how people deal with sudden trauma, like car accidents of near-death experiences. Spoiler: it changes them.

A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne
Excellent book on poverty. The main premise is that poverty is not merely caused by a lack of money. It’s almost always caused by a lack of other resources besides money. Such as living near family, and having good role models who can guide you through school and relationships. Having a support network of people to rely on in case your car breaks down, you need help with taxes, etc.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
Excellent and enjoyable read on the history of humankind. People say it’s overrated but they only say so to look smart, as if they’re far ahead of this book. They’re not. The book is great and you should read it.

The Permanent Portfolio
A book about a type of portfolio that reduces drawdowns, and prints money year after year, regardless of what phase of the economic cycle we’re in. The portfolio is simple: 25% stocks, 25% long-term treasuries, 25% gold, and 25% cash.

Shook one by Charlamagne Tha God
A book full of stories about he was a “pussy nigga”. Extremely funny and honest book in which the author (a black American who grew up in the ghetto) writes down all the stories in which he was a pussy, a chicken-shit. In his subculture, no one shows their anxiety. To do so is to instantly lower your status and make yourself a target for aggressive people who will attack you. Hats off to Charlamagne for writing the most honest and funny book in hip-hop culture.

Debt by David Graeber
Fascinating book on the history of debt. I sometimes doubt the neutrality of the author, but it’s nonetheless an excellent book. It blackpilled me on the lack of humanity on debt. For example; African dictators sometimes steal lots of tax money for themselves and then park it in their own Swiss bank accounts. Then the country gets in trouble because their dictator stole all the tax funds, and the country will have to get a loan from the IMF.

Currency Wars
I finished it. It contained a few interesting stories about how currencies are or could be manipulated, the fiat standard, and other historic events and how they affected a country’s currency. Can’t recommend the book tbh. Also, to save yourself time, here’s a summary of the book in just two words: Buy gold.

Hoe ik toch huisjesmelker werd
by Hans de Geus (Dutch)
This book is written by a Dutch economist and explains why housing prices have skyrocketed in the last 20 years. It’s mostly due to the financialization of housing, whereby properties are considered investments, rather than a basic human need. Declining interest rates have added gasoline to the fire. Bad government policy is also a factor. In the Netherlands, mortgage owners get subsidized. Every Dutch taxpayer is essentially subsidizing homeowners, which in turn has driven prices up even further. A double whammy that caused extreme wealth inequality. Long ago, the author himself applied to get a mortgage to finally buy his own house. But the banks rejected him due to his shaky income as a freelance economics reporter. He learned he could still get a mortgage, on the condition that he didn’t live in the house himself, but rented it out instead. That’s because banks consider rental income to be a steady and stable income stream. He feared dying in poverty while leaving nothing to his children. So the author went on to buy several rental properties.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
Enjoyable read on the irrationalities and biases in human behavior. I think much of what the book explains is already well-known by most rationalists, but there are still some nuggets to be found. He goes into the psychology of pricing (in real estate, and other things) and how strong the placebo effect is in medicine, even among surgical procedures which doctors are still performing today, against all the evidence showing it’s placebo. But he also covers many, more trivial, day-to-day manners like how people perceive the food they’re eating. To give an example, when wanting to impress a group of guests who come over for dinner, Ariely recommends serving buffalo instead of beef. Blind tests show that people cannot tell the difference, but “buffalo” sounds classier. He also recommends telling your guests beforehand that you’ll be serving buffalo because this pre-knowledge is critical for your guests’ mental enjoyment of the food. Furthermore, he says to add exotic and fashionable-sounding ingredients. Do not tell your guests you’ll be serving “tomato and goat cheese salad”. Instead, say “a melange of fresh roma cherry tomatoes, and crips field greens, paired with a warm circle of chevre in a fruity raspberry vinaigrette”. He also explains this is why culinary schools so much time on teaching the artful presentation of food, rather than how to cook and fry it deliciously. Lastly, he recommends trying this for yourself; the next time you order take-out, just remove the styrofoam packaging and then place the food in beautiful-looking dishes, which will make all the difference.

Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier
A book about today’s craze that transgender people go through. She calls it rapid-onset gender dysphoria. If you are interested in this subject (regardless on your stance), I highly recommend this book.

Excellent Advice for Living by Kevin Kelly
Kevin Kelly is an American boomer who co-founded Wired magazine. He has written a few blogposts with wise quotes and thoughts relating to any aspect of life. You can read this book in one go, within an hour or two, as it’s simply a collection of short quotes. And you should.

July 20, 2021

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