Thursday, January 10, 2019

Books I Recommend

Trust Me, I'm Lying by Ryan Holiday:
Book about how people manipulate the media to create fake controversy and use outrage to get free publicity or to trick one person in a media org into saying something and then people from other media organizations will blindly copy information without verifying it. Very useful book to understand how most media works, or rather doesn't work. Also, the author (Ryan Holiday) has written quite a bit about stoicism and seemed to have taken it quite seriously for personal use, although it's a bit easy to do that once you've secured a lot of money and a reputation that can be leveraged to make you money in your life if you ever need it. Propaganda by Edward Bernays:
Very good, very concise book also about the media that goes into how public opinion is shaped and why, and makes an argument that since some people are going to use propaganda that everybody should use it. Kind of a bit of a justification that's not necessarily appropriate since just because others are manipulative doesn't mean you have to be manipulative, but goes over how people are influenced (by specific influencing of mass influencers like celebrities and artists.)

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman, Noam Chomsky
While Noam Chomsky is a very overrated and meme-worthy "thinker" that is very annoying and also loved by generally very annoying left wing types who think they're extremely smart and also read things like Infinite Jest and post about Narwhals baconing at midnight and listen to podcasts about socialism and communism and call people CHUDS and wear graphic t-shirts, this book is actually quite good. The reason this book is quite good is that it goes nicely with Trust Me, I'm Lying in showing how the media is manipulated. This is more a top down approach and illustrates how the media agenda is set by those who have political and financial power. Very worth a read unlike most of Chomsky's writings. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
While a bit of a meme and overly simplistic, this book is excellent in that it helps with cognitive empathy and understanding where other people are coming from, how to understand what they want, and how to provide and explain value to other people in a way that benefits you and the person you are talking to. Very good book to read if you want to be more genuinely likable and also communicate better with other people. Where this book is so much better than other "self-help"/"influence" sort of books is that it's not from the perspective of trying to take advantage of or deceive other people or "gain power" over other people. It focuses on how to build mutual and true relationships where each person is respected and treated with respect. It sounds kind of corny but it's a very useful and important skill to have that will make you happier in life!

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Very good and fairly short series of essays on different things in life and how to approach them in a logical and reasonable way that fits into a worldview that's coherent and makes sense. A pretty straightforward and common sense way to approach life that I personally find extremely enjoyable to read due to the cut and dry nature of the way it's written. More applicable now in the age of the internet and social media than ever in my opinion, since it deals with how to see yourself and how to present yourself, as well as how to view others and their actions. Discourses and Selected Writings by Epictetus
In the similar style as Aurelius and dealing with similar things that Aurelius talks about, but in a more drawn out and broader scope. Epictetus was apparently somebody who took a lot of other Stoic philosopher's ideas and rehashed them, but is one of the few individuals from that period with a large body of work that survived. As such, even though he is not groundbreaking or particularly unique, I found his thoughts to be just as enjoyable and applicable to Aurelius' writings.

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
This book is essentially the narcissist's and sociopath's version of How To Win Friends And Influence People. What that means is that it's not worth reading but worth skimming and looking at the "48 Laws" and taking note of what they are. The reason for this is that you will then be able to have a glimpse into the way manipulative people work and also how Robert Greene has plagiarized a lot of stoic statements and bastardized them to create the 48 Laws. Basically read this for a good look into the minds of tryhard social climbers (that are usually unsuccessful or else a lot of these things would come intuitively and they wouldn't have to ask others for help on how to screw people over.) The Art Of War by Sun Tzu
Similar to the 48 Laws of Power, this is a good book to skim so when other people reference it you know if they're kind of tryhard. A very simple book that can kind of be useful if you generalize the advice into day to day actions, but very overrated and often read by people who think they're more clever/devious than they really are. A good book but not a very good book.

The Accursed Share: an Essay on General Economy, Vol. 1: Consumption by Georges Bataille
Book broadly on economic theory with some weird things about incest and taboo sexuality thrown in. Worth reading because of the unique nature it views economics in an almost inverse manner where excess determines behavior and that leads to stable or unstable societies. Very good way to start thinking about how our surroundings help determine our behavior and also the behavior of those around us in a sort of closed feedback loop system. Very good way to break out of the default free market capitalism view (not to say that free market capitalism isn't preferable to other alternatives) regarding the market being determined by people and not the other way around or a blend of the two interacting with each other. Erotism: Death and Sensuality by Georges Bataille
While the subject matter is a bit lewd and strange, and the author Bataille was a strange individual that I wouldn't trust around my children, this is another good book that investigates the relationship between transgression and arousal as well as the relationship between state-changes and the profane. It also covers a good element of how things being holy or taboo are that way for a reason and that by going out of our way to transgress either of those fields, that we and those things are permanently changed -- not always for the better. Once again an interesting and surprisingly coherent way to look at the mystical.

The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays by Albert Camus
Baby's first absurdism, which is straightforward and simple. Philosophy students dislike it because it's not pretentious or written in a way that is a struggle to read, and doesn't needlessly complicate matters. Very enjoyable to read and if you look at Camus' life, he had a wife and kids and seemed to have put his personal philosophy into practice in a beneficial manner that was functional, unlike other more "respected" people similar to him in what they wrote about. Worth reading and thinking about if you're not too concerned about people with horn rimmed glasses scoffing at you. Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 by Charles Murray
Very eye-opening book by the author of the famed and needlessly controversial "The Bell Curve" book, which is also worth getting just to prove to yourself how the media is fine with lying about and ruining people's lives by calling them nazis and white supremacists with evidence to the contrary. Human Accomplishment breaks down who invented what and where they invented it. Lots of statistics and numbers and graphs that make it more a reference manual then proper book to read, but still extremely interesting to read and have to reference.

How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff
Very enjoyable read and very entertaining as well. One of the more important and shorter books to read, helps break down how people can make numbers seem to point to things they don't actually point to. Is worth reading for anybody who wants to be more skeptical and reasonable, and is especially useful for people who enjoy reading alternative news since right wingers and left wingers alike are equally dishonest or inaccurate as the main stream media, just in different ways. Highly recommend this book even though it seems more like a booklet than a book. Common Sense: The Origin and Design of Government by Thomas Paine Really worthwhile book to read, especially if you're an American. While it outlines a lot of ideals, it also does so in relation to what America should be. It's a bit instructive because it shows how having ideals and goals that are logical and straightforward should in theory work quite well, they don't really matter long term if the ideals and goals aren't modeled properly with human nature. Equal parts refreshing and equal parts saddening since we have undeniably left the noble and seemingly simple design of what America was supposed to be, and we will never return there. In that sense it kind of shows the futility of reason and planning past that which actually control, which ties into the stoic ideal of caring about that which is in our direct control.

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