Posted by: LYF | June 18, 2010

What I’ve been reading…

The Big Short – Michael Lewis

I know there was a housing crisis or something in the states?  I knew enough to have a conversation about it.  Though I couldn’t do much more than that.  Now I sort of can?  Basically the housing market collapsed because Wall Street developed a financial system so complicated that only a small handful of people completely understood it.

Long story short.  Government gives mortgages to people who can’t pay them.  Those mortgages get bundled into bonds that are sold buy banks.  Those bonds, since they include a portion of good mortgages, get AAA ratings from either Moody’s or S&P.  Meanwhile, they’re still shit.  The worst bonds get smashed together again into CDO’s, which try to diversify the risk even more.  Obviously they don’t.  Now you have too many bonds backed by loans that will become worthless.

Then a bunch of smart people say, “Hey!  These mortgages are going to default.  I’ll buy insurance on them.  That way, when everyone realizes no one can pay back 5 mortgages all at once, I’ll be straight ballin.”

Lewis tells the story from the perspective of a few people who saw this mess coming years before it actually happened.  That angle gave the story a really interesting narrative, which made understanding the more technical stuff slightly easier.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

I saw the movie before I knew it was a book.  That’s not something I’d normally do.  I’m the guy who reads the book, then watches the movie and knows deep down that the book was better, but tries really hard not to be “that-guy.”  The guy who goes around telling everyone, “Yeah, it was good, but it’s nothing compared to the book.”  Having said that, the movie is a pretty good adaptation of the novel.

It reads a lot like Angels and Demons or The Davinci Code.  Very fast paced, small words, plot-twists etc.  It’s very entertaining and quick to read.

The Girl Who Played With Fire – Stieg Larsson

It had the same pace as the first one.  One thing I didn’t realize until halfway through was that the title could be taken literally and figuratively.  It’s clever in like an oh-I-can-see-both-ladies-in-that-picture sort of way.

Surely, You’re Joking Mr. Feynman! – Richard P. Feynman

Richard Feynman is one of the coolest people I’ve ever read about.  This is one of my favourite books.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt – Edmund Morris

Theodore Roosevelt is the most interesting person I have ever read about – fiction or non-fiction.  This is the best non-fiction book I’ve ever read.

Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

Murakami is a fantastic writer.  I’m not always a huge fan of his plots, but I find that I learn so much about writing and word choice that in the end it doesn’t really matter.

Good Calories Bad Calories – Gary Taubes

When I read this I had been feeling really confused as to what constitutes a “healthy” diet.  Should I be eating no carbs?  Is dietary fat bad for you?  What’s insulin resistance?  Should I be on a ketogenic diet?  This book helped me answer those questions.  I eat no carbs, tons of meat, lots of veggies and sweet sweet fat.

Born to Run – Christopher McDougall

Cool story about ultra-marathon runners, barefoot running and the joys of physical activity.

The World of Karl Pilkington – Karl Pilkington

Karl is very unintentionally funny because you can empathize with his logic – no matter how off base or socially ridiculous it is.  You’ll say to yourself, “wow that’s dumb, but I know how he feels.”  Once he tried to buy a bed and was shocked that it didn’t come with a mattress.  For Karl the whole situation rested on the absurd notion of, “Why would you buy a bed without a mattress?  A bed should come with a mattress.”  You and I know that it doesn’t, even though it sort of makes sense that it should.  But things like this sort of fly over Karl’s head.  Then hilarity ensues.

Made to Stick – Chip Heath

Chip gives some good points on marketing.  I wasn’t really thrilled with this book.  Then I realized I could remember most of it even though I read it a few months ago.  Made to stick?  I guess so.

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

Alright.  Don’t read this book if you’ve got a lot on the go, or you’re in the middle of reading something else.  This isn’t a light summer read.  This is the most challenging book I’ve ever read.  Was it good?  Yeah?  Maybe that’s not the best way to describe it.  I’d say it’s a rewarding experience – like running a marathon or writing the UFE.

If you want to get a good idea of what his writing is like, then read this commencement speech he gave at Kenyon University.  It’ll help you get your feet wet.  This interview will help too.  Start from the 23min mark.

The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals – Edward Payson Evans

Back in the day courts of law used to prosecute animals.  For example, a pig would manage to escape from its pen, run into a farmhouse and eat a baby.  Then a court would convict the pig of infanticide, dress it up as a person and then hang it.  I don’t even know where to go after that last sentence.  Is it a good book?  Yes, because it’s so ridiculous?  It’s not long.  You can bang it out in a day or so.



  1. Was browsing this post an saw you read Gary Taubes book. I would definitely read his stuff with caution.

    His pet theory, thermodynamics doesn’t exist and only carb control matters, is so ludicrous that he feels the need to use crap studies to back it up (i.e ignores the fact that when people are not monitored, they vastly underestimate their calorie intake; he also prefers animal research when human studies are available. Hopefully someone will tell him the two groups have vastly different metabolic systems =S).

    That being said, he has done some ok writing on the science of health and the food pyramid.

    • What are your thoughts on the paleo diet?

  2. Christ…don’t get me started. Just by the fact that they’re eating foods with a healthier ratio of macronutrients (fat, protein, carbs) they are doing some good. But they’re obsessed over eating “clean”. Really ridiculous.

    1.) Go here:

    2.) Read articles

    3.) Profit

    The guy knows his stuff. Lost 50+ lbs on his RFL diet, though I don’t recommend it unless you’re a fatty. But that site has all you need in terms of informing yourself. I usually don’t even mention when people ask because most want the “magic bullet” instead of educating themselves. Although his books are good, not necessary since about 80% is in his articles.

  3. I also wanted to mention that Keto diets are great if you’re like me and overindulge in carbs. That being said, I don’t think anyone who wants to do some serious training can justify the lack of carbs those diets entail.

  4. Dude, thanks for the David Foster Wallace speech and video links. I really liked his message in the commencement speech. His demeanor in the interview video freaked me out. He just looks so tortured by reality. Although I want to read Infinite Jest, I fear experiencing another existential crisis would likely lead to depression and ruin my chances of employment.

    • Yeah, it’s an intense book. I’d still say read it though. You’ll get an idea of Wallace’s perspective on life, especially on how he takes in the world around him.

      Books that have impact are generally good, even when they mess your head up a bit.

      • For whatever it’s worth, I was watching The Daily Show and the author of the book “All Things Shining” was promoting his book. He said some stuff about post-modernism and living in the secular age where nothing is sacred and everything can be laughed at.

        After sampling his book on Amazon, I think it sounds similar, but more uplifting and hopeful than my perception of David Foster Wallace.

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