Inferno, Black Swan, Influence and 1984.

I'm a compulsive reader.  There, I said it.I made a commitment to myself a few years ago (after being inspired by Ryan Holiday) that I wouldn't let anything get in the way of me reading the books that I wanted to read.  Not time, not money, not difficulty - I made it an absolute priority.  Even as life gets busy, I do all that I can to set aside some time each day to unwind and get stuck into a book that challenges me.

In this vein, I want to share a few things with you that I picked up from various books that I finished over the last few weeks.

Here goes...

1984 - George Orwell

George Orwell's classic was a book that I had wanted to read for a very long time - but had never gotten around to actually getting my hands on a copy.  However, as it's inspiration will be forming a chunk of an upcoming project that I'm currently working on (not going to reveal it just yet!) I went to Exclusive Books and bought myself the paperback version.

Safe to say: It blew my mind.

In short, Orwell describes an exaggerated dystopian future where a central force ('Big Brother') rules over society and controls every single iota of life.  There is no room for free speech or even free thought.  There is no intricacy, everything is turned to black and white, and simplistically - life is reduced to it's bare essentials.  It's a terrifying picture that he paints.

As mentioned above, I want to save most of my analysis and thoughts for my upcoming project, but there was one passage that I found very profound - and I want to share it with you:

"He thought with a kind of astonishment of the biological uselessness of pain and fear, the treachery of the human body which always freezes into inertia at exactly the moment when a special effort is needed.  He might have silenced the dark-haired girl if only he had acted quickly enough; but precisely because of the extremity of his danger he had lost the power to act.  It struck him that in the moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy, but always against one's own body."

We are always battling against ourself, our own mind, our own beliefs.

Stop looking for external excuses - it's all inside of you, under your control.

How To Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie

This book has an incredible sleazy title I know - but you have to cut it some slack as it was published in 1936.  It is known worldwide on one of best books on networking and building professional relationships in the business world - but it also contains some real gems when it comes to social contact outside of the business sphere.  It's short and easy-to-digest and will definitely force you to do a quick evaluation of the way you are treating the people around you (consciously and sub-consciously) and how you can improve.  One quote that I really enjoyed went as follows:

"Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes them strive to justify himself.  When dealing with people, you have to remember that you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but rather with creatures of emotion."

Wise words indeed.  When we give constructive criticism we need to approach it in an indirect way - for best results.

Black Swan - Nassim Taleb

This book was one of the most challenging I have ever come across - but all the effort was absolutely worth it.  It has become one of my all-time favourites - one that disrupted so many of my previously held thoughts and beliefs.  It is simply brilliant.

The book takes a long hard look at unpredictability in our world and laughs in the face of all the sophisticated models, forecasts and estimations that we rely on when acting for the future.  Taleb stresses that our models of the future are doing more harm than good because they don't take into account the wildly unpredicted events (the Black Swans) that do invariably happen every now and then, which totally re-shape the entire sphere in which they occur.  We know this is true by looking at the success rate of various predictions made across all industries - which is dismal.

Yet we still base so many of our decisions on these models and predictions - setting ourselves up for failure, willingly!

No quotes here because without context, it would be very misleading (too complex) but I would highly recommend it to anyone.


Inferno - Dan Brown

I was slightly disappointed with Dan Brown's latest novel.  He has been typecast as a writer who is not very flexible and this novel confirms this.  If you have read any of his other books (The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, The Lost Symbol, etc.) then you will know what I am talking about.  There was nothing new here really, it had the same cryptic treasure hunt, obscure art references and multiple twist ending that all his books have had - so while it was enjoyable, it definitely isn't something I would read again.

It looks at the topic of overpopulation and how scarce our resources are getting.  How do we divide and distribute the finite amount of food, water and other necessities on the planet to an ever-increasing global population.  Is it sustainable?


I hope that you have found some value in the tidbits above - be sure to get your hands on the full books if anything jumped out at you.  Also if you have recently read any great books yourself - I would love to hear about them!  I'm always looking for good recommendations to read, so pop them in the comments if you have any.