📚 Books I've Read: Summaries, Notes, and Key Takeaways

Books represent my knowledge core.

After seeing folks like Derek Sivers and Nat Eliason publish their book summaries and notes, I wanted to do the same.

In 2021, I started taking detailed notes as I read new books. This page contains my book notes as well as my how strongly I would recommend each (out of 10). For a full list of my most recommended books, visit my reading page.

To view my notes, click on any linked title below. The template for my book notes was inspired by Ali Abdaal.

📖 All Notes

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson and Naval Ravikant (10/10) Naval's ideas have shaped my thinking and mental models more than anything else I've come across in the past 6 years. His thinking challenged my belief systems and world-view. Overall, I am generally a happier and more peaceful person as a result of his recommendations.

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon (9/10) A manifesto for the "build in public" movement. Kleon's punchy (100-ish page) book is a cheat sheet for those who want to become online creators.

Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool (9/10) "Peak" is by far the most useful book I've read around skill-building. Ericsson and Pool lay out tactical advice, backed by scientific research and case studies, that everyone can use to develop skills in an efficient way. If you're going to read one personal development book, it should be this one.

Endurance by Alfred Lansing (9/10) An incredible true story that reads like a thriller. Exhilarating tale about an Antarctic exploration group that is shipwrecked with no way to contact a rescue boat. I couldn't put this book down. If you are looking for some inspiration for overcoming obstacles, this one won't disappoint.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama (8/10) An entertaining behind the scenes view of the American presidency. Reading this book made me not want to run for any political office, though it did provide me with a new perspective and respect for those who do.

Treat Your Own Back by Robin McKenzie (8/10) The "McKenzie Method" changed how I manage my chronic back pain of 4+ years. Within the first day of performing these exercises, I felt pain relief.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser (8/10) Anyone who is looking to become a better non-fiction writer should read this book. This improvement could apply to writing for an audience or merely improving your business emails, presentations, etc.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo (8/10) I really enjoyed The Godfather - more than I expected to, honestly. I gravitated to the story and the arc of the family, but found the motifs of how trust is gained (slowly) and lost (quickly) the most intriguing. A great entertaining read and much better than the movie.

11/22/63 by Stephen King (8/10) A high school english teacher from a small town in Maine goes back in time to 1963 to stop the assassination of JFK. The protagonist, Jake, alters past events and unknowingly unleashes a "butterfly effect." Anyone interested in time-travel, historical fiction, or the JFK assassination would like this novel, though I recommend the audiobook version.

The Price We Pay by Marty Makary (8/10) A must-read for anyone who wants to better understand the current state of American health care. Makary does a tremendous job interspersing personal anecdotes and stories of real impacted Americans with the facts/studies showing the root causes of the current cost crisis.

Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks (8/10) Want to become a more interesting person? Great, read this book. Storyworthy contains very practical advice to help you tell better stories at dinner parties, business presentations, dates, or really anytime you are conversing with another human.

The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco (8/10) A contrarian approach to the old "Get Rich Slow" approach to wealth building. Although I've already bought into this approach generally (income maximization vs. expense minimization), DeMarco's arguments challenged a lot of my personal finance beliefs for the better.

Ball Four by Jim Bouton (8/10) Coined "the most controversial sports book ever written." Bouton, a professional baseball player, chronicles his year pitching in the Major Leagues for an expansion franchise (the Seattle Pilots). A funny, yet insightful, read that put a lot of my baseball career in perspective. I recommend this if you are a sports fan and want to see the "real" side of what it's like to be apart of a sports team.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (8/10) Tom Ripley, a young and struggling vagabond in NYC, is sent to Italy to convince the son of a wealthy businessman to return to the US. The story unwinds into a fun thriller that traverses crime, travel, and identity theft.

The Only Rule Is It Has to Work by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller (8/10) The best baseball book I've read. Lindbergh and Miller, baseball writers, bring a statistic heavy approach to building and managing an independent professional baseball team. I began reading to see how the experiment would turn out but I stayed engaged because the individual player stories were compelling.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (7/10) I was struck by the vast complexities of the underlying themes of race, women's rights, and poverty. Throughout the story, many of the characters reinvent themselves to new environments and situations - sometimes by necessity, sometimes by choice. Worth a read.

World War Z by Max Brooks (7/10) An oral history of a zombie outbreak set in the future. The story is told through a series of interviews with many different characters around the world at different points of the war. Overall, it's a story about humans vs. zombies and the strategy needed to prevail and save mankind. I recommend the audiobook version, much better than the movie.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (7/10) A fun read about a boy who is selected to lead the human race in a war against aliens. You probably have to be a bit into science fiction to thoroughly enjoy this one, but it's a nice little coming of age story.

How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens (7/10) Ahrens documents a superb note-taking system for anyone who wants to better comprehend what they read and improve the utility of their notes. As with most productivity systems (especially in knowledge management), results come down to execution. Ahrens provides the theory, but it's on you to figure out the best way to incorporate the ideas into your existing system/tools.

The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker (7/10) Good sound principles for decision-makers in large organizations. It didn't resonate as much for me in an entrepreneurial sense and feels a bit outdated (written in the 1960s), but still plenty to take away to improve your decision-making.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (7/10) This felt like a long read and dragged at times, but kept me engaged just enough to continue reading. The characters are just compelling enough but not necessarily very deep or complex.

Healing Back Pain by John Sarno (6/10) While I can't accept all of Sarno's assertions - especially that Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) is the cause of most pain manifestations of muscles, nerves, and tendon-ligaments - I do think there is credibility in not letting the fear of back pain relapse guide your daily actions.

The Art of Community by Charles Vogl (6/10) Some helpful information on what defines a community, but only a small section devoted to building an online community, which was what I was most interested in. Felt more introductory rather than packed with actionable advice.

The Grind by Barry Svrluga (6/10) Svrluga follows the 2014 Washington Nationals baseball team throughout their grueling 162-game season. He covers not only the players but all levels of the organization, from GM to clubhouse attendant. Fun read that focuses mainly on stories, though probably only interesting to somewhat serious baseball fans.

Belong by Radha Agrawal (4/10) A bit “fluffy” in terms of concepts (e.g., “don’t listen to the mean girls in your head” and “find your soul family”, manifestation) and overall feel. It feels like every 5 pages there is a quote that could be printed out and placed on a vision board. If you are looking for useful, tactical advice for building communities, skip to chapters 6 and 7.