Books I’ve Been Reading Lately – Part 3

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Here are some reviews of some non-fiction and fiction books I’ve been reading over the past few months. Before I get to that, I’ll overview how I read and assimilate information, since I get a lot of questions about this. As always, I am usually reading one non-fiction book (usually business, self-improvement, or history) and one fiction book (almost always fantasy, with some exceptions). In my opinion, and this is purely an opinion, filling yourself up with non-stop fiction or non-stop non-fiction is not a good idea. Guys who binge business or self-help books never seem to actually get off their asses and get out into the real world and take action on making things happen. (I know for a fact there are many of you in my audience).

-By Caleb Jones

Guys like this get into the habit of reading self-improvement books for fun rather than for results. They burn through a good business or self-improvement book, finish it fast, say, “Wow! That was a great book!" then immediately start onto the next book and repeat the process. I was guilty of this myself for many years before I realized what I was doing. Today, I only read non-fiction books that directly relate to projects I’m working on right now. Then, as many of you already know, I take very careful notes on these books and have my staff transcribe these notes into my Life Manual (something I’m selling at my Alpha Male 2.0 World Tour seminars). I then use my Life Manual as a basis to draw action items from to formulate my plans to hit my goals.

This way, I’m reading for results, not just for fun. On the flip side, guys who do nothing but read fiction novels all the fucking time aren’t doing themselves any favors either. I think you need a mix of both in order to be a more well-rounded man. As a matter of fact, I think reading fiction is more important now than ever before since the quality of other entertainment mediums (TV, movies, video games) seems to be declining. Fiction novels may indeed be the last refuge for high quality, thought-provoking entertainment, or will become so soon.

In terms of how I read, I do so in three ways:

1. Kindle, on the go, like when I’m traveling or running errands and have downtime, reading on my phone.

2. Audio books whenever I’m driving, or in the bathroom getting ready for the day, or performing any other brainless task. I used to use an iPod for this but now I use the Audible Android app on my phone which is much more convenient. I always listen to audio books on 1.4X speed to get through the book faster since most audio books are spoken very slowly, and my mind moves much faster. (I watch YouTube videos the same way, usually on 1.5X speed and sometimes even on 1.75X.)

3. Paper books, sitting in my nice recliner in my living room, overlooking the mountains. I do this for 30-60 minutes about 2-4 times per week. So that’s that. Here are the reviews. American Gods by Neil Gaiman I’ve been wanting to read this book for at least 15 years. Over and over again I kept seeing it in the bookstore, flipping through it, telling myself I need to read it, but never doing so. I have always thought about the concept of old Greek and Norse gods existing in today’s modern age and have always considered the concept very interesting. I also really liked Harlan Ellison’s Deathbird Stories which is essentially a very R-rated version of this concept.

I am well aware that Neil Gaiman has a huge fan base and I’ve heard nothing but good things about him, but I’ve never read any of his stuff. And I wanted to. On top of all that, there’s now a TV series based on this book, and I wanted to make sure I read the book before even glimpsing the series, just in case the series sucked and pre-ruined my view of the book. This is exactly why I made damn sure to read the entire Dark Tower series before I saw that movie (which, of course, sucked). So, I figured reading American Gods would kill several birds with one stone.
The book was fine. Not bad, not amazing, just fine. It had a few good moments, but overall I felt it was average. The main character is really boring and I could not relate to much of his thoughts, and perhaps that was the biggest reason why I didn’t think this book was outstanding. Many of the side-characters, particularly the villains, were really good. The problem is there weren’t more of them. If this book had focused more on them and less on the boring protagonist, this book would have been amazing. I’m glad I read it though. One less thing on my to-do list. Positioning By Al Ries and Jack Trout This is a marketing classic that snuck past me for some reason, written by the same guys who wrote The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, which is one of those core marketing books all business owners need to read.

Positioning is much like that book, in that there is so much data packed into it that you really need to be taking constant notes as you read it or else you’ll miss (or forget) all the good stuff. This makes this book a hard read, but an important read. I recommend it, but I only recommend you read it when you can 100% focus on it in a quiet environment when you have a pen and paper (or Kindle highlight ability) easily accessible. Ringworld by Larry Niven I don’t normally read sci-fi these days, but Ringworld is one of those classic sci-fi books that I’ve heard about my entire life and yet never read. It made me feel left out in a nerdy sort of way. I’m not sure what made me grab it, but I did.

Wow. This is a great book. If I loved sci-fi now as much as I used to, this would have probably been the best book I read in 2018. The setting, plot, setups, and characters are all extremely good. I can see why this book was such a big deal and resonated with so many people. The biggest thing about this book is the science aspect. It’s almost as if it was written by a scientific genius (and hey, maybe Larry Niven is; I don’t know).  The author doesn’t just describe something to you like in most sci-fi or fantasy novels, but instead, he actually explains the real-life science behind it. He does it in a very convincing way, so much so that you’re actually convinced the crazy shit in the novel could actually exist.

The story is about a rag-tag team of two superhumans and two aliens who discover a giant ring the size of many planets circling a star. Again, Niven explains the science behind all of it, making it really interesting. I highly recommend this book if you like sci-fi. He has several other books in the series that I may get around to. Money – Master The Game by Tony Robbins This damn thing was sitting on my shelf for an eternity before I got around to reading it. It’s hard for me to review these kinds of books because I’ve been reading stuff like this for almost 30 years, so books like this are usually a lot of repeat material for me that I already know and am already practicing.

So here’s the bottom line on it: If you’re new to finance and investing, the book is very good and I recommend it. If you’re an old pro, the first two-thirds are going to be very boring and you’ll find yourself skipping over entire sections. Yet, the final third is very good and I took a lot of good notes, so I recommend that part at least. Off To Be The Wizard by Scott Meyer I always read a “candy” book every once in a while, a book of pure insane fun that isn’t serious at all. That’s this book. Holy shit. I’ll just describe the basic plot and you’ll see what I mean. It’s about a young computer nerd in Colorado who inadvertently discovers that all reality is just a computer construct. He finds the computer file that represents this reality and is able to manipulate it. He can edit the number that represents his height, and instantly he’s taller. He can edit his location coordinates and instantly teleport to anywhere he wants. And so on.
He’s young and stupid, so after adding thousands of dollars to his bank account, the FBI comes after him for bank fraud. To escape, he puts on a Harry Potter costume and teleports himself to England in middle ages where he uses his powers and pretends to be a wizard. Hilarity ensues, and that’s when the real story begins. If it sounds silly, it is, and the author is well aware it is, which makes it fun. Much of the book is very funny and I laughed out loud several times. Much like Ready Player One, Off To Be The Wizard is written specifically for guys like me, ex-Commodore 64 nerds who grew up in the eighties. So if you’re not in that demographic, some of the references may go over your head. It’s still entertaining though.

I really liked the first third of the story, where he discovers everything and figures everything out. It’s both very serious and funny at the same time. About a third of the way in, the silliness factor shoots way up. This is fine, and I still enjoyed the book, but I expected the story to go in a very different way. I would actually like to see a “realistic,” serious, adult take at exactly what would happen if a guy from our time went back to the middle ages. I have yet to see that story written (and no, Michael Crichton's Timeline doesn't count, sorry, that book sucked). There are about four more books in this series; not sure if I’ll read them. Maybe I’ll try one more down the road.

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