Welcome to 100 books in a year

Book Reviews to help you read more every year.


Latest Reviews

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

by Robert Cialdini (1984)

If anyone asks me for a book recommendation, there’s a good chance this will be on the top ten list regardless of the person. Cialdini covers the six ‘weapons of influence’ that he has found to affect human behavior subtly and powerfully. The Six Factors are Reciprocity, Commitment, Liking, Social Proof, Authority, and Scarcity. If you own a business, deal with people, are a consumer, are in a relationship . . . you will use this book. It can save you thousands by protecting yourself against shady influencers and help you make much more by using these principles ethically. Highly recommended to all. Buy Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion here.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion available on amazon

Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, & Big Pharma Flacks

by Ben Goldacre (2010)

I bought this book a couple of years ago but just got around to reading it. Glad that I finally picked it up. The author takes the media, big business, and stupid people in general to task. He goes after everyone from make-up companies to popular education methods to those who ignoring AIDS evidence with dire consequences.

For the most part its entertaining, and you will definitely learn a lot. I already knew that I didn’t like homeopathic medicine and that there are serious problems with the nutrition advice today, but this book will help show you why. Better yet, he also gives you the tools to evaluate things yourself.

A few things I learned:

  • I had never heard of Brain Gym, but it sounds ridiculous.
  • Learned a lot about the placebo effect (for instance, two placebo pills works better than one . . .)
  • Statistics are very misleading, which we all know. Goldacre shows you exactly how they are manipulated.
  • MMR vaccine hoax is dissected. I already knew it was false, he shows you how it happened and why.
  • The nonsense du jour chapter will point out four key errors that people make when evaluating health claims. Very helpful. He uses antioxidants as an example and makes a case for why they are not as good as everyone assumes they are.

This is an eye-opening read and well worth your time. One of my favorite books that has changed the way I think about advertising, food, and what is healthy is Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health. This is close behind it, and will introduce you to many different topics. Highly Recommended.

Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, & Big Pharma Flacks available on amazon

How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare

by Ken Ludwig (2013)

Great introduction for kids and adults. Some great material on what to memorize, but misses it when he shows how to memorize. If you are looking to get into Shakespeare or introduce your kids to it, get this book. I picked up my Complete Works and started in again after reading this.

If you want some good memorization books, check these out first. I’ve read them all and they are all very good:

How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare available on amazon

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

by Anthony Marra (2013)

Kept hearing this one picked for book of the year, had to read it.This book is a hard one to describe, and almost impossible to compare to the other fiction books I have really liked. It’s a great story, a mystery, a history, and, above all else, life-affirming.

As I read, I kept being reminded of the movie Amelie. The author of this book gives both animate and inanimate objects a kind of omniscient history and future, giving the smallest details significance and life. If you like the movie Amelie at all, you will really like this book.

Rather than give away any plot details, I’ll just say that this is one I can recommend to just about anyone. It drags slightly in the middle, but by the end its worth it. If you want to read a book that celebrates life, shows children as the future, and is a just a good read – get this. Highly recommended.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena available on amazon

Death in the City of Light

by David King (2012)

The author of this book has done a great job uncovering the details about the serial killer in Nazi controlled Paris. The story is grisly, informing, and fascinating. It covers different aspects of WWII in Paris in detail – often going outside the main story to give a sense of what else is going on. I learned a lot about Paris, WWII, the arts at the time of the occupation, the French legal system, and of course, the serial killer Marcel Petiot.

This is one of the best true crime books I have read. The author covers a relatively unknown killer and really goes into detail for his defense and court proceedings. At times Petiot comes across as a madman, other times a genius. The author is able to convey this complex, real life personality without shading the character too much in any one direction.

If you are interested in true crime at all, then pick up this book. Highly recommended.

Death in the City of Light available on amazon

The Trapper’s Bible: Traps, Snares, and Pathguards

by Dale Martin (1987)

THE book to get on snares. Was excited about reading this, but then realized I would have trouble testing it for two reasons. First, I don’t want to catch my neighbors cat. Second, I don’t know how to skin the cat once I do catch it . . .

The Trapper’s Bible: Traps, Snares, and Pathguards available on amazon

Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass

by Harold Gatty (1957)

Very interesting, especially this history of pathfinding. Would be hard to find much use for this for most, but its an excellent example of a best in genre book and its really good info.

Finding Your Way Without Map or Compass available on amazon

Celebration of Discipline

by Richard Foster (1978)

This is a modern Christian classic, read by millions since its first publication in 1978. Whether you agree or disagree with the book in general, there is no doubt that it has influenced generations of Christians. Some of my friends love this book and recommend it freely, others won’t even pick it up themselves because they believe it is heresy, or very close to it.

Foster is a Quaker, and writes from that perspective. He is also steeped in Christian Mysticism and frequently refers to the authors of these books throughout. All of these disciplines have been drawn out of their earlier works, and it would be fair to say that Celebration of Discipline is a modern interpretation and summary of the best of the early Christian mystics work. The result is a very readable book, just a couple hundred pages, full of information on the disciplines of the spiritual life.

I found the book helpful in many ways, but also question the methods Foster uses to arrive at many of his conclusions. He frequently uses proof texting and takes verses out of context to back up his points, and some of what he writes is clearly wrong. Some of the things he suggests are just silly, and the organization of the book could use some improvement.

That said, I would recommend this book to most believers, provided they read it with a discerning mind. I found the most value in Foster’s practical tips on each discipline, and many of them have been immensely helpful. I learned a lot from reading this book and am sure many Christians would benefit. If nothing else, you should read it because it is so popular and has influenced so many. You might be surprised at what you find.

One other note: I’ve found that reading writers that I often disagree with is more rewarding than reading writers that I’m already on the same page with. Reading someone that you disagree with a quarter of the time keeps you on your toes and will help you engage with the topic further.

Celebration of Discipline available on amazon

The Buy Side: A Wall Street Trader’s Tale of Spectacular Excess

by Turney Duff (2013)

A good memoir has to be an honest memoir. Turney Duff’s story is a fascinating tale of someone who was connected to a great job and slowly saw it slip away because of drugs, greed, alcohol, and selfishness. It’s a great story because Turney is not your typical addict – he’s likely more like you then you want to admit. It’s a good reminder of how close everyone is to the precipice, no matter where you come from or how much you have accomplished. If you are interested in Wall Street, stocks, addiction, or just love reading a good memoir . . . get this book. Highly recommended, an excellent read.

The Buy Side: A Wall Street Trader’s Tale of Spectacular Excess available on amazon

The First 20 Hours: How To Learn Anything . . . Fast

by Josh Kaufman (2013)

I have followed Josh Kaufman since reading The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business, one of the best books on business that I’ve ever read. I was really excited to pick this book up at first, but after glancing through the table of contents and flipping through the chapters, I was pretty sure it was not going to be my favorite book on learning. The problem, in my mind, was that the bulk of the book was simply anecdotal, and the meat of the book was thin – really only two chapters at the beginning. I also recently picked up two excellent books on learning, The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life and Mastery, and did not see how this could compare.

Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised after reading it. The 10 Principles of Rapid Skill Acquisition and the 10 Principles of Effective Learning may be short chapters and seem simple, but they contain valuable advice. They will help you sort through what you should be learning and how to pick it up quickly. I thought that this would be the most interesting part of the book, but it turns out the case studies included were much more rewarding. My two favorites:

Programming: This is easily the most technical chapter and the hardest to understand, but also the most inspiring. Seeing something as daunting as learning a computer language from scratch broken down so quickly was pretty amazing. I added learning Ruby to my list.

Ukelele: Learning to play a ukelele in 10 days . . . pretty amazing case study. This has gone onto my list as well, though I’m not sold on a ukelele over a guitar.

The case studies will help you craft and break down your own learning projects. They are great, and will be immensely helpful for me as I choose what and how to study. If you are really interested in learning skills quickly, I would advise picking up The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life and using the DiSSS CaFE learning method in conjunction with The First 20 Hours. Using the techniques and seeing the examples from both books will help you start learning on your own very quickly. Honestly, it would be hard to invest your $40 on two better books . . . if you want to learn, start here. Highly Recommended.

The First 20 Hours: How To Learn Anything . . . Fast available on amazon

Who We Are

Who we are and what we do.

Go into details about the site here.