Current Reads – July

I’m using a planner again!

The COVID hair continues.

Not only that but I’m actually forcing myself to get everything in it done every day before I go to sleep. That’s the part that’s actually difficult. I can write to-do lists all day; there’s no end of plans in the works. So, one of the things I put in my planner every day is to write for ten or fifteen minutes. Once I get that down I might increase it to something more substantial but it’s enough time to feel like I’ve done something. It may translate into more frequent posts.

When I wrote yesterday’s post, I was struck by the idea that if I can’t talk about what my opinions currently are (because I don’t know), I can write about what I’m doing to learn about the topics that interest me!

Thus, here is the first of what I hope to be a monthly series (just shot myself in the foot by writing that) on my current reads. I’ve been interested in politics and economics for the last month or so and my list will reflect that heavily. My apologies to those of you who loathe politics! I’m not completely insane though, so I do have some books I’m reading purely for enjoyment.

One final note: none of the links I provide here are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these books, I won’t see a cent and I’m okay with that.

The Populist’s Guide to 2020
Krystal Ball & Saagar Enjeti

The Populist's Guide to 2020.

I was introduced to these two through Joe Rogan’s Podcast, which I highly recommend to any and all people. He has a very wide range of guests covering every topic imaginable. There’s something there for everybody. Anyway… Ball and Enjeti are the hosts of a political show called Rising which seeks to be an actually honest place where you get both left-ish and right-ish perspectives on current events. It’s not unbiased- nothing is. It’s more digestible though because they’re not cramming hatred and fear down your throat for an hour.

The book reflects their personal views in that both the liberal and conservative movements in America have completely failed and need to be done away with. I’ve just begun reading it so I’m not going to try to give it more of a synopsis than that. People like Ball and Enjeti are part of the complex system of stimuli that snapped me out of my ultra-left, Trump needs to go to prison haze and let me accept that some1 conservatives are actually human beings that I can have conversations with that don’t end in bloodshed.

Buy the book here.

The Myth of Mental Illness
Thomas Szasz

I believe I’ve written about this book before but I just haven’t been reading that much over the last few months until now. It’s an old book (1974) so some of its ideas may have been updated or outright replaced by newer ideas (although depending on who you ask, some of the newer ideas in psychology are outright bullshit) but, in general, the idea behind it resonated with me.

Szasz basic premise is that psychiatry is far too quick to label every discovered divergence in human behavior to an illness, whether for financial resources that are available to new studies or to reinforce particular ideologies. Homosexuality used to be considered a mental illness and now homophobia is starting to be labeled as a mental illness. Are either of those beliefs true? It’s objectively impossible to know in today’s scientific climate.

I’ve always felt (important to note here that a feeling is different than a belief) that we were far too quick to assign labels to phenomena in an effort to make somebody a victim and thus in a certain class of people to whom no questions can be raised lest you be an oppressor. This book seems to support that feeling but I’ve of course read others such as The Blueprint which tend toward the opposite belief, that everything we do, say, and become is genetic and free will is a comfortable quilt sewn with lies (Sam Harris applauds wildly).

Buy the book here.

The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoevsky

After the harrowing journey I undertook while reading Crime & Punishment, one would be justified in asking why the hell I would ever read another Dostoevsky book.

I hear this one is better.

There’s more emotion driving it so far and far less chapters-long wrangling over socialism and capitalism.2 I have a long way to go in this book and to be perfectly honest I only bought it because it’s green and I needed it as a decoration that would fit the color scheme of one of my shelves. Take that, literature!

Buy it here. (not the exact copy I have but I can’t be arsed to search that hard)

And so…

I’ve purchased more books this month but as I’ve yet to actually begin reading them, I’d feel a little pretentious attempting to talk about them. If you have any recommendations, feel free to mention them in the comments below! I’ll read anything once, which I think I’ve made obvious.

1 Don’t get me wrong there are just as many batshit insane Republicans as there are batshit insane Democrats out there.
2 If you’re wondering, I’m an ardent capitalist but I see the value in socialism… I simply think that if you actually propose socialism as a valid framework for economic and social policy, you haven’t had nearly enough experience with other human beings.

The Books of September

Today, a blog I follow called LIFESFINEWHINE posted a list of recent reading and I thought that’s a wonderful idea to get me back into the swing of writing about things that aren’t me.

I read a lot compared to most of the people I meet; around 25 pages a day. 25 pages may not seem like much but between work (two jobs as of today!) and college, it is what it is. I prefer non-fiction but I try to read both fiction and non-fiction at the same time (one book each). I’ve heard from some people that they can’t read more than one book at a time because they start to get confused but I don’t even understand how that’s possible!

September was a light month for me because the last two weeks of it were depressed, but I still got a few good books digested…

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

I read this back in July and loved it so much I went back over my highlighted passages in September. Walden really changed my outlook about a lot of things to do with the outdoors. It got me to start gardening, hiking, and photographing nature a lot more. The book can be dry at times, especially when he’s going over how many beans he grew and how much he sold them for, but overall it is easy to get the sense of awe and excitement that Thoreau had for the natural world through his words.

Crime & Punishment by Fyoder Dostoevsky

The bulk of this was read in August but I finished it in September so I’m counting it! If you’ve been following me for a time, you’ll remember that I hated reading this book. Despite that, the story and characters have stuck with me very vividly. Perhaps the book being such a chore has etched it permanently in my memory. The writing is very dry and conversations turn into chapter-long diatribes which are difficult to follow, but overall the book is a manifesto against atheism and objectivism, albeit a weak one (straw men do not make great arguments but as this is a work of fiction I feel we can forgive Dostoevsky). The lead character, Raskolnikoff, is able to be an atheist on one level but can not reconcile his spiritual torment over what he has done. That’s the bulk of what the book is about. It’s an interesting read, at least, and I think that it is a fairly poignant representation of the illness we feel in our gut when we know we’ve done something abominable.

Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt

Although this book has some exercises for determining what activities are in your “desire zone”, I feel that it falls flat like most business/self-help books do. Chapters and chapters on why you should find your true calling and focus on it without any sort of real advice on how to do that. It’s designed to work alongside the Full Focus Planner which I use religiously, so I was able to glean some insights from it. Overall, though, it’s a lot of fluff and filler just to say “focus on the things you love and say no to the things you don’t love.” Pretty common advice in these sorts of books.

Wow, that’s really all I read in September?! Well, October is already shaping up to be better. I’m half-way through both 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson and Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. I’ll reserve my thoughts on those for the next reading post!