Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

Stillness Is The Key by Ryan Holiday – book review

Overview

I recently came across the book by Ryan Holiday called “Stillness Is The Key”. I listened to this book via Audible, which took about 7 hours and is narrated by the author who does a very good job. The hardcover version of the book is 288 pages long, and can be acquired at Amazon for less than $15. I became interested in Ryan Holiday by watching some of his videos on YouTube, he has a channel called The Daily Stoic, so I thought I would check out this book. Actually he is a very popular author, media consultant, and entrepreneur appearing on many other people’s YouTube channels. He has several books that he has written and I will be reviewing another of his books in the near future.

If you are new to reading my book reviews, you will notice that I don’t provide lengthy descriptions of the content of the book. One of the reasons I do this is as not to spoil it for you, and another reason is that I am more interested in writing about what I perceive is the value of the book for the reader. You might also notice that almost every book I review on this site is one that I would recommend and that is because the name of this site is Inspirationalbookreviews.com not Wasteoftimebookreviews.com.

What I liked about this book

Everything!

Seriously this is a well written book citing very interesting stories about people like Tiger Woods, John F. Kennedy, and Mr. Fred Rogers, Winston Churchill just to name a few. Each chapter delves into a method for obtaining what he calls stillness, or maybe a sense of calm where rationale thinking can thrive. It also has a number of chapters that provide ideas on how you can enrich your life, but always returns to the theme of how to obtain stillness or in some cases how it was lost. There are also a lot of great quotes by the stoics such as Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. This should be no surprise if you’ve watched any of his YouTube videos, as Ryan is a big fan of Stoicism. Here is a partial list of some of the chapters in the book:

  • Become Present
  • Limit Your Inputs
  • Slow Down, Think Deeply
  • Empty The Mind
  • Start Journaling
  • Choose Virtue
  • Enough

What I didn’t like about this book

Loved it all and I just wish it could have been 1,000 pages long.

Recommendation

Go out an buy it today! This is an excellent book that I intend to read or listen to again and again. In this busy world where we are all driving ourselves crazy, this book offers the antidote to chaos. This book isn’t some self help bullshit that is intended to fire you up and motivate you to do more with your life. In fact it is quite the opposite, offering insights on how to calm yourself, focus, play, and begin enjoying your life.

About the Author

Ryan Holiday (born June 16, 1987) is an American author, marketer, entrepreneur and founder of the creative advisory firm Brass Check. He is a media strategist, the former director of marketing for American Apparel and a media columnist and editor-at-large for the New York Observer.

Early career
Holiday began his professional career after dropping out of college at the age of 19. He briefly attended University of California, Riverside, where he studied political science and creative writing. He worked for Tucker Max, the controversial fratire author, to orchestrate a number of controversial media stunts including a boycott of Max’s work as part of a movie launch. Later, Holiday worked with Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, on Greene’s 2009 New York Times bestselling book, The 50th Law. Holiday served as Director of Marketing for American Apparel and as an adviser to founder Dov Charney. He left the company in October 2014. He has been responsible for a number of media stunts, and written extensively on the topic of media manipulation.

Writing
Holiday is the author of several books and has written for Forbes, Fast Company, The Huffington Post, The Columbia Journalism Review, The Guardian, Thought Catalog, Medium.com and the New York Observer, where he is the media columnist.

In July 2012, his first book Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator was released by Portfolio/Penguin. The book tries to expose flaws in current online journalism system and catalogs the author’s exploitation of them. It debuted on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. His second book Growth Hacker Marketing was originally published in September 2013 by Portfolio/Penguin and then expanded into a print edition in 2014. The book shows how traditional marketing efforts (billboards, press releases) are no longer the most effective, and why growth hacking is cheaper and more effective in today’s market. The book was named one of Inc. Magazine’s top 10 marketing books of 2014.

In February 2014, Holiday was named editor-at-large of the Business & Technology section at the New York Observer.

Holiday’s third book The Obstacle Is The Way, was published May 1, 2014, also by Portfolio/Penguin. The book is based on the Stoic exercise of framing obstacles as opportunities. The book has sold more than 230,000 copies and was read by the New England Patriots during their 2014 Super Bowl-winning season, as well as distributed through the locker room of the Seattle Seahawks in the following offseason. The Obstacle Is the Way reached #1 on the Wall Street Journal Bestseller List in 2019, five years after its initial release. Two-time NBA Champion Chris Bosh listed The Obstacle Is the Way as his favorite book and added that, when his head coach Erik Spoelstra gifted Miami Heat players copies of the book, Bosh had already read it twice. During a press conference at the Masters in 2019, four-time major champion golfer Rory McIlroy said he read The Obstacle Is the Way as well as Holiday’s following book, Ego Is the Enemy, leading up to the tournament.

In 2016, he published two books. The first, Ego Is the Enemy, uses various historical figures as case studies to illustrate the perils of egotism. The second, The Daily Stoic, is a daily devotional of Stoic meditations. Both books went on to become best sellers with Daily Stoic reaching #3 overall on the bestseller list.

In 2018 he published Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue. It is about the lawsuit between Gawker Media and wrestler Hulk Hogan, as well as Peter Thiel’s involvement in the dispute. It was favorably reviewed by William D. Cohan of the New York Times, who called the book, “one helluva page-turner.”

His latest book, Stillness Is the Key, was published in October 2019.

Stoicism
Holiday, through his books, articles and lectures, has been credited by the New York Times with the increasing popularity of stoicism. He was also described as “leading the charge for stoicism,” which has been noted for gaining traction among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

 

 

Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

Atomic Habits by James Clear – book review

Atomic Habits is a book written by James Clear and as you might guess it is about ways to create habits. I happened to opt for the Audible version of this book, which by the way is narrated by the author. It’s not a terribly long read or even listening to it on Audible is less than 6 hours. The paperback version is 205 pages long and is $6 more expensive than the hardcover version on Amazon, which just doesn’t seem right.

What I liked about this book:

The premise behind the book is that the small (atomic) habits you adopt in your life have a major impact on your happiness and success in life. The author explores the psychology that underlies the adoption of a new habit and provides a number of proven approaches to adopting them. The author claims that it is not how long you have been working on a new habit, but instead the number of repetitions. An example would be say I want to take up playing guitar and once a week I practice playing guitar, so over the course of a month I would have put in 4 repetitions. Contrast this to practicing every day and over the course of two weeks I have practiced 14 times. Another interesting tip was to start very small or as the author says make it easy. With this method you would perform a new habit as little as 2 minutes. Now anyone can do a new habit for 2 minutes, but the psychology here is that it makes it easier to stick with it starting out with these small intervals. Anyone can run, practice guitar, workout with weights, keep a journal, or meditate for 2 minutes. What happens over time is you begin to extend that time period as you have already established a habit. Let’s say I go to the gym and start out doing 2 minutes of exercise, pretty soon you say well I took the time to get dressed and drive to the gym, maybe I can do more. The idea here is that I didn’t try to take a monumental leap from not working out to working out for an hour, and I will be less likely to quit before my workouts become a full fledged habit. There are many more techniques explored in this book that I won’t go into that will help you establish and stick with any new habits that you would like to adopt in your life.

What I didn’t like about this book:

While I was very interested in how to build new habits, I was also interested on how to get rid of some of my bad habits. While the author has a chapter on eliminating bad habits, much of that chapter is focused on creating good habits, so I didn’t get a lot of insights on how I might eliminate a bad habit. About all that was said is understand the negative ramifications of a bad habit and focus on the benefits of getting rid of it. Been there, done that!

Recommendation:

Overall I would give this book a thumbs up! There are so many good techniques for building a habit in this book that you are bound take something away from it that you can use yourself to create new habits. The author also goes into great detail on not only how to create a habit, but how to make it stick. One of the assertions the author makes is that it is much more important to learn to love the process or system that you are pursuing than just setting goals. While goals are great, they are not doing. It is more important to take action and fall in love with the idea of gaining some form of mastery than whatever the goal might be. The book did inspire me to pursue some new habits for myself which include:

About the Author James Clear:

Hi there, I’m James Clear. I’m an American author, entrepreneur, and photographer. I’m also the guy behind JamesClear.com (naturally).

This website is the home of my life’s work. I write about habits and human potential. The central question I’m trying to answer through my work is, “How can we live better?”

In order to answer that question, I uncover the latest scientific research and explain it in a way that you can easily understand and actually use. As I share these science-based ideas for living a better life, I like to showcase the habits and rituals of athletes, artists, and entrepreneurs. By analyzing the stories of top performers from many different fields and understanding proven scientific principles, we can start to tease out the common characteristics that make these people the best at what they do.

My specific focus is on self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

I believe the best way to change the world is in concentric circles: start with yourself and work your way out from there. If you get yourself sorted out, then that is one less person for the world to worry about. You’ll be in a position to contribute rather than consume. You will add order rather than disorder.

I write about the art and science of how to live better. Science because I am concerned with the root causes of our behavior and the data behind high performance. Art because I want to figure out how to apply these ideas and put them into daily practice.

But I don’t merely write about things. Along the way, I like to try out the concepts for myself as I experiment with building better habits as an entrepreneur, writer, and weightlifter. In the end, my work ends up being one-part storytelling, one-part academic research, one-part personal experiment. It’s a colorful blend of inspirational stories, academic science, hard-earned wisdom.

Source: https://jamesclear.com/about

 

Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

Stop Doing That Sh*t by Gary Bishop – Book Review

I believe this is the latest book by Gary John Bishop and it’s called “Stop Doing That Sh*t“. If you read my book review of UnFu*k Yourself you know how much I enjoy Gary’s writing. UnFu*k Yourself was focused on our internal self talk and the author provided 8 rules or tenants for living a better life; helping you to begin steering your ship in the right direction. This book Stop Doing That Sh*t takes us in a different direction. Mind you it doesn’t invalidate what Gary Bishop wrote about in UnFu*k Yourself, but after listening to it a couple times it really complements it.

As I mentioned I’ve listened to this book a couple times now and found it fascinating and of course very entertaining. Gary John Bishop has a great Scottish accent and a no holds barred style of writing that gives it to you in a raw language that is easy to interpret. Basically I think his style and because he narrates the book himself make it a great candidate for an audio book. So what is this book about? Gary makes a case that the past is driving all your current and future behavior. I know at first I balked at this as I pride myself as someone who cares little about the past and rarely thinks about it. You might think the past has no hold over you, but think about what your believe and the way you act and you begin to understand that the past is running your subconscious mind. It dictates what you value, your relationships, what you think about money, and causes you to repeat behavior patterns, mostly the shitty ones.

For myself I started to realize while I don’t consciously think about the past it has molded me for both good and bad. He goes on to elaborate on the three saboteurs:

  1. You
  2. Them
  3. Life

So what you think about yourself and your limitations, how you view other people, and your outlook on life. The remainder of the book provides some insights on how you can address these three saboteurs and make some constructive change in  your life. I won’t spool it for you, but the last couple chapters give you some insights into how you can start to turn things around.

I highly recommend this book, and I recommend reading or listening to it at least a couple times, because it takes a while to really understand and come to some acceptance of the premise. You might just begin to understand how much you are sabotaging your own life and more importantly why.

Namaste

 

 

Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut – book review

If you read my posts on this blog you might be wondering does he read anything but Vonnegut (see excerpt about the author below)? Most of my earlier posts had to do with non fiction and leaned towards a lot of self improvement stuff. More recently I have enjoyed escaping into Kurt Vonnegut’s work, which in a way is both a joy but is not lacking in some pretty interesting lessons about humanity.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut is both an interesting read or listen depending on your choice of formats. I listened to this book on Audible.com. This book centers around maybe a half a dozen characters with Malachi Constant also called Unch at times. Much of the novel is centered around an invasion of Earth from Mars orchestrated by the character Winston Niles Rumfoord. As with many of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels he takes you on a bizarre journey that in the beginning is a bit difficult to understand, but as you read on he really develops some interesting themes and the character development is excellent. There is both a bit of humor at times and often times a feeling of sadness as some pretty horrific things happen to Malachi Constant and his family.

The audible version of this book is narrated by Jay Snyder and is 9 hours and 20 minutes in length. The paperback version is 336 pages long and available for $12 – $14.

Recommendation

If you choose the Audible version, you will really enjoy the narration by Jay Snyder, he does an excellent job, which is not easy when you read a Vonnegut novel. I have to be honest I was a little lost at times during the reading of this novel, but at the same time I was very interested in the characters and ultimately what would happen to them. Kurt Vonnegut has a real talent for character development delving deep into human behavior and psychology. Of course I liked it spending the better part of the weekend listening to it. This novel is both a great escape from reality and at times takes you on an emotional roller coaster.

Excerpt about Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. In a career spanning over 50 years, Vonnegut published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of non-fiction, with further collections being published after his death. He is most famous for his darkly satirical, best-selling novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).

Born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Vonnegut attended Cornell University but dropped out in January 1943 and enlisted in the United States Army. As part of his training, he studied mechanical engineering at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and the University of Tennessee. He was then deployed to Europe to fight in World War II and was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. He was interned in Dresden and survived the Allied bombing of the city by taking refuge in a meat locker of the slaughterhouse where he was imprisoned. After the war, Vonnegut married Jane Marie Cox, with whom he had three children. He later adopted his sister’s three sons, after she died of cancer and her husband was killed in a train accident.

Vonnegut published his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952. The novel was reviewed positively but was not commercially successful. In the nearly 20 years that followed, Vonnegut published several novels that were only marginally successful, such as Cat’s Cradle (1963) and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1964). Vonnegut’s breakthrough was his commercially and critically successful sixth novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. The book’s anti-war sentiment resonated with its readers amidst the ongoing Vietnam War and its reviews were generally positive. After its release, Slaughterhouse-Five went to the top of The New York Times Best Seller list, thrusting Vonnegut into fame. He was invited to give speeches, lectures and commencement addresses around the country and received many awards and honors.

Later in his career, Vonnegut published several autobiographical essays and short-story collections, including Fates Worse Than Death (1991), and A Man Without a Country (2005). After his death, he was hailed as a morbidly comical commentator on the society in which he lived and as one of the most important contemporary writers. Vonnegut’s son Mark published a compilation of his father’s unpublished compositions, titled Armageddon in Retrospect. In 2017, Seven Stories Press published Complete Stories, a collection of Vonnegut’s short fiction including 5 previously unpublished stories. Complete Stories was collected and introduced by Vonnegut friends and scholars Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield. Numerous scholarly works have examined Vonnegut’s writing and humor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Vonnegut

 

Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. – book review

Review

After reading this book it took me several days before writing this review, primarily because I struggled with what I would write about. The whole experience of reading this book was so weird and the plot so bizarre I wasn’t sure how I might explain it.

Cat’s Cradle was written in 1963 by Kurt Vonnegut (see Wikipedia excerpt below) and this was his 4th novel. I listened to this book on Audible.com and it was narrated by Tony Roberts. The book is made up of many small chapters often only a paragraph in length, which is a bit weird but from Kurt Vonnegut it is not totally unexpected. I won’t give away the whole plot but it is essentially about a writer who is interviewing friends and children of one of the people involved in the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II.

There are a number of very bizarre characters in this book and much of it takes place on the island of San Larenzo where the inhabitants follow a religion called Bokononism created by its founder Bokonon. As I listened to this book I was starting to think this is really bizarre and makes no sense, but about half way through the book it started to grow on me and I started really enjoying it.

I think you can best describe this book if you look at the synonyms for bizarre:

strange, peculiar, odd, funny, curious, offbeat, outlandish, eccentric, unconventional, unorthodox, queer, unexpected, unfamiliar, abnormal, atypical, unusual, out of the ordinary, out of the way, extraordinary

Recommendation:

The audio version at Audible was a little over 7 hours in length and the paperback version at Amazon is 286 pages. If you are an Audible fan you will like the Tony Roberts narration, he does an excellent job even with the voices of women. I recommend this book if you have already read a couple of Kurt Vonnegut’s books as it makes it a bit easier to understand where he is going, the characters are great,  and it has an interesting ending. I would not recommend it as your first foray into a Vonnegut novel. My reasoning is that it is a bit disjointed given the way it was written as very small chapters, with some seemingly unrelated. Like I mentioned earlier it all starts to make some sense about half way through the book, but still it is a crazy journey from start to end.

 

Excerpt from Wikipedia about the Author

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. In a career spanning over 50 years, Vonnegut published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of non-fiction, with further collections being published after his death. He is most famous for his darkly satirical, best-selling novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).

Born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Vonnegut attended Cornell University but dropped out in January 1943 and enlisted in the United States Army. As part of his training, he studied mechanical engineering at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and the University of Tennessee. He was then deployed to Europe to fight in World War II and was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. He was interned in Dresden and survived the Allied bombing of the city by taking refuge in a meat locker of the slaughterhouse where he was imprisoned. After the war, Vonnegut married Jane Marie Cox, with whom he had three children. He later adopted his sister’s three sons, after she died of cancer and her husband was killed in a train accident.

Vonnegut published his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952. The novel was reviewed positively but was not commercially successful. In the nearly 20 years that followed, Vonnegut published several novels that were only marginally successful, such as Cat’s Cradle (1963) and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1964). Vonnegut’s breakthrough was his commercially and critically successful sixth novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. The book’s anti-war sentiment resonated with its readers amidst the ongoing Vietnam War and its reviews were generally positive. After its release, Slaughterhouse-Five went to the top of The New York Times Best Seller list, thrusting Vonnegut into fame. He was invited to give speeches, lectures and commencement addresses around the country and received many awards and honors.

Later in his career, Vonnegut published several autobiographical essays and short-story collections, including Fates Worse Than Death (1991), and A Man Without a Country (2005). After his death, he was hailed as a morbidly comical commentator on the society in which he lived and as one of the most important contemporary writers. Vonnegut’s son Mark published a compilation of his father’s unpublished compositions, titled Armageddon in Retrospect. In 2017, Seven Stories Press published Complete Stories, a collection of Vonnegut’s short fiction including 5 previously unpublished stories. Complete Stories was collected and introduced by Vonnegut friends and scholars Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield. Numerous scholarly works have examined Vonnegut’s writing and humor.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Vonnegut

 

Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

Player Piano Kurt Vonnegut – book review

As you may be able to tell by now, I am quite a Kurt Vonnegut fan. I believe this is my third book review from Kurt Vonnegut. This was Kurt’s first novel published in 1952 and didn’t get much notice, which is a bit odd considering it is an excellent read or in my case listen on Audible. The narration is performed by Christian Rummel and it is incredible considering all the different characters that are included in this book. If you have read my book reviews before you know that I try not to spoil it for you focusing more on the themes and my own opinion of the work. If you want to know more about Kurt Vonnegut see the excerpt from Wikipedia below.

I swear Kurt Vonnegut could see into the future as the themes from this book have many parallels to what is happening today in terms of technology replacing many jobs that were formerly done by humans. The primary character is Dr. Paul Proteus the head of Engineering at the Ilium, New York plant. The premise of this novel shows the divide between the rich and the poor as machines take over the work formerly done by those they have displaced. There is also a lot of emphasis on blind corporate loyalty and competition for jobs by the elite who are paid 10 to 100’s times the salary of the common man, who by the way lives across the river over the bridge. I won’t go into how it all unfolds, but it all becomes very interesting. Some themes for me included:

  • Man vs. Machine
  • Rich vs. Poor
  • Educated vs. not Educated
  • Collective vs. Individualism
  • Blind Faith in Technology vs. Individual Expression
  • Planned Society vs. Capitalism / Free Enterprise
  • Relative comfort vs. Struggle

Recommendation

I flat out loved this book, the parallels with today are uncanny and the characters are incredibly complex in some ways and at the same time simply symbols of the themes mentioned above. You become emotionally attached to some of the characters such as Dr. Paul Proteus and appalled by others such as his wife Anita. While the battles expressed by the themes provide the opportunity for the author to provide a decisive conclusion to the questions posed in this book, the ending leaves the door open to debate, much like is the case today. If you like Kurt Vonnegut’s writing you will love this book, and if you haven’t had the chance to read or listen to his work, this is a great opportunity to begin where it all started.

A picture of a middle age Kurt Vonnegut

Wikipedia Excerpt

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. In a career spanning over 50 years, Vonnegut published 14 novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of non-fiction, with further collections being published after his death. He is most famous for his darkly satirical, best-selling novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).

Born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Vonnegut attended Cornell University but dropped out in January 1943 and enlisted in the United States Army. As part of his training, he studied mechanical engineering at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and the University of Tennessee. He was then deployed to Europe to fight in World War II and was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. He was interned in Dresden and survived the Allied bombing of the city by taking refuge in a meat locker of the slaughterhouse where he was imprisoned. After the war, Vonnegut married Jane Marie Cox, with whom he had three children. He later adopted his sister’s three sons, after she died of cancer and her husband was killed in a train accident.

Vonnegut published his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952. The novel was reviewed positively but was not commercially successful. In the nearly 20 years that followed, Vonnegut published several novels that were only marginally successful, such as Cat’s Cradle (1963) and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1964). Vonnegut’s breakthrough was his commercially and critically successful sixth novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. The book’s anti-war sentiment resonated with its readers amidst the ongoing Vietnam War and its reviews were generally positive. After its release, Slaughterhouse-Five went to the top of The New York Times Best Seller list, thrusting Vonnegut into fame. He was invited to give speeches, lectures and commencement addresses around the country and received many awards and honors.

Later in his career, Vonnegut published several autobiographical essays and short-story collections, including Fates Worse Than Death(1991), and A Man Without a Country (2005). After his death, he was hailed as a morbidly comical commentator on the society in which he lived and as one of the most important contemporary writers. Vonnegut’s son Mark published a compilation of his father’s unpublished compositions, titled Armageddon in Retrospect. In 2017, Seven Stories Press published Complete Stories, a collection of Vonnegut’s short fiction including 5 previously unpublished stories. Complete Stories was collected and introduced by Vonnegut friends and scholars Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield. Numerous scholarly works have examined Vonnegut’s writing and humor.