Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

Stillness Is The Key by Ryan Holiday – book review

Stillness Is the Key

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.

 

If you would like to support this blog, you can purchase the eBook (eBooks.com) version of this book at:

Stillness Is the Key

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

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand – book review

The Fountainhead

Overview:

The Fountainhead was written in 1943 by Ayn Rand who has to be one of my top 5 authors. I have read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged another Ayn Rand novel several times. More recently I have both books available on Audible. There are several key characters in this novel, but the most notable is Howard Roark who is an architect. Howard is the focal point of the book for his individualist character and the love he possesses for his work. As with Atlas Shrugged this novel pits the individualist (capitalist) against those that feel there is little meaning to life and everything should be shared (socialist). Like all of Ayn Rand’s novels there is this good vs. evil plot being played out, or you might look at it as conventional vs. innovative when referring to the central theme of architecture. I won’t give away the details of the plot or how it ends, but I can guarantee you will enjoy reading or listening to this book.

If you have Audible beware that this is a very long book and is over 32 hours. The narration is incredible as the narrator changes their voice for various characters, making it much easier to listen to. Ayn Rand does an incredible job of creating compelling characters with all their virtues and flaws. As I mentioned the key character Howard Roark is what the author would call the ideal man. A man of virtue, dedicated to his work, and idealistic.

Recommendation:

As you can probably tell I loved it. There is nothing in this book not to like and while it is a substantial investment in terms of the time to read it (752 pages), you will not be disappointed. Due to the quality of the narration and the fact that it is a novel, where much of it consists of dialog it really lends itself to the audio book format. If you choose to listen to it on Audible the version I listened to had Christopher Hurt as the narrator. While the underlying theme in this novel is philosophical, it is also entertaining and most of the characters are somewhat complex, making it fun to read.

If you would like to support this blog, you can purchase this book at:

eBooks.com

The Fountainhead

Audiobooks.com

Fountainhead

A little bit about the Author

(source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand)

Ayn Rand born Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum; February 2, 1905 – March 6, 1982) was a Russian-American writer and philosopher. She is known for her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and for developing a philosophical system she named Objectivism. Educated in Russia, she moved to the United States in 1926. She had a play produced on Broadway in 1935 and 1936. After two early novels that were initially unsuccessful, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead. In 1957, Rand published her best-known work, the novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward, she turned to non-fiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own periodicals and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982.

Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected faith and religion. She supported rational and ethical egoism and rejected altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed collectivism and statism as well as anarchism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she defined as the system based on recognizing individual rights, including property rights. In art, Rand promoted romantic realism. She was sharply critical of most philosophers and philosophical traditions known to her, except for Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and classical liberals.

Literary critics received Rand’s fiction with mixed reviews and academia generally ignored or rejected her philosophy, though academic interest has increased in recent decades. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings. She has been a significant influence among libertarians and American conservatives.

 

Audio Books · Book & Product Reviews

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

Cat's Cradle

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.

 

If you would like to support this blog, you can purchase this book at:

eBooks.com

Cat’s Cradle

Audiobooks.com

Cat’s Cradle

 

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

 

If you would like to support this blog, please visit our Resources page where you can find lots of great products and services.

 

 

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.