Books I Read in 2021
Dec 13, 2021
I hope to make this type of article a yearly feature. This lists most of the books that I read in the past year. I left out highly
technical books and books that I started but abandoned. I've added brief comments after some books. Favorites are bolded. Books are
grouped into broad categories. Some could fit in multiple categories, in which case I put them wherever I thought they fit best.
- Man and Technics: A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life.
- In the Presence of Schopenhaur. Though it's best to read great thinkers themselves (and they are usually more
accessible than you've been led to believe) sometimes you need a push from someone who admires them to spark your interest. Houellebecq is one of
the few interesting non-genre novelists writing today and his appreciation of Schopenhauer led me to explore his work.
- H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life. Unlike Houellebecq's Schopenhaur book, this book did not make me want
to read the works of its subject, but as a fan of Houellebecq it did provide an interesting glimpse into Houellebecq's development both as a
person and as a writer.
- Meditations on Hunting.
- Sexual Utopia in Power: The Feminist Revolt Against Civilization.
- Ecce Homo.
- Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern.
- The Soul of the Marionette.
- The Forest Passage.
Literature and Fiction
- Hadji Murad. This was the best piece by Tolstoy I've read, but I still do not get much out of the Russian writers.
- Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
- Project Hail Mary. Better than the Martian (which I also enjoyed).
- The Lusiads. This is the best epic poem I have read.
- Mr. Either/Or. Very fun. A long, rhyming poem. The story is a thriller set in contemporary NYC. More writers/poets
should explore this format.
- Dune. My girlfriend and I listened to the audiobook of this and loved it.
- Heraclitus: The Complete Fragments.
- The Elementary Particles.
- The Mandibles.
- A Sailor of Austria. A review I read described this book as “a techno-thriller about the crew of an
Austrian submarine in WWI”, or something to that effect. If that at all intrigues you, you will love this book.
- The Quantum Supremacy. An entertaining thriller. Wildly overoptimistic assessment of quantum computing.
- The Anthologist.
- War Music: An Account of Homer's Illiad.
- Storm of
Steel. The author of this book loved fighting in World War I. If your education led you
to believe war is hell and a relic of the past, this book is worth grappling with.
- The Wars for Asia, 1911-1949.
- The Centurions.
- The Freedom Fighter: A memoir of a member of the Donbass Militia in the War in Ukraine. Like Storm of Steel, this is a
good book for gaining an underrepresented perspective on war. In this case, that of a Russian nationalist who volunteered to fight in Ukraine.
- What To Do When The Russians Come: A Survivor's Guide.
Biography and Memoir
- Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader. Probably the only biography of Steve
Jobs I'll ever read and one of the best modern business biographies.
- The Man Who Solved the Market. RenTech is arguably the best hedge fund of all time and this book is the best public attempt at explaining how it became that way.
- The Republic of Tea: The Story of the Creation of a Business, as Told Through the Personal Letters of Its Founders.
- Wild Company: The Untold Story of Banana Republic.
- Memoirs of a Dervish:
Sufis, Mystics and the Sixties.
- Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely
- Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons.
- The Seychelles Affair.
- The Pentagon Wars: Reformers Challenge the Old Guard.
- Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across
- Deferred Admission: Stories from a Kid Who Skipped College to Move to China and Work for a Bitcoin Billionaire.
- The Illustrated Christmas Cracker.
- The Eudamonic Pie. You've probably heard about the MIT Blackjack Team. This is about a group of physicists and other
odd characters on the West Coast who attempted to beat the casinos at roulette by developing a computer that would predict where the ball would
- Trespassers on the Roof of the World. Tells the stories of the earliest Europeans to visit Tibet.
- Foreign Devils on the Silk Road. Everything Hopkirk writes is fun and interesting. It's unfortunate that
there is no room in the modern world for the men (and occasionally women) he writes about.
Popular Science and Similar Type Books
I generally avoid books of this sort since the signal to noise ratio is terrible and most of these books have enough content for a
long magazine article at best, but sometimes they are the most convenient source of information.
- Lying for Money: How Legendary Frauds Reveal the Workings of Our World
- Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming.
- Hard Green: Saving the Environment From the Environmentalists.
- Sacred Cow: The Case for (Better) Meat.
- Estrogeneration: How Estrogenics are Making You Fat, Sick, and Infertile.
- The Death of the Artist.
- Medieval Technology and Social Change. Paul Graham recommended this book. It is interesting.
- The Lessons of History.
- The Death of the Banker. Finance is more important than ever before with venture capital, private equity, and enormous
corporations affecting the lives of basically everyone, but the banker as an individual has never been less important. This book explains why.
- The Economic Laws of Scientific Research.
- Absentee Ownership. If you've heard of Veblen it's probably because of the phrase “conspicous consumption”. But he wrote
several other books besides the one that coined that phrase. This one describes the transformation of the American economy from one in which business owners worked in their businesses to modern financial capitalism in which owners are largely absentee owners. It also has an interesting aside on why a “deep state” (though he doesn't call it that) will always arise as a country develops.
- The Shape Of European History. Good overview of European history. Probably a good first book to orient you to some
broader themes before diving more deeply into specific time periods, events, and countries.
- Rifle Accuracy Facts. I'm very interested in precision machining, so I found this book on what is required
to make an extremely accurate rifle fascinating. Shows that there is a lot of myth and false information surrounding what matters for
- Ammunition Making: An Insider's Story.
- Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents.
- Science and Civilisation in China: General Conclusions and Reflections. I skimmed some other parts of this series (I
think it is possible that no one has read it in its entirety). The conclusion is as good a place to start as any and may help you decide
if you're interested in reading other parts of it.
- Ibn Khaldun: An Intellectual Biography.
- The Secret Horsepower Race. Skimmed this one and only read the parts that interested me. Has a lot of detail about
the development of piston aircraft engines.
- Dying of Money: Lessons of the Great German and American Inflations. Michael Burry recommended this book. I read this
early in the year when I began to expect high inflation was imminent.
- Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970-2000.
- Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present.
- War in European History.