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Chaos in the guise of January book reviews

I wanted to take a moment and write up reviews/takeaways for books I’ve read/read part of in December and January.

Take note, three weeks, I was on vacation, so I read more than usual. Also take note, I only finished 4 of these books in full. I plan to finish Crime and Punishment and Awaken the Giant Within though. And hopefully Peak.


Most potential to change life: Awaken the Giant Within Best fiction: Crime and Punishment not as intimidating to read as you think! Most fun, for me: The Boron Letters

Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise

Currently reading this.

I’ve already the book summary, but I decided this book is important enough for me to actually read. So far, I haven’t been mesmerized. But I’m more convinced of the nuances of successful practice, so I’m happy. And great writing, too.

The Book Thief

I dropped this book halfway, but what I did read, was good. I certainly can’t do better :)

I loved the narrator. The narrator is this empathetic Grim Reaper type, who pays special attention to the humans in this story, which is kinda endearing. It’s super creative and it totally adds to the story.

In general, the characters and their interactions were adorable. I love Liesel and Rudy and Hans, and especially Hans.

It reminds me of a Man Called Ove. Both books have characters that are adorable, if overly simple. Both books also have some serious sadness, now that I think about it.

Crime and Punishment

Holy moly, this book is BRILLIANT.

I didn’t expect to find a work of classic literature so gripping. This book is a psychological thriller, before psychological thrillers. This psychological thriller is a BOOK, not a MOVIE, and so you can get into the head of the murderer, and it is beautiful. My heart was racing during parts of the book, and other parts were also just super interesting.

What surprised me:

The book is really easy to read. The sentences are long, but all the vocab is accessible. In contrast, I found Treasure Island, which was billed online as a good beginner classic, way harder. That said, the book is super long, which is daunting.

Man, the dude that wrote this is a genius though. He basically explores human psychology through literature, and ppl agree he did a great job.

Treasure Island

I stuck to this for a few days, it’s supposed to a good beginner classic read. But, I got bored fast. Idk. YMMV.

Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins

Holy. I read this because super high rating by [Nat Eliason]. I was like, what is he talking about? But lemme explain, I get it now.

Most self help books give you advice on how to live your life.

Books of this form: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The Courage to Be Disliked, The Magic of Thinking Big, etc. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck too, though in a more artsy way.

Awaken the Giant Within doesn’t tell you what to do at all. It gives you principles for behavior change, backed by psychology, and then you can do whatever you want with them. Kinda like Atomic Habits, but instead of habits, it’s belief change, from what I read so far.

Here are takeaways of mine from what I’ve read so far:

People have beliefs. Tony Robbins describes beliefs as beliefs that certain things lead to pleasure/pain and everyone does things to go after pleasure and avoid pain.

Personally, realized I get great pain from not being productive every day, and great pleasure from hanging out with friends (due to great memories in college).

Anyway, beliefs are like tables. The more legs/the thicker the legs, the stronger the belief is. If you have a rly emotional experience, it strengthens your beliefs. If you have more experiences to back the belief, it also strengthens your belief. Weaker beliefs we can call opinions. You’re willing to change your mind on them, etc. Super strong beliefs we can call convictions. They’re so strong you’re willing to build your life around them.

You can transform your life by strengthening and weakening beliefs. Brainwashing, basically. And man, I think this can really change your life.

To me this felt like a puzzle piece clicked into place. I feel a lot of the behavior change help I’ve consumed has been around habits (e.g. Atomic Habits). But now I realize there’s something more to behavior change, and that is controlling your mind to create change. It’s mega powerful.

I already used this stuff to become vegetarian. I have two other key beliefs I want to upgrade into convictions. Both game changers if they become convictions. And this book, it didn’t change my life. This book gave me the ability to change my life myself, not just once, but over and over, if I have discipline.

Only partway through the book actually. But you bet I’m going to finish it. This is why I ditch all the other books to read this top notch stuff.

The Effective Executive

I read like 10 pages, and it has some rly cool stuff. But I realize, it’s not for me rn. I’d rather read it if I ever become an executive, or at least a manager. It didn’t seem immediately applicable. I’ll check out the summary before giving it another shot.

The Boron Letters

There were some cool takeaways on writing:

  • Use transitions like now, well, so to guide your reader along. Started using more of that. Originally thought it was clutter, but no, it makes things flow.
  • To be more personal, start copy by telling reader what you’re doing rn.
  • This writing exercise.

I’ll remember these.

There were other marketing and entrepreneurship tips, and some life advice, all of which I’d seen in some form in other places, so not worth repeating.

Honestly though, I really enjoyed the book. It was an easy read, there was a nice mix of life stuff, and writing stuff, and entrepreneurship stuff. All my favorite things! Tt was just so readable, just flowed rly well, and was a quick read too. I want my writing to read like that too. Great entertainment and very fun. I think Gary Halbert and I would get along.


Finished it! Wow, this book has some instances of rly beautiful language. And parts were super gripping, and I cared for Circe a lot. Tbh didn’t like the ending tho, seemed anticlimactic.

I was comparing it to Pachinko in my mind, since it was also “bestseller of the year” in its time. Circe isn’t in the same league, but still a great read, I understand why it’s a bestseller.


Lots of people on the Internet found this book to be fluff, but I found it super valuable. I suck at prioritizing and sticking to essentials. I found myself reading a few pages, then thinking a lot about my life and how I could priorize better, say no better, etc. That thinking was super valuable, even if the book’s advice wasn’t rly out of the box, it helped me want to be more of an Essentialist.

Nietszche: A Very Short Introduction

I want to get into Nietszche cuz he opposes Buddhism/Stoicism, thinks they’re overly life-denying (as a drunk philosophy student was telling me last year), which is super intriguing and potentially life changing, but this text was not right for me. It was kinda dry and I was kinda annoyed by the author’s writing style, it was very academic, and unclear. So I dropped it. Will try a different Nietszche book later.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

Read cuz Nat Eliason and someone else gave a raving review. I think this book did not deliver as I had hoped. It’s a novel, that stepped through this guy’s life in Asia, as he goes up and down the food chain, so to speak.

As it was, it felt like vignettes at various stages of life, on various social classes in Asia, without time to get deep on anything. My favorite part was the end, where the protagonist gets old and some sentimental vibes unfold. The other stuff, meh.

How to Fight a Hydra by Josh Kaufman

This was a fun read, an allegory for the entrepreneurial journey. Didn’t change my life or anything, but was a cute super short read.


The Internet says even though writing is not great, many people like reading it, as it’s a lot of fun to read. Can’t relate, reading it was a chore for me. Especially because it switches point of view so often. It’s dizzying, and you can’t get to know individual characters enough.

In conclusion

Man, daily blog posts are rough. I need to get some discipline to write shorter posts, instead of writing many words of trash. Thanks for bearing with me in the meanwhile.