Aaron Wolfson – Writer, Reader, Coder, Thinker

Aaron Wolfson is a writer, reader, coder, and thinker. He spouts off on books at his blog, Profound Reading, and he is building a better reading list at BookTrackr. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut. My favorite novel by my favorite novelist.

What would happen if all of humanity was destroyed—except for a ragtag tour group on a visit to the Galapagos Islands? What would happen if this group was left to evolve for a million years?

This is Vonnegut’s treatise on how the great big brains we’ve evolved are always getting us in trouble.

Would we be better off if we could have a do-over? Go back to our small-brained existence?

This is not your average post-apocalyptic scenario. Then again, Vonnegut is not your average writer.

Plutarch, Parallel Lives. This is a 2,000+ page book. Of biographies. Of dudes who have been dead for millennia. Written by a guy who’s been dead almost as long.

Why should you read it? Because there’s really nothing new under the sun.

All of the lives described here are pertinent to what you’re doing today. Avoid making the same mistakes that have been made in the past.

You’ll learn how to deal with corruption and favoritism in the workplace (Life of Cato), how to build a team that will follow you anywhere (Life of Alexander, Life of Caesar), how to become an expert in your field (Life of Demosthenes), how to build a culture from scratch (Life of Solon, Life of Lycurgus), and, if you wish, how to terrorize an entire populus (Life of Sulla, Life of Marius).

You’ll learn about the true origins of many ideas, words, and techniques that we still use today.

And it’s just a good time. Plutarch includes plenty of time-tested jokes, and he dishes on all the juicy rumors and debaucheries of some of history’s most ridiculous tyrants, sybarites, and fools.

You’ll also come to understand the fickleness of public adoration, as you see the rise and fall of titans like Themistocles, Pericles, Cicero, Caesar, and Pompey the Great.

The collection may be massive, but you can read one bio every few days, and pick and choose the ones you’re most interested in.

Use Aubrey Stewart and George Long’s translation on Project Gutenberg for maximum effect.

Zero to One, Peter Thiel. An incredibly wide-ranging work on business, entrepreneurship, philosophy, and how to change the world, from a guy who’s been there, done that.

It gets the most notoriety for its controversial ideas about why competition and capitalism are opposites, and how the world is largely at a technological standstill.

But my favorite thread is about how we should strive to create brand new things in the world, instead of making incremental improvements to what already exists. Thus, going from zero to one, instead of from one to N.

This book will change the way you think.

Good things to watch.

Turtles. My wife and I were at a wildlife refuge, and I noticed there were some turtles sunning themselves on some logs near the shore of a lake. I sat down to watch, and found myself transfixed.

It takes the average turtle about 15-30 minutes to actually climb up onto a log. Then they simply sit. Be. Enjoy.

It’s easy to forget how fast we live our lives. Maybe that’s why we all notice time speeding up as we get older. So much to think about.

Next time you feel sped up, go find some turtles and watch how they live.

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. How amazing is it that two cousins became two of the most important and influential world leaders in all of history? This Ken Burns documentary series will show you exactly.

Oh, and that Eleanor was no slouch.

Louis CK. Funniest human alive. Get lost in his brilliance.

Good things to use.

Noise-cancelling headphones and Spotify. If you are ever forced to be in proximity to people who do things that annoy you (cubicles, airports… pretty much any public place), don’t get annoyed. Tune out. Who’s living in your head rent-free?

Your hands. It doesn’t have to be “making things.” Honestly, I don’t do nearly as much of that as I could. But you can try washing dishes by hand, now and then. Touch and hug people. Feel textures—on book covers, wallpaper, carvings. We live most of the day in our minds. Get back in touch with the world.

Nature. It’s, well, nature’s de-stressor. Just take some long walks amidst foliage and everything else will take care of itself.

Connect with Aaron on Twitter, @AWolfson0

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