Book Notes

Summaries, Takeaways, and Implementation from Books I’ve Read

The inspiration for publishing my book summaries comes from my friend Nat Eliason and Derek Sivers. As I read books, I take notes on topics or ideas that are interesting to me. The act of pulling those disparate notes into a summary, key takeaways, and implementation helps me to learn and act more effectively.

I have added a rating based on how valuable the book was at a certain point in my life (Rating Now) versus the rating that the book could have achieved had I read it at a different time (Max Rating). This provides some context so that exceptional books that aren’t helpful to me now do not get categorized with poor quality books. Access to the raw notes (in Evernote) is provided in each of the book summaries in the links below.

All Notes

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport – Cal Newport’s previous book Deep Work was magnificent. When I saw he came out with another book I judged he probably didn’t have much else to say on the topic and it wouldn’t be worth reading the new volume. I was wrong. I found some pieces old-hat for me, but the reminder and a few tactics were great additions to my mind-preserving arsenal.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris – As an icon for conservation and hunting, I loved learning about Theodore Roosevelt. This book (and the accompanying Theodore Rex) are extremely dense volumes, but I particularly liked being “in Teddy’s world” for so many hours. I would not recommend this unless one enjoys biographies and lots of political intrigue.

Coyote America by Dan Flores – For those interested in the natural world and the native fauna of America in particular, this is a must-read. The coyote is the most ubiquitous and largely most mis-understood animal in America. They are much like humans and have thrived despite our best attempts to exterminate them.

The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King by Rich Cohen – Sam Zemurray was a lowly immigrant Jew who amassed an empire of bananas. Through grit, determination, and intimate knowledge of the industry, Zemurray rose to the top. Alas, his rise was marred by moral corruption and questions that the American way faces to this day. Is it okay to use power and influence to overthrow unfavorable governments?

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant – This book is pure enjoyment to read for anyone who knows hunting, appreciates animals, and is fascinated by the wilder parts of the world. When a large Siberian tiger specifically targets an individual, an entire village in Russia must go to task finding and uncovering the truth of the animal. Vaillant is a fantastic writer that makes this an incredible read.

Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions by John Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes – Although most indigenous wisdom is passed down orally, occasionally there are powerful books. This book is one of my favorites and speaks to both historic, romantic Lakota traditions and the modern problems associated with reservation life and marginalization. Quick, fantastic read.

Climate: A New Story by Charles Eisenstein – This is a “must read” for anyone interested in climate change. Not only does Eisenstein completely flip the paradigm on its head, but he gives us a more true and aligned way of living in the world. I tell friends that this was my favorite/most impactful book of 2019 because reading it felt like I was on psychedelics the whole time. My perspective was so radically changed constantly. It’s refreshing to have an intelligent, well-considered book that focuses on things outside the materialist/reductionist paradigm.

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