7 Summer Reads for the Curious Mind

3 minute read
Parrish is the entrepreneur and wisdom seeker behind Farnam Street and the host of The Knowledge Project Podcast, where he focuses on turning timeless insights into action. His new book is Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments Into Extraordinary Results

Out of the 44 books I read from January to June, here are the 7 that resonated with me the most. (For the curious see the 2012, 2013, I can’t find the 2014 edition.)

  • Pebbles of Perception: How a Few Good Choices Make All the Difference— This book is an invitation to be curious, build character, and make better choices. Very much in line with the Farnam Street ethos — so much so that I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements. It belongs on your shelf next to Seeking Wisdom.
  • Sit Like a Buddha: A Pocket Guide to Meditation — If I could encourage you to look into one thing to think and focus better, this would be it. This is an enormously powerful little book that will help you focus your mind, open your heart, and think with more insight. It’s short enough to consume over a glass of wine (or two) on the patio and simple enough that you’ll want to put it into practice.
  • The Lessons of History — A concise book of lessons drawn from the survey of history. The book comes highly recommended by someone I met at the Berkshire Hathaway meeting. I can’t believe I haven’t read this before. I’ll be re-reading this a few times and I’ve started listening to the audio version in the car as well.
  • The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship — A beautiful and thought-provoking book that argues we should stop thinking in terms of work-life balance. “Work-life balance is a concept that has us simply lashing ourselves on the back and working too hard in each of the three commitments. In the ensuing exhaustion we ultimately give up on one or more of them to gain an easier life.”
  • How to Get Lucky: 13 Techniques for Discovering and Taking Advantage of Life’s Good Breaks — Some people are luckier than others and it’s not always by chance. Lucky people tend to position themselves in the path of luck. They take risks but not stupid ones. They know when to give up on love, stocks, and even opinions. A great read.
  • Obvious Adams: The Story of a Successful Businessman — a short, yet important, book that I wish more people would read and think about. (You can find a pdf here.) In a nutshell the book represents the mindset that “avoiding stupidity is easier than seeking brilliance.” It’s amazing what we see when we focus on the obvious insights that we’re missing because we’re trying too hard to grasp the esoteric.
  • The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere — An excellent counterbalance to our endless diet of movement and stimulation.
  • This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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    15 Best Books Under 100 Pages

    Ethan Frome By Edith Wharton, 77 pages. The title character of Wharton’s novella gets caught in a love triangle between his wife and her cousin. The resolution, as any high school English student can tell you, is tragic. Charles Scribner's Sons
    Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass By Frederick Douglass, 96 pages. Considered the foremost autobiography of a former slave, Douglass’s Narrative was a major credit to the abolitionist cause. It’s also one of the strongest testaments to the power of reading. Dover Publications, Inc.
    The Metamorphosis By Franz Kafka, 44 pages. In the original case of waking up on the wrong side of the bed, salesman Gregor Samsa finds himself transformed one morning into a giant vermin. Kurt Wolff Verlag, Leipzig
    The Old Man and the Sea By Ernest Hemingway, 96 pages. Hemingway’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novella follows fisherman Santiago as he battles alone against an enormous marlin.Charles Scribner's Sons
    The Communist Manifesto By Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 48 pages. The Communist League commissioned Marx and Engels to write this political pamphlet that revolutionized the way the world thought about class and capital. International Publishers
    Anthem Ayn Rand, 80 pages. On the opposite end of the political spectrum, Rand’s dystopian novella about a man who would not conform to his society’s regulations celebrated fierce individualism.Cassell
    Heart of Darkness By Joseph Conrad, 72 pages. Protagonist Marlow, working for an ivory-trading company, travels up the Congo River in search of renegade Kurtz in this story that probes the truth about civilization. Norton Critical Edition
    Symposium By Plato, 80 pages. Partygoers take turns giving speeches on the nature of love in this philosophical work that originated the concept of the Platonic relationship.Oxford
    The Awakening By Kate Chopin, 96 pages. Edna Pontellier realizes her life as a wife and mother has left her grossly unfulfilled and attempts for the first time to liberate herself in this early feminist novel.H.S. Stone & Co.
    The Prince By Niccolò Machiavelli, 80 pages. The political treatise that drove home the point that the ends justify the means—giving us the handy term “Machiavellian.”Antonio Blado d'Asola.
    The Art of War By Sun Tzu, 68 pages. The cunning yet ruthless ancient Chinese military handbook has proved instructive for centuries—Tony even made use of it in The Sopranos. Nabla
    The Yellow Wallpaper By Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 70 pages. A woman goes slowly insane after being confined to a creepy attic room by her husband.The New England Magazine
    The Little Prince By Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 96 pages. A boy from a mysterious planet teaches a pilot stranded in the desert about love, imagination and the tragedy of adulthood.Reynal & Hitchcock
    The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man By James Weldon Johnson, 92 pages. The narrator of this 1912 novel is a black man with fair skin who decides to “pass” as white after witnessing a brutal lynching. He accordingly gives up his dream of creating a new African American musical genre, and looks back years later feeling that he made the wrong decision, “that I have sold my birthright for a mess of pottage.”Sherman, French, & Co.
    The Turn of the Screw By Henry James, 96 pages. Two children and their new governess are at the center of this chilling ghost story.The Macmillan Company

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