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The Surprising Books That Mentor Billionaires, Chess Prodigies, Performance Coaches, and Bestselling Authors

What books influenced Kevin Kelly, Tony Robbins, Neil Strauss, Ryan Holiday, and Ramit Sethi?

The Surprising Books That Mentor Billionaires, Chess Prodigies, Performance Coaches, and Bestselling Authors | Farnam Street

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What did you find surprising about these lists? I found them all too tediously similar. There is a particular strain of American self-improvement -- especially seen in business books, and these days very common in people who had excellent technical educations with deficient humanities -- that reduces reading down to a search for the secrets of "success"... and presumes that every human who reads the book will get the same intended message. It makes me sad to see Marcus Aurelius on the same page as Slow Sex and Never Eat Alone.

Even the books that were not total dreck were almost invariably about INDIVIDUALS. Even the Stoics were all about controlling the self rather than trying to grasp large truths about human society. I didn't see anything I would consider an important work of history, science, or social science. You live in the midst of capitalism and seek to master it, but what do you really know about capitalism and where did you learn it? You live in a historical era that might be primed for civilizational collapse, but would you know the signs if you saw them?

I guess this is part of what I find so unsatisfying about life in Silicon Valley. We're all supposed to smile and nod at this type of booklist -- look, books! books good! -- and never criticize the single-minded instrumentalism of the mindset behind them. Perhaps this is why I am not rich and certainly cannot teach someone else to become rich or famous or good at picking up women.

Oh, and in my opinion "gifting" (hate that word) a book to someone with some didactic intent is exactly as odious a social crime as giving them unsolicited weight-loss advice, and should be handled in precisely the same way.

There is a certain monotony that goes with such book lists. Success is not found in a book.

And I agree with you that gifting a book to push biases is not truly a gift.

"Didactic" doesn't mean pushing biases. It means seeking to teach.

Sorry, I thought it means seeking to teach the agenda the book giver has in mind.

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