Notes

When I read a book, I take notes then publish them online. I do this for a handful of reasons:
This is not an original idea; the inspiration to do this arrived via Derek Sivers and Nat Eliason. I also can't say I have any particular end-goal in mind by publishing them. It just strikes me as a generally good idea.

All book notes

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Part autobiography, part philosophy, part psychology, part prayer - this book is an incredibly human exploration of an inhumane and brutal time about how, even within the cruellest of suffering, can meaning and salvation be found. Its message today is just as relevant as when it was first published in the years following the second world war.
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Eye opening exploration of ideas and (believe it or not) how they are formed and come to be. Fascinating perspective on how innovation truly works and it busts a lot of myths and misconceptions along the way. Strong recommend.
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This is the number one book I wished I had read ten years ago, ideally before I started university. Describes a system for the managing of ones own thoughts and ideas, and does it in plain English. Turned me onto the importance of understanding metalearning/metacognition.
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The story of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, whose story through WW2 is unique and compelling. Ambrose weaves deep research and endless interviews with the men of Easy to create something truly incredible to read. Upsetting, touching, thrilling, emotional, uplifting all at once; it's a hell of a story.
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It's very hard to describe how good this book is without making you sit down and read the whole thing. Instead, I'll just describe it. The Right Stuff is the story of the seven astronauts of the Mercury program. They were the first Americans to go into space, then orbit the earth. Tom Wolfe writes it more like a thriller or a drama, using what must have been an enormous amount of research and interview material to weave an incredibly realistic picture of the time. I utterly inhaled every page of this book. Intoxicating stuff.
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Short, sweet and endlessly valuable. Written by the woman who completely transformed gov.uk from a messy tangle of websites into an incredibly useful and usable resource that millions rely on to make their lives easier. Covers fundamental concepts and practical actions to take without any of the cruft or filler text you might otherwise expect in books like this. Definitely worth reading if you publish anything to the internet, or even if you just write reports at work.
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I might have read this book, but I haven't really read the Tao. You can't; the Tao that is called Tao is not the Tao. What I can do, though, is return to these pages whenever I need to, to help guide me on my way; because that's the Tao is—the way. For my first read-through I referred to two translations at the same time—Lin primarily, with Addiss/Lombardo to supplement—and I would recommend the same as every version differs from the original Chinese and offers a different nuance (and therefore understanding) each way.
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Reading this book made me completely reconsider some of the biggest assumptions that I have carried with me throughout my entire adult life, while simultaneously reframing how I think about the events of the last decade—Trump and Brexit in particular. While his solutions to the problem identified feel like they fall short, you can't exactly blame him for the sheer complexity of what's at stake. It's arresting and disconcerting and infuriating and I've been strongly recommending it to anyone that will listen.
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I had tentatively started to read the Tao Te Ching before realising that I needed something to warm me up beforehand. This book was that warm up, and more. It explains Taoism through the lens of Winnie the Pooh who is, according to Hoff, a Taoist. I think he's right. Just a wonderful read, I finished it in a single day.
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Extraordinarily enlightening for such a compact volume. A broad survey of history through the lenses of government, war, religion, economics and more. Astonishing for its breadth and depth as it is its brevity.
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Coherent and straightforward guide to product positioning. Very little filler, gets straight to the point and uses useful stories to flesh out the different ideas within. Works particularly well because it's first principles thinking rather than just a 'system' or series of steps.
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This book belongs to the ranks of 'I wish I'd read this 10/15/20 years ago'. For good reason, too: rather than just taking another bland look at money tactics, Housel uncovers the unusual human psychology that drives all our money-related behaviours. Refreshing.
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Gruelling to read because of the utter horror of the Pacific theatre, compelling because of the fine prose and honest recounting of events by Sledge. One of the two memoirs that the HBO miniseries 'The Pacific' is based on. I haven't read anything quite like it before.
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Useful and detailed insight into negotiation techniques that work in the real world instead of inaccurate, academic methods. Also pretty thrilling because the chapters open and are riddled with compelling descriptions of real-world hostage/kidnap negotiations that Voss was involved with.
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A wonderful introduction to biology written by one of the most qualified biologists around today. Brief, beautiful and optimistic.
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All the time I spent reading, taking notes on and trying to understand this book would probably have been better spent in simply sitting in zazen. But here we are nonetheless. An insightful and calm look into the mind of a Zen buddhist through the talks he gave, it's worth reading if you have even a passing interest in Buddhism and Zen in particular.
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It's written like a thriller or a drama... but it's about manufacturing processes. Sounds bananas, but it's surprisingly effective at explaining the principles of Lean manufacturing using the Socratic method. This is worth a read by anyone who works with, in, or has a passing interest in processes and systems (which is quite a lot of us). It introduces and establishes the key concepts in an engaging, approachable way and leaves us with a process for reliably managing these processes and systems.
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This is a powerfully good read for anyone who has any interest in doing anything creative, especially if it's on the internet. An instruction manual of sorts, but presented in an approachable and relatable way to make the most of what you have to give to the world. If you have even the hint of a creative bone in your body, you're going to want to read this book immediately.
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Zinsser lays down the law. Although I'm sure there is some debate on the finer points in more academically-minded circles, this was a reassuring starting point for understanding the fundamental elements of writing quality non-fiction prose.
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Many of the anecdotes are dated, he was perhaps something of a misogynistic playboy, and it's obvious that he was a pain in the ass to many people. Yet here is the most brilliant collection of anecdotes that show you the mind of an extraordinary man, unafraid of what people thought of him and utterly obsessed with scientific truth and curious to the end. Funny, irreverent, well-observed and honest.
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Uncommonly unusual and remarkable. Talks largely about the ethics of how we decide to think and what must mean for us as we go through our lives. Originally written as a commencement address at Kenyon College. More of an essay than a book, but a book it is nonetheless.
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A short, powerful read from one of the world wide web's original entrepreneurs about, quite simply, how to do business. Provides an enormous amount of insight and common sense in a very short volume. Has the most value per page of any book I think I've ever read. I listened to the audiobook version, which the author also recommends.
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A really interesting book from one of my favourite authors and marketers. Successfully explains the realities of brand-driven marketing in the 21st century. Repetitive at times, could be shorter but luckily it's not too long either way.
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An incredibly interesting insight into Martin's early career, one I was not familiar with until reading this book (I had only known of him from a handful of movies). Interesting insights into the creative process, originality and consistently working at your craft. Enjoyable to read, too - I read it in a single day.
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A resounding rallying cry of a book. Gives a name to the enemy of our creative work, 'The Resistance'. Defines what it is, how we must defeat and how to move past it. Pick it up in the morning and you'll be done by the afternoon.
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Incredibly useful and actionable piece on writing feature-length articles, provided with accompanying articles (in full) that help you see what Blundell means in context. Cut from the cloth of newspaper journalism, so if you're writing anything else you'll want to think carefully about how it might apply across different media.
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A critical, insightful and, at many time, very funny look into the less-than-innocuous world of self help. The memoir element of the book—related to Lamb-Shapiro's relationship with her father and the mother she never really knew—was touching, but I wish she had spent more time broadening out to discuss self-help in a wider societal context. Absolutely worth reading if you've ever wondered why you've got so many self-help books on your shelves.
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A helpful and straightforward system for building a compelling 'story' as the basis for framing your brand. Helpful with regard to website content especially.
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A thorough history of the MLM phenomenon that pulls no punches about how universally immoral, fraudulent and cult-like they are. Suffers from repetition in parts, but worth it to gain a deep understanding of where these institutions came from in the first place.
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Useful and straightforward rules, guidance and suggestions for how best to write. Some of it is simply opinion unique to the time and location in which it was written and revised, skewing towards North American conventions. Won't change your life and instantly make you a great writer, but it is useful.
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An excellent introductory book but, if you already know your way around the world of publishing content—and especially if you have read a few other books on the topic—this will perhaps be too light. Covers an enormous amount of ground without going into too much depth. Jumps all over the place sometimes, but plenty of gold to be found and would be exceptional for a beginner.
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A collection of essays about the history of computing, what hacking is, and why open source software development is as revelatory as it is. For a relatively computer-illiterate sort such as myself it was an interesting insight into the side of computing that the layman seldom sees. On the negative side, the essays are now getting on in years, are filled with dense jargon and not written that well. They're functional and interesting, but it's a bit of a slog at points.
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A useful, practical and well-written introduction to web usability and testing in particular. While some elements feel a little dated (this edition was published in 2013 and the mobile usability chapter is not that useful), the core concepts remain just as valid today as they did before. Perhaps this is because, while the internet changes all the time, people don't. Well worth a read for the chapter on usability testing alone.
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A straightforward, easy to digest guide to building content strategies. Pitched more at the person in a business (and who is more likely to be writing) than it is the broader spectrum of 'content creators' that exist today. Most helpful for its descriptions about how to frame your strategy and translate it into content that will actually help.
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A philosophical out-of-body experience that will subvert the way you understand the world. A short book, but not one that you will want to try and read quickly - it is remarkably dense and highly abstract, so go slow. Brilliant at the beginning and in the middle, but tapers off into obscurity and convolution towards the end.
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An exhaustively detailed and thoroughly researched handbook for improving yourself, one step at a time, through the introduction, optimisation or removal of the many habits that riddle our lives. While a little dry and repetitive at times, it's still incredibly practical and useful.
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An exploration of the meaning of life as told through the story of a boy, who becomes a man, who grows old and, finally, reaches the wisdom of enlightenment in his old age. Told as a series of dialogues between Siddhartha and the people who pass through his life.
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A collection of articles, essays, speeches, book reviews and other miscellanea by the singular David Foster Wallace. A book suffused with deep sadness and humour at the same time. Regarding any of his pieces that touch on politics, he was either prescient or writing about timeless truths. In any event, the work of an astonishingly sharp and interested mind.
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There is a process for coming up with ideas that any of us are able to replicate. It takes work but can be depended upon if the process itself is trusted. A brief, 80 year old volume that enjoys a special place in the history of writing about ideas.
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Although it shows its age - with executives only ever being referred to as men, and dated references to the industries of old (and all the old men that ran them...) - it contains some of the best writing on personal productivity, time management and decision making I've yet come across. Everything else now feels derivative, in retrospect. Unfortunately, it can also be incredibly dry and staid in places and became an uphill push to finish for this reason.
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Straightforward guide to traditional press and media PR, worth reading if you've a specific interest in learning that kind of thing. Biased towards a British print media perspective, but provides solid generic advice nonetheless.
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This book was useful as a history of the New Thought Movement and how it led to the start of the Prosperity Gospel. Beyond that, it was not so interesting. The authors were both writing from a Baptist background and the vast majority of the rest of the book was a detailed exploration of Biblical teachings in argument against the Prosperity Gospel.
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An unstructured collection of various 'real world' sales advice. A bit old fashioned, very cheesy, reads almost like something that you'd find on the desk of a character in 'Glengarry Glen Ross'. Nevertheless... a good reminder of what sales is all about, and what the role and objectives of a salesperson—or anyone in the company who wants to increase revenue—should be.
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For a layman like me, this was a helpful ready reckoner covering the ins and outs of how startups work from a financial point of view. I don't have a startup but I do work with them, so an understanding of some of their tensions was covered quite helpfully. Straightforward to a fault and more of an instruction manual, but useful all the same and a very quick read.
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Originally an article in the FT, it probably had more value as a single short essay than an entire book; it felt like I was reading the same point over and over again. I quit this book with about 25% left to go. Worth a good read of the first few chapters, but only a skim from there.
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A portrait of a fascinating life well-lived, and it's comforting to know that 'life hacks' are not just the preserve of the internet age. Reasonably troubling and/or dull when writing about building forts and displacing indigenous peoples, but still perhaps worth a look regardless.
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The Self Help and Actualisation Movement'—nicknamed SHAM by the author—is the main target of this book. Although he starts with an interesting assessment of the phenomenon and explores the various ways in which it has entered into and influenced society, he goes off the rails a bit later on. The second part of the book finds him walking down a path that feels mostly like his own personal opinion, which quickly becomes less interesting than some of the bigger questions he could have asked. It's also now quite dated being almost 20 years old. Still, it's useful for its criticism of self-help more widely.
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I wasn't entirely sure what to make of this. The agreements themselves are sound and the core of the philosophy is a useful model for how to approach life, but it's slightly spoiled by unusual generalisations and heapings of new-age drivel. It's good if you don't mind divining the wisdom from the waffle, otherwise it's probably worth avoiding.
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An underwhelming survey. Could probably just have been a meaty article or a light Netflix documentary. An easy read, but it skipped across umpteen difficult topics in an order that made little sense. The concept of Ikigai itself can actually just be found in a succinct diagram on the back of the hardback, mostly voiding the point of the inside of the book anyway.
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A thin volume of opinion & the epitome of 'Hustle Porn'. Also reasonably outdated and likely ineffective tactics by now.