2022-11-01

What I Read in October 2022

Read last month's here.

Books

Discipline is Destiny by Ryan Holiday (notes)

Through 54 short chapters, Ryan Holiday gives rules, ideas, and principles to live a disciplined life. By studying some of the most disciplined people who have breathed life on this Earth, the reader cannot help but think, What if I start to be more disciplined today? What if I actually did "attack the dawn?'' How different would my career be if I really did do the hard things first? What if I just showed up every day for the next five years? 10 years? What would my life look like if I got rid of that thing that controls me? What happens if I actually use discipline to shape my destiny?

Ernest Hemingway: A Biography by Mary V. Dearborn (notes)

Though The Washington Post touted this book as "The most fully faceted portrait of Hemingway now available", I was unimpressed. I learned more about Hemingway's obsession with bullfighting than I did about his writing habits or philosophy, spare the mention of the Kansas City Star writing guide (mentioned below in the notes). I suppose that's what people want, though. They want the man and life behind the writing, not the writing. I think it's a well-written book, it just was not what I was expecting and hoping for. However, I did learn interesting details about the Hemingway-Paris-writers era, which I've long been enchanted by. I closed the book with a fuller understanding of the man who called himself Ernest than I did when I opened it, which is what you hope for when you read a biography. A phrase that might sum up his life: don't meet your heroes, kid.

Care and Culture of Men by David Starr Jordan (notes)

Earlier this month, I saw this book on my shelf and, in a moment of boredom, decided to google the author's name: David Starr Jordan. The founding president of Stanford University?! I was hooked. And enjoyed it. It turned out to be a beautiful illustration of what college is meant to be. It's a collection of his speeches and in it, he shares his vision for what higher education should mean, the relationship between the State and the school, and much more.

Articles

Thoughts on Robert Caro's "The Power Broker" - I started reading The Power Broker last month, though have yet to finish it. I stumbled upon this article while trying to better understand the book I was reading and loved what the author had to say. Caro's goal in the book, it seems, is to reveal the lengths to which Robert Moses abused his positions of power to get things done. Yes, he abused power. But he got things done. And as long as he got things done, people would like him. Which seems obvious to me, but Caro doesn't allude to. At least not where I am in the book. That's why I appreciated the author of the article writing: "Yet, with this attitude, Caro misses the key to the whole Robert Moses story: the man only accumulated such power because he was the only man who could consistently deliver what the public wanted."

Andrew Roberts on Napolean - "Napoleon's phenomenal ability to devote the entire concentration of his remarkable mind on whatever he needed to -- to the exclusion of all else, until the problem was solved -- was a key element to his extraordinary success."

Ronald Reagen's Notecard Collection Being Published - "When he needed an illustrative anecdote and a bit of humor for a speech --- and he gave thousands of them over the course of his life --- he would leaf through the cards and pluck out some of them, giving "sparkle" to what otherwise might be pedestrian remarks, Brinkley says."

How Good Do You Want to Be - "Each one of us, whether we're an athlete or an athletic director or an investor or a stay at home parent, would be better to step back from the binary world of winning and losing and focus instead on how good we are capable of being."

On Writing More - "I've been thinking about how to write more, and I've noticed that what makes it possible is a kind of continuous excavation. You think you don't have anything to write about because you aren't digging deep enough. Say the deepest thing, and you'll find that something appears beneath it, like a set of Russian matryoshka dolls, an infinite uncovering."

Extraordinary Letters on Love, Life, Death, Courage, and Moral Purpose - "Blind yourself to nothing; look straight at sadness, loss, evil; but at the same time look with such intense delight at all that is good and noble that quite naturally the heart's longing will be to help the glory to triumph, and that to have been a strong fighter in that cause will appear the only end worth achieving."

In Praise of Idleness - "Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so."