Thoughts on: Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh

This is the story of a sociology student who gets a unique opportunity to study, hang out with, and even act as a stand in for, a gang leader. It’s a great peak into the underground economy and organization of the public housing projects in Chicagos most crime ridden districts.

πŸ“ β€œWas is possible, I wondered, to be in the projects for any length of time and remaining neutral; an outsider an objective observer?”

πŸ“ Independent prostitutes got beaten up 4 times while affiliates (w. pimps) only got beaten once per year on average.

πŸ“ Prostitute Price List:

πŸ’΅ Blowjob: 10-15$

πŸ’΅ Intercourse: 25$

πŸ’΅ Anal: 50$

😒

πŸ“ Gangs told their foot soldiers and people in the public housing who to vote for in elections.

πŸ“ The way the people hustling in the projects had to pay different people for protection (pimps, building supervisors and the gangs) reminded me of a quote from The Story of Civilization, talking about the birth of the state tax: β€œIt was better to pay bribe to one magnificent robber than to bribe them all.”

It’s a good book, but I wished for less personal drama and more scientific analysis.

⭐️ TAKEAWAY: The people of the Robert Taylor public housing projects will most likely have even fewer options to gang life in the future, as jobs for unskilled laborers is eliminated by automation and AI. My next read (Give People Money) is about Universal Basic Income which might turn out to be a key ingredient to end this type of poverty.

3/5

Photo credit: @literaryjargon

What’s your next read? πŸ€”

Find other amazing reads in my reading lists!

Quit of Persist? – Know When To Give Up on a Book.

β€œWhat else?” This is a good question to ask yourself. What else could I do right now? Am I spending my time wisely?

When you stand in line to get free popcorn, Is the popcorn really free? No, not really. You give up the opportunity to do something else with the time you spend in line. That something could be work a job, read a book or shoot heroin etc.

It’s called Opportunity Cost; The loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. And you better keep assessing the opportunity cost for your decisions.

I decided to stop reading Michel Jordan’s biography. It was not bad, it was just not for me. But for some reason I just kept going. I caught myself in my madness during conversion with my friend @simonjk.jpg ,who had also read the book and didn’t think too much about it.

It’s easy to be a completionist. It’s harder to make a proper decisions on when to persist and when to let go. Let’s do the latter.


Some books i parted with before I hit the last page:

πŸ“– Braving the Wilderness

πŸ“– Braiding Sweetgrass

πŸ“– Power vs. Force

πŸ“– A Primates Memoir


What books did you leave unfinished?

Find books that really captured my attention in my reading lists!

Mini Review – Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant (Part 2) – The Near East

The second part of this tome (1200+ pages) is focused on the Ancient civilizations of the Near East; Egypt, Persia, Babylonia, Judea etc..

πŸ“ β€œIt is in the nature of an empire to disintegrate soon, for the energy that created it disappears from those who inherits it.”

πŸ“ Persia was founded by a stoic people, but within a century it was destroyed by people binge-drinking and eating all day; β€œspending their geniuses on sauces and deserts” 🍰. What state is our current civilization in? πŸ€”

πŸ“ Egypt: β€œMachinery was rare because muscle was cheap.”

πŸ“ The hanging gardens of Babylon was considered considered one of the Wonders of the World. Legend has it that Nebuchadnezzar II had it build for his wife who was not used to the desert and longed for her lush homeland.

πŸ“ There where thousands of Gods. With time minor deities merged and became mere aspects of major ones.

πŸ“ In Judean prophets talked about the need to be moral rebirth. Jeremaya asked for circumcision of spirit as well as the flesh in his strange phrase: β€œCircumstance yourself to the lord, take away the foreskins of your heart.” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

⭐️ TAKEAWAY:

One theme that stood out to me is how civilizations raise from hard labour and sacrifice, just so that future generation can have it go down the toilet by forgetting these hardships and fall victim to hedonism. πŸ’© 🚽

⭐️ TAKEAWAY 2:

The accounts of the religious believes in the different civilizations fascinates me to no end. How similar their stories are to ours and how much we still can find intact or reshaped in today’s religions.

βš–οΈ VERDICT:

Now we get into the meat of the book and it has taken on another rhythm. I have mixed feelings about this second part of book. It’s is still brilliant but it’s getting hard to retain the information. The problem might lie in the way the book is structured, using the same template to describe each civilization, one after the other, making it overwhelming.

Check out Part 1 for more in this review series.

What are you reading these days? πŸ€”

Instagram Photo credit: @cinefile_25 , @eruchdah

Find other amazing reads in my reading lists!

It’s Out of Control! What The Laws of Human Nature will do to your To-Read-List

Is your To-Read-List (TRL) growing faster the more effort you put into working your way through it? I know the feeling – and I feel it might be especially true for non-fiction readers.

Every good book opens up your eyes for new topics and bombards you with new exciting ideas of what to read up on next (as illustrated above πŸ€ͺ), filling your TBR to the brink.

Today I’m presenting some new additions to my TRL, courtisey of the book The Laws Of Human Nature by Robert Greene.

πŸ“– The Tigress of Forli by E. Lev πŸ“–

Caterina Sforza, she seems to be such a bad ass warrior countess! Greene uses her as an example of how masculine/feminine aspects of one’s personality, when well integrated, leads to more authenticity. β€œIn the theater of life, expand the roles you play.”

πŸ“– Born Red by Gao Yuan πŸ“–

Gao’s account of the Cultural revolution in China and how he and his fellow students β€œmade revolution”. Greene uses this story as an example of how our personalities changes in a group context.

πŸ“– Chekhov by Henri Troyat πŸ“–

Chekhov, Russian play-write, is brought up by Greene as an example of how you can change your circumstances by changing you attitude. β€œHe made a vow to himself: No more bowing and apologizing to people; no more complaining and blaming; no more disorderly living and wasted time.” Now I just want to know more about this exciting fellow!

What are you reading and what additions is that book adding to your To-Read-Lists? πŸ€”

Thoughts on: Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola EstΓ©s

Women Who Run With The Wolves explores folk tales and myths through a jungian lens with the intent to help women reconnect to the instinctual self, the Wild Woman archetype.


πŸ“ Classic tale beginning:

β€œβ€œOnce there was, and ones there was not…” This paradoxical phrase is meant to alert the soul of the listener that this story takes place in the world between worlds where nothing is as it first seems.”

πŸ“ The animus can pollute your flow of creativity with self doubt. One with a polluted river will not be able to take compliments; β€œBeautiful? This old thing? Well, it nothing really, look at all the mistakes I made”.

A well-developed animus has excellent borders. An artist that puts up a sign outside her house: β€œI am working today and am not receiving visitors. I know you think this doesn’t mean you because you are my banker, agent, or best friend. But it does.” πŸ’ͺ🏻

πŸ“ Original stories where often morphed to fit religious beliefs. Pagan symbols became Christian symbols. Sexual parts where removed and animals became demons. 🦁 β€”> πŸ‘Ή

πŸ“ There is no more reliable sign that a person has spent time with Ugly Duckling status at some point or all her life than her inability to digest a sincere compliment. We have all know people like this… πŸ¦† 🦒

πŸ“β€œSometime educated guesses can be made about the wounds of childhood by closely inspecting what matters adults irrationally lose their tempers over”.

πŸ“ β€œIf you don’t go out in the woods, nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin” 🌲


It’s beautifully written, very mystical in its tone, and I can sense the impact this book must have had on women throughout the years. As a male reader I can’t fully relate to all aspects of it – and it’s ok, it’s not written for me -but there is a lot of value in this book nevertheless.

For me the biggest takeaways are the stories themselves and their interpretation. I also found the chapter of creativity truly profound.

β€”

3/5


Get the book right here or find other amazing reads in my reading lists!

Thoughts on: β€œTo Kill a Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee

I knew nothing about this book going in, except that it is a classic and probably written by an American.

I could have read up on why it is considered a classic and why it has stood the test of time before I started to read it and write about it here. But I didn’t. I enjoy to be thrown into an experience not knowing what to expect – to approach books with a Beginners Mind, so to speak. After posting this I will read up on the history of the book, it’s impact and it’s cult status.


πŸ“ β€œWhen I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I was not supposed to do anything that requires me to wear pants.” said Jean-Louise. Girls where expected play with tea sets and be a sunshine to others.

πŸ“ The chapter about when the kids where tasked to read for the malignant dying morphine addict, Mrs. Dubose, really struck a cord with me.

πŸ“ To kill a mocking bird is to destroy innocence.

My guess is that what makes this book special is the way it challenges gender stereotypes and how it shines a light on prejudices regarding race and class. But maybe even more striking is the beautiful way in which it is written and how it takes you to another time and place.

It’s a great book, but I wouldn’t consider it mandatory reading for my purposes, which is to get a deep understanding of the human condition and what constitutes reality.

3/5

Have you read it? What classics are you intending to read this year? πŸ€”


Get the book right here or find other amazing reads in my reading lists!

Thoughts on: β€œLost Connections” by Johann Hari

For a long time depression and anxiety has been believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and the solution is a lifetime pill popping. Hari challenges this idea, both the cause and the solution.

____

His research shows 9 very different causes for depression – Disconnection from…

1. Meaningful work

2. Meaningful values

3. Other people

4. Status and respect

5. Childhood trauma

6. The natural world

7. A hopeful and secure future

8. & 9. The real role of genes and brain changes.

β€”β€”

πŸ“ β€œYou are not a machine with broken parts you are an animal whose need have not been met.”

β€”β€”

πŸ“ When asked how many friends people have, β€œzero” is the most common answer.

β€”β€”

πŸ“ Anxious and depressed people are prone to gaming addiction. Games have groups and teams, clear goals, and provides a sense of control.

β€”β€”

πŸ“ Anti depressant Companies (who often finance studies) only publish what makes their product look good. Just like when we take selfies, we discard the double chins and post the one where we look ace! 🀳

β€”β€”

πŸ“ The more people value things, the more likely they are to be depressed.

β€”β€”

πŸ“ Obesity and loneliness are equally deadly.

β€”β€”

πŸ“ Studies show that depression is in fact to a significant degree a problem not with your brain but with your life.

β€”β€”

⭐️ TAKEAWAY: I have not been depressed myself (I don’t think?) but like most people I have had periods that has been darker and more anxious than others. Reconnecting to the 9 areas pointed out by Hari definitely improved things for me. Whether it was starting to run in nature (6.), Meditation (5.), read books (2.) or work on this Insta account (1. & 3.). Unfortunately β€œReconnection” is not as commercially lucrative and easy to package into a product as antidepressants.

β€”β€”

We all have people around us, friends or family members, that suffer from depression. Reading this book helped me gain a deeper understanding why modern society is a breeding ground for mental disorders.

β€”β€”

This books is a serious contender for Book of the Year for me – and it’s only beginning of February. ❀️

β€”-

What actions and habits in your life protect you from depression and anxiety? πŸ€”

β€”β€”

5/5

β€”β€”

Photo credit: @thelavinagency


Get the book right here or find other amazing reads in my reading lists! Also, if you want more notes from this book then checkout the Extended Notes, right here!

Favorite Books of the Year 2018: β€œ12 Rules for Life” – Jordan Peterson

Life is suffering. How do we deal with that?! We face it, we bare it. Hell is a bottomless pit and in spite of how fucked up and unfair things are, we still can make it even worse. Let’s not do that! What if we instead get our act together and prepare ourselves to face suffering when it comes knocking? That’s the better path. And we all know where we fall short.

Peterson puts the responibility of all the world and all of it’s suffering on the individual. “If we all lived properly, we will collectively flurish.” If we put ourselves in order, maybe we will do the same to the world?

πŸ“ β€œAim up, pay attention, fix what you can and don’t be arrogant in your knowledge , strive for humility, be aware of your weaknesses. Consider the murderousness of your own being before condemn and judge others. Maybe you missed the mark? And most importantly, don’t lie! Lying is the path to hell.”

The book is fantastic, but maybe more importantly – it led me to examine the world of Jungian psychology – and what a wonderful rabbit hole it is to dive into!Leading me books like these:

πŸ“– Man and his symbols

πŸ“– King, Warrior, Magician, Lover

πŸ“– Demian (kinda related..)

πŸ“– Women Who Run With with the Wolves

Read the full list of favorites or check out previous lists right here!

Thoughts on: β€œBrave New World” by Aldous Huxley

I managed to squeeze in another classic before the year ended and this time it was Aldous Huxleys dystopian vision in Brave New World.

This book brings my thoughts to raise of AI and the importance of setting the right goals for it (if we ever get to Artificial General Intelligence that is.). The path chosen for the society we are presented with in Brave New World choose happiness as the highest good through maximization of pleasure and avoidance of suffering.

What does this future looks like?

No one gets to grow old. every one belongs to everyone else and no mothers and fathers are available to traumatize childhoods. There are no spouses and children to feel strongly for.

And if all else fails… there is always SOMA. The pill that makes all anxiety go away (I.e alcohol without the hangover πŸ˜‰).

Mantras of the Brave new world:

    β€œCivilization is sterilization”
  • β€œEveryone belongs to everyone else”
  • β€œThe more stitches, the less riches”

πŸ’­ Thoughts πŸ’­ :

Will we end up in a world more like the one in this book? As we spend more time living online worlds and in VR, the real world will become more foreign. No one creates online avatars that are old, deformed or disabled. Quite the opposite; we always create idealized versions of ourselves. Just look at your own Instagram page! πŸ˜‰ Will old age be something we hide like we hide dead people nowadays. Will we be shocked when we see a real human face without a photo filter applied? 😨

Great book with philosophical undertones!

4/5

What’s your worries about the near future? πŸ€”

β€”β€”

Instagram Photo credit: @dauntlessreading

Check out my reading lists for more great books!

Thoughts on: β€˜The Accidental President’ by A. J. Baime

I was going to get a biography of Winston Churchill and ended up with this book (some people don’t read the backside of a book before they buy it, I apparently don’t even read the front cover πŸ˜‚).

I have this idea that I want would like to read a biography from each american presidents but I think I like the idea of having done it is more appealing than the process itself. πŸ™ƒ

πŸ“ Truman was Vice President when Franklin Roosevelt died. He was put in office in what might be the most eventful year of recent political history; 1945.

πŸ“ Franklin Roosevelt famous quote β€œThe only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

πŸ“ Truman about the presidential workload: β€œIt takes about 17 hours a day and then you get as much sleep as you can. Start over again and do the next 17 hours as best you can. No man can do it as it should be done.”

πŸ“ He gave the order to use the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima.

πŸ“ He started reading at age 5 and read a lot. He studied the heroes of history and was a fan of Plutarch. (Who I’m yet to read…)

⭐️ TAKEAWAY:

I noticed how clueless I am about how events during this period relate to each other in space and time:

– The defeat of Germany vs. the time of The Bomb.

– How things lead up to the Cold War.

– The raise of Mao.

– When Roosevelt was replaced with Truman. (I didn’t even know who was president at the time to be honest).

Of course I learned all of this in school. But this book highlighted how much of the knowledge has been warped or plainly forgotten. I’ll definitely spend more time with historical biographies in 2019!

β€”β€”

The book is good but, as with most political biographies, I find them getting tedious at times. Like the Marvel movies, I enjoy the raise of the hero/president better than the confrontation with the bad guy.

Which is you favorite biography of a world leader?

3/5

Photo credit: @socialworxpr (Instagram)

Check out my reading lists for more great books!