Thoughts on: “Martin Luther” by Eric Metaxas

Luther rejected the practices of the Roman Catholic Church and the practice of selling indulgences (get out-of-jail-free cards for purgatory, basically.) in particular. Thereby he started the era known to us as the Reformation.


Let’s jump right into the notes:

📝 He was about to become a law student when he got trapped in a lighting storm. Praying for his life he uttered: “Ich will ein Munk werden” (“I will become a monk”). The storm calmed and it was so.

📝 1476 the market for indulgences where expanded beyond the living. Now you could pay for the sins of the dead too!

📝 Luther heroically posting his truths on the wooden church door in Wittenberg is fiction made in hindsight. What Luther actually posted was an invitation to debate….which no one attended.

📝 Two things fueled the Reformation: the printing press and Luther writing in German (instead of Latin). Luther’s writing spread like wildfire which was unintentional. It was as if a hastily written email to a friend was accidentally forwarded to a major news corporation.

📝 “A simple layman armed with scripture is to be believed above a Pope or council without it.”

📝 “This life is the shithouse compared to the glories of heaven” – Luther 😎

📝 FUNNY STORY: A nobleman asked if he could buy indulgences for a future sin and a preacher named Tetzel said he could. When the peacher was about to leave town the nobleman robbed and beat him up and left with the comment: “this was the future sin I had in mind!”. 😂😂


Overall solid, VERY solid book. I enjoyed it far more than I ever thought I would. Also it felt good to fill another gap in my history education; the Reformation.


What biographies have you planned for this year? 🤔

I would like to do another political leader (a president or Churchill) or a Nietzsche bio 💪🏻

4/5

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Thoughts on: Endurance – Alfred Lansing

A testament to what humans will endure when put to the test. It’s amazing how Shackleton and his men overcame one terrible obstacle after another without losing hope. Hats off to the captain and the crew. My main takeaway is the leadership style of captain Shackleton. Leading by example and not standing above any task. Never accepting special treatment because of his rank by his men.

4/5

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Thoughts on: “How to Live: or a Life of Montaigne” by Sarah Bakewell

Ah Montaigne! I’m glad I got to know you. You are now officially added to my list of peculiar historical men that fascinate me to no end – alongside Ben Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt.


He wrote 107 essays with simple titles like “of Friendship”, “of Cannibals”, “of Names” and “of Cripples”. He was an observer of the world but most of all he observed and wrote about himself.


📝 He was send out by his parents to be nursed by peasants as an infant in a weird attempt to create a bond with “the commoners” that he would one day need to help.


📝 His parents educational experiment continued; Montaigne was brought up as a native Latin speaker! A tough plan to put in practice since the were almost no native latin speakers around. The rest of the household spoke minimal or no Latin.


📝 “A man… should touch his wife prudently and soberly, lest if he caresses her too lasciviously the pleasure should transport her outside the bound of reason” Montaigne quoted Aristotle. Saying, basically, the conventional notion in those days that being a passionate husband would turn the wife into a nymphomaniac. 😂


📝 Pay attention!

As Montaigne learned, one of the best techniques for paying attention is to write about everything. Just to describe simple things in the world opens your eyes to how marvelous they are.


📝 “Still French was his language of choice”. His essays gives a weird reason for this: French could not be expected to last in the same way as the classical languages (I.e. Latin). This was freeing. If his writing was flawed, there was less pressure on him since the where doomed anyway.


📝 He was a big fan of Hellenistic philosophy; Stoicism and Skepticism in particular. Stoicism encourages wise detachment and skeptics held themselves back on principle. His motto was “What do I know?”.


📝 In “on cripples” Montaigne writes about a rumor that lame women are more enjoyable in bed, and as Aristotle before him, he speculates that it must be that “their vaginas are more muscular because they receive the nourishment of which the legs are deprived.”


It’s a fascinating biography even for the uninitiated! Now I just need to read his actual essays!


4/5

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Recovering from depression induced by “Superintelligence”.

“Superintelligence” was a great and valuable read but it left me depressed. There seems to be so many dangers with AI and just so much time for us to get a grip on the control problem before It arrives.

To lift myself up I started to read “How to Live: or a life of Montaigne” by Sarah Bakewell. Ooooh WOW! It’s wonderful so far! Such a delight!

As I hinted in the picture, I know a thing or two about how to live (at least this week! Hehe! ), enjoying myself in beautiful surrounding with an eminent all-you-can-eat buffet.

Check out my review of Superintelligence and enjoy your Monday!

Thoughts on: “My Experiments With Truth” by Gandhi

We get to follow a great man in the making in this autobiography by Gandhi. Like a mad scientist, and from an early age, he experimented with every area of his life to find essence of the soul.

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Being very limited in my knowledge about Gandhi, I expected a focus on religion in this book, but I was positively surprise find that it was much more an account of life lessons learned. And of course experiments! Both successful ones and failures. Ranging from self control, frugality to diet.

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He dedicated his life to the truth. It’s turns out that being truthful in all aspects of life, is not that easy after all. What is fascinating about this book is to follow his struggle between internal beliefs and actions. And it’s becomes extra powerful because it’s in his own words.

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My main takeaway is to keep trying different approaches in life. I’ve always been a big fan of experiments but it’s always to good to get a reminder of its importance.

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Here are some notes:

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Gandhi tried to memorize the whole “Bhagavad Gita” (an ancient Hindu scripture) by taping passages from it to his bathroom walls so that he could practice them while taking his morning shower.

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“The seeker after truth should be humbler than the dust. The world crushes the dust under its feet, but the seeker after truth should so humble himself that even the dust could crush him. Only then, and not till then, will he have a glimpse of truth.”

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“Renunciation of objects, without the renunciation of desires, is short-lived, however hard you may try.”

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4/5

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“The Story of my Experiments with Truth” by Mahatma Gandhi

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Thoughts on: “”The River of Doubt” by Candice Millard

In 1912 Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest by some crazy saloonkeeper on his way to deliver a speech on his third term election campaign. The bullet was slowed by his spectacle case and speech manuscript in his inner pocket, which kept it from reaching his lungs or heart. With blood dripping from his shirt and the bullet hole clearly visible through his notes he spoke the now famous line,

“It takes more than that to

Kill a bull moose!”, before delivering a 90 minute speech I front of a awestruck crowd. Not long after that he suffered a great defeat in the president election. Defeat was never easy for Theodore.

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He took to physical exhaustion and the wilderness to think sharp, fight depression and recover from loss. Roosevelt was not getting younger and wanted a last big adventure.

Together with Brazilian explorer Rondon he set out to an extraordinary journey to map an uncharted river in the most inhospitable parts of the amazon rainforests. It was going in to be a rough ride. Even for a “rough rider”.

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This book reads like fiction and I’m ones again amazed by Theodore Roosevelt’s character.

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Im also amazed by the Amazons, but I don’t want to set my foot there myself. Hearing about penis entering fishes, malaria, the skull crushing fall of the Brazil nuts from their trees and cannibalistic tribes (maybe not so much anymore..) make me suffice with reading about it.

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On a side note: TD brought “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius on the expedition. He said he took great comfort in reading it during the worst parts of the journey. Great packing advice for dangerous adventures. 😀

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“The River of Doubt” by Candice Millard (Get Book)

5/5

 

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Thoughts on: “Open” by Andre Agassi

I’m don’t care for sports, so it felt weird for me to tune into a thick biography of some tennis star I’ve never heard of. But I’ve heard good thinks from reliable sources so I decided to go for it.

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I’m glad I did!

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Andre Agassi’s father was a former boxer with a failed career. A bitter and violent man than thought the world was against him. That Andre had a knack for tennis made him see his chance to get even.

His put him in hard training with the goal to make him the best in the world and there was little Andre could do about it. Tennis became his prison. And he hated it.

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The sad thing about the story is that when Agassi gets old enough to break free from his fathers reign, he realize that he has no where to go and that tennis is all he’s got. He has no skills and no education because he spent whole life at the court. So he continues to do the one thing he knows how, even though he despises it.

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The book got me thinking about his fans. They looked up to him, imitated his dress and style, and never missed one of his games. I wonder what it feels like to learn that your idol actually hated what you admired him/her for “with a dark and secret passion”.

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It’s a sad but interesting and involving story. A good read even for someone who couldn’t care less about tennis. Here are some notes:

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📝 After winning Wimbledon: “I Thought winning would change things. But instead it felt like I was let in on a dirty little secret. Winning changes nothing…”

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📝”A loss feels bad more and longer than a win feels good.”

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📝 “Fame becomes the norm fast. We hear that money can’t buy happiness but we don’t believe it until we experience it.”

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📝 “Fear is like a gateway drug. Take a small hit and you run the risk of doing it again in bigger and bigger doses.”

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4/5

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Thoughts on: ‘Shoe dog’ by Phil Knight

‘Shoe dog’ is industry slang for someone who has dedicated his or her life to the footwear industry. Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, is definitely is one of them.

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He wanted to be an athlete but didn’t have the skills. Is there a way to experience what athletes did without being one? He wanted no difference between work and play. To enjoy work so much it essentially becomes the same thing.

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He had an idea about importing high-quality low-cost shoes from Japan. And contrary to his fathered advice he pursued that dream, starting the Blue Ribbon shoe company that later would become Nike.

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Knights story is similar to other business memoir where we can follow a company through ups and downs and obstacles that, when conquered, takes the business to the next level.

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What makes this book so good is not only that it’s the inside story of one of the worlds most iconic brands. But also written in accessible way and is filled with great stories anecdotes.

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I expected this to be a more inspiring book than it actually was. There is a lot of passion in his work, but I don’t feel that I would like to be in his shoes (no pun intended). All work, no play.

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By spending very few words on certain subjects really shows what wasn’t prioritized for Mr. Knight. Family, children and employees (outside the board of directors) are barely mention except in the a brief section about regrets.

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📝 Phil did not believe in advertising . Not at all. A product should speaks for itself.

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📝 “Life is a game weather you like it or not”

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📝 Their board meetings = A bunch of fat drunk guys screaming insults to each other. Described as a romantic story about comradely but I found it kind of depressing.

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4/5

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Biographies You Should Read ASAP!

I did a “favorites of 2016” last year on my instagram and I thought it would be a good addtion to my blog. Good book recommendations are always relevant, right? The list for 2017 is coming soon butthese books sure are worthy gifts for loved ones this holiday season!

Favorite Books of 2016 – Biographies

My Pick:

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson (Audio / Paperback)

I read a lot of really good biographies this year, making this a tough category for me. But I think “Einstein” deserves the top spot. Most biographies have one or more parts, even the really good ones, where you lose interest because connect with certain aspects of that persons life.

“Einstein” didn’t have that even though it’s a brick of a book. It phenomenal from start to finish.

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Runners up:

Read the full list with all it’s categories here!

Thoughts on: “King of the World” by David Remnick

You don’t have to be a big fan of boxing yo enjoy this book. Only a small percentage of it is spent on the actual boxing while he bigger chunk of it deals with the early career of Ali; him joining the Nation of Islam and racial tensions of the era.

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For me the book really shines in two aspects. I loved the story of Ali relationship to Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad and the whole Nation of Islam narrative.

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The second high point was the fights. After lots of build-up and getting to know the ins and outs of the opponents made the description of the fights super exciting to read about. Then YouTubing these classic fights added another layer of depth to the experience.

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📝 In the first Liston fight, Liston crew is believed to have “juiced” his gloves with some substance that felt like needles in Ali’s eyes. Almost ending Ali career before it started.

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📝 His greatest weakness and biggest betrayal of Muslim ideology was his insatiable need for women. He was called “The Pelvic Missionary”.

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📝 He was sentenced to 5 years in prison, what would be the prime of his boxing career, for refusing to join the army.

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📝 Ali after finding Islam: “A rooster crows only when it sees the light,” Clay said. “Put him in the dark and he’ll never crow. I have seen the light and I’m crowing.”

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⭐️ TAKEAWAY:

Travel more! Both Ali and Malcolm X changed their quite extremist and intolerant political views to more holistic and nuanced ones after their trip to Africa and Mecca. A testament to the value of travel.

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3/5

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“King of the World” by David Remnick

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