January 2024 books read

  • The Book of Form and Emptiness – Ruth Ozeki, 2021. Quotes marked, TBD.
  • Whalefall – Daniel Kraus, 2023. Liked but didn’t love this “The Martian inside a whale” science thriller. Cool ideas, but the writing was just way, way too purple, and the peril/damage so over the top. The premise (scuba diver trapped inside a sperm whale) would have worked on its own without daddy issues and reputational repair.
  • How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing – K.C. Davis, 2022. I would have gotten a lot out of this several decades go; it was really cheering/amazing to reflect how I’ve come so far with my ADHD that this was mostly second nature already, although most credit goes to Jonathan for doing the bulk of the stuff I struggle with.
  • The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career – L.M. Montgomery, 1917. Reading The Blue Castle last month got me thinking about which Montgomerys I hadn’t read yet; I started The Story Girl but am not loving it, so I turned to this memoir partly because I adore Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The One I Knew the Best of All, which I must have neglected to record because I’ve certainly read it in the past six or seven years. Anyway, this was a little interesting but not very insightful and a bit disjointed.
  • Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest – Suzanne Simard, 2021.
  • Tom Brown’s Schooldays – Thomas Hughes, 1857.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien, 1954.

Didn’t finish

The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor – Howard Marks, 2011. This came up because I was searching for a copy of Charlie Munger’s Poor Charlie’s Almanack, which doesn’t seem to be available in library systems (because out of print now, and was originally too expensive, and/or self-published and not available through distributors?) But wait, now a copy has shown up on order through CW Mars – people must have been asking since his death gave a spurt of publicity. But wait again, now an abridged version is online? Anyway, somewhere a version of this book came up in association with that one (it’s blurbed by Warren Buffett, but I thought there was more to it) and it was available through the public library. It basically emphasized to me, for the umpteenth time, that individual stock investing is a mug’s game. “The most important thing” is actually 19 different things – “they’re all important,” says Marks – most of which are outside a regular person’s control. However, I got a couple of quotes before abandoning the book:

  • “Experience is what you got when you didn’t get what you wanted.” (And just recently I heard a similar saying from a relative who’s a ski guide: “Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.”)
  • “In basketball they say, ‘You can’t coach height.'”
  • Marks attributes this to Yogi Berra, but per QI it was first written by a Yale student in 1882: “In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.”
  • Marks calls this an adage: “Being too far ahead of your time is indistinguishable from being wrong.” Interestingly, the Internet now mostly attributes it to him!
  • Marks attributes to John Maynard Keynes, but QI traces to Gary Shilling: “The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”

Wow, that’s a bad – but typical! – ratio on the attribution accuracy!

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