Category Archives: Authors

Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2021

Note: The books from this list that aren’t available online for free are available for purchase through my Bookshop.org page.

1) Human Action: A Treatise On Economics by Ludwig von Mises (1940)

This is the bible of Austrian economics by the grandfather of Austrian economics, Ludwig von Mises. Human Action is Mises’ magnum opus on economics, philosophy, and history—or more precisely, it’s about what Mises terms “praxeology”: the study of human action, which all economic activity boils down to. This is a long book (it took me half the year to get through, which is why there are fewer honorable mentions this year) but it was worth it. You will better understand the world today by reading this 82-year-old tome than by reading today’s newspapers.

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Ten Best Fiction Books I Read in 2021

Note: The books on this list, with links to purchase, are available at my Bookshop.org page.

1) Songs of a Dead Dreamer (1986) and Grimscribe (1991) by Thomas Ligotti (2015)

I was looking forward to reading this double collection of horror short stories after hearing Ligotti be recommended by so many other writers I admire. And I can see why there was so much hype. I was immensely impressed, and Ligotti has become my favorite living horror writer and probably the best writer of weird fiction since Lovecraft. Ligotti is like the Ted Chiang of horror—not in terms of theme or content, but in the fact that they only write short stories and their stories are all fantastic and deep philosophically. Ligotti’s brand of horror is highly cerebral. He is a master of prose style, which is similar to Lovecraft’s in its verbosity and poetic beauty. Ligotti is also similar to Lovecraft in his content and themes—primarily extreme nihilism. His nonfiction book, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, which I read last year, lays out his antinatalist worldview—a worldview I do not share—though I enjoy reading about those dark themes in fiction. After all, what could be more horrific than the idea that human life doesn’t matter and it would be better if we did not exist?

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Dune (1965) vs. Dune (1984) vs. Dune (2021)

Dune (1965)

In anticipation of the new Dune movie, directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Denis Villeneuve, I decided to read the classic novel by Frank Herbert before seeing the film adaptation. Dune is one of those books that appears on every all-time best of list for science fiction. Sometimes you read a book like that and it feels dated or over-hyped (such as Ringworld by Larry Niven, which I also read this past year), but not in this case. Dune not only met but exceeded my expectations.

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Visceral vs. Cerebral Horror

As a child I was terrified of horror movies and avoided watching them. Two of my favorite movies were Jurassic Park and Independence Day, and while they were not directly horror, there were certain scenes in each film that I had to close my eyes during because I was so terrified. (They were when the raptors popped out and when they showed the alien body in the Area 51 base). Though I avoided explicit horror, I enjoyed spooky movies and TV shows intended for children, such as Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark?. I liked PG horror because it was merely spooky and creepy, not outright terrifying. The first true horror movie I remember seeing was Scream, which came out in 1996 when I was ten years old. Though that movie was meant to be somewhat comedic, the Ghostface mask nevertheless remained burned in my mind and gave me nightmares for months after.

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In Defense of Perfectionism

The statue of David is still on display to this day—over 500 years later—but would it be if Michelangelo didn’t attempt to make a perfect sculpture?

Perfectionism is a gift and a curse. Before publishing a work of fiction, I spend an inordinate amount of time rewriting and editing it, long after most writers would consider it “done” and publishable. I re-read the manuscript again and again, going over every sentence, every word and punctuation mark, making sure it is precisely as I wish.

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Do Artists Get Less Creative Over Time?

Picasso’s paintings grew more creative over time

Have you ever noticed that most artists tend to get less creative when they get older? A band’s first album is often their best—or maybe their second or third album is better—but rarely does a band record their most creative music on their twelfth album. Sure, some artists like The Rolling Stones continue to perform well into their 70s, but they are only rehashing the creativity of their 20s and 30s. They are not recording new songs, or if they are, those new songs are nowhere near as beloved or creative as their earlier work. That is the normal life cycle of most musical artists: they release creative music when young, get popular, then “play the hits” for the rest of their career.

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Should Writers Read Classic or Modern Books?

I often feel anxiety about the overwhelming amount of books I want to read, knowing I won’t live long enough to read them all. This has been a problem for all humans throughout history—the race against time—but the problem grows exponentially over time as the amount of content continually increases. 

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Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2020

According to my Goodreads stats (which I use to track every book I read), I read 95 books in 2020, which is down slightly from last year (114). Though that includes comic books, which are shorter and quicker to read, plus audiobooks, and I read less comics, so more full-books in all. My increased reading was not due to being stuck at home during quarantine as that didn’t affect my lifestyle much—it’s primarily because I severely cut down on reading Twitter and other online news. I previously wrote about the futility of following the daily news closely, but I still clung to Twitter—a little too much—sometimes a lot too much. I will expand upon how I broke my Twitter addiction in a future post, but suffice it to say, these days I check Twitter just once a day (at night after getting my work done) for only a couple minutes—if at all. This immediately reduced my stress levels and gave me much more time to read more valuable things that will stand the test of time, such as the following books.

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Best Fiction Books I Read in 2020

1. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1992)

I first read this book about ten years ago when I started reading science fiction novels. I repeatedly saw Snow Crash on many “greatest sci-fi books” lists and it was considered the best in the cyberpunk genre (along with William Gibson’s Neuromancer). When I first read Snow Crash, (and Neuromancer for that matter) I liked parts of it, but most of the book went over my head. I was looking for cyberpunk action (such as the computer hacking and futuristic skateboarding) and became bored by the ancient religious and evolution of language aspects, which I did not fully understand. I didn’t recognize it as being a portrayal of an anarcho-capitalist society the first time around, as I did not know what that was. Ten years older and wiser, I now find the philosophical aspects of the book the most fascinating, and the hacking, action, and skateboarding parts are like gravy on top. Snow Crash is like all my varied interests (technology, futurism, virtual reality, hacking, skateboarding, pizza delivery, punk rock, samurai swords, economics, history, philosophy, libertarianism, ancient religion, language, and the evolution of consciousness) all rolled into one book. It doesn’t seem like there can be that many different ideas in one novel but there are and it all somehow fits together.

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Philip K. Dick on the Loneliness of Being a Writer

In The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writing, PKD wrote about his struggles with loneliness during his career as an author. In the following quotes, he explains how writing and loneliness are and aren’t related.

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