Category Archives: history

Are Modern Writers Getting Dumber?

“Monkeying with Literature” (ca. 1877–78) by William Merritt Chase

When I read the fiction of 19th-century writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Herman Melville (among others), I am amazed by the depth and sophistication of their work, both psychologically and philosophically—not to mention the craftsmanship of their prose. Is anybody writing such complex fiction today? Society does not seem to make writers like they used to. (Myself included—though such writers inspire me to elevate my work.) Keep in mind that those writers were not professionally trained to be writers—almost all were self-taught. How were people so long ago seemingly so much more knowledgeable than we are today when we have so much more knowledge? Perhaps that very “knowledge” is the problem.

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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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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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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 Nonfiction Books I Read in 2019

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1. The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence by Ray Kurzweil (1998)

Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist famous for his optimistic predictions for technology in the future, particularly the idea of the singularity—when humans will be able to upload their minds to computers and potentially live forever—which he predicts will happen by the year 2045. Kurzweil has his doubters, but it’s hard to dismiss his track record of predictions when you look at how many have already come true in this book written over thirty years ago. Continue reading

Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2018

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At all times, I am reading at least one fiction book and one nonfiction book. The nonfiction subjects vary: science, history, philosophy, psychology, and writing. There’s so much I want to learn about the world and so little time to do it. The nonfiction books I read often inspire and influence the fiction I write, though really I’m just hoping to learn something new from each book I read, and I learned a lot from those I read this past year. Continue reading

The Greatest Invention in Human History

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The greatest invention in human history is written language. Before writing, to convey any information to anyone, you could only do it through word of mouth to people you saw face to face. For most of human history, we lived in small tribes as hunter-gatherers, so knowledge was only passed on to fellow members of one’s tribe (family and close friends). A son would only know what his father remembered from what his father directly told him, and so on. Continue reading

Earth is “One Strange Rock”

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One Strange Rock is a documentary series that aired on National Geographic in the spring of 2018. Hosted by Will Smith and directed/produced by Darren Aronofsky, the show features interviews with eight astronauts, a rare group of humans who have ever seen Earth from off of Earth. With their unique perspective, they can better understand the planet and our place in the universe.

As well as fascinating information, One Strange Rock also includes spectacular visuals: footage of Earth from above (outer space) and below (the strangest far reaches of the planet). It’s a show that every human on Earth should watch to better understand themselves and the planet we all share. It’s certainly a better viewing option than the daily news cycle. Whereas the news aims to invoke fear and outrage and divide people against each other, One Strange Rock is educational and inspiring and aims to bring us all together.
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