The 5 Books (And 1 Article) That Shaped My Thinking In 2013


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As you may have noticed, there weren’t a ton of new articles on in 2013. Not because I wasn’t thinking about cars, but because I read over 60 books, listened to hundreds of podcasts, and read thousands of articles. It was a year of absorption rather than production. It also didn’t help that the site was hacked and a few articles that I wrote in the first half of the year were lost, including the piece introducing my new 2012 Fiat 500. But, c’est la vie.

So, since I spent so much time digesting new information this year, I thought I’d share the 5 books (and 1 article) that most shaped my thinking.

For your holiday enjoyment and in no particular order:

Cradle to Cradle

1. Cradle to Cradle: Our globalized economy scrapes raw materials from every corner of the globe, ships them to the Far East for assembly, ships them to the West, them buries them in a landfill or dumps them in a stream. None of the products are designed to be reused and none of them are designed to be recycled, much less repaired. We might force them into doing so, but it requires immense amounts of energy. We’re called “consumers”, but we’re merely borrowing these complex “consumables” before they go to the landfill. So why are we wasting so many perfectly good raw materials and poisoning the biosphere in the process? McDonough and Graungart demonstrate that products can and must be designed from the outset so that, after their useful lives, they will provide nourishment for something new. This book is a compelling call to action.

2. 4-hour Workweek: I read this, then read it again, then gave my 2 weeks notice from a stable, comfortable government job. I haven’t looked back.

3. On Equilibrium: Western society prays at the alter of rationality, while completely neglecting the qualities of common sense, ethics, imagination, memory, and intuition. We need to regain our balance – to find our equilibrium. John Ralston Saul goes deep with mesmerizing cleanliness.

4. Debt: First 5000 years: Money was created to overcome barter, right? Wrong. Money is about relationships and therefore debt. While human societies have used everything from seashells to giant rocks as currency, rulers of larger kingdoms have historically enforced the use of a particular currency via taxation as a means of financing war, then creating inflation so that their debts weren’t as onerous. The moral: not everyone has to pay their debts. Anthropologist and Occupier David Graeber shatters conventional theories about politics, finance, and social structure. This book prepared me to fully appreciate bitcoin.

5. Nothing Sacred: Being Jewish isn’t about attending synagogue, it’s about iconoclasm, community and communication. The Jews who feel disconnected from their local congregations are rejecting the spoon-fed, one-stop-shopping approach so common today. Rushkoff gives modern Jews alternatives and, in doing so, confidence.

Article (there could only be one):


1. The Basics on Bitcoin: 11 Things to Know About This Suddenly ‘Hot’ Digital CurrencyWhen I first heard about bitcoin on my favourite podcast, EconTalk, in November 2011, I dismissed it as an unnecessary alternative to PayPal. At that time, 1 bitcoin = $1. This was before I had read The Black Swan, Debt, and dozens of other books on history, philosophy, and finance. So on April 4, 2013, when I came across this article while flicking through the AAPL news on my iPhone’s Stocks app, I was more prepared to understand bitcoin’s implications and I didn’t brush it off so quickly. At that time, bitcoin was trading around $100 and rising fast. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep for 6 weeks while I absorbed every nuance I could.

I can honestly say that I’ve never been so excited about an idea in my entire life. bitcoin, the currency, and more broadly Bitcoin, the protocol, have the potential to change the world for the better, and I intend to facilitate this change with every tool at my disposal. This article, ostensibly an SEO puff piece, unlocked the truest purpose I’ve ever felt.

To give this list at least some measure of automotive relevance, this article ultimately led me to fly to San Jose to attend the Bitcoin 2013 conference. It was that trip that gave me the opportunity to drive the Dodge Challenger SRT8 on its home turf.

I have a feeling that 2014 is going to be epic. Less reading, more doing, and hopefully more writing as well.

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Years everyone!

[Photo credit: Guy Wulf/Flickr]

Amazon links for books: