Category Archives: The Bookshelf

The Bookshelf: Bachelor Pad Economics

Aaron Clarey has come out with a new book, Bachelor Pad Economics, in which he explains basic financial planning for young men. He wrote the book as a reference to be used when needed rather than reading it cover, I ignored this advice and read it cover-to-cover. It didn’t really hurt the book.

As usual, Clarey writes in a straightforward, but engaging manner. Despite the subject matter, it never becomes overly dry or dull. With this and Enjoy the Decline, Clarey has begun proof-reading his books, I didn’t notice any of the grammatical errors and sloppy editing that plagued his earlier books.

The book comes in at about 500 pages divided into 15 chapters covering all the aspects of basic financial planning you’d expect and some you wouldn’t. He covers the normal things like budgeting, career planning, and retirement planning, but he also goes beyond this into covering things like girls and family. I didn’t notice any important area of financial planning he missed; it look like he covered all the basics.

On the other hand, I knew most of the basics of financial planning and have read his other books (parts of Enjoy the Decline overlap with this book), so I didn’t get too much new information out of it, but the basics are good and worth repeating.

One thing I like about the book is it goes beyond just financial planning and establishes beforehand the reason you need to financially plan. Clarey makes the point it’s not stuff, but people that make life worth living and financial planning should be geared not towards accumulating more stuff for not reason, but towards creating a better life.

As with Clarey’s other books, there’s a stream of amoral hedonism throughout and he again advocates his Smith & Wesson retirement plan. So, some people might not particularly agree with morality of the book.

Recommendation:

This is a solid, engaging guide to financial planning for young men. If you’re a young man and need to get your financial house in order or don’t have a financial plan, I would heavily recommend getting Bachelor Pad Economics; it’s probably the most boredom-free way to get this kind of advice. It could also be useful to young women, but a lot of the advice might not be as applicable.

If you’re already knowledgeable of financial planning, this book won’t really impart much new. If you’re older, you might get some value out of it, but its market is primarily young men.

Previous Reviews of Clarey:

Enjoy the Decline
Top Shelf
Behind the Housing Crash
Worthless

The Bookshelf – Finding Flow

One of my friends has been recommending Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly to me for a while. I got around to reading it this last month and figured I’d review it here.

The book is about flow. The author spends the first third of the book explaining flow. Essentially, flow is that peak experience where you lose yourself in the task at hand. Everything in your being is focused and you’re concentrating solely on what you’re doing, totally immersed in your activity. We’ve all (probably… hopefully?) experienced it at some point. It’s when you’re playing a sport and nothing exists except you, your opponent, and ball; when your writing and there is nothing but you and your words; or when you’re working on that difficult project, look up, and find that 2 hours have just somehow disappeared. That’s what flow is, being in the zone. He differentiates flow from happiness, concentration, and motivation.

Mihaly argues that flow comes from a meeting of a high level of both challenge and skill. If something is not challenging enough, people become bored, if something is too challenging people become frustrated, but if the challenge is just right right for someone’s skill level, he will enter this experiential high. (This concept of flow actually aligns fairly well with my last post. Devote your whole being to your work for God and flow will be one of the immediate rewards).

The second third of the book concentrates on analyzing where flow can be found in work, in leisure, and in relationships.

The last third of the book give some advice on arranging your life so you are more likely to encounter experiences where flow is likely, describing the autocelic personality, and discussing the role of flow and transcendent goals on society.

Two major concepts aside from flow he writes of are the autocelic personality and psychic energy. Psychic energy is pretty self-explanatory; each person has a reserve of mental energy and attention they can devote to activities, things, and people. Autocelic individuals are those who seem to have high levels of psychic energy which they devote to the tasks they are working at allowing them to experience flow often.

The book is fairly short, at less than 150 pages of writing, and is easy to read through. It’s well written and moderately engaging. The ideas are interesting and are mostly backed up with science. Overall, the book was solid.

I do have two criticisms of the book. The first being that, despite being called Finding Flow, there was little practical advice for finding flow. There was some general advice, mostly lumped into the 7th chapter, for putting yourself into situation to experience flow, but given the title of the book and the impressions I got from my friend, I was expecting a more practical book.

As well, the general advice basically boiled down to: try new things, pay active attention when you do things, do things you like, don’t watch too much TV, make lists, and prioritize your time. None of that is bad advice. In fact, its all good advice, but its also pretty standard fare; that kind of advice can be found everywhere and most of it was too general to be immediately useful. It might have been the hype of my friend, but I was expecting something more groundbreakingly insightful or life-changing.

The second criticism of the book comes from the last chapter. There was a slight bit of a new-ageyness feel throughout the book, as is not uncommon in self-help books, but for the most part it the book was grounded in science which made it ignorable. During the last chapter, however, he follows a decent section on our societies narcissism with his ruminations on creating transcendent goals for people to work against entropy apart from traditional religion. He talks about science throughout this and explicitly separates it from New Age mysticism, but its disconnection from first principles was off-putting and made it felt like repackaged, semi-spiritual. New Agey mumbo-jumbo. Although, he did ameliorate this some at by stating that it might be possible everything is meaningless in the last paragraph of the chapter and book.

Despite these criticisms, Finding Flow was a decent psychological self-help book that mostly avoided the off-putting inanity of many self-help books. The concept of flow is a good one and his discussion of where flow can be found was interesting. On the other hand, his recommendations were more general than practical and were not particularly novel. I was expecting more and was a bit disappointed, but that was probably more because my friend had been hyping the book to me for such a long time than any actual deficiencies in the book itself.

Recommendation:

This book was fairly good read on an interesting concept with some good, if not original, advice. It’s readable, not overly long, and the Kindle version is decently priced (at $13 the paperback price might be a bit on the high side for its length). If the concept of flow is interesting to you or you are looking for some general self-help advice based on scientific study, this book would be worth looking at. I wouldn’t say it’s a must-read, but if my description interests you, pick up Finding Flow.

The Bookshelf: Shoot Deer

Manosphere-affiliated blogger Tim, has created an introductory ebook on hunting deer, called, in blunt style, Shoot Deer. He gave me a copy to review.

I am a beginning hunter; I went out by myself this fall for the first time.  For my first hunt, I simply drove out to the nearest crown land, parked at the side of the highway and walked a few hundred meters into the bush til I found a small clearing. I then sat on the ground in small dip leaning back against a tree and waited, shotgun in hand. Probably not the most effective way of harvesting anything, but it was a learning example for next time (while hoping not to get lost in the woods), when I plan to prepare a bit better.

As could be expected, I didn’t catch anything, which was somewhat frustrating as I could hear scraping/crunching within shooting range, but couldn’t see anything through the trees. I would move a bit closer, wait 5-10 minutes, then move again, but it always was just out of sight. In retrospect, it was probably just another hunter and we were simply spending a few hours hunting each other.

Other than that attempt, I’ve never hunted and I don’t really know anybody who hunts, so the topic of this book really appealed to me. Learning a few tricks of the trade would be handy.

And that, this book provided. It had a lot of information on deer hunting. I can’t tell you if its correct or not, as I don’t have the proper experience, but what he writes makes sense and he seems to give due consideration to methods of which he disapproves.

There a lot of things in here I simply would never even have thought of. As one small example, he talks of finding special detergent to wash camo, as most detergents make clothes brighter, something you do not want for your camo.

The book cerainly delivered on its main purpose of providing solid information for beginners on deer hunting. I plan to re-read it again closer to the next deer season.

The major problem I had with the book is Tim focuses a lot of the book on maintaining private hunting property, especially in the first half of the book. He devotes 8 chapters to the topic and only two to alternatives.

For a beginner, its quite the expense to purchase a decent chunk of land for hunting. I live in an area that’s not overly expensive, but checking Kijiji, the cheapest hunting land is $12k for 40 acres. Although, that might be cheap for real estate, that’s quite a bit of upfront investment for a beginner. (I wish I had $80k to spare, there is a lot of beautiful land I could get on Kijiji).

I think the book would have been better for beginners if it had a bit more on hunting on public land (although, maybe public land isn’t as abundant in the US as it is in the western Canada). It would also have more flow if the property chapters were more towards the end of the book rather than right near the front.

That being said this book is excellent and I wish I had had it this summer. There’s a lot of information, and it all seems good. The book is written in a conversational, first-person tone which fits well enough. It also looks well edited for self-publishing; there were few typographical errors and none that interrupted the flow of the book.

At $8 for about 200 pages, the price is good for the amount of information presented.

Recommendation:

If you’re thinking of starting deer hunting, this will be a gecent book to helping you get started or to give you a some information on what’s involved in hunting. Pick up Shoot Deer, but skip the chapters on property ownership (unless of course, you plan to purchase property right off the hop).

If you’re not interested in deer hunting this is obviously not going to be all that useful.

If you’re interested in more information on deer hunting, check out Tim’s blog, Shoot Deer.

Also, Tim, I would suggest putting up an easy to see link to your book on Amazon on your blog; I didn’t see one.

The Bookshelf: 10 Laws and What is Neoreaction

Today, we’ll look at two tracts created by people from the masculine reactosphere, the 10 Laws of Finding Your Mission by LaidNYC and What is Reaction? by Bryce Laliberte. Both works are rather short, respectively 14 and 59 pages, so one post should cover an overview of both. We’ll start out with the 10 Laws because I read it first because it’s shorter (I’m pragmatic that way).

****

The 10 laws of Finding Your Mission

The 10 Laws has the unbeatable price of free, but Laid is asking for donations to help his puppy. Dogs are awesome, so help him out.

The first thing I noticed was that there were actually 11 laws, because there were 2 Law #3′s. So, you actually get more for your moochery than advertised. Despite this minor mistake, there are relatively few typos or grammar errors; it’s well-edited for a free online book.

The book essentially reads like an extended series of blog posts combined into a single document. Each law takes about a page and is mainly independent from the rest. The writing is mostly straightforward and competent with the occasional bit of humour. It’s functional.

But that’s not why you care, you’re reading this for the laws, not the writing style. In that the book is good. He outlines why you should have a mission and gives you some hints on how to go about finding your mission. He is both optimistic and realistic at the same time, which is a nice combination to have.

The book gives an excellent amount of value for the price of free, At the very least, I suggest giving it give it a skim; the page headers make it very easy to do so.

Recommendation:

If you are trying to find your mission, I would recommend the 10 Laws; it won’t take much time and could be very useful. I would especially recommend it for younger men who may not even know they are looking for a mission. If you are still in high school or college, make sure to read this; it could save you a lot of stumbling and regret later in life. It’s good value for money; if you like it, send LaidNYC a donation.

*****

What is Reaction?

Bryce Laliberte at Anarcho-Papist came onto my radar in July after writing a lot of insightful posts in a short period. It took effort to keep up, but keeping up was worth it. He’s since slowed down, and in a period of blog downtime he wrote a tract with the academic-sounding title of “Ideology, Social-Historical Evolution, and the Phenomena of Civilization Or What is Neoreaction?” as overview to neoreaction. He asked me to review and I was looking forward to reading the essay since reading the teaser, so I agreed and here it is.

At first, I thought this would be an introduction to neoreaction, but it is not, it is more an overview and is probably not for the beginner to neoreaction. As well, this is written at a very high level; it is mostly high theory and is written in very academic language. Do not be fooled by the short length; this is not a simple read.

In the essay, Laliberte examines starts with some examination of what ideology is and what is required for an ideology to succeed. He outlines the difference between the occult motivations of and the vagaries/superstructure of an ideology. He posits the reactionary occult motivation as order (protestantism/liberalism’s being equality), while the various manifestations of neoreaction (capitalism, nationalism,futurism, monarchism, anarchism, etc.) are vagaries of this motivation.

He then examines the main concepts of reactionary philosophy: the ascendance of modern spiritual egalitarianism (the Puritan/Protestant hypothesis), hierarchy and stability, the social determinism of biology, the importance of time preference, patriarchialism, anti-modernism, futurism and the effects of technology on man, hedonism, race, capitalism, monarchism, nationalism,and tradition.

I’m not going to critique the analysis of the essay, as most of it is not particularly novel; if you’ve read a fair amount of neoreactionary blogging you’re probably familiar with most of the concepts. But his explanations of the concepts are good ones; as just one example, I’ve read about the benefits of patriarchy many times already, but I still very much liked his explication of the issue and his explicit linking of it to societal time preference.

There are some smaller quibbles I could make; for example, he seems to implicitly posit nazism as a virulent form of reaction, when I see it more as more of a demotist movement, but for the most part his analysis of neoreaction seems sound upon first reading.

My one problem with this essay is the academic-style writing. I’ve always hated the self-important bloviating and purposeful obfuscation of the academy and this essay seems to drop into it at times. I understand that complex topics may require complex terminology and writing and mostly Laliberte sticks within these reasonable bounds, but, especially closer to the beginning of the essay, it seems he is being unnecessarily complex and obfuscating in that particular way academics are. On the other hand, writing in the academic style might be necessary to push neoreactionary ideas into mainstream academia, so this might not necessarily be a bad thing. (When the restoration comes, I hope one of the things we do is destroy the idea in the liberal arts that writing should be complex for complexity’s sake).

I think this is a good encapsulation of neoreactionary ideology. If you are new to neoreaction, I’d suggest reading Moldbug first, this is not something that will convince you. On the other hand, if you are an outsider want an academic look at neoreaction, this is probably a better analysis than Moldbug’s work, which tends more towards argument for than analysis of.

If you are already a reactionary, this is worth the read. It’s priced affordably and solid value for money.

Recommendation

If you’re a neoreactionary or knowledgeable of neoreaction and looking to explore it more academically, I’d drop the $3 and get What is Neoreaction? If you’re new to neoreaction, read Moldbug first.

If you’re an academic outsider researching this new neoreactionary ideology, this essay would be an excellent place to start.

If you don’t care about neoreaction, this would quite obviously be a waste of time and if you hate academic-style writing, you may find the essay annoying to get into at first.

The BookShelf: Economics in One Lesson

I finished reading Economics in One Lesson weeks ago, but haven’t got around to reviewing it yet. So, here goes.

First, the title is misleading, this book will not teach you basic economics, it is more concerned about correcting basic statist and keynesian errors in economic thinking. Also, it’s 25 small lessons, not one, although, at only about 200 pages you could finish it in an evening if you put your mind to it.

That being said the book is a good one. It is written well and is moderately simple read. It’s a little dry, but not overly so given the subject matter. The arguments are solid and concise and the book is neatly organized.

If you desire to learn about the many economic errors of statism and good, simple counter-arguments to statist arguments, this book will provide. If you have a statist friend, this book would be a good recommendation. On the other hand, you will not learn basic economics, only basic economic errors.

One problem with the book is that it is 50+ years old now, so many of the arguments are now standard within the conservative/libertarian narrative. If you’ve read much about economics or been involved in political debates online, you might find many parts of the book to be somewhat obvious, as you’ve already heard them repeated endlessly. Even so, having the arguments systematized and summarized is useful.

Also, if you’ve read What is Seen and What is Unseen, most of that book’s argument are also addressed here. If you read EON, it would be unnecessary to read WSWU, expect for enjoyment purposes.

Recommendation:

You should read Economics in One Lesson if you’re interested in economics, interested in politics, or want some counters to common statist economic arguments. If you already very knowledgeable about free market economics, this book will likely be unnecessary, although you may still like an organized version of common free market arguments.

What’s next:

A few weeks ago, I started reading John C. Wright’s Universal Apology. It, along with a dissatisfaction with evangelicalism that has been growing within for the last couple of years, has got me to seriously question my protestantism. So, the reading lists are going to go more slowly while I read a bit about the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, canon formation, and the like. I will likely post interesting topics I come across here; I may or may not do book reviews. If anyone is interested I’m currently going through The Biblical Canon; I also plan to read the Spirit of Catholicism, the Orthodox Church, and Christianity: the First 3000 Years.

Expect the occasional thread on Catholicism or my readings on here. I may occasionally ask my Catholic/Orthodox readers some questions.

While the reading lists are going to be slow, they are not stopping altogether. I’m still sporadically reading Boston’s Gun Bible and have started sporadically reading Sowell’s Basic Economics. When these are done (whenever that may be) I will review them here. I also am going to start reading the Brothers Karamazov for a book group I’m in, I may or may not review it here and I’ll share any profound thoughts I may have about it.

The Bookshelf: What is Seen and What is Unseen

What is Seen and What is Unseen is a part of both the Free Man’s Reading List and the Dark Enlightenment Reading List. It was written in the early 1800s by a Frenchman, Frederic Bastiat.

The writing is solid and moderately engaging, but nothing spectacular.

It’s a rather short book at less than 50 pages, but it gets its main point, that government spending and government debt have unseen negative consequences and you should be aware of unintended consequences when making policy, quite well. Essentially, it is a debunking on Keynesian BS from over a century before Keynesian BS existed. While reading the book, I couldn’t help like feeling Bastiat was intellectually bitch-slapping Paul Krugman from beyond the grave.

Given the age of the book, most of the arguments are well known on the right or among those with some economic knowledge, so if you’re knoweldgable about economics you might already know most of these arguments, such as the broken window parable, for which the book is known. To simplify the parable, a broken window does not lead to economic gains, as the person spending money to replace the window may be employing the glazier, but the tailor/printer is losing out as her is not buying a new book or new clothes.

But even if you know most of it, the most fascinating thing about this book is how little has changed in two hundred years. How can you not read this and think of the intellectual whores like Krugman:

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it…

Or this, and think of every idiot socialist:

Our adversaries consider, that an activity which is neither aided by supplies, nor regulated by Government, is an activity destroyed. We think just the contrary. Their faith is in the legislator, not in mankind; ours is in mankind, not in the legislator.

Or this and think of the Fed:

Whatever may be the amount of cash and of paper which is in circulation, the whole of the borrowers cannot receive more ploughs, houses, tools, and supplies of raw material, than the lenders altogether can furnish; for we must take care not to forget, that every borrower supposes a lender, and that what is once borrowed implies a loan.

Anyway, the greatest thing about this book is seeing how retarded economic ideas parroted by  the ignorant and blind were intellectually destroyed two centuries ago by an economist most people have enver even heard of. Then you feel somewhat sad that mentally enfeebled will still gain traction with their debunked arguments.

Recommendations:

I would strongly recommend reading What is Seen and What is Unseen. It’s a short, quick guide to basic economic reasoning that demolishes Keynesian arguments.

The only reason not to read this book, is if you are reading another Austrian economics book that is more in-depth. For example, I have started reading Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, and most of the subject matter of What is Seen and What is Unseen has been covered in the first few chapters of Hazlitt’s book.

But even then, the enjoyment of watching modern idiots being thrashed by some unknown Frenchman 150 years dead may make it worth your while.

Note: I am now moving onto Boston’s Gun Bible and Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, if anyone is trying to read along with me.

The Bookshelf: The Trivium

I finished the Trivium, part of the Free Man’s Reading List, after a couple of months(with interruptions for other reading), so let’s get to the review.

Now, your first question, valued reader, might be, “why did a book of little more than 250 pages take months to finish?

To which there are two equally correct answers; First, I fall asleep on the bus, my primary reading time, a lot and, second, and far more applicable to this particular book, this is probably the most dense book I have read. There is more information/word in this book than anything I ever read in university or high school.

I learned from the bibliographical notes at the back that it was actually written as a college textbook for a course on the Trivium of logic, grammar, and rhetoric back in the 1930′s for a freshman course that “met five days a week for two semesters.” And this was in the days when a college education actually meant something. So you know there is a lot of information packed in this book.

That this book was a product of a different time shows clearly throughout the book. There is no coddling or hand-holding of the reader/student here; the text is simply ‘this is what is, here’s a couple of examples, you now know the concept’. A concept or word is defined or explained once, then you are expected to know it throughout the rest of the book. There are no gentle reminders: if the word ‘syncategoramic’ was defined in chapter 3, then you damn well better know what it means when used in chapter 6. (There is also no glossary, which would have been amazingly useful in trying to remember what exactly “a distributed term”, for example, refers to; the lack of a glossary would be my biggest criticism on the book).

If this book was written today, I’m sure it would be padded to a good 500 pages (at least) with examples, hand-holding, and explanation and still contain less information. This is not a ‘friendly’ book. Simply following along and understanding the book requires a lot of mental effort. Retaining the terms and concepts requires a lot more more. To get the most out of this book, would require serious study (such as a 5-day, 2-semester course), which I did not do.

I am almost certain I am not going to retain a lot of the information presented, and I will not remember a lot of the terms; I’ve already forgotten what an enthymeme refers to.

That being said, the concepts are far more important than the terms. I might not remember the term that refers to a particular concept, but next time I see the concept being symbolized in words, it will likely get me to think deeper about what I am reading, and I can always look up the term or concept for further clarification.

I found interesting about the book is how it flowed together and built off itself. The book starts with the function of language and moves onto grammar. From there is moves seemlessly into logic, which makes up the bulk of the book. I found it fascinating how the discussion of logic itself is naturally built within and on grammar. The book ends with a small section outlining the basics of rhetoric, composition, and reading.

At the same time I was fascinated, I was also saddened. This book revealed to me just how ruined our education system currently is. I took “English” throughout school, like most did where I learned grammar. I took a logic course in university (although, the isntructor never did teach any formal logic for some idiotic reason). I am highly educated, intelligent, and my writing has always been better than average, yet no one has ever, through my 18 years of education (18? ouch), pointed out the connection between grammar and logic and how the latter is rooted in the former.

This whole book was a walking indictment of our modern education system. These are the very basics of language and thinking, yet little of it is taught in school. I am familiar with most of the concepts in the book, if not the terms and formal laws, yet this I’ve never seen it so systematized and logically presented anywhere throughout the almost two decades I spent being “educated”. Some rules of grammar are drilled into our heads in grade school, and there are logic courses that are offered, but I’ve seen nothing like this.

This book should be foundational to education. They should start teaching this systematically in grade school. Hell, if all six years of grade school focused solely on the Trivium, ignoring everything else to get kids to fundamentally understand it, it would be a vast improvement to our education system. When my future children are homeschooled, this book will be a major component of the curriculum.

As for the writing style, it is clear, analytical, and precise, if rather stark, exactly what you should looking for in a book like this. You are not going to be entertained, but the writing does the job it is intended to do transmit information, even if it gives you absolutely no slack or mercy.

Anyway, to get the most out of the Trivium would require a commitment to comprehensively study it over a decent period of time. Simply reading it through like I did, will help introduce many concepts or solidify concepts you may be familiar with, but you will know that you are missing a lot. You will get out of this book in relation to the time and effort put into it.

Recommendation:

If you want to learn the basics of grammar and formal logic and/or you are looking to better develop clear thinking and clear language, the Trivium will help you understand these concepts directly in relation to how much effort you’re willing to put in.

So, if you are interested in this and willing to put in at least some effort, I recommend the book. Be warned, even if you are not studying it in-depth, it is still a dense read.

If you are planning to homeschool, I would recommend making the Trivium a foundational text of your curriculum.