Five Books to Feed Your Mind

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." -Frederick Douglass

📚Hey, good evening!

First off, let's welcome all the new people who joined us since last time!

There are 2,272 of us in total now.

Thank you (yes, you!) for trusting me to bring you the absolute best book recommendations I can each and every week!

As always, these are long emails full of great books and tons of cool surprises.

But I never expect that everyone will be interested in every single thing I publish.

So, feel free to jump around and dive into whatever does interest you!

Today we've got...

  • An introduction to today's "5 Books"

  • The book quote of the week

  • My personal news, and the best of what I'm reading and sharing right now

  • Two online creator friends of mine you need to know about

  • Three of my favorite newsletters that I always open

  • A new book alert: featuring a book that will help you excel when everything is changing

  • The latest book breakdown from the Stairway to Wisdom

  • Meta-Learning, and why it’s the keystone skill that will lead to the development of every other skill

  • How I used the “10% Rule” to read 100+ books every single year for the last ten years

  • Why “achieving” failure is the key to success

  • Why budgets are for broke people - and what you should do instead

  • My top 5 book recommendations this week

  • A special gift for reading all the way to the end

In one sentence…

Fooled by Randomness is a book about luck, uncertainty, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand.

Zero K is an incredible short novel by one of the grand masters of literary fiction about balancing the horrors of the world with experiencing “the mingled astonishments of our time, here, on earth.”

I’d Rather Be Reading is a collection of relatable reflections on the reading life that gave words to the best things about books that I had only dimly felt.

Ultralearning is a thoroughly researched book about meta-learning - learning how to learn - and why it’s essential for a rapidly changing world.

Zen in the Art of Writing is a spectacular book about the craft of writing, from the author of Fahrenheit 451.

Here in this email are summaries of each book, along with a sample of my best notes, and if you want my complete set of notes on these books, you can find them on my  Patreon .

Pro Learning Tip:

 Getting a membership to Medium is one of the best investments I've ever made in my continuing education. The quality of the writing on Medium is superb, and some of the smartest, most interesting thinkers publish there regularly.

“The world is bursting with wonder, and yet it’s the rare productivity guru who seems to have considered the possibility that the ultimate point of all our frenetic doing might be to experience more of that wonder.”

-Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks

1) I’m going in for surgery next month to repair a hernia (it’s a relatively safe procedure!) and so I’ll likely miss at least 1 issue of The Reading Life.

It’s scheduled for the week of August 14th, so it’s a little ways away, but I just wanted to let you know ahead of time!

It’s a pretty minor surgery, though, so I don’t think I’ll be gone for too long.

2) This week, I just opened up premium subscriptions to The Reading Life!

You’ll still get all of the summaries and book notes you’ve been getting until now, but I’m thinking of giving paid members early access to new posts, even more book notes and summaries, and discounts on all my books and courses coming out in the future.

I’d also love to know what YOU would like to receive as a member of The Reading Life, so just respond to this email if you have any suggestions!

Become a Book Club Insider now by joining my premium membership and receive early access to new posts and videos, members-only book summaries, and a free gift after signing up (Value of Gift: $102)!

3) We just broke the $100 mark in the Charity Reading Challenge!

Thank you to everyone who has made a donation so far to First Book, the children’s educational charity, including the latest contributor, Gustas! Thanks!

This will be an ongoing challenge and you don’t have to donate or anything in order to participate.

It’s open to everyone - and please share this Reading Challenge if you know some people who might like to take part - and if you’d like to donate to First Book, they’d appreciate it a lot!

To participate, all you have to do is set a reading goal for the month and try to reach it.

You don’t have to share your goal with anyone, but you could reply to this email and tell me, or comment on the fundraising page and let everyone know!

Me, I plan to finish Sapiens this month (I have ~300 pages left), as well as 8 other books (print and digital) and 1 audiobook.

That’s 10 books this month in total! (If my math serves me correctly haha).

I'm also listening to  Living Untethered, by Michael A. Singer on Audible. It’s read by him, which makes sense, given that he’s a motivational SPEAKER for a living! His story is also hella inspiring and I’ll pick up basically any book he comes out with.

Nowadays, I listen to about 3-4 audiobooks a month, and I always listen to them on Audible. No other audiobook service even compares. You can also get a 30-day free trial  right here .

You know I love to support new and old friends of mine who are doing awesome things (or simply amazing people I've stumbled upon around the internet), and so here’s someone you should know about:

1) First up is a new friend of mine from Twitter, Kyri, whose “One Thing” is helping people develop INCREDIBLE products and communities.

As he says, “product is king,” and if you have a spectacular product that actually helps people in a meaningful way and that customers can’t stop recommending to others, all your cash flow problems will basically be solved.

If marketing is the tax you pay for having an inferior product, Kyri is like your very own personal Wesley Snipes (a tax evasion joke haha).

What I also love about Kyri is how dialled-in he is and focused on building the most stable, dependable, and profitable personal brand he possibly can.

His tweets are epitomized by radical transparency as he shares his wins and losses on his way to helping people scale their businesses to 7 figures, and it’s an honor to have made his acquaintance!

2) Next up is another new Twitter friend of mine, Greg Lunt. He’s an authority on podcasting and hosting Twitter Spaces who has hosted 1,500+ hours of audio, but what really caught my attention was a voice note he left me shortly after I made the easy decision to follow him on Twitter. 

It was the perfect example of something I’ve believed in for a long time, specifically, doing things that don’t scale. Adding a personal touch to your business communications, and giving first before you even bring up the possibility of receiving.

The voice note was just a 20-second “thank you” for following him and wishing me all the best. I honestly don’t remember what he said in the note, but I damn sure remember how he made me feel, and this is true with the people you communicate with in your life too.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever sell your products to people. You absolutely should. You need to tell people about what you offer, because otherwise, they may never know! But the relationship comes first. It’s those things that don’t scale. Those are what matter. Those are what people will remember.

So yea, if you want to learn how to use your voice to grow your audience and generate more business, follow Greg! He might even leave you a nice voice note one day.

Do you know someone I should know?

I’m always looking to connect with accomplished, inspirational, and good-hearted people who share the same interests that I do…especially books!

So if you have a favorite author, influencer, creator, etc. that you think I might love to meet (and maybe feature here), let me know! You can just hit reply to this email anytime and tell me about them. Thanks!

📚 Alex and Books Newsletter: Become smarter, happier, and wiser with 5-minute book summaries. Plus advice on how to develop a reading habit, become a better reader, & more.

📚 Sahil Bloom’s Curiosity Chronicle: Join 400,000+ others who receive the 2x weekly newsletter, where Sahil provides actionable ideas to help you build a high-performing, healthy, wealthy life.

📚 The Imperfectionist: Oliver Burkeman’s twice-monthly email on productivity, mortality, the power of limits, and building a meaningful life in an age of bewilderment.

📚 Start Your Own Newsletter with Beehiiv: This is the email platform I use personally to support my publications, The Reading Life, and The Competitive Advantage. I recently switched to Beehiiv and I will never, ever go back!

I’ve been reading Brad’s work ever since Peak Performance came out, which taught me how to balance recovery with more extreme levels of effort in order to avoid burnout (basically, why I needed to rest more and place a greater focus on recovery if I wanted to retain the ability to drive extremely hard), and also taught me that continued improvement in most domains is the result of pushing beyond what you’ve been able to achieve before.

I was a big supporter of that book, although I haven’t read his second-latest book yet, The Practice of Groundedness.

I want to, but I’m also looking forward to reading Master of Change, which comes out on September 5th!

Here’s what Amazon has to say about it:

A revelatory book on rethinking change and creating a rugged and flexible mindset amidst life's intensifying flux, from an expert on sustainable excellence, coach, and bestselling author of The Practice of Groundedness.

From social disruptions like economic recessions, pandemics, and new technologies to individual disruptions like getting married, career transitions, and becoming a parent, we undergo change and transformation—both good and bad—regularly. Change is not the exception, it’s the rule. Yet we endlessly fight it, often viewing it as a threat to our stability and sense of self.

Master of Change flips this script on its head and offers a path for embracing and even growing from life’s constant instability.

Brad Stulberg, sustainable excellence expert, coach, and bestselling author of The Practice of Groundedness, offers a new model that describes change as an ongoing cycle of order, disorder, and reorder—yes, we return to stability, but that stability is somewhere new. Drawing on modern science, ancient wisdom, and daily practice, Stulberg offers concrete principles for developing a mindset called rugged flexibility, along with habits and practices to implement it. Along the way, Stulberg reveals:

  • How to be in conversation with change instead of it happening to you.

  • The importance of expectations

  • Why cultivating a rugged yet flexible sense of self is key to a strong identity.

  • How to take productive action during a challenge.

  • The paradox of both making meaning and moving forward.

In the end, Stulbergreshapes our entire perception of change and shows us how to grow in its midst—ultimately helping us move forward better, stronger, and wiser than we were before.

"On my sixty-eighth birthday, I decided to give my young adult children some advice. I am not a frequent advice giver but soon I was able to write down 68 bits. To my surprise, I had more to say than I thought.

So for the next several years I wrote down a batch of advice on my birthday and shared it with my family and friends. They wanted more. I kept going until I had about 450 bits of advice I wished I'd known when I was younger.

I am primarily channeling the wisdom of the ages. I am offering advice I have heard from others, or timeless knowledge repeated from the past, or a modern aphorism that matched my own experience. I doubted any of it is truly original, although I have tried to put everything in my own words.

I think of these bits as seeds because each one of them could easily be expanded into a long essay. Indeed, I have spent most of my time writing by compressing these substantial lessons into as compact and tweetable forms as possible. You are encouraged to expand these seeds as you read to fill your own situation.

If you find these proverbs align with your experience, share them with someone younger than yourself."

-Kevin Kelly, Excellent Advice for Living

Just because you're old doesn't mean that you automatically have much valuable wisdom to share. Some people haven't really lived 10,000 days, they've just lived the same day 10,000 times. Kevin Kelly, however, is an exception, and it turns out that the brilliant and insightful tech innovator gives excellent life advice.

For anyone hearing about Kelly for the first time, he is the co-founder of Wired magazine and a highly-praised futurist and author whose optimistic outlook on the next chapter of human history has inspired a generation to think bigger and to advance confidently into the next stage of human evolution.

As Kelly says in the quote that began this summary, the life advice presented in this book was originally intended for his young adult children to help them navigate the hazardous future we all find ourselves hurtling towards. But the very act of writing them down caused him to realize that he had much more to offer than he thought he did when he began, which resulted in him eventually compiling this wonderful collection of 450 wise, practical, and incredibly valuable aphorisms.

The range of subjects they cover is as wide and deep as life itself, and so you'll find here advice about setting ambitious goals, cultivating peace of mind and equanimity, dealing with loss, organizing your life around adventure and spontaneity, dispelling anger and sadness, minimizing regret, and so much more.

Now, in a book with hundreds and hundreds of wise, practical aphorisms, my choices about which ones to expand on and which ones to ignore likely say more about me than they do about whether they're the "best" aphorisms or the "most useful" ones.

As you read the book and filter this life advice through your particular worldview, situation, and understanding, you're probably going to disagree with at least a few of them, or find them irrelevant or silly, etc. But which ones those are will change depending on who you are. That's part of what makes books so magical!

That being said, if it's true that your quality of life is roughly equal to the quality of the 20-30 people who give you the best advice, then you'd be wise to include Kevin Kelly in that group.

"Meta-learning (learning how to learn) should be the skill that precedes all others. Knowing the principles and strategies of effective learning will maximize the time and energy we put into anything else, as well as optimize our work in improving and mastering our chosen craft."

-Nick Velasquez, Learn, Improve, Master

Learning how to learn is literally what makes all other learning possible. As they say, if you have 60 minutes to chop down a tree, you should spend the first 55 minutes sharpening your axe, and that's what meta-learning is all about.

There aren't too many better books to introduce you to the principles behind successful learning than Make It Stick, so I highly suggest checking out my complete breakdown of that book here. It will demystify learning, as well as dispel many of the myths and falsehoods surrounding effective study habits.

Learning how to learn is probably the 1% of things you can study that's going to lead to 99% of your results, an extreme version of the Pareto Principle we spoke about in this breakdown. Knowing how to learn in the first place is going to put you ahead of so many of your competitors.

Not only that, but you'll be able to make even more progress, faster, and eventually you'll be so far ahead that no one who doesn't apply the principles of successful learning will ever be able to catch up to you.

Further Reading: The Stairway to Wisdom

Note: This is a sample from my other newsletter, Stairway to Wisdom. Along with the book breakdowns, you get a premium weekly newsletter packed with insights and ideas like this one. Get your 14-day free trial right here .

The 10% Rule is VERY simple and VERY easy to implement, and it's going to help you TREMENDOUSLY when it comes to both discovering new books to read AND finishing them faster.

There are actually two different VERSIONS of the 10% Rule, and I discuss both of them in this video.

I also share my thoughts about a few popular book summary platforms and tell you which ones I think are the best.

Have you ever used either version of the 10% Rule? Did it help?

Let me know! I read every comment.

Even though I had just achieved muscular failure performing the squat (that’s when you physically, LITERALLY CANNOT perform another rep, not when “you” want to stop), I still had to do the same thing with the linear leg press, leg extensions, leg curls, and seated calf raises, before moving on to decline sit-ups and a final half-hour of walking cardio.

Yea, Wednesdays suck.

But I’m standing there with my legs on fire and I’m thinking:

“No one else is doing this.

Not only is there no one else here (I mean, it WAS midnight after all), but virtually no one else in the entire world is willing to put in THIS MUCH EFFORT to win; they’re not willing to go through THIS MUCH PAIN; and they’re not willing to do this for as many DECADES as I’M willing to do this for.

This is f***ing NORMAL for me, and that’s why I win.”

This mindset wasn’t an accident, and I’m also not just referring to what it does for me in the gym.

This is my daily, 16-hours-a-day attitude, and it’s a major reason why I’ve moved so far ahead in life and why most people will never catch up to me.

Adopting it will set YOU apart as well if that’s something you want for yourself.

After going through years of checking your credit card balance before buying $25 worth of groceries, you never forget the first time you’re able to toss over your card without even looking at the register.

Or footing the bill for a $400 dinner and not even thinking twice.

Or [Insert your own definition of “Rich Life” here].

This is my reality today, and budgeting helped me get here, but the day I decided to stop using a budget was the first day of my journey to real wealth. [Read Time: 5 Mins ]

This is one book where you just feel yourself getting smarter simply by reading it. I’ll admit that Taleb’s writing style can be a little…self-congratulatory, and I can see where people are coming from, but I still view all of his work as pretty much essential reading. They’re unbelievably valuable books about learning to see the world clearly and they’ve changed how I personally approach living and choosing.

Fooled by Randomness is part of Taleb’s Incerto series, “an investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision-making in a world we don’t understand.” It’s about why we think we’re so smart, and why we’re so easily fooled.

Taleb himself is a renowned risk expert, stock trader, and polymathic scholar whose term “Black Swan” has entered the public consciousness to mean a completely unforeseen, random event that we can only explain looking backward and, by definition, never predict.

The main focus here in this book is the huge part that luck plays in our lives and how little we all understand it. We think we do - that’s the problem - but people get lucky or unlucky all the time, and yet, instead of recognizing that fact of the universe, we congratulate ourselves on being so smart or thrash ourselves for being so stupid.

This is one of those books that you can read again and again and again, year after year after year, and for that reason, I’ll never stop pushing Nassim Taleb’s books into people’s hands and saying, “Look!”

“In the real world one has to guess the problem more than the solution.”

***

“Journalism may be the greatest plague we face today - as the world becomes more and more complicated and our minds are trained for more and more simplification."

***

“Wealth does not count so much into one’s well-being as the route one used to get to it.”

***

“We favor the visible, the embedded, the personal, the narrated, and the tangible; we scorn the abstract. Everything good (aesthetics, ethics) and wrong (Fooled by Randomness) with us seems to flow from it."

Literary fiction doesn’t get nearly the same level of attention as it did even a few years ago, but Don DeLillo is one of the grand masters of the genre and this is one of my favorite books of his. It’s also about two of my favorite topics: staring down Death and embracing Life.

Zero K is a shorter novel about a man named Jeffrey Lockhart, whose father, Ross, a billionaire in his sixties, is the main investor in this secret compound way out in the desert, where they work to cryogenically preserve rich people for a future time when medical science can save them and bring them back to life.

Jeff is…less than enthusiastic about the aims and purposes of this secret compound, distrusts his father, and fears for the well-being (physical, mental, spiritual) of Ross’s wife, Artis, who is set to go under the ice for the foreseeable future.

Against all this, Jeff is committed to experiencing “the mingled astonishments of our time, here, on earth” while balancing, on the one hand, the horrors of the world and, on the other, the “absurd good news” of being alive at all. I loved virtually everything about this book and I wish it were as long as DeLillo’s other classic, Underworld!

“What’s the point of living if we don’t die at the end of it?”

***

“You die as someone with a certain name and with all the history and memory and mystery gathered in that person and that name. But do you wake up with all of that intact? Is it simply a long night's sleep?"

***

“They would come and take her. They would wheel her into an elevator and take her down to one of the so-called numbered levels. She would die, chemically prompted, in a subzero vault, in a highly precise medical procedure guided by mass delusion, by superstition and arrogance and self-deception."

***

“There’s no end to not knowing. And no end to not living forever.”

This one is for all my book people! This is a short, fast read, a book of “relatable reflections on the reading life,” and if you’ve ever blown off work to finish the last few chapters in a book, or stayed up late because you needed to know what happens, this is the book for you.

I actually didn’t know until just now that I was on Anne Bogel’s email list! It’s called What Should I Read Next? and it literally just hit me as I started to write this that she’s been showing up in my inbox long before I ever heard of this little book of hers.

It won’t take you long to read this one, but I think you’ll be glad you did. She’s obviously “one of us,” and so often, I’d Rather Be Reading reached into my mind to put into words what I had only dimly felt.

“For anyone who’s ever finished a book under the covers with a flashlight when they should have been sleeping.”

***

“The great thing about getting older is you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”

***

“Decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.”

***

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”

-Italo Calvino

This is one of the better books out there about learning, and I recommend that you start following Scott’s work today, because he just gets better and better and smarter and smarter as he continues to learn and teach the best practices for mastering any language, topic, or skill.

Along with languages and skills, Ultralearning is useful for reinventing yourself in your professional capacity too, since the modern world is changing unimaginably quickly and we must learn to adapt to the ever-changing nature of work and business. Meta-learning - learning how to learn - is going to be your best defense against obsolescence, a hedge against the future, and this book will help you sharpen that skill.

The book discusses 9 different principles involved in rapidly learning complex skills, and it’s a must-read book on self-education. It’s heavily researched, valuable, and tactical, which is exactly what you’ll need if you want to use these skills of yours to beat out the competition and separate yourself from everyone else who isn’t prepared for the future challenges of life and the world.

Most people never invest much in their own self-education after finishing formal schooling, which is why meta-learning will be your competitive advantage against your “average” competition. Nobody is putting in the kind of work that Scott did to put together this book, and for your sake, you must become an ultralearner if you want to keep up.

“Your deepest moments of happiness don’t come from doing easy things.”

***

“By taking notes as questions instead of answers, you generate the material to practice retrieval on later.”

***

“A picture retains a thousand words.”

***

“The best ultralearners are those who blend the practical reasons for learning a skill with an inspiration that comes from something that excites them.”

One of my favorite authors ever, Ray Bradbury, wrote a bookon writing! I’m so there! No one else could have written this book, and every page is stamped with his singular personality and passion for stories and the written word. To put it another way: this book is alive.

Bradbury is the author of one of my favorite books of all time, Fahrenheit 451, a dystopian novel about a future in which books are banned and firemen don’t fight fires - they burn books. It’s a damn good book - one of the best, in my opinion - and Bradbury’s created world was, in a very real way, alive too. At least it was alive to me. Part of me still lives there.

So it didn’t take very much convincing at all to get me to read Bradbury’s book on writing, and it definitely didn’t disappoint! It’s all about grabbing hold of inspiration and finding magic on the printed page; it’s about developing and embracing the writer’s passion for creating fictional worlds and getting nonfictional people to live in them; and it’s about mastering something that means more to you than anything else in the entire world.

Part memoir, part writing guide, all Bradbury, all books, all the time! That’s Zen in the Art of Writing. It’s split up into 11 separate essays with one singular theme: the joy of writing about the true, magical nature of the real world we live in.

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”

***

“In order to convince your reader that he is THERE, you must assault each of his senses, in turn, with color, sound, taste, and texture. If your reader feels the sun on his flesh, the wind fluttering his shirt sleeves, half your fight is won.

The most improbable tales can be made believable, if your reader, through his senses, feels certain that he stands at the middle of events. He cannot refuse, then, to participate. The logic of events always gives way to the logic of the senses."

***

“What do you think of the world? You, the prism, measure the light of the world; it burns through your mind to throw a different spectroscopic reading onto white paper than anyone else anywhere can throw. Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper. Make your own individual spectroscopic reading."

***

“All this, this, this, all this - too much! It cracks the heart! And so? Find art.”

Today’s Five Books on Amazon:

You made it to the end! Congratulations!

You're now among the rarest of the rare.

I mean, that was a lot of books!

But I hope you found something here that looked interesting!

Personally, I’m obsessed with sharing the magic of books and reading, and so I love it when one or more of my book recommendations “hits.”

Also, if you know someone who might love this newsletter, you can just send them this link!

Or click here to share via Twitter. Thanks!

And if someone forwarded you this email, you can sign up on this page right here. 

I also want to thank you for reading this newsletter all the way through to the end and to thank you for real, I’m going to give you a 1-month free trial to the Stairway to Wisdom.

That’s twice the free trial period that most people get, because people who finish what they start - and have the patience to do a lot of reading - are usually the ones who love the Stairway to Wisdom the most.

Enjoy!

And remember, you can just hit "reply" to this email to ask me a question or offer a book recommendation of your own. I may take a while to respond, but I read every one!

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

P.S. Whenever you're ready, here are three more ways I can help you apply the wisdom found in the greatest books ever written to your life:

  1. I’m going to be leaving some casual spots open for personal coaching, alongside what I do for my monthly clients, and the first choice always goes to the people on my email list.

    Simply reply to this email or click here if this is something you're interested in working with me on, and I'll let you know more about it, answer all your questions, etc.

    Areas I can help you with include reading more books and remembering more of what you read, growing your business, getting into better shape, and building mental toughness and resilience.

    You’ll work 1-1 with me, and together we’ll be lining up big breakthroughs for you every single month.

  2. I've released 50 complete, in-depth book breakdowns on the Stairway to Wisdom that respects both your time AND your intelligence and will help you become the person you've always known you were capable of being. Read them for free here.

  3. Join my free Substack publication, The Competitive Advantage, where I teach high-level, high-impact self-discipline tactics and strategies to help you progress toward your goals.

    You'll also join a supportive community of other winners all moving forward together in the direction of where we want to be in life. Join here.

Join the conversation

or to participate.