04 December 2009

Best Book(s) '09

This year I read more non-fiction than I ever have. There is a clear pattern this year to the books that stand out the most for me. It’s been a year of transition, and a year of life designing.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
by Tim Ferriss

This is the manifesto for the location independent. This is the book that got me thinking about looking for a customer, rather than looking for a job. What I liked about it, over other similar books, is that it gave concrete advice on how to start. It’s not a guide to how not to work; it’s more of a rough guide to working smarter, to creating a product you can sell and manage from anywhere in the world.

How to survive when the shit hits the fan: natural disasters, financial disasters, riots, governmental collapses. When I started reading this book, I made a list of all the things I needed to do: wilderness survival training, learn how to ride a motorcycle, re-new my CPR license, learn to sail, learn how to pick a lock and hotwire a car, etc. You know, just in case.

I’ve never had much faith in my government. I come from the former Eastern Bloc and was taught that I can rely only on myself. So, the idea of complete self sufficiency is quite appealing. What none of the reviews of Emergency mention, however, is that in attempting to become self sufficient and live off the grid, Neil Strauss became closer to his community. And, this is what I took away from the book: the importance of community. Of course, I still want to learn how to ride a motorcycle, shoot a gun, and sail any boat.

What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question
by Po Bronson

This is not a career advice book. It is a collection of 50+ life stories: people with diverse backgrounds who questioned their lives, and took active roles in creating new paths for themselves. The lawyer turned baker, the investment banker turned farmer, the engineer turned lawyer, the list goes on. There are no answers in the book, but different questions and different ways to look at the problem.

I discovered the book when I was doing research about living in the Caribbean (at one point this year the plan was to move to the Virgin Islands). It’s about a couple that, literally, sailed away. They quit their jobs and sailed around the Caribbean for two years. It is not the best book I have ever read, and, at times, reads too much like a fluff article in Islands magazine. But, I love the idea of the adventure. The world did not end, their careers were not over, life went on, and they had great experiences in the process.
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