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I read books that center around three themes: risk, relationships, and reality. Or, put differently, I learn how to better navigate this world by understanding:
These lessons can be taught with fiction and non-fiction, as well as various news articles and media. The Stoic Book Notes will focus mainly on the books I’m reading, but other sources will be broken down.
I’ve read every book and will be continually adding to the notes. Rather than write a summary, I collected the most impactful, insightful passages from the back.
Instead of getting the quotes with my sloppy interpretation, I simply pull the quotes and put them here for each book. I will often add my interpretations and lessons to the notes, but you’ll primarily be getting the passes from the book directly as the author wrote them.
Reading the whole book takes too long, but gives the most information. Summaries miss ideas and important wording based on what the summarizer thinks is important.
Stoic Book Notes is the best of both worlds. The passages are not categorized. They’re listed in the order they appear in the book.
“On Killing” examines the psychological costs of war on soldiers asked to kill. He explores the innate human resistance to killing one’s own species and how military training overcomes this through conditioning techniques.
Professional poker player Annie Duke outlines an approach to decision-making that she has developed through years of competing in high-stakes poker tournaments. Duke argues that in an uncertain world, where luck plays a role, we should view most decisions as bets rather than definitive statements or predictions. Instead of focusing too much on being right or wrong, we should think probabilistically, embrace uncertainty, and examine our beliefs and opinions as hypotheses to be tested.
Viktor Frankl reflects on his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. He describes the psychological trauma and suffering inflicted by such extreme dehumanization, as well as his realization that finding purpose and meaning in life sustained those prisoners who managed to survive. Frankl concludes that meaning comes from dedication to a worthy cause or another person, allowing even severely suffering people to find the strength to endure and prevail.
Tony McAleer recounts his years spent immersed in the 1980s and 1990s white supremacist movement, which provided an outlet for his rage and need for belonging in the wake of childhood trauma. Though convinced of the righteousness of the racist ideology at the time, his eventual disillusionment and hunger for personal growth led him to not only renounce hate and violence but become an educator and advocate for the disengagement of other extremists.
The Hagakure is a practical and spiritual guide for a samurai, written in the early 18th century by Tsunetomo Yamamoto, a former retainer of Nabeshima Mitsushige, the third ruler of what is now Saga Prefecture. It is a collection of thoughts, anecdotes, and observations intended to orient young samurai on living a meaningful life and how to prepare oneself for death through following the bushido code. Seen as a seminal text on the way of the samurai, The Hagakure emphasizes loyalty, self-discipline, stoicism and simplicity as the virtues that should guide a samurai’s conduct.
The Book of Five Rings is a text on kenjutsu and the martial arts written in the 1600s by the undefeated samurai Miyamoto Musashi, known as the Sword Saint. Musashi advises that by adopting various stances and strategies used in different martial arts, and a state of spiritual calm and strategic acuity, warriors can prevail in combat with a variety of opponents. Divided into the five chapters of Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Void, the book uses metaphors from nature and Buddhism to impart Musashi’s lethal techniques and philosophical attitudes on confronting conflict.
In his 2018 book “Mamba Mentality,” basketball legend Kobe Bryant shares the insights, mental frameworks, and competitive drive that fueled his illustrious 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Blending personal stories and advice with perspectives on cultivating the “Mamba mentality,” Bryant outlines his famously relentless approach to practicing, playing, and achieving at the highest levels. For sports fans and anyone striving for excellence, “Mamba Mentality” offers an inside look at the mindset behind one of basketball’s greatest players.