Sunil Jain

December 23, 2023

Books & Podcasts I found interesting in 2023

Here are books, with short summary, as well as podcasts that I read/listened to in 2023 and found most interesting.

Books are listed in the order  I found insightful and valuable to me. I may not agree with everything they say. I try to broaden my horizon by reading/listening to different point of views. Given a topic, you will see a book or podcast from opposing points of view in my list.

Dopamine Nation by Anna Lembke 
There are quite a few books on the topic of Dopamine. Last year I had read Molecule Of More, and that one explained thru stories how dopamine driven we have become and the impact it has on us. Dopamine Nation does an excellent job of laying out mechanics of dopamine in terms of pleasure and pain, using see-saw as metaphor . This very beautifully explains the impact constant reliance on pleasure has on our hedonic set points. With prolonged and repeated exposure to pleasure stimuli, our capacity to  tolerate pain decreases, and our threshold for experiencing pleasure increases.

Stolen Focus by Johann Hari 
If someone has to read only one book this year, I would recommend this one. Like any book, there are some extremes in this one too, which I may disagree with. Once you get past those, this one does such a good job of explaining why our attention spans have become short. It goes beyond the Social Dilemma documentary, talks to different sides, consider their point of views as well.  Lays out the root cause of the problem. Provides some pointers where some progress can be made, instead of preaching solutions.

Thought Is Your Enemy by  U G Krishnamurti
My favorite philosophy book of all times, which I read every year.  Great insight into  origin and destructive nature of thought. This lines pretty much sums up his approach - A guru is one who tells you to throw away all crutches. He would ask you to walk, and he would say that if you fall, you should rise and walk again(this is a metaphor of course and usefulness of crutch when needed is implicit).  

Atomic Habits by James Clear 
This has become a classic on this subject. Very simple and relevant messaging.  Until this year, I had avoided books on the topic of habits, as I did not want to become a robot chasing all these productivity techniques. This one fortunately does not steer you in that direction.This quote from the book sums it well - Forget about goals, focus on systems instead.

Power Of Habits by Charles Duhigg 
This is probably the most practical and useful book on the topic of habits. It lays out mechanics of craving, motivation & habits, then talks about techniques to develop habits for learning /acquiring new skills. 

The Practice(reread) by Seth Goddin 
This one was probably not as popular as other Seth books, I found this one to be probably his best one.  It has so many memorable one liners. Couple of examples - We become what we do; Art is generous act of making things better by doing something that might not work. Flow is symptom of work we're doing, not the cause of it.

Mastery (reread) by Robert Green 
I ran into this book few  years back, and every couple of years I read it. Just to remind me, how to live an authentic life of no regrets. Key takeaway is to go back to childhood interests and inclinations to help find what your life's tasks are.

Genius Zone (reread) by Guy Henddricks
Similar to  Mastery, this one again is on the same theme - how to live authentic life to it's full potential. Activities and interests that give you energy are the clue.

The Great CEO within  (reread)  Matt Morchary
So many leadership books combined into one. Very practical advice, which can be used by any leader in their day to day job.

Courage to Stand Alone by  U G Krishnamurti
UG is my favorite philosopher and Thought Is Your  Enemy my favorite philosophy book of all time. This is a companion book on same topic. Not as good  as the other one but great insights on nature of our mind.

Unique  New Science of Human Individuality by David Deutsch
This has some great examples  and data points elaborating how our unique genetic constitution as well environment we grow up that influences outcomes. Instead of binary thinking nature vs nurture it talks in terms of heredity interacting with experience, filtered through the inherent randomness of development. It posits that IQ is much like any other behavioral trait. IQ test score has substantial heritable and nonheritable components, and the balance between the two can vary between populations, becoming more heritable in wealthier populations with more social, economic, and political power. The nonheritable components of IQ include social experiences both within and outside the family, nonsocial experiences like nutrition and infection, and, of course, a dose of randomness from the imprecise, stochastic nature of brain development.

How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Freedman Barett(reread)
This is a reread from last year. One of the best books explaining how our brain's predictive mechanism has a huge role in our emotional states. It posits that emotions are not built-in but made from more basic parts. They are not universal but vary from culture to culture. They are not triggered; you create them. They emerge as a combination of the physical properties of your body, a flexible brain that wires itself to whatever environment it develops in, and your culture and upbringing, which provide that environment.  It uses concepts like interoceptive network and body budget to help explain how our emotions are made.

The Manual  by  Epictetus  
Probably the shortest and simplest book on Stoicism but distills the essence very powerfully.

Read This Before Our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli
There is so much literature  now days on how to run effective meetings and importance of asynchronous communications. I have published several blogs on the same topic. This book is good, time tested compilation of  methods for getting most out of meetings.

Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Fear & Anxiety by Joseph Ledoux
This books going into mechanisms and various brain circuits that get activated during anxiety and fear. Then it goes into different methods that can be deployed to help deal with these more effectively. From breathing exercises to meditation practices it lays out scientific reasons as to why these methods are so effective.

15 Commitments Of Conscious Leadership (reread) by Diana Chapman
Probably one of the best books on leadership. Lays out framework around leadership using below the line and above the line metaphor for leaders. And different phases in growth of leaders, from To ME -> By Me -> Through Me -> As Me.

Indistractable by Nir Eyal
I only read this because author of Stolen Focus mentions the author of this book, as one of the leading figures who laid foundation for companies using our attention as currency. He talked to the author where in the he  lays out the case for personal responsibility on each of us to make our indistractable. While this may not be enough, as Stolen Focus examines methodically and correctly, I wanted to check out the techniques, in case there is something new there. I found most of these not new, and I have already not deployed. Sill interesting to read how author of attention grabbing techniques, himself fell prey to those and how he overcame the lure. 

Elon Musk(partial read)  by Walter Isaacson
While I skipped lot of personal details about his life in the book and disagree with some of his views on controversial topics, what was interesting in the book was how he runs several businesses at one time. How he applies his algorithm/decision making process in shipping everything  from electric cars to reusable  rockets. From questing requirements to deleting any part of process you can, was interesting. Interesting to see how he applies his software engineering approach to other industries, which may be summed up as - its not how well you avoid problems but how fast you figure out what the problem is and fix it.

Golf Books:
Small Book Of Million Dollar Golf Tips by Jasmin Cull & Diana West
Ben Hogan's Five Lessons (reread) by Ben Hogan
Dave Pelz's Short Game Bbile by Dave Peiz & James Frank


For each podcast, I have listed these in order I found these to be insightful and valuable to me. I may not agree to everything they say but try to broaden my horizon by listening to different point of views.

Lex Friedman:
Jeff Bezos - Amazon & BLue Origin
Eliezer Yudkowsky - Dangers of AI and End Of Civilization
Walter Issacson - Autobiographies
Sam Harris - Pandemic, Twitter
David Pakman - Politics
Dennis Whyte - Nuclear Fusion and the future of Energy
Yuval Noah Harari - Human Nature, Intelligence, Power & Conspiracies
Coffezilla - SBF, FTX, Fraud, Scams & Fake Gurus
Sam Altman ChaptGPT & Future of AI
Shannon Curry - Johnny Depp trial, Marriage, Dating & Love
Marc Andressen - Future of Internet & AI
George Hortz - Tiny Corp, Twitter, AI Safety
Lee Cronin - Controversial Nature Paper
John Mearsheimer - Israel-Palestine, Russia- Ukraine
Elon Musk - Wars, AI, Aliens
James Sexton - Marriage Relationships
Stephen Wolfram - ChatGPT & nature of Truth
Max Tegmark - The case for halting AI Development
Tim Urban - Tirbalism, Marxism, Liberalism

Tim Ferris:
James Clear - Atomic Habits
Matt Morchari - Live Coaching with Tim
David Deutsch and Naval Ravikant - Fabric of Reality
Derek Sivers - The Joys of Un-Optimized Life
Seth Godin - Pursuit of Meaning
David Engleman - Exploring Consciousness
Richard Koch - Revisiting 80/20 Principle
Nassim Taleb & Scott Patterson - How Traders Make Billions
Arther C Brooks - How to Be Happy, Reverse Bucket Lists
Sam Corcos - Calendars, Loom, Delegation, Writing Memos
Morgan Housel - Contrarian Money and Writing Advice
Dr Willoghhby - Hidden Risks of Meditation
Shane Parrish - Warren Buffet
Kevin Kelly - Excellent Advice for Living
Brena Brown - Striving versus Self Acceptance
John Vervaeke - How to Build a Life of Wisdom
Dr Mathew Walker - All things Sleep
Mark Manson - Path to Subtle Art of Not Giving A fuck

Robert Green - A process for finding & achieving your unique purpose
Dr David Linden - Life, Death & the Neuroscience of your Unique Experience
Dr. Adam Grant: How to Unlock Your Potential, Motivation & Unique Abilities
Dr Sam Harris - Using Mediation to Focus, View Consciousness & expand your mind
Chris Palmer - Diet & Nutrition for mental health
Dr Lisa Friedman Barret - How to understand emotions
Vivek Murthy  - Efforts & Challenges in Promoting Public Health
Mark Andressen - How raik taking, innovation & AI transform human experience
Dr Maya Shankar - How to shape your identify & goals
Dr Robert Malenka - How your brains circuits drive your choices
Tim Ferris - How to learn better & create your best future
Dr Elissa Epel - Control Stress for healthy eating, metabolism & again
Dr Sachin Panda - Intermittent fasting to improve health, cognition & longevity

Hidden Brain:
Follow the Anomalies
Escaping Perfectionism
The Secret to Great Teams
Make the Good Times Last
Slow Down
THe Truth ABout Honesty
Who you want to be
Why memories fail us
The best years of life
Paradox Of Pleasure
Path To Enough
How Others See You
Seeking Serenity 
Remember More, Forget Less
Less Is More
Revealing Your UnConscious
Who Is In Your Inner Circle

People I Mostly Admire:
Greg Norman
Higher Education is Broken
Nate Silver
Abrham Verghese
Thomas Curran

Sam Harris
A  Postmortem on my response to Covid
The Low Trust Society
The War in Gaza
Animal Minds & Moral Truth
Gaza & Global Order
The Bright Line Between Good and Evil
The Sin of Moral Equivalence
A Golden Age for Assholes
The Doomsday Machine
The Constructing Self and World
Tim Uraban - Great Derangement
Trouble With AI ith Stuart Russel and Gary Marcus
Twitter, Elon & Free Speech

Joe Rogan:
Peter Zeihan
Joel Turner
Brian Keating
Coleman Hughes
Elon Musk
Sam Altman
Dave Smith