The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

I grew up less then a 1/2 hour from the hermits camp and I am quite familiar with the woods. The book is a good read about the hermit and details his story very well. It is well written and kept my interest.
The book also details how he was able to get the story by writing to Knight in prison and going to visit him in jail. Also Finkel went to the campsite and surrounding woods and gives a good description of what it was like while he was there for over 25 years.
Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

Knight did not have a pet in the woods but the closest to it was a mushroom..

The Hermit grew up very close to where it did around the same time. This description of riding around seemed very farmiliar to kids in semi-rural Maine.

Lastly this info about isolation and how it effects on people really shocked me.

Books of 2017

I read 14 books this year for a total of 5005 pages(meeting my 5K goal for the 4th year in a row!). Below is the list:

I really enjoyed all of them but my favorite this year I think I would choose “Thank You for Being Late” by Thomas L. Friedman. It kept my interest very well as he explained the complex world and where we are headed. Of course “The Everything Store” was a close second.
On the next tier of my books that really helped me understand what happened in the election of 2016 was Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. he wrote this great book about growing up in southern Ohio / Northern Kentucky area and how his family and friends outlook on education. Here is my favorite quote from his book:

The Zero Marginal Cost Society by Jeremy Rifkin

A few years ago I saw Mr. Rifkin on a podcast and I was so excited by what he was saying I went out and bought this book. Not only is he someone who really is a visionary about where the world is headed, he has been proven right from his earlier writings.
As the name of the books suggests ( the sub title of the book is The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism) he sees a future where the world will be built off of the work of collective commons and shared economy. he also realizes that free is coming to everything. A quote from the book:
“But what if I were to say to you that 25 years from now, the bulk of the energy you use to heat your home and run your appliances, power your business, drive your vehicle, and operate every part of the global economy will likewise be nearly free? That’s already the case for several million early adopters”

He drives this home also with a subject I am very familiar with of electric power distribution. For example, Germany has focused on having homeowners are one of the main players of creating power through solar. He has been consulting with the German Government for years on his vision the the 3rd industrial revolution.
“In Germany, a gas- or coal-fired power plant that might cost $1 billion to build, but that will no longer run at full capacity because of the onslaught of renewable energies into the grid, can only pay for itself on days when there is no wind or heavy cloud cover.”

He also discusses the IoT well. Here he talks about how it is hitting so fast with the other major movements:
“The coming together of the Communications Internet, the Energy Internet, and the Logistics Internet in an Internet of Things provides the cognitive nervous system and physical means to integrate all of humanity in an interconnected global Commons that extends across the entirety of society.”

Vice Media just made a film about Jeremy Rifkin that was at the Tribeca film festival that I am excited to see but can’t find it anywhere. Below is a good sample of Jermey’s works on Youtube:

The Alchemist

I had heard this book mentioned in other books as a journey into self reliance. As soon as I started reading I fell in love with the story of this young man searching for his destiny and fortune. Below are some of my favorite quotes.

The book really focuses on keeping laser focus on what you want to do in your life.  Also realizing that the fear of failure keeps us from our dreams is an important point people self destruct from.  Anohter


Another good quote that highlights passion transfers between co-workers and friends.  I see this all the time in great leaders and how they can get people on board to form a team that can do amazing things.

This is also a good quote about knowing the futuwistomwistomre – if you know bad things in advance the worrying is worst waiting for it to happen.  I think this also goes to positive thinking and how you need to make your own path and not look beyond the horizon very far.  It is better to have a pleasant surprise…

I like to think I have heard this language before and I have tried hard over the years to learn it myself.  it really does change your mindset and people around you.

Another quote about fear – I feel this emotion really cripples people and stops them from reaching goals.  It is so hard to get beyond the fear to try new things or meet new people.

I would recommend this book to anyone who really wants a good well written story that has many pearls of wisdom included in it.


The Everything Store Book

I had head about this book once on a podcast and added it to my list a few years ago.  After I heard Amazon bought Whole Foods a few months ago I decided it was time to read this book.

The book is fantastic and really goes deep into the culture and the mind of Jeff Bezos.  Besides being one of the most richest persons on the world, it should a side of a driven person who never gives up on making his company the biggest ever.  Below are a few highlights of quotes from the book.

80 year old reflection

The above quote I think sums up the drive Bezos has and what he wants to be known for.  As he says, “we are our choices” and how we make the little decisions and what guides us to do those shape us in ways we will continue to make the next choices.

The Values of Amazon

I liked the way Bezos came up with the values of the company.  I really like the bias for action that I take as don’t sit on the stands, make the action even if it is wrong it is better then sitting on the sidelines.

The Monk and the riddle

Another good quote about “take a missionary over a mercenary”.  I see this choice in many aspects of business.

This was interesting on getting into Bezos’s idea of corporate culture and where he wanted Amazon to be.  He was obsessed with Amazon’s perception in people’s minds and did not want to be considered not an innovator.

More on his list of why companies are loved or feared.  So true.

This story about the “Sev-B” I thought was very interesting.  Jeff wants to be as close to the customer as possible and the dreaded “??” email is meant to have the entire company response like the house is on fire.  Below the highlights discusses one such issue of the “lubricant” email that continues in the next highlight.

This is classic Bezos style – talk about the elephant in the room and make sure everyone holds no punches on how the boss feels about it.  This issue was only one customer response but he knows if one person went through the trouble of sending an email many many more are aware of it and just stop using amazon.

This last one is about the frugality part of the core values of Amazon.  For the company to ask for the backpacks back if someone leaves, I think that shows how they are some “scary” big company like Jeff outlined above.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to everyone!  It is well written and also shows a detailed look on how Amazon became Amazon.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Read this book a few weeks ago and really thought it had some great qualities. The book is about Trevor Noah of the Daily Show growing up in the slums of South Africa. What made the story so interesting is how his mother had framed his life to dot he right thing. The book really is a tribute to her and how she raised him under such dire circumstances.
Below are a few of the best quotes from the book:

This quote is about his dog Fufi and how you can’t make someone love you – great story about how the dog had another during the day and Trevor thought the dog was 2 timing him.

This is a quote from his mother talking about how he nags and hits him because she loves him compared to the police who really do not care about him.

I would highly recommend this book – great read and an eye-opener about how lucky growing up here in the US is compared to others places like the transforming South Africa.

Fridjof Nansen’s Farthest North Book

Fridjof Nansen is the real life Indiana Jones that I have ever found – he was a man that never stopped doing the impossible. Besides being a world class explorer in his later years, he became a great statesman including winning the Nobel Peace prize for his humanitarian work that included his invention of the Nansen passport. This passport saved 450,000 refugees throughout the world.

His book, “The farthest north” chronicles his adventures with a custom build ship he designed to handle the ice in the arctic ocean as he tried to cruise to the north pole. He did not succeed but his adventure is a story that needs to be told! I expect his story to be made into a movie that would just amaze the world with fighting polar bears and Narwhals.

I read the 2 volumes of his book on the adventure for the north pole. It is a book that come directly from his notes he took every night on the trip. Even though it was written over 100+ years ago it seems so vivid like you were right there.

This is the ship that Nansen designed to handle the crushing force of the arctic ocean. The boat was a reflection on himself with a great study to read books while on this 3 year journey. Also it was outfited with a windmill to power a battery to read in teh darkness of the winter.

He brought a camera on board of the Fram and this is one of the photos of his crew. He handpicked everyone with high standards to handle the enormous challenge to being at sea for so long.

First learned about him from podcast “things you missed in History class”. it really gave me a flavor for such a man who did big things to change the world. Also it should be noted that he was a scientist – a degree in zoology and studied wildlife.
Some great quotes from him: “Never stop because you are afraid – you are never so likely to be wrong.”
“The difficult is what takes a little time; the impossible is what takes a little longer.”

The Road to Character book

Last year another great book I read was from David Brooks who I see on the PBS News Hour every week and on NPR as a conservative pundit. I was a little skeptical about reading his book but someone had recommended it to me. The book focuses on people throughout history who had tremendous character. He focused on what that means – not someone who was famous for speeches or movies but for doing what is right even when no one is watching.

One of the people he focused on was Eisenhower’s mother and how she raised Dwight with an abundance of courage and character. Another person he focused on was Frances Perkins who was the first woman to serve in any cabinet position for the US President (her case was FDR). She focused her life on workers rights and was instrumental in setting up the WPA, TVA, and the beginning of OHSA. Actually she is considered a famous Worcester alum and the library right down the street of my house is named after her.
below are a few qoutes from the book I am fond of.

Sapiens and a scale

Last year I read this amazing book called “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari. It was a detailed look at the history of humans on this planet and his research was so detailed and the book is so well written – I highly recommend it. One point that he made in the book is about how humans have dominated the entire world for their own needs and have totally destroyed other species.

In the quote above, just thinking about the scale of these numbers are mind blowing. Take the number of domesticated dogs (400 million) compared to wolves (200,000). That is a 20 to 1 ratio! When you think of all living things on this planet weighing 1,100,000 tons and 1,000,000 tons is humans and domesticated livestock! Amazing. Think of 1.5 billion cattle to a few handful of other wild animals. The book seriously made me think we are the dominate species on this planet and like a virus we are taking it over until we kill everything.

Admiral Rickover’s Engineer’s Engineer Robert Milligan

My mother worked at the US Naval Station in Brunswick Maine for over 30 years and I grew up hearing everything about the Navy. One of the most colorful people my mom always talked about was Admiral Rickover. Last year I read this great book that was written in his own words called “The Never-Ending Challenge of Engineering: Admiral H.G. Rickover”. It was an amazing book and it really discussed a depth of engineering that I have always been fond of.

One story that the Admiral talks about in one of his speeches is about the Chief Engineer of the USS Oregon named Robert Milligan who served during the Spanish war of 1880’s. He talks about how Milligan changed the way engineers were treated in the Navy – before his tenure they were nothing more then part of the crew, but after that, they are part of the thinking officers on the ship.

USS Oregon

As the story goes, the captain of the Oregon listened to Milligan while working the blockade and let him keep the boilers slowly burning so they could get to full speed fast! This allow them to catch the fastest of the Spanish ships as it tried to out race the entire US Navy.

crew of the Oregon

Another story about Milligan on the Oregon was when they were going from California to Cuba as quickly as possible, the Captain asked Milligan to use the limited fresh water for the crew and use seawater for the boiler. Milligan asked if he could speak freely and recommended using the boiler feed water for the crew and fresh water for the boilers. His changed allowed the ship to do the massive trip in 66 days (this was before the Panama canal and had to go around South America). This forged the relationship between the two men and allowed engineering to have a larger role in the ship decisions.

The best thing about this description of Milligan was the engineer’s engineer as Rickover describes him. The statement about walking down the engine room and hearing every noise knowing if the equipment is working correctly exemplifies that mindset- that was also a trait of Rickover when he was coming up in the Navy. People from other ships would ask his opinion because he knew equipment so well.