Great Books: 7 Days’ Worth of Wisdom and Life Advice From Sarah Bakewell, A.C. Grayling, Kurt Vonnegut, and More…

The following "Life Advice" was re-published from my FREE daily email course on the "Great Books", which you can enroll in by clicking here. Enjoy!

You'll hear me say this quite often: 

In many ways, great books are like puzzle pieces.

If the “puzzle” you’re trying to solve is the fundamental nature of reality (which is the most fascinating puzzle around, to be honest), how to live courageously in the world, how to achieve worldly success, or whatever else, then reading the best books will help illuminate your path.

To continue with the metaphor that I’m inordinately pleased with myself for having thought up on my own, the best books are like “edge pieces” that help you develop your macro-level worldview, and the lesser (though by no means unimportant) books serve to fill in the details of whichever puzzle you’re trying to solve.

The edge pieces give you an idea of how big the puzzle might be, what its basic structure looks like, and then, if you want to dive deeper and really “fill out” your knowledge, you can keep doubling down on your reading and read more books on the puzzle in question, even if those additional books aren’t as paradigm-shattering as the edge pieces you started with.

Follow me?

The funny thing is though (albeit maddeningly frustrating at times) is that you’ll soon realize how much you didn’t even KNOW that you didn’t know!

If you think of what you “know” right now as one giant room, each book you read leads you into an entirely different room.

And once you get to THAT room, you’ll find that it opens up into three ADDITIONAL rooms that you didn’t even know were there.

Clearly, reading is a giant rabbit hole.

You’ll never find all the edge pieces (because most of them haven’t even been written yet), you’ll never be able to explore every room, and you’ll never get to the bottom of the rabbit hole.

But the attempt itself is the intellectual adventure of a lifetime.

Myself, I’ve set the worthy goal of reading 1,000 books before I turn 30, but I’m quite sure that there are probably tens of thousands of books that are WORTH ​​​​reading.

So, with some measure of sadness concerning the finitude of human life and the immensity of available knowledge, I decided to launch a (free) daily email course where I discuss what I believe are the greatest “edge pieces” that I’ve read so far.

If I were to mix my metaphors, I would say that these edge pieces are the books that pack the strongest one-two punches I’ve ever experienced in all my years with the printed word.

I'd love it if you enrolled in the free email course and received these lessons from me via email, but even if you haven't signed up to my mailing list, I still wanted these discussions to be available to you. 

I love nothing more than to push books into people's hands, and running the course benefits me too, because I've realized that the best way to learn this stuff is to teach it to others.

Below, there are 7 days' worth of course material, free as always, on the books we covered that week in the email course. 

If you like what you read here, please don't hesitate to sign up for the REAL email course and get individual lessons sent DIRECTLY TO YOU dealing with the "Great Books" of human civilization. 

And while I have your attention, I will say that ALL of my book notes from every single book that I've ever read are available on my Patreon page.

My study-notes include thousands of pages of quotes, insights, lessons, etc and I've also distilled the BEST notes from each book into one "master" document that is now over 400 pages long! You can get all of that on my Patreon, and I update my notes monthly as I read more and more books.

My daily email course, however, is absolutely free; all I ask is that you never, ever stop learning, and that you never, ever, stop asking questions.

Anyways, enough of all that. Let's get to the books!

From My Notes:

"The way to live is to throw ourselves, not into faith, but into our own lives, conducting them in affirmation of every moment, exactly as it is, without wishing that anything was different, and without harbouring resentment against others or against our fate."


Jean-Paul is famous for, among other things, explaining how we are all "condemned to be free" and how no one else can relieve us from the burden of personal freedom.

Our choices matter, in every moment, and we can't escape the necessity of making them.

The quote from my notes echoes Nietzsche's thought experiment of the "eternal recurrence", the idea that we should live our lives in total affirmation of each moment, as if we would have to experience it repeatedly for all time. 

It's a way to sort of "win" the existential struggle that we're all dealing with here. 

Instead of running from our freedom (which oh so many people do for their entire lives), we can radically affirm every moment of our lives, every choice we make, and boldly advance into our unknown futures, which is really almost the last genuine heroism available to humanity. 

In Nietzsche's own words: "Was THAT life? Well then! Once more!"

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

Want More? Click here to get thousands of pages of my personal study-notes on every single book I've ever read. Organized so that you can find what you're looking for simply and easily.

Also, click here if you would like to enroll in my FREE daily email course on the "Great Books". It's basically in this format that you're reading now, except sent directly to your email.


From My Notes:

'Very often, our beliefs are not our own."


How do you KNOW that your beliefs are your own? Have you ever stopped to critically examine any of the major ones?

We've been picking up beliefs and behaviors for our entire lives, from the time we were little children until today. The adults around us during our formative years were very influential, and that's not necessarily restricted to our parents.

Basically, we learn things from a variety of sources as we get older, beliefs mainly, and beliefs are not always true.

There are harmless, untrue beliefs, and then there are DISASTROUS beliefs that people are capable of holding for their entire lives.

How do you know that your beliefs are your own then?

Nothing against my mom, but she discouraged me from weightlifting for YEARS because she told me that my skin would get all saggy if I stopped working out.

Seriously. 

AND I BELIEVED HER!

Who KNOWS what kind of spectacular shape I'd be in if I started training earlier and getting obsessed with fitness earlier? 

I mean, there's something to be said for radically affirming your life choices and forging boldly ahead, but that was one belief that I had, or rather, was GIVEN, that ended up holding me back.

A big one with most people is the idea that rich people are evil, or that they themselves don't "deserve" to have money, or whatever else. 

The point is that beliefs are not always true, and more importantly, they're not even EXAMINED on a regular basis.

Honestly...which beliefs have YOU been holding onto for a significant amount of time and have just learned that are total bullshit?

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

Want More? Click here to get thousands of pages of my personal study-notes on every single book I've ever read. Organized so that you can find what you're looking for simply and easily.

Also, click here if you would like to enroll in my FREE daily email course on the "Great Books". It's basically in this format that you're reading now, except sent directly to your email.


From My Notes:

"Stop, appreciate small things, and ask, "If this isn't nice, what is?"


When was the last time you’ve done this?

Sadly, for me, the last time I remembered to do was this was the last time that I read over my notes for this book!

I really should remember to do this more often!

There are SO many opportunities for doing this as well. Any day of your life is full of things that you (and me) are missing, opportunities for wonder and amazement and joy that we just don’t even notice.

I’m writing this while at my night job at the Canadian Cancer Society offices in Halifax, Canada. I’m the overnight security guy and the building is completely still. A car just sped by outside, but now I’m left with the sound of my own typing.

The keyboard feels amazing on my fingers. Perfect for writing.

I have a Keurig coffee on my left side, almost cool enough that I should go heat it up, but still tastes great. I’m writing about books, thinking about the person who will eventually read this (you), wondering who it might be, and at what point in their lives this paragraph will find them.

I’m writing about books, one of my absolute favorite things in the entire universe, and I have to stop and ask: “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

Want More? Click here to get thousands of pages of my personal study-notes on every single book I've ever read. Organized so that you can find what you're looking for simply and easily.

Also, click here if you would like to enroll in my FREE daily email course on the "Great Books". It's basically in this format that you're reading now, except sent directly to your email.


From My Notes:

"There's only one rule that I know - god damn it, you've got to be kind."


Man..isn’t that right?!?!

It’s such a simple rule, and one that cascades outward to an infinite degree. You simply don’t know who will ultimately benefit from your kindness today, and how it can transform your own life as well.

I mean, sure there are plenty of other worthwhile rules to follow, like “Don’t Murder Anybody”, but I’ll take that on a case by case basis!

“You’ve got to be kind”, however, that seems pretty universally applicable.

All the best,

Matt Karamazov


From My Notes:

"Dear reader:

It might be thought vain to offer a work such as this to humankind in the hope that it will be useful, because the diversity of principles, ideas and tastes among people is very great, as is the fixity of our notions and our reluctance to change. 

But in truth it would be a greater vanity to offer a work for any other reason. 

Let the sincerity of the intention, then, be this book's main commendation. No work of this or any other kind can please everyone, whatever its ambition; but this one at least gives satisfaction to its maker, of having aimed sincerely at truth and usefulness, and having done so by following in the path of the wise.

Throughout history the commonwealth of humankind has had masterthinkers whose mighty works are monuments to posterity; it is aspiration enough to be a guide among them, and to take from them resources to promote what is true and good."


This is part of A.C. Grayling’s introduction to this monumental work of humanist thought. It betrays some refreshing intellectual humility and a desire not to coerce beliefs or viewpoints, but to offer up for consideration what the greatest minds across history have deemed important.

The Good Book is 1,000 of the wisest pages you’re ever likely to come across, and the breadth of knowledge and learning that Grayling understates here is nothing short of spectacular.

It’s drawn from over a THOUSAND source texts, from Seneca and Plato to Nietzsche and beyond, and I have to believe that Mr. Grayling has read all of them.

Here, he doesn’t tell us that he’s read all these books and has learned what we all need to know. Rather, he states that what he’s come up with might be useful, and that he hopes that it will be.

While consequentialist thinking leads me to believe that intentions aren’t sufficient justification for carrying out an action, one cannot seem to doubt his sincerity here. And the effects of the book, wonderment and a deep affection for all that is alive, will stay with me for my entire life.

Don’t let A.C. Grayling’s intellectual humility fool you into thinking he doesn’t have anything vital to say to us.

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

Want More? Click here to get thousands of pages of my personal study-notes on every single book I've ever read. Organized so that you can find what you're looking for simply and easily.

Also, click here if you would like to enroll in my FREE daily email course on the "Great Books". It's basically in this format that you're reading now, except sent directly to your email.


From My Notes:

"Every moment of the pursuit of truth rewards the pursuer's pains."


I firmly believe this to be true.

I’ve often described the journey of reading 1,000 books before I turn 30 as the intellectual adventure of a lifetime, and what I’m after, ultimately, is Truth, with a capital T.

While it may not ever happen, and it may turn out to be a truly Sisyphean task, the pursuit itself is worthy. I will never give it up.

Absolute truth may not exist, I might (what am I saying, “might”) get extremely confused by all the conflicting theories and mental models and belief systems perpetuated by various authors, but I will always resume the search.

Because as long as we’re alive here on this planet, we’re all in.

If we choose to live rather than die, we’re “stuck” here until that choice is no longer ours. What BETTER do we have to do, other than to aim at the highest good of which we are capable? To seek knowledge and wisdom and truth and justice?

Generally speaking, some good advice is to make decisions based on whether you are likely to regret those decisions later.

In my opinion, you’ll never regret the pursuit of truth.

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

Want More? Click here to get thousands of pages of my personal study-notes on every single book I've ever read. Organized so that you can find what you're looking for simply and easily.

Also, click here if you would like to enroll in my FREE daily email course on the "Great Books". It's basically in this format that you're reading now, except sent directly to your email.


From My Notes:

"Everyone is from outer space, depending on your viewpoint."


I just thought this was so COOL when I first read it.

It actually made me put the book down (well, my phone on which I was READING the book), and think for a long time about this.

The same thing has happened while reading “Meditations”, “The Good Book”, “The Prophet”, “Walden” and any number of other fantastic books. Moments that make you put the book down and take it all in. 

And it’s so true…

Someone living on another planet (hey, who knows, it's a big universe) is going to believe that WE are from outer space.

And they’re going to be RIGHT!

How COOL is that?!?!

Maybe you don’t share my juvenile excitement over this proposition, but personally, it puts a whole lot of things into perspective.

So much depends on our viewpoints. 

All the best,

Matt Karamazov


EXTRA CREDIT:

A few days ago, I wrote a post you might like about the book "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac. It's one of my absolute favorites.

It was my Christmas staff party at the bar I work at, and...you can only imagine how that turned out. It's cold in Canada, and we like to drink!

But I was thinking...It doesn't make sense to decide whether or not to take a job based on "first-order" effects like salary alone. There are many things about various jobs that make them worth doing or not.

It all depends on where you are in life, what you're working on/towards, and what that job can do for you.

Personally, as a shy kid becoming a nightclub bouncer when I turned 19, that job completely transformed my life (many times) and I regret nothing. I learned how to stand up for myself, ask for what I want, be interesting, deal with people, become better with women, everything. 

Right now, however, my head is pounding. 

Let's just say I had an interesting few days.

Drinks at the Alehouse Christmas party (the bar I work at on the weekends) were $2, and my tab...was $300! At one point I asked the bartender, "How many trays fit on a shot?!?!"

Yeah.

Since I've been working there so long, I was able to sleep it off on the couches upstairs, came downstairs to have a Gin and Caesar (we were open again by then), at which point someone told me I should come outside and take a look at my CAR!

Yea, someone had taken part of the front bumper off while I was asleep upstairs. Fortunately, they left a note, so the Christmas spirit was kept alive. 

Since I was in such a good mood, I then headed to the bookstore and dropped another $250 just on books!

I won't bore you with the details of my daily life, but yea, it was an interesting few days.

Oh, and I went out again the next night and the woman I ended up going home with had a pet SNAKE!!! I could'get the picture to rotate, but you get the idea!

The Bouncer's Book Club

This is a Facebook group I started where we discuss books and ideas. You're welcome (and encouraged) to join, but spamming the group will get you kicked out. I AM a nightclub bouncer after all.

My Patreon Page

Here's why I don't have time for a girlfriend: I take notes on every single book I read, and over the years, those have grown into a collection of thousands of pages of study-notes on hundreds and hundreds of books. I've even distilled the best notes from each book into a "master" document that is now over 400 pages long. 

You can get ALL of my notes by clicking here, and these are updated monthly. I read around a dozen books per month, so this collection of notes is growing all the time. There are some other cool rewards on this page too. Check it out!

Blinkist

Don't have time to read for 7 hours a day like me? Well have no fear! Not only can you get my OWN notes by checking out my Patreon page, you can also use a handy app called Blinkist, which gives you access to thousands of excellent non-fiction books, and distills their key ideas into 15-minute summaries.