Book Reviews III
The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss’ book is fast becoming a modern business classic. It’s the spark that lit the “lifestyle hacking” movement on fire and brought thousands of people (myself included) into the world of internet business, remote living, and work automation. Ferriss’ book shows you how you can start a business on the internet, use it to live anywhere in the world for a fraction of the cost, automate your life through outsourcing, free up tons of your time, and then leverage that free time to live an amazing lifestyle.
I feel similar about The Four Hour Work Week to how I feel about about Neil Strauss’ The Game. On the one hand, I appreciate it for exposing me to amazing new possibilities in life that I hadn’t dreamed of before — in Strauss’ case, the idea that I could actually improve my dating life and meet any woman I wanted; in Ferriss’ case, that I could live and run a business remotely while maintaining a staggeringly high quality of life for less money.
I eventually reached the degree of success described in both books, and in both cases I learned a few things along the way:
- It was a LOT more difficult than they made it sound in the book.
- The books were largely marketing pieces designed to launch larger online businesses for themselves.
A lot of people say The Four Hour Work Week is bullshit. And yes, Ferriss has made a lot of dubious claims in the past (i.e., claiming to lose 20 pounds of fat in 30 days). The truth is that what Ferriss describes in The Four Hour Work Week is true and is possible. It’s just about a hundred times harder and more complicated than it sounds in the book. Ferriss’ lists a few “examples” of throwing together a T-Shirt business and making a steady income off it within a month. As someone who has started and failed at numerous online business ventures, it just doesn’t work that way. Entrepreneurship requires a mountain of time and/or money to get off the ground — that’s true whether it’s an internet business or brick-and-mortar.
So if you’re interested in escaping the rat race, then definitely read it. Just take it with a grain of salt. Don’t treat it as a literal how-to guide but rather as an inspiration piece.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”
So begins one of the most beautifully-written and completely fucked up love stories in the history of the English language. Just thinking about how well this book is written makes me feel stupid for typing right now.
The narrator, Humbert Humbert, is a European writer and intellectual, who rents a room from a widow in upstate New York, where he falls in love with the woman’s 12-year-old daughter. Humbert’s narration of his love for the girl (or “nymphet” as he refers to her) is some of the most beautiful and impassioned prose you’ll ever read about a, err, woman. Then you remember he’s a psychopathic pedophile and your stomach turns. Reading Lolita feels disgusting at times, and then when you realize how much you enjoy reading it, you feel even more disgusting.
But it’s worth it, the first half of the book in particular. Nabokov manages to insert humor and joy into the most horrifying human thoughts. One of the most unique reading experiences I’ve ever had.
No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert Glover
In my four years as a dating coach for men, I recommended No More Mr. Nice Guy to men more than any other book. Robert Glover is a therapist who specializes in men’s issues. Over the preceding decades he noticed a lot of men who had major issues in their personal relationships suffered from what he deemed “Nice Guy Syndrome.”
Nice Guy Syndrome causes men to avoid confrontation at all costs. Nice Guys hide their true emotions in order to receive approval and validation from all of those around them, particularly women. They are agreeable to a fault. They never risk themselves by asserting themselves or stating their needs directly. They are cold and rational. They have a habit of trying to “fix” those around them. In short, Nice Guy’s always seem like nice, friendly guys, but they actually put a lot of unwanted pressure on those around them. It’s passive-aggressive and unhealthy, and coincidentally, incredibly unattractive to women.
In 2007, I picked No More Mr. Nice Guy up in a book store and read the first few pages. I ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting, without even leaving the store. Every page seemed like it was a biography of either me, my father or my brother. It perfectly described my failed relationships and unsatisfying friendships. I rarely read books more than once, but I’ve read No More Mr. Nice Guy three times. If you’re a man who is struggling with asserting himself, creating stable relationships or attracting women, then it’s a must-read.
The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene
Robert Greene’s tome refers to itself as “handbook on the most subtle and effective form of power.” Some people love Greene’s work (particularly his 48 Laws of Power). I don’t like him. I think he’s all sizzle, no steak. The books are pretty, with nice formatting and clever quotes in the margins. But their substance boils down to glorified history textbooks with impassive, Machiavellian lessons thrown in to make them sound useful.
The Art of Seduction is no different. I read it originally when I was full-blown in the middle of my pick up artist phase, but got little out of it other than amazing vignettes about Napoleon Bonaparte and Giacomo Casanova. Greene never uncovers underlying principles which you can apply to your own life or adapt into your own personality or behavior. Instead, here’s a cool story about Don Juan (who wasn’t even a real person, and was based on the Casanova) and then an arbitrary strategy of seduction based on his story and life. Let’s call him a “Rake” (or whatever). OK, now here’s a story about Cleopatra, and so on…
If you’re a history nerd, it can be cool at moments. But if you’re looking for some sort of lesson or greater perspective, you’re going to be left hanging. Out of all of the books I read on seducing women and dating during that period of my life (and it is an embarrassing amount), The Art of Seduction was probably the most overrated one that I came across.