Journey on the H.M.S. Beagle
By Charles Darwin
Published in 1890
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
This book should be taught in school. This is an amazing autobiographical book written by Charles Darwin where he describes his time as the naturalist on the H.M.S. Beagle, and explains how he discovered evolution.
Recently, I read Charles Darwin’s autobiography which included every part of his life except his time on the H.M.S. Beagle, so I decided to read Journey on the H.M.S. Beagle.
In 1831, Darwin left with the H.M.S. Beagle from England as a naturalist. He would spend the next 5 years exploring the Pacific and studying geology, anthropology, and biology. Part of the book was copied directly from notes Darwin took on the journey, and the rest was written in two waves in 1839 and 1845.
Darwin has many great adventures. He journeys with General Juan Manuel de Rosas, the dictator of a small region in Argentina. He fights indians and animals. He crosses the Argentine desert without water.
This book contains many interesting accounts of life in 19th century South America. Darwin was shocked to find out how primitive many of the locals are. In the third chapter, he describes the astonishment of indigenous natives when he showed them his compass. He also fascinated natives with his matches, and taught them how to use technology to easily start fires. Darwin took great pleasure in exposing the natives to advanced British technology and teaching them about the modern world.
Darwin is also a deeply moral person. In the second chapter, he makes numerous anti-slavery arguments. He decries the sale of a slave family’s children, and is relieved when the owner decides not to split up the family. Later in the chapter, he is yelling at one of his black servants who had failed to follow his instructions. In doing so, he waves his hands, and the slave immediately lowers his own hands. Darwin realizes that the slave was worried that he would accidentally shield himself from Darwin, and be punished for thus resisting. After that incident, Darwin felt ashamed, and became a staunch moral opponent of the unfair treatment of blacks.
From a biology perspective the insights are legion. For the first few chapters of the book, Darwin describes and compares many different exotic species of animals and insects, and he begins to ponder why species that are very similar can inhabit very different parts of the earth. I didn’t know that Darwin also was a paleontologist and found numerous dinosaurs in Argentina, findings which influenced his understanding of the theory of evolution. Interestingly enough, the animal Darwin writes the most about is probably the Ostrich.
As the book progresses, Darwin writes more and more in evolutionary terms. He talks about the relationship between species, and talks about analogous species and related ancestry. By Chapter 17 where he recounts his stay on the Galapagos Archipelago, he talks blatantly about rats arriving on European ships and evolving to adapt to local conditions, and has already formulated the theory of evolution.
As usual, Darwin doesn’t disappoint. His style of writing is complex but clear, and all of his thoughts are, as usual, very lucid. This is probably one of the best books to learn basic biology. The book reads like a 19th century adventure novel, and Darwin is constantly faced with interested situations. He also explains his reasoning and ideas to laypeople without a background in science very well.
I strongly recommend Journey on the H.M.S. Beagle to anyone who is interested in biology and anthropology.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
by Matthew Desmond
Published in March 2016
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
Few books have pissed me off as much as this one has. This book has fueled a deep resentment in my heart to irresponsible parents - although I don’t think that was the goal of the author, his goal is to write about evictions. He does a great job at exposing the diseased underbelly of America.
Young teenagers choosing to get pregnant with drug dealers. Husbands who abandon their children to complete strangers. Parents who are strung out on crack and heroin. Children who have to use small pieces of carpet to keep warm at night.
The book opens with a scene describing children playing with snowballs in the street, throwing the snowballs at cars. A man gets out of a car, and chases the children to their apartment. The kids hide inside, and lock the door shut. The angry man chases the kids and destroys the door, then leaves. The next day, the family gets evicted by the landlord. The mother loses all her physical possessions and is left on the curb. After loosing all of her stuff, she ended up with her family in a homeless shelter for 9 months.
All of the characters in this book live miserable lives. They are racially diverse, have very different family structures, but share some common traits. Many are poor, uneducated, addicted, and have made numerous bad choices in their lives.
Bad choices followed by excuses for bad choices is the reoccurring theme of the book.
All of the characters were traumatized as children then go on to traumatize their children.
The author argues that changing eviction law will fix the lives of the people in question. I don’t think that anything can be done to change the lives of dysfunctional people who make terrible choices - historically, the only solution is to get rid of such people either through disasters or changes in sexual selection.
This can be done by providing access to free birth control, paying young poor women for every year that they don’t have children, and developing a male version of “the pill.” There also needs to be major cultural changes: women need to be told that they are heroic for not having kids staying single and partying and evil if they have kids that they can’t take care of. Women need to be taught by media to avoid alpha male drug dealers who don’t care about raising a family, and need to be conditioned to go for mentally stable beta males who can secure gainful employment.
Last, the state should punish people for making certain irresponsible choices that put others at risk. First, parents who have children taken by CPS should be forcefully sterilized to prevent them from creating more traumatized people. Men who impregnate more than 3 or 4 women and create single moms should also be forcefully sterilized. Welfare should be increased for men who stay with rather than leave mothers, and benefits should be reduced for young men who leave their children to fend for themselves with a single mother. Most importantly, the state should re-instate corporal punishment for adults and the state should cane any adult who hits a kid (Singapore style).
This book really makes me more anti-natalist - the belief that the vast majority of people should choose not to have kids because for many people, it would have been better for them never to have been born.
The book is very engaging and well-written. The language is clear, and the quotes were all recorded. I recommend the book to anyone who is studying poverty in America.
The Autobiography of Charles Darwin
By Charles Darwin (edited and published Francis Darwin)
Published in 1887
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
It has been estimated by psychologists that Charles Darwin had an IQ of 165. This book sure reads like it was written by someone with an IQ of 165.
When Darwin died in 1882, his children searched his possessions and found a partially finished autobiography. They completed the autobiography, and published it five years after Darwin’s death.
This book is very informative in many regards. It is a great read for people who want to learn more about biology, because Darwin explains in his own words how he came to the conclusions he reached. It also has value as a historical document about life in the 19th century.
The quality of the writing is amazing - despite the long sentence structures used in the 19th century, the language reads very well, and the style is clear and easy to read.
Charles Darwin was born to a wealthy family in England in 1809, and grew quickly fond of science. His childhood is one of consumate curiosity, much to the chagrin of Darwin’s family, who worried that Darwin wouldn’t achieve very much in his life.
Darwin was a mediocre student, and although his parents spent a lot of time, money, and effort to educate him, he didn’t perform very well in school. After several academic failures, Darwin decided to study to become a priest, but once again failed in his priestly studies. This was despite the fact that Darwin’s parents had hired several personal tutors to help him.
While studying at Cambridge, Darwin fell in love with natural science. After graduating, he decided that the academic lifestyle wasn’t for him, and found a job as a naturalist on the HMS Beagle in search of adventure.
One thing which disappointed me a lot about this book is that Darwin doesn’t write very much about his travels on the HMS Beagle, and instead directs the reader to his other books. Instead, he spends the last half of his book talking about his life in England after he returned from the voyage on the Beagle.
One very interesting aspect of the book was that the reader can see Darwin’s personal moral evolution. As a child, Darwin experimented with cruelty. He committed a few vile acts, such as tormenting a puppy. Over time, however, he became an increasingly caring and empathetic individual. By the time he leaves on his journey on the Beagle, he was deeply concerned with issues such as slavery, and had a unique moral view of mankind.
In the last few chapters, Darwin talks about his life philosophy.
We all have everything to learn from Darwin’s inquisitive philosophy of rational analysis. While describing geology, he sums up his life philosophy:
“Upon first examining a new district, nothing can appear more hopeless than the chaos of rocks. But by recording the stratification and the nature of the rocks and fossils at many points, always predicting and reasoning what will be found elsewhere, light soon begins to dawn on the district. The structure of the whole becomes more or less intelligible.”
Using reason, Darwin systemically organizes chaotic systems into workable mental models. This skill allowed him to accomplish as much as he did.
Darwin is a very curious individual and a good writer. This was a fantastic read that I highly recommend.
Might Is Right
by Ragnar Redbeard (Arthur Desmond?)
Published in 1890
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
This book is certainly entertaining and brought me some insights, but it reads like the manifesto of a school shooter.
Might is Right was anonymously published in 1890 by a “Ragnar Redbeard.” Arthur Desmond, a New Zealander egoist anarchist and an advocate of Social Darwinism most likely wrote the book. Desmond was an interesting guy who knew multiple Australian prime ministers and travelled across the world, and is well worth reading about.
Redbeard argues that there is no such thing as morality and argues in favor of using any means necessary to achieve psychological hedonism.
The book’s writing style is very odd, and it is clear that the author was disturbed. Sentences hardly relate to each other, and often gratuitously repeat each other. The book contains no arguments, just statements which lack evidence.
All whack jobs, terrorists, gunmen, conspiracy theorists, race realists, Deepak Chopra fee list, and other undesirable crackpots must read this book.
Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization
by Parag Khanna
Published in April 2016
Thibault’s Score: 5/5
Connectography is an amazing book, and might as well be the manifesto of the Startup Societies Foundation. The central point of the book is that connection and supply lines matters a lot more than the geography of borders than it used to.
He spends a lot time highlighting the importance of infrastructure that ties nations together. The wars, conflicts, friendships, and fortunes of tomorrow will be determined by the infrastructure of today.
Khanna repeatedly makes very interesting arguments. He makes a strong case for political decentralization and localization as a solution to solving various emotional and violent conflicts around the world. He argues that many conflicts between states can be solved through secession and devolution of power.
He covers many of the topics that I have been very interested in over the last few years. I strongly recommend this book to everyone.
Keynes: The Return of the Master
by Robert Skidelsky
Published in late 2009
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
Keynes is a 20th century economist who argued that reducing interest rates and increasing government infrastructure spending could help smooth out recessions which are a natural byproduct of capitalism. This book was exactly what I expected and nothing more. It outlined Keyne’s biography and life story while simultaneously explaining his most important ideas. “Keynes: The Return of the Master” was much better than the other book about Keynes that I recently reviewed called: “Keynes vs Hayek.”
Skidelsky opens the book by explaining the 2008 recession from a Keynesian point of view. He then uses this explanation to introduce numerous basic Keynesian ideas and the character of Keynes.
While Skidelsky spends some time dwelling into Keyne’s personal life, he wastes no time getting into the crux of Keyne’s economic theories. Here are 5 interesting facts that I learned:
1. Uncertainty is the basis for most Keynesian principles
2. Keynes thought that economics was impossible to predict on a fundamental level
3. Republicans like Nixon and Reagan implemented many of Keyne’s ideas
4. Keynes thought that the purpose of economics was to help poor people instead of maximizing efficiency
5. Keynes was pro-capitalism and pro-market by today’s standards and would probably (ironically) be a Republican today
I think that while libertarians have vilified Keynes and unjustly depicted him as a communist plotting to slowly bring about the people’s state, the author, Skidelsky is an uncritical devotee. He spends a lot of ink praising Keynes and brushes past all of Keyne’s personal moral failings and, more importantly, the shortcomings in Keyne’s theory.
Overall, this book wasn’t great, nor did it perfectly explain Keynes, but it certainly helped broaden my economic perspective. I wouldn’t recommend this book but don’t regret reading it.
Keynes Vs Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics
by Nicholas Whapshott
Published in September 2012
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
I was a bit disappointed with Keynes vs Hayek because I was hoping for a theoretical book on economics which explained and contrasted the two opposing theories of Keynes and Hayek. This book is actually a biography about Keynes and Hayek.
Despite the fact that I entered the book with incorrect expectations, I throughly enjoyed what I read. The author recounts the lives of Keynes and Hayek, and explains how the two have, at different times, clashed.
To anyone who is very interested in the life stories of Keynes or Hayek, this book is of extreme interest, but I don’t recommend it to a broader audience.
To my hour, Whapshott exposes Hayek as a narcissistic, arrogant, unfriendly, depressed man. He was a bad husband, and didn’t treat his students very well. Nobody could stand him, and everyone resented him.
Keynes wasn’t much better. Depictions that I have seen of liberals of Keynes are of a brutally oppressed homosexual, while depictions of the right are of a globalist banker plotting to bring about world socialism. Keynes was gay, but was extremely wealthy and never persecuted. He was charismatic, intelligent, and an excellent negotiator.
Keynes met Hayek several times, and the first chapter of the book opens with the interesting story of Keynes and Hayek working together to survive WW2’s bombings. No spoilers.
I was disappointed that the author, Nicholas Whapshott, didn’t spend more time going into the details of the arguments of the two economists. Overall, he remains very fair and impartial. He is very careful to not tread on the toes of either side.
This book will not change anyone’s mind on economics, but it is certainly full of interesting historical stories. It goes into depth and helps explain why institutions hold the ideas that they do today, and shows the spread and political implications of these ideas.
Road to Serfdom was my favorite book for many years, as it is responsible for planting the seed of many of my current political leanings. I always admired Hayek, and was very disappointed to hear how much of an asshole he was. But it also paradoxically felt a bit good seeing one of my idols taken down a notch, because it makes Hayek appear like a flawed human. And seeing Hayek as a flawed human makes his life achievements look a lot less daunting to me and the fellow travelers of my generation.
Two Treatises of Government
by John Locke
Published in 1689
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
I really expected to agree with John Locke, and was surprised that I didn’t. During my many years as a libertarian, I heard a lot of good things about John Locke, although I never actually read him.
I was very disappointed.
In Locke’s first treatise, he argues against absolute monarchy and provides counterarguments to the divine right of monarchs. This treatise is interesting for historical reasons, and gave me a lot of unprecedented insight into the minds of people in the 17th century, but otherwise doesn’t apply to modern life.
In the second treatise, Locke argues for human rights. The second treatise contains a lot of the egalitarian rot which has infected modern day Europe.
Locke opens by describing men in the state of nature. He argues that all men are born equal, because in nature, there is equality. This premise is absurd - Darwinian evolution of apes into men would have been impossible had all the apes been equal. Our biological differences condemn us to inequality.
This absurd premise itself stems from the egalitarian aspects of Christianity.
Locke then proceeds to argue that things are just or unjust, fair or unfair, equal or unequal without defining those terms.
I was disappointed because I expected John Locke to be a much better writer than he turned out to be.
Published in 381 BC
Thibault’s Score: 5/5
I don’t give good scores to books because they are classics - in fact I recently have written abysmal reviews of Utopia, Paradise Lost, and Reflections on the Revolution in France.
The Republic is one of the best books that I have read all year. I have heard a lot about it but never actually read it cover to cover - everyone knows about the allegory of the cave, but few people have actually read Plato. Like Nietzsche, Plato is a must read, and should only be interpreted from the source himself.
I found that many ideas which I have been thinking about and considering for the last few months have already been expounded upon in Plato.
His politics were always misrepresented to me by libertarians, when in fact, Plato is much more reasonable than I expected.
There are many very interesting ideas exposed in “The Republic,” ideas which can best be explored by going out and reading the book. The most interesting to me was realizing that Plato was a porto-Christian. The philosophy of the noble lie and the rule of philosophers foreshadows Christianity and rule by priests.
I understand now why The Republic has stood the test of time. A very highly recommended book for everyone - one that I plan on rereading again in the near future.
by Sir Thomas More
Published in 1516
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
My whole life, I have heard people use the word “Utopia” (which means “not a place” in Greek), but had never read the book which coined the word.
The book describes a fictional republic with a perfect political system. The entire book takes the form of a dialog between a British man and a traveller, Raphael, who has returned from Utopia. Considering that the book was written in 1516, I found it to be very clear and well written. Like many authors of his time, More writes in a style that requires the reader to pay attention on every word and skip nothing.
Although Raphael makes Utopia sound like a wonderful place, I would absolutely hate to live in the state which is described. The characters talk about Utopia as if it is a wonderful place, but in fact describe a society which, by modern terms, can only be understood as dystopian communism.
The economy of Utopia is completely centrally planned.There is no private property, instead the government decides everything. Every city has the same amount of resident, and people are moved around in order to keep the size of the cities balanced. All citizens are assigned homes and aren’t allowed to keep any home for more than a decade. People have no freedom to chose their own jobs, with some exceptions for prodigies who are misaligned. Work is mandatory.
There is a welfare state, complete with voluntary euthanasia to keep the costs down. All the poor and disabled are supplied and provided for by the fit and able. All meals are served in communal dining halls.
Utopia can also be seen as an early example of feminist literature. More predicts many rights for women in Utopia that wouldn’t be implemented in Europe for another 300 years. Women enjoy the right to divorce their unfaithful and degenerate husbands. Women have the right to hold religious offices, and some are even trained as soldiers. There are, however, still patriarchal institutions in society. For example, grooms can inspect their brides naked bodies before marriage to make sure that they have no hidden deformities. (Makes me wonder if Thomas More’s wife had some hidden deformities)
There are also many aspects of Utopian society which would be viewed as absolutely reprehensible by modern communists, although these transgressions can be forgiven because of the time and context that the author lived in. For example, Utopia has a very large population of slaves, mostly criminals and captured enemy combatants. Premarital sex is punished by enforced celibacy and adultery is punished by slavery.
The idea of a totalitarian Utopia dates back to Plato’s “The Republic” (which I am reading next), and understanding the history of failed Utopias puts modern Marxism into context.
Like all communist dreams, Utopia is flawed not in execution but also in conception. Although the people are well provided for, they lack freedom and adventure. Their lives are controlled and regulated, there are no options or ways out for nonconformists and rebels.
Freedom aside, Thomas More, like all communists, ignores the much more practical problems of scarcity and poor incentives.
To me the most interesting aspect of the book was discovering that totalitarian communist dream which was attempted in the 20th century had been fully conceptualized by the 16th century. This book is worth reading for people who are interested in understand modern Marxism and its intellectual roots.