Book Review - June 22

It’s been a while since I’ve done book reviews, I thought I would bring that back on a periodic basis.

These are the books I’ve read so far in June.


41, A Portrait of my Father

By George W. Bush

  • Synopsis: a biography of Bush Senior from childhood to presidency through the eyes of G. W. Bush.
  • Impression: a few (emphasis on “few”) interesting nuggets of insight into the mindset of the Bush family and how they think, especially as it relates to foreign policy. Overall though I felt that the book lacked depth and read more like a chronological list of biographical events.
  • Recommended? Not really, there are far better political books out there, unless you’re really interested in the life of Bush Senior.


No Higher Honor

By Condoleeza Rice

  • Synopsis: a self-written review of Condy’s time as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under 2 different administrations.
  • Impression: I read this one right after reading 41, and there is really no comparison. Condy’s book is filled with insight into the workings of Washington, the political maneuvering, foreign policy shifts, decision process leading to the Iraq war, intelligence failures pre-9/11, etc. The book felt honest (no way of really verifying that), but what had the strongest impression on me was the pure demonstration of what determination, focus, discipline and raw smarts can contribute to any individual. I felt that Condy lived by the mindset I advocate on a regular basis: #neversettle. Condy is now on my (very) short list of politicians I would like to meet in person…
  • Recommended? Absolutely: even if you have 0 interest in political affairs, read it as an educational book on how to maximize your potential in life in whatever field you happen to be in.


The Selfish Gene

By Richard Dawkins

  • Synopsis: a somewhat fatalistic book which argues that we have virtually no control over our lives (as human beings) and that our path on this earth is determined by our genes’ individual and selfish desire to survive.
  • Impression: most of the arguments in the book are steeped in heavy biological and genetic concepts, which makes it “technical” for most readers. I managed to grasp most of the concepts, but I doubt I would have been able to do so had I not majored in Biology and Genetics as an undergrad. The author makes a strong case that each gene in our genome is hard-wired to survive, and will do whatever it takes to do so, which, oddly enough, sometimes means “killing the host”. As I mentioned, it’s a “fatalistic” book somewhat and I’ve heard many describe it as “doom and gloom” and some schools have even banned it for fear of causing early depression in adolescents…
  • Recommended? Difficult to say. I certainly don’t regret reading it and I would love to have more in-depth conversations with someone who’s read it. But as I said it’s somewhat technical and doesn’t really serve a purpose beyond making you wonder about certain philosophical concepts around existence. But if you’re keen, please do pick up a copy: I would love to discuss these concepts with someone.


Wheat Belly

By William Davis, MD

  • Synopsis: a simply and evidence-based book arguing that the significant overconsumption and genetic manipulation of wheat (and grains in general) is at the core of the “diseases of civilization”: diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
  • Impression: I was already familiar with most of the concepts in this book so nothing really surprised me. The arguments and scientific references made sense and are in-line with most of the evidence arising from studies over the past 10 years. What was most interesting to me was how Dr. David, a cardiologist, managed to reverse obesity and cardiovascular disease with his patients by simply eliminating grains from their diet.
  • Recommended? Yes to anyone struggling with weight gain, high blood sugar, diabetes, or at risk of heart disease. It’s an easy read and I would highly recommend it.


No Limits – The Will to Succeed

By Michael Phelps

  • Synopsis: a chronicle of the early life of Michael Phelps, culminating with his record-setting 8 Olympic gold medals in Beijing in 2008
  • Impression: somewhat disappointing to be honest. While there were some nuggets of wisdom (mostly expected) around the development of a strong mindset, hard work, and the power of passion and drive, the book felt disjointed. The book lacks structure and the author jumps around from one topic to another and from one period to another with no semblance of a plan. I found myself at multiple times after having read many pages puzzled, trying to understand what the author’s point was (if any).
  • Recommended? Not really, unless you’re really interested in the sport. There are far better books written by athletes and from which you can actually learn lessons to help you achieve success in various aspects of your life.


Civilization and its Discontents

By Sigmund Freud

  • Synopsis: the premise of the book is based on Freud’s assertion that there is an inherit conflict of interest between the “individual” and “civilization”. The things which an “individual” derives pleasure from tend to be those outlawed and restricted by “civilization”. In essence, civilization stands in the way of an individual’s ability to reach his/her full happiness. An individual seeks to be “individual” while civilization seeks “conformity”: he links the unhappiness derived from civilization to neurosis. As expected, Freud discusses these concepts in the context of religion, sexual desire, the ego / super-ego relationship,  
  • Impression: I’ve always been a fan of Freud’s works, and this one is no exception. Do I agree with all concepts he articulates in this book? Not particularly, but I always seek to find practical applications to any concept I like. Ultimately, I don’t disagree with the concept that the community/city/country/religion you live in may actually be at the core of frustration and unhappiness. Many people spend time thinking about the true cause of their unhappiness, only to be frustrated as “nothing seems to make sense”. Reading this book allows you to expand your thinking to broader concepts which may be at the root of your unhappiness. It doesn’t not provide a solution: if you do come to the realization that your “community” is at the root of your unhappiness, you can do little to change your community (unless you want to take on that challenge), but you can alter your path and perhaps explore other communities…
  • Recommended? Yes, absolutely: for one, it’s a classic and should be read by anyone. And I believe it’s a must for anyone generally “frustrated” and “doesn’t know why”.