Complementing my financial story with a practical work/read story, I record my reading and writing achievements with some goals I’ve set for myself.
I most certainly love books. There’s something magical about the smell, something soothing about the sound of turning the pages. I also love the feeling and presence of a library — the ability to glance up at the myriads of ideas and arguments and stats that clever minds have condensed for me, delivered to me in accessible form. I get this incredible value and satisfaction from just seeing them above my desk. Admiring the cover of the many stories I’ve read, the memories of place and time and mindset that I have from reading any particular book.
I’m not generally a hoarder: I don’t collect everything and store receipts, stamps, or school documents (I do have a small coins-and-notes collection, though…). But books, slowly acquiring the crucial ingredients for a stunning-looking library, that’s always appealed to me. One by one, I’m getting there.
In the past rolling 12 months, I’ve read 29 non-fiction books, a little more than one every two weeks. If we’re charitable with the dozen books I’ve started but not finished, we can add another 1.5 books to the list. In addition to that, I should add a handful of fiction-ish too, like my corona-zoom out (read classics instead of current noise) read of Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday or — yes, I have guilty pleasures too — the Twilight saga, Harry Potter books or Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle. No judging, please.
The reading follow four broad themes, reflecting my interests:
- Financial History, Markets and Money
- Anthropology, the Amazon forest, and LatAm History
- Climate change and nature (considered broadly enough to include Ice and Whales and Electricity)
- Psychology and Life Perspectives (really just Malcolm Gladwell and David Brooks and Paul Bloom…)
I keep taps on upcoming books (do reach out if you know something I’d be interested in), and in the beginning of the year I listed 14 super exciting works for 2020 that I was keen on reading. According to this, I’m slightly behind: 4 are finished (4.25, if we’re charitable with my progress of Charles Murray’s Human Diversity). 3 have postponed their publication, partly because of the pandemic and issues in production, I imagine. 3 I have so far skipped (Kay & King, Vollrath, and Coyle) and the remaining three are on my desk as we speak.
14 books in a ten months means 1.4 books a month. With 4.25 books done five months after publishing that piece, I’m about 40% behind — but by the end of August I’ll have finished the three currently on my desk and so I’ll be roughly on par if I exclude the postponed publications that I can’t get my hands on anyway.
The problem, of course, is that interesting books pop up seemingly from nowhere. 10 such amazing titles are currently on my desk, ordered, or in the production pipeline. Of those, I’m most excited about Stuart Ritchie’s Science Fictions, Johan Norberg’s Open: The Story of Human Progress, and my long-term idol, British economist Tim Harford’s latest How to Make the World Add Up.
Professionally, I’ve also done fairly OK:
- My review of Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s Deaths of Despair is featured on the Princeton University Press site (next to Robert Putnam’s comments, if you can believe that — I still can’t).
- My writing on Sweden and the coronavirus has been read by hundreds of thousands of people — and was explicitly featured in the Financial Times.
- I’ve been re-published on ZeroHedge — an honour among my peculiar group of friends and colleagues — no less than five(!) times.
- I published an academic book review published in Economic Affairs, and I have another in the pipeline.
- Twice I was on the Dan Proft Show, challenging my fear of (and weakness) public speaking.
- Three new outlets I hadn’t before written for: CapX, HumanProgress.org and Institute for Energy Research.
- My various articles have been translated into, I believe, seven different languages — my favourites, of course, being Portuguese, where I always sound remarkably badass.
There is always more to strive for, another mountain to ascend when you’ve just climbed one. That’s the nature of most things.
I’m looking forward to another year of this adventure: writing more, better, faster and wider.