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  • Your Mind-Expanding Books

    Post the best books that changed you way you think and discuss why.

  • #2
    The Bible. Because it changed me to a better person.
    Credo quia absurdum.


    Quantum mechanics describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And yet it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept nature as She is - absurd! - Richard Feynman

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    • #3
      Art of loving by Erich Fromm, he just points out the obvious that is not obvious.
      Wisdom is personal

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      • #4
        Hakluyt, Navigations, Voyages, and Traffics of the English Nation. Nothing specific about the book except that it was the first piece of serious history I read (when I was about nine) and I've been hooked ever since. I was left a copy as a minor bequest - possibly the best inheritance I've had.
        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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        • #5
          For most of my reading life, I have set aside books that had been influential in my thinking. They now comprise about five-linear feet of book shelves. For this forum, I will select a military one, Marc Bloch’s “Strange Defeat: A Statement of Evidence Written in 1940”. As a medieval historian who served as a reserve intelligence officer on the French staff, he took his powers of observation and discernment to identify reasons for the French defeat in the face of the German invasion in 1940. Bloch’s quotes that have been a reference for me through my military career:

          “For the ABC of my trade consists in avoiding big-sounding abstract terms. Those who teach history should be continually concerned with the task of seeking the solid and the concrete behind the empty and the abstract. In other words, it is on men rather than functions that they should concentrate their attention. The errors of the High Command were, fundamentally, the errors of a specific group of human beings.”

          “What drove our armies to disaster was the cumulative effect of a great number of different mistakes. … Our leaders, or those who acted for them, were incapable of thinking in terms of a new war. In other words, the German triumph was, essentially, a triumph of intellect—and it is that which makes it so peculiarly serious.”

          “The ruling idea of the Germans in the conduct of this war was speed.”

          “Our own rate of progress was too slow and our minds were too inelastic for us ever to admit the possibility that the enemy might move with the speed which he actually achieved.”

          “…the staff formation produced an undeniable impression of disorder as soon as the war entered its active phase…. The explanation may, I think, be found in the fact that the static order of office routine is, in many respects, the very antithesis of the active and perpetually inventive ‘order’ which movement demands. One is a matter of discipline and training, the other the imaginative realism, adaptable intelligence, and, above all, of character.”

          “Very few of them keep their minds supple enough to retain the power of criticizing their own prejudices.” …
          “I scarcely ever saw one with a book in his hands which might have helped him to a better understanding of the present by shedding on it the light of the past.”

          “But the worst of this mental laziness is that, almost inevitably, it leads to a sort of gloomy mood of self-satisfaction.”
          Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 30 Dec 17, 06:01.
          Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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          • #6
            Outside the realm of military endeavors are some of the other influential works in a bottom line:

            Erik H. Erikson, “Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History”: “…as we shall see in Luther’s life and work, a man who inspires new ideas has little power to restrict them to the area of his original intentions.”

            Robert Michels “Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy”: The iron rule of oligarchy is people who are in power tend to stay in power because they control the levers of power.

            Clifford Geertz, “The Interpretation of Cultures: “…man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning.”
            Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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            • #7

              AAPG Studies in Geology #47
              Geological Perspectives of Global Climate Change

              Edited by Lee C. Gerhard, William E. Harrison and Brunold M. Hanson
              Table of Contents

              Preface

              Introduction and Overview (pdf)
              Global warming. Greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide.

              Is the earth getting warmer? Are glaciers melting? Are carbon-dioxide emissions affecting our climate? Do we really need to worry?

              If we want to fully appreciate the potential role of mankind in altering worldwide climate, we must understand how and why temperatures have varied in the past. To measure the impact of human activity, we must assess the frequency and magnitude of temperature changes before the industrial revolution. Scientists arid policymakers interested in global climate change will benefit from information from all disciplines, especially those which routinely work backward in time as facts are established and interpretations are formulated. Thus, it is curious and puzzling why geoscience-based perspectives have not been engaged more prominently in debates on climate change.

              Geological Perspectives of Global Climate Change, edited by Lee C. Gerhard, William E. Harrison, and the late Bernold M. "Bruno" Hanson, is an especially timely volume because of current debates regarding potential man-induced modification of climate.

              It is the first volume to bring together a collection of geoscience investigations focusing exclusively on temperature variations of the past. The introductory sections address the major and minor physical controls, or drivers, that affect earth's climate. Several chapters describe the naturally occurring range of variation of climatic conditions and illustrate past changes in global temperatures. Additional topics include case studies that show how ancient temperature conditions are determined, as well as new techniques that have significant potential as proxies for assessing paleoclimates. Several chapters demonstrate the magnitude and length of duration of numerous temperature variations which have occurred during geologic time periods.
              http://dpa.aapg.org/gcc/

              This book led me to amassing a file cabinet and several USB drives full of climate change papers and data and becoming a fairly prolific contibutor to Watts Up With That? The world's most viewed site on global warming and climate change.
              Last edited by The Doctor; 30 Dec 17, 15:18.
              Watts Up With That? | The world's most viewed site on global warming and climate change.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
                For most of my reading life, I have set aside books that had been influential in my thinking. They now comprise about five-linear feet of book shelves. For this forum, I will select a military one, Marc Bloch’s “Strange Defeat: A Statement of Evidence Written in 1940”. As a medieval historian who served as a reserve intelligence officer on the French staff, he took his powers of observation and discernment to identify reasons for the French defeat in the face of the German invasion in 1940. Bloch’s quotes that have been a reference for me through my military career:

                Having just finished an post grad essay on the Fall of France I may have to disillusion you. Reading Strange Defeat it is obvious (indeed the man says so) that he was not an intelligence officer. He was responsible for French fuel dumps. He was also seriously wrong about many of the causes of the French defeat but as a good historian he acknowledged some of these errors when he became aware of them in footnotes made in 1942
                Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                  Having just finished an post grad essay on the Fall of France I may have to disillusion you. Reading Strange Defeat it is obvious (indeed the man says so) that he was not an intelligence officer. He was responsible for French fuel dumps. He was also seriously wrong about many of the causes of the French defeat but as a good historian he acknowledged some of these errors when he became aware of them in footnotes made in 1942
                  No disillusionment. Bloch was 52 years old when he was called up with attachment to Intelligence, but withdrawn from an active formation to the "Strasbourg Group of subdivisional areas". He notes "By and large I have never really regretted this appointment. The duties evolving upon a divisional Group Headquarters are, in themselves, flat and dismal enough, but they do, in the early stages of hostilities, afford one a good vantage point from which to observe the general scene. That, at least, was my experience during the first two or three weeks."

                  The book was written in 1940 and published in 1946, do you have a reference for the 1942 footnotes?

                  Nonetheless, I found his observations insightful and relevant to the French defeat as well as looking at these qualitative aspects of various army staffs. The "inelastic mind", for me, was mind-expanding. One can always take something useful away from a book.

                  I once had a scholastic mentor who told me books are like mirrors--if a jackass looks in, a genius does not look back.
                  Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Books that impacted me greatly (due to being the first great books I read on the subject).

                    -"Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century" (a history of globalization that examines the situation on each continent). This is a remarkably efficient presentation of economic history that I mentally referred back to for a while. The Princeton professor made an inter-disciplinary tome-
                    it mixed politics, military, economic indicators, finance, demographics, etc.

                    -"Panzer Commander: The memoirs of Hans von Luck". I read this when I was 19 years old and immediately read it again. It started my interest in the subject. I was stunned that one man could have experienced all of that (leading units in France, North Africa, Russia, etc.) and it opened up a new world.
                    Last edited by Cult Icon; 30 Dec 17, 20:08.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Karri View Post
                      Art of loving by Erich Fromm, he just points out the obvious that is not obvious.
                      do you have other books by Fromm that you like?

                      Thanks for that, I found the audiobook.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
                        do you have other books by Fromm that you like?

                        Thanks for that, I found the audiobook.
                        Escape from Freedom/The Fear of Freedom, which was also an excellent read. Haven't read other books by him, but they are on my to buy -list.
                        Wisdom is personal

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Karri View Post
                          Escape from Freedom/The Fear of Freedom, which was also an excellent read. Haven't read other books by him, but they are on my to buy -list.
                          I listened to one hour of "the art of love" and TBH I find it too basic so far. The best book on the subject that I've read is the classic study "Love and Limerance". It is one of those life-saving books that should have been taught in high schools.

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                          • #14
                            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Rosenberg

                            Nonviolent Communication- the book and the courses: This is mind-blowing and life saving material about the "illusive obvious"- that people in the Western countries communicate in an anti-productive and "violent" way. He traces this back to domination structures since the beginning of human civilization and extended to modern day institutions.

                            His teachings are about higher consciousness and emotional intelligence in communications. It is ultimately about being a better person as well.

                            It starts with the way we talk to ourselves. Then it moves on about erasing passive-aggressive, directly hurtful, nonconstructive and manipulative language from interactions and moving communication towards constructive outcomes by adopting a new way of speaking. It emphasizes seeing the emotional undercurrent and openly recognizing the feelings & needs of the individual. At the same time, it discourages using analytical and judgmental language.

                            Other insights: We as people are responsible to ourselves on how we react to things- he gives examples of his work with tribal Africans that had their families killed- some lived only for revenge, while others went on with minimum disturbance to their emotional life. Others expended their traumatic emotional energy in humanitarian work. So in that example, he was moving towards the idea that those that bounced back from the trauma did so by managing their inner life in a constructive manner .

                            Another major theme is about the power of habit to shape consciousness and the longer the habit, the harder it is to re-engineer one's thought processes.

                            This ties with Brad Blanton's (a DC psychotherapist with decades of experience with high level clients) book/teachings about "Radical Honesty" for maximum intimacy and mental health. It is important to be intellectually honest when one talks to oneself and also be in environments that foster as much honesty as possible. Otherwise, human mental health pays for it in the long-term and an enormous amount of energy is wasted as one tries to cover up their lies (consciously and sub-consciously). and endure mental/physical health damage. Not surprisingly, Blanton's clients are high level govt' employees, lawyers, ceos, etc..

                            Blanton and Rosenberg believe that constantly "moralizing" is a terrible, health damaging and unproductive habit that is reinforced by mass culture, organized religion, and other ideologies. It leads to violence- both mental and physical- as well.

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                            • #15
                              The Forever War.



                              It's a classic.
                              Credo quia absurdum.


                              Quantum mechanics describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And yet it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept nature as She is - absurd! - Richard Feynman

                              Comment

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