The Best 30 Longform Articles of 300 I Read

Since 2016 I started reading and scrupulously tracking all the longfrom articles I read. Longform is any essay or article over 3000 words. It allowed me to then do this : Nominate a few outstanding longforms that I think more people should read. Because they are just so good and well worth the time invested in reading it.

2 years ago I highlighted the best of the original 300 longforms I read in 2 posts. Post 1 and Post 2. Recently I just finished another 300 in the 2 years since the last update and from the latest 300, here below are the best 30 longforms. Below each I outline the context, the web url and why it was so good. Enjoy!

A brilliant speech On Concentration, Solitude And Leadership. 

Context : This lecture was delivered to the class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October 2009 by William, an essayist and book critic.

URL : https://theamericanscholar.org/solitude-and-leadership/

I love this LFA because : I have rarely thought about Solitude as an essential component of leadership and William brilliantly articulate WHY it is so crucial.
The Most Gullible Man In Cambridge

Context : A Harvard Law Professor who teaches Harvard student about judgment shows appalingly poor judgment

URL : https://www.thecut.com/2019/07/bruce-hay-paternity-trap-maria-pia-shuman-mischa-haider.html

I love this LFA because : the sheer WTFuckery of this story is amazing. Just…how is this possible ?
E-Mail From Bill

Context : A longform from The New Yorker 1993 this is a a brilliant Profile Of Bill Gates And The Zeitgeist In Late 1993 when the internet was not really a thing yet.

URL : https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1994/01/10/e-mail-from-bill

I love this LFA because : An amazing profile of Bill Gates and how he was thinking about the future 27 years earlier, well before smartphones and internet became commom
Blood And Soil In Narendra Modi’s India

Context :  The state of Indian politics 73 years after independence. Disturbing.

URL :https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/12/09/blood-and-soil-in-narendra-modis-india

I love this LFA because : This LFA gives a grand tour of the rotten state of Indian Civic life and what the end of the shady Congress regime looks like. Spoiler – frying pan to fire
Turkey’s Thirty-Year Coup

Context : What Erdogan is doing in Turkey

URL : https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/17/turkeys-thirty-year-coup

I love this LFA because : If the LFA before gives a give overview of India, this one does the same for Turkey, the supposed bridge between East and West
THE HUMAN FACTOR

Context : How And Why Air France Flight 447 Crashed over the atlantic ocean

URL : https://www.vanityfair.com/news/business/2014/10/air-france-flight-447-crash

I love this LFA because : this article was so gripping i think i was holding my breath as I was reading it. After rewading it I now think what a AVOIDABLE tragedy this one was.
The Story Of Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder In Istanbul 

Context : How MBS and KSA planned and executed the murder of an old journalist

URL : https://www.insider.com/the-murder-of-jamal-khashoggi-2019-10

I love this LFA because : this graphic article truly helped me understand the real henious nature of the KSA regime
The Jungle Prince Of Delhi

Context : A Mentally Unstable Woman conned a country AND her family

URL : https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/22/world/asia/the-jungle-prince-of-delhi.html

I love this LFA because : Just an unbelievable tale about a sad family of old in Delhi
What Is Amazon?

Context : A Superb Breakdown Of Walmart And Amazon By Zack Kanter, Founder Of Stedi.

URL : https://zackkanter.com/2019/03/13/what-is-amazon/

I love this LFA because : this LFA truly helped me understand what the giant was really about.
What The Hell Is Going On? – An essay by blogger David Perell  

Context : An Essay On How the G7 countries Got Here

URL : https://www.perell.com/blog/what-the-hell-is-going-on

I love this LFA because : A really good summary of the major changes in the west over the course of a century.
Free Speech And The Necessity Of Discomfort.

Context : This is the text of a lecture delivered at the University of Michigan on Tuesday.

URL : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/opinion/free-speech-discomfort.html?

I love this LFA because : Free Speech is a concept in most people’s head, like the color purple but this is a a Fantastic Speech about exactly what it is and why free speech is so critical in a democracy. Most countries, inclusing UK and India don’t have it.
Japan’s Rent-A-Family Industry 

Context :  Some Japansese Who Are Short On Relatives Can Hire A Husband, A Mother, A Grandson.

URL : https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/30/japans-rent-a-family-industry

I love this LFA because : A look into a facinating niche business that can ONLY happen in Japan
The Crash Of Egyptair 990

Context : Just why ahd how Egyptair 990 crashed

URL : https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/11/the-crash-of-egyptair-990/302332/

I love this LFA because : An amazing essay of both the crash and the culture and country it originated from
The Unbelievable Life And Death Of Michael C. Ruppert

Context : I saw thie guy in a documentary on Peak Oil and I HAD TO KNOWmore about what we was about.

URL : https://www.theverge.com/2014/7/22/5881501/the-unbelievable-life-and-death-of-michael-c-ruppert

I love this LFA because : this is a tereffic profile of a tragic man
“It’s Time To Make A Deal”

Context : Texas oilman Boone Pickens is staking A 25-Year Career On One Wild Roll Of The Dice In 1982

URL : https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/its-time-to-make-a-deal/

I love this LFA because : You want to know America did business in the 80s – here is the real deal
10 Important Lessons We Learned From The 2010s

Context : Blogger Mark Manson’s take on the 2010s lessons

URL : https://markmanson.net/10-important-lessons-from-the-2010s

I love this LFA because : A top 10 list to succinctly summarize the decade gone by
Cain And Abel

Context : The Bitter Sibling Rivalry Burning Up An $800 Million Louisiana Family Dynasty.

URL : https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/06/the-bitter-sibling-rivalry-at-knight-oil-tools.html

I love this LFA because : A true WTF story about how money sometimes is a curse and not a blessing to some families
How An Ex-Cop Jacobson Rigged Mcdonald’s Monopoly Game And Stole Millions. 

Context : Exactly what it says on the article title

URL : https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-an-ex-cop-rigged-mcdonalds-monopoly-game-and-stole-millions?ref=scroll

I love this LFA because : Another WTF story on a US scammer that makes you marvel at human nature
How Qatar Bungled Up

Context : Kidnapped Royalty Become Pawns In Iran’s Deadly Plot and Qatar pays the price in every sense

URL : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/14/magazine/how-a-ransom-for-royal-falconers-reshaped-the-middle-east.html

I love this LFA because : It helped me understand why what I saw in that movie Syriana was NOT fiction but daily reality there.
London Bridge Is Down

Context : This then is the Secret Plan For The Days After The Queen’s Death

URL : https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/mar/16/what-happens-when-queen-elizabeth-dies-london-bridge

I love this LFA because : The dealth of the Queen is well planned for. And how!
Hip Hop Music Producer Scott Storch Raked In $Millions And Then Snorted His Way To Ruin

Context : Someone who could have been a music legend ends up in ruin thanks,again, to drugs

URL : https://www.miaminewtimes.com/music/ultra-music-festival-partners-with-siriusxm-for-post-cancellation-radio-channel-11597594

I love this LFA because : It is a text book case of why drugs are always bad news
On The Megapolis That Is Pearl River Delta – The Largest Contiguous Urban Region In The World By 2030

Context : This is going to be the busiest human enclave in a decade. Get to know it.

URL : https://www.timeout.com/hong-kong/en-hongkong/the-pearl-river-delta-megacity-051716
http://www.visualcapitalist.com/pearl-river-delta-megacity-2020/

I love this LFA because : It truly brought to life for me why China was going to be where the action was this century
PONZI SCHEMES, PRIVATE YACHTS, AND A MISSING $250 MILLION IN CRYPTO: THE STRANGE TALE OF QUADRIGA

Context : When Canadian blockchain whiz Gerald Cotten died unexpectedly last year, hundreds of millions of dollars in investor funds vanished into the crypto ether. But when the banks, the law, and the forces of Reddit tried to track down the cash, it turned out the young mogul may not have been who he purported to be.

URL : https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/11/the-strange-tale-of-quadriga-gerald-cotten

I love this LFA because : A true modern day scam with great twists and details
Promethea Unbound

Context : A child genius raised in poverty, she wanted to change the world. A horrific act of violence nearly destroyed her.

URL : https://magazine.atavist.com/promethea-unbound-child-genius-montana

I love this LFA because : An amazing story of when Genius meets Bad Luck
The Basecamp Guide To Internal Communication

Context : How project software company Basecamp communicates internally

URL : https://m.signalvnoise.com/the-basecamp-guide-to-internal-communication/

I love this LFA because : This is one of the most concise and brilliant how-to on communicating I have read
The Inside Story Of Trump’s Shambolic Transition Team – Michael Lewis

Context : Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball and The Big Short, reveals how Trump’s bungled presidential transition set the template for his time in the White House

URL : https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/sep/27/this-guy-doesnt-know-anything-the-inside-story-of-trumps-shambolic-transition-team

I love this LFA because : It’s Micheal Lewis. Expect 24 Carat Quality writing as always. America deserves better. We all do.
The Man On The Operating Table

Context : Baynazar Mohammad Nazar was a husband and a father of four — and a patient killed during the attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz. This is his story.

URL : https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/12/03/the-man-on-the-operating-table-msf-hospital-kunduz-afghanistan-us-airstrike/

I love this LFA because : A heartbreaking take of a man in the wrong place at the wrong time
The Toxoplasma Of Rage

Context : Why is Online so toxic ? SSC’s Scott explains brilliantly

URL : https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/17/the-toxoplasma-of-rage/

I love this LFA because : An amazing analysis of why and how the culture war will only get worse over time
The US Gambler Who Cracked The Hong Kong Horse-Racing Code Using Probability Theory

Context : Bill Benter did the impossible: He wrote an algorithm that couldn’t lose at the track. Close to a billion dollars later, he tells his story for the first time.

URL : https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-05-03/the-gambler-who-cracked-the-horse-racing-code

I love this LFA because : When brains meets meticulous planning, this is what you get. A gripping story well told.
Worst Roommate Ever

Context : Jamison Bachman’s Former Not-So-Bright Roommates Share Their Horror Stories About A damn twisted Man

URL : http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/02/jamison-bachman-worst-roommate-ever.html

I love this LFA because : Having had my shre of weird roomies in my 20s, this one showed me what WEIRD really was. OMG kinda read.

The Best 20 Longform Articles I read

Over the last few years, after reading 300 plus articles/blog posts/columns online, here are my current favourite 20. Don’t waste time reading and consuming low value low insight info-junkfood in books and newspapers that skims a issue, usually of marginal importance. That is bad for you in  every way. What you want to do is consume just enough to stay very well informed. Nothing over the needed daily mental TDEE infocalories.

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All the 20 are better as quality reads than a majority of the books I have read in the same period. Some 50x so.

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Below each one of the recommend article I have written a brief synopsis on why you should read it and what it is about. You could read them all in one long bank holiday weekend. They are filled with terrific insights and/or great narratives and will likely may you re-think some of your cherished mental models and theories about people, institutions and the zeitgeist. And it’st that what reading is supposed to do at its core?

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All articles have embedded hyperlinks that will take you straight to the cigar.

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‘A Generation In Japan Faces A Lonely Death’
This one opened my uninformed eyes to what mass aging in a developed country like Japan looks like. A tad depressing and morbidly riveting. The Japanese author does a fantastic job unpacking the long lived lives.

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Cocaine Incorporated : Fantastic Primer On The Drug Business In Mexico
After seeing the brilliant movie Sicario, this is the article to read about what really happens across the US border.

Farnam Street’S The Knowledge Project Interviews Naval Ravikant
Naval is the New Age Tech Guru to follow if you want to understand how very smart people approach the big questions of life and work. This interview is densely packed with gems like this:

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Find Your Beach – Zadie Smith On Life In Manhattan As An Artist
Here we all are, on edge and frayed. 2018 and living in big soulless cities. Zadie captures the zeitgeist in this article.

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Free Speech And The Necessity Of Discomfort 
A Fantastic Speech By writer Bret Stephens Of NYT making a superb case for the defence of free speech and why it needs defending.

Heavy : The Short Life Of Robert Earl Hughes Of Tiny Fishhook, Illinois
This heartbreaking article on a nice big guy from back in the day was the closest I came to tears while reading something online. A deep profile of a deeply nice person who happened to be fat.

How ‘Broadcast News’ Predicted Journalism As We Know It
A superb deconstruction of a movie, a profession and the news zeitgeist. Until I read this piece I thought movie criticism could never be made penetrating or profound by anyone other than Roger Ebert. this article proved me wrong.

How Do Families Around The World Spend Their Vacations?

This stunning photo-essay forced me to realise just how much the vacations my friends, my family and my wife and I take are definitely not how most of the world does theirs.

 

How Tiger Woods Imploded
The downward spiral of Tiger Woods captured in a way that makes you realize how excess money and fame without a wise mentor are double edged swords.

Interview Of Merlin Mann, Productivity Guru

Mann’s 43folders blog was a favourite productivity related pitstop of mine back in the day and this deep interview lays bare his sharp insights on life and work.

Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping The Poor By Garrett Hardin, 1974
This is the example of a dated article that seems more relevant as we all head towards sure Ecocide by 2050. Is Hardin right ? Maybe, but his point of view needs a solemn hearing.

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On The Amazing Rise And Fall Of A Rodent Utopia

One of those bizarre essays about an experiment that you know is telling you something important about human society, although you frustratingly realize you are unable to grasp the full scary implications of what it is telling you oh so subtly.

Quitting The Paint Factory By Mark Slouka
A searing take on faux busyness and why we need to take a breather.

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Ray Kurzweil On The Law Of Accelerating Returns (March 2001)
17 years ago a legit genius predicted where we would be heading in the next few decades and this essay that he wrote is prescient. I hope he is right.

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The Beggar CEO And Sucker Culture
Aimed at those of us reluctantly running the corporate rat race, trained for it since kindergarten, this article starkly tells us why we are deluded and what we should do instead.

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The Uninhabitable Earth

This is the scariest article I have read in a while and it made me question if planning for retirement was even worth it.

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The Yankee Comandante
A superb yarn about how a man got caught up in the promise of a socialist utopia and saw Orwell’s Animal Farm play out in front of his own eyes.

What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447

What a nail biting read this was, on a tragic crash that was caused by humans being human and doing human things under extreme stress.

What You’ll Wish You’d Known – By Paul Graham, Unsaid Speech To Students
The speech was so good, so eye opening, so necessary that I forced my mostly young team to read it, if only because it was packed to the brim with gems on how to start and navigate the work world. A great primer.

Why The Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming From Inside The White House
The formidable, awe-inspiring Micheal Lewis on how good leaders can improve institutions but only slowly but bad leaders can destroy institutions rapidly.

Meditations On Moloch
I saved the best for the last. This read is perhaps one of the most profound writings I have stumbled across. A life altering essay that helped me understand why humanity has ended up in the current terrible status quo. It argues that, rather than by malice and greed, the problems our world faces are mostly driven by powerful evolutionary forces, (poetically personified as Ginsberg’s poem “Moloch“), that no one controls, and which wants us, and everything we value destroyed.

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So there it is. Read them all and you will soon see the map in your head is not the territory in front of your eyes. It’s a bit like seeing this ad below for the Budapest Zoo and then really really seeing it.

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The Anti-Library

Unread books are where the action is.

The trader turned smart thinker Nassim Taleb approvingly calls such a collection an “ANTILIBRARY”; one’s shelves, he argues, should contain “as much of what you do not know” as finances allow. And he says don’t expect the proportion of unread books to fall, either.

The more you read, the more the perimeter of your knowledge increases, and the more you’ll realise what you don’t know.

Back in India when I was living in a capacious apartment all by myself I used to stock my shelves with books both read and unread, the former over time out numbering the latter.  I naively thought that was a good thing. Now in the limited confines of London where real estate (even post Brexit) is not exactly ‘cheap and abundant’, the numbers have switched. Limited space also honed my underdeveloped skill at ditching mediocre books right after reading them into the local charity shop bin. Now only a few books stay. So now the books lining my limited shelf space are either great books I retain and will re-read at some future date or mostly ‘pending to read’ books, all coming together into making the gestalt that is now my antilibrary. Morgan Housel, a great blogger, nailed my sentiment when he recently tweeted ‘90% of books should be half the length they are‘. My reviews of a books are here and here and here.

The Japanese have a cool word for all this : Tsundoku. It is the condition of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. It is also used to refer to books ready for reading later when they are on a bookshelf. An avid american book collector once said something wise on the subject that resonated with me : “Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity … we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes Comfort, their ready access Reassurance.

Since I was 10 I have always been a dietary and reading omnivore. I will read anything on any subject as long as the book and the subject sound interesting. My wife will vouch that this is my exact approach to food too. Over the last year, using the fabulous algorithm of the  Keepa.com website I have purchased books covering wide and varied subjects and themes that I plan to delve into over 2017-18, in the hope of improving what Taleb aptly labels ‘the perimeter of one’s knowledge‘.

Recently I decided to summarize all the physical books I have on my shelf under conspicuous themes and motifs,  for two reasons, one selfish and one altruistic. Writing about it forces me to rationalize the actual purchases and also altruistically serves as a starter for ten for readers like you looking for some book suggestions  for the upcoming summer.

Welcome to my Tsundoku…

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Well written autobiographies of 5 worthy people. The book ‘TITAN’ I would rank as one of the best 5 books I have read in the last few years, the apotheosis of what a good book ought to be. The middle book (Snowball) I am reading midway and I think it is going to rank up there with the best of them. The bottom two are pending. I would put all 5 in the curriculum if I were the dean of a decent undergrad college.

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As someone who migrated from one country to another (India to UK) I am keen to fill the gap in my knowledge of my adopted country and these 8 books are an attempt at that. 3 of them I finished reading and ALL of the 3 I heartily endorse.

  1. Tudors – cracking good tale
  2. The Angry Island – The best caustic prose I have encountered in the last few years. His asperity towards the unemotive island people is penetratingly hilarious
  3. Longitude – a book so gripping I started at 9 PM and stayed up till 5 AM to finish it

The other 5 are pending a read.

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If someone was looking to move to India and asked me for books to understand the country, I can confidently say the Naipaul Trilogy would get the job done. It is about India as it IS, not as it is ineffectually and prosaically penned about in most books and articles about the country. It was after reading these three books that I understood Naipaul for the genius he is and the real history of my country that is never written about even today. The other 2 are pending a read.

 

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I am a complete sucker for sea faring survival takes and anything old navy related. And these 5 scratch that itch. Two of them (Endurance and In The Hear of the Sea) I read one after another and was blown away by both. Set about 100 years apart, they suck you in and don’t let you go until the end. Last thursday I recommended the book ENDURANCE to my team at work as not just a survival take but also one of the best books on Leadership and Teamwork out there. The other 3 are pending a read.

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These are assorted books on the subject of Metacognition, Heuristics, Forecasting, Thinking and Decision Making,  an effort to polish my own ingenuous executive functions & skills.

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These two books are my attempt to understand Investing from someone OTHER THAN Warren Buffet for a change. The left one I suspect is going to be refreshingly discursive and not stick tightly to dry finance.

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I would rank the decrepit looking The Best and The Brightest as one of my best books from the last decade. Halbertstam is a great writer and the book is just so good wading through the dense fastidious prose it feels akin to reading a John Grisham novel. A great primer on the pitfalls of Groupthink and Pink Flamingoes.

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This grandiloquent tome by Chomsky on the right was an eye opener in the real sense the word is meant. Depressing but oh-so-needed in these times. This too would go on the curriculum of my imaginary college reading list.  The left one is pending.

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Both books I have heard good press about. right one to understand Cancer, something that will kill the majority of us if heart related issues don’t do the morbid job first. And the left book (GENOME) is to understand the new upcoming CRISPR related developments.

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I am a sucker for crisp essays and I am promised by wise people that these two authors are worth the investment.

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These 4 books are an attempt to better understand the events that shaped the superpowers in the first half of the 20th century. Definitely sombre reads I suspect.

 

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These three to understand better the places I hope to visit someday and spend time without just being a tourist in the pejorative term. Africa, America and Europe. All covered here. The Bryson book, while dated, is hilarious and after a visit to a European destination mentioned in it, I always read the chapter on it to get at HIS funny and smart take on the place.

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4 books to better fit into and understand the workplace. Prince and Effective Executive are almost mandatory reading at this juncture. The Peter Principle is wry but sharp. Inside Drucker’s Brain I am still to tackle.

Hope this wets your reading appetite and gets you onto a few of them. I can vouch that most have made it to the shelf only after some solid research and good reviews so the odds are decent that most are worth your precious time. Find a decent perch to park and dive into a few. I recommend outdoors now that summer is here.

Happy Reading!

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The Best 10 Longform Articles of 100 I Read

Two propositions hold true for the majority of people I know if they are ever asked about its application to them  :
1. Reading a book will take up a lot of my spare time
2. I do not have spare time!

Now take a moment to think about how you get most of your daily dose of News about the world around you :
– a quick peek into the website of your preferred publication
– a squint into the false “breaking news” clip as you sip your coffee
– a passing glance at the shallow newspaper in the subway or in the loo
– a distracted browse on your phone during your limited downtime in the day = in the loo?

How many of these insipid vapid squirts registered with you ? How many stories in the last 100 days really stayed with you and that you could effortlessly recount to your friends, in this era of blaring headlines, instant analysis, and perishable sound bites.? I am going to wager the number is a fraction of the total news crisps you munch everyday and equally hazardous to your health.

Most news clips on TV, the newspaper or in the app you read barely skims the news and abjectly fails at educating you on all the many angles and players in a story. You are the guy trying to tell time when all he can see it the Seconds needle. A news clip seen here, a clip read there, in the heat of the news cycle about an issue is like trying to understand the Mona Lisa with your nose 1mm away from it at the bottom corner. To really understand the painting you need to slowly step back and observe it from a decent  distance.

The antidote to all this above litany of complaints : Longform Articles. Longform journalism is a branch of journalism dedicated to longer articles with larger amounts of content. The length of longform articles is between that of a traditional article and that of a periodical. These articles, usually 4000+ words or longer, will nullify most of the above negatives and yet take only a small slice of the time books will ask of you. Many of the boring books I suffered over the years, typically 100,000 words or longer, could have been culled into a crisp punchy Longform article I would have liked versus the book I didn’t.

All this above slowly percolated into my ADHD riddled head over the course of 2015 and so one of my 2016 new year resolutions was that I would read 100 Longform articles in 2016.

A typical book is about 100,000 words long. A typical longform article is about 4000 words. 100 articles X 4000 words = 400,000 words. Which means reading 100 longform articles is akin to reading 4 thick books. But on 100 different topics! This is the kind of range and value that excites me. Additionally I decided I was going to read omnivorously when it came to article sources and topics. Nothing was off limits. I would not stick to one publication, website, theme or subject. And I vowed to diligently keep track of the links to all articles I read so I could share it forward (which I am doing now)

I finished the 100th Article TODAY (22 Sept 2016), about 100 days before the year end deadline, which speaks less about my brittle diligence but volumes about how pleasurable this resolution was (versus staid aims like “Eat less junk food”). Now for your reading pleasure  I have listed below the 100 articles I read along with links to all 100 articles online. Every single one is free and readily available to be enjoyed.

So why really read them at all ? …Because should you dive in, you will emerge more informed, more aware and more interesting at the other end of the reading lake. 100 cool stories at your fingertips. Knowledge compounds and this is a good thick principal to deposit into the mental bank.

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Among the varied stories, you will read how Tiger Woods imploded after his dad died, how a famous US retail chain spectacularly cocked up a store inauguration, how a demure medical nurse became good at robbing banks, how some students in India lose their identity prepping for a brutal test, why does one of the world’s most reviled technologies keep winning, what was it to see Michael Jackson’s iconic first moonwalk onstage, travel to a place no country wants to claim, why Socialism failed, why Cryonics makes sense, understand the life of Muhammad Ali, smell the desperation of US law firms in the age of austerity, investigate who owns London’s most expensive mansion, take a terrifying journey through the World’s Most Dangerous Jungle and see how the new Panama Canal was built.

That above is just a sliver of the full rich tasty cake. I have also added 2 data graphs on the key themes and sources to the Longforms so you can choose more intelligently. I wish you Happy Reading in cozy cafes or deep sofas or comfy loos for the upcoming winter!

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My favorite 10 from an already solid list of 100 good articles are :

THE Last Days Of Target – The untold tale of Target Canada’s difficult birth, tough life and brutal death |Link : http: //www.canadianbusiness.com/the-last-days-of-target-canada/
How Tiger Woods imploded  |Link : http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/15278522/how-tiger-woods-life-unraveled-years-father-earl-woods-death
Twilight of the Petrostate |Link : http://nationalinterest.org/feature/twilight-the-petrostate-16235
Why 57 Young Students Have Taken Their Lives In Kota |Link : http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2016/06/01/life-and-death-in-kota_n_10232456.html?utm_hp_ref=india
A Terrifying Journey Through the World’s Most Dangerous Jungle: The Darién Gap |Link : http://www.outsideonline.com/2098801/skull-stake-darien-gap
The Man Who Tried to Redeem the World with Logic – Walter Pitts rose from the streets to MIT, but couldn’t escape himself |Link : http://nautil.us/issue/21/information/the-man-who-tried-to-redeem-the-world-with-logic
The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá |Link : http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/magazine/the-mixed-up-brothers-of-bogota.html?_r=0#
Construction is turning London into a city of holes |Link :  http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/282e51f0-0683-11e6-9b51-0fb5e65703ce.html
The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru : How Ben Rhodes rewrote the rules of diplomacy for the digital age. |Link : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/magazine/the-aspiring-novelist-who-became-obamas-foreign-policy-guru.html?_r=0
Free Speech and Islam — In Defense of Sam Harris  |Link : http://quillette.com/2016/04/21/free-speech-and-islam-in-defense-of-sam-harris/

The full list of all 100 Longform articles :

Sourced from Bloomberg || Subject : business || Zenefits Was the Perfect Startup. Then It Self-Disrupted || URL : http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-zenefits/
Sourced from Canadian Business || Subject : business || THE LAST DAYS OF TARGET – The untold tale of Target Canada’s difficult birth, tough life and brutal death || URL : http: //www.canadianbusiness.com/the-last-days-of-target-canada/
Sourced from Financial Times || Subject : business || Soros: General Theory of Reflexivity || URL : http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/0ca06172-bfe9-11de-aed2-00144feab49a.html
Sourced from Fortune || Subject : business || The Last Stand of Ken Chenault. Can he win back investors and fix what ails AmEx before his time runs out? || URL : http://fortune.com/ken-chenault-american-express/?xid=soc_socialflow_twitter_FORTUNE
Sourced from Fortune || Subject : business || Silicon Valley’s $585 Billion Problem – Fortune on the Unicorn Bubble  || URL : http://fortune.com/silicon-valley-tech-ipo-market/
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : business || How Should We Read Investor Letters? = Considering the correspondence between C.E.O.s and shareholders as a literary genre. || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/09/05/jeff-gramms-dear-chairman-boardroom-battles-and-the-rise-of-shareholder-activism
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : business || The Bank Robber : The dodgy computer technician who exposed a Swiss bank’s darkest secrets. || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/30/herve-falcianis-great-swiss-bank-heist?intcid=popular
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : business || Not So Fast – Scientific management started as a way to work. How did it become a way of life? || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/10/12/not-so-fast
Sourced from Newrepublic || Subject : business || The Brutal Ageism of Tech : Years of experience, plenty of talent, completely obsolete
 || URL : https://newrepublic.com/article/117088/silicons-valleys-brutal-ageism
Sourced from Newrepublic || Subject : business || The Last Days of Big Law : The money is drying up—and America’s most storied law firms are terrified || URL : https://newrepublic.com/article/113941/big-law-firms-trouble-when-money-dries
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : business || How Uber conquered London  || URL : https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/27/how-uber-conquered-london
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : business || On Craft BeerMaker, BREWDOG || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/mar/24/the-aggressive-outrageous-infuriating-and-ingenious-rise-of-brewdog
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : business || The Fall of China’s Hedge Fund King Xu Xiang  || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/03/magazine/the-fall-of-chinas-hedge-fund-king.html?
Sourced from Vanity Fair || Subject : business || How Elizabeth Holmes’s House of Cards Came Tumbling Down – A searing investigation into the once lauded biotech start-up Theranos || URL : http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/09/elizabeth-holmes-theranos-exclusive
Sourced from Vanity Fair || Subject : business || The Valeant Meltdown and Wall Street’s Major Drug Problem  || URL : http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/06/the-valeant-meltdown-and-wall-streets-major-drug-problem#22
Sourced from Vanity Fair || Subject : business || The Man Who Crashed the World : How an AIG divison lead by Joe Cassano blew it spectacularly || URL : http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2009/08/aig200908-2
Sourced from Daedtech || Subject : career || The Beggar CEO and Sucker Culture || URL : http://www.daedtech.com/the-beggar-ceo-and-sucker-culture/
Sourced from Espn || Subject : celebrity || How Tiger Woods imploded  || URL : http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/15278522/how-tiger-woods-life-unraveled-years-father-earl-woods-death
Sourced from GQ || Subject : celebrity || GQ profiles Melania Trump || URL : http://www.gq.com/story/melania-trump-gq-interview
Sourced from GQ || Subject : celebrity || On Stephen Colbert on Making The Late Show His Own || URL : http://www.gq.com/story/stephen-colbert-gq-cover-story
Sourced from bbc || Subject : crime || The rise and fall of the Bombshell Bandit || URL : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32481834
Sourced from Bloomberg || Subject : crime || How the Secret Service busted a counterfeiting ring in NJ || URL : http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-counterfeit-money/
Sourced from California Sunday || Subject : crime || On the 43 murdered students of Mexico || URL : https://stories.californiasunday.com/2015-01-04/mexico-the-disappeared-en/
Sourced from California Sunday || Subject : crime || The Lost Man :The mysterious circumstances of his death in Australia have captivated generations of true-crime fanatics.  || URL : https://stories.californiasunday.com/2015-06-07/somerton-man/
Sourced from California Sunday || Subject : crime || The Murder of Sheena by her mom Indrani  || URL : https://story.californiasunday.com/mumbai-murder-mukerjeas
Sourced from The Telegraph  || Subject : crime || On the HattonGarden heist || URL : http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/projects/Hatton-Garden-is-it-still-possible-to-get-away-with-a-heist/index.html
Sourced from The National Interest || Subject : current affairs || Twilight of the Petrostate || URL : http://nationalinterest.org/feature/twilight-the-petrostate-16235
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : current affairs || On Tunisia and Terrorism  || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/03/28/tunisia-and-the-fall-after-the-arab-spring
Sourced from The Atlantic || Subject : current affairs || The Hell After ISIS : Many Sunnis say they have no hope for peace. One family’s story shows why || URL : http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/05/the-hell-after-isis/476391/
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : current affairs || Trident: the British question || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/feb/11/trident-the-british-question
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : current affairs || Behind the Barricades of Turkey’s Hidden War with Kurds || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/29/magazine/behind-the-barricades-of-turkeys-hidden-war.html?_r=0#
Sourced from Badassoftheweek || Subject : military || Operation Chavin de Huantar : How Peru mounted a daring hostage rescue operation  || URL : http://www.badassoftheweek.com/chavin.html
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : drama || The Hunt for El Chapo : How the world’s most notorious drug lord was captured. || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/05/05/the-hunt-for-el-chapo?intcid=mod-most-popular
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : drama || The Plot to Take Down a Fox News Analyst : For years, Wayne Simmons claimed to be a former C.I.A. operative. Then one ex-spook got suspicious. || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/magazine/the-plot-to-take-down-a-fox-news-analyst.html?_r=0
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : drama || The Battle Over the Sea-Monkey Fortune || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/magazine/the-battle-over-the-sea-monkey-fortune.html?_r=0#
Sourced from Wall Street Journal || Subject : drama || A Stolen Boy, an Angry Loner, an Underground Bunker || URL : http://graphics.wsj.com/hostage/?mod=videorelated
Sourced from Medium || Subject : economics || Machine Money and People Money : A Conversation about Universal Basic Income with John Maynard Keynes and Paul Buchheit || URL : https://medium.com/the-wtf-economy/machine-money-and-people-money-29b497eeb9d0#.s9bmzpopj
Sourced from Oaktree Capital Management   || Subject : economics || On Political Reality : Memo from a seasoned hedge fund manager Howard Marks to clients – why people vote in bad politicians  || URL : https://www.oaktreecapital.com/docs/default-source/memos/political-reality.pdf
Sourced from Oaktree Capital Management   || Subject : economics || On Economic Reality : Memo from a fund manager Howard Marks to clients – why presidential promises will fall flat  || URL : https://www.oaktreecapital.com/docs/default-source/memos/economic-reality.pdf
Sourced from Newrepublic || Subject : education || The Trouble With Harvard : The Ivy League is broken and only standardized tests can fix it By Steven Pinker || URL : https://newrepublic.com/article/119321/harvard-ivy-league-should-judge-students-standardized-tests
Sourced from Atavist || Subject : fiasco || Sunk : How a Chinese billionaire’s dream of making an underwater fantasy blockbuster turned into a legendary movie fiasco. || URL : https://read.atavist.com/sunk
Sourced from The Atlantic || Subject : military || The Desert One Debacle : How Operation Eagle Claw went sour || URL : http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/05/the-desert-one-debacle/304803/?single_page=true
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : fiasco || The New Panama Canal: A Risky Bet : How a $3.1 Billion Expansion Collided With Reality || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/06/22/world/americas/panama-canal.html?_r=0
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : food || The Sugar Conspiracy || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/07/the-sugar-conspiracy-robert-lustig-john-yudkin
Sourced from The Atlantic || Subject : Futurism || Nick Bostrom on Human Extinction || URL : http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/03/were-underestimating-the-risk-of-human-extinction/253821/
Sourced from Medium || Subject : history || History tells us what may happen next with Brexit & Trump || URL : https://medium.com/@theonlytoby/history-tells-us-what-will-happen-next-with-brexit-trump-a3fefd154714#.xwi1279q4
Sourced from Paul Graham Blog || Subject : history || The Refragmentation of Developed world : Forces that shaped the 20th Century || URL : http://www.paulgraham.com/re.html
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : history || What Was the Greatest Era for Innovation? A Brief Guided Tour of USA in 1870,1920,1970 and today || URL : http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/05/15/upshot/what-was-the-greatest-era-for-american-innovation-a-brief-guided-tour.html
Sourced from Atlanta Magazine || Subject : human interest story || Refuge: One Syrian family’s immigration to Georgia, USA || URL : http://www.atlantamagazine.com/great-reads/refuge-one-syrian-familys-long-odyssey-to-georgia/
Sourced from Esquire || Subject : human interest story || The Long Haul: One Year of Solitude on America’s Highways || URL : http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a40157/long-haul-year-trucking-america/?mod=e2this
Sourced from GQ || Subject : human interest story || Stud: How to Have 106 Babies (and Counting) || URL : http://www.gq.com/story/how-to-have-babies-sperm-donor-ed-houben
Sourced from GQ || Subject : human interest story || Inside the San Quentin Marathon || URL : http://www.gq.com/story/san-quentin-marathon
Sourced from Huffingtonpost || Subject : human interest story || Why 57 Young Students Have Taken Their Lives In Kota || URL : http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2016/06/01/life-and-death-in-kota_n_10232456.html?utm_hp_ref=india
Sourced from New York Magazine || Subject : human interest story || Inside Rikers Prison in NYC || URL : http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/06/inside-rikers-island-interviews.html
Sourced from Outside Magazine || Subject : human interest story || A Terrifying Journey Through the World’s Most Dangerous Jungle: The Darién Gap || URL : http://www.outsideonline.com/2098801/skull-stake-darien-gap
Sourced from Outside Magazine || Subject : human interest story || Everest veteran guide Dave Morton on what happens when you try to leave the world’s most lucrative mountain forever || URL : http://www.outsideonline.com/2064481/david-morton-and-ghosts-everest
Sourced from Science Magazine Nautilus  || Subject : human interest story || The Man Who Tried to Redeem the World with Logic – Walter Pitts rose from the streets to MIT, but couldn’t escape himself || URL : http://nautil.us/issue/21/information/the-man-who-tried-to-redeem-the-world-with-logic
Sourced from Shtfplan || Subject : human interest story || Surviving in a war zone || URL : http://www.shtfplan.com/emergency-preparedness/a-survival-q-a-living-through-shtf-in-the-middle-of-a-war-zone_10252011
Sourced from Statnews || Subject : human interest story || One man’s desperate quest for a brutal surgery || URL : https://www.statnews.com/2016/03/24/appendix-cancer-treatment/
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : human interest story || My uncle and heroin: ‘What surprises me most – you have no teeth’ || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/mar/10/my-uncle-and-heroin
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : human interest story || Three Generations Under One Roof – A portrait of a NYC based large Chinese Family  || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/nyregion/one-roof-three-generations-portrait-of-a-chinese-american-family.html?_r=2
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : human interest story || The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/magazine/the-mixed-up-brothers-of-bogota.html?_r=0#
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : in depth profile  || The Outsized Life of Muhammad Ali || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-outsized-life-of-muhammad-ali
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : in depth profile  || The Astonishing Rise of Jeremy Corbyn || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/23/the-astonishing-rise-of-jeremy-corbyn?intcid=mod-most-popular
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : in depth profile  || The Machiavelli of Maryland || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/09/edward-luttwak-machiavelli-of-maryland
Sourced from Fool || Subject : interview || An Interview With Dr. Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics By Morgan Housel || URL : http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/06/28/an-interview-with-dr-daniel-kahneman.aspx
Sourced from Fortune || Subject : interview || Fortune interviews Jeff Bezos || URL : http://fortune.com/amazon-jeff-bezos-prime/
Sourced from Reddit || Subject : interview || Reddit AMA with Alice Schroeder, author of The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. || URL : https://www.reddit.com/r/investing/comments/2550vq/hi_im_alice_schroeder_author_of_the_snowball?sort=qa
Sourced from Sam Harris Blog || Subject : interview || The Salon Interview of Sam Harris  || URL : https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/sam-harris-the-salon-interview
Sourced from The Great Discontent (Tgd)  || Subject : interview || Seth Godin Interview || URL : http://thegreatdiscontent.com/interview/seth-godin
Sourced from The Great Discontent (Tgd)  || Subject : interview || Interview of Merlin Mann, Productivity Guru || URL : http://thegreatdiscontent.com/interview/merlin-mann
Sourced from Washington Post || Subject : interview || The WSJ Interview of Tim Cook, CEO of Apple  || URL : http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/business/wp/2016/08/13/2016/08/13/tim-cook-the-interview-running-apple-is-sort-of-a-lonely-job/
Sourced from New Yorker || Subject : investigative journalism || House of Secrets – Who owns London’s most expensive mansion?  || URL : http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/06/01/house-of-secrets
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : investigative journalism || How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/nyregion/donald-trump-atlantic-city.html?_r=0
Sourced from Medium || Subject : lifestyle || On the new “Shut in” Economy  || URL : https://medium.com/matter/the-shut-in-economy-ec3ec1294816#.e9ajuagxn
Sourced from Washington Post || Subject : lifestyle || Day in the life of upper middle class teen : 13, right now : This is what it’s like to grow up in the age of likes, lols and longing || URL : http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/wp/2016/05/25/2016/05/25/13-right-now-this-is-what-its-like-to-grow-up-in-the-age-of-likes-lols-and-longing/
Sourced from Financial Times || Subject : london || Construction is turning London into a city of holes || URL :  http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/282e51f0-0683-11e6-9b51-0fb5e65703ce.html
Sourced from The Atlantic || Subject : management  || The Triumph of Email – Why does one of the world’s most reviled technologies keep winning? || URL : http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/01/what-comes-after-email/422625/
Sourced from The Atlantic || Subject : management  || The Management Myth : Most of management theory is inane, writes our correspondent, the founder of a consulting firm.  || URL : http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/06/the-management-myth/304883/
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : media || How technology disrupted the truth – Social media has swallowed the news, ushering in an era when everyone has their own facts.  || URL : https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology-disrupted-the-truth
Sourced from Rolling Stone || Subject : music || Inside Michael Jackson’s Iconic First Moonwalk Onstage || URL : http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/inside-michael-jackson-s-iconic-first-moonwalk-onstage-20151005
Sourced from bbc || Subject : mystery || Body on the Moor. Why did this man travel 200 miles to die here? || URL : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-e8c6cbab-da44-4a3c-8f9b-c4fccd53dd24
Sourced from Fivethirtyeight Blog || Subject : politics || The End Of A Republican Party : Racial and cultural resentment have replaced the party’s small government ethos. || URL : http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-end-of-a-republican-party/
Sourced from The Foundation For Economic Education Org || Subject : politics || Why Socialism Failed || URL : https://fee.org/articles/why-socialism-failed/
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : politics || Does the left have a future? || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/06/does-the-left-have-a-future
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : politics || The Aspiring Novelist Who Became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru : How Ben Rhodes rewrote the rules of diplomacy for the digital age. || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/magazine/the-aspiring-novelist-who-became-obamas-foreign-policy-guru.html?_r=0
Sourced from Extremist  Vector || Subject : psycology || The 5 Basic Laws of Human Stupidity || URL : http://www.extremistvector.com/content/stupid.html
Sourced from Genius || Subject : psycology || The Catastrophe of Success – by Tennessee Williams || URL : http://genius.com/Tennessee-williams-the-catastrophe-of-success-annotated
Sourced from Vanity Fair || Subject : psycology || How PTSD Became a Problem Far Beyond the Battlefield  || URL : http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/05/ptsd-war-home-sebastian-junger
Sourced from Quillette || Subject : religion || Free Speech and Islam — In Defense of Sam Harris  || URL : http://quillette.com/2016/04/21/free-speech-and-islam-in-defense-of-sam-harris/
Sourced from Vanity Fair || Subject : religion || When the King Saved God – Hitchens on The King James Bible  || URL : http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2011/05/hitchens-201105?currentPage=all
Sourced from Bloomberg || Subject : scam || The Disastrous $45 Million Fall of a High-End Wine Scammer || URL : https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-premier-cru-john-fox/
Sourced from Bloomberg || Subject : scam || The fake biofuel factory con  || URL : http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-fake-biofuel-factory/
Sourced from Mysterious Universe.Org || Subject : science & tech || On The Amazing Rise and Fall of a Rodent Utopia || URL : http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2015/03/the-amazing-rise-and-fall-of-a-rodent-utopia/
Sourced from The New York Times || Subject : science & tech || The Minecraft Generation : How a clunky Swedish computer game is teaching millions of children to master the digital world. || URL : http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/magazine/the-minecraft-generation.html
Sourced from Waitbutwhy Blog || Subject : science & tech || On Why Cryonics Makes Sense || URL : http://waitbutwhy.com/2016/03/cryonics.html
Sourced from Wired || Subject : science & tech || Magic Leap’s mind-bending technology tells us about the future of virtual reality || URL : https://www.wired.com/2016/04/magic-leap-vr/
Sourced from Spiegel.De || Subject : travel || Crowding Out the Locals: Are Weekend Trips Ruining Europe’s Cities? || URL : http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/european-cities-test-measures-to-control-tourist-flows-a-1104903.html
Sourced from The Guardian || Subject : travel || Welcome to the land that no country wants || URL : http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/03/welcome-to-the-land-that-no-country-wants-bir-tawil
Sourced from Wired || Subject : travel || Welcome to SpacePort! (Wired Writer Michael Hainey visits SPACEPORT in New Mexico and writes up about it) || URL : http://www.wired.com/2016/02/welcome-to-spaceport-america-your-rocket-will-depart-soon-ish/

 

Book Review : Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders

Mount Everest, K2 and Kangchenjunga are the 3 indisputable tallest mountain ranges out there. It is likely on the bucket list of many new and aspiring climbers, working as a backdrop siren call as they hone their skills on lesser mounds.

Book lovers have their own list but this list can never be definitive since there can be no universal consensus on what should go into “the toughest reads out there!” book list. Each person’s list, like the idea of utopia or hell, is personal and unique.

But odds are a 100 book list made by a lot of bibliophiles would likely contain gems like:
    Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
    Moby Dick by Herman Melville
    Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard
    The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
    Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

These books are reputed to be very tough slogs and there is no definitive guarantee you will turn the last page and feel glad you dived in. In fact, chances are most of these books will be flung across the room well before the last chapter. A lot of them are wilting in bookshelves around the world waiting for a day when the owner inevitably bundles it into the charity box for donation.

When I purchased ‘Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders‘ on 15 November 2013 (for the pricy sum of £2.07) I was not sure what I was in for. All I knew was that I liked Warren’s way of thinking, his approach to business and investing and I wanted to read more from the man directly, not via a biographer or hired hand. I surely would have done a double take if my future self had told me I would take 865 days to finish this thick fat almost 1000 page book.

 

L2S

‘Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders’ is not a book really but a collection of annual letters written by Warren Buffet, the legendary investor and 2nd richest man on Earth. Each year he writes a letter to his shareholders telling them how well (or poorly) Berkshire Hathaway, the company he runs, did. So technically this books, containing 50 letters, from 1965 to 2015, took 50 years to ‘write’. (Amazon automatically updated the kindle version with the letters of the last 2 years, after I purchased the book in 2013. Go Amazon!).

But then saying this book is a collection of annual letters written by Warren Buffett is akin to saying “History is about some important dates”. ‘Letters to Shareholders’ is soooo much much more than just a collection of letters. Through these 50 letters, Buffet talks about the wider investing and business world and touches on a lot of very interesting subjects, giving the reader a solid grounding on many helpful topics that can stand in as 24 Carat practical life lessons.

The book is especially splendid at educating the reader on 3 topics:

1. Investing: Over 50 letters (sermons?) Buffet elaborates on what being a value investor is all about and how to think like a smart value investor. There are books explicitly dedicated to teaching you investing and they fail at it while this £2 book does in effortlessly. Warren talks at length on how to think about investing and then how to act on that thinking. This alone makes this book worth the time needed to read it. I envy the young reader who finishes it before his 25th birthday. He is guaranteed to have a literally richer life than he would otherwise have had, whatever his starting position was weath-wise. Warren’s 2005 letter has a write up on ‘How to minimize investment returns’. What a tour de force that particular one was. As was the 2013 section ‘Some thoughts on investing’.

2. Business: Berkshire Hathaway buys and oversees a boatload of companies and Buffet wades deep into what specific metrics matter when running and evaluating a firm and which are the dubious ones (it’s EBIDTA). There are many colleges around the world, esp. in third world countries , offering dubious 2 year+ MBA and Business Diplomas that fail to do what this one little book does by itself: Give the reader an unbeatable and thorough education in the basics of thinking like a CEO/Businessman.

3. Understanding the Insurance Industry : Berkshire Hathaway at its core is an Insurance firm and as a Consultant currently embedded at one such firm, I could not have hoped for a more comprehensive overview on how to look into and understand the industry and the myriad operators in it. Insurance plays a crucial part in economies globally and the book gives the reader lessons on how to evaluate the health of the industry and a firm in it. Nothing comes close.

So yes, while it took me the better part of 30 months to finish this book end to end, it was only because one should ingest this book slowly and gradually to let the lessons and Buffet’s wisdom sink in, like sand settling at the bottom of a lake. A beach read this book is most definitely not but you know what this book most definitely is : The best £2 I ever spent.

So go on, jump in and climb this Everest of a book . The view from the top is breathtaking.

2014 Books Review

I took the easy way out and went with an infograph to tell you 4 books you could try among the 33 books I read this year.

Click on the URL below or on this sentence to jump to the site.

https://infogr.am/books-of-2014-102

Full list of books read in 2014 below :

Book 1 The Strategist’s Toolkit
Book 2 The Dispossessed
Book 3 Life Itself
Book 4 The Martian
Book 5 Old Man’s War
Book 6 A Fire Upon the Deep
Book 7 Badass
Book 8 A Deepness in the Sky
Book 9 The Lowland
Book 10 Brideshead Revisited
Book 11 The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
Book 12 All You Need Is Kill
Book 13 How the Light Gets In
Book 14 Slaughterhouse
Book 15 Physics of the Impossible
Book 16 The Whisperers
Book 17 Read This Before Our Next Meeting
Book 18 The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty
Book 19 What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Book 20 Skeleton Crew
Book 21 Fuzzy Nation
Book 22 Dreadnaught (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, #1)
Book 23 The Making of Modern Britain
Book 24 The Age of Wonder
Book 25 Thinking Statistically
Book 26 The Memory Chalet
Book 27 Fooled by Randomness
Book 28 Look To Windward
Book 29 Visit Sunny Chernobyl: Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places
Book 30 The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme
Book 31 From Dictatorship to Democracy
Book 32 Embroideries
Book 33 HBR Guide to Project Management

Book Review : “The Whisperers” – brilliant and supremely depressing

This 666 page tome has been a companion over the last few weeks.

 

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Back in 2012  I voted `Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea` by Barbara Demick as my favourite book of that year. It gave the readers a searing look into the life of ordinary people in the present day hell that is North Korea. Think of THE WHISPERERS, as `Nothing to Envy` on a much larger canvas and far more disturbing in its well researched details.

Some background : Growing up in the CBSE educational system in India meant you were invariably fed the bland sanitized Congress party approved version of global history and this invariably meant you were fed laughable lies that the `Planned Economy` , borrowed from the great USSR, was the ideal and only way for India to follow into its own destined utopia and that the USSR was already a well planned paradise. Nothing could be further from this appalling lie and it is exposed in excruciating detail in this book. The cost of following the corrupting ideology of Communism is scrupulously documented by Figes and reading the book helps you grasp the horrors that millions of Soviet citizens went through. It is frequently claimed that Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”. Reading the book helps you understand what he was on about and how right he really was. The book goes a long way in explaining why Russians, even today, have only this barely tenuous link to a sense of civic duty, a moral compass and urban manners and why they are keenly reticent and mostly keep to themselves. And drink. Who can blame them after the horrors their parents and grandparents went through for almost 7 decades. And ow they are stuck with Putin.

There are so many sad tales well told here of families broken up, imprisoned, killed, tortured and dispersed. Roberto Benigni could make about another thousand ’Life is Beautiful’ movies from real life scripts. The one that most affected me was this gut wrenching story of a father, Nikolai, imprisoned for no reason really, because that is how real communism operates, who in the book, is writing to his young daughter, Alyonushka, from the Gulag, and trying to reassure her everything is going to be OK. He starts penning a tale, sent in parts, titled “THE UNUSUAL ADVENTURES OF SHAMMI” and the heart breaking details in the letters he writes to her are so depressing that I was forced to frequently stop reading and catch myself from giving up and just walking into oncoming traffic. That chapter, ironically titled “THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS”, ends with “…THIS WAS THE LAST LETTER. SHORTLY AFTERWARDS, ON 17 SEPTEMBER, NIKOLA WAS EXECUTED BY A FIRING SQUAD”.

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The October 1917 revolution consumed its children in the end. USSR became the biggest Standford Prison Experiment in history. The chapter THE GREAT FEAR brings to mind this stanza I once read :

The dogs of hell, my friend,

Will find you too.

Maybe after they tire a while,

Of the taste of Me

Joseph Stalin was a thug and what he did to USSR makes what Hitler did to Germany, Europe and the Jews look like amateur hour. It is shocking to realize even today Hitler has more publicity as THE EVIL MAN when Stalin was far far far more brutal on a far longer time scale. While Hitler was forced to commit suicide, Stalin lived out his day in regal comfort right till the end.

In summary why read `The Whisperers’?

  1. Understand the USSR in far better detail that you were allowed in the classroom
  2. Truly familiarize yourself with Orwell was attacking in `1984` and `Animal Farm`. Totalitarianism is just a word. The reality is much much more scary and painful.
  3. See how the best intentions of founding visionaries get corrupted by the subsequent thugs who follow inevitably in their footsteps. Farmers and Workers (histories inevitable useful idiots) are always taken for a ride by these villains.

All in all, this is a really good book that I highly recommend.

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BEST OF 2013 : 15 MOVIES THAT BLEW ME AWAY

As I promised myself in January 2013 (in one of my smarter resolutions of this past year), I saw 52 good movies.

I am going to recommend 10 from those 52 that are absolutely worth your time so add these to your 2014 Netflix or torrent list. I also saw 14 thoughtful documentaries and I am going to recommend 5 from those that are worth a watch. These 10 + 5 shortlisted titles below are in no particular order. I am now old enough to know ‘ranking’ the worthy arts in a mostly facile and futile exercise. Even this list below is tainted. If you see 100 movies in a year and your friends ask you to parse them into plain ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ you probably can as that won’t be too hard of an ask. But if you were asked to stack the ‘Good’ ones you chose  IN ORDER of ‘Goodness’ (and this applies to books, movies, games and paintings too) you are being asked an impossible task. A stack ranking if still attempted is nothings but a reflection of a deeply personal taste of the stacker and nothing more. It can never be a reflection of objective reality because there is none. Here is my opinionated subjective ‘best of’ list from last year.

Here is the ground reality of these 66 titles seen this year, that took me 120.6 hours to watch :

  • Not a single one of them was ‘bad’; as in something I thought was a ‘waste of my time’. This is both astounding and unexpected and a credit to the vast wealth of review information on the internet, which if you usewisely will reward you by making sure you don’t get blindsided by idiot flicks
  • There is only 1 Bollywood title in these 66, a testament to just how much of good cinema is out there once you start looking right and broadly
  • Some people and entities that guided me to these 66 titles : The late great movie critic Ebert, the website Metacritic.com and Mihir Fadnavis, a opinionated untainted honest film critic at MiD Day (based in Bombay)

OK. Now that the foreplay is over, here are the best 10 movies I saw in 2013 :

Movie 1 is [Gravity], directed by Alfonso Cuaron. A knuckle biting epic 3D sci-fi thriller worth seeing only on an iMAX. Released on Oct 2013
Movie 2 is [Before Midnight], directed by Richard Linklater. A beautiful drama romance for couples. Released on Jan 2013
Movie 3 is [Happiness], directed by Todd Solondz. A wicked comedy drama. Released on May 1998
Movie 4 is [Gangs of Wasseypur], directed by Anurag Kashyap. A brill drama thriller. Released on May 2012
Movie 5 is [The Pianist], directed by Roman Polanski. A rewatch of the moving ugly biography of what war unleashes on us and from within us. Released on September 2002
Movie 6 is [Flight], directed by Robert Zemeckis. A drama thriller that should rightly get Denzel an oscar nomination this year or there is no justice in this world. Released on Oct 2012
Movie 7 is [Blue Valentine], directed by Derek Cianfrance. A searing drama romance all couples, married or not, should watch. Released on Jan 2010
Movie 8 is [Zero Dark Thirty], directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The best thriller I saw this year. Released on Dec 2012
Movie 9 is [The Cabin in the Woods], directed by Drew Goddard. A wicked funny horror  mystery thriller. Released on March 2012
Movie 10 is [Dredd], directed by Pete Travis. Not the Stallone one. This is a real class A action sci-fi. Released on July 2012

And the 5 best documentaries worth your while are :

  1. Last Train Home, directed by Lixin Fan, released in 2009. THIS IS CHINA. The factory of our world. And it’s ugly.
  2. Afghan Star, directed by Havana Marking, released in 2009. If anyone wants to know what Afghanistan is beyond the CNN headlines, see this movie. I guarantee you will be moved.
  3. 56 Up, directed by Michael Apted and Paul Almond, released in 2012. What an epic UK project. Executed beautifully.
  4. Searching for Sugar Man, directed by Malik Bendjelloul, released in 2012. Did not see the twist till it sprung up on me.
  5. The Queen of Versailles, directed by Lauren Greenfield, released in 2012. This is what the downfall means for rich people.

Collage of best 10 movies :

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best 10

Best 5 documentaries I saw :

Best 5 Documentaries

And here is the full list of the 52 movies and 14 documentaries. Remember, I personally feel not one of them is ‘bad’ or ‘a waste of time’. Au contraire, you could randomly choose any one of these 66 and the odds are solid you will really like it. So have a brilliant 2014 and add some of these to the year to make it so.

Feature Films :

1st Movie 13 Assassins
2nd Movie 50/50
3rd Movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
4th Movie Arbitrage
5th Movie Argo
6th Movie Atonement
7th Movie Before Midnight
8th Movie Before Sunrise
9th Movie Before Sunset
10th Movie Blue Valentine
11th Movie Chop Shop
12th Movie Chronicle
13th Movie Collateral
14th Movie Compliance
15th Movie Django Unchained
16th Movie Dredd
17th Movie Excision
18th Movie Flight
19th Movie Gangs of Wasseypur
20th Movie Gravity
21st Movie Happiness
22nd Movie Hidden (Cache)
23rd Movie Hot Fuzz
24th Movie Hugo
25th Movie Infernal Affairs
26th Movie Jurassic Park
27th Movie Love & Other Drugs
28th Movie Love Actually
29th Movie Magic Mike
30th Movie Mary and Max
31st Movie Moonrise Kingdom
32nd Movie Pacific Rim
33rd Movie Pandorum
34th Movie Predators
35th Movie Punch-Drunk Love
36th Movie Rocket Science
37th Movie Safety Not Guaranteed
38th Movie Seven Psychopaths
39th Movie Shaun of the Dead
40th Movie Silver Linings Playbook
41st Movie Sleepwalk with Me
42nd Movie Star Trek Into Darkness
43rd Movie Ted
44th Movie The Cabin in the Woods
45th Movie The Loved Ones
46th Movie The Pianist
47th Movie The Way Way Back
48th Movie The World’s End
49th Movie Thor: The Dark World
50th Movie Timecrimes
51st Movie Zero Dark Thirty
52nd Movie Zoolander

Documentaries :

1st Documentary Indie Game: The Movie
2nd Documentary The Imposter
3rd Documentary The Queen of Versailles
4th Documentary Searching for Sugar Man
5th Documentary 56 Up
6th Documentary Afghan Star
7th Documentary Last Train Home
8th Documentary Riding Giants
9th Documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
10th Documentary TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away from Keyboard
11th Documentary Bobby Fischer Against the World
12th Documentary Baraka
13th Documentary Collapse
14th Documentary Chasing Ice

My best 3 Books and 3 Documentaries of 2012

A smart idea that the bibliophiles online mecca ‘Goodreads.com‘ came up with was the ‘Reading Challenge’ where you pledge at the start of a year to finish a certain number of books and then try to make sure you do. Last year I pledged to read 26 books and did. At the start of this year I optimistically jacked up that number to 30 and at the beginning of September I had managed to finish only 13 books. A reading rate of around 3 books every 2 months. So in September I really really floored it. Today I counted up and realized I have managed to start and finish with 11 books in September. So it looks like those homilies on perseverance and persistence were not bong smoke. It was a mixed bag too. Some books were wonderful, some had limited pleasures to be extracted from drilling in and 3 were gushers in the pleasure they managed to evoke thumbing those their pages. Here is a 1 line review of each of the 11, preceded by this beautiful quote from Sagan on books:

CS on BOOKS

Night‘ – The suffering on one man in the Nazi camps and the story of how he survived. Think ‘The Pianist’ in book form. 3 stars.

Child 44‘ – Thriller about a killer on the loose in Communist Russia. The description of life in that horrible system chilled me more. 3 stars.

The Old Man And The Sea‘ – Numbing tale of a senile man’s ramblings from too much sun that had an important lesson: Hemmingway is boring. 1 star.

Escape from Camp 14‘ – True story of how one man-child escaped the horrible North Korean labor camp. 3 stars.

Forever War‘ – Fantastic Sci-fi about one man’s tale as a soldier in a pointless war spanning centuries. 4 stars.

The Little Prince‘ – famous French tale of the little prince who travels to Earth. 2 stars.

The Gods Themselves‘ – Asimov. How can one say no? Not as powerful as the foundation series but some bits were absorbing. 2 stars.

A Clockwork Orange‘ – Nadsat is daunting but ..this is important…you pick it up fast and then, O my brothers, it’s mayhem. 2 stars.

The Lazy Project Manager’ – breaks down project management into the minimum needs to launch. 2 stars.

The Sirens of Titan‘ – My first Kurt Vonnegut book. And the closest I think I have come to seeing a book rivaling the famed Hitchhikers Guide in satire.  4 stars.

The Curse of Chalion‘ – Epic fantasy set in a medieval Spain setting. With magic and saints. Deserved all the rave reviews it got. 4 stars.

So if you are looking to add 3 books to your reading list that both enjoyable and really worth finishing before 2013 year end, I’d recommend you go with:

1. Forever War

2. The Sirens of Titan

3. The Curse of Chalion

Can I also please add 3 documentaries to this mix that will totally rope you in from start to finish? – For those who say ‘Si’:

1. Collapse – A very good ‘intellectual horror movie’ that examines the dark side of our oil dependency.

2. Indie Game : The Movie – How 3 developers gave it their all and made the awesome indie games they did.

3. TPB AFK – A documentary film based on the lives of the three founders of The Pirate Bay Bit Torrent tracker.

These 6 real gems should keep you busy in Quarter 4.

Enjoy…