Tools of Titans

The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-class performers

Written by: Tim Ferriss
Narrated by: multiple
Rating: 1 – filled with thought provoking concepts to be a be a better human

A Book of Life Hacks

Most of the innovation, creativity, and awe-inspiring performances have been completed by a very small demographic. What’s worse (for the layman) is that these people have multi-faceted success (i.e., repeatable greatness in a completely different paradigm). So that begs the question and premise of this book: What are the commonalities amongst the uncommon individuals.

From simple meditation to a dedicated daily workout and from books that encourage greatness to daily habits that enable success, Tim Ferriss has interviewed and catalogued “the greats” of contemporary society coated with lessons from the ancients.

We all have the ability to do something that demands pause and recollection from others, but only some of us actually do something of noteworthiness. Listening to and/or reading this book is merely opening a door to something. Implementing the precepts that are contained within is the necessary second step to inching closer to one’s own personal destiny.

Other works to consider:
1. 12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson
2. Start With Why, by Simon Sinek
3. The Rise of Superman, by Steven Kotler
4. Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius
5. The Obstacle is the Way, by Ryan Holiday
6. Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall
7. Finding Ultra, by Rich Roll

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Strike Force

American Lion

Andrew Jackson in the White House

Written by: John Meacham
Narrated by: Richard McGonagle
Originally Reviewed: 05-09-17 on
Rating: 3 – Still looking for a more comprehensive and better told work

Interesting, But Not Intriguing

Of the Presidential Biographies I’ve done so far (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Quincy Adams) as well as historical events that tangentially cover Presidents, I’m overwhelmingly unimpressed with Andrew Jackson as a President and/or John Meacham as a historian. Had this been my first taste of a US President, I might have been more positive with this review. But comparing this book – against Ron Chernow’s books on both Washington and Hamilton or the great David McCullough with John Adams – leaves me longing for a better telling.

Jon Meacham attempts to sell Jackson as the most powerful occupant of the White House up to that point (and he might have been), but the narrative is lackluster and I was left seeking more than he was willing to provide. The book begins with Jackson’s wife’s death just prior to him actually swearing into office and essentially ends (minus an epilogue) with the end of his second term and only a minor mentioning of his post-presidency life. Really everything prior to his election comes in small, unpalatable bites. Throughout the book I felt there was more attention given to the Donaldson’s and the Eaton’s than of Jackson himself. Although they were incredibly significant to a Jackson biography, I felt lost in a ‘he said, she said’ soap opera with President Jackson as only a minor character caught in the middle of it all.

I really didn’t have any issues with the narration, but didn’t really love it either. I listen at 3 x speed and had no problems with this narration. In reference to the title of this review, there were definitely points in the book I liked, but overall I didn’t really look forward to listening every day the way I usually do with books.

I’ll be looking for another biography on Jackson to either confirm or counter this review and I might listen to this one again in a year or two, but I’m not looking forward to either prospect right now.

Other works to consider:
1. Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
2. Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow
3. John Adams, by David McCullough

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Strike Force

Battlefield Earth

A Saga of the Year 3000

Written by: L. Ron Hubbard
Narrated by: Full-cast production
Originally Reviewed: 06-09-17 on
Rating: 2 – One of Sci-Fi’s best

Wait For It, A Great Book Comes… Eventually

Although a bit slow to really get going strong, this book gets so good in the latter half that I’m thinking the first half could have easily been redacted to a short story to introduce Jonnie Goodboy Tyler with the second half as a stand alone L. Ron Hubbard magnum opus.

The first part isn’t bad by any stretch, but it is just an average science fiction tale that is further denigrated when juxtaposed against the real story… the story which is a combination of Herbert’s, ‘Dune’ and Heinlein’s, ‘The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress’. A complicated geo-political thriller that will have you backing up the book just to make sure you really understand the full spectrum of what is occurring; I’m still trying to figure out the banking scheme that gives the protagonist the upper hand. This isn’t just David vs. Goliath, it’s one boy against a colonization of beasts and an indoctrinated supporting cast protecting and enabling the beasts’ every move.

I listen at 3x speed and really didn’t have a problem with this one, except (and this is one huge caveat) the additional sound effects at 3x is awful. I’m sure this is only when listening at this speed and at regular speed is superb, but the book is 47 hours and I wasn’t going to slow down. I thoroughly enjoyed the full cast production with separate narrator and actual voice actors for the individual characters; so I’m torn between my criticism and praise, but will only give 4 stars (I originally had 3 for Performance).

A friend recommended this book to me and I was hesitant, but seriously glad I listened to it. Already looking forward to listening to it again next year… even with the annoying sound effects.

Other works to consider:
1. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein
2. Dune, by Frank Herbert
3. The Stand, by Stephen King
4. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

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Strike Force

Off To Be The Wizard

Two reviews for two books in a series

Written by: Scott Meyer
Narrated by: Luke Daniels
Series: Magic 2.0, Book 1
Originally Reviewed: 06-24-17 on
Rating: 2 – An amusing version of the Matrix

A Fun Journey That Gets Better The Further You Go

Starting this book I thought it a bit cliche based on all the other alternate-universe-computer-program stories out there (e.g., the Matrix) but was impressed with the unique take and comedy that Scott Meyer brought to this book. Honestly, the comedic writing is the real genius of the book, although the story would still be worthwhile without it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and listened to it a second time right before listening to the sequel within two months. I enjoyed it just as much as the first listen and laughed even more as I caught on to some more of the subtle humor.

The narrator is a gifted actor who brings the characters to life, each with unique personalities manifested via both tone and urgency of speech; It’s as if the author wrote this book specifically for Luke Daniels to narrate. I usually listen at 3x speed and had no issues with this book.

Spell or High Water

Written By: Scott Meyer
Narrated By: Luke Daniels
Series: Magic 2.0, Book 2
Originally Reviewed: 6-23-17 on

Better Than The First… Or Is It?

I’m really starting to appreciate Scott Meyer’s contradictory writing humor. During the first book I thought, “ok that’s funny, but gimmicky” then while continuing book two it turned to, “how does he manage to keep it going while not being too obnoxious”; the answer is masterfully.

I do think I really like the second book more than the first, but mostly because of the paradoxical handling of “the Brits” whose characters don’t think Scott is as funny as I do. In the end, this is just another chapter of the first book. I was a little caught off guard regarding the presence of the first book’s antagonist in this one and then disappointed at his entire presence at the end of the book; maybe it’s a setup for book three.

Luke Daniels is a great narrator with distinct, accurate, and clear voices for the many different characters. Each of them help to give a visualization of the persona the author was trying to create. In fact, this book is probably not nearly as good in the written as Daniels isn’t along to help establish the environment.

I usually listen at 3x speed and had absolutely zero problems with this reading.


Other works to consider:
1. Expeditionary Force Series, by Craig Alanson
2. The Gam3 Series, by Cosimo Yap
3. Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, by Jason Schreier
4. Masters of Doom, by David Kushner

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Strike Force

All Blood Runs Red

The Legendary Life of Eugene Bullard – Boxer, Pilot, Soldier, Spy

Written by: Phil Keith, Tom Clavin
Narrated by: James Shippy
Rating: 1 – Everyone should know this story and this hero

Incredible Story of Daring and Might

I’m genuinely suprised and disgusted that Eugene Ballard’s name isn’t celebrated in the pantheon of black history heroes. I love baseball and Jackie Robinson, but I believe that Eugene’s perseverence to find equality much more intriguing than Jackie’s (not taking anything away from him) and started 40 years before the beloved baseball-color-barrier-breaker.

What you’ll find in this book is one man’s determination to not be subject to racism and follow a dream. Hearing of more equity to those of African descent in France, he set that as a goal. However, that was just the beginning as he had to make it out of the deeply segregated south, his home in Columbus Georgia and work his way north to find passage across the Atlantic Ocean. From there he begins his journey on the eponymous subtitle of this book.

Probably because it would be too verbose, but neglected from the advertised accomplishments in the subtitle is business manager and owner which enabled many of his activities that spanned two world wars. Although the United States made vast improvements to African American Sevice Members by World War II (still obviously a lopsided affair with their white counterparts), their stories were at least plausible (as many found success and honor) where Eugene’s exploits seem unimaginable impossible.

Other works for consideration:
1. Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, the First Woman to Play Professional Baseball in the Negro League, by Martha Ackermann
2. Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup
3. The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson
4. Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting, by Ed Schmidt

The Age of Cryptocurrency:

How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order

Written by: Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
Narrated by: Sean Pratt (aka Lloyd James)
Rating: 2 – I’m going to look for a more modern work

Introduction to Bitcoin and Other Digital Currency…

…but it – as most technologies – was outdated with its first printing. Having listened to it six years after first publish, a stark difference emerges. But, it is a nice introduction and early history of digital currencies.

I had heard about Bitcoin prior to this book’s publish date, but like most have been skeptical about something so mysterious (for the non-tech layman). My natural cynicism has really hurt my ability to be an early adopter. However, several years ago, I downloaded an app that paid nearly-insignificant amounts of Bitcoin for simply playing games (and watching adverts). After a few months I quit because the minuscule amounts were frustratingly low compared to the time I put it. Had I continued simply playing this mind-numbing app for the subsequent years along with Bitcoin’s value growth, I’d have a fair chunk of free Bitcoins. As is, my few month effort is valued at $175.

I picked this book up on a sale, most likely because it is so outdated. I’ll have to find a more contemporary work, but enjoyed this supplement to my recent studies and investments in digital currency.

The narrator was great and I discovered something that’s been plaguing my conscience over the past few years. Lloyd James and Sean Pratt have oddly similar voices. I even wrote to Audible about a discrepancy in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, Skin in the Game, which lists Sean Pratt as narrator, but the narrator says in the intro to the book that it’s narrated by Lloyd James. This book finally put me over the top with curiosity and I researched to find out that they are in fact the same person.

Other works for consideration:
1. We Are Anonymous, by Parmy Olson
2. Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, by Fred Kaplan
3. Masters of Doom, by David Kushner

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Strike Force

A Man At Arms

Written by: Steven Pressfield
Narrated by: George Guidall
Originally Reviewed: 07-06-17 on
Rating: 1 – Enjoy this incredible story with historical connotations

An Instant Classic with Themes From Other Works

I am a big fan of Pressfield’s, Gates of Fire, and have followed him on social media because of it. His other books are fantastic in their own regard, but there is a once-in-a-lifetime special book that any author can write; Stephen Pressfield now has his second.

There are themes from other great works, Gates of Fire being one but others just as prevalent. A bit of King’s Dark Tower series; Cormack McCarthy’s, The Road; The Film, The Book of Eli, by the Hughes Brothers; The New Testament; and a sprinkling of Joss Whedon’s Firefly/Serenity. However, the overriding motif comes from: King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette. These themes are merely that as this book stands on its own feet.

I really don’t want to oversell this book. It is as good as Gates of Fire; perhaps even better. Only time as well as additional listening and reading of these two works will one cement itself as #3 on my all time must read list. The other however will be #4.

I usually listen at or about 3x speed, but I slowed it down to 2.25x for this narration. I’ve listened to several by Guidall in the past and enjoy his voice, but something about it isn’t as crisp as other narrators.

Other works for consideration:
1. King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette
2. Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield
3. The River of Doubt, by Candice Millard
4. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford

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Strike Force

Act of War

Lyndon Johnson, North Korea, and the Capture of the Spy Ship Pueblo

Written by: Jack Cheevers
Narrated by: Jeffrey Kafer
Originally Reviewed: 07-06-17 on
Rating: 2 – Interesting interlude during the Armistice, worthy of all who study warfare

An Unfortunate Episode Exacerbated by Ineptitude

I previously knew nothing about this incident and thought our biggest Naval ‘acts of war’ since Vietnam era were the USS Liberty (cited in this book) and the USS Cole.

My father actually ran into one of the former USS Pueblo crewman, Dale Rigby, in St. George, Utah and gave him my challenge coin; he called to thank me and I’m looking forward to meeting him in person in a few weeks.

This book primarily follows the ship Captain, Lloyd Bucher, from his pre-Pueblo sub-mariner days through the Pueblo Incident and after his repatriation to the US. There’s anecdotal passages regarding the other crew members, but mostly focuses on Commander Bucher.

This is good since he was at the forefront as well as responsible for everything that happens on his ship. However, much is missing from other crew-members’ perspectives and experience (especially while in DPRK captivity); although it seems a mild attempt to get their stories was manifested.

The “…Exacerbated by Ineptitude” isn’t a slight at Commander Bucher, rather a typical occurrence in military operations when higher command doesn’t value or simply dismisses the assessment of a subordinate commander regarding ‘needed support’.

The Pueblo was put into a situation that it shouldn’t have been without that support, but it seems (from this account) that the global situation (e.g., Vietnam, ongoing Cold War with USSR) predicated much of that dismissal, but really should have been more thoroughly reviewed prior to dispatching this ship on its intelligence mission.

The author mitigates much of the overall responsibility for the mishap away from Bucher, but at the end of the day, he was the one responsible for his ship, the mission and crew.

He deserves some of the criticism he received, but really was placed in a no win situation. The fact that most of the crew survived the ordeal is a direct reflection of Bucher’s actions, perspectively ignoble as they may seem to another military commander.

I usually listen at 3x speed and had no problems with this narration.

Other works for consideration:
1. Nothing to Envy, by Barbara Demick
2. Turn the Ship Around, by L. David Marquet
3. East of Chosin: Entrapment and Breakout in Korea, 1950, by Roy E. Appleman
4. Article for Soldiers, by Jonathan Love

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Strike Force

The Perfect Storm

A True Story of Men Against the Sea

Written by: Sebastian Junger
Narrated by: April Matthis
Rating: 2 – If you’re a fan of the ocean, ships, fishing, survival, and nature’s wrath

Fierce Seas Not Appreciated by Laymen and Inviting to Seamen

In the grand scheme of things, this book is important for informing the general public about the sacrifices made to bring seafood to their dinner table. My comment – like the book itself – isn’t overly dramatic, it is what it is: inexorable death.

Regularly near the top of “Most Dangerous Jobs” lists, deep sea fishing is an unforgiving career with high reward for the most senior and mediocre to moderate compensation for those just starting out on the boats. Junger presents this account throughout the book following multiple crews as they navigate the perils of their profession.

A nice addition was the description of the Coast Guard rescue swimmers and Air Force Pararescuemen (PJs) and their helicopter crew counterparts. This book talks about the rescue efforts underway for this storm and their devastation when faced with their own potential demise.

I originally saw the movie upon its first release and was impressed, if not overwhelmed, from the graphical display. Like most screen adapted adventures, the movie provides that perspective of extremity that is difficult to imagine without prior exposure to the possible extent of nature’s power.

Having previously read Junger’s, Tribe, I’m a big fan of his insightfulness and writing style. This book is far more dense than Tribe and the details of crew, equipment, and vessels engaged in this work are saturated throughout.

Other works for consideration:
1. Sea Stories, by William H. McRaven
2. Turn the Ship Around, by L. David Marquet
3. Tribe, by Sebastian Junger

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Strike Force

Columbus Day

Expeditionary Force: Book 1

Written by: Craig Alanson
Narrated by: R.C. Bray
Originally Reviewed: 02-12-17 on
Rating: 1 – I’m hesitant to recommend any Sci-Fi to everyone, but this one is that good and fun

This Is The Book That I Would Write…

…if I had a morsel of talent.

I actually had only an inkling of interest in this book, but my brother wanted it and bought the entire series. I’ve listened to Columbus Day and just a few hours of SpecOps, but the entire series has cracked my top 10; this is highly illogical but so is the apparent success of this book in the first place as the author self-published via amazon kindle.

There are scant details regarding the author, but I did find a Q&A session on Goodreads with Mr. Alanson. I’ve been searching for something for one reason only: where and when did Craig Alanson serve in the military? His writing is brilliance mixed with cynicism in only a way a Veteran can – not to mention his uncanny prose that only a military member would say.

Apparently – unless he’s lying or the interview is fabricated – the author is not a military veteran and claims his level of knowledge is due to his many military friends (I don’t know if I’m buying that, but oh well) who read his books before publishing as well as his work in defense contracting.

Seriously I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s witty, snarky, brilliant, fun… there aren’t enough encomiums to describe my feelings for this book. It doesn’t beat my all-time favorite, Starship Troopers, but that’s because it lacks the philosophy I crave; although it is very, very well-written.

The narrator is superb and is one of my favorites. Only Wil Wheaton’s narration of, Ready Player One, tops R.C. Bray, but I don’t think that even Wil could do Skippy better than R.C.. I listened at 3x speed without any issue.

Other works for consideration:
1. Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk
2. Spell or High Water: Magic 2.0, by Scott Meyer
3. Red Shirts, by John Scalzi
4. Pilot X, by Tom Merritt
5. We Are Legion, by Dennis E. Taylor