Everything I read in 2023
And my take on the book-question
Emil Kirkegaard inspired me to summarize my reading list of 2023.
I won’t spend the time pasting all my reviews in here when you can just go to my Goodreads page instead and read them there. Instead, I’ll give some general remarks.
I provided a full-length review of Hanania’s book here. My key complaint was that he fails to interact with woke as a scientist, and consider the biological side, which is key when thinking about animal behavior (humans are animals). Instead, Hanania acts like everything is determined by the law, which is in turn random, or else is a good enough ultimate cause; I call this historical legalism, as opposed to historical idealism, which centers “memes” and ideas. As far as I know, no other hereditarians/HBDers had this complaint, which is weird. I have been struggling to get them to think about woke in a scientific way — a lot of black-white IQ gap people are not doing this and are currently only applying hereditarian thinking to IQ.
I read a cluster of books I’d call “Gramsci-ist” this year, the key one being Chomsky’s Manufacturing of Consent. They were bad and unscientific and my review of the data this year convinced me propaganda means little in most domains, especially the left-right domain of politics. It’s mostly genes.
I read a group of books broadly called “Public Choice Theory” this year. They weren’t scientific and overall were kind of bad. Interesting mathematical exercises, but scientifically useless. Informs my belief that economics is fake.
Historical Dynamics by Turchin and Modernity and Cultural Decline were the most influential books on me this year, driving my research program. My mutational load research fits nicely with them and helps clarify some ideas in them. Highly recommended books. They had high quality mathematical models and a lot of data — in other words they were scientific and quantitative. This is what makes a great book.
I read E.O. Wilson’s Sociobiology and a book about the reaction to it called Defenders of Truth. I found Wilson’s book to be mostly about animals, though it is an interesting ethology encyclopedia nonetheless. The reaction was funny, Lewontin, Gould, and briefly Chomsky formed a group called the “Sociobiology Study Group.” It was explicitly communist and did no research. Rather, it relied on media harassment. Only E.O. Wilson and friends did research, sometimes in reaction to bad-faith critiques launched by the communists. This reminds me of what I have gone through on a smaller scale since coming out with my data on mutational load. The latter book covers some of Wilson’s reactions, and they are silly. Wilson ended up writing a book with culture in the title, “Genes, Mind and Culture”, where he makes silly claims leaning on abstract models and assumptions that “culture” can only change every 1000 years because of the multiplier effect. It’s funny how ignorant even “our guy” was at Harvard just 50 years ago, because now we know “culture” is a fake concept made up by communists and that evolutionary pressures are fast enough to change mass behavior significantly in just 1 generation, thanks especially but not entirely to Gaussian tail effects. The book really shows how “culture” was just a bludgeon used by the Marxists, and how it never had any real basis in reality and still doesn’t. Not a single shred of evidence has ever been produced that “culture”, which has over 160 different definitions, even exists like genes do.
I read a cluster of stats books: PCA, Econometrics, Linear Regression, and Quantitative Genetics. These all directly contributed to my research, which is based on a quantitative genetics model and uses PCA and (multiple) regression. These are great reads if you want to understand my research more deeply. Alternatively, I am making video courses based off of these text books at https://hbd.academy. I think people should read more books like this, they are very fulfilling and enriching compared to standard verbal NYT bestseller-fare.
Hananiapilled on the book-question: A lot of the crappier books I read (less science and math) were earlier in the year. This year, I got a lot better at identifying better books. In general, I think Hanania and SBF are right about most books: they aren’t worth reading and probably should have been a blog post if they should exist at all. This year, I won’t even bother with stuff like “Manufacturing Consent” and a lot of what I read in 2022, which was mostly “elite theory” verbiage. The sign of a good book is as follows: tons of math, tons of data (unless it’s a math textbook), and is concise, clear, and well-organized. Like Hanania, I make an exception here for history and biographies, although history should be concrete, comprehensive, well-organized, and in close contact with primary sources, and similar for biographies. Philosophical history is bad because it attempts theory without math and data and NYT bestseller history is bad because it doesn’t know what a citation is and typically is not comprehensive, since NYT bestsellers are written at a middle school reading level to cater to the falling national IQ.
The input-output pipeline and the need to avoid arbitrary reads. One reason I read in clusters is that I read pragmatically and several books are needed to achieve output results. In the past, I have scrutinized the practice of not only reading low quality NYT best sellers, but also of reading arbitrary topics that go nowhere in your own life. This is very common; I have a joke about the San Francisco area rationalist programmer reading list that is just a bunch of NYT best sellers on Chinese History, Brain Science, etc. Read high quality books, and also read deeply and pragmatically. I consider a book bad if it doesn’t contribute to my life in some way. The worst books this year were untrue books that offered nothing to my research or understanding of the world except to show that their paradigms are false. Basically, these were the propaganda and Public Choice books. 9 of the books, Sociobiology, The Son Also Rises, Modernity and Cultural Decline, Crumbling Genome, Genetics and Analysis of Quantitative Traits, Introduction to Linear Regression Analysis, Principal Component Analysis, Mostly Harmless Econometrics, and Historical Dynamics contributed immediately and cohesively to my research and intellectual output. I read two books by/about billionaires, which will contribute to my research this year. Hanania’s book was read because it was popular and I wanted to produce a lengthy review of it (otherwise it fits the type of book I would not read). The rest of the books, except for the ones about the sociobiology drama and the desegregation drama which I read for fun, were disappointments and earned low ratings because of it.
Planned reading for 2024 includes a book on factor analysis, Walsh and Lynch’s 2nd genetics textbook, after that I’m not sure. Any suggestions?
Joseph Bronski is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.