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Gutcheck: Five Books From a Five Guy

Because it’s summer, and you’re supposed to spend a fair portion of it sweating under the blinding sun, devouring antiquated things called books – I figure I’d offer you my reading list so far. But instead of writing typical reviews for these following five tomes, I’m just gunna tell you what each book made me think about, and why.

SHAME by Shelby Steele

This is an absolutely amazing memoir that delves into issues of race far more honestly than anything in recent memory. The short, indispensable book underlines the harmfulness of substituting group identity for individual identity. “As the formerly oppressed move into greater and greater freedom, they are often more wedded to the idea of themselves as oppressed than to the reality that they are freer than ever. Their grievance against their former oppressor is leverage, entitlement, and even self-esteem within the larger society.” In two sentences, this brave, black soothsayer aptly describes the past 6 or 7 years. Buy it, and read it (twice).

POPULAR ECONOMICS by John Tamny

The mark of an engaging book and a sharp writer who can simplify complexity is this: when I got to chapter 12 in Part Two, on anti-trust laws, I didn’t skip ahead. Tamny had already showed me how he could break down the complexities of economic theory into simple, sometimes even arresting metaphors. If this were used as a textbook, millions of young people might actually understand how the world works.

And how economics could work for you, rather than delegating you to a state of ambivalence with no control over your success.

HUMANS ARE UNDERRATED by Geoff Colvin

As we continue to read how machines will inevitably take all our jobs (a bigger threat to some work than illegal immigration), Colvin attempts to elucidate the innate talents of humanity – the skills that robots and computers will never master. In the book, however, he hits on a pretty dark point. In an increasingly technologically dependent world, we must now rely more on empathy to steer ourselves competently through a successful career (it will be interpersonal communication that separates us from our amazing machines who take every other job). But it is the very technology that seems to be sapping us of that empathy. See the thriving bursts of narcissism on Twitter: the least empathetic universe outside of ISIS. And speaking of ISIS, it struck me, while reading this book, that a decline in empathy, coupled with a rise in narcissism could be contributing to modern, violent movements – as well as isolated violent attacks by alienated losers looking for infamy, since success is all around them, laughing at their impotence. It’s clear an empathetic person would never behead a terrified girl. But there are thousands of young men (and women) joining a crusade that boasts of doing just that. Modern alienation, coupled with the accessibility of lavish wealth and status imagery, just brings out the evil. Whereas before maybe a collaborative, inclusive world tamped it down. A theory of mine, anyway. Which I’ll soon forget.

THE CONSUMING INSTINCT by GAD SAAD

I love the name of this author – he’d be a horrible Wheel of Fortune puzzle. Saad applies evolutionary psychology to consumer behavior, and the results are pretty eye opening. 

And in this modern era of identity politics – where nurture trumps nature – this book is bound to be controversial. For he marshals a trove of fact-based studies and evidence debunking any and every puritanical nurture argument. It must pain feminists to know that there are distinctly male and female traits that exist before advertising gets to us. They exist in the damn womb. But what I found intriguing are the maladaptive behaviors that show you how truly different men and women are. The overwhelming majority of compulsive sun-tanners, are women. The overwhelming majority of compulsive gamblers are male. The primary users of hardcore pornography are men – gay and straight. That gay piece is central – because it shows you that how gender differences trump all. Good luck trying to find a lesbian strip club, or a straight woman’s for that matter – almost all are devoted to straight men, and gay men. And don’t bring up the “but what about Chippendales?” Exception proves the rule – it’s a bachelorette party novelty, as opposed to a regular persistent product used to satisfy the male compulsion for visual stimuli (and novelty – we need the new, sadly. The 7 year itch has become 7 minutes, thanks to pornography).

ZERO TO ONE by Peter Thiel, with Blake Masters

A short lesson in start-ups, there’s more wisdom packed in this slim book than the entire series of Kung Fu. Thiel is daring you to create something new – to go from 0 to 1. It’s about coming up with ideas that are, at their core, irreplaceable. That’s the goal – becoming part of something that is a first, then perhaps copied by others. His refreshing take on the dangerous wasteful energy devoted to rivalry made me rethink the nature of competition. It blew my mind and made me think about my job. Collaboration is so vital on TV – it’s what makes improvisational conversation work. Introduce competition to the mix, and suddenly everything changes, as an overemphasis on the other guy undermines new opportunities for pleasurable interaction. For a rivalry to exist, you literally, must live in the past. (note: the charts in this book are absurd – now I know where HBO’s Silicon Valley rips theirs off from).

Finally, friends– don’t forget to pre-order my book! It’s great.

But don’t take it from me. …

“It really is great book.” — some guy who isn’t me.

You can find it here… or at my website: ggutfeld.com

Greg Gutfeld is a mainstay on Fox News as co-host of The Five and host of The Greg Gutfeld Show. He’s also the NY Times best-selling author of Not Cool and The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage. For more from Greg check out hisofficial site or follow him on Twitter.

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