The Freedom Twenty-Five PhD: Semester Zero

by Frost on June 23, 2011

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

WillieMaize24 November 29, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Just thought of a few more.
Fiction: Life and Times of Augustus Carp by Himself (great satire), Ascent of Rum Doodle (cult classic), Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler (very non-pc fiction), also the first two-thirds of Tristram Shandy (he starts out by saying he’s going to tell his life story, so he starts with conception and digresses so much that he spends the first two thirds of the book just talking about his father and his Uncle Toby while he waits to get born. Once he gets born the book goes downhill IMO, but others might disagree. Until that point IMO, it’s one of the great novels in the English language.)
If you haven’t read the Flashman series, they’re worth looking at. IMO the first two are the best. The quality of the other ones varies.

For non-fiction try Schopenhauer’s Essays and Aphorisms. Everything I read by Roger Scruton was very good, but some of it required more technical knowledge of the subject matter than I had,, so I’d start with any of his books that have Conservative or Culture in the title. Also Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple and Quartered Safe Out Here by G.M. Fraser (author of the Flashman series)

HL Mencken is a great writer, but some of his writings are dated, so I’d recommend skimming through the first Chrestomathy, or the Prejudices series and just pick the things you’re interested in. If you like Mencken, you’ll probably also like George Jean Nathan, and Joseph Epstein (his essays more than his fiction).

Edwin O’Connor is an outstanding writer from the 50’s who isn’t read much any more. His first novel isn’t much to write home about, but his other ones are very good.

WillieMaize24 November 20, 2011 at 2:15 am

Oops. Take out “good” on the second line of my previous comment.

WillieMaize24 November 20, 2011 at 2:14 am

As for exercise, I’m an old guy who’s been doing tai-chi for years. There’s a lot to it that the average person won’t see at first, but anyone who practices it consistently good will find that his body doesn’t seem to age as quickly as the average person’s does. Someone who wants something more aggressive might consider Hsing-I. It works on similar internal principles as tai-chi, but it’ s outward form is different and is directed more to a male mindset.

As for history books, I’d recommend Witness by Whittaker Chambers. What If by Cowley (ed), a collection of alternative history essays. There are several “What If’s”that came afterwards, but I thought the first one was the best. Also Hitler’s Beneficiaries by Aly (about how the Nazis devastated the economies of the countries they conquered.), Goodbye Darkness by Manchester, Last Man Out by James Parker (the last American out of South Vietnam)
There are some collections of Thomas Macaulay’s parliamentary speeches that have been published and I’d recommend any one that you can get a hold of. Macaulay was one of the greatest orators of his time. Also Confessions of an English Opium Eater by DeQuincy.
For good general fiction, try Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg, Darkness at Noon by Koestler, Decline and Fall by Waugh, Tom Jones by Fielding, Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, Nebuly Coat and Moonfleet by J.M. Falkner, a Coffin for Demetrios , Passage of Arms,and The Levanter by Eric Ambler, and any collection of short stories by Gogol. For some good WW2 fiction, try The Cruel Sea by Monsarrat and A Thin Red Line by James Jones. For Viet Nam War fiction try Fields of Fire by Webb, Rumor of War by Caputo, Matterhorn by Marlantes,
Wodehouse at his best is very good, I’d recommend starting with some of the Jeeves or Mulliner or golf short stories.
For some good reading on the net that’s not there any more, try USS Clueless. You might have to go to the Internet wayback machine to find it because it ended at least five years ago. It was a blog by internet legend Steven den Beste, a polymath who could write a brilliant essay almost every day.

Jackson R. A. November 1, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Hey Frost, I like your site been doing something similar for some time. I would suggest reading a bit of Nietzsche, starting with his essay Truth and Lies in a Non-moral Sense” and building from there through to The Gay Science (dumb name, however it translates more to ‘Joyous Science’ at the time that it was written), Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil and finally the Genealogy of Morals. I suggest Nietzsche because you seem to be performing a Nietzschean turn i.e.the reevaluation of values and the (re)creation of new values. If you really get into the Philosophy bit… try some Heidegger or hit me up would love to chat Phil/Lifestyle creation.

Mannerheim July 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Long time lurker, first time commenter.

First off, great website. If I tried to keep up with all the content in the posts & comments that looked useful or interesting I’d never get off the internet, but I pick up valuable nuggets all the time (for example, I’m standing at my counter as I type this. Fuck you, chair!) I think I’m just about the same age as you and reading your stuff helps me a lot with getting motivated to get off my ass and make sure my life is moving forward rather than just hanging in a comfortable rut. As they say on lawyer blogs, 180.

Other than that, all I’ve got to contribute is first to agree with the above commenters who recommended Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf and Siddhartha, both are quick reads and judging from your writing I think you’d relate to them both strongly. Steppenwolf is one of my all-time favorite books (I’ve read it at least 12 times), and I’ve given Siddhartha as a gift to many people who’ve gone on to tell me it became one of their favorites. I also strongly second the James Clavell books (Shogun or Tai-Pan are both excellent places to start, Noble House is my favorite but it’s good to get some of the backstory from the other books first). They’re pulpy, but supremely masterful pulp, couched in fascinating and meticulously-researched historical detail. They make great page-turner reads for camping trips or vacations, and would be a great precursor to doing some traveling in Asia (I read Noble House in Hong Kong where it’s set, and it added greatly to the trip).

Lastly and most importantly, I cannot recommend Tolstoy strongly enough. War and Peace and Anna Karenina are both frequently cited as contenders for the Greatest Novel Ever Written, and while they’re not quick reads both are fully worth the time commitment. They’re far from dry, dealing with tangible and urgent human concerns like relationships, money, sex, prestige, and scandal, and the only word I can use to describe their verisimilitude is “godlike”. Tolstoy understood, as so few gimmicky postmodern writers do today, that the essence of masterful writing is deep understanding of human nature, and he builds his characters in such painstakingly accurate detail that they feel more real than many actual people I’ve known. Moreover, his books (particularly Anna Karenina) deal directly with themes of the personal and cultural decay wrought by libertine social mores, and the necessity of defending traditional morality (sexual and otherwise) from the forces constantly assaulting them. He’s not preachy though, he just powerfully shows how characters’ choices and environments work out to their inevitable conclusions. Check both books out if you can make the time.

Keep up the great work.

Dave June 29, 2011 at 10:38 am

Hey Frost, here are some interesting blogs to check out:
Interesting musings about sex and religion
New blog with solid and thought-provoking posts
Social commentary
Lots of Game theory and info

Ben June 28, 2011 at 11:22 pm

I’m just starting to get back in shape. Things have gone downhill since I started a desk job. So far I’ve just tried to balance my calorie intake as roughly 1/3 fat, 1/3 protein, 1/3 carbs, with positive results, combined with intermittent fasting for 1 day a week and 2-3 weightlifting sessions per week.

I seem to read less and less fiction lately, but I highly recommend Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. It’s a good read, and touches on the true nature of the female half of our species.

I’ve read a couple of short books on economics lately, “The Great Stagnation” by Tyler Cowen, and “Free Trade Doesn’t Work” by Ian Fletcher. Both books are compelling, even if you don’t agree with them. They present a perspective that is much different from either the Keynesian or Austrian schools of Economics one is most commonly exposed to.

Elliott June 26, 2011 at 9:03 pm

I feel like we’re kindred spirits. I’m still in college, but I’m experiencing some of the exact same concerns that you are and addressing them in many of the same ways. If I were you, I’d read Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics back to back. The Republic is a load of brilliant nonsense that bears a remarkable resemblance to what The Man is trying to make society into today. In the Politics, however, Aristotle gives us the cure to Plato’s disease.

You say you’re not big on fiction? Well, the truth is more brilliant, inspirational, and moving than any fiction. Read Island of the World by Michael D. O’Brien. The only thing I will tell you about this book is that, at the end, when O’Brien writes that “only the most mundane details in this book were fictional,” you will probably cry.

Also, read some poetry. Not modern feminist garbage like “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” but real poetry, written by real men. John Donne, Andrew Marvell, John Keats, William Butler Yeats, Emily Dickinson (she may have a vag, but she qualifies as a real man), Rudyard Kipling, T.S. Eliot, and never forget Mr. William Shakespeare himself.

As for fitness, I use the Juggernaut Method by Juggernaut Training Systems ( Relatively short, simple, and effective, and it gets you not only brutally strong but als0 explosive and agile. I’m 5’11” and 175 lbs, and I can deadlift 450 and do 60-inch box jumps. I’ve also started doing the “on-field” agility training from the Nike Sparq football program, available on the Nike website.

ski June 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Quite a good list. A few favorites of mine not yet mentioned:

Cicero- “On Duty,” hard to exaggerate the importance of this book both for Roman civilization and later Western Civ; after the advent of the printing press in the West was the second book to be printed after the Bible. Ol’ Tully’s letter to his son telling him what kind of man he should grow up to be– though intended also for a larger audience. Indispensable tool to improve your understanding of the Roman Stoicism and Rome’s self-denial based ideal of ultra-masculinity.

The Letters of Lord Chesterfield- kind of similar to “On Duty,” as they are both letters to the author’s son with the intent to educate him on becoming a real man. Thus, these books are good to read in tandem as they both give us a taste of how “Aristocratic fatherhood,” of the past was supposed to work. The image of the pre-modern aristocratic boy as a spoiled brat living an easy life– all to common these days– will be dispelled. Lord Chesterfield is a bit closer to our time though, so perhaps he’s better to read first.

Albert Jay Nock’s “Memoirs of a Superfluous Man,” is a personal favorite of mine.

Read a bit of the King James Bible every day!

Augustine and Aquinas.

Learn a new language, (if you haven’t already)! I recommend French as it’s pretty easy, has had an enormous influence on English (you’ll learn etymologies of countless words and push you knowledge of English to a new level by learning French), it has a huge literature, and it’s just a very, very beautiful language in and of itself. You probably get more bang for your buck with French than any other language.

Read classics blogs like

john June 25, 2011 at 11:37 am

For more suggestions on some meaty reads, check out a book by James Schall called “Another Sort of Learning.” It’s a well-written memoir of his life of teaching philosophy. Each chapter ends with a reading list in which he lists books that deal with the most important things.

Rob June 24, 2011 at 9:18 am

I’ve referenced it before, but is an excellent resource for technique on squats, dead-lifts, bench press, barbell row, and shoulder press. I have found much success and strength gains through the 5×5 program that the site advocates. As an example, I’m 6 2 and 175 lbs. I can dead-lift 2x BW, squat 1.5 x BW and bench press more than my BW. My next goal is to be able to dead-lift 400, squat 300, and bench-press 225.

If anyone wants to understand the promise and danger of being a human, read Escape From Freedom by Erich Fromm. He is basically an evolutionary Freud. Cat’s Cradle by Vonnegut, The Grapes of Wrath (maybe the most subversive American book) by Steinbeck, and Sometimes a Great Notion (did you know Kesey nearly made the Olympics for wrestling?) are all excellent.

Frost June 24, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Those are some pretty huge lifts! Pretty comparable to mine, and I’ve got 50lbs on you at the same height. Thanks for the recommendations!

Brooklyn June 24, 2011 at 12:13 am

If you are looking for something to give you a little structure in finding and choosing classical literature to read you can’t go wrong with Harold Bloom book but I would also suggest picking up a copy of “The New Lifetime Reading Plan: The Classical Guide to World Literature” by Clifton Fadiman. I would also suggest that you include poetry in your program; two anthologies I recommend, both edited by Harold Bloom, are “The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Robert Frost” and “Till I End My Song: A Gathering of Last Poems”.

As for specific literature, I would recommend the following classics, I could name a half dozen off the top of my head; Montaigne, Casanova, Moliere, Racine, Orwell, Cervantes, Rostand and Defoe just to start. I would highly recommend taking a look at The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Homer’s Odyssey (I like the Lattimore translation but the more recent version by Robert Fagles is great too), and recommend you throw in a couple of Shakespeare plays; start with the comedies (Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummers Night Dream) which go easier and then work your way into the tragedies.

Finally if you want some classics that are just light fun for a rainy day try Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon or Thin Man, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, or Robert E Howard’s Conan stories.

re: Game – You already have Roissy, Roosh, Susan Walsh (she’s not really a game blog but her site is still interesting to check out) and Athol Kay(you read his book but he’s definitely worth reading, for balance in particular) in your blogroll so there isn’t much to add.

re: Paleo – Check out Michael Eades blog ( and especially Gary Taubes Why We Get Fat. You already have the basics down but their books should be on the shelf of every man seriously looking to improve himself.

Frost June 24, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Bloom’s poems is my current shitter reading. Funny how many of the suggestions here are books I’ve recently read, or am planning to read.

I just finished Taming of the Shrew and have a post in the pipes about how it contains many of the truths we now call “Game.”

I haven’t read much of Eades, I’ll check him out. Taubes is a god, not so much for his contributions to paleo health, but for his exposure of the reality of the scam that is modern scienticism.

Thanks for the recommendations!

Cyprian Korzeniowski June 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus are both must reads, even if for people not interested in the Western canon. Both offer excellent advice on how to live.

As for going through the Western canon, you should go try to go through it chronologically. It helps you understand how all of the authors relate and respond to each other. Start with the pre-Socratics, then Plato and work your way up from there.

Frost June 24, 2011 at 12:23 pm

That’s exactly the approach I plan to take. Meditations is near the top of my list, since Ryan Holiday (whom I respect) seems to have an orgasm whenever he thinks about it.

Jack Dublin June 23, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Robert Greene, starting with “The 48 Laws of Power”.

Terry Pratchett, in particular his Discworld series. He’s written 30 or so and no matter how dedicated you are to learning it’s nice to unwind with a good story.

Get a kindle or download the kindle pc app. Then download all the free books and samples you can.

Frost June 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I’ve read 48 laws of power at least 10 times… but why not 11? Have you read Art of Seduction as well? His other book strategies of war, isn’t on the same level as those two IMO, but that’s not saying a lot – it’s still well worth reading.

I don’t read much fiction, truthfully, and I’d like to focus more on “hard reads” right now. I’ll keep discworld in mind for when I’ve got some extended travelling lined up though.

Iain D June 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm

I have similar goals for the summer, especially re: game (I was in a 7-year LTR from 17 until about two years ago, so I have catching up to do)

For fitness, I’ll second the recommendation of 4HB. If you’re looking for specific programs, I’ve had great results with DragonDoor (google it) and StrongLifts 5×5 (this one is free)

Letters from a Stoic is my favourite philosophy book right now. It’s short, but it merits several reads to grok the message. I also really enjoyed Steppenwolfe by Herman Hesse. His book Sidhartha is good too, but I liked Steppenwolfe better.

Best of luck to you in your summer project.

Frost June 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Thanks! Tim Ferriss is the man, and 4HB is a great book. I’ve been meaning to read LfaS ever since I read Wolfe’s Man in Full. If Steppenwolfe the book is as good as the band, I’ll definitely give it a try.

Seven years! Damn right that’s a lot of catching up! Go do some approaches and let us know how it goes.

ExtremeBalance June 23, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Frost –

I love the idea. It does sound like a more thought-out and organized version of things I’ve considered for myself. I’m currently finishing an ‘actual’ PhD, though, so there’s not a lot of time for the ‘real-world’ version yet! I am trying out paleo-nutrition (a la MDA, 4H Body, Keoni, etc.) and functional exercise (, bodyweight, kbells, etc.) and like the results so far on my middle-aged body.

Reading – I’m working my way through ‘All Things Shining’ right now, which is subtitled ‘Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age’ so it might be up your alley. Actually, I think I found it on one of the blogs I frequent so you might already know it.


Frost June 24, 2011 at 12:16 pm

All Things Shining sounds like exactly what I’m looking for, thanks for the pointer.

Ever read Cal Newport? Linked in the sidebar, he finished his PhD (I believe) while writing multiple books, and working 9-5ish hours all day. Great resource for a student who also wants a life!



jules June 23, 2011 at 12:31 pm

What I’m reading simultaneously on my ipad in alternating chapters
– War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk
– Can’t go wrong with CS Lewis, Tolkien or Robert E. Howard
– James Clavell and Michael Crichton
For philosophy, Allan Bloom, Niall Ferguson and Thomas Sowell.
I read a lot of war histories, gives me a sense of the tragic mind and the fact that people throughout time have not changed.
If you’re into Tolkien at all, pick up anything by catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft. I’m an atheist but he has a lot of practical advice for the layperson.

I’m trying to shed 50 pounds so I can start running and make the Marine Corps PFT requirements. I have you and Tim Ferriss to thank for as far as dieting and exercise go. I don’t obsess over supplements as much as Tim, restrict myself to Vitamin B12, D & Fish Oil. Haven’t seen any visible gains yet, but I am sleeping better and my testosterone & self confidence have shot up.

Frost June 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Closing of the American Mind was epic, and I think I’ve read everything Ferguson’s written. “Empire” was my favourite of his works. At this point, I think Sowell is a bit overrated, but he was a huge influence on me many years ago, and I continue to have a lot of respect for him.

Good luck on the PFT man! I know you’ve been around here a while, so I’m sure you’ve seen me link prolifically to Mark Sisson and Kurt Harriss – but some things bear repeating. Check their sites out!



Keith Lee June 23, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Classic Literature:

I picked up Machiavelli’s “The Prince” again, having not read it again since college. It continues to be an excellent book. Working through it now.

Clausewitz’s (Prussian General, Napolenoic Wars) “On War” is a great read if you’re interest in political-military analysis and general strategy. It’s the basis of most modern Western military thought and is applicable to business. I prefer it over Sun Tzu.

I keep Plato’s “The Republic” on my nightstand and will s-l-o-w-l-y read through a dialogue when I have the free time. It goes without saying that it is one of the most brilliant things ever written.

Non-classical, I recently picked up “Re-Work” by the 37signals guys. Pretty interesting book on biz. No section is more than 2-3 pages long. Reads like a blog in book form. Very easy to read a section when you have free time and move one from it.

I also recently read Guberman’s “Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates” which is about how to emulate the writing styles of the best lawyers in the nation. I reviewed it on my site, though Cernovich at C&F thought I talked about myself too much in my review. It’s a really good book if you want to improve your persuasive writing skills.

Speaking of my site, you might want to check it out: . While geared towards new lawyers, a lot of what I write can be used by a general audience looking into professional/personal development.

Frost June 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Thanks Keith!

I recently re-read The Prince. Got a lot more from it than I did when I was ~20 and read it the first time. Plato and Clausewitz will definitely wind up in my pile at some point, although the last time I tried to read The Republic, I gave up 20 pages into it. I blame my internet-raped attention span.

I added your site to my RSS and will check out the archives when I get a chance.



Dennis June 23, 2011 at 10:58 am

Under the PhysEd category, I’d recommend you read the books Body by Science, on exercise, and Perfect Health Diet, a version of paleo.

Joseph Dantes June 23, 2011 at 10:50 am

A lot of what you’re saying sounds like I might’ve said it, which is something I don’t come across often. Your linkroll is pretty similar to my RSS as well.

You’re missing:
Vox Day
Vault Co (Texas Arcane)

Frost June 24, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Thanks, I’ll check out Vault Co. Vox is already a regular read of mine, I’ll add him to my links.

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