S9 E10: David St-Onge on Bitcoin Books

When David St-Onge fell down the Bitcoin rabbit hole, he took his studying very seriously. He didn’t only skim through a few articles and learn from Twitter threads and Telegram channels – he took the time to read more than a dozen of books on the topic of Bitcoin, took the best elements from each one of them, and then decided to write his own take on the phenomenon.

His motivation is rather interesting and only proves that pride and spite are two of the most powerful forces in our universe: after he was unable to defend Bitcoin in a debate against a group of traditional finance critics, David St-Onge took it upon himself to get well-versed in the intricacies of Satoshi Nakamoto’s magic internet money. And while he was trying to get ready for another face-off with the folks who shun Bitcoin, he discovered his love for writing and his desire to create the best educational material which includes everything a newcomer should know.

David St-Onge’s journey started in 2018 with “Mastering Blockchain” by Imran Bashir. At the time, his interests expended beyond Bitcoin – and the book which kicked off the reading marathon proves this slightly clueless initial state. On one hand, he argues that his choice was uninspired: the book is pretty technical, filled with details, and unfriendly with newbies. But on the other hand, St-Onge has fond memories of “Mastering Blockchain” and praises it for the content that it offers.

“Tokenomics: The Crypto Shift of Blockchains, ICOs, and Tokens” by Sean Au and Thomas Power was next on his list. And the book is a reflection of the delusions of the entire “let’s tokenize everything” era: a time when untechnical people would fork a smart contract, launch a token without knowing exactly why, create a website, and sell the token to equally greedy retail investors. David St-Onge considers “Tokenomics” as a great history lesson, but otherwise doesn’t recommend it to someone who wants to take the first steps in getting educated about Bitcoin.

But after this rather shitcoiny start, David St-Onge got serious about understanding how Bitcoin works. What he didn’t do was to lower the difficulty level of his learning: he went straight to Andreas Antonopoulos’ classic “Mastering Bitcoin”, which describes lots of technical intricacies and command line interactions that users can have with the Bitcoin network. Luckily, David is a computer programmer by training and was able to figure out most of it. However, he kept on looking for that one magical book which makes it all click.

St-Onge’s next reading was “Programming Bitcoin” by Jimmy Song. Admittedly, it’s an excellent book for those who want to learn by doing: by the end of your study, you will have learned how to write all the components of the Bitcoin network in the Python programming language. But newbies still won’t understand why Bitcoin makes sense, and the book is clearly aimed at those who have it all figured out and want to transition towards the next phase of their involvement in the space.

David St-Onge’s perpetual search for the book which explains to him Bitcoin’s role in the world was Saifedean Ammous’ “The Bitcoin Standard”. After spending time with the more technical writings, he found it refreshing to consider the economic implications and discover bitcoin’s place in the long history of money. Up to this point, no other book had fascinated his imagination so much. And this is exactly why “The Bitcoin Standard” is responsible for making readers from all around the world have their “eureka!” moment in regards to Bitcoin. However, St-Onge would keep on reading and discover even better books.

But before reading more content about Bitcoin, he would take a short detour to explore Austrian economics: “What Has Government Done To Our Money” by Murray N. Rothbard became his reading of choice. By now, the importance of uncensorable, unconfiscatable, and decentralized non-governmental money became clear.

Which is why David St-Onge continued his learning journey with books that are less technical and more focused on economics. Perhaps the simplest of them is “Bitcoin Money” by the Bitcoin Rabbi – a colorful, simple, yet wise and meaningful opus which is aimed at younger audiences. But up next on the list were “The Little Bitcoin Book” (which focuses on human rights and how a neutral internet currency like bitcoin can both increase access to money and limit the control of Big Brother states) and Gigi’s “21 Lessons” (a motivational-style book which offers byte-sized pieces that anyone can understand). In between, St-Onge also got busy with the French translation of “The Bitcoin Standard”, for which he provided constructive feedback and which he improved significantly with his contributions.

But the book which really blew David St-Onge away is “Inventing Bitcoin” by Yan Pritzker. He found the opus strikingly concise, satisfyingly detailed, and unusually underrated for the quality of content that it offers. In his personal ranking, he would place it above Saifedean’s “The Bitcoin Standard” specifically because it blends economics and computer science in a smoother package which makes it an enjoyable reading.

Just like every Bitcoin scholar, St-Onge has also explored Satoshi Nakamoto’s written interactions in Phil Champagne’s “The Book of Satoshi”. It’s a useful tool for understanding more about the mastermind behind the creation of Bitcoin, and the fact that extra commentary accompanies the original texts provides context and much-required explanations.

One lesser known book from David St-Onge’s list is “Why Buy Bitcoin” by Andy Edstrom. The opus is a work of economics which also delves into politics and psychology. And while the text is not up there with “The Bitcoin Standard” in terms of sales and cultural impact, St-Onge believes that it should be.

Another book that this episode’s guest recommends is “The Price of Tomorrow” by Jeff Booth. In a sense, the opus is a treaty on economics which explains all the causes which led to our status quo and suggests that deflation leads our way to prosperity. The catch is that Bitcoin only becomes part of the conversation by the end of the book – so the magic internet money gets introduced as a solution, but isn’t the central topic. A pretty wise approach that may appeal to Bitcoin skeptics and critics who otherwise wouldn’t have paid attention to this form of money.

But David St-Onge’s Bitcoin journey doesn’t only include Bitcoin books. As soon as you realize what kind of world problems BTC can fix, you naturally become much more interested in history and economics. In David’s case, he acquired a special interest in the issue of inflation around the world: so in between Bitcoin readings, he studied the phenomena described in Kudzai Joseph Gumunyu’s “Hard-Boiled Egg Index”, Jerome Gardner’s “Zimbabwe: Warm Heart Ugly Face”, and Philip Haslam’s “When Money Destroys Nations”. “Lessons of History” by Pulitzer-winning authors Will and Ariel Durant was also part of the journey, since it explains phenomena that are just as old as our history, and from which we always seem to fail to learn.

There are two more books that David St-Onge really enjoyed during his Bitcoin pilgrimage: “Sovereignty Through Mathematics” by Knut Svanholm, and “Layered Money” by Nik Bhatia. He referred to the latter as part of his personal top 3.

So which books are in David St-Onge’s top 3? Well, in no particular order, they are: “Inventing Bitcoin”, “The Price of Tomorrow”, and “Layered Money”. If you find yourself at the beginning of your journey and you don’t know where to start, get one of these 3 books – or better yet, buy them all the read them from cover to cover. They are what St-Onge will call “crème de la crème”.

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This episode is sponsored by Vaultoro & Wasabi Wallet

Joshua from Vaultoro is a big fan of the show and I’m happy that he sees potential in my work and supports it without caring about numbers and growth statistics. So I must thank him for his generosity and invite you to check out Vaultoro – the exchange where you can trade with honest money (bitcoin, gold, and silver). 

None of this is financial advice from me, but I’m pretty sure that the shiny rock is a better store of value than any fiat currency or “stablecoin”, so maybe it would be wise to use this commodity to preserve your purchasing power during bear markets and get back into bitcoin as soon as you’re convinced that the downwards movement are over. You can also have the gold bars delivered to your house… because you know, if it’s not in your safe then it’s stored somewhere in Switzerland where you can’t touch it whenever you please. For more information, check out Vaultoro’s website.

Also, Joshua from Vaultoro is sponsoring a Lightning Network faucet – he hopes that Bitcoin’s second layer will one day become potent and popular enough to replace the smart contract and tokenization features of Ethereum. And he also supported Giacomo Zucco’s layer 3 RGB Spectrum experimentation from 2019. So if you’d like to get 10 bits/100 sats on the Lightning Network, you’re gonna have to listen to the latest Bitcoin Takeover Radio broadcast and be the first to figure out the secret.

And if you would like to increase your network-level and transaction privacy, you should download Wasabi Wallet on your computer. It routes your connection through the Tor network to hide your IP, it downloads block filters so you validate your own transactions locally without appealing to a trusted third party, and it also connects to your own full node to boost your financial sovereignty. Extra features include advanced hardware wallet integrations, easy UTXO management, address reuse prevention, and even a lurker wife mode.

Wasabi is best known for its link-breaking CoinJoins, which are giving a hard time even to the EuroPol. Use the wallet to increase your financial sovereignty, but don’t do any illegal stuff – use your financial sovereignty with responsibility (also read the Wasabi terms of service).

Interview time stamps:

0:00 Intro 

1:41 Presentation 

3:48 David’s book reading frenzy 

7:49 Mastering Blockchain 

11:58 Tokenomics 

14:29 Stray Dog visits 

15:08 Tokenomics (continued) 

16:00 Mastering Bitcoin 

19:16 David’s motivations to write his book 

20:51Programming Bitcoin 

22:43 The Bitcoin Standard 

23:40 What has government done to our money ? 

25:15 Layered Money 

26:20 The Bitcoin Standard (continued) 

28:55 What has government done to our money ? (continued) 

30:52 The Bitcoin Money Book 

33:58 How David met his publisher 

36:08 The little Bitcoin Book 

42:41 21 Lessons 

45:45 Inventing Bitcoin 

50:05 The book of Satoshi 

55:10 Why Buy Bitcoin 

57:36 The Price of Tomorrow 

1:04:02 Books about Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe 

1:08:46 The Lessons Of History 

1:11:11 Sovereignty through mathematics 

1:16:22 The short list 

1:16:52 Tout sur Bitcoin (The short list) 

1:18:17 Inventing Bitcoin (The short list) 

1:18:46 Layered Money (The short list) 

1:20:32 The Price of Tomorrow (The short list) 

1:20:55 Future reading 

1:21:45 The zero interest trap 

1:24:30Thoughts on Bitcoin courses 

1:28:45 When did David decide to write his book ? 

1:32:55 Where you can buy David’s book? 

1:34:35 Bitcoin Twitter 

1:35:44 How would David rate Vlad’s BTCTKVR magazine ? 

1:39:23 Layered Money (rating) 

1:39:59 Conclusion 

1:47:17 The Hidden book (The Blocksize War)

Vlad Costea

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