Reading matter(s) of the month: January, 2016

I will start a monthly series of posts with a review of my “reading matters” of the month. It is just a way of celebrating my achievements, sharing books recommendations and (maybe) helping others make their “to-read” piles even bigger (I’m sorry!).

to-read pile 2016-02-03

The “To-Read” pile of January, 2016:

So, since last month marked the beginning of a new year, I actually did a huge list of all the books I want to read in 2016 focused on personal development. For 2016 I have the goal of changing my habits, improving my GTD system and read more non-fiction books, including biographies (which I rarely read). The list contains books I have already added years ago, so this month I am going to share a (huge) list that contains not only the books I added in January, but also older ones, in no particular order:
  1. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande => GTD related because it talks about checklist. I think it can be very useful to my GTD system.
  2. The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life by Thomas M. Sterner => I think I saw a recommendation of this book on a Lifehacker post. It’s always good to know how to focus.
  3. Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondō => last year I read her first book and made huge changes in life. This the second one: I am looking forward to reading it (it was illustrations!!)
  4. Elon Musk: Inventing the Future by Ashlee Vance => a must read biography (or so I’ve been told) because I am huge fan of Elon Musk.
  5. The Mindful Geek: Secular Meditation for Smart Skeptics by Michael Taft => Part of my quest to dive deeper into meditation.
  6. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi => I am really curious to know about “THE FLOW” and how to get there.
  7. The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay A. Johnson => I think it might contain some valuable information on how to deal with lots of information.
  8. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin => another one about how to deal with too much information.
  9. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem => the first of the Book Club about Feminism created by Emma Watson called “Our Shared Shelf” (check it out on Goodreads). I will be a little behind the schedule, because this was their January pick.
  10. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell => I am always interested on the success of the non-conventional.
  11. The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor by Mark Schatzker => I want to know what’s inside processed food (and be scared!)
  12. Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton => I want to know how the 140 character revolution started.
  13. Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis => a little bit of optimist is always good!
  14. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss => Another one o get a little scared about the food industry.
  15. The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson => this book has been on my list for a long time now!
  16. Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy and the New Science of Desire by Martin Lindstrom => Consumption or Consumerism?
  17. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield => I am a huge fan of Chris Hadfield!
  18. Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing “Hoax” (Wiley Bad Science Series) by Philip Plait => I love Philip Plait blogs and videos (his series Crash Course Astronomy was amazing!)
  19. Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium by Carl Sagan => one of my favorite authors!
  20. Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet by Katie Hafner by Matthew Lyon => I want to know how the internet came to be.
  21. The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow => a friend of mine recommend me this almost a decade ago. I think it’s time for me to read it!
  22. 168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think by Laura Vanderkam => I love to read about time management and productivity and this one seems nice.
  23. Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum => I bought this book 3 years ago because I wanted to know how is the internet, physically speaking, literally.
  24. Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris => I am curious to know what this man has been talking about.

The “Read” list of January, 2016:

This month I finished reading two books. One of them has completely changed the way I think about my routines and life goals. The other was just fun and a bit silly:
  1. The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod => the first book of 2016 about personal development and I can say that it was an intense reading. Because of this book I totally embraced the morning person inside me.
  2. Radiance (Wraith Kings, #1) by Grace Draven => this goes into my “guilty pleasure fiction” pile. I didn’t enjoy it so much maybe because it had a young-adult feel.

The “I started reading but haven’t finished yet” pile of January, 2016:

  1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain => I am loving this book! I consider myself an introvert and this book resonates deeply with me! And also the title of the book is fantastic!
  2. L’île mystérieuse by Jules Verne => it’s from a classic French author and it’s part of my “French Learning” project. It is a long book, so I’ll probably take a few more months to finish it.
And that’s it! I am actually now a little bit scared of my “To-read” pile but (hopefully) I’ll be able to tackle it until the end of 2016.
I will probably continue adding more books to my “to-read” pile but I’ll try to leave the new ones on a “someday/maybe” list because the ones I listed above are truly the books I’ve been wanting to read for a while so they have priority!
I also have an endless list of fiction books to read, but I haven’t decided yet which are my favorite ones because I started this year focusing more on non-fiction.
And, as I’ve been doing since 2012, I joined the Goodreads Reading Challenge with a goal of reading a total of 45 books in 2016 🙂
If you want to see a glimpse of all the books I read in 2015 click here.
What about you? Do you plan on reading more fiction or non-fiction this year? Do you also have an endless pile of books to read?
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Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less [Book Review]

 

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Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

By Greg McKeown

Kindle Edition, 274 pages

Publication Date: April 15, 2014

Read from October 30 to 31, 2015

My Rating: 4/4 stars

 

This book was a fast read for me. The good thing is that it made me feel less anxious and less stressed. It reminded me that I have the power to choose what I want to do with my time and my life. And that I don’t need to let others dictate/influence my schedule and my to-do list. Because as Greg McKeown advises us in the book:

“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”

― Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

It has taught me that the most important question to ask is: “What is really essential to me?”. The rest can simply be thrown away. But that’s no simple task because we usually hang on to a pletora of things without knowing which of them are truly essential. He has a nice definition o the term Essentialism:

“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
― Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Now, reading the book made me wonder: is there a conflit between “Essentialism” and “Minimalism”? After reading it and remembering other authors, I think there isn’t any conflit because the path of the essentialist is very similar, identical even, to one of the minimalist, and as the famous minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus wrote in their blog: “Call it whatever you want: no matter which –ism you prefer, the only thing that matters is that it helps you live with intention.”

And the author discusses the “consumerism” that has dominated our society:

“What if society stopped telling us to buy more stuff and instead allowed us to create more space to breathe and think? What if society encouraged us to reject what has been accurately described as doing things we detest, to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like?”― Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Also, the author emphasized the importance of keeping a journal. It helps us put things in perspective and after a while we can revisit the entries to figure out the bigger picture and understand worries and figure out the essential purpose of our lives. And to make it a habit, it doesn’t need to be long or complicated, you just have to write down whatever and how much you feel like in the moment.

Overall it was a good read that matched my personal psychological needs at the moment (Personally, I was going through some troubled week in my life).
I was reminded of the importance of saying “No” to almost everything that pops up in our lives, and there’s nothing to feel guilty about, because:

“The overwhelming reality is: we live in a world where almost everything is worthless and a very few things are exceptionally valuable. As John Maxwell has written, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”
― Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

It was inspiring and made me think over my current approach to life. I definitely want to start walking towards an essentialist path.

Dust (Silo, #3) [Book Review]

dust silo 3 hugh howeyDust (Silo, #3)
by Hugh Howey

Kindle Edition, 466 pages
Published August 17th 2013 by Broad Reach Publishing

Read from August 16 to September 16, 2015

My Rating: 3/4 stars

 

About the book:

WOOL introduced the silo and its inhabitants.
SHIFT told the story of their making.
DUST will chronicle their undoing.
Welcome to the underground.

I have mixed feelings about this last book of the trilogy. I really enjoyed the comeback to the characters of the first book, like Juliette and Luke, because they were one of my favorites characters. And it was inspiring to see the revolution started in their Silo in search for answers and a better world.

But I felt a little bit unfulfilled with the lack of explanation of exactly what happened to the world. I don’t know if I missed it at some point in the book, but it’s still not completely clear to me why the silos were built and what was going on in other places of the planet. Maybe the author wanted it to remain a mystery, but I really hoped some more detailed explanation after reading the whole trilogy.

[WARNING: SPOILER!]
Another thing that bothered me is that when Juliette leads the people of her silo up to the surface, and then they walk towards the seed bunker and look at the dome of dust over the arrangement of silos, why didn’t they try to reach the other silos? There were 50 silos over there and I didn’t saw any hint that Juliette or the others were curious about them, or had the intention to free the other silos. My feeling is that there were too many questions unanswered in the story and that bothers me a little. [END OF SPOILER]

But overall it was a thrilling book to read with a pace that kept me going until the end.

Shift (Silo,#2) [Book Review]

 

shift hugh howey

Shift (Silo #2)

by Hugh Howey

Kindle Edition, 520 pages
Published January 28th 2013 by Broad Reach Publishing
Read from July 21 to August 16, 2015
My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

—-

[Warning: this review contains spoilers]

First of all, it is a prequel. That can be disappointing to some people because Wool finished with a suspenseful situation and all you want to know after reading Wool is what the hell happens next. But on Shift that time line is suspended, and we are presented with two parallel time lines that date before the events of Wool.

I enjoyed the first third of the book because it was fast paced and puts us right into the moment when the silos were being built. I thought that was great, because I also wanted to know how the hell those silos got there. We are not presented with the full explanation of the project at first, but little bits and pieces are being told throughout the chapters. We get to know this side of the story through the eyes of Donald, an architect who becomes a congressman without never wanting to be one. In my opinion he is a depressive character because he actually doesn’t question the reality enough. He innocently goes along with the construction project of the silo, which he was told at the beginning to be only an emergency facility. Later on the finds out that they build 50 of them, all buried. And he had no idea of the real purpose of the project.

One thing that stills bugs me is the explanation of why the silos were built. Actually, we get to know that Mr. Thurman is probably the creator of the idea of the project: in order to combat a powerful threat (something about a nano-weapon that contaminates the air and kills humans) the solution was to blow everything up (throwing bombs) and house the remaining humans into the silos. That was something that pushed me to continue reading chapter after chapter, because I really wanted to know the real purpose of the silos and, above all, what exactly happened outside! Is the air contaminated? Is there still green grass? What happened to the other humans? Are there humans left? What happened in other countries? Many, many questions…

One thing I enjoyed in this book was the delicious short chapters. It may be a characteristic of Hugh Howey, as I could experience in the first book. I think the short chapters helped me devour this book, because when the third part begins (Third Shift – Pact) the pace of the story is slowed down, and Donald gets even more depressing. I can say that my favorite character plot was that of Jimmy (aka Solo). It was depressing too, because, well, the guy is left alone locked inside the server room, while their parents got killed and he stays inside to wait for things to get better. But I think that as the character grows and develops we understand his misery and loneliness and, in consequence, feel for him.

By the end of the book I got slightly annoyed with some decisions Donald made, [like murdering Anna and Thurman without getting more information from them. But I think I can imagine that Donald was already completely out of his mind after all the things he went through. After all, the guy was woken up from the deep freeze at least three times and with scrambled identities.

The last chapter annoyed me even more with the introduction of Juliette (the engineer from Wool) making the connection with Wool, and then the abrupt ending, just like that. At the same time that I was excited for the story to go on I was a little tired of knowing what happened with Solo up until that point.

One thing that fascinates me in the Silo world is that humans beings started living in a confined space, with rigid rules, methodical chores, social stratification and they could be happy living there, without questioning much. Of course, there were ways of manipulating and controlling them, like the chemical or equivalent that was put into the water they drank. What terrifies me is that at the same time that it seems a highly improbable reality it could be true.

The minute I finished reading “Shift” I started reading the third book in the series (Dust) because, well, I am an extremely curious person!