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!

The Naked Sun [Book Review]

The Naked Sun (Robot, #2)
by Isaac Asimov

Kindle Edition, 271 pages
Published (first published January 1st 1956)
Read from April 23 to May 05, 2015
My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Science fiction and murder investigation: I love this combination. This is the second book of the Robots series and I read it 3 years after reading “The Caves of Steel”. I am not sure why I took so long to start reading this one, but I not disappointed. It was a great contrast if compared to the first one where the detective Elijah Baley was investigating a murder case on Earth with underground cities and crowded spaces.

The Naked Sun takes place in an Outer World planet called Solaria which has only 20 thousand humans that live with 200 thousand robots. Elijah Baley is once again working with R. Daneel in the investigation. The culture, habits and taboos are completely different in Solaria, where humans are not used to seeing each other, instead, they socialize through “viewing”, something resembling a uber high-tech-quality with immersion Skype talk. Like all good detective stories, there was no obvious motive, opportunity or weapon on the crime scene. There are many elements in the story that reminded of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories, which I love.

Of course, Asimov’s delightful ability of discussing ethics and laws related to robots are present:

He said, “I suppose I should have asked if any robots were present?” (Damn it, what questions does one ask anyway on a strange world?) He said, “How legal is robotic evidence, Daneel?” “What do you mean?” “Can a robot bear witness on Solaria? Can it give evidence?” “Why should you doubt it?” “A robot isn’t human, Daneel. On Earth, it cannot be a legal witness.” “And yet a footprint can, Partner Elijah, although that is much less a human than a robot is. The position of your planet in this respect is illogical. On Solaria, robotic evidence, when competent, is admissible.”

Isaac Asimov, The Naked Sun, pg. 80, loc. 1215-1221. Kindle Edition

And above all the murder mystery the book brings interesting reflections and questions on the human need for robots, the limits of artificial intelligence and our values as human beings.

Wool: An intense post-apocalyptic story [Book Review]

Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo series)

Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo Saga #1)

by Hugh Howey

Publication Date: (January 25, 2012)

Print Length: 550 pages

Publisher: Broad Reach Publishing- Kindle Edition

Read from July 09 to 19, 2014

My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Description:

“This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.”

That was an enveloping post-apocalyptic story! Well, actually a very good start of stories about a post-apocalyptic world in which people live inside a buried vertical cylindrical structure, called the silo. People inside the silo do not know exactly what happened to the world outside; they do not actually know a reality other than the structured life inside the silo. The biggest penalty for them is to leave the silo because the world outside has become quite deadly.

As the story develops itself through the eyes of the characters, we are confronted with many mysteries and questions unanswered, the same questions the characters make themselves. I loved the pace and the suspenseful aspect of the book, in which the author presents a situation, that you have no idea how it could have happened, and then goes on unraveling the story. It is that kind of story that keeps us up at night, somewhat addictive. I was really afraid that towards the end (about 97%) I would face a huge cliffhanger.

But no, it was okay, I had tears in my eyes by the end the book, feeling like a stage has been successfully completed, and every character is ready for the next step. The characters are captivating, the heroine Jules is awesome and I cared a lot about her and her friends and family. It was very easy to create a connection with them. The fact that not all the questions are answered or facts explained right away is, for me, the greatest force of the story. I think maybe the way the author structured the chapters encouraged me to always seek for more, and at the same time, it was okay to give the book a pause because the chapters were not too long. I really enjoyed that pace.

I definitely want to know more about this world and the future of the characters of the series! Highly recommended!