Another good year of reading with lots of learnings coming from studies on economics, flow, feminism. I read a lot more nonfiction than fiction than in previous years. If I had to recommend a single book from 2019, it would be 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. I didn’t agree with many points in the book, but I did find new evidence, arguments and perspectives about our economic world, especially economic development models.
How I Tracked It:
I track my book reading with a combination of tools. Goodreads helps me track books read (and discovery new books based on past readings). My Kindle lets me collect and track book highlights. For articles I use Instapaper for tracking my article reading and article passage highlights. While not visualized here, I use Bookends to track my academic article references and use Skim app to extract my PDF highlights. I also wrote a script that tracks PDF changes, which I should be able to use to do a comprehenive analysis of PDF readings one day.
What I Learned:
From the data and visualizations, it appears that I read more in the early months of the year. My books read, highlighted passages and articles read all decreased in Q4, which corresponds to a number of life changes (witnessed in my time and tasks data too) as wel as some non-book related studies I was doing.
Looking at the word cloud, it appears that, like many other people out there, Trump was a popular topic in my article reading. It’s clear I also was reading a lot about China, health, the brain and tea too.
My Top Books from 2019
It’s difficult to pick my favorite books since there is a lot of memory bias depending on when I report this. You can checkout my Goodreads Reviews and Rating here.
For sake of sharing good books to check out, here are my top books from 52 or so I read:
- 23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang - This book offers a different take on economics and economic development. If you are looking to shake assumptions and have good conversations on economic topics, I highly recommend this book no matter what side of the political fence you sit.
- Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow - There were multiple moments in reading this book where I just smiled at how interesting of a character Hamilton was. Brilliant, hardworking, luck and flawed, all in one. I gleaned a new perspective on various moments in the early history of the United States.
- Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal - This book is all about various drugs and technologies being used in pursuit of human augmentation and mental expansion.
- The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler - This book is all about flow and how various extreme sports athletes cultivate in pursuit of excellence and high performance. The writing is great throughout but the examples get a bit one-dimensional since everyone is essentially doing high fatality sports. Would benefit from more realistic examples that don’t involve such a high probabily of death.
- The Meaning of Life by Terry Eagleton - This short book starts off quite philosophical around questions of the legimacy of the question itself. It then turns more open ended and offers an all-around good read for anyone wanting well-writing and well-thoughtout philosophical enquiry for the common man philosopher.
- Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being by Martin E.P. Seligman - This is a classic and approachable read on the positive psychology. Using validated research, Seligman offers various ways to not just avoid depression but to cultivate a happy and meaningful life of human flourishing. Writing and style is a bit clumsy at times but easy to skim over sections that don’t resonate and still come away with practical takeaways.
A Selection of my favorite articles from 2019
I started a very occassional newsletter to my friends and blog readers in 2019. So if you want to get an informative email every 2-4 months on self-tracking tech and my favorite articles and books, subscribe here.
Here are a few of the most memorable articles I read in 2019 and merit a read if you missed them:
- AI could help us unpick why some songs just make us feel so good
- America’s Invisible Pot Addicts - The Atlantic
- Are we close to solving the puzzle of consciousness?
- Authoritarianism: The Terrifying Trait That Trump Triggers
- Design Thinking: From Bathroom to Healthroom
- Mindfulness is loaded with (troubling) metaphysical assumptions – Sahanika Ratnayake | Aeon Essays
- Meta-Review: Meditation Practices for Health - NCBI Bookshelf
- The Day the Dinosaurs Died
- The Last Conversation You’ll Ever Need to Have About Eating Right
- The Secret History of Fort Detrick, the CIA’s Base for Mind Control Experiments
- The Trouble With Dentistry
- What Is It Like to Have Too Much Money?
- When Squirrels Were One of America’s Most Popular Pets
- Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?
- Why Is the Human Brain so Efficient? - Nautilus
- Why some people are impossibly talented
I again set a goal of reading 52 books in 2020. This should keep me on pace for my 2000 book reading challenge. I have several areas I want to learn and deepen in year ahead, so I plan look more into fields like neuroscience, react native and machine learning.
I still find information integration and learning synthesis to be an area I can improve in year ahead. I am exposed to a lot of great ideas and concepts, and, while I do a good job taking notes (more on this below), this would be an area I can expand upon in pursuit of learning how to learn. The fact is that if an idea is important to me, I need to take notes and bring these notes in my smart notes system.