Sunday, August 23, 2020

Twenty Latest Reads

COVID has meant a lot of time at home and a slower pace of life for us, which has resulted in a lot of time spent reading. The weather has been so hot this summer, and I've loved sitting in the yard with a good book.

This is my stack for the 20 weeks of time following my previous list.

1) How Not to Die by Michael Gregor.

I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was factual, to-the-point, and I appreciate how it is not-for-profit, and all proceeds go to charity. The information is well-referenced and science-based, with a major push toward a plant-based diet. 9/10

2) Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria (and Other Conversations About Race) by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD.

This was a relevant and important read.  Microaggressions are so prevalent and racism is deeply embedded in policies. As a white woman, I don't have to think about race very often, but I think that makes it even more important that I do think about it, and actively work toward being anti-racist.  I learned a lot from this book, and still have a lot more to learn. 7/10

3) The 10,000 Year Explosion by Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending.

This was just okay, but not a favourite for me. It included tiny snippets of history and science, but it didn't go into any topics with enough depth. 5/10

4)  You're Not Listening: What You're Missing and Why it Matters by Kate Murphy.

I absolutely loved this book. How often in your daily life do you feel people actually listen to you to understand, instead of waiting for their turn to talk? When in life have you felt you were really listened to and understood? Do you take the time to listen to others to understand where they are coming from, and how they got to their level of understanding? Do you care? This book will challenge you to think about these things and to become a better listener and will help you to realize the consequences not listening attentively has on relationships with people.  It is succinct, well-written, and has short chapters, which I always like, as I find I read more this way ... Just one more chapter; it's so short. I took a lot away from this book, and I think others would too. 10/10

5)  Why: What Makes Us Curious by Mario Livio. (Not pictured).

I was drawn to this book immediately because of the title. I am fascinated by curiosity, and anyone who knows me well, knows I have always been one to ask a LOT of questions. I was a very curious child, and have never lost that insatiable curiosity, and was hoping to learn a lot from this book about what drives curiosity and how to foster it. Unfortunately, the author didn't have much to say, in my opinion. This book just left me wanting more. 4/10

6)  Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life by David Perlmutter, MD.

This book shares interesting new research in an area that is exploding right now - the gut biome. Our bodies are home to trillions of organisms; in fact, we have more non-human cells in our bodies than human cells. Sit with that idea for a while. Scientists are only beginning to learn about the impact our gut biome has on our brains and other organs, and how our diet and the fuel we give these bacteria impacts our physical and mental health. It was only recently found that the majority of our serotonin is produced in our gut! The best thing about science, in my opinion, is that the learning never ends. One discovery leads to another. One question asked leads to more questions. There is so much left to be discovered, so much that is not known that we can come to know through research. I cannot wait to hear what else we'll find out about the creatures that reside within us. 7/10

7)  Every Idea is a Good Idea: Be Creative Anytime, Anywhere by Tom Sturges.

Haha, every idea is a good idea ... except for this book. Okay, I kid. Sort of. It has no substance, was repetitive, and was just passable. 5/10

8)  The Subtle Art of Not Giving an F - Mark Manson.

It seems everyone has read this, so I had to get in on the goods.  I preferred the sequel to this book (which I happened to read first, as the library had it in). I also much, much prefer his audio articles. I found them so eye-opening, logical, and immediately impactful in my daily life. He doesn't sugar-coat anything. 7/10

9)  Humanimal: How Homo Sapiens Became Nature's Most Paradoxical Creature by Adam Rutherford.

This was a very well-written, engaging, intellectual look at human beings, and what makes us special. Or not.  8/10

10)  The Happy Brain: The Science of Where Happiness Comes from and Why by Dean Burnett.

I thought it was poorly written and lacked a clear focus.  It was written by a neuroscientist who is also a stand-up comedian, but the combination doesn't work for him, and I was bored with this book. 3/10

11)  The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True by Richard Dawkins.

I wasn't really a fan of the style of writing, and I found the ideas to be too much of an introduction to scientific thinking and ideas, which isn't what I was looking for. 5/10

12)  Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don't Have To by David Sinclair, PhD.

Fascinating new research coming out of Harvard's lab dedicated to aging.  I loved it, and can't wait to read more on this topic. This is breakthrough stuff, and Sinclair and his team of researchers have done enough work to warrant an entire book on the topic. 8/10

13)  Superhuman Mind: Free the Genius in Your Mind by Berit Brogaard and Kristian Marlow.

I really enjoy books about brain plasticity, and this is just another that inspires me to keep learning as an adult. Our brains continue to change, and our intelligence can continue to increase throughout our lifespans.  Intelligence is not set in stone, and our brains have a remarkable ability to rearrange themselves and to make new connections.  7/10

14)  The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientists Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances E. Jensen M.D. and Amy Ellis Nutt.

This book is practical, fact-based, well-written, and engaging to read.  I loved it. I will definitely be rereading it and designing lessons from it.  9/10

15)  Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf.

A professor in one of my neuroscience classes mentioned this book, and I remember writing the title down in the margin of my notebook. That was about nine years ago, but the title of the book stuck with me, and I finally got around to reading it. If you think about how remarkable the act of reading is, and how our brains can quickly take in symbols on a page, and convert that into words and thoughts in our mind, how knowledge can be passed down through generations through written symbols, it is really interesting and mind-bending. She goes into the history of reading and the written word, as well as the science behind how our brains tackle this very challenging feat. 6/10

16)  Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

This book is old.  Like 1800s old.  There are some words of wisdom about living simply, but mostly it is just full of lengthy, lengthy descriptions that I found incredibly boring.  I should have abandoned it as soon as I got bored, but I always feel like that will make the book sad :-( Haha. 3/10. 

17)  The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli.

I didn't get a lot of new information from this book, but if you don't have a psychology background, and are interested in decision making fallacies, then this is a great intro. If you've taken undergraduate psychology courses, I'd probably pass on this one. I did appreciate the short chapters, but a first year psych. textbook has better examples. 6/10

18)  Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths.

This one was a little bit too techy/computer-based for me (my tech. knowledge and programming knowledge is lacking), and I didn't take a lot of practical information from it, although it did pique my interest in computer algorithms a bit and didn't bore me, so I guess that's something. 6/10

19)  The Greatest Salesman in the World by OG Mandino.

I had no idea what to expect with this tiny little book that I had seen recommended so many times, but it was a delightful, super quick read. It has some excellent, life-changing messages (if put in to practice). I thought it was an absolutely beautiful story that everyone should read at least once. I'll definitely be diving into it again. At just over 100 pages, it's easy to digest in one sitting. 10/10

20)  Walden Two by B.F. Skinner.

After reading Walden (and not enjoying it), I kept thinking about how familiar the title was. Then, I came across Walden Two which had been on my bookshelf, unread for 16 years. I originally bought it because it was written by Skinner, and that was enough to grab my interest, but I forgot I had it. It was a nice surprise to come across it on my shelf after reading WaldenWalden is a true story of a guy who goes to live a simple, solitary life outside of the city for a length of time, to see the impact living this way has on him, but, as I mentioned, it was nothing but descriptive scene after descriptive scene, which isn't my bag.  Walden Two is a fictional book, written in more recent times, about a utopian society created with inspiration from the original Walden.  Skinner's writing is engaging and easy to read, although this story didn't have the greatest plot, and was more of a tour around this fictional utopia.  I have read a lot of dystopian fiction, but this might be the first utopian novel I've read, and I'd love to tackle a few more. This read was much better than Walden, although they are so, so different in basically every way other than the titles. 6/10

What is the best book you've read recently?  What are you currently reading?  Do you ever abandon books partway through, or are you like me, and you worry about the book's feelings?