What I read in July 2020

I re-read two excellent productivity books that made me go back to basics and rethink my whole system. I can say it was a productive month! And I finished the fourth book in The Witcher series, which is excellent!

  1. Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and Business of Life by David Allen, 286p: It’s the second time I read this book. The last time was 6 years ago. It’s a great if you’re already familiar with the GTD method since it connects the 5 steps workflow (capture, clarify, organize, reflect, engage) to the higher horizons (projects, areas of focus, goals, vision, purpose & principles). So it’s the glue between Control and Perspective. I loved re-reading it. It gave me some powerful insights and a deeper understanding of the GTD processes and how it can evolve over time.
  2. New Hope for Sciatica: End Your Pain Now with Solutions Even Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About by Duncan McCollum D.C., 125p: It’s more about the how healing works in 3 parts: physical, chemical and mental. One cannot work without the other. So it gives a high level overview of all the things that might be the cause of the pain. And it’s complicated! It creates awareness about underlying factors causing/worsening the pain, but it’s all about contacting a professional. So, there are no practical answers in this book, it talks about a few strategies but without diving in them too deep. For example: a diet with less inflammatory food suggesting ketogenic meals and intermittent fasting but it doesn’t explain how that can be done.
  3. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport, 287p: This was my second read and more than ever I was convinced that we need to decide to do deep work and that means breaking many habits of today’s life. From finding space and time to concentrate to eliminating all that distracts us, the author shows reasons and evidence for all the strategies presented. And the message is simple, albeit not as easy as it seems: disconnect! Simple as that. This one is MUST READ for today’s work life.
  4. The Tower of the Swallow (The Witcher, #4) by Andrzej Sapkowski, 448p: So this book picks up right where the previous left, which ended in a little bit of a cliffhanger. I loved the writing style using different timelines, jumping back and forth, and varying points of view. It gets confusing sometimes but in the end everything clicks together. And the plot focus is Ciri, the last third of the book we don’t even hear about The Witcher anymore. There is lots of violence in this book, people getting killed, tortured, injured in a myriad of ways. I think it’s one of the darkest books in the series so far, and Ciri’s story is definitely harsh and cruel. I caught myself cringing a few times. Now, it’s the first time I ever saw a sword fighting scene on a frozen lake on ice skates! There are some great new characters, like the hermit Vysogota on the good guy side and the spine-chilling bounty hunter Bonhart, on the villain side. As always, I can’t wait to check out the next book in the series.

What I read in June 2020

June was a tough month! I don’t know, the ongoing pandemic, the immense amount of accumulated work that suddenly appeared on my plate, Black Lives Matter protests… I just needed some comfort reading, so that’s when I turn to steampunk and sci-fi romances.

  1. Heart of Steel (Iron Seas, #2) by Meljean Brook : Steampunk alternate Victorian era in a world with dirigibles, nanoagents, mechanical flesh, zombies. I think I still like the first book better. However, this one has a strong lead female character who is an experienced badass captain of an Airship. Yasmeen, captain of Lady Corsair, and Archimedes Fox, adventurer, go out on a journey to search for a treasured sketch from Leonardo da Vinci. There is also revenge but that wasn’t too clear to me. Good fighting sequences with zombies, but in the end, I didn’t get who/what they were fighting against really.
  2. Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life  by Nir Eyal : The premise here is: we are also responsible for being addicted to technology so the author discusses some tactics to make us less prone to use it mindlessly. But, I don’t think it is for everyone. There are some drastic measures that I think might work for some. I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.
  3. Polaris Rising (Consortium Rebellion, #1) by Jessie Mihalik: I enjoyed this space-opera! Lots of adventures: boarding ships, cracking security codes and locks, dealing with smugglers, discussing ship layouts, sending encrypted messages and blending in a crowded port to avoid being recognized. The two main characters, Lady Ada and Loch, were equally strong and I liked that they were both highly skilled at their areas of expertise. And rescues! It happens a lot and for the most part the rescuing is done by Lady Ada (as opposed to the male hero always rescuing the damsel in distress). It had that old Star Wars feel but without aliens. Fun!

What I read in May 2020

This was a hard month for reading. Distraction was with me all the time! It was one of the few months that I didn’t enjoy my readings that much. The highlight was “Broken Angels” by Richard Morgan, always a good sci-fi!

  1. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy  by Jenny Odell, 240p: Maybe too philosophical to my taste. Although the title book starts with “How to…” it’s not really a manual. It’s more like an exposition of the author’s memories and her musings about art. Art like a critic of the status quo. There is a lot of talk about art. It was not my cup of tea.
  2. Broken Angels (Takeshi Kovacs, #2)  by Richard K. Morgan , 480p: I thought this book had a totally different tone than the first one. It totally feels like military sci-fi. The pace is kinda slow until half of the book and then it’s action-packed till the end. There is a lot of worldbuilding when Takeshi remembers his childhood and the wars he has fought in. There is an interesting group of characters that are put together to fulfill a mission. Alien ruins, old artifacts, soldiers, war, archeology, mental illness.
  3. The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months by  Brian P. Moran, Michael Lennington, 208p: I get the concept: treat 12 weeks (3 months) like it’s your year. That way it forces you to set up achievable goals and don’t lose track of them. It makes sense. It brings a systematic way to define vision, goals, projects, plan each week and evaluate progress using a scoring system. I think it works for some people, but for me, at the moment, it felt like too much pressure on myself. The basic concepts of having a productivity system are all there: goals, time blocking, weekly reviews. So, it’s not unlike other systems, like GTD, for example. But there is this added urgency because of the 12 weeks time frame. Not sure it would work for me.

What I read in January 2020

This first month of the year I read way more than I thought I would. It was surprisingly very productive in this regard.

  1. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff : This one was a dense and dry read, maybe a little bit too long. It brings a detailed account of the emergence of Surveillance Capitalism and how it threatens democracy, privacy and information.
  2. Letters From An Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson : Such a delight! I listened to Audio book which is narrated by the author and it’s excellent. Clever answers to people’s questions about science and religion, aliens, life and the universe.
  3. The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less by Christine Carter: A productivity blogger recommended this book and it was okay. It’s basically a compilation of best practices that work for the author. It was a relaxing read that reminded me of how important it is to pause and rest. And to simplify things.
  4. Blood of Elves (The Witcher, #1) by Andrzej Sapkowski: This the first full length novel of the Witcher series (the previous 2 books are basically a collection of short stories). The story follows the aftermath of the attack on the Kingdom of Cintra by the Nilfgaardian empire. Ciri starts her training as a Witcher but she starts to demonstrate weird powers so Geralt asks for the help of Triss Merigold. They decide that Ciri needs a normal education as well as some magic training, so Yennefer starts training her too. The story and the world building are extremely well done. I couldn’t put it down until the end and then I had to continue reading the next book…
  5. Sword of Destiny (The Witcher, #2) by Andrzej Sapkowski: This one is a darker book where the characters are temporarily separated from each other, and some serious confrontation between the mages/sorceress take place. Everyone is looking for Ciri and she is on the run. And there are donuts in the Witcher’s world! Another read I couldn’t put down that lead me to Book 3 straight away.
  6. Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future by Andrew McAfee, Erik Brynjolfsson: A continuation of the “Second Machine Age” with focus on crowd-sourced technologies. Cloud computing, Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, network platform businesses. An up-to-date book about the decentralized technologies that are out there and how will they impact our future.

#readinglist #books #reading

What I read in October 2019

  1. Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse: Native American mythology meets urban fantasy with climate sci-fi. It gives a new twist to urban fantasy, where usually the fantastical beings are fairies, vampires or werewolves. This book brings monsters slayers and Navajo people clan powers in a post-climate change world.
  2. Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy by  James Williams: A reflection on our technology and how the attention economy is do omnipresent today.
  3. Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter: Good analysis of how some new technologies are addictive. It discusses the concepts of addition and how cues that are used in gambling environments (like casinos) are used in various technologies today to keep us hooked. That goes from cliffhangers at the end of a TV show episode to little rewards in a video game to notifications on our mobile devices.
  4. The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik BrynjolfssonAndrew McAfee: An excellent account of the state of technology today and how it affects the work force. Full of new perspectives and ideas for the future.
  5. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke: Classic sci-fi, so it’s full of ideas that can be dated back to the 50’s. What if an alien superpower reaches Earth? Will we fight them? Will they destroy us? I thought the humans were too complacent accepting the Overlords power. There were riots going on and opposing groups but they seemed irrevelant. This is basically a tale of how humans will disappear, eventually, lead by an alien super power.

#readinglist #books #reading

What I read in September 2019

  1. Medusa Uploaded (The Medusa Cycle, #1) by Emily Devenport , 317p: I loved the premise: a generation ship in a 100 years voyage to a new place, augmented humans, classical music references, lots of visits to airlocks, a rebellion, deep sleep units and awesome semi organic-semi synthetic artificial intelligent units, called Medusas.
  2. An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1) by by Sabaa Tahir, 446p : I felt there was a disproportionate level of violence on this one. And people being subdued by superior power structures. Impossibly dangerous trials that often result in death. But in the end it is a story about rebelling and destroying power structures, which gives a hint of hope when you get to the last chapters.
  3. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, 368p: It’s an excellent reference about the science of sleep: our biological needs, what sleep does to our brain and, most importantly, what are the negative consequences caused by sleep deprivation.

#readinglist #books #reading