October Reading List

Hi again. More books.

Most of the books I’ve read over the past few months have been fiction. As you can probably guess from my previous lists, I read a lot of non-fiction. I enjoy it but haven’t lost myself in a lot of good stories for a while.

Naturally, during the last few months, nearly all of my books have been fiction.

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday 

A book about the problems our ego presents to us.

An easy way to explain this is like so: our ego makes us extremely interested and concerned about our personal image and how we’re viewed to others. As a result, we tend to focus less on the important tasks we have to focus on and more on how to protect the image we’ve built of ourselves.

It took me a while to get round to this book. I didn’t agree with a lot of it at first because I felt that he argued ego causes more problems than it actually does. However, after re-reading sections, I came to understand the book better and thought his argument was interesting.

It is when we care less for ego and more for the important things in life that we produce valuable work. Instead of always thinking about how feel. How can improve the lives of others?

Amazon.

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Brilliant.

I’m very late to get to this book but damn. I loved all of it.

Towards the end of Stalin’s regime, there is a killer who targets children and murders them in horrific ways. Leo, a secret police officer, changes his ways completely in search for this person and risks his career, his life and his wife in the process.

I suck at describing books but read it. Please? Thanks.

Amazon.

One by One by Chris Carter 

Another thriller. Another great ride.

A man calls Detective Robert Hunter’s desk and asks him to go to a website. He sees a man in a glass box, restrained against a chair. The caller asks Hunter, “Fire or water? How do you want him to die?”

The whole book had me on edge and the ending was… interesting.

I also love Robert Hunter now. He’s one of those Jason Bourne type guys. Chris Carter can write a damn good crime thriller. I’ll definitely read more (thankfully, there are about 7 in the series).

Amazon.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Duckworth’s work has been getting a lot of praise among the self-improvement sphere for a while now. And for very good reason.

She studies grit. The combination of passion and perseverance. Continuing with tasks even if they get difficult or boring. In the book, she wants to understand why certain people are more ‘successful’ than others in a variety of tasks ranging from completing the brutal Beast Barracks training in the United States Military Academy to university students getting top grades. It’s not intelligence, wealth, height or any physical attribute that is the best predictor of success. It’s grit.

Her work is entertaining to read and every point she makes is well supported. However, I also admire that she’s open to admitting the shortcomings of her research and questions that can be explored further.

There’s a lot of valuable information to gain from it. Including why perseverance with goals is very helpful but less common than you’d imagine and how to foster grit in other people. I want to explore it in more detail as I think the ideas are worthy of much more consideration.

And Emilia Lahti is her student and she’s the nicest person ever.

Amazon. 


As always, thanks for reading!

Follow me on twitter @improvingslowly and like my Facebook page: Improving Slowly!

Why I read

A 13 year-old student asked me how he can start reading more. He said he’s had a library book in his room for the past two years and never opened it let alone made an attempt to finish it.

The question resonated with me because I’ve been in that situation before. Over the past five years or so, I’ve slowly lost the esteemed title of ‘book worm’. Reading fell out of favour and was replaced with videos, gaming and short articles. I still read a bit so it’s not like I’ve become completely illiterate otherwise I’m just getting really lucky writing all of this.

Back to the point, I didn’t significant value in reading books.

Yes, reading improves vocabulary, improves critical thinking and all sorts of wonderful things. However, these were all just nice things. I could probably find similar things to justify my gaming habit or even just watching videos all the time.

Books didn’t become less interesting. Other things were just more appealing. The issue, then, wasn’t with time or energy since I could find a lot of time to waste but none to read. The value I found in books was decreasing.

With this in mind, I didn’t recite statistics and I recalled something I was told before I started my philosophy degree.

You get to have a conversation with authors.

We write about them in the present tense because, even though many of them are long gone, their ideas are still engaged with and remain influential.

This spread into all areas of writing for me. By reading we get to have conversations with other people.

When we read fiction, we’re invited into the world the other person has created. They’re telling us a story that engages our imagination and curiosity.

When we read non-fiction, we’re informed, convinced or simply presented with a view you’re left to think about. While we may not engage directly with the authors, we’re able to think about the issues presented and come to a conclusion about it.

Sometimes, the story makes us happy or the argument makes us angry but the important thing is that we’re able to experience these things. There are billions of people on the earth with a variety of experiences and many have shared them with us through writing.

The added benefit of thinking about reading like this is that it’s opened me up to more genres. I’m granted access to millions of different worlds! Some people are trying to help me with the help of their own experiences. Some want me to experience the world of a crime lord. Others just want to make me laugh.

I’ve even started to grow an appreciation of children’s books! A lot of them are actually funny and entertaining. Some have good messages I’m sure I would have missed as a child. Authors and illustrators put in a lot of effort to talk to children and engage their imagination. Reading that while I’m a bit older is just fun. Simple, calming fun. There aren’t many other places you’ll find a bear being friends with an annoying duck and think it’s perfectly normal.

Every time I open a book, I begin a new conversation with someone else. This isn’t to say that all conversations are even good or useful. Not every conversation works like that in real life but that isn’t to say we’re better off talking to no one at all.

Reading means that I’ve opened my eyes to the world in front of me and, more importantly, to the people who live in it.

I finally did it

Today we were taking pictures. I never liked looking at them because I thought I looked weird. My mum always told me the camera adds 10 pounds but it made my hair messy and stained my shirt. Today would be different because I was going to look like my dad in his pictures. Time to look the part.

I started to get dressed and made sure to button up my shirt properly. I checked it three times because I was always left with missing buttons somehow but it was correct this time. I was making progress and that’s all that matters.

But then came the most difficult part. My tie.

My dad always did it for me and once tried to teach me. It never really worked out because I was always ended up tying my hands together or not doing anything at all.

I held both ends of the tie in my hand, stood in front of the mirror and tried to recreate the magic. It was difficult but eventually I had something resembling a knotted tie.

I did it all by myself. This was the time I became a man.

Me. The manliest man of them all. I was extremely proud of myself. I ran downstairs  and showed my dad how I got dressed all by myself  with the biggest grin on my face. He started laughing then told my mum to look at me. She thought I looked amazing in my school uniform.

I was ready to take pictures. No one could ruin my hair or mess up my shoes because I was on top of the world.

That was truly exciting. School that day was special to me. It was the day I said goodbye to depending on my parents and hello to my first day as a man.

My next step is to grow a beard just like my dad.

***

This is a response to a prompt about excitement. I just wanted to post something since I haven’t been consistent with posting in the past two weeks. Sorry if it seems rushed or you now hate ties.

I tried cooking my sister

I found the small stool I used to reach the sink when I brush my teeth and placed it down in front of me. I could now reach everything I needed. The fiery circles mum puts the pots on, the big wooden spoons and carrots. I climbed on top of the counter and put everything I needed in front of me.

Then I saw her. She thought smiling and kicking her feet would change her fate but not today. She took all of mum’s attention by screaming and crying whenever she felt like it. I no longer had story time because mum was too tired from looking after her all day. She also got more presents than me last Christmas.

Today that would all change.

I tried to make the fiery circles work. I didn’t know all of the dials and buttons mum used to make it work. It looked like a spaceship and I didn’t have any training for that so I had to find another way to complete my plan.

I walked over to my sister and tried to pick her up. I thought babies were meant to be small? Carrying her felt like the holding all my school books at once. I didn’t want to hurt her so I put her down and she stumbled her way into the kitchen.

I opened the oven and she gleefully climbed in. I put the carrots in for flavour since that’s what happens in all the movies and waited.

My mum warned me against having cookies when she wasn’t around but she was sleeping this time – so it was kind of ok, right? I thought so. I climbed onto the counter and tried opening the cupboard where she kept them but the worst thing possible happened. They fell onto the floor.

She shot up from her bed, rushed downstairs and caught me staring at the cookie jar that was smashed to pieces. I tried running past her but she blocked the doorway and asked me where my sister was.

My plan was falling apart.

After she took my sister out of the oven, I ran upstairs to hide under the covers in the hope that she’d forget about everything. She didn’t.

I expected to hear “You’re grounded forever!” or “You’re never allowed to eat in this house again!” Instead she walked into my room and said:

“You didn’t turn the oven on.”

I wasn’t allowed any cookies for a whole week.

***

26/08/13: This also relates to a daily prompt :) However, I’m not sure I would call myself a comedian.