Wednesday, January 03, 2018

2017 – the year of reading!

I used to be a voracious reader while in school, and had (to my parents’ amusement & pride) had asked for second hand books as a birthday present during Class VII. Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, Phantom & Mandrake was my parallel universe. I had loved my Enid Blytons, Hardy Boys, Three investigators and Famous Fives. I graduated to Robin Cook, Authur Hailey, Jeffery Archer, John Grisham & Michael Crichton as I finished my engineering. From then, things went downhill – an odd book here or there, didn’t count much for someone who had mastered the art of reading while walking to the bus stop and back, who read during dinner when the TV was also on, in a crowded bus, etc.

But thanks to D, who religiously puts up a list of his reads for the year on his blog, the reading bug resurfaced. But of course, my life is revolving around kids, and their love to tear up books. But then, phone displays also got bigger this year. 5.5inch length of the phone = width of a page on a book, voila!!

I downloaded an app, FB Reader, got myself ebooks (pdfs & epub formats) from open content online and I was good to go. But, hey, how do you read from a phone, it doesn’t have the same feel as a book, right? But for me, the option of quietly reading up a few pages as I put the kids to sleep or snooze with them, to be able to read from a “night” (dark background with white letters) and dim the display to sleep at night as the kids sleep, and the convenience of having a book (and few) around whenever you have 5 mins to spare, far outweigh the “feel” factor.

The evidence is here – I have finished 18 books this year, maybe more than the last 5 years combined. As you would have guessed, many of them are running related, but I also like behavioral economics and added some fiction as well. To cherry on the cake, is that some of this seems to have rubbed off on my better half. She has overcome a mental barrier and does a lot of reading on her daily commutes now. Between us, we hope to turn a few new leaves, as far as our reading habit is concerned, in 2018.

Please do drop a note in the comments section below, if you have any book recommendations or even otherwise.

While you do that, here’s my list of book from my year of reading:
1.       In search of meaning by Viktor Frankl – I have visited the concentration camps at Auschwitz in Poland. The book says the story in an unforgettable manner and introduces logotherapy – a great read.
2.       When breath becomes air by Paul Kalanithi – I read this book as one of my vivacious aunts was fighting a losing battle with cancer. The later stages of the book made me cry like a baby.
3.       Marathon woman by Katherine Switzer – This book and Zatopek’s book set in the evolutionary stages of marathon running was easy to relate to, given the similar set up in which I took up training, racing, etc. myself.
4.       Anywhere by home by Anu Vaidyanathan – This was one I didn’t like at all. The book had her stubborn attitude on display from start to end.
5.       Living with a Seal by Jesse Itzler – This was recommended by a friend and I actually read the hard copy of this one. It was thoroughly refreshing and helps break a few boundaries we have to exercise. Itzler brings out his out of box approach to exercise in this endeavor.
6.       Jaya by Devdutt Patnaik – I already knew Mahabharat from Amar Chitra Katha, I had read this a few times over in my childhood days. So I didn’t find anything new in Devdutt’s book. I was hoping for some of his interpretation, but barring the first few chapters, the rest fell into routine narration.
7.       Art of Learning by Joshua Waitzkin – Hmm, honestly can’t remember enough of this one.
8.       Racing weight by Matt Fitzgerald – Nothing that I took back into my running from this one, except some broad principles.
9.       What if: Serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions by Randall Munroe – I liked the concept, but it was somewhat high transmission for me.
10.   Ready to Run: Unlocking your potential to run naturally by T J Murphy – Good read. It lists some 12 standards. I particularly picked up a few stretches to improve my own flexibility.
11.   Today we die a little by Emil Zatopek – This was a peek into the mind of a truly competitive running legend.
12.   Sapiens: A brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – I loved reading this (maybe because I took forever to finish this). Right from the foraging sapiens to agricultural & industrial revolution had good nuggets of information and perspectives. I only wish he had dwelled a bit more on the future, about bioengineered humans and amortal cyborgs
13.   Why we Run: A natural history by Heinrich – This is considered a classic, it’s an amalgamation of Heinrich’s expertise in biology and passion for running. I didn’t share the same passion for biology and the book felt a little flat for me.
14.   Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter – It explains why smartphones make dumb kids. As a parent, it reinforced what we already practiced about keeping laptops and smartphones away from toddlers.
15.   A man called Ove by Fredrik Backman – The story unfolds and with it our admiration for the protagonist. Fast paced, refreshing characters, some great story telling, I was actually sad that the book ended when it did.
16.   The Oxygen Advantage: The Simple, Scientifically Proven Breathing Techniques by Patrick McKeown. The author has a lifetime of experience in breathing and helping children with improving breathing. I tried to use the breath holding techniques in my running, ignoring the stares that I get as I run past inquisitive walkers with my nose closed!
17.   Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler – If this is your first book on behavioral economics you will like it. But I have read a few of this genre, there was nothing new that this book had to offer.
18.   Moonwalking with Einstein  by Joshua Foer – With some serious commitment, the author goes from covering the US memory championship as a journalist, to actually winning it. Although it opens your mind to the powers of how you can train it, as the author self-confesses, it does tell you how you can use these techniques to help remember names (which is my big weakness)
19.   Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens – Yet to complete this, but you can imagine the amount of stories that Big Data can throw up (even in work-related contexts), especially when you combine Facebook and Pornhub. I can already see myself using some of these anecdotes at work.
What did you like in 2017? What do you recommend for me? Share your thoughts in the comments section please.