What I’ve Been Reading (July 2014)

What a busy, crazy, fun, hot, cool month. I was remarking to someone the other day that this has been the coolest July I can remember, the temperature not topping 92 once this month. Usually July in Ohio means we are due for a hot streak where the only relief is a basement or pond.

For reading it’s been a bit of an odd month too. I’m trying to revisit the Stoic writings to continue with my Stoic Sunday blog posts in addition to some other books that interest me which seem to come with any Amazon purchase we make. I tried to convince my wife that you had to order a book each time to keep your Amazon Prime membership valid. She didn’t buy it.  What have I been reading?

Reality is Broken. Jane McGonigall’s book about how video games can make reality better turned me into a believer. Her premise is that video games and their tightly designed systems make us enjoy them more than we enjoy reality. If we take those systems and apply them to reality then we can make reality better. While I got sucked in and was mentally cheering her on while reading I still have doubts about how this all will work. Her theories seemed too good to be true. My takeaway was that some of these things will work exceptionally well with some minorities of the population, though not necessarily ones we think of as traditional gamers. It was a thicker and heavier read than I expected, though I appreciated this.

In Defense of Food. I consumed this as an audio book this month and it was a good reminder to “eat food, mostly plants, not too much.” Like church can be a spiritual refresh for the soul, this book was a cooking refresh for my food choices. Our family’s eating habits have slowly drifted into a convenience zone and getting the nudge from Pollan to lean the other way was good. I’ve read a few of his books and this is always my takeaway.

Do Cool Shit. An impulse borrow from the Ohio Digital Library but one I enjoyed and read in three days. Mike Agrawal tells her story from soccer player at Cornell to pizza entrepreneur and the struggles and triumphs along the way. I’ve got a longer review coming at Productivityist but know that I enjoyed this one.

Your First 1000 Copies. We recently signed up for Amazon Prime and this book came up as one I could borrow. At first it felt a bit like snake oil but Tim Grahl name drops authors I enjoy reading and by the end I figured that if they trust and follow his advice I should too. The premise is to build a connection system with your readers. The key piece of advice is to create a newsletter for your fans, speaking of which, you can subscribe to mine.

The Pixar Touch by David A. Price is the Pixar story, but not the one I was looking for. The book  could be an archetypical case for a business study. Pixar pivoted away from hardware to software and then software to animation. They had, as Jim Collins defined, the right people in the right jobs. They pushed in negotiations when they had to, and retreated when prudent. They focused on their core competencies and kept moving forward. This book was interesting after reading Isaacson’s Steve Jobs but was my least favorite book of the year.

Show your Work by Austin Kleon is one of those “rah, rah, go team go” books mixed with a raspy whisper, “alright kid, you want to get in the business, this is what you gotta do.” I enjoyed being inspired to create things, even ones as simple as this blog post. Austin has some great words and advice of inspiration in this book.

Letters From a Stoic by Seneca. When I began searching for Stoic writings to start with, this book was often suggested and I am glad I didn’t read it first. Either the translator or Seneca himself never hooked me. Reading this was like looking for a lost toy among piles of fallen leaves. You have to put in a lot of work before you find something valuable. Maybe that’s a Stoic principle in itself.

What did you read this month? Anything good? Let me know on Twitter, @MikeDariano.

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