What I’ve Been Reading – September 2014

The start of September meant back to school, and hopefully for me as well as the kiddies, a few more books in my life. I also tried switching to a new reading style of reading only one book at a time. No extra audio books, no Kindle copy of one thing and print version of another. I thought this would allow me to dive deeply into the book and let my subconscious simmer on an idea. When I went to bed, mowed the lawn, or ran outside, I tried to shift my thinking back to the book at hand and think about what sort of connections there might be to other things. My second reason was to eliminate a choice from my life. If there was time for reading I knew what I would read. This may sound simplistic, but we can be quite bad about making decisions, and often maintain the status quo to just avoid the choice.

In practice this didn’t really work. I needed to pull books for research or a digital loan was available that I wanted to read. The months I read a lot, are months when there are things I’d like to read.

Here’s all the monthly summary of what I’ve been reading.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Man did I want this book to be 80 pages and 2 chapters shorter. McKeown has some good ideas in the book but those good ideas are nestled next to some that don’t pass the sniff test and while some chapters are propped up by research, others are bloated with anecdotes. A good message of essentialism without being such.

Crimes Against Logic by Jamie Whyte. This came recommend from Farnam Street and it was a quick read about different logical mistakes we make. Not until after reading this did I start to see egregious examples of argumentative flaws I’ve made and received. Whyte’s basic suggestion is to make sure you are discussing the central point to an argument. Don’t get caught up in personal attacks, empty words, coincidence, shocking statistics, or morality fever. If you can avoid these – and a few others he mentions – you’ll be in good shape with your arguments. While reading this I couldn’t help but regularly think of The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking.

Sleeping with Your Smartphone by Leslie A Perlow. Perlow is a Harvard academic and after reading Give and Take I thought his book might be just as good. It isn’t, but it solves one problem well. If you have trouble communicating with your team or feel pressure not to disconnect from work, this book can help with that problem. The essence is that you need to be on the same page with your co-workers and this is done through regular and specific questions at scheduled meetings. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but Perlow provides first hand observations about what works.

The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money by Carl Richards. This book came recommended because of a blurb from Barry Ritholtz and it gave some unglamorous but important financial advice. There were a few takeaways in a book that was also a big too loose.

  • It was reassuring to hear advice from a financial professional to not watch the news. I’ve been in a few financial advisor offices where they had a stock ticker running and it makes me anxious to think they are actively responding to it. Carl suggests not worrying about the news so long as you think through a good plan.
  • Planning is important in all the areas of life. Carl does a nice job of sharing why we should take time to think through a plan and why we should revisit it. The book has some good leading questions, like “Have I ever tried this before and how did it turn out?” Not often enough do we reflect on historical choices related to the current ones that we can learn from.
  • The book also stressed focusing on the core elements of your current moment. If that’s work, then you focus at how to be better at work. In life you think about what you value most in life.

Money is a tool in life and to give it more attention than that may mean we are missing out on life.

59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute by Richard Wiseman. I heard Richard in an interview at YANSS and had seen this book populate the suggested reading section at Amazon. Like The Behavior Gap, many of the things Richard writes about are areas of psychology that I’ve already seen but he does a good job phrasing them in simple terms that helps me further understand them. The book includes sections on happiness, persuasion, and motivation among others. If you want a TL:DR summary of personal psychology this would be a great place to start. (Or if like me you need a refresher on some of these ideas).

What have you been reading this month? Let me know here or on Twitter, @MikeDariano.



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