Tsundoku | My reading list for November 2021

How is it December already? Wasn't it November a few minutes ago?

Well, a new month means a new reading list, so here are all the books I read in November.  For the stats:

  • Books read: 6
  • Approx. pages read: 1412
  • Split ebook/paper books: 1/5
  • Split fiction/non fiction: 1/5

How to Change by Katy Milkman

A great book on how to use science — not willpower — to form habits. Do you want to start exercising, eat healthily and save money? Read this book first. It's the perfect type of non-fiction. Short enough to be read in one sitting but packed full of knowledge.

A weird side-note: I kept believing I had read this book before during the whole reading. But Milkman kept mentioning the pandemic, which doesn't add up. Maybe the Matrix glitched.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

The only novel this month. How to Stop Time is the story of Tom, a so-called alba (from albatross, apparently people in the past believed they lived forever), a group of people that ages much slower than us normals, lovingly called mayflies. Tom was born in 1581 and ages at a rate of 1:15. This book is all about what it's like to survive your loved ones, see the world change over the centuries and how to cope with all of it.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Another one by Matt Haig. In Reasons to Stay Alive, Haig writes about his experience with suicidal depression in beautiful prose. This book is part memoir, part guide on how to keep going. I have never experienced depression. So many things here were difficult for me to grasp, but regardless I can only recommend this to everyone, especially if you know someone suffering from depression.

The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

And yet one more Haig. The Comfort Book follows in the footsteps of Reasons to Stay Alive and is, to quote Haig, "a collection of consolations learned in hard times and suggestions for making the bad days better". There's a lot of Stoic influence in this book. It even reads like Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: a book/journal written for the author himself to read on bad days.

There is a lot of wisdom in these pages collected from different sources. One example: one chapter is a list of songs Haig listens to when in a bad mood.

Courage is Calling by Ryan Holiday

Talking of Stoicism: Ryan Holiday, THE Stoic guy, has released a new book, Courage is Calling. This book is, well, obviously, about Courage. The kind of capital C courage that changes worlds — no matter if it's only the tiny, personal world the protagonist inhabits.

I've always liked the way Holiday tells a story. He follows a specific principle: first, some historical storytelling (to me as a history fan, the fun part), then what lessons can be gained. Funnily enough, my favourite chapter this time around was the afterword. It was a personal anecdote, and I believe, his strongest chapter in the book.

The stories in Courage is Calling are rather "grandiose". It's mostly about people that either changed their world fundamentally or so strongly believed in their cause that they died protecting it.

I have, as of yet, a few days after reading the book (and writing this review) to see how I can apply what I read to my life. I hope that I am odd enough to dare to do the courageous thing regarding my life decisions. But for the big stuff? Capital C Courage? Maybe I'll be ready when courage is calling. But for now, I am entertained.

The Minimalist Entrepreneur by Sahil Lavingia

Sahil Lavingia is best known as the founder of Gumroad; a platform helping creators make money with their (digital) creations. Unlike most companies, Sahil bootstrapped Gumroad. Though they raised funding in the past but failed, Sahil restarted the company to be much smaller and saner. In the Minimalist Entrepreneur, he shares what he has learned and what he now believes is the best way to create a successful, healthy company.

I don't see myself as an entrepreneur (yet?), but I believe a lot in this book can be used as guidance for a successful side-gig, slash hobby, like this very blog.

I have realized that I don't even remotely read enough books written by women. I need to remedy that.

Please send me your favourite books of the year written by a woman.

Tsundoku | October 2021

Let's talk books.

I've used to list the books I read on a page on this blog. But then I got bored of the format and didn't check that page myself, which made me stop.

Stop writing, not reading. Reading is all I do in my free time. And I still like the idea of having a publicly available page where I list them. So I am reintroducing the Tsundoku category. I hope you enjoy the reading list for October. But before we start, some stats:

  • Books read: 7
  • Approx. pages read: 1238
  • Split ebook/paper books: 2/5
  • Split fiction/non fiction: 2/5

(I'll be using these stats to do some graphs over time.)

Your Music and People by Derek Sivers

In October, I decided to read all the books by Derek Sivers. Your Music and People was the one I started with while waiting for "How to Live" to get shipped.

Sivers is, to me, one of the most insightful people I follow. When he says something, I listen. So despite its name, I read Your Music and People, knowing I wasn't into making it as a musician.

It turns out Your Music and People is the best book about writing that isn't about writing I've ever read. Talking to an acquaintance of mine, he said the same thing, but about photography. To quote Oliver:

Your Music and People is one of the best books about photography that isn’t about photography that I’ve read.

See? Same thing. That means it is true.

If you care about creating art and hopefully one day making it full time, read this.

Hell Yeah or No by Derek Sivers

This was a reread. I read Hell Year or No when it was released
and it was the first book I read by Derek. It was what made me appreciate him as a writer.

Hell Yes or No fit perfectly with Four Thousand Weeks (below). Combined, both books made me trim the fat and get rid of unnecessary interests that I was pursuing because I thought I had to. It made me stop studying Japanese for the moment (I will pick it up again) because learning Japanese right now is not a "Hell Yeah". So, it's a no.

On the contrary, it reminded me of where my actual values lie. For your benefit, this blog is part of it.

How to Live by Derek Sivers

How to Live is inspired by Sum. And Sum is one of the best books I've read and the one I plan to gift to people. (I like the idea of being someone who gives books!)

Every chapter in How to Live is a standalone essay on life. And most of them contradict each other. It's confusing at first until you realize that not every chapter is for you. It won't resonate with you. It might in the future, it might not.

I had a bunch of chapters that angered me. Because it didn't correspond with how I see life. Others validated this worldview. Though my strong reactions were a sign, I might have to be more open-minded on different subjects.

Sivers says "How to Live" is his best book yet. And I think he's onto something. I would add this to my "To gift" pile if it weren't that cumbersome to order when living in Europe.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman

This book hit me in the face, and it did so hard. I am a sucker for productivity shit. I could read all the "how I get work done" blogposts of the world and still want more. (I guess it's how I procrastinate? Reading about working instead of working.)

But this book right here? It slaps you and makes you aware of two truths: 1) You don't have enough time for everything you want to do, and 2) in the end, you're dead anyway.

Fortunately, the book isn't as depressive as I just made it sound. It's not there to tell you that everything you do is but wasting time, but rather to focus on the things that bring you value.

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor

I am torn with this one. I've been meditating for such a long time that the breath, to me, is the most powerful tool we all share. I know how to use it to hype myself up or calm down. I know how to trigger my parasympathetic nervous system through my breath alone. I know all the breathing methods in existence.  I am a breath-nerd.

I was excited to discover this book. But while reading, I had to put down the book a few times to look up the research. And unfortunately, there wasn't always something to prove the author's claims. I know science sometimes lacks behind what's happening in the real world. But too much stuff to me was anecdotal.

Except for the last chapter sharing different breathing exercises, I am not sure I can recommend this. But you can find these practices on the internet. (Maybe I should post them on here.)

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

I had this book on my wishlist for a long time and then found it by chance in a bookshop. Yes, a physical bookshop. I still go to these, even though most don't have a great collection of English books in this country. Please finance me to launch a bookstore in Luxembourg and remedy this.

Piranesi is an excellent read with fantastic world-building. It's mystical, poetic, philosophical, and suspenseful. I've read it in one sitting because I just couldn't put it down.

If there is a book I want to see as a movie, it's this one. I wonder how they would bring Piranesi's house to life.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

This might be one of the best fiction books I read in a long while. Maybe one of the best ever. It's very high up there next to Neverwhere and American Gods (both by Neil Gaiman).

It's also the first time a book made me tear up. It surprised me, and I ended up buying all the books I could find by Matt Haig. I had to import them from the UK to have them look the same.

I don't want to say too much about this book for fear of spoiling it, but the gist is:

What if you could change all the past choices, regrets and live your life differently. What would you change?

And that's it, the first issue of Tsundoku of the year. The plan is to release these on every first Saturday of a month. Wish me luck not to break my goals...

And for all the Japan-Nerds, here is the definition for Tsundoku (積ん読) from the Cambridge Dictionary:

the practice of buying a lot of books and keeping them in a pile because you intend to read them but have not done so yet; also used to refer to the pile itself