There are times when Amazon’s recommendation engine is off. And when I say off, I’m talking way off. I’d use the phrase ‘out in left field,’ but there are times when it’s not even in the same zip code let alone the same ballpark.
Then there are times when the Amazon recommendation engine is right on the money. It’s like it knows what I’m reading, which, of course, it does. Such was the case when it recommended Impossible Dreams by Tim Pratt. The book checked nearly all of my regular reading boxes – science fiction, new author (for me), and short story. It was a no-brainer to add to my reading list.
Each year I like to review my fitness goals for the prior year and set new ones for the upcoming year. Doing these reviews helps to keep me focused and on track. As people like to say, you achieve the results you measure.
My goals for last year were centered around working out, walking, and diet. These have been the areas of focus for the last 3 years, and I plan to continue these into 2021. As you’ll see below, the COVID pandemic impacted my goals for last year, and I’m still figuring out how to adjust my goals for 2021 based on the challenges of the continued lock-downs and closures.
Let’s get into it by looking back on 2020 and then ahead into 2021.
The overwhelming majority of my recreational reading is science fiction. I like the way it portends the future and expands my imagination of what’s possible. However, every once in a while I like to explore a title that’s outside of my comfort zone. Such was the case recently with Fat Chance by Nick Spalding.
2020 marked my eighth year of blogging. Through the end of last year, I’ve published 511 posts for an average of ~65 posts/year, which I’m happy with.
As I like to do at the start of each year, here’s a look back on the year that was and a look forward to goals for 2021. In the meantime, here are the links to past editions of the annual review:
Let’s dig in with a look at traffic.
I enjoyed reading the devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young during 2019. It helped me grow stronger in my faith and relationship with Christ. I liked it so much that I wanted to continue reading a devotional during 2020, which turned out to be a good thing given all that’s happened over the past year.
I had noticed during 2019 that my mother was reading the devotional In Moments Like These by Dr. David Jeremiah. She liked it a lot. So much so, that when I told her I wanted to read another devotional in 2020, she bought me a copy. Therefore, my decision on a devotional for 2020 was an easy one.
Looking for books to read this year? Then, do I have a list of recommendations for you. As I’ve done in prior years, this year’s list is broken down into General Recommendations, Personal Development books, Business Reads, and a collection of what I like to call Fun Reads.
Since I did a better job this year of balancing my fiction and non-fiction titles, this year’s recommendations are strong mix of recreational and serious reads. Keep in mind that my tastes lean towards technology and science fiction, so most of the books on the list are from those genres.
I read a lot of near-term, hard science fiction. Hard doesn’t mean difficult. Hard means that it’s a realistic view of how technology could evolve in the near future, which is any time within the next 50 years.
A consistent theme in these books revolves around artificial intelligence. Specifically, it’s the threat posed by a runaway, super-intelligent AI that would threaten humanity’s existence. While the stories are fiction, the threat is real. Numerous technologists have warned about it, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk.
Another technological threat that doesn’t get as much attention is genetic editing. The technology is more commonly referred to as CRISPR. In simple terms, CRISPR gene editing involves changing the genetic structure of a living organism, humans included. While there are numerous positive uses for genetic editing such as vaccine development, the technology can also be used for nefarious purposes.
In his book Change Agent, author Daniel Suarez explores a near-future where gene editing technologies such as CRISPR are readily available. It raises a myriad of ethical questions. Should people be able to select and determine the personalities and capabilities of their children? What happens when the genetic structure of a person is changed, especially if it happens without their permission or knowledge?
My reading for this past year is locked in. I’m not expecting to finish any books between now and the end of the year. Therefore, I figured it was a good time to review and organize my reading list for 2021.
Is it possible that philosophical and behavioral concepts practiced and taught over 2,000 years ago are still valid today?
Let’s consider a modern psychotherapy known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). CBT is a treatment that modern psychologists use to help those who struggle with depression and anxiety. Using CBT, people are taught techniques and approaches to change destructive behaviors and thought patterns that trigger negative emotions.
As it turns out, many of these techniques are not new. They stem from ancient philosophical teachings, primarily those of Stoicism. In his book, How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, psychotherapist and trainer Donald Robertson shows how the actions and practices of ancient Stoics, focusing primarily on Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, are fundamentally similar to the techniques taught through CBT.
I don’t know what it is. This was supposed to be the year that I didn’t do it. I wasn’t going to give in yet again.
I suppose, as Abbey might say, that I just couldn’t help myself.