Whether you get your news from the internet, television, newspaper, radio, or any other media outlet, it can be downright depressing. Headlines abound of natural disasters, terrorism, war, territorial disputes, violent crimes, and, these days, continuous coverage of the pandemic. It’s enough to make you think we live in the darkest of times.
This constant negative news cycle led me to read Factfulness by Hans Rosling last year. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. It’s one of my Must Reads and at the top of my books to read in 2020. The book puts the news cycle into its proper perspective and makes you realize that we actually live in the best times ever known to humanity.
I’ve made this opinion known to many people, and in one of those discussions, a friend told me that I had to read Enlightment Now by Steven Pinker. Since I like to get input and insight from different sources on a subject, and since this was a very good friend and trusted source, I made it a point to put the book near the top of my reading list for this year.
Humanity has a seemingly endless fascination with exploration. It’s as if it’s built into our DNA, which it probably is. People have been fascinated with exploring new lands for millennia with expeditions to the New World, Antarctica, and Moon being some of the more recent. Aurora, by Kim Stanley Robinson, is written based on this tradition.
I became interested in personal development a few years ago. My goal was to learn how to manage myself better by understanding how the mind works and building good habits.
Since then, I’ve read quite a few books on the topic. Here are the 10 books that I found most useful in my personal development journey. They are the ones the had the biggest influence on changing the way I approach life, and hopefully, in reading these, they will have the same positive effect on your life too.
The first, and only, William Gibson novel I’ve read is Neuromancer. It’s been nearly five years since I read it. I don’t remember a lot of details about the book. What I do remember is that I liked it a lot, and I was impressed by the amount of technology foreshadowing in the novel. The immersive cyberspace environment and human augmentation concepts that he wrote about back in 1984 were way ahead of their time. Those seemingly far-fetched concepts are close to becoming a reality today, if not here already.
Ever since finishing Neuromancer, I’ve wanted to read more of Gibson’s works. It’s taken a while for some reason or another, but I finally got around to it. So, for my second venture into Gibson’s extensive library, I choose to read the follow-up to Neuromancer, Count Zero.
One of my goals for this year is to be more present, to live in the moment. It’s a recurring theme in my meditation practices, and, as I recently wrote about, one I consistently struggle with. I have a tendency to get wrapped up in my thoughts, whether it’s about the past, the future, or my latest work project. These distractions can keep me from being fully present and engaged in the now.
So what do when I’m struggling with something? I research and read about it.
Therefore, I decided to read 10-Minute Mindfulness: 71 Simple Habits for Living in the Present Moment by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport. I figured that I would find at least a few of their recommendations useful on my journey to living more mindfully.
My favorite reading genre is science fiction, which you already know if you frequent my blog. However, every once in a while, I’ll step outside my comfort zone and read something a bit, well, different. Such was the case with Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale.
Clearly, the book does not fit into the science fiction category. There is no mention of sentient robots, super-intelligent AI, space travel, or alien beings. In fact, there is pretty much no mention of any technology whatsoever. If anything, it fits into the romance genre, which I don’t like much and rarely read. But you know what, I liked Everything We Keep, a lot. I’m not afraid to admit it, and here’s why.
My reading list is downright crazy. There are over 220 books on my “Want to Read” list on Goodreads. I do my best to prioritize the list every year, but even then a book can sit on it. Such was the case with The Jennifer Project by Larry Enright.
I first came across the book in March, 2017. I’m almost positive it came through an Amazon recommendation or one of their daily deal emails. The description looked good with numerous references to artificial intelligence (AI), so it fit in with my favorite reading genre – science fiction.
I put the book on my 2018 reading list, but it was pretty far down the queue. I moved it up considerably in 2019, but still wasn’t able to get to it. It finally made it up to the top of this year’s list, and I finished it last month.
For most of my life, I had no interest in studying philosophy. Studying philosophy evoked images of college professors wearing corduroy jackets with elbow patches, smoking pipes, sitting around contemplating the meaning of life. The subject felt way too theoretical for me. I was always interested in the subjects of math and science where you were presented with problems and challenged to find the answers.
My attitude toward philosophy changed two years ago when I was encouraged to read The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holliday and Stephen Hanselman. Seeing how the writings of philosophers who lived 2,000 years ago were just as applicable today fascinated me. I learned a lot exploring each of the daily readings and was interested in learning more about Stoicism.
My interest has led me to start exploring more direct interpretations of the ancient philosophical writings of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Seneca, and others. One of my first explorations was The Manual: A Philosopher’s Guide to Life, originally written by Epictetus. I read a translation that was compiled by Sam Torode, who also wrote a modern translation of the James Allen classic As a Man Thinketh.
One of my favorite authors is Blake Crouch. Ever since reading the Wayward Pines trilogy, I’ve made an effort to keep at least one or two Crouch novels in my reading list at all times. So far, I haven’t met a Crouch novel that I didn’t like.
Abandon was the latest book of his that I read. It’s written in classic Crouch style. He doesn’t waste anytime drawing you into the story. He builds the characters on the fly. There’s also a lot of time shifting, which is another characteristic of his writing. There’s also a lot that’s different, which I liked.
I would consider myself a follower of Seth Godin. I discovered his blog over 10 years ago and have been a daily reader ever since.
Seth has also written a lot of books on marketing and business, but I hadn’t read any of them. I might be changing my tune after recently reading The Bootstrapper’s Bible.