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Year End Reading For a Better You

As much as I love books, I also like to read blogs, and listen to podcasts.

So here is the year end, most popular, best of stuff that some of the places I frequent, have shared.
And in turn, I share it with you, to help you get a good jumpstart to the new year :)

For times, when you just want to veg out, the Ars TV Guide should have you covered, at least for January

Let’s start with Austin Kleon, in Your output depends on your input:

Problems of output are problems of input.

These amazing curated playlists are just a feedback loop. They’ll tell you what to listen to next week based on what you listened to last week. And because they’re a feedback loop, they won’t show you anything new or interesting.1
So what you need to do, if you really want to broaden your horizons as a listener, is to get exposed to new things. Pick somebody. It doesn’t have to be me…. Find somebody who you trust as a guide, and let them open your ears to these new experiences.

If you do that, you will be rewarded infinitely …

And here is Austin’s list of books he read in 2019.
(I just started reading Range.)

To get your finances in order, it always helps to stick with the basics.
Subra has a list of sensible suggestions to get stuff, ship shape.

I love Tim Urban’s ginormously long posts, like this one on SpaceX’s Big Fucking Rocket.
But what I really love about Tim this year, is that he’s started with a ginormously long series.
It’s called The Story of Us and it’s about, well, us.
From how consciousness evolved in us humans to how our animal brain still shapes our collective actions, this series has it all!
Read it all here. Definitely worth your time.

Tim Ferriss has started a series within his podcast, called Books I’ve Loved.
Short little episodes, from people, I love reading.
Tim kicks it off himself, here.
Seth Godin and Esther Perel share an episode. (I loved Thinking in Bets, a Seth recommendation)

Leo Babauta, the man who practically gives away darn near everything he creates and helped me find calm, celebrates a decade of writing on Zen Habits.
His list of posts are at the bottom of the page.
I personally loved, Working with the Heartbreaking Feeling That Something is Wrong with You.

Derek Sivers, argues Your year changes when your life changes.

If my post summarising James Clear’s Atomic Habits didn’t do it for you, then Ryan Holiday does a much better job with How to Develop Better Habits in 2020.

Daily Stoic has their best of the best up.
I loved You Have The Power To Straighten Your Back.

The Art of Manliness has a post on the highlights that made up their year.
I’m a big fan of all their Fireside posts.

On to the man who made me fall in love with learning, Scott Young.
He too had long guides this year, alongside all his other learning endeavours.
Find them all here.

Farnam Street were their usual incredible selves this year.
I am happy I live in a time when something like this exists.
Shane’s annual letters now rival Warren Buffett’s for their clarity of thought.
The podcast is a treat, I always look forward to. I loved the Kahneman episode.
And this years posts, somehow resonated with more depth, for me.
How Not to Be Stupid is one such example.

I’ll close with two people, who I cannot pick any favourites out of.

If you can, read all of Neil Gaiman’s tumblr.
The man is kind, patient, wise, and has incredible advice.

And finally, read Maria Popova.
I credit her, (after my dad) with opening my eyes to everything in life.
Art. Beauty. Tolerance. Kindness. Poetry.
Name it, and she beautifully explains it.
She has a best of, page, but seriously, you owe it to yourself, to just subscribe to her blog.

And with that, I bid you good bye for now.
See you warm folk, next year :)

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P.P.S. Feed my insatiable reading habit.


  1. Yes, I get the irony of quoting this in my curated list :) 

I Wish You Warmth!

Sandra Fabiani

Warmth is a fire place in winter.
Warmth is the love of your family and friends.
Warmth is compassion end empathy.
Warmth is a smile and kindness from strangers.
Warmth is a hug when we are feeling bad.
Warmth is kind words when you are doubting yourself.

Monica Lewinsky

Soul connecting hugs …

Ben Stiller

Fireplaces, hearths, wood. Everything I didn’t experience growing up […]
Also puppies and Xmas music

Caitlin Geghan

My dad’s last letter to me—words of encouragement & love, handed to me after he passed for our first Christmas without him. (Amazing how a single paragraph of love can push you through the hardest days. I reread it whenever I need his long-armed hugs.)

Sarah Hajar

Warmth is "Sabrina's Scarf"

December 2014. Amman. On a bus. Ready to move on. A little girl appeared. Our guide called to us. "Anyone has extra scarf for this girl. She is from the Syrian refugee camp." My sister Sabrina took off hers.

Melinda Beatty

The smell of cinnamon. The color orange. Coffee. Fresh bread. Low ceilings with dark, oak beams. 

Roger Burks

For me, warmth is togetherness. Shelter in family & friends. A feeling that, no matter what else is happening or what troubles await, that particular moment is safe, sacred & shareable. It's a sense of care that endures. […]

Tina Knuth

As a homeless single teen mother in November of 1981, Friends shared an apartment. 5 adults and three children under age 4. We kept everyone fed (barely) and were warm for that winter. Life sucked badly, but the apartment became our stronghold for 6 months.

Kit

I grew up poor, our parents only let us turn the heat on when family visited on holidays. When I moved out I fell in love with cast iron radiators. They make strange noises and when I use them I get the sense my grandma is about to arrive for dinner.


“What reminds you of warmth?”



That was the question Neil Gaiman, posed to his twitter followers, hoping to crowdsource the best thoughts into a short poem to help the UNHCR with their appeal to help Syrian refugees survive the freezing winter, far from home.

Easy peasy. How hard could it be?
It was only ridiculously difficult, as it turned out.
The tweet went viral and Gaiman found himself facing twenty five thousand words worth of replies.
And from there, he wove a poem of beauty.
I quote it, in its entirety here.
via The Guardian


What You Need to be Warm by Neil Gaiman

A baked potato of a winter’s night to wrap your hands around or burn your mouth.
A blanket knitted by your mother’s cunning fingers. Or your grandmother’s.
A smile, a touch, trust, as you walk in from the snow
or return to it, the tips of your ears pricked pink and frozen.

The tink tink tink of iron radiators waking in an old house.
To surface from dreams in a bed, burrowed beneath blankets and comforters,
the change of state from cold to warm is all that matters, and you think
just one more minute snuggled here before you face the chill. Just one.

Places we slept as children: they warm us in the memory.
We travel to an inside from the outside. To the orange flames of the fireplace
or the wood burning in the stove. Breath-ice on the inside of windows,
to be scratched off with a fingernail, melted with a whole hand.

Frost on the ground that stays in the shadows, waiting for us.
Wear a scarf. Wear a coat. Wear a sweater. Wear socks. Wear thick gloves.
An infant as she sleeps between us. A tumble of dogs,
a kindle of cats and kittens. Come inside. You’re safe now.

A kettle boiling at the stove. Your family or friends are there. They smile.
Cocoa or chocolate, tea or coffee, soup or toddy, what you know you need.
A heat exchange, they give it to you, you take the mug
and start to thaw. While outside, for some of us, the journey began

as we walked away from our grandparents’ houses
away from the places we knew as children: changes of state and state and state,
to stumble across a stony desert, or to brave the deep waters,
while food and friends, home, a bed, even a blanket become just memories.

Sometimes it only takes a stranger, in a dark place,
to hold out a badly knitted scarf, to offer a kind word, to say
we have the right to be here, to make us warm in the coldest season.

You have the right to be here.


And here he is, narrating it …


So, on this Christmas day, I wish you all warmth!
I wish we be kinder, and more inclusive.
I wish we be more generous.
I pray that we start with the Man in the Mirror.
I pray for more warmth :)
And if you do need reminding, just look at the replies to Neil’s question.

Merry Christmas, all you warm and gorgeous people!
And a Happy New Year!


My Friend

I have to learn to make time for reading and writing, which has slowed to a crawl ever since I am slowly getting back to life.
Hence these untimely letters.

This week, I present a little story I read when I was, oh, about ten years old.
Thirty years later, it still guides my actions and affirms my faith.
It has always given me a strange kind of freedom, when it comes to my how I go about life, encouraging me to do my best, and not to worry even if I stumble.
It planted the very powerful seed, that God if (s)he exists, is more loving than just.
I just ought to be a good human.


Malik, son of Dinar, was much upset about the profligate behaviour of a youth who lived next door to him. For a long time he took no action, hoping that someone else would intervene. But when the youth’s behaviour became intolerable, Malik went to him and insisted that he change his ways.

The youth calmly replied that he was a protégé of the sultan and so nobody could prevent him from living the way he wanted.

Said Malik, “I shall personally complain to the sultan.” Said the youth, “that will be quite useless, because the sultan will never change his mind about me.”

“I shall then denounce you to Allah,” said Malik. “Allah,” said the youth, “is far too forgiving to condemn me.”

Malik went away defeated. But after a while the youth’s reputation became so bad that there was a public outcry about it. Malik decided that it was his duty to reprimand him. As he was walking to the youth’s house, however, he heard a voice say to him, “Do not touch my friend. He is under my protection.” Malik was thrown into confusion by this and, when he was in the presence of the youth, did not know what to say.

Said the young man, “What have you come for now?” Said Malik, “I came to reprimand you. But on my way here a voice told me not to touch you, for you are under his protection.”

The profligate seemed stunned. “Did he call me his friend?” he asked. But by then Malik had already left his house. Years later, Malik met this man in Mecca. He had been so touched by the words of the voice that he had given up his possessions and become a wandering beggar.

“I have come here in search of my Friend,” he said to Malik, and died.


This lovely parable is just one of many, in Anthony de Mello’s beautiful compendium of parables, The Song of the Bird.

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Books I’ve Read, October Edition

Before we begin the festivities, here’s a small aside to the techheads who follow me and the tech muggles who care about privacy.
(Which should actually be all of us, considering the various invasions of privacy happening)
My friend and mentor, Kushal writes short newsy notes on what goes on in that world. Why privacy matters and how the powers that be are stripmining our privacy and what we can do to protect it.

Go, subscribe now!


October

Alright, back to the music.
As you know, I spent most of last month cooped up in bed.
What do I do if I am sick?
I read :)
So this month is a big doozy :)

  • Can’t Hurt Me, David Goggins
    (absolutely must read. Lindy read.
    My second Lindy read in a month! I must be really lucky.
    I’ve been fascinated by David, ever since I read Living with a Seal.
    This book reveals the mental mindset behind his superhuman feats.
    If you’re wondering who David is, this will help.)

  • The 33 Marks of Maturity, Brett & Kate McKay
    (absolutely must read. Lindy read.
    this book is short and packed with wisdom, about what it takes to be, well, mature.
    in the real adult mature sense.
    it reads like your dad or your older brother talking you through life’s truths)

  • Our Magnificient Bastard Tongue, John McWhorter
    (must read. this was one of the best and funniest pieces of non fiction I have read in a while.
    if you are curious about why English is the way it is, this book provides a few answers.
    here’s a quote, “German, Dutch, Swedish, and the gang are, by and large, variations on what happened to Proto-Germanic as it morphed along over three thousand years. They are ordinary rolls of the dice. English, however, is kinky. It has a predilection for dressing up like Welsh on lonely nights.”
    McWhorter is funny, and insightful)

  • The Perpetual Beginner, Dave Isaacs
    (Music maestro Dave, has a lot of advice for folk like me;
    the beginners who cannot seem to get over the beginning hump, the ones who do not yearn for mastery, just the ability to be fluent enough to translate what they hear in their head into notes on the guitar.
    worth a read.)

  • The Revelation Space Omnibus, Alastair Reynolds
    (fun read. this kept me good company as I lie in bed sick.
    it’s an awesome world to lose yourself in, taking you as it does across thousands of years of space and time.)

    • Chasm City
    • Redemption Ark
    • Absolution Gap
    • Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days
    • The Prefect
  • Retire Inspired, Chris Hogan
    (good read. another Dave Ramsey title.
    I reread this just to keep myself on track.
    i may not have money now, but i know what to do once I reinvent myself)

  • The Greatest Trade Ever, Gregory Zuckerman
    (the story of how John Paulson, saw the subprime bubble and made a killing.
    If you liked The Big Short, you’ll like this.
    Not Michael Lewis level writing though)

  • The Odessa File, Frederick Forsyth
    (there’ll probably be a whole lot of Forsyth after this one.
    all of them, must reads.
    Forsyth is the master of his genre. fuck that. he practically owns the genre.
    Nazi war criminals have been hounded because of his fiction!
    and like Caro, he is the master of his craft.
    you know how he develops his characters, you kinda know how it all works, but every new novel is still fun.
    and for me, I am on my umpteenth reread of his work.
    and I enjoy myself even now after all these years.)

  • The Deceiver, Frederick Forsyth

  • Avenger, Frederick Forsyth

  • The Day of the Jackal, Frederick Forsyth
    (my first Forsyth novel)

  • The Fox, Frederick Forsyth

  • The Kill List, Frederick Forsyth

  • The Fist of God, Frederick Forsyth

  • The Afghan, Frederick Forsyth

  • The Cobra, Frederick Forsyth

  • Icon, Frederick Forsyth

  • The Dogs of War, Frederick Forsyth

  • The Biafra Story, Frederick Forsyth
    (Forsyth at his journalistic best.
    a beautiful, haunting, empathic recounting of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war from the Biafran point of view.)

  • The Outsider, Frederick Forsyth
    (lots of life stories compiled.
    not quite an autobiography.
    more like a drunk uncle telling awesome stories of his life.
    (all of which happen to be true, however fantastic they sound.))

  • The Proximity Principle, Ken Coleman
    (another book from the Dave Ramsey stable.
    more common sense advice.
    this time for your career.
    worth a read)

  • Forever and Ever, Amen, Randy Travis
    (it’s always sad, when you discover as you grow older, that your heroes are only human and your idols have feet of clay.
    I’ve listened to every Randy Travis album ever since my cousin brother gifted me Storms of Life all those years back.
    And it seems strange that for all I learnt about life from those songs, the baritone who sang them, did not.
    I learnt from those songs and became a man. Randy stayed a man child.
    It’s a raw book. Randy lays his life bare.
    It’s funny, poignant, cautionary and uplifting.
    And there’s the names and people parading through his life.
    I did not know the Terminator gave Randy fitness tips.
    Or that Dirty Dancing Swayze sang backup vocals for him.
    definitely worth a read if you are a country music fan.
    It’s a portrait of a flawed life yes, but also a life filled with lots of love and friendship and music and devotion and faith.)

  • The Body, A Guide for Occupants, Bill Bryson
    (Bill is a guide. The best kind there is.
    He tells it like it is. and tells it pithily and funnily.
    Be it the evolution of English, how our homes came to be, or just a history of everything, Bill has done it all.
    This time he tackles a new frontier. The human body.
    From head to tail, err … toe, Bryson explores every part of the human body.
    And as usual it is exceedingly awesome.
    Sample this, “Although Funk coined the term “vitamines,” and is thus often given credit for their discovery, most of the real work of determining the chemical nature of vitamins was done by others, in particular Sir Frederick Hopkins, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in 1929—a fact that left Funk permanently in one.”
    You will learn lots and laugh lots.
    Go read.)

  • Morgan’s Run, Colleen McCullough
    (I don’t know why, but this is the one of the few pieces of modern fiction, I re–read a lot.
    Probably because Richard Morgan, the protaganist is a stoic hero.
    And I love the Stoics.
    It’s all about how Australia and Norfolk Island (the focus of the story) got settled, by the riff raff England did not want.
    About how they struggled.
    About how they made the most of the very meagre natural resources at the time.
    I kept hoping against hope that she’d write a sequel, because I so wanted to know more about this part of history.
    It’s a lovely read. A lose yourself in history book)

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Books I’ve Read, September Edition

Hello, folks!
Let’s get this show back on the road, shall we?
Before we resume, I just want to thank you for all your notes of encouragement and good wishes.
I still am not out of the woods, yet, but healthy enough to resume writing these littles notes :)

September

  • Everyday Millionaires, Chris Hogan
    (must read. but only for folks like me who are a little slow with money. it’s a typical Dave Ramsey book. short. to the point. all meat, no bones. lots of stories.
    the book itself is an exploration of their study of 10,000 millionaires in the USA. no, she does not own a fancy penthouse. she is more likely to be a high school teacher in her early to mid fifties.)

  • The Veteran, Frederick Forsyth
    (must read. found my old copy and reread it.
    this is a collection of 5 novellas of varying lengths, each with a twist you don’t see coming.
    The Veteran is classic Forsyth.
    My favourite, Whispering Wind, is Forsyth trying to do a L’Amour and coming within striking distance. Old western, time travel and reincarnation; this one has it all)

  • Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths of Language Usage, John McWhorter

  • The Revelation Space Omnibus, Alastair Reynolds

    • Galactic North
    • Revelation Space

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Books I’ve Read, August Edition

August

  • Ultralearning, Scott H Young
    (must read.
    if you are looking to tackle something foundationally important, this book gives you one solid approach.
    it’s mostly common sense.
    but common sense that is laid out in a really logical manner.
    i learnt to plan my project, that hard learning is normal, that failure is normal, and that persistence is a prerequisite.
    all critical things, since learning no longer “comes naturally” to me.)

  • Memories, Lang Leav
    (must read)

  • The Universe of Us, Lang Leav
    (must read. Leav writes beautifully haunting poetry)

  • Dissent on Aadhaar, compilation, Reetika Khera (editor)
    (must read. this insightful, erudite read, tackles the various issues of Aadhaar on multiple levels, with multiple experts from various fields, voicing their concern.
    if you want to know, why Big Brother is Bad Business, why Aadhaar is a bad idea and what its fallout c(w)ould be, this is the book to read)

  • Learning Python, Mark Lutz
    (this was a text book I needed to read to learn programming. loved it.)

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