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.

The Letters of Clio #4 — Complicated is The New Black and a Deep Dive into Web3

Good morning, welcome from... my old apartment. We haven't moved, and we haven't even gotten the keys yet. The delivery has been postponed to Monday.

This isn't a big issue as we didn't start packing this weekend after all, unlike what I said in the last newsletter. Oops! If you know me personally, this won't surprise you. (Hi, mom!) I could very well just be named Lord Clio, Protector of Procrastination, First of His Name.

Oh, and one more thing before we start: I published the essay of this week's Letters on the blog, but to see the whole content, you have to sign up. If you read this through email, no worries, you are all set.

And thanks to Greg for helping me fix a stupid issue in my theme files. You're a genius.

Now to this week's essay!

I have been dabbling my toes into investing recently. I've mostly been writing my own set of investing rules and game-plan for next year. How much money do I want to invest, the split between long-term and short-term, do I want to touch crypto, etc.

What I've realised while doing this is that most of these things aren't that complicated. All you need is a set of rational rules, maybe some automation and then stop thinking about it.

Unfortunately, humans are neither rational nor very good at simplifying their lives. We seem to like complicated. The more extraordinary the method, the more we believe it's the correct option. While in reality, it's probably the opposite. Occam's Razor exists for a reason.

I see this in more than just investing. Life, in general, doesn't need complicated hacks to be decent.

Take health, for example. We follow all these crazy diets, take all these supplements (yours truly included), invent all these exercise regimens, and generally follow every new trend created by a celebrity.

And yet, as soon as you dig deeper, read up on some science, you realise the basics are all always the same:

  1. Sleep enough
  2. Hydrate (with water)
  3. Eat not too much, but primarily vegetables
  4. Exercise regularly, preferably in the sun
  5. Do things you love for the sake of doing them
  6. See friends and family

Unfortunately, to quote Oliver, these things are simple but not easy. And they are boring. We dislike boring. We are not wired that way.

So, we overcomplicate stuff. We try to find exciting methods because they seem to motivate us in the short term. But because this shit's complicated, we mess up, then stop doing it to the surprise of no one but ourselves.

I suffer from this myself: what is the best supplement for longevity, what new tool makes me work smarter, what's the latest news in meditation, is there an app that makes me a better writer?

There is always an answer. There is always one more thing. And so, I catch myself spending more time trying to optimise something than following the basics – more time researching doing the thing.

And yet, that's all it needs. Good, balanced basics, followed regularly.

Let there be light

And suddenly, I had no more electricity.

I have no clue what happened a few hours ago, who fell over an electricity cable or whose dog bit into it, but all of a sudden, all the lights and appliances went dark in my apartment.

I was cooking a pasta dish during my lunch break when I had to stop everything. After the initial panic wondering if a fuse blew, then if it's this apartment only, I've heard from neighbours they were experiencing the same issue.

Electricity was gone for two hours. And during these two hours, while I still had my phone and a 4G connection, nothing else worked anymore. And it made me realize how very dependant we are on electricity.

Basic things were all of a sudden impossible. I do tend to have a nap around noon, so I lower the shutters. Electronic shutters. And I tell Siri on my HomePod to wake me up. The HomePod connected to electricity and needing internet.

As I was cooking on an electric hob, I had to pause and put the veggies back into the fridge. That was turned off.

Also, and this is entirely on me, my phone had less than 20 per cent left.

In the end, I had to thank Gutenberg. At least I could read a few pages of my book thanks to the power of the sun!

But what if this happened at night, though? Well, I need more candles.

Thoughts on Writing Each and Every Day

Josh Ginter on writing daily blogposts for The Newsprint:

It’s not just about being exhausting, however. There are nights where you just want to veg and play video games rather than throwing something together for the blog. There are times when you don’t have a fully formed opinion and you sort of puke it out into existence. Or you create filler pieces to get through a few days.

I am in a similar position. Since November 4th, when I restarted this blog, I have written a piece at least five times a week.

I enjoy these daily writing sessions and mostly do them to strengthen my writing muscle which has been suffering from atrophy for several months.

But I don't think I can keep them up for longer than the month I've been planning to do so. And the reasons are the same as what Josh mentions here:

It's exhausting, though that is the point. It's like exercising. You have to stretch yourself to get better at it. But what annoys me most is that I don't have the time to think or do some proper research first: I take an idea, I write, I wait at least an hour, I edit, I publish, and all of this times five. And then I write a newsletter for Thursdays.

My overall plan for the blog in the future is to keep writing my newsletter on Thursdays (I will publish the newsletter essay on this blog, but to see the links I share and the status updates, you have to sign up for free), and write one to two bigger essays per week. Additionally, I will keep writing different series like Tsundoku and Select and maybe add a few more over time.

I will also keep up the daily writing habit, but solely in my journals. At least there no one cares if thoughts are only half baked.

My books are going digital

I got a Kindle. Well, I ordered one, but as you can see from the screenshot, it will take a while before I get it. It looks like the current shortages even affect that behemoth called Amazon.

I owned a Kindle in the past and didn't like it. Or rather, I didn't use it. Unlike today, I was not an avid reader back then, and the Kindle didn't change me into one. So I gifted it to a friend. From what I have been told, he still uses it to this day.

Yet, I still got one. Because I am, quite frankly, running out of space.

I love paper books. I love how they feel, what they smell like the first time you open them. I love when covers in a series match and create a complete artwork. I love when an author cared deeply about what typefaces were used, how the letters look on the page, how wide the margins are.

But, unfortunately, my bookshelf is slowly filling up. I have started to choose which books to display and which ones to hide in boxes. Also, I do tend to read a lot in bed. But sharing one with someone usually trying to sleep before you, means neither a reading light nor the light of an iPad screen is tolerated. Which is why I went with the Kindle.

I believe the overall reading experience will suffer in some while increasing in other aspects: The whole tactility, the usage of different senses will be gone, as will be the collector's part of owning books. Also, try to lend an ebook to someone.

On the other hand, the portability and ease of use will increase. I don't have to wait for a book to ship anymore. I don't have to be annoyed that the paperback editions are most often released six months after the vastly inferior hardcover book release. When travelling or commuting, I can carry several books without killing my back.

I still plan to get the paperback editions of the books I especially enjoy. I tend to reread those, and that way, I can technically have the best of both worlds.

However, one question remains: If people can't see the cover of the book I am reading while in public, how do they know I am very intelligent?