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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up2019-06-16 19:59:06

Book #12 of 2019 is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. This was an interesting one. Although I liked some of her ideas on how to go about tidying up, I think a lot of it is impractical for me, at least as described in the book. Perhaps in individual consultations she's able to customize her suggestions and tailor them better to the client. Still an interesting read, and it was good to be exposed to ideas from different cultures which I wouldn't have otherwise come across.

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Nightmare in Pink2019-06-09 15:14:15

Book #11 of 2019 is Nightmare in Pink by John D. MacDonald. #3 of the Travis McGee series. Slightly less fun than the previous one because I wasn't totally satisfied with the way he manages to extricate himself from the situation near the end.

Also something I realized I prefer about MacDonald's writing compared to Lee Child (for instance) is that he doesn't go into a blow-by-blow account of physical action/fights. I find that I tend to mostly gloss over those parts of other books since it's not worth trying to build a mental video of the fight because it's a lot of effort and only the outcomes of the fight are relevant to the plot. MacDonald likewise tends to gloss over the details which saves me some time :)

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The Deep Blue Good-by2019-06-09 15:08:42

Book #10 of 2019 is The Deep Blue Good-by by John D. MacDonald. It's the first of the novels featuring the Travis McGee character (see my previous blog post). It was pretty decent, I thought. I'm amused by the random tangential, almost poetic/stream-of-conciousness paragraphs that the author throws in once in a while. Reminds me of George Carlin. My local library doesn't have the whole series but I guess I'll read whatever they do have.

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The Killing Floor2019-05-29 20:46:15

Book #9 of 2019 is Killing Floor by Lee Child. This is another re-read, because I felt in the mood for some mindless fiction after book #8. I read this a few years ago when I read the Reacher series, and I still remember the plot twists, but it was still fun to read again. This library copy had an introduction (or maybe a foreword) by the author that I hadn't seen before and it was moderately interesting. He mentioned the Travis McGee books as being some kind of inspiration so I've requested the first couple of those from the library to see what they're like.

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Hold on to your Kids2019-05-27 19:07:41

Book #8 of 2019 is Hold On To Your Kids. This one is actually a re-read; I read it a while ago and found it really insightful, and it's a lot more relevant to me now than it was then, so I figured I would read it again.

The main premise of the book is that many children these days, for a variety of reasons, are peer-oriented rather than adult-oriented. That is, they look to each other for guidance and belonging, which results in a dysfunctional blind-leading-the-blind kind of situation. This has all sorts of ramifications and compounding effects which the books discusses. It also covers ways to prevent this from happening, or at lease reduce the severity of it.

The book appealed to me in particular because it exposes assumptions in a process that basically only became important once they no longer hold. I run into this sort of situation a lot when debugging code, and discovering the broken assumptions leads to a deeper understanding of the whole system. In this book, society rests on an assumption of adult-orientedness in children, which fails a lot nowadays (in particular since the second half of the 20th century), and the book brings this to light.

In terms of readability, the book is not that great. It can be repetitive at times, and it's fairly dense so takes a while to get through. But it's totally worth it.

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Past Tense2019-04-14 06:59:38

Book #7 of 2019 is Past Tense by Lee Child. I've been a fan of the Jack Reacher books for a few years now. While they tend to be a bit outlandish, I do enjoy the way they're written and the Reacher character. This one was no exception. I just finished it so it's hard to give an unbiased comparison to the other books in the series but I would place it a bit above average.

It's fiction so I don't have much else to say here. If you like the Reacher books I'm sure you'll read it at some point anyway.

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Why We Sleep2019-04-14 06:54:26

Book #6 of 2019 is Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. This was a really good book, and I plan to purchase a copy for myself. Written by a researcher in the field, it's full of interesting results about the importance of sleep and in particular what REM vs NREM sleep does to your brain. Again, I'm amazed by how much research has been done in this area, and how little of it is part of "common knowledge".

As with The Circadian Code this book cites numerous studies, but it doesn't feel repetitive at all and the information presented is well divided into separate topics/themes. The author also mostly stays away from personal anecdotes, but provides a touch of humour throughout the book which kept me engaged.

I would recommend this book to anybody and everybody. It's really eye-opening and brings home the detrimental effects of cutting out sleep.

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In Your Best Interest2019-03-30 20:53:46

Book #5 of 2019 is In Your Best Interest: The Ultimate Guide to the Canadian Bond Market. I got interested in learning about bonds after watching some Khan Academy video on the difference between bonds and stocks. Despite it (a) being pretty much the only book I could find on the Canadian bond market and (b) supposedly being written with beginners in mind, I did not find the book particularly illuminating.

While the author seems to have knowledge and experience in the area of bonds, I don't think he did a good job translating that knowledge into a book. Much of the basic stuff was repeated over and over, while the more complex stuff was not explained properly. Also at one point the writing randomly switched (mid-paragraph) from being directed towards a retail investor (i.e. me) to being directed towards an investment advisor. That was just weird.

Anyway, I ended up skimming a big chunk of this book so I can't really claim to have "read" it. I did read the parts that I thought would be most useful, and they did not live up to my expectations. Ah well.

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Bad Blood2019-03-23 19:44:33

Book #4 of 2019 is Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou. It's the story of Theranos and how they managed to dupe so many people with their blood analysis device that didn't really work.

Although I'd seen the name Theranos come up in my newsfeed from time to time, I mostly just ignored it, and so was basically unaware of the whole scandal. The book was quite a page-turner, written almost like a work of fiction, except that it's not. The author is the Wall Street Journal investigative reporter who first exposed Theranos, so the book is fairly authoritative on the topic. A fun read, and also sorta scary that such a thing could happen.

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The Circadian Code2019-03-23 19:40:38

Book #3 of 2019 is The Circadian Code, by Satchin Panda. This was a pretty interesting book written by a researcher in the field of circadian rhythms. Interesting to me at least because there's a lot more research in this field than I thought there would be, and (if one believes the book) the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that the body's circadian rhythms are hugely important in maintaining good health. If even a tenth of the claims he makes in the book are true, it's worth applying his suggestions.

The quick summary is that different organs/systems in the body have different clocks that are controlled by different things. e.g. the brain alertness/awakeness is controlled by exposure to blue light; the digestive system is controlled by when you eat, and so on. Ensuring that you allow the different clocks to work their full cycles properly leads to better health outcomes. The single biggest thing to do is ensure that all your eating stays within a 12 hour (or smaller) window in a day, so as to give your digestive and other related systems time to rest and recover. This is called time-restricted eating (TRE) and many studies have shown it helps in all sorts of ways (again, per the book). I haven't even consulted any alternative sources on this but it's worth following up on.

The book itself was a mix of science, anecdotes, and personal stories/advice. The mix was pretty good although after a while the sheer number of studies being described and cited started to make my eyes glaze over so towards the end I was sort of just skimming. The "TRE is awesome" theme got hammered in a little too much, in my opinion. Still, overall it was a pretty informative read.

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