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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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Mindstorms2019-01-25 21:24:01

Book #2 of 2019 is Mindstorms, by Seymour Papert. This one has been on my reading list for a long time. I think I first heard about it in one of Bret Victor's talks. It was written almost 40 years ago (!), and is about the intersection of computers and education. Specifically, Papert talks about his ideas on how computers can help kids learn stuff.

I found it really quite interesting, and also sad in that the vision and ideas he had seem to have been forgotten and not implemented widely. He worked with Piaget for a while (who did a lot of work in child development) and a good chunk of the book rests heavily on that collaboration, so it's not just random stuff he made up - it's based on research and investigations that they did in real-world settings.

That being said, I also found it a somewhat hard book to read because of the plethora of big words he uses, and I ended up skimming a couple of the chapters that were a little too abstract for me. But the parts where he talked about specific examples of how the LOGO programming environment was used to enhance a child's learning experience was quite inspirational. If you're interested in education and how people learn, I highly recommend giving it a read.

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The Sleep Solution2019-01-06 21:15:12

I'd like to blog more in 2019. So to get me started I'm going to start blogging about books I'm reading.

I just finished the Sleep Solution by W. Chris Winter. It was recommended by a number of people on one of the HN "best books of 2018" threads. It's a pretty good book covering sleep - how it works, why you might be getting not enough or poor quality sleep, and what you can do to improve it.

The book is written in a very funny/colloquial style that's easy to read, and generally is light-hearted. Ironically the best time I have for reading these days is before going to sleep, so I felt a bit guilty about sacrificing sleep time to read a book which was telling me how important sleep is. It's also the first book I'm reading specifically about sleep so it had a number of new concepts for me and helped me build a better mental model of what happens when I sleep and how to improve my own sleep.

I don't consider myself as having any real sleep issues, so it's not like I was looking for a solution in this book, but I found it useful nonetheless, and would recommend it to anybody as an easy-to-read introductory (albeit somewhat opinionated) book on the topic.

I have another sleep-related book on my reading list so it'll be interesting to compare the two.

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