I didn't really read a lot last year. This year, I restarted reading more consciously. It hasn't been easy - the lesser I exercise that muscle, the harder it gets to read and comprehend. But, it's been worth the effort. I spent my year thinking about motivation, purpose, health, and food and the books I read reflect that. I didn't read all of them entirely, and I am starting to feel that it is ok not to. Naval Ravikant, the CEO of AngelList talks about this in his conversation with Shane Parish. So with that disclaimer in place, here are the books that I read this year.
Books on Productivity and Inspiration
This category gets most of my reading dollars and hours. I am constantly trying to understand how to improve my productivity and what role inspiration plays in it.
I was pretty curious about microdosing, and in my research, I found this book. It talks about Ayelet Waldman's efforts to procure LSD for a microdosing experiment, and then her experience microdosing for a while. She sums up her days during the experiment as 'good days'. After some experience with microdosing, I agree with her. Microdosing is not so much about feeling uber productive or creative (while there is some of that) but about that feeling of having had a good day when you look back. She also talks about drug policy and perception, and her relationships.
This is kind of a unique book that talks about beating resistance - the force in you that stops you from getting work done. It takes many forms in doubt, sloth, and sickness but the way to beat it is a simple commitment to sit down and work every day, at the same hour.
Life is all about decisions. Every day, we are making big and small decisions in our personal and professional life. So I was curious to read a book on making better decisions. I haven't finished this one yet but what I have read so far has given me some great ideas. The gist of the first few chapters is that you can make better decisions by expanding your choices. There are always more choices available to you if you reframe the original question, and stay open to experimenting with these newly uncovered options.
Books on Business
Show me the money!
This is the first book I read by the legendary Peter Drucker. It inspired a lot of hope because Drucker claims that most of us aren't born to be effective and that being effective is a highly desirable skill. He distinguishes being effective from other personality traits like being outgoing, optimistic, or charismatic. According to Drucker, it's a set of skills that are acquired by understanding and conscious repetition.
The introduction to the book by Jim Collins is as inspiring as the book itself. It's a excellent summary of the book, but more importantly, it's a peek into the work ethic of Drucker and what made him such a prolific writer and thinker.
As I mentioned earlier, I spent a lot of time this year thinking about success at work. It's hard to ignore the role of luck in success, and this book gave me a vocabulary to describe what I have always felt intuitively. Frans talks about click moments where some unpredictable forces come together and create an opportunity for success. While they are unpredictable, he talks about some techniques for inviting these moments more often. This book also refutes the thesis of achieving master and success by putting in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. That only helps if the rules of the game don't change much, as is often the case in music, and chess, but not so much in business.
If you don't already know, Theranos was going to change the world in the typical silicon valley fashion but turned out be a giant fraud. Even though I am currently an outsider to both Silicon Valley and the startup world, I still find it fascinating to read or watch any meaningful commentary on the silicon valley culture. Given the struggle I faced when trying to raise a small amount of money for my startup, the book on Theranos' well-funded misadventures made for an exciting read. I just finished this book, so I am still thinking about what kept the scam going for so long, right under the noses of such incredibly smart people. TLDR; people believe what they want to believe when they are charmed by someone, and see a way to grow their investment. Elizabeth Holmes is very charming if nothing else. And she is obviously, a very intelligent person.
The book also showed me the power of investigative journalism, and the courage of a few individuals to stand for the truth, despite all odds.
Books on Food, Nutrition, and Cooking
This year I experimented with veganism and other ideas to feel better. I believe more than ever now that we are what we eat and drink.
Ideas in this book are an excellent way to reset your system in 21 days. You don't have to go all in, and even some changes are probably going to make you feel better. They are not very hard to implement either.
Because, you must read for leisure too!
I found out about Kurt Vonnegut on a blog on being a prolific writer. That piqued my interest, and I picked up this book. I am still finishing it up, but it's a delightful read. I am not sure how to describe it. It's one man's quest to find out what some important Americans were up-to when the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
I read about this one on Reddit and it's another science fiction book that I enjoyed reading. Come to think of it, I think I enjoy science fiction and related genres a lot.
This year I didn't many books on transgender health and surgeries. I spent more time trying to integrate into my new life, and in some ways disconnecting from the online transgender communities. However, these two books were helpful
Written by Dr. Ousterhout who pioneered facial surgeries for transgender women, this book is a good read if you are considering face feminization surgery. What is FFS you ask? Here is a Newyorker article on FFS to enlighten you. If you think that it portrays the surgeon, Dr. Deschamps-Braly, who also happens to be Ousterhout's successor, as a rock star, then you may be right. Surgeons tend to have pretty inflated egos, much like other artists.
The Voice Book for Trans and Non-Binary People: A Practical Guide to Creating and Sustaining Authentic Voice and Communication
Nothing gives transgender women more grief than their voice. Obviously, some transgender women who rock their pre-transition voice, and I sincerely wish more power to them. I think they are admirable. I unfortunately do struggle with my voice because I can see that it stops many people from seeing me as I am. I have been working on finding my feminine voice for about a year now - alone, and with a coach. It's tough, to say the least. There is a lot of feeling your voice and then playing with it. This book helped me understand some of the key ideas like false vocal cords.
So there you go! These books shaped my thinking and life in 2018 and I want to continue reading great books in 2019. If you have any suggestions for me, please leave them as a comment, or tweet me @unamashana.