When you Read too Many Non-Fiction Books…

…and start to get diminishing returns for the time invested. 😎
I Need to find something that pushes me forward! 😀

 

Thoughts on: ”The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr

Maybe you were suppose to do something important right now, but got distracted by a notification. Or you talked yourself into that it might be a good idea to check your social media. It has been 10 minutes, something might have happened? Nicholas Carr modern classic The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains will help you understand how internet media changes our behavior.

🗒️ The internet has turned into a network of interruption, with notifications, hyperlinks and multimedia.

🗒️ When reading we skim more and look for key words. Our ability to read long articles has decreased and our ability to concentrate has diminished.

🗒️ The media, rather than the content changes the way we think and act.

🗒️We change our brains through the tools we use and our tools numbs the parts they amplify. The GPS in our phones weakens our abilities to map out areas in our mind and I guess I’m not the only one that has notice a quality decrease in my handwriting skills as I write more on computers.

🗒️Deep reading demands deep concentration and has to be learned. Our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from the short to long term memory and to weave it into conceptional schemas (complex concepts). Being able to focus on one thing for a length of time is important for creating that type of understanding and memory.

⚖️ Verdict: The book is incredibly interesting and explains a lot of behavioral change I’ve noticed in myself in recent years. It discusses science around how internet browsing changes the way we think and learn. We also get a very enjoyable history of how, throughout time, the introduction of different media have changed the human perspective.

5/5

“To be everywhere is to be nowhere” -Seneca

“It was ones understood that most effective filter of human thought was time” – Emerson

 

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Thoughts on: “My Experiments With Truth” by Gandhi

We get to follow a great man in the making in this autobiography by Gandhi. Like a mad scientist, and from an early age, he experimented with every area of his life to find essence of the soul.

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Being very limited in my knowledge about Gandhi, I expected a focus on religion in this book, but I was positively surprise find that it was much more an account of life lessons learned. And of course experiments! Both successful ones and failures. Ranging from self control, frugality to diet.

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He dedicated his life to the truth. It’s turns out that being truthful in all aspects of life, is not that easy after all. What is fascinating about this book is to follow his struggle between internal beliefs and actions. And it’s becomes extra powerful because it’s in his own words.

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My main takeaway is to keep trying different approaches in life. I’ve always been a big fan of experiments but it’s always to good to get a reminder of its importance.

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Here are some notes:

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Gandhi tried to memorize the whole “Bhagavad Gita” (an ancient Hindu scripture) by taping passages from it to his bathroom walls so that he could practice them while taking his morning shower.

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“The seeker after truth should be humbler than the dust. The world crushes the dust under its feet, but the seeker after truth should so humble himself that even the dust could crush him. Only then, and not till then, will he have a glimpse of truth.”

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“Renunciation of objects, without the renunciation of desires, is short-lived, however hard you may try.”

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4/5

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“The Story of my Experiments with Truth” by Mahatma Gandhi

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Thoughts on: “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins

A lot of times we look at darwinian survival on the level of the organism. Richard Dawkins suggest that we instead should look at the survival of the individual gene as the driving force of natural selection. The organism, being a fish or a human body is just a vessel. A survival machine for protecting and reproduction of DNA.

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Why does this shift in perspective matter?

DNA molecules are replicators, the fundamental unit of natural selection, and taking the viewpoint of the gene rather than the organism helps when looking at behaviors in nature that seem to contradict the survival instinct.

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“There are other times when the implicit interests of the vehicle and replicator are in conflict, such as the genes behind certain male spiders’ instinctive mating behaviour, which increase the organism’s inclusive fitness by allowing it to reproduce, but shorten its life by exposing it to the risk of being eaten by the cannibalistic female

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The ideas in this books are groundbreaking. The original book was written in 1976 and had been updated 3 times since then. The issue is that Dawkins has a condescending, snobbish way of writing and is very confrontational towards his critics. The writing is dry and repetitious at times, making the subject less exciting than it ought to be.

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Notes:

A deadly gene could survive in the gene pool by inflicting its damage only after a person reaches an old age, where the victim already produced offspring. Like cancer.

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Many carry lethal recessive genes. But the odds that the person you mate with have the same lethal gene highly unlikely, unless the mating is incestuous. ——————————————

Mothers are more caring for their offspring than fathers since they can be sure that the offspring is theirs.

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Dawkins coins the word “meme”. The cultural gene that spread from brain to brain through ideas.

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3/5

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Thoughts on: “Food: A Culinary History” by The Great Courses

I’ve had had my ups and downs with the Great Courses series. I really want enjoy them, but the lecture format never really hook me like a regular audiobook does.

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So I decided not to treat them like an audiobook and rather enjoy them the way I would do with a podcast. Casually listening to it while doing work on the computer. Not bothering with taking notes or worry about missing bits here and there. And this course was extremely enjoyable with this approach.

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Food: A Cultural Culinary History is presented with great passion by history professor Ken Albala. The scope is vast and covers food cultures all around the globe, from prehistoric times to up to the present day(..and beyond!).

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Sometimes the rich scope of the course becomes its biggest shortcoming because there are so many stops on the journey but so little time spent at each location that it feels lacking in depth at times.

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But for me, a n00b in both history and food, I really liked this as an introduction to the subject. And trying food centric view on cultural development felt like a refreshing perspective.

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Some trivia:

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The rounded tip of dinner knives where introduced to reduce the threat of violence at the table.

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In Ancient Greece medicine, different diets where described depending on your dominant temperament (Sanguine, Melancholic, Choleric, or Phlegmatic).

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It made me smile to learn that in ancient times, just like today, theories went back and forth whether a glass of red wine each day was detrimental or beneficial to your health.

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4/5

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Thoughts on: “Stuffocation” by James Wallman

In the 1920 the United States was struggling with overproduction. There where two directions we could take from there, either we produce less or consume more. We choose the latter.

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Instead of building things to last we started to built to break. Advertisement started manufacturing desire. Fantastic new products came to market and amazed the consumers, only to sold again next in a beautified version.

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The more we bought the richer everyone became and materialism was now the new religion.

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The problem is that research shows materialism cause unhappiness. Keeping up with the Joneses takes a toll on us after a while. The whole ideas with consumer culture is that we should be unsatisfied with what we have and look for salvation in our next purchase. It’s hard to be a good consumer if you are fucking content with what you have, right?

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More and more people feel that the more they get the less satisfied they are. More is no longer better and now people feel lost. Minimalism has become a thing. And the book covers a lot of different ways people approach their escape from materialism and the author argues that experiences is the new path to happiness. A accessible and enjoyable read!

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Here are some of my notes:

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Going back to hardcore simple living can be hard. Even Thoreau, the poster boy for simple living, came back to civilization after two years in a cabin in the woods. The thing is that living of the land is hard work, and you have to work for your survival. Too much simplicity can be complicated.

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We tend to remember thing we experience as better than they were, while material possessions are subjected to hedonic adaptation.

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Experiences are harder to compare. Also we are more likely to let them contribute to our identities. And lastly, they bring us closer to other people.

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4/5

 

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Thoughts on: ”The Origin of Political Order” by Francis Fukuyama

I feel defeated. This book is way beyond my level of understanding of Political Theory and it was too much for me to take in.

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The book is trying to discover the origins of political institutions, that we take for granted today, and that is not a small task. Starting in prehistoric times and ends with the French Revolution. To make task even more monumental, and the subject even broader, it’s not just focused on one area of the world but tries to cover all state building projects across the globe. India, China, the Middle East, Russia, Africa and the list goes on.

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A reviewer on Goodreads called it; “the best fan-fiction for “Civilization V” ever written” , which cracked me up.

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For me it was too broad. Too dense. It’s truly epic, and probably really good if you have the stamina and intense passion for political institutions.

If I can retain at least a fraction of the information in this book I will at least stand a chance the next time I decide to dwell into this genre.

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My takeaway from reading this book is that the state of the world, and how we got here, is nuanced and complex as fuck. We better come to terms with that sooner rather than later. We live in an era where we are bombarded with oversimplified messaging everywhere, whether it is used to win our votes in some election or to get clicks on websites. To quote Einstein; “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”.

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“The Origins of Political Order” by Francis Fukuyama

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3/5

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Thoughts on: “Steal the Show” by Michael Port

In preparation for my second speech at Toastmasters I though if would be good pick up some more tips and tricks for public speaking and speech writing.

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The book is very basic, sometimes even threat you like a baby (one of his tips is not to scold you audience or stand with the back against the crowd.😬) I listened to the audio version, narrated by the author, but I didn’t really connect with the way the content was presented. It felt a bit like a drawn out infomercial and Michael came off as somewhat self absorbed.

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But let’s focus on what’s good and let’s me share some key points:

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Fear of criticism hold us back. Friends, colleagues and loved ones might not like the new role you take. You have to choose between approval from others or results.

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How to stop your inner critic? Stop being critical. By not criticizing others, it will make you less critical about yourself.

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To make your speech less easy to poke holes in: don’t use absolutes like; everybody, always, never etc.. ——————————————

“What you say don’t have to be different to make a difference, it’s the way you say it that matters.” This is good takeaway since I often find myself stuck coming up with content for speeches, thinking it has to be totally original ideas for the presentation to be worthwhile for the audience.

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Improvisational skills are key and can be learned through practice. Prepare for the unexpected and learn to be comfortable with discomfort.

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“Steal the show” by Michael Port

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3/5

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Thoughts on: ”The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin”

Benjamin Franklin was probably the most prominent character of the American Enlightenment. A scientist, politician, inventor, postmaster, civic activist, and one of the founding fathers of the United States of American.

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The reason I like Franklin so much is his sense of wonder and curiosity about life and learning. This in combination with being a great observer of the world around him helped him come up with crazy inventions and experiments in all aspects of life and work.

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I suggest you read W. Isaacsons biography “Benjamin Franklin: An American life” if you are totally new to the subject, to get a full picture of the man. But there is definitely something cool about getting the information straight from the pen of Franklin. It’s a very honest and readable account of his life and I really like how he shares the processes that lead to his discoveries.

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In addition to inventing the lighting rod, the Franklin stove and the water harmonica, he did a lot of experiments in self improvement which I found fascinating .

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In an bold attempt to achieve moral perfection, he developed a creed of “13 virtues”. After noticing it was too tough to eliminate all his vices at ones, he decided to focus on one virtue each week. In case he failed to live up to the “virtue of the week”, he put a dot for that day in a special notebook. The aim to go a full 13 weeks without placing a single dot on the paper. (Google Franklins 13 virtues and check it out).

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My main takeaways:

I’m impressed with his industry, especially his balanced combination of input and output. It’s easy to indulge in information all day and think you’re doing great, but you need to get out there and create things too. Don’t be a passive consumer. And do more experiments in life 😀👍🏻

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Good stuff! Now I need recommendations for biographies about women. It’s been a sausage party here lately. 😀

4/5

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Thoughts on: “Under The Banner of Heaven” by Jon Krakauer

The year is off to a good start with a third Krakauer book under my belt!

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Mormonism is not a big thing here in Sweden (The are less than 10 000 Saints residing here) and this is my first close look at the Mormon faith.

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It’s a history of Mormonism told around story the brutal murders of an innocent woman and child that was carried out by fundamentalist after receiving a “death list” from God through a revelation.

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📝 “Common sense is no match for the words of God.”

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📝 The big difference between Mormons and Mormon fundamentalists is that the latter put a strong emphasis on the Divine right for men to take multiple wives.

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📝 Josef Smith (the prophet) had 30-40 wife’s. The youngest was 14 and the proposal sounded like this: “Be my wife or suffer eternal damnation”.

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📝 One of the early unique selling points of early Mormonism was the the followers where encouraged to have their own talks with God directly. This made the follower harder to control and was quickly turned into something exclusive for the profet.

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📝 Education is a big problem for “the work”. Mormons sometimes send the their kids off to get an education and they come back asking uncomfortable questions. Like why is the geology professor saying the world is 4.5 billion year old and not 6 000?

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⭐️ TAKEAWAY: For non religious people these people seem very gullible, but don’t forget what a huge comfort religion is.

“It’s It provides all the answer, It makes life simple”.

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Krakauer paints a dark picture of incest, polygamy and blood atonement of fundamentalists branches of the Latter Day Saints but the more mainstream parts get their fair share of criticism too.

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Herein lies my main issue I have with this book. It is demonizing in a way that makes it feel very one-sidedness. Lack of nuance is away a red flag for me. But I still really loved the book and I’m planning to make a similar dive into the Amish way of life. If you have any recommendations for me on that subject, let me know!

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4/5

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Photo credit: @unklgeorge (Instagram)