The only thing I achieved this year is to survive. As a family, we went through multiple medical situations and emergencies. There were days and weeks, when we literally lived between hospital wards and Doctor’s chambers. I felt like drowning. I was anxious. I panicked. I wished if I could just run away.
During those dark, intense period, I lost my ability to read. But, then, there were days when things felt little better. I used to pick up a book. I used to feel hopeful: This storm would pass too. In the debate of “half full” vs “half empty” glass, suddenly I realized that I should be grateful that I at least have a glass.
Books I read this year can be distributed into three buckets:
- Books on finitude of life
- Books on anxiety
Books with ⭐ next to it’s title are the ones I strongly recommend.
Books on finitude of life
The magic about life is that it’s taking place here and right. Despite of all the problems and limitations, we are living it together with people we deeply love and care. Isn’t that a wonderful?
- Being Mortal ⭐: A must read for those raising elderly parents or those approaching their golden years. “Old age is not a battle. Old age is a massacre”. We almost always avoid thinking about these years as if they will never arrive. This book helps us there. How does the meaning of life change during those terminal years? How to gracefully manage those days and when to finally let go? Personally, reading this book has helped to me to better understand my aging parents and to have difficult conversations with them.
- Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It ⭐: At some point of time, I used to maintain yearly, monthly, weekly & daily goals. I used to beat myself up for every small failure resulting in continuous cycle of anxiety and unhappiness. This book made me realize that despite of all my planning, I have very limited control over future. Only way to be happy is to accept the fact that with my limited talent, ability and opportunity, this is all I can do. This is it. Universe really does not care about what I do. No has ever been able to create dent on universe; No one will ever be able to do that. It’s perfectly okay to embrace the life as it arrives. I have read each chapter of this book twice, tried to deeply inhale every sentence. Still, I feel like I have not been able to get enough from this book. I am planning to read it again.
- From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life ⭐: During first half of our life, we work intensely for material and social success. Then, suddenly our body and mind start declining. We always thought that this later part of life would be full of joy, fulfillment and pride. But, all we get are fear and disappointment. This book guides us to gracefully transit from first half to the second half of life.
- The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse ⭐: This is a wonderful piece of art and a deeply philosophical book which will touch the heart of anyone irrespective of their age. I have photos of few pages of this book in my phone, so that I can read those during my difficult days. Remember that line about half/full glass at the beginning of this post, I learnt that from this book.
Books on Anxiety
Few years back, it started with an episode of panic attack. Medication helped, but created an illusion of calmness. As a result, I accelerated further. My mind told me to slow down. But I didn’t resulting in Generalized Anxiety Disorder anxiety induced tinnitus. Over time, I have learnt to manage anxiety well. Now anxiety waxes and wanes, but it’s always there.
- Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind: How to Stop the Cycle of Anxiety, Fear, and Worry ⭐
- Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks
Earlier I have followed detailed workbooks on Anxiety and Phobia. They say anxiety can’t be cured, but has to be managed for the rest of the life. These two books teaches us ways to cure anxiety. I specially recommend the first one since it’s a short, fun filled and easy read. It took me few years to find this book, but I am glad that I found it.
- The Comfort Book ⭐
This is the book which helped me the most during those difficult, gloomy days. It used to tell me it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to forgive myself, it’s okay not to make any progress. Reading each page gave me the comfort and courage to step into the next moment.
Books on other topics
- Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention ⭐: Our ability to focus is decreasing decade over decade. The author argues that has less to do with the individual, but more to do with the capitalisms based society homo sapiens has built. Billions are being spent to make sure consumers are consuming more, sleeping less and selling their attention in exchange of cheap dopamine kick. As an individual when we try to control our behavior, we are fighting an unequal war. This is not a productivity handbook, but has a much boarder agenda. The book concludes with a call for movement demanding a better, livable society.
- 80,000 Hours: Find a fulfilling career that does good ⭐: This is the book for someone trying to plan their career. I wish this book existed 20 years ago. We have about 80,000 hours in our career: 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for 40 years. It explains how one can make most of this time by choosing a work that they enjoy AND they are good at AND that serves the world’s greatest needs. I have learnt about the concept of “Effective Altruism” from this book.
- Managing Oneself: A super short read. Describes a basic strategy to survive and thrive in this ever changing world. Try different short experiments with yourself to understand your strengths, weaknesses. Find out how do you learn & work, what are your values.
- Sapiens: A Graphic History (Vol 1): This is the illustrated version of part of Sapiens. It is a good recap of the original Sapiens book.
- MoveMint Medicine: Your Journey to Peak Health: To maintain a good life and to age gracefully, we need to do four things (starting from childhood): move the body (exercise), take care of mental health, sleep well, eat nutritious food.
- Hiring Data Scientists and Machine Learning Engineers: Anyone building or managing a Data Science or Machine Learning team will find this book helpful. It will help in building a team and delivering data driven projects/products. It’s helpful for a candidate for employment as well. They will learn what to expect and what’s expected from them during the hiring process.