Book Notes: Deep Work by Cal Newport

In a recent group writing retreat, I noticed that my fellow writers would sit still, their eyes focused on their laptops, busy at work. I, on the other hand, was a ball of nervous energy, getting up every ten minutes, fighting the urge to talk, check Facebook - anything but write my novel.

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What I read in July: Blazing through my TBR!

So proud of myself! I mostly #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks in July and bought only one book. Yay, me!

Out of the 12 books I read, four were books I bought years ago, two were library books, and the rest were newer TBR stock from December last year.

The Star Trek novel Once Burned worried me because I've been trying to start it since 2013. Fortunately, I got over the "so bored" bit and the book got really good towards the end.

Rose Bride is yet another bazzilionth failed attempt to find another romance author that will satisfy me (pardon the pun). Sigh. Next!

The Mad Earl's Bride, fortunately delivered. For a novella, it gave what it promised: a short but satisfying read. only a skilled author can do this, as I have read many novellas that felt rushed or half baked. I am disappointed with how the medical problem was resolved, however, as I expected something hugely earth shattering (blame it on my fondness for House reruns).  

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School in Paris
Reminder to self: Liz, don't buy cooking memoirs. You just can't relate because you hate cooking. There.

Now, I wouldn't call this book terrible, but it was, how do I put this kindly? Flat and uneventful... not exactly exciting reading. This memoir would suit people who wants a slow, languorous, dreamlike narrative of the life we wish we could have: living in Paris with a hot boy friend.

I would have loved to know about the inner conflict she had, like there were glimmers of how she felt uncertain about here path - maybe she should just get a corporate job again and earn some money. But that is abandoned. a pity - I would have liked to know how that journey turned out.

Fit2Fat2Fit (audiobook from library)
Readers of weight loss books are an impatient lot - if they don't get a solution to their weight problems, they will be unhappy. Very unhappy, it would seem, judging from the many one to two star reviews on Goodreads for this book.

Point is, this book is a memoir, not a how-to book. Still, it was natural to have the question "How did he lose the weight?" answered, and the author doesn't do that very well. He doesn't give detailed food plans, his workout routine etc. When he reached a plateau for one, he rambled on and gave anecdotes on his wife's strict upbringing, his friend's jobless season, which were tenuous examples to the point he was trying to make. He does that a lot, and it does get annoying after a while. Still, he excels in telling us the emotional, social and relational impact being overweight has on a person, though his six month sojourn can be akin to a rich man living in Africa for six months in a hut and saying he knows how is it like to be poor now. Good attempt though.

Fat loss, however, is a very complicated thing to do. Its a complex biochemisty process and the author doesn't even touch on that.

One Second After by William R. Forstchen
Bought this book way back in 2008 and wished I had DNFed it then. I hardly one-star a book. It takes a lot to annoy me. This book did it.

The premise seemed so promising: an EMP wave gets rid of the technology we've come to rely on, a small town struggles to survive.

The concept promises a lot of action but the novel fails to deliver. It's not that nothing happens in the book, it's more like the characters spent most of their time TALKING about the action AFTER it happens. That's right, we have a book where the 'action' takes place in meetings. I remember thinking during one such meeting where, damn, why couldn't the author plonk our main character in the thick of the action so that we can see and experience it through his eyes?

I gave the book as good as it got - read 50% - and just couldn't anymore. There are far better books out there.

What did you read in July?

Books I read in April and health is wealth!

I initially had a post about the artist formerly known as Prince, Chyna, death and the dangerous illusion of success ... and then my edited version was munched on by Internet gremlins.

But you know? I'm not in a terribly philosophical mood today. So I'm going to let the gremlins have their meal. I mean, I've spent most of last week over a toilet bowl (TMI, sorry) thanks to a violent IBS (I think) episode, and am just thankful for the simple pleasure of being able to keep down my food without projectile vomiting it. Small victories!

So, sorry for not updating on Tuesday. Uhm, was busy.

I learned way too intimately that health is wealth. Without health, you just can't create anything. Which is why I'm making my mission for the rest of the year to regain my health and not to be so hard on myself if I don't meet deadlines.

Speaking of deadlines - a little late, but better late than never, the books I read in April:

Steal like an artist: 10 things nobody told you about being creative by Austin Kleon is probably better for artists/writers who are at the start of taking their creative lives more seriously, but this book nevertheless contains good advice on how to "steal like an artist" ie, how to have the right mindset to create art without ending up an impoverished, half-crazed artist locked in a cockroach-infested attic room. Okay, I jest, but it's close enough.

Get Up!: The dire health consequences of sitting and what we can do about it by James A. Levine made me move more! If only it gave me more practical ideas on how to increase a person with a desk job like me can increase my non-sitting hours.

I love books about writing, especially the writing process, and The 8-minute Writing Habit: Create a Consistent Writing Habit that works with your busy lifestyle by Monica Leonelle was a good one. This short book is not just about how to establish a writing habit. Monica believes in order to write consistently and in larger volumes, one has to got to bust some writing blocks. I love the insight in this. I had conquered some that she mentioned, but realised that I still struggle with a few. Obviously I need more work in the mindset department! Worth the buy.

But the book that stood out most for me in April was When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, a memoir about a neurosurgeon who discovers that he has end-stage aggressive cancer. Usually I avoid books like these, but Kalanithi's words just moved me. Here was a man who soaked up what life had to offer him like a sponge; his pursuit of knowledge was almost unquenchable. Imagine what a man like that could do for society ... yet, how terribly unfair that it is people like these that often have their lives cut short. Depressing, yeah, but his thirst to live is infectious; it makes you wonder - what am I doing with the time I have left on this Earth? How do I not waste it?

What did you read in April?