Deep Work : Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Cal Newport

Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love — is the sum of what you focus on.

What attracted me to this book was the title. Before reading this book my working style was all over the place. I would work on some personal project for some time then hop on to do some review work for money. And at the end of the day I always felt that I was unproductive. That I had not done enough and the day just ran by. As the name suggests author Carl Newport extols the importance of uninterrupted singular work and provides evidence for the same. He then goes into a game plan that you can follow to achieve the state of flow. One of the few books that has had such a direct impact on my life. I have become highly productive (which can mean different things for different individuals) and I can empirically attest that I get more work done in less time. If you want to up your work quality and reduce stress I highly recommend reading this book.

Thinking with Type

Ellen Lupton

Design is an art of situations.

One of the most beautiful books I have ever read. If you plan to read this book I will highly suggest buying a physical copy instead of an ebook. Because the ebook will just not do the justice to the effort that has gone into producing this literal work of art. A primer on typography this book was a very engrossing read. It starts with the history of typography and takes you on a journey to the present day use cases. I loved this book so much that I am at the moment actually developing an application that converts handwriting into a font that you can use and I wrote a post that analysed my own handwriting. Having not ever tinkered with anything design related this book really made me think and I have new found respect for the effort that goes into designing anything from a book to a piece of art.

Antifragile : Things That Gain from Disorder

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Never ask the doctor what you should do. Ask him what he would do if he were in your place. You would be surprised at the difference.

Wow. I literally read this book from start to finish without putting it down. The outspoken author Nissam Taleb flips your thinking upside down in this book that I believe will stand the test of time and might someday be a classic. The author presents complex mathematical concepts of probability in a language that not only any layman can understand but reads like an epic story. I will be reading this book soon again and delving into other works by the same author. The books explains how you can be antifragile i.e. be poised in such a way that you limit your downside and have a chance to gain from rare events. The importance of having skin in the game and beneficial stresses are other things that I took from this book and have slowly started trying to implement the ideas in my life. Read it. Be antifragile.

Flow : The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.

One of the books that inspired the book “Deep Work”. Being an avid listener of podcasts I have heard this book mentioned by a lot of people I consider creative. The book doesn’t disappoint. Flow is a state where you are so engrossed in your work that you forget the passage of time, you forget to eat and drink and are apparently performing at a very high level. Flow is something that can give meaning to life. Howsoever wohoo that sounds. For me flow boils down to doing something with absolute focus and doing something that is hard enough to hurt my head a little. After reading the book these two criteria are what I look for in work every day. It honestly has made my work so much more fun.

The War of Art : Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Steven Pressfield

The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.

Keeping with the theme of how to get better at work and how to deal with those nagging thoughts that tell you to put off work I picked up this book. A very short read this book gets straight to the point. If not anything I found this an inspiring read with a lot of practical advice to garner. Steven Pressfield describes the “Resistance” as the “force” that keeps you from making art (anything creative). I used to call it being a lazy bum. Waiting for inspiration to strike, for the weather to be right, for it to not be cloudy and countless other reasons that we pile on to just prevent our highly evolved brain to procrastinate, this book deals with it all and provides a simple solution. As Nike says, Just Do It.

The Iliad

Homer, E.V. Rieu

Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.

I had seen the movie Troy a long while back and loved the story. After reading Meditations by Marcus Aurelius I have new found interest in Greek mythology and writings. Researching the interwebs for a bit let me to the conclusion that Iliad would be the right book to test the waters with. And it was beautiful. Never has a fictional (allegedly) piece of literature kept me so engrossed apart from the Lord of the Rings. I picked up the first translation of Iliad by EV Rue as there are numerous to choose from. I was not disappointed. Homer(again allegedly) paints a wonderful tapestry of human characters where one minute you are rooting for a protagonist and the next minute you are booing the same person to the gates of Hades. After reading the book I think the movie did not (or maybe could not) do justice to the story. Iliad being a poem originally reads like one even after translation. Keeping this fact in the mind I found a certain aspect of beauty in the repetition of some lines which added a certain rhyme to the story. I get excited and feel very grateful that we live in an age where something written around 3000 years ago is so accessible to us. I plan to delve more into this genre with Aeneid by Vergil and Odyssey by Homer next on my reading list.

Daily Rituals : How Artists Work

Mason Currey

A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.

I had heard about this book a number of times on Tim Ferriss’ podcast and finally decided to read. It were probably the high expectations that made the book a little underwhelming. The book stresses, as is in the title, on the importance of rituals/habits in the lives of people who have gone on to produce critically acclaimed works of art. There are certain habits that I follow every single day and it is amazing how much of an order and positive change they have brought about in my life. So if this book inspires you to adopt certain habits and religiously implement them then it will be a worthwhile read. At times the book did sound repetitive but only because I did not know about the “claim to fame” of a number of people mentioned in the book. But it was always fascinating to read about certain idiosyncrasies that these people followed . Stumbling upon the rituals of someone whose work I have consumed was never the less always a delight.