A list of books I've read, since I started tracking them.

I try to give a brief review of what I thought about the book, things I liked or things I didn't like. I rate on a 5 star scale. A book with 5 stars is one I'd easily recommend to anyone.

My reviews will try to avoid major spoilers, but fair warning I'm not always the best with that.

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  • Aubrey Gordon • 2020 • *****

    This book in combination with the Maintenance Phase podcast has flipped my mindset when it comes to my relationship with my body. I previously believed that weight was something we all had complete control over and could change with diet and exercise. Anyone who was overweight was not trying hard enough.

    I’ve come to realize that I was incredibly wrong about this.

    I think now I’m fine as I am. I’ll likely never be happy with my body (but I’ll try my best), but I can at least accept that the way I look is… the way I look. It’s who I am. I should not feel ashamed for looking the way I do.

    I don’t want to turn this into a self-flagellation session, but wanted to highlight how I personally felt when reading this book. It brought my lack of understanding when it comes to our bodies and weight. There is a lot of bias built into me from years of being told that “fat = early death”, even though that isn’t (and wasn’t) true. The science behind dieting suggests that most people who lose weight while dieting will eventually regain it. Our bodies want to stay at a set weight, and we cannot control that.

    This book together with the podcast has brought to my attention how far the world has to go when it comes to fat acceptance. We are making incredible strides to accept people regardless of skin-colour, sexual preferences, perceived gender… but there exists anti-fat bias in all their respective circles. I want to be part of the change that says “being fat is not a death sentence.” If I can leave you with one small fact to prove that anti-fat bias exists: how about that in 48 of the 50 US states, it’s legal to deny someone a job because of their weight? Deny them housing, or a seat at a restaurant, or a room in a hotel? All legal.

  • Dissenter on the Bench
    Victoria Ortiz • *****

    I believe this book is meant for young adults (slash teenagers), but as an ancient man myself at the ripe age of 33 I found it very engaging. It's structured in such a way to give context into each of RBG's many important involvements in the law. It will lead with a relevant case that RBG presided (or represented) and then go back in time to explain her history and reason for her eventual involvement. It's educational and fun to read.

  • Understanding Comics
    Scott McCloud • *****

    I debated if this should end up in a different catalogue, but it deserves to be in both, if anything.

    If you wondered just how deep the rabbit hole goes when it comes to all things comics, Scott McCloud is here to tell you it goes deep. Anyone who may doubt the medium of the comic -- I challenge you to come out without a new perspective reading this. I know I did. I appreciate them so much more now.

    To call it "a book about comics" feels like a disservice. There is so much more going on here about history and the human mind.

    I think everyone needs to read this book at some point in their lives.

  • Jonny Appleseed
    Joshua Whitehead • *****

    Absolutely raw and gripping. Very often uncomfortable.

  • Peace Talks
    Jim Butcher • 2020 • *****

    I feverishly consumed the entire Dresden series in a few years ago. I thought it was so cool to see a blend of fantasy and real life that didn't seem to exist (as far as I knew). The writing sometimes felt chauvinistic (Dresden himself even admits as much) but I would roll my eyes and plod on.

    Having finally had the chance to read the next book I couldn't just roll my eyes anymore. Every single female character is always ridiculously attractive, so much so that Dresden cannot think about anything else other than sex (the Winter Mantle is a convenient albeit absolutely stupid excuse in the novel).

    Every major female character is always lusting (or will lust) for Dresden. These sections read like a piece of fan fiction from a nerdy male teenager's perspective (something I would've written when I was 15). The whole White Court seems to exist just so there's an excuse to always talk about sex (especially heterosexual sex). Even worse is that Dresden (rapidly approaching grandpa years, in a human sense) will ogle and comment (privately at least) on women who are pretty close to (or are) minors.

    Another fault is that characters keep referring to recent events that the reader will likely not remember. It's been several years between books, and us readers need a quick primer on the most recent goings-on in the universe!

    Our resident investigator didn't do much of anything. He aimlessly stumbled around for a while until the plot plopped onto his lap. What happened to our plucky detective who went looking for clues? Who did anything?

    Spoiler alert: The book ends on a cliffhanger. Yep, we don't get to learn about why anything happened because it's in the second book. Even though every book previously has been a nice package, we get a big middle finger. Should've waited for the anthology that will eventually combine Peace Talks and Battle Ground.

    All that said, I will likely pick up Battle Ground whenever that comes out in paperback. The series has (some serious) faults, but there is something to enjoy here.

  • The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level
    Gay Hendricks • *****

    These days I would style myself as a recovering addict when it comes to self-help books. There never is (and never was) a single trick to turn my life around. I’m increasingly wary of the entire industry, as I’m now certain that not everyone is looking to help people out. I think these kinds of books can be helpful as a springboard, but a lot seem to parrot the same advice, only phrased differently using the author’s writing style. This book largely seems to follow that trend. I’m frankly tired of hearing about how the author overcame adversity when the adversity is so disconnected with what your average person faces. The amount of famous people (read: white billionaires) he’s helped is numerous and wants to remind us quite often. I don’t care. The author loves to use chirpy terms like “Zone of Genius” non-ironically, and it’s very grating. These hokey-sounding terms cause me to view their ideas with increased skepticism.

    Tone aside though, I think there are nuggets of truth buried inside. The “Upper Limit Problem”, or the idea that we self-sabotage when feeling good, rings true for me. I think the notion that we deliberately get ourselves sick is ridiculous (the author recounts a situation where a patient deliberately gave himself laryngitis), but I do notice that I have a tendency to start criticizing myself, or being antagonistic once things get good in my life. It can be helpful to be aware and acknowledge when this happens.

    While the term “Zone of Genius” makes me roll my eyes, I think the concept is solid. The Zone of Genius is described as something in life that always brings you joy, even if it’s considered work (i.e. your job). You’ll always feel energized and ready to tackle problems in this space. It supercharges your brain and gets you motivated.

  • The Skin We're In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power
    Desmond Cole • *****

    A pretty damning read on how far Canada has to go on dealing with systemic racism. Like many Canadians, I knew things were bad, but this spelt out how truly bad it is. If the situation in the US was not reason enough to convince me that we need to defund the police, then this is it. While the book was not setting out to necessarily claim this message, that was my own conclusion. The police seemed to be a recurring undercurrent to the issues POC face today.

    Two snippets that really struck me:

    Ryan Reid fatally shooting Jermaine Carby

    Peel Regional Police officer Ryan Reid was never charged for fatally shooting Jermaine Carby, [...] during a traffic stop in September 2014. [Reid] wouldn’t have done anything differently — he said with Carby’s mother and family members in the hearing room.

    Officer Louie Cerqua on shooting and killing Michael Eligon

    With the high stress situation like that, you’re going to resort to your firearm, it’s the only real option you have.

  • The Hate U Give
    Angie Thomas • *****

    A gripping tale. Especially chilling given the current events happening at the time surrounding George Floyd when I read the book. I could not put this book down and read it at virtually any opportunity. It challenged every previously held belief I had about race and the struggles that black people face every day.

    I've recommended this book to everyone and will continue to do so. I think it's a book that everyone should read, especially white people.

  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
    Neil deGrasse Tyson • *****

    I found it hard to follow at times. It felt like it couldn't decide if it wanted to be a beginners or an advanced book. I have more than a passing fancy when it comes to astrophysics, but sometimes the pure information-dump was just too much. There was a lot of process, and some of it I just plain didn't get. I would still push Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time as a primer into the world of astrophysics (and everything in-between). Still, I feel like it serves as a catalyst for more learning.

  • Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
    Matthew Walker • *****

    Fell asleep many times reading this, which I believe was part of the author's intent. Incredibly informative in regards to all things sleep. Helpful appendix to summarize the book's contents, and a useful crib sheet to give to others not willing to read the entire book. I feel empowered with new knowledge about sleep and additional reasons to ensure that I sleep more.

  • Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
    Cal Newport • *****

    I don't think the book needed to be as long as it is. There is good advice to be found, but it drags on and on feeling like a "deep work" session in of itself. I was often waiting for it to "get to the good part" in each chapter.

    I also think this book is tailored toward someone who can afford to do these "deep work" sessions, but not everyone has that luxury. Seriously, expecting everyone to have the ability to lock yourself away all day without distractions? That's a tad unrealistic for most people.

    The book did help identify areas where I often engage in shallow work, and I like the idea of bundling that work together in one large go to work through it quickly.

  • Meditations
    Marcus Aurelius • *****

    Despite the accolades this book gets from self-help authors, I found it fairly dry and hard to read at times. There are great nuggets of advice buried in between meandering, lengthy passages. Thoughts are repeated often, but I can sympathize here. It's difficult to ingrain a certain way of thinking at first blush, but hammering into one's thick skull can work sometimes.

    The footnotes are a helpful addition -- even translated into modern English it can be hard to tell what Marcus is really saying.

    I plan to revisit the book another time in my life, but as of now I haven't gleaned much after reading so many books that base their ideas on the writings here.

  • Ego Is The Enemy
    Ryan Holiday • *****

    Confirmed that I'm not the only one guilty of over-planning and under-working. The real results come from work and not planning. Focus less on preparation and dive in. Do the work. Failure is part of the process, but what is most important is how one responds to it.

    Plenty of fun historical anecdotes -- kinda wish the book was mostly that. The message was clear, if a bit sanctimonious.

  • Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
    James Clear • *****

    Great insight into how habits work and how they start. Ideas into how to break undesirable habits and begin good ones. The latter chapter about making it easy resonated with me. It never occurred to me why trying to start a habit with a difficult task leads to quitting fast. Start simple, aim low, build high.

  • The Effective Engineer: How to Leverage Your Efforts In Software Engineering to Make a Disproportionate and Meaningful Impact
    Edmond Lau • *****

    Lots of applicable advice here for anyone working in software engineering. I was excited to apply this to my own workplace, but didn't realize it's harder to apply in agency work than in other fields (and when you are not a lead). Still, we managed to recognize areas where we need improvement.

  • Dare to Lead
    Brené Brown • *****

    Really great read. Highlights the importance of empathy and how to develop that skill -- essential not only for leaders but for everyone.

  • Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
    Cal Newport • *****

    I enjoyed the latter chapters focusing on finding "high quality leisure time". I try to find activities that are creative in the sense that after some time I will have created something.

  • Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
    Gary Taubes • *****

    Made me consider trying a keto diet before talking to friends and colleagues who had done the same and every single one had advised against it. Good ideas on paper but I think the diet that is ultimately recommended is unsustainable, which seems to go against the book's message in regards to diets -- find something that can be maintained.

    Diet aside, there is lots of educational content here. Enjoyed for that reason primarily.

  • The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
    Dave Ramsey • *****

    Sensible ideas, but the focus was on those who are in debt. Not a lot of useful strategies (except near the end) for those who have already managed to get themselves out of debt

  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
    Mark Manson • *****

    A book I am always first to recommend to people. It was a real life-changer for me and changed my core values. Actually, I didn't even know what "core values" were before this book! It helped identify what is important to me and what I consider to be my core values.

  • The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit
    Seth Godin • *****

    Short book that enforced some positive ideas for me. Don't panic and quit too early if progress is not immediately visible. Incremental progress is still progress -- which is good! Keep at it as long as there is some forward momentum.

  • The Way of Kings
    Brandon Sanderson • *****

    This book finally made me realize what I love so much about fantasy books: the world building. The Way of Kings is no slouch in that department. The story plods along in the beginning (although not too slowly), meanwhile you learn the history of the planet Roshar and its denizens. There's the various kingdoms and cultures (which are detailed), the magic systems (yes, there's more than one!), the mythical Shardblades (and Shardplate)... so much of the world is laid out and it really draws you in. The book seems to be compared to Wheel of Time and I can see it - but it's definitely separated itself enough from its influences to really stand on its own. I'm happy to hear there's only going to be five books in the series, so hopefully Sanderson will get to finish this series.