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Hey everyone! What've you been reading lately? Fiction, non-fiction? What do you recommend?

Right now I'm making my way through Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant, which is an amazing book about highly predatory, very frightening mermaids. Who use sign language. It's awesome. Highly recommend, along with Mira Grants Newsflesh books, which are about journalist bloggers in post-zombie apocalypse America.

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I'm currently reading Night Vale #1, I have been rereading all the Harry Potter books (actually first time in english). I think my favourite book I've read in 2017 was Franny and Zooey by JD. Salinger, just so good. 

Some favourite books of all time include The Secret History and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Crush by Richard Siken. 

Edited by Aleksi

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I've been reading It Devours, and I highly recommend the Fairyland series by Catherynne M Valente, I love it so much

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 Right now I am reading (listening to!) "Bored and Brilliant" by Manoush Zomorodi which takes a look at how we use technology and how being bored can unlock creativity. Interesting stuff. 

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Because I'm podcast trash, I'm also (slowly) making my way through It Devours. I've also got a million other books I'm part way through because I just don't have the time anymore :(

(Also Mira Grant's Newsflesh series is awesome, y'all) 

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On 1/15/2018 at 11:17 PM, Aleksi said:

I think my favourite book I've read in 2017 was Franny and Zooey by JD. Salinger, just so good.

Aw never read that, but my copy of Nine Stories is one of my most prized possessions!

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16 hours ago, Zach Valenti said:

Aw never read that, but my copy of Nine Stories is one of my most prized possessions!

I haven't read that one, but I shall!

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I'm currently working through three books:

You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier (if you want a free taste for the author, you can hear his recent interview on The Ezra Klein podcast here)

Quote

"You have to be somebody before you can share yourself."

–Jaron Lanier, "You Are Not a Gadget"

It's about being human in an age of technology and it focuses particularly on how a handful of Web 2.0 ideas are fundamentally harmful to personhood. Specifically, centralized social networking giants powered by advertising revenue and how they tend to reduce us into bits and devalue our creativity to nothing. This is something I've experienced personally as both as a casual user of sites like Facebook and as an independent content creator seeking to make indie content creation my main gig.

Jaron articulates concepts, trends, and opinions I've felt for sometime, but hadn't yet captured. And he does so with humor, grace, and a deep sense of optimism.

For example, he draws an analogy between what "MIDI" did to music and what social networks are doing to people. MIDI, or "Musical Instrument Digital Interface", is the technical standard that most electronic music is created with today, which started back in the early '80s by a guy named Dave Smith. Because Dave was a pianist and was interested in a solution to help him do more with piano-like interfaces using his computer. By focusing on a "key-up" vs "key-down" binary, he wasn't concerned with capturing the nuances capable of a human singer or a saxophone. MIDI has become so entrenched that it's basically become "locked in", and has had a lasting, audible impact on our soundscape ever since.

While I haven't done enough research to meaningfully fact check this account of computer history, I believe the analogy he draws between social networks and what they're doing to people is profound. Web 1.0 sites had flavor - most websites were as unique as the people behind them. On sites like Facebook, however, all our pages look the same - little boxes, made of ticky-tacky, so to speak. In the same way the idea of music and the musical note was reduced to solely the context of what piano could play by MIDI, people have been reduced to dropdown boxes of identifiers determined by engineers that will (usually) never meet each other.

It's a rich read with lots and lots of other ideas like this. Holy hell is this thing relevant to everything I've been thinking about (and prescient AF, written in '09). I've already messaged the author to see if he'd be willing to be interviewed.

Principles by Ray Dalio

Ray built a successful business - an investment company - out of the spare bedroom of his home many years ago. He credits his success in large part to his principles.

Quote

prin·ci·ple (noun) a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.

Basically, principles are what you look to when you need to make a decision that should make it easy to make successful choices.

For example: "Systemize your decision making" is a foundational principle that will lead to better decisions getting made over time.

Reflecting on my life as I read this book, it's become increasingly obvious that I frequently feel lost or find myself having made a haphazard set of choices because I don't have a system for making decisions that I can evaluate and refine.

Thinking and talking about this with my roommate has produced this document. It's the beginnings of my own system that I'll be developing and sharing more about both here and on my various channels (YouTube, Focused AF, etc.).

Happy to answer any questions about that here!

The Use of the Self by F.M. Alexander

As someone who's always gotten injured getting into more rigorous physical activity, I finally committed to learning something called "Alexander Technique," which was developed by the author of this book. Alexander was a performer living a couple hundred years ago who kept losing his voice. Eventually, he hypothesized that it had something to do with how he used his body and setup a few mirrors and stared at himself. Eventually he started to notice how he held unnecessary tension and started to let go. This led him to develop his "Method," which is really useful for anybody, but particularly actors, singers, and athletes.

The book is essentially a user manual for the human body, but it's more than that. It touches at the heart of mindfulness without ever using that word - this idea of grounding ourselves in the present, slowing down, and tuning in to the moment.

I asked my roommate, Andrew, to skim the book and create a presentation summarizing it (which is hilarious and can be seen here). The big joke was when I shared it with my teacher - having still not read the book myself - she asked if we'd read the part where F.M. Alexander criticized speed reading. Of course we'd missed it.

This practice is probably the thing I will be "most" focused on around all things I'm going to be doing for the next quarter or two. It already feels like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I'm enjoying less back and wrist pain.

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Haven't had time to read anything lately but my favorite book of all time is NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. NOS4A2 is about a young girl named Vic who can summon a bridge to anywhere she wants. At first she uses it to find lost items, but after an argument, with her mom she runs away on her bridge and finds a wicked man with a wicked car. Horror ensues. 

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Right now I am bingeing Star Wars books! Some of them are really really awful but I enjoy them. I read very fast and because there are a ton of Star Wars books I don't have that end-of-book emptyness feeling.

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