Books Read | February 2016

After my fiction reading frenzy in January, I made a conscious effort to read non-fiction in February. And I’ve realised that while I can almost always breeze through a fiction novel, non-fiction takes time. I found myself pausing ever so often just to process the information, the language, the message. Sometimes I found myself wishing that I kept a notepad with me while reading non-fiction – I just wanted to take so many notes. Have you guys ever taken notes while reading?

Anyway, so the books I read in February. Just two, actually. But both so good that I would absolutely recommend them to anyone in a jiffy

  1. When Breath Becomes Air (non-fiction): Where do I even begin with this one! It’s one of those memoirs where you know that there is a rather sad ending, and I hesitated before picking this one up. But I am so glad that I did! Sure, Paul Kalanithi has been diagnosed with terminal cancer right when he is just about a year away from finishing his residency (cruel, cruel, fate!), but his writing is not so much about dealing with his imminent death as it is about living, and living a full life at that. The diagnosis is the trigger for this book, but this is not a book about despair or self-pity. It’s about Paul’s explorations about the meaning of life and death as he faces his own inevitable death. And he weaves so much meaning into his words, so much depth and insight. I wept for a man, and a family that I did not know (but then again, I have wept for way too many fictional characters to keep count), and in knowing that Paul is no more, I know that we’ve been bereft of a wonderful author in the making (and a fine human being at that!).
  2. The Power of Habits (non-fiction): This book was all the rage a couple of years ago, but I couldn’t get into it earlier. Now that I am consciously trying to create better habits for myself, I wanted to understand some of the science behind habit formation and explore if there were some techniques which could help me. The book is rife with examples of how habits can change the course of companies and individuals, and also how habits were used to create marketing strategies for various products (hello, Pepsodent!). He quotes multiple studies and research papers, but the book does not feel academic at all. I think he establishes the central premise that you need to create a cycle of cue-routine-reward to form / transform habits fairly well, but what I found lacking was some clear-cut directive on how to use it as a proponent of change in the day-to-day. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this book, and I think I am going to do some more reading on habit formation to help my personal growth.

We’re about halfway through March, and I’ve already raced through 3 books. I’ve got Elon Musk’s biography lined up next. What are you guys reading?