Category Archives: Book review

Recently read: In A House Of Lies

My goal of reading more books this year still isn’t going as well as I’d like, but I’m going to keep trying. Still, I did manage to finish a book yesterday I had bought two weeks ago. The latest instalment in the Inspector Rebus series by Ian Rankin.

After over a decade and over 20 books in the series there isn’t an awful lot new happening, a lot of the usual suspects and storylines make another appearance. Two main strands/cases are interwoven through the book, not linked yet still linked. But I felt the story flows well and it’s a nice and easy read. Some new characters are introduced I suspect we might hear of again in the next book in the series. Oh, and judging from a passage near the end there might be some Brexit influences as well, as there’s a good chance that Brexit (and the related Border and customs issues) will provide rich pickings for criminals real and fictional.

Recently read: Small Change

Money, money, money. Unless we return to bartering I believe it will stay with us and be an important part of our lives for a long time. And with it the question how to spend it wisely. Via Tim Harford I came across an interesting book about just that topic:

While it didn’t teach me as much new as I had hoped it reminded me of a few things and gave me a few things to think about, namely:

  • The importance of seeing the money you’re spending, also called the pain of spending money. In our modern world more and more of our money is spent cashless, you don’t really see the money disappearing from your wallet, so you don’t feel the pain as much. While certainly convenient (and I use it all the time) it makes it much easier to lose sight of how much you’re spending (which at least partially is intended, as it gets you to spend more).
  • Opportunity costs. If you spend £4 on a coffee/tea/hot chocolate, what are you not spending (or saving up to) it for? If you spend an hour on Facebook/Twitter/othersocialmedia, what are you not doing instead (e.g. writing a blog post like this)? What can you not buy/do by spending money or time or something? What is more important to you?

Neither of these were new to me, I had either read about them before elsewhere or learned about them during my education. But they were good reminders of things to think about more. In particular opportunity costs I think about much more now.

Other readers might learn other things or be reminded of other things from the book. I think it’s a good read, well worth the money (it might pay for itself if you learn something from it…).

Recently read: Psyched Up

One of my goals for this year is to read more, sadly it’s not going as well as I had hoped. Still, I did manage to finish a book recently, hopefully motivation for more soon. Especially as the subtitle of the book reads:

How the science of mental preparation can help you succeed.

Sadly the science is rather limited and largely focused on sports, at least that’s what I mainly took away from the book. There’s quite a bit about the success (or lack thereof) of trash talk and music playlists during or before sports competitions and activities, neither of them I found very beneficial for me personally. Others might find it more beneficial and interesting (I personally don’t like music while I’m exercising very much, in particular walking/jogging, I prefer the sounds of nature).

More interesting was the part about confidence, how to instill confidence and how the often derided (incl by me) motivational posters might actually help after all. Still, I don’t plan to hang any of them up, certainly not at home and most likely not at my desk in the office either.

An unexpected chapter was the last one, covering the use (or abuse, depending of your point of view) of various chemical aids, a.k.a. pills. After giving them a try Daniel McGinn came to the conclusion they weren’t for him (a conclusion I’ve come to without trying them), although he’s still keeping the option in his back pocket (not something for me).

In summary for me: some ideas I might be able to build on, but overall not enough practical ideas for me personally. A too large focus on sports to be useful for me personally. Your mileage may vary.

New Year’s Resolution: Improved Sleep

It’s not really a New Year’s resolution, but it sounded a bit better in the title. One of the things I thought a lot about during the first months of my recovery from heart valve surgery has been my sleep. I think it’s something I have to admit I’ve neglected over the last years if not decades. In the back of my mind I decided it’s something I wanted to do something about, although I didn’t form any firm plans what it was.

Browsing in a bookstore during a trip to Reading just before Christmas I came across a little book I decided to pick up and see if it can help me forming a plan how to improve my sleep:

‘Elite sports sleep coach’ sounds a bit strange and bombastic, but then the author has indeed good credentials, having worked with the major football teams, the Sky cycling team and more. So I thought I’ll give it a go. I haven’t finished the book just yet, but what I’ve read so far largely makes sense to me.

Since just before Christmas I’m now getting up at a regular time (6:00 for me, very early, but I need the early start for various reasons) regardless of the day. Yes, even over Christmas and New Year I got up at that time. So far that’s working quite well. I’m trying to think/plan my night sleep in 90 minute cycles instead of thinking the old outdated 8 hours (which I never managed anyway) and also aim to have daytime naps in either 25 minute power naps or 90 minute full cycle naps. That part isn’t fully working yet, my body still needs to properly adapt to it. I’m trying to slow down and significantly reduce screen exposure the last hour before going to bed. I’m having mixed success with this, I’m now usually shutting down my laptop an hour before bed, but I’m still looking too much at my tablet/phone at the last minute, so far I haven’t fully build up the resilience not needing to look. Combined with general recovery/fitness plans I’m going for a 15-20 minute bedtime walk regardless of the weather, that’s working really well. I’m also doing other closure/preparation tasks like washing up, preparing my clothes for the next day and the like in that hour, that’s working fairly well.

There are many more areas needing work and I need to make sure I transfer what I’ve started into fully consistent habits, but then this is a journey, not something you just switch on. I’m hoping improving my sleep will help me in both the ongoing recovery as well as maintaining my health later on. After all sleep is when our bodies rest and repair themselves.