I’m a person who loves systems. I thrive on routines, plan for fun, and have tried more life hacks than you could shake a stick at. Because of this interest in organization, I’m a little bit hooked on “productivity porn.” I love seeing how other people organize their lives and shamelessly stealing aspects of their routines that I like.
One of my favorite sources to steal from is Cortex, a Relay.FM podcast hosted by Myke Hurley and CGP Grey. Both are “independent content creators” and the show covers various aspects of their working lives and how they stay productive. In one episode, Grey recommends The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey as a great productivity porn book, which I immediately placed a hold on at the library.
Me and everybody else in my area, it seems. I was on the wait list for over a month. But it was well worth the wait — I loved The Productivity Project.
The book is a look at a year in Bailey’s life which he dedicated to studying productivity. He threw himself into productivity experiments and relates the entire experience in a way that is both helpful and humorous. Unlike many other productivity books on the market, The Productivity Project does not prescribe a certain approach or system, but rather provides an overview of many different systems and hacks that Bailey tried over the course of the project and a rundown of how they affected his productivity, as well on thoughts on why they either worked or didn’t.
Bailey’s writing is inviting and conversational rather than instructional or commanding, like so many time-management solution books slip into. I enjoyed it because I didn’t feel like Bailey was trying to get me to buy into any one approach, but rather laying out tools I could work into any system that I liked. And he wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel and create a system from scratch. It was just a guy trying out a bunch of stuff to see what worked and what didn’t, which I totally related to.
If you are at all interested in The Productivity Project, I recommend picking it up. It’s a quick read and a great resource that I think anyone bothering to read this review will like. If you’re the type of person who would grab a book called The Productivity Project, you’re set for a good time.
Sometimes a book comes into your life at just the right moment.
When a friend of mine recommended The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, I was struggling with a bout of depression brought on by the winter holiday season. I’ve struggled with depression my entire life, so I’ve learned a lot of techniques to keep me above water during the bad times. But the holidays always trigger periods of severity for me, and this past December was my first without antidepressant medication in many, many years, so it was hard.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was exactly what I needed to get through that time. The first of a trilogy, THTK serves as the introduction to a world that is a pleasure to get lost in. It’s hard to believe that the novel is the debut of author N.K. Jemisin, who shows a mastery of characterization, world-building, and stunning prose usually only visible in later-life works. I slipped into the city of Sky like a warm bath and was enthralled the entire time the book was in my hands.
I particularly loved the main character, Yeine. She’s a driven young woman who is strong, but not because she’s perfect. She suffers from the stress of being thrown into a strange, dangerous situation; the self-doubt that comes from not being completely sure of one’s identity; and the pangs of loneliness that come from being far from home. In other words, she’s emotionally vulnerable, and I loved her for it. Because that emotional vulnerability didn’t keep her from doing what she needed to do. And though it made her human, it didn’t make her weak.
I highly recommend The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to anyone who enjoys fantasy. It has elements of both high/traditional- and urban- fantasy, so everyone has something they can enjoy. The best part? Despite its epic feel, it’s only a trilogy. And the whole trilogy is out right now for your binge-reading pleasure!
Like so many others, I struggle with maintaining healthy habits in my life. I live a fairly sedentary lifestyle, with a desk job and a lot of hobbies that involve sitting in one place for long periods of time. I’m trying to get better about exercising, but finding the willpower is proving difficult.
I am also trying to improve my relationship with food. I feel like I eat fairly well, but I also know I could be more informed about what I put in my body. I mean, I know eating lots of sugar and fried things is bad, but what about carbs? Fat? What are all those additives doing to my body, really?
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto is a book that tries to get at the heart of the human relationship with food. By examining the Western way of eating, Michael Pollan attempts to cut through all the complicated nutrition talk that has come to surround eating healthily and get back down to the commonsense, cultural knowledge we hold about food. “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”
Pollan is an excellent writer, and I very much enjoyed In Defense of Food. I devoured it quickly, took lots of notes for myself, and feel that a lot of the information has helped guide me towards a better way of eating. So much of the literature surrounding food is firmly entrenched in diet culture (don’t even get me started on that), but In Defense of Food is not. This is a book that celebrates the joy of food and doesn’t try to prescribe a one-size-fits-all plan for eating.
And, even better? It’s not about losing weight. It never makes you feel guilty for loving and enjoying food.
I have an on-again, off-again relationship with Goodreads. It’s a very handy website that’s great at what it does, but for some reason, I tend to always drop off after periods of heavy use.
Fortunately for me, during one of those periods of use, I ran across Patrick Rothfuss’s review of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. After reading it, I was intrigued, and threw the book onto my TBR list. Next time I was at the bookstore, I picked it up. Three years later, I finally read it.
I am so mad at myself that I waited so long, but so happy I found this book. Everything Rothfuss says it’s true, and my feelings about the story are pretty much summed up in his words: “This book is beautiful. The language is lovely without being pretentious. The story is careful and playful and smart. This book made me tear up in places.”
If you like faerie tales, especially those with some teeth beneath their surface, definitely pick this one up. It’s gorgeous and so much fun that I want to start reading it out loud to my husband, even though I just finished it myself.
Here’s a link to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland on a Ship of Her Own Making’s Goodreads page if you want to learn a little more. But trust me, go to your closest bookstore and get a copy or snag it from the library immediately.