May Reading List 2020

Free from the never ending pile of schoolwork, as sophomore year has recently come to an end, I’ve finally had the opportunity to start reading books again. Yes, that’s right books, not textbooks.

Below is the list of books that I’ve enjoyed this month. I’ll spare you my own personal summary of the books as I trust you can find better summaries and reviews online with a quick Google search. Instead, I’ll leave what I found to be the most thought provoking excerpts that I came across while reading and explicitly noted down for myself, and now you!

Recursion by Blake Crouch

Ok fine, I’ll admit, I first picked up this book as a joke because “HaHA a CS ReFeReNCe”, but it ended up being the best, didn’t-see-the-plot-twist-coming sci-fi book I’ve read in a looooong time.

“Because memory…is everything. Physically speaking, a memory is nothing but a specific combination of neurons firing together—a symphony of neural activity. But in actuality, it’s the filter between us and reality. You think you’re tasting this wine, hearing the words I’m saying, in the present, but there’s no such thing. The neural impulses from your taste buds and your ears get transmitted to your brain, which processes them and dumps them into working memory—so by the time you know you’re experiencing something, it’s already in the past. Already a memory.” Helena leans forward, snaps her fingers. “Just what your brain does to interpret a simple stimulus like that is incredible. The visual and auditory information arrive at your eyes and ears at different speeds, and then are processed by your brain at different speeds. Your brain waits for the slowest bit of stimulus to be processed, then reorders the neural inputs correctly, and lets you experience them together, as a simultaneous event—about half a second after what actually happened. We think we’re perceiving the world directly and immediately, but everything we experience is this carefully edited, tape-delayed reconstruction.”

Time is an illusion, a construct made out of human memory. There’s no such thing as the past, the present, or the future. It’s all happening now.

Life with a cheat code isn’t life. Our existence isn’t something to be engineered or optimized for the avoidance of pain. That’s what it is to be human – the beauty and the pain, each meaningless without the other.

To Hell With The Hustle by Jefferson Bethke

As someone addicted to productivity, and with a desktop background that literally says “hustle” the title of this book immediately caught my eye.

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Work jumped from being a means of “material production” to being much more about “identity production.” In other words, work used to be about making things. Then all of a sudden, work was about making us… When our work becomes who we are and we derive our ultimate value and meaning from it, it runs the risk of becoming our god. The thing we worship. Bow down to. Become slaves of.

We do not become just what we think. We become what we desire. We are not shaped by facts. We are shaped by what we love.

If hustle needed a birthdate I’d say it was the day the assembly line was born. It made efficiency a god. It made time a god. It created the ultimate pursuit of profit over everything.

Some research shows that people drink more when music is loud, chew faster when louder music is present. The noise sets your pace whether or not you realize it or not.

Not many of us recognize—and rarely do we wrestle with—how much we actually love chaos and franticness and busyness. We don’t admit that it does something to our soul and we enjoy it. It gives us purpose and meaning. We feel needed. We feel important. And most of all, we implicitly believe the lie that we need to take care of ourselves, because God just might forget about us. But I believe God takes care of his people—even more when they are honoring him and trusting his design and Spirit. And he’s been doing this since the beginning of the story.

Why Does The Other Line Always Move Faster by David Andrew

A very relatable thought provoking title and the word “psychology” in its tagline, how could I say no?

There’s a reason you have to walk through a maze of velvet ropes to get to the teller at some banks. Someone discovered that by dividing a space into smaller measurable segments, our minds tell us that the wait is shorter. We mentally break up our wait into manageable chunks. We’re less reminded of how long our wait is than when we see a long uninterrupted straight line down the street. These are fairly simple tricks of perception, and you the customer are fooled by them.

It seems to me that many of these companies are capitalizing on their own shitty service. What’s the incentive to improve service, when they’re making even more money because of it? Why not make service worse, so that more people are driven to buy their Flash Pass?… Why change, when it all comes out as profit in the end?

Should people be able to pay to skip the line?… According to market logic, paying for someone to stand in line for you corrects a pricing imbalance: If there are long lines outside of your establishment, you are obviously underpricing the goods you are offering. If you raise the price to what the market can bear, you will reduce the lines. What paid line standers—ticket scalpers by another name—are doing is returning the price to what people are willing to pay, and profiting from the difference. Some people are willing to pay with their time, but there are some who would prefer to pay with their money.

At all points, the visitor is given directions that prescribe movement, whether by signs, by disembodied prerecorded voices, or by enthusiastic park staff. There are barriers everywhere—sometimes disguised as aesthetic objects—that limit choice of movement. Other features—a fountain, a flower garden—are meant either to attract or repel visitors to or from certain areas of the park. (What child comes to Disney World to look at a friggin’ flower garden? In this case, the throughput is guests. What’s the system capacity? How many hundreds of people can a ride process per hour, from the minute they step into line, to the minute they exit the ride? If the term throughput seems exceedingly cold, technical, mechanical—aren’t we all individual unique snowflakes, here in the happiest place on earth?—that’s because it is. From an engineering standpoint, we are all just numbers, items on the assembly line, heads of cattle.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

I was first recommended this via a Youtuber I subscribe to and then later that week I watched a 60 minutes interview featuring Brené, so I figured I had to check this book out.

For me, and many of us, our first waking thought of the day is I didn’t get enough sleep. The next one is, I don’t have enough time. Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn’t get, what we didn’t get done that day. We go to sleep burned by those thoughts and wake up to that revelry of lack, this internal condition of scarcity, this mindset of scarcity lives at the very heart of our jealousy, greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life.

Shame is real pain. The importance of social acceptance and connection is reinforced by our brain chemistry and the pain that results from such rejection and disconnection is real pain. In a 2011 study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, researchers found that as far as the brain is concerned, physical pain and intense experience of social rejection hurt in the same way. So when I define shame as an intensely painful experience, I’m not kidding. Neuroscience advances confirm what we’ve known all along. Emotions can hurt and cause pain and just as we struggle to define physical pain, defining emotional pain is difficult. Shame is particularly difficult because it hates having words wrapped around it. It hates being spoken.