Jun 11, 2015

Three books

I started three books last night. Entirely unlike me, I will admit. Not because I don't like reading, but because I don't have the kind of time I would have like to have had to devote to it. I have a gruelling full-time job, I'm a part-time musician, I live by myself for all practical purposes, I'm in a demanding relationship, and I live in Mumbai, which means I spend about 3 to 4 hours in commute every day. But that's not what this post is about. It is about the three books that I have started yesterday.

What were they? Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert, Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson, and The Giver by Lois Lowry. How these books arrived in my consciousness is interesting.

My friend/colleague/book-clubber forwarded a TED talk by Dan Gilbert to me and J. I usually do not warm up to such video shares. First, because I rarely find myself in a situation, when I initially check the thread/conversation, where I can comfortably watch and comprehend what I'm seeing. Poor connectivity, environmental distractions, etc., you see. Second--come on, admit it. Who wants to hear another talk about the elusive "happiness"?

Anyway, I watched this talk--I was at my apartment late in the night when I checked and I immediately watched the video. Mr. Gilbert was not only persuasive in terms of his argument about how happiness is relative and difficult to attain, he was funny and had interesting references. Hence, I decided to download a sample on my Kindle. I was hooked and I bought the book immediately. I am now past the second chapter and it remains interesting.

Clive Thompson's book about technology changing our minds and the way we communicate was inspired by, ahem, another talk. This time, I was at the talk that Mr. Thompson gave at the plenary address at the Council of Science Editor's Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. The talk about the Future of Thought, and I, along with some other conference attendees thought this speech was the best at the conference.

Even in the talk, Clive was able to successfully demystify the notion that the changes in the way we communicate--the reliance of texting, social media, spending time online--which are generally considered bad for you, are not bad at all. We are thinking differently and that's fine. We are getting more information, which is benefiting us. He stresses on the "ambient information" from "weak ties" as the most useful information that you will get for your day-to-day life.

In other words, you will probably be more benefited from random status updates of your casual social acquaintances more than the in-depth discussions that you have with your spouse. Pretty cool, eh? If you want to find out more, please get the book. It's a smooth and fast-paced read.

Plus, Twitter now makes reading books on topics like these by being cool like this:

The third book, the Lois Lowry classic, is the book of the month this month in the book club. I came to know about it around the time the movie was released. The concept is fascinating, and is one of the more plausible dystopias that you can expect to be reality soon. Plus, the writing is crisp and fast paced. I'm so glad we chose this book for the young-adult fiction category.

(PS: I realized that fiction tends to make me sleepy (because of I'm perpetually tired and sleep deprived) whereas non-fiction does not. This is probably the fourth neuroscience-related book that I've picked up in the last year or so.)

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