It’s the Sunday after the first week of school, and I’m getting into my routines. (I am a creature of habit: more on that later this week when I review some of my favorite books this summer about scheduling, rituals, and identity.) I already wrote this post, but it deleted when I hit “publish” — c’est la vie — so we’re back for round two.
I’ve been using library holds all this summer and love the convenience. I highly recommend it to any student especially trying to read more. It’s so efficient for me because I have the books I read, and the order in which I read them, decided for me in advance. Having a set time frame in which I need to finish a read is the perfect push for the school year, when I find myself so bogged down in distraction.
Without further ado, here are some of my reads from the week.
Novel: Deep Work by Cal Newport | Goodreads
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
One of the most valuable skills in our economy is becoming increasingly rare. If you master this skill, you'll achieve extraordinary results.
Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It's a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep-spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there's a better way.
In Deep Work, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four "rules," for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.
A mix of cultural criticism and actionable advice, Deep Worktakes the reader on a journey through memorable stories-from Carl Jung building a stone tower in the woods to focus his mind, to a social media pioneer buying a round-trip business class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distraction in the air-and no-nonsense advice, such as the claim that most serious professionals should quit social media and that you should practice being bored. Deep Work is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been reading a bunch on the attention economy and my role in it. I’ve taken so much pleasure from reading Newport’s take on “focus in a distracted world,” and effective strategies we can use to cultivate it. The book is two-pronged in that it also discusses decreasing our necessity to be distracted when we’re bored. He also references many of my favorite writers and academics. I finished Deep Work this afternoon and fully plan on using a lot of the information in it to structure my habits going forward. It feels like a great foundation to recapture focus.
Novel: Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy, Fifth Edition by Cynthia M. Kuhn, Scott Swartzwelder, Wilkie Wilson
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Publisher: W.W. Norton Company
Neither a just say no treatise nor a how-to manual, this easy-to-read handbook is based on the conviction that the well-informed make better decisions. It provides information on how drugs enter the body, how they manipulate the brain, their short- & long-term effects, the high they produce & the circumstances in which they can be deadly. psychological & pharmacological research on drugs. Whether the reader is a student confronted by drugs for the first time, an accountant reaching for another cup of coffee, or a health educator, this book aims to provide a clear understanding of how drugs work & the consequences of their use.
I love this book and I think it’s a valuable read for most my age. In a college town, particularly a small one, plenty of misinformation — and cheesy orientation information — floats around, so I liked reading a source that gives it to you straight. The synopsis is accurate in that Buzzed is a thorough, but nonjudgmental, look at many of the substances we put into our bodies. It details histories, effects, personal impacts, and more. Even learning about the ways in which caffeine can be manipulated felt valuable to the way I conduct myself, and the book can be used either as a reference with pros and cons, or as a chronological read. It keeps me from having to gauge the accuracy and timing of various online sources, which I appreciate.
Novel: How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell | Goodreads
Release Date: April 9, 2019
Publisher: Melville House
This thrilling critique of the forces vying for our attention re-defines what we think of as productivity, shows us a new way to connect with our environment and reveals all that we’ve been too distracted to see about our selves and our world.
When the technologies we use every day collapse our experiences into 24/7 availability, platforms for personal branding, and products to be monetized, nothing can be quite so radical as… doing nothing. Here, Jenny Odell sends up a flare from the heart of Silicon Valley, delivering an action plan to resist capitalist narratives of productivity and techno-determinism, and to become more meaningfully connected in the process.
How to Do Nothing tackles similar issues to Deep Work, with a different focus, especially since it released in 2019. While I haven’t started it — problematic because my hold expires in a few hours! — I’m excited to read about how the pressure to have an online presence, to have a curated personal brand, to be constantly available, impacts our ability to engage with the world around us. I’m definitely a person guilty of equating “busyness” with “success.” Supposedly, this synopsis is a bit misleading though — according to reviews, it’s more philosophical than instructional, and can get pretty inaccessible at times. Still, having read many of the reads I tackled this summer, I could appreciate a cultural critique rather than an easier discussion. Also, straight up, I just love the cover.