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  • Writer's pictureSean

March 2020 Recap!

"Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than any exertion." - Florence Nightingale

March has felt like this for a lot of this I think! Crazy to think this book stack, less than a month old in the making, was before self-distancing and isolation!

With that being said, what a month of great reading! It felt like all highlights this month and helped by the fact that we had a bit more time to read! If you have been following along on Instagram you will note that I've begun using the Notability app to take notes in digital form. March has been the first month where it feels like I'm really finding my groove and beginning to benefit from being able to capture everything digitally. More to come on this in later blog posts so stay tuned.

March Reads

Be sure to check out the full review I did on an earlier blog post. This book is a classic now in its 20th+ year. Lots of great takeaways for anyone who is thinking about money at a time like this. To fundamentally shift our way of thinking about money from one of acquiring liabilities (those things that don't return any money) to acquiring assets (those things that provide a return!). It really comes down to understanding what we spend our money on and how we can begin to pay ourselves first and invest in and acquire assets that will eventually pay for themselves. An excellent book to start with if you are new to the finance game but also if you want to re-evaluate your own money mindset.

In times of uncertainty and chaos, a book like this will help you find some comfort in your own mind and the thoughts we all carry around. Our ability to free ourselves from the ruminations of our own mind is the path towards freedom. As we all face uncertainty, especially in the world gripped by COVID, there is comfort in finding peace within ourselves. A book filled with spirituality and wisdom and a recommend if you find yourself interested in mindfulness, Buddhism, or eastern philosophy.

An early free read from my partners at Pantheon Books, Laila Lalami has told the story of her own citizenship and views on the challenges globally with racism, stereotyping and the overarching power dynamic between the Western white world and the rest. The book moves through the challenges of borders, the current citizenship issues facing Americans and immigrants alike, and to a lesser degree how we may find our way out of this.

The second Joan Didion book I've had the chance to read and this one felt a bit flat for me; especially coming off The Year of Magical Thinking. It's comprised of 20 essays that cover the landscape of the United States in the 1960s. Perhaps the flatness for comes from the idea that journalism today was built upon this style and so it isn't as cutting edge as it was back then. There are glimpses of her storytelling throughout that just grab your attention and run which I loved. The essays on New York were gripping and took me right back to the visits I've had there. If you are a fan of essays or Joan herself then this is a must-read for you!

If you are at all interested in psychology and how trauma affects the body and mind than this is the gold standard. What an exceptional book that brings you up to speed with incredible examples and is easy reading throughout. Bessel has taken a complex and challenging subject matter and condensed it into a book that should lay the groundwork for the future of the field. Highly recommended!

Dinosaurs to me are one of those topics that everyone seems to have a basic understanding of but at a certain point that knowledge seems to stop growing. I vividly recall the Jurassic Park novel coming out and reading it on repeat at least three times in a row (if we are going by repetition as a proxy for a favourite book then it might be that one!). I've loved watching and revisiting the movies and yet realized as I picked up Steve Brusatte's book The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, my knowledge of what happened to them or where the science has gone was limited.

I think what sets this book apart is the clear passion that Steve brings to the topic of dinosaurs. This could have easily been a historical textbook style exercise from first to last and yet Steve interjects his own experiences, the people working on the projects, and stories of how discoveries are still being made today. Ideas I'd never really considered.

What came before dinosaurs? How did they evolve to become what they are and why? Where were they going?

A lot of these questions are currently being studied by people all over the world and just knowing that put a smile on my 14-year-old self's face. We are fortunate to have an amazing dinosaur museum close by and yet it's been beers since I've been! Time to go visit this summer!

What was also intriguing about this book is how other fields are starting to converge into the study of dinosaurs. Much like other scientific studies, palaeontology is branching out into subsets that bring complex mathematics, biology, genetics, and computing to the table. This feels like a genre we will need an update on in five to ten years.

This was a great read! If you aren't interested in dinosaurs ... well maybe not for you but otherwise. Science and dinosaurs fans should jump in!

Wow, what a book. Ronan Farrow won the Pulitzer Prize for this one and I can see why. The level of journalism it took to bring this story to the world amidst all of the chaos he encountered between NBC killing the story and him being followed by hired guns. Excellent book with a story that leaves you shaking your head in disbelief. It's no wonder that there has been so much outrage in recent years.

“In many cases what drew me to these stories was the very commonness of their heroes, the fact that these breakthroughs sprang not from the singular brain of a Broca or Darwin or Newton, but from the brains of everyday people—people like you, like me, like the thousands of strangers we pass on the street each week. Their stories expand our notions of what the brain is capable of, and show that when one part of the mind shuts down, something new and unpredictable and sometimes even beautiful roars to life.”

Sam Kean's The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons tells the tale of all things brain and the history behind how we came to know what we do. Like many stories of early surgery, the understanding of the brain was driven by scientists and surgeons who knew little and guessed a lot. Who took opportunities when patients came in with head injuries to poke and prod. It's easy to look back and shake our heads at what took place and yet that is the history of medicine in its entirety.

Stories of individuals who had unusual lesions in certain spots of their brain leaving them without memory. Phineas Gage, known now as the man who had a steel rod fly through his head and live, and his struggles to be the man he used to be. Doctors noticing the mental changes though and recognizing what might have been impacted.

Through all of the crazy tales there existed individuals who could look beyond. I often think about a book read last year called The Strange Order of Things by Antonio Damasio and his beautiful writing on the cutting edge of neurology and what we are learning about the evolution of the brain. Definitely recommend for those who are interested in the brain or neurology!

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