Mens Sana: January 2018 Reads

One of my mythical New Year’s resolutions draws its inspiration from the Latin phrase “mens sana in corpore sano:” a sound mind in a sound body. My existence has often been a cerebral one, which is a fancy, less demeaning way of saying that I spend a lot of my time lying down and daydreaming. I’ve been making an active effort to change that in 2018 with a simple requirement: thirty minutes of reading each day for the mind and thirty minutes each day for the body. This reading is quantified as novel reading for pleasure, thirty minutes each day resulting in a book a week for the rest of the year, alongside thirty minutes of exercise each day resulting in a valiant attempt the slowing metabolism that comes with age, for an hour or so of self-care and self-growth each day.

I have a little chart in my planner that I use to keep track of this, shading each box for a day accomplished. I hope to share a photo of that a little later on, once more boxes have been shaded and it looks more impressive, but for now, I’m going to go into the initial result of the “mens sana” part of this exercise by talking a little bit about the five books I read in January.

I used to challenge myself with a hundred books a year. This was something I used to accomplish. Eventually, as I grew older and my attention span shorter, if my pacing failed and the goal seemed too far from achievement, I’d abandon the challenge entirely. I’m hoping to return to some kind of consistency with a humble 52-ish, then see where things go from there.

I was really big on non-fiction last January. I actually started on some fiction on some weeks, but a few pages in – or percentages, as it were, since I’d read on my Kindle, – I really wouldn’t feel up for it and I’d go look for something else.

Week 1, Book 1: HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself (2011) by the Harvard Business Review
I would see the hard copy versions of this and the rest of this series during my many visits to Fully Booked, and I ended up committing to the $9.50 eBook to kick off 2018. I’m 26 right now and super into this notion of career fulfillment alongside self-improvement, so this was a very timely read for me. Very timely, and also very good. If the price tag weren’t an issue, I’d be mowing down the other titles from the same. I’m happy to pace myself in the weeks to come, though. It’s the kind of book I’d photocopy certain pages of for passing on to friends, with my personal highlights and notes and exclamation points on lines and sections deemed relevant to the receiver.

On a semi-related note, I’d also like to share this one HBR article that speaks to me on so many levels, my absolute favorite: Why You Should Have (At Least) Two Careers by Kabir Sehgal. Anyone who’s ever talked to me about career or passion pursuit in any capacity has received this article at one point in our conversation. If you have, you’re welcome. If you haven’t, here you go.

 

Week 2, Book 2: Kitchen Confidential (2008) by Anthony Bourdain
I was first exposed to the writing of Anthony Bourdain in my first English class as a freshman in Ateneo. This fact was something I remembered a few years out of college when I was browsing the Kindle Unlimited selection and happened upon this book as part of the selection that came free with my subscription. I read this book and didn’t want it to end. The great Dream of any prose writer is to write a Novel, but I think I’ve always been an essayist at heart, and reading Bourdain’s work only motivates me more to find a voice and style that’s just as distinct. That, and maybe to be interesting enough to gain some kind of readership for my first-person perspectives, but you get it.

This is not the best book to read at night, though. All the food talk triggers the midnight munchies – and not for mindless snacking like chips or anything, but for arguably fancier, less easily accessible fair, hahaha.

 

Week 3, Book 3: The Science of Self-Discipline: The Willpower, Mental Toughness, and Self-Control to Resist Temptation and Achieve Your Goals (2017) by Peter Hollins
I don’t remember how I discovered this book, but I’m so glad I did. I’m not usually attracted to these kinds of titles, but there was a dog on the cover. The sample was enough to pique my interest, so despite my Kindle Unlimited subscription, I went ahead and spent the $3.99 for it. It was excellent. At a little over 200 pages, it’s a relatively short read, but it was so properly paced and so accessible that I couldn’t help but breeze through it. It was packed with so much information without the information overload, so much so that I ended up finishing it in the middle of the week and thus promptly purchasing another title by the same.

 

Week 3, Book 4: The Science of Accelerated Learning: Advanced Strategies for Quicker Comprehension, Greater Retention, and Systematic Expertise (2017) by Peter Hollins
Peter Hollins has a lot of The Science Of books, but I ended up choosing this one because I’m about to re-enter the learner’s arena very soon. Throughout high school and college, I always thought I’d be a career academic, going straight for an MA and a PhD and whatever else that keeps in the classroom while teaching on the side, still keeping me in the classroom. However, I ended up with career, just career, sidetracked by marketing and public relations, of all things, so I haven’t been in touch with the academic side of me since I graduated from college in 2013. With this book and my previous Hollins read, I’m hoping to stay motivated enough to massage my synapses into plasticity once again. The most practical tip I lifted from this book is the Cornell method for note-taking. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to give this one a spin. I’m also hoping to read more of Hollins’ work in the weeks to come.

 

Week 4, Book 5: I Am Alive (I Am Alive, Book 1) (2013) by Cameron Jace
There are some authors with whom I consider myself hiyang. The Filipino word is the best word I can use to describe how much my personal sensibilities jive with a single author’s entire body of work. Tracy Chevalier is one, Linda Lafferty is another, and Cameron Jace is the latest addition to that relatively short list. Cameron Jace writes a lot of reimagined classics, and while a lot of reimagined stores tend to be tired, rehashed renditions of the same, Jace’s stories are so refreshing in their originality and uniqueness of voice, and the vastness of his world-building so aspirational and impressive to me. He took Alice in Wonderland, arguably the most tired of all fairy tale rewrites, and created the Insanity series, which I practically inhaled.

I picked up I Am Alive, his take on post-apocalyptic dystopia ala Hunger Games, with pretty much the same hopes I had with all of his previous work, and I was not disappointed. Once again, I was thoroughly engaged by everything I loved about Jace’s works: strong imagery, dynamic characters, and all the pop culture references that feel extremely timely without trying too hard to be. Once again, Jace took a trope and made it entirely his own. I’m definitely picking up the rest of the series, just as soon as I get over my non-fiction binge.

I began February with a reread of a collection of essays I loved way too much, but more of that at the end of this month. For now, please spare me from rereading my entire read pile by leaving me title recommendations! Both fiction and non-fiction are appreciated, as is the fact that you made it through yet another thousand words from me, haha. Until next time!

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