biannual Books Roundup 2016

My bookshelf at home started stacking up more and more books that I hadn’t read. Something always came up, but at the same time I had a lot of time while driving or just lazing around town. I drive around 1.5 hours on average a day.  I used that as a trigger to read books. And it’s been working so far.

I’ve read 17 books in six months which isn’t bad, that’s 4 more books than the first 6 months. The books I’ve enjoyed the most have been about human behavior, economics and psychology. It’s just fascinating when someone dissects the world by numbers or explains that little quirk of yours from an evolutionary perspective, gets me everytime.

So here’s the list with one line reviews and a link to a full review on goodreads.

Psychology / Philosophy

Freakonomics – Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner – 320 pages ★★★★★

Highly engaging, entertaining, one of the best I’ve read in 2016. This book won’t change your life but it will leave you with perhaps a cynical but more real perspective about the world. A world driven by numbers.
Read Full Review of Freakonomics

The Art of War – Sun Tzu – 273 pages ★★★★☆

It’s such a wonderful book, minimalist at its best. Every word is in it’s right place and you cannot take a single word away without losing its meaning.

It’s stripped off any frills and tells the philosophy as it is and you keep nodding your head yes master, true master.
Read full review of Art of War 

Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell – 309 pages ★★★★★

This is must read for us Pakistanis with a Jew conspiracy theory of success. We who clicks on a Rags to Riches story on a click bait website. Us who in our past time either talk about corrupt politicians or Property Dealers and how much they make.
Read full review of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Biography

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson – 656 pages ★★★★☆

The biography for me was a battle to understand was job’s a good guy or not. I think we have to ignore that. He was a selfish guy, who did not often care for people or things, he wasn’t a humanitarian, a philanthropist nor did he want to fix the world.

What he wanted to do was to make great usable products and leave his mark on the world, in which he succeeded. And he succeeded in a way other companies never can.
Read full review of Steve Jobs Biography 

 

Elon Musk – Ashlee Vance – 392 pages ★★★★☆

Wonderful book about a super interesting man. The good thing is it’s not just about Musk it’s a lot more than that, it’s about entrepreneurship, futurology and the craziness that is silicon valley.

What elon musk is and what he’s not is a separate debate than the book. It feels like he’s portrait honestly but at times the writer does seem just a tad biased about what elon created.

Fascinating book, about a fascinating man. There is so much to learn from this not just about Einstein but his work, philosophy and political views. The Einstein’s perspective.

Business

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us – Seth Godin –  151 pages ★★★★☆

Tribes talks about some wonderful things which are very relevant not only to giant businesses but the little guy, trying to find his right footing. Some great advice in it, I like that seth never feeds you some mantras that you can repeat and be successful. He always just tells you a direction and let’s it go.Read full review of Tribes by Seth Godin

Cracking the Tech Career – Gayle Laakmann McDowell – 275 pages ★★★★☆

Wonderful for anyone who is serious about his career. its just not about tech job but any jobs in the modern world. Great detailed analysis with research from resume to interviews.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown – 260 pages ★★★☆☆

The books which focus on look what he did wrong and what happens feel like a chain letter. More than good examples it often focuses on things that went wrong. Personally I enjoy more how can you implement the concepts with examples.

Self Help

Mastery – Robert Greene – 318 pages ★★★★☆

I’m not sure what genre to put this book in, it’s part biography, part self help and a whole lot of great research on human behaviour to take in. But it’s a great read lets you have an in depth look at old and contemporary masters, their journey and their lessons.
Read full review of Mastery

The Millionaire Fastlane – M.J. DeMarco – 322 pages ★★★★☆

The only thing terrible about the book is it’s title. It’s a horrible one, if all self help gurus combined their power to create the cheesiest sloppiest title for a book this would be it.Read full review of Millionaire Fastlane

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie – 288 pages ★★★★★

The writer explains the simple rules and takes incidents from history of people applying them and the results that follow. These stories come from Roosevelt trying to win an election to house wife’s trying to raise their kids right. And work for both and everything in between.These are such simple rules which were true in 1939 (when it was written) and still hold true today.

Read full review of How to make friends and Influence People

Who Moved My Cheese? – Spencer Johnson – 96 pages ★★★★☆

This book is just right, short enough that you can read it in a sitting. Comprehensive and entertaining so you fully grasp the concept and enjoy it. A must read for everyone, because we all deal with changes all the time.

Science Fiction

2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke – 297 pages ★★★★★

A classic for a reason, it’s not everyday there’s a novel written just for the purpose of making a film on it. From Space Travel, AI to intelligent life forms it’s got it all one of the best sci fi I’ve read. The only regret I have is why didn’t I do it earlier.

The book on which blade runner is based. If you’re looking for a bleaker more complicated blade runner this is it.
Hyperion – Dan Simmons – 482 pages ★★★★☆
Hyperion. A story that goes beyond, religions, space and time with the right amount of wit, mystery and science.The stories expand to hundreds of years (because of inter galactic frozen space travel of course) which include aliens, androids, space portals, time travel, mysticism, poetry and so on. There’s a lot to each story and to each character and every single one is enjoyable.

The only science about the book is the fact that the man is from mars, everything is pretty much fiction. It’s an interesting take on human behavior but I’d want it in a smaller package.


Do check out Zaki’s year in books round up some great books in there. And if you’d like to read more of my ramblings, consider signing up for the email alert.

And if you’ve got any recommendations please send them over, I’m always looking for good books.

What did you read this year? This is my list from 2016

Reading time: 3 min
Summary: One line reviews of 13 books divided in philosophy, sci-fi, self help and business.

The stockpile of unread books in my room had been increasing with time. When  I did get some time my energy level was so low from reading for work all day that I did not want to read anymore. With the number of books my anxieties grew. Finally I got a solution this year, audiobooks for the win. It’s not only helped me get through books I’ve wanted to read for a while, but it has also helped me pick up physical books again.

The target was 3 books a month, which hasn’t been achieved yet. But will be inshallah but the end of the year. But hey 13 books more than last six months.

Psychology / Philosophy

Siddhartha – Hermann Hesse – 152 pages (read again) ★★★★★
Siddhartha is super short & there is a lot packed in it. It’s mystical without being a book of tips. It’s a life changer.

Road less travelled – M.S Pegg 316 pages (read again) ★★★★★
Road less travel if anything makes you understand yourself better. It’s a collection of cases from a psychologist office.

Working with Emotional Intelligence  – Daniel Colman  – 400 pages ★★★☆☆
I would recommend reading E.I the first book over working with E.I this is more of a implementation book of it.

Business

The innovators – Walter Isaacson  – 528 pages ★★★★★
Where did all this tech revolution start, the book follows the innovations to innovators from the first electronic device to Gates & Jobs. Teaches you a whole lot not only about who did it, but how & what internal & external factors make an innovation work.

Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell301 pages ★★★★★
It’s a collection of wonderful case studies & experiences from Hush Puppies, control of crime rate in new york to how sesame street is as addictive as much as it is. It’s a recipe for what makes anything tip and become a phenomenon.

Free Prize Inside – Seth Gordon – 256 pages ★★★★★
Marketing isn’t what it used to be 20 years ago. The book follows a wonderful philosophy of making products that market themselves. It’s gives a lot of marketing perspective about which Gladwell talks in the tipping point.

The hard things about hard things – Ben Horowitz – 304 pages ★★★★☆
If you’re in a decision maker which influences business & the lives that it involves, it’s a great read. It gets too specific at times, if you’re not a CEO with a VC backing it becomes a little unrelatable in some chapters. (for me personally)

Self Help

Getting things done – David Allen – 267 pages ★★★★★
If I’ve been able to do something in the last couple of months it’s because of Getting things done. A super short book a wonderful toolkit on getting things on track & getting rid of the I need to do that anxiety.

Monk who sold his Ferrari – Robin Sharma – 200 pages ★★★★☆
Some great tips in Sharma’s book a must read but too self helpy at times. Either way some great tips in there to help you in everyday life and focus on what’s important.

The 4 hour workweek – Timothy Ferriss – 308 pages ★★☆☆☆
The issue with 4 hour work week is that it sells a very modern, a very particular dream & it sells it in a tele sales borderline unethical at times illegal way. But if you want to build a lifestyle business that pays it’s a great toolkit. Has some great business tips nonetheless.

Fiction

Neuromancer – William Gibson – 271 pages  ★★★★★
Neuromancer, the original cyber punk. If you like Ghost in a shell, the matrix  it’s a must read. There’s a lot happening all the time, you might need to reread it to enjoy it fully, I did.

Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson – 470 pages ★★★★☆
Snow Crash is prediction of the future in parts, the book who introduced the concept of avatars & virtual worlds. All packed in cyber punk world. Great read.

The Mote in God’s Eye – Niven & Pournelle  – 596 pages ★★★★☆
It’s interspace travel, war and discovery. The thing that makes it tick is it makes you think about how different an alien civilization can be & still make sense and work. Really opens your horizon to a very different form of social structure and thinking.

The next target is to down 25% more books in the next 6 months, Inshallah.

Here’s my Good Reads Profile, give me a shout if you have any recommendations. I’d love to fill my list.

Thank you Zaki for introducing me to introducing me to audiobooks & the gifts. Thanks Ather Bhai for the recommendations & GTD. Thanks Izza for letting me borrow all the books.

Why is change so hard? Why can’t we do what we know is good for us?

“Perspective” is all there is to life. It makes you and it breaks you. It is perspective that makes your life a heaven when its hell and it make you stress, crash & burn till your life is all ashes – when it really is not! It can marry you to the spouse of your dreams and it can have you hating your super model girlfriend for that one thing she does with her hair.

State of mind is all there is to it. One who controls it wins; peace & happiness and all that entails. So, basically, we have it in our hands, all we need is the will, the will to make our minds see things to get things. That too the things that really matter.

But who said each one of us comes with an iron clad will. Even when you have done all you can to align yourself in that perfect perspective and figured it all out – all it takes is a bump in the road to send it all clattering down. All the boxes in which everything was juxtaposed and prioritised comes tumbling down. Just that one small wrong slippery turn!

It would be very easy to choose the right path if you were a child with the young head laid in a white horizon. In a world where everything was levelled and you were a crisp blank page, well balanced and with no prior inclinations, kinks or bends. Sadly, that isn’t the case!

We are a collection of our memories, experiences and like the saying ‘things we’ve done repeatedly’. We are not a “crisp blank page, well balanced and with no prior inclinations, kinks or bends”. The whole supposed process of aligning ourselves is synonymous to someone waltzing in and making you learn to walk again.

Now this man comes in and wants to fix it and even if you want him to fix it you’re doomed for the rest of your life to be acutely conscious of every single step you take. Stagger, realise, understand and fix it over and over again. This re-start would continue to hammer in until the new way becomes a part of you. Your brain stops thinking about walking like it did when you were you, when you learned to walk.

But, when the time comes when you have to rush; you might jump back to your instinct, like you always ran. It would take the mind of a monk to realise at that point of the rush that you had to run in your new fixed way. And this is just running to do the deed – think of the deed itself, would we really stick to the change we painstakingly adopted!

All this is similar to brainwashing one’s self (for the good) Sadly its easier to be brainwashed by World War II propaganda films than it is to be by oneself. To  realign our perspective to see things in a brighter more understanding light.

Its perhaps not impossible but requires work, a lot of it. To understand that a change of perspective is required, is the most important step. This holds true not only for an individual but a community, a nation. To see the good we have, things we can do and things we can achieve by not waiting for someone else to fix the mess we have created but to pick up the tools and do it ourselves.

This is the way out and to get to it we need is an understanding of perspective and how to change it. Can we?

“And those who were seen dancing, were thought to be crazy, by those who could not hear the music.” –  Friedrich Nietzsche

Focus

After watching animal planet for a whole decade, every day, I realized, besides teaching me the names of at least twenty venomous snakes, it has really taught me a thing or two about the focus of animals. If you observe any animal carefully (let’s keep hyenas out of this, those bastards are scary) or a group of animals, they all have it figured out: hunt, eat, reproduce and, well, don’t get eaten. And over the years they evolve to make themselves better hunters, survivors, scavengers or whatever the particular species is supposed to do. Their goals are simple and they start working on them from day one. Be it an individual goal or the goal for the whole community, animals will go to any extent to fulfill that goal without caring about the consequences of the struggle. There isn’t a thing called leisure in their book, there isn’t an alright let’s take this Sunday off, let’s chill out a bit and then see what’s next. Every single generation will sacrifice itself for the higher purpose for the survival of the species on the whole.

We humans on the other hand, have complicated ourselves with complicated and vain goals (if any). We are always worried about that, what will I get out of it and more importantly what will I do with that. This too is not in all people there is a small size of these kinds of people. Others, well most of us, spend our lives figuring out what the goal was, or not caring about it at all (if dad’s paying). And if we do come across certain individuals who are goal-oriented, instead of appreciating them, we often are looking down upon them with phrases like, “dude you really need to chill out”, “why do you do so much of what you do” , “there is life beyond what you are doing”, “come to the dark side we have cookies”. Ok, I just added the last one randomly but you do get the point.

I don’t know when or where did we get this lost and how did the luxury became our focus, how’d it get so bad that all our focus is on having a good time and even if working , doing it so we can have a good time later. Isn’t there anything, anything at all that you want to do that does not end up with laying near a beach, getting a tan. Is that all the brilliance the most intelligent creatures come up with? If we want to evolve into better creatures (humans) we really need to start focusing. Because this isn’t going to last for long.

Old Times

I was looking at my old stuff today, visiting and trying to get in touch with my old friends from DA. It’s really sad that a lot of them are not here now. Well most of them, so much changes in five years.

The way you talk, dress up behave, think, how you don’t think the world is ending anymore. The hope that yes i will change the world falls far behind, I won’t be like my parents fades out slowly.

For me the frequency with which I used to write my journals has changed, lol. I used to be at every concert, now its been ages. Worrying about studies, copying running just being there, thing just change at time.

The lust you had for girls the running after the score the breakups, everything is a lot more subtle and in place. No more raging hormones closing the door being depressed, the whole black wardrobe the jewelry you laugh at now. Making it a point you won’t have anything else then black metal on your PC. Feeling like your 20GB hard drive would never fill up. Downloading Friends on Modem.

The only thing that makes me sad and well feel good at the same time is the fact that a lot of people left art a long time ago. Or atleast from the surface when they were really really good, some kept on doing it moved on. Became some big names in the illustration/photography/animation industry while people better then them just vanished.

I wish we people could have those random thoughts that came in our head at 2.00am in the morning and we had to write the poem down or we’d loose it when we were 17 carry on to our adulthood. I wish we were aspiring and creative all our life just like that. 

Those were good days, hope some of you are still carrying on your art in one form or another. All the oldies, lets back together and remember the old days, its always fun in winters with a cup o coffee :)

Loss

The bed was shaking, so were the walls for that matter. Another earth quake, “wake up mom”, he screamed as hard as he could. “We need to get out here…”, as he went to the other room. It wasn’t stopping only getting worse, he just managed to get his sisters out in time. It fell, he never saw it coming. All he worked for all his life, shattered just like that. There wasn’t a single thing he could do, but to see it crumble to the ground.There he stood with his mother and sister in his arms, watching it happen when he couldn’t do anything about it.

Darn, that was a little melodramatic for a start. So now, that I have your attention and the poor lads home is on the ground. Let’s start talking!

I think its human nature or well we’ve been living in a not so good society, that we just can’t see how important a thing is until its taken away from us. Until something dread full happens and our core shakes that we realize what the thing meant to us. Why is so necessary that your battery dies, that you know it was pretty cool to have a car to go to work in the morning ( and no my cars battery is perfectly fine).

There is this whole cycle that we go through, suddenly we realise we need something and we can’t live without it. You just want to get it no matter how , you really want it. You convince yourself its a need not a desire. You get it/achieve it , you start to enjoy it. You place it in the best place in your house where everyone can see it. You call friends over, so they admire it. Your proud of it, something you always wanted. Slowly the charm of the ‘new’ fades away. No there’s dust on it and you really don’t care to clean it anymore. Its just a part of life like the other one million unappreciated ones.

Is it always necessary to have a radical wake up call to know what you have? I say make a plan take a time not more than 10 minutes to write down what you have, go through the old family albums (which has absolutely no connection to what I’m saying).

Make a list of people who were with you/ are with you, helped you in someway thank them just write a note, just saying thanks. Its not necessary that you go to live in the jungle to know what you have. To appreciate the people around you, its just 5 minutes of your time, which will really change your life.

You can always be radical in your approach, leave home for a while somewhere remote and analyze your life, whats right whats wrong, what you have , what you need to get. Just don’t go through life that you need a big electric jolt to wake you up.

Don’t let the society get over you, don’t get your routine and the “fun” get you. Be real!

Something from Into the wild : Two years he walks the earth. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return, ’cause “the West is the best.” And now after two rambling years comes the final and greatest adventure. The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual pilgrimage. Ten days and nights of freight trains and hitchhiking bring him to the Great White North. No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild. – Alexander Supertramp May 1992

Meet Bob, and no Bob doesn’t have bitch Tits.

Let me tell you about my friend Bob, ofcourse Bob being the fictional name. I’m not just going out and say I’m ranting about Abeer Mohammad, like, that wouldn’t be nice of me.

I’ve known Bob for a long time now, Bob was the little bugger in the pack who always had an opinion about everything, but it was all under control. I like to think his otherwise polite nature, his bass guitar and helping attitude kept critiques at bay.

But then,well almost suddenly Bob changed! On a  pretty random Wednesday in his sacred place ( no not that sacred place, I mean the gaming arena ) Bob exploded. Which was the first of many explosions…

Bob started off with how sick he was of everyone playing a shitty strategy and how hard he tried to beat the sentinal and finally how everything thought it was just a game. I think everyone was quiet for the first time. Every one thought about how Bob( without the bitch tits ) actually had a point. Life became normal once again. Then the real episodes started when Bob flared up on some technology conversation. Then the poor kids on World Of Warcraft started from Bob’s wrath ( well atleast we were safe ). Then there was the incident involving Bob and the Rs.5 more expensive bottle of cola, thats when things started getting bad.

Bob was now bitching about everything, from not liking how lame movies were getting to why no one was on the raid when he said so. Every one was concerned ,few recommended therapy, some had more drastic Ideas of getting him laid with, well, lets not discuss that. But people were thinking, then every one focused more on  why was Bob doing what he was doing. And how did the humble monk turn into the vicious hunk ( no not the one from Incredible Hulk , but the evil one from Team America’s movies )

Suggestions included his beloved maid running off and getting married while he watched to Bob starting on sex change medications ( not horny goat weed , I’m talking about the stuff that makes your dick fall off  ) . Some suggested possession by his WoW charecter ‘Maulvi’ and the less creative ones fled to the incident when Bashir cut his balls off and ofcourse then there was the talk of his PMS problems. But this wasn’t helping Bob in any way, it was getting worse and worse.

One day everyone thought to confront Bob, and everyone came with all the conventional banners and how they wanted to see Bob ok. And how they missed the old Bob ( no, even that one didn’t have bitch tits, what is up with you? ) It was much more deeper than that … “Bob was afraid of flashing lights!”

Seriously thats it, no incest, no drugs or whatever. End , finito, you hear me ?