Friday, December 29, 2023

Books in 2023

2023 has been an tougher year than 2022 from a personal time perspective and hence for reading. The first 3+ months were a washout since we had no nanny. But I managed what I could from Apr onwards. Here are the books I finished

  1. Deep by James Nestor (this is a little all over the place vs his subsequent book, Breathe, but it is fascinating and never boring)
  2. Dare to Tri by Louise Minchin (I was trying to coach someone to his first triathlon and wanted to see what the journey of someone who did so, was like)
  3. Outlive by Peter Attia (sort of overhang from my reading from 2022. I was just curious to see what he had to say, given his presence in the modern health space)
  4. Choosing to Run by Des Linden
  5. The Innovation Stack by Jim McKelvey
  6. Radical Candor by Kim Scott
  7. The Long Game by Dorie Clark
  8. The Power Law by Sebastian Mallaby
  9. A Boy in the water by Tom Gregory*
  10. Good for a Girl by Lauren Fleshman
  11. The Best by Mark Williams and Tim Wigmore**
  12. Adapt by Tim Harford***
  13. The Museum of Curiosity: Series 1-4 (audiobook)
  14. The Museum of Curiosity: Series 5-8 (audiobook)
  15. The Museum of Curiosity: Series 9-12 (audiobook)
  16. The Museum of Curiosity: Series 13-16 (audiobook)
  17. Master of Change by Brad Stulberg
  18. In it for the long run by Damian Hall
  19. We share the sun by Sarah Gearhart

*wonderful moving book. A hark back to the days when the world was perhaps simpler. Very hard to not cry at several points in the book.
**fabulous reading esp for a coach
***re-read this for some work

I really loved Lauren Fleshman's book since it is a fantastic insider's viewpoint into the life of a gifted athlete and a rare one at that, given she's a woman (sadly, there still aren't enough books about female athletes). I highly recommend you try it. 

13-16 brought some much needed joy into my life. It is a quirky radio show, filled with very smart people and lots of fun and trivia. Hits the spot for me. And each episode in the series is ~20min. I loved it so much that I rationed my consumption so that I wouldn't run out of it quickly. Strongly recommend it as a daily dose to anyone who wants to lighten their day up.

I just picked A Boy in the Water as my book for the year because it had more resonance for me as a coach and I am a sucker for emotional stories and at this point in my life, like swimming a lot. While 18 is about Sang (Kipchoge's coach) and is mostly around running and is predictably a good read, it didn't make me cry at any point


Monday, December 26, 2022

Books in 2022

2022 was the first year in a long time when I read a lot in the health and fitness area. Not since 2011, when I was on a sabbatical and read ~30 books on running, has my reading been that specific. Still, I managed to get some reading not directly relevant to work also. The no of books dropped drastically since the year was up and down personally. I just lacked the energy to read consistently*. 

Of course, I have read a bunch of children's books over the past 3+ years, thanks to my boys. Most of them are wonderful and I remember this particular quirky story, Tikki Tikki Tembo among others.

Here are the books

  1. Why we get sick by Benjamin Bikman
  2. Metabolical by Robert Lustig
  3. The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick
  4. The Cold Start problem by Andrew Chen
  5. What doesn't kill you by Scott Carney
  6. Breath by James Nestor
  7. Why we swim by Bonnie Tsu
  8. Klopp: Bring the Noise by Raphael Honigstein
  9. To be a machine by Mark O'Connell
  10. Titan by Vinay Kamath
  11. The Midlife Cyclist by Phil Cavell
  12. Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
  13. 7 Rules of Power by Jeffrey Pfeffer

*Imagine having a copy of Astrophysics for people in a hurry and still not having read it. That's how bad it was.


Monday, September 12, 2022

11 years

It is amazing how much your life can change in a year. And then again, how much it can stay the same over a decade, depending on where you look from!

Among others, I don't have time to make a detailed post like I did last year.

But a big change from last year is that I started a new job in Dec 2021. So I am no longer on my own.

The last 9 months have been remarkably up and down in all sorts of ways - both on the personal and professional sides.

I am grateful for the fact that running is a big part of my life. If you are on my annual mailer, you will hear more.

In the meanwhile, say hello and let me know what's up with you.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Books in 2021

Update: If you got here because of my linking mistake, here's the link to my 2022 list

Here you go

  1. How the World Thinks by Julian Baggini (still being read)
  2. The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt (still being read)
  3. Verbal Judo by George J Thompson (still being read)
  4. Right Hand Left Hand by Chris McManus (still being read)
  5. The Smartest Kid in the World by Chris Ware (graphic novel) (still being read)
  6. Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
  7. The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova
  8. Dreamers by Snigdha Poonam
  9. The Most Human Human by Brian Christian
  10. One Track Mind by Michael Stocks
  11. Books, Movies, Rhythms, Blues by Nick Hornby
  12. Out of Thin Air by Michael Crawley
  13. The Barefoot Coach by Paddy Upton
  14. No Rules Rules by Erin Meyer and Reed Hastings
  15. Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
  16. Kicksology by Brian Metzler
  17. Think Again by Adam Grant
  18. A Bigger Prize by Margaret Heffernan
  19. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
  20. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
  21. Disrupt and Conquer by TTK Jagannathan & Sandhya Mendonca
  22. How will you measure your life by Clayton Christensen
  23. The Culture Book by the Culturati
  24. Good to Great by Jim Collins
  25. High Output Management by Andy Grove


Saturday, September 11, 2021

10 years

It has been 10 years now.

The mental flux I discussed last year, hasn't let up much.

Ill-health did hit family too with a couple of scares. 

We now have two sons :) And life has bigger spikes in both directions most days now.

I continue to run without a plan and ran a forgettable marathon earlier this year thanks to a GI malfunction. 

For the first time, my consulting income exceeded my coaching income in a calendar year. I am still consulting on running. I finally got my own website, thanks to my pal, Athreya.

I also continue to work with my amazing friends at ChooseToThinq

My newsletter at completed one year and I continue to post each week. I wrote about the Tokyo Olympics for SportsKeeda. That was a lot of fun and learning. 

Reading has been good this year but still less than I would like, but hey I am getting paid to read and write! Wait for my annual post on the books I read. This year, I have gone back to paper copies and my audiobook consumption has dipped, partly because I can't listen for too long and I try and avoid my phone as much as I can, with two young kids.

I stay in touch with Spanish by using Duolingo everyday and crossed a year of using it, about 3 months ago.

I continue to be grateful for so many good things in my life. I only wish the same and more for myself and for you, my dear reader. And an extra serving of good health to everyone.

If you are anyone (incl. an NIT Trichy or IIM Lucknow alumnus and) wondering whether to work for yourself and whether you'd be happy and comfortable, I can tell you I am working for myself and I am ok so far, after ten years. That's not too bad, eh?

If you noticed, I could reuse a lot of last year's content because the more things change, the more they remain the same.

And as with the last few years, now that you are here, say hello, write in and let me know how you have been and anything else you have been perhaps meaning to say :)


Friday, January 08, 2021

Out of Thin Air by Michael Crawley

Out of Thin Air by Michael Crawley got added to my reading list late last year, thanks to Alex Hutchinson putting it on his fall list. I had actually gotten in touch with the publisher via the author's agent but some mess happened in the background, partly due to which the paperback wasn't available in India until last week or so. So I never got the advance copy I was hoping to get. Eventually, I could hold out no more and bought an ebook (Thanks to Google Books!) and got reading. So I set aside a few books I was reading and decided to read this. And what a treat it was!

Michael is a social anthropologist, who also happens to an almost elite runner (~2:20 for the marathon). Due to a combination of circumstances incl a studentship and a fellowship, he ends up in Ethiopia for his doctoral thesis, which ends up leading to the book. He discusses how he chose Ethiopia over some other countries which have a running culture but are much less studied/written about. The book is fantastic from even before the time he sets foot in Ethiopia, while he describes his student life in France, etc.

But from the moment he lands in Ethiopia, the story is mostly about running. And Michael has a very keen eye. He talks about using what is called the observant participation technique as opposed to the participant observation as he goes about immersing himself in the Ethiopian running scene, mostly at the higher end. Among others, the running group he tags along with includes men* who have run around 2:05 for the marathon! He describes how Ethiopia has a better record at the Olympics than its rival Kenya and how Mo Farah has been beaten by athletes of Ethiopian origin at thr 5K and the 10K, even since he became a force to reckon with. He also mentions how due to cultural reasons (among others), he chose men as it would be much harder for a western guy to go and interview women in Ethiopia. Much like in Finn's Running with the Kenyans, he describes how hard it is to be a top athlete in Ethiopia when he marvels at the fact that the bus conductor of the bus he's in has run 30:05 for the 10K. And at various points, he tells the reader how Ethiopian domestic competitions are much harder to win than international races, since international races rarely feature more than half a dozen Ethiopias and maybe a similar number of Kenyans, whereas local races can have up to a hundred contenders. So most Ethiopians may consider the rest of the participants as fun runners :)

He discusses how Ethiopian runners rarely run alone, viewing running alone almost as an anti-social behaviour. Further they seem to believe those who run alone are running for health, rather than training for competition. Competition and money seem to be the twin motivations for elite athletes. So his fellow runners are somewhat befuddled by his running just like that. The appearance of his girlfriend at some point in his story, convinces them that he does have a life outside of running.

He also provides a map of Ethiopian running hotspots, travelling as he does with some of his group to various events and episodes of training. Some of these have local legends attached to their names - Haile, Bekele, Dibaba etc. He is frequently joyous and tired as they run at higher altitudes free of pollution and as Michael jokes, oxygen!

His immersive experience, especially with athletes of that level is sobering to the reader. While the Ethiopian men train hard, they don't necessarily seem to rest well, so far as sleep goes. There's lot of demystifying to me. While elite athletes are also human (obviously!), some of their behaviour (much like ours) is very endearing (finishing long runs early to watch their fellow runners race for ex). It is also quite moving to see their fierce commitment to pacing in groups, although the group mindset may be in the decline thanks to the brutal prizemoney-driven dynamics, esp in races like Dubai (a la Cadillac-steak knives).

There's a lot of everyday struggle depicted as-is, as the athletes try and justify their effort by the prospect of reward, summed by the paraphrasing a beautiful quote from Montaigne (The Game is worth the candle). And Michael is extremely self-conscious as he recognizes his status, despite his modest-by-comparison running talents (for context, Michael could be a contender for most city marathons in India!)

Amongst many reasons I love the book, it rekindled a certain pure love for running, that had been elusive for over a year in my life. It brought back memories of a time when I ran hard and had fun. And of course, be immensely grateful that I don't have to run for a living, unlike the amazing characters, not all of whom will see fortune favouring them in life.

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Saturday, December 26, 2020

Books in 2020

Here are the books I read in this year

  1. Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Cawardine
  2. Be Social by Karthik Srinivasan
  3. Das Reboot by Raphael Honigstein
  4. The Body by Bill Bryson
  5. Influence by Robert Cialdini
  6. Supermarketwala by Damodar Mall
  7. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
  8. Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
  9. Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett
  10. Caffeine by Michael Pollan
  11. The Coming Storm by Michael Lewis
  12. Measure what Matters by John Doerr
  13. Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
  14. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  15. Sevens Heaven by Ben Ryan
  16. Story Plot by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne
  17. Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez
  18. Fast, Cheap and Viral by Aashish Chopra
  19. The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman
  20. Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger
  21. Win at all costs by Matt Hart
  22. The Athlete's Gut by Patrick Wilson
  23. The Science of Running by Chris Napier
  24. Comrades Marathon
  25. The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger 
  26. Out of Thin Air by Michael Crawley
  27. Non-Bull Shit Innovation by David Rowan
The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman is subitled "Happiness for people who can't stand positive thinking". If you know me, you may guess why I liked the book so much. I enjoyed it immensely and learnt a few things from the book, even on topics I thought I knew the ground on - Stoicism was one such.  It is easily my pick of the year. If you are a runner though, Crawley's book is fantastic and you will love it. How was your year in reading?