EB - Elliot Betancourt
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The Books I Read in January of 2024

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    Elliot Betancourt

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book Two: The Sea of Monsters

by Rick Riordan

Not much to say here, it was a fun read. I feel like I enjoyed this second installation more than the first. It feels very similar in that our heros just constantly jump out of the frying pan into the fire - from challenge to challenge. The difference is that I feel the plot is more cohesive in this installation. It feels like one event leads naturally into the next as opposed to a disconnected series of events. Its obvious the books were written with an arch in mind, and its fun to watch Riordan laying out the pieces. At least that's how it looks to me - maybe there's an interview where Rick Riordan says that no, he was never planning any of the other books, and was winging it for the first 3 books. Either way, it was fun and I plan to read one of these each month throughout the year.

Feel-Good Productivity: How to Do More of What Matters to You

by Ali Abdaal

A different take on productivity advice (I know, I said the same thing about 4 Thousand Weeks last month!). This one is very focused on how to work on your mindset as opposed to systems and tips-and-tricks.

Rather than focus on tactical advice, Ali focuses on how you can make work enjoyable, which in turn causes you to be more productive. His book is focused on 3 main challenges with your work: Getting started (inertia), keeping from stalling out (procrastination), and keeping it sustainable (burnout). For each of these challenges, Ali has a set of strategies you can use that he encourages you to experiment with.

The crux of his method is that you experiment with what works for you, and take what works and discard what doesn't, and even come up with new things you can try yourself. You should be, as Ali calls it, a "productivity scientist."

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

by Suzanne Collins

I had read the original trilogy, and didn't want to watch the new movie without reading the book first. The entire book is told from the point of view of an eighteen year-old Corialanus Snow. Much like watching Anakin in the Star Wars prequels, you are watching the evolution of the protagonist with hope and anticipation, but also knowing ahead of time where he ends up. Part of you hopes he does the right thing and wants things to be okay for him. But deep down inside, you know you're reading the origin story of a sociopath.

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness

by Eric Jorgenson

A great read, but not for the way I am reading this year. It's full of pithy wisdom from Naval Ravikant. I know "pithy" sounds like an insult - but I intend it purely from a structural point of view. Much of the material in this book comes from podcasts, interviews, and twitter threads. All of which are formats that reward simultaneously concise and insightful sound-bites. It takes true craft to communicate meaning in that format, and Naval has a lot of great wisdom to share.

Reading it cover-to-cover did it a disservice as it makes it feel overly repetitive. The book is divided into sections covering topics, like happiness, emotional regulation, finance, etc. That means that sometimes a given interview might come up in more than one section, and excerpts in different parts of the book might overlap, giving you the feeling that you are just reading the same material again. I think its more the type of book you pick up once-in-a-while and read a secion that interests you as opposed to working your way through the whole book in one week.