Sleep books compared

Why we sleep by Matthew Walker

I noticed there has been a lot of hype and discussion around the book why we sleep by Matthew Walker.

Neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker provides a revolutionary exploration of sleep, examining how it affects every aspect of our physical and mental well-being. Charting the most cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and marshalling his decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood and energy levels, regulate hormones, prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, slow the effects of aging, and increase longevity. He also provides actionable steps towards getting a better night’s sleep every night

Its a good book but I didn’t find it as in-depth and as interesting as

The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience by Dr. Guy Leschziner

The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience, and the Secret world of sleep by Guy Leschziner.

Dr. Guy Leschziner’s patients, there is no rest for the weary in mind and body. Insomnia, narcolepsy, night terrors, sleep apnea, and sleepwalking are just a sampling of conditions afflicting sufferers who cannot sleep–and their experiences in trying are the stuff of nightmares. Demoniac hallucinations frighten people into paralysis. Restless legs rock both the sleepless and their sleeping partners with unpredictable and uncontrollable kicking. Out-of-sync circadian rhythms confuse the natural body clock’s days and nights.

Then there are the extreme cases. A woman in a state of deep sleep who gets dressed, unlocks her car, and drives for several miles before returning to bed. The man who has spent decades cleaning out kitchens while “sleep-eating.” The teenager prone to the serious, yet unfortunately nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome” stuck in a cycle of excessive unconsciousness, binge eating, and uncharacteristic displays of aggression and hyper-sexuality while awake.

With compassionate stories of his patients and their conditions, Dr. Leschziner illustrates the neuroscience behind our sleeping minds, revealing the many biological and psychological factors necessary in getting the rest that will not only maintain our physical and mental health, but improve our cognitive abilities and overall happiness.

I’m sure many will disagree, but I’d recommend The Nocturnal Brain over Why we sleep. Although I will admit it is a harder read, due to some of the experiences explained in some detail.

Lost connections: What the best science really says about depression

I read Lost Connections a while ago and was quite blown away by the hypothesis/result. I have recommended it many times, not just to people who have/been depressed; but generally.

Theres a lot of controversy about the book, quite a few people disagree with Johann Hari.

What ever you think, its worth reading and considering.

Not the biggest mark fan but the subtle art of not giving a fcuk is good

A long while ago someone once called the game, a self-help book for men who don’t like/will take self-help. I’m still so-so on that one but seeing Mark Manson review his own book, reminded me of the two books he wrote which I actually found pretty good. (I don’t really like the man but he writes well and his examples are always useful). Not that it changed my life or anything like that. But rather I liked the down to earth advice and there was plenty of things I heard and took on board a long time ago.

For example the fault and responsibility one.

The pandemic isn’t my fault, its also not my fault I’m terrified of medical injections. But it is my responsibility that I have my vaccine injection. In my mind its unfair but its overridden by my responsibility to myself, family, friends and society.

The questioning of death is a important one I learned 11 years ago. I said then and now, I want to push my limits but not in a jump out the plane or climb a mountain way. I’m much more interested in socially pushing myself.

So as a whole I would recommend the audio/e/books, even if you don’t like the punk rock style of Mark himself. I know lots of people love his style and the heavy swearing, I don’t care so much for it, however what comes out from his brain is a wealth of experiences and connecting it with a better way to be more human.

Essential black authors to read

I realise its Black history month in America, while in the UK its November but regardless this is a really good list of black authors with plenty of interesting subjects for reading over the year. I have already added a few to my 12 audiobooks to read this new years resolution.

Once again don’t read the comments, who down votes something like this? Actually don’t answer that, I know too well.

Some of the excellent books I read in 2020

I watch a lot of TV and Films but I also consume a lot of Audio (likely more than visual media). As mentioned in my new years resolution for 2021, I have been listening to a lot of audiobooks now I’ve been working from home for 10 months now.

Its worth noting I don’t really read fiction books for entertainment (this seems to be a common thing with some dyslexics?) because I think I get the fiction or entertainment part from TV & Films? Or maybe I was put off in earlier age by stuff like Lord of the rings?

So I thought I’d share some of the great books I read/listened to, not in order as such.

  • Winners Take All
    Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas
    Anand’s book is a excellent look at the corruption of power. Its a great true story which is inter-sliced with cases from history of how Anand came to tell the people who he points the finger at, during their own conference.
    Anand also makes clear the problem of inequality and how its driving a lot of the ills, just like the book the inner level which I also read and highly recommend to everyone!
  • The Inner Level
    The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Well-Being by Pickett, Kate E and Wilkinson, Richard G.
    This book is incredible, I can’t stop not thinking about it and recommending it. There is so much in the book but the examples really make the overall backbone of the inner level and the previous book the spirit level. Inequality is the bedrock of so many problems and ills in this world, I’m very convinced by this now. For example here is the start of chapter 5: The human condition.

    Larger income gaps make normal social interaction increasingly fraught with anxiety, and, as we have shown, stimulate three kinds of response. Some people are overcome by low self-esteem, lack of confidence and depression; others become increasingly narcissistic and deploy various forms of self-aggrandizement to bolster their position in others’ eyes. But, because both are responses to increased anxiety, everyone becomes more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol and falls prey to consumerism to improve their self-presentation. As social life becomes more of an ordeal and a performance, people withdraw from social contact and community life weakens. Crucially, we have seen that the bigger the income differences between rich and poor, the worse all this gets.

  • How To Be an Antiracist
    How to Be an Antiracist by Kendi, Ibram X.
    What a book, as said elsewhere its not great if its your first book on systematic racism. Ibram X, makes some excellent points and later gets right into the subjects of feminism, LGBTQ+ and ultimately intersectionality. He makes very clear you can’t be antiracist if you are against queer rights for example.

    To be queer antiracist is to understand the privileges of my cisgender, of my masculinity, of my heterosexuality, of their intersections. To be queer antiracist is to serve as an ally to transgender people, to intersex people, to women, to the non-gender-conforming, to homosexuals, to their intersections, meaning listening, learning, and being led by their equalizing ideas, by their equalizing policy campaigns, by their power struggle for equal opportunity. To be queer antiracist is to see that policies protecting Black transgender women are as critically important as policies protecting the political ascendancy of queer White males.

     

  • White Fragility
    White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin DiAngelo
    I read this book again just after the murder of George Floyd. I know some people are not keen on it but I found the examples and approaches extremely useful when talking about racism. For example the notion of white women tears.

    …well-meaning white women crying in cross-racial interactions is one of the more pernicious enactments of white fragility. The reasons we cry in these interactions vary. Perhaps we were given feedback on our racism. Not understanding that unaware white racism is inevitable, we hear the feedback as a moral judgment, and our feelings are hurt. A classic example occurred in a workshop I was co-leading. A black man who was struggling to express a point referred to himself as stupid. My co-facilitator, a black woman, gently countered that he was not stupid but that society would have him believe that he was. As she was explaining the power of internalized racism, a white woman interrupted with, “What he was trying to say was . . . ” When my co-facilitator pointed out that the white woman had reinforced the racist idea that she could best speak for a black man, the woman erupted in tears. The training came to a complete halt as most of the room rushed to comfort her and angrily accuse the black facilitator of unfairness. (Even though the participants were there to learn how racism works, how dare the facilitator point out an example of how racism works!) Meanwhile, the black man she had spoken for was left alone to watch her receive comfort.

     

  • The Guilty Feminist
    The Guilty Feminist: From Our Noble Goals to Our Worst Hypocrisies, Deborah Frances-white
    I am a keen listener to the podcast with the same name and the book is well written with guests injections now and then. Like Ibram X, Deborah talks a lot about intersectionality and its absolutely importance.
    In a earlier chapter Deborah breaks down feminist by waves (second wave feminism for example) its quite powerful and makes super clear how different things have been over time. She also dispels some of the awful common stereotypes (bra burning & men hating for example) but thoughtfully uses intersectionality too.
    I listened to most of the book while waiting in long queues at Alton Towers. Well worth the read even if you listen to the podcast.
  • This Could Be Our Future
    This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World by Yancey Strickler
    Previous co-founder of Kickstarter Yancey Strickler’s book is a welcomed read while looking at the state of the mainstream internet. Its a rallying call for longer term focus and is a refreshing read coming out of the epicentre of America’s hyper-capitalistic silicon valley. Yancey starts the book this way

    This book is about a simple idea.That a world of scarcity can become a world of abundance if we accept a broader definition of value. We recognize that there are many valuable things in life—love, community, safety, knowledge, and faith, to name just a few. But we allow just one value—money—to dominate everything else. Our potential for a more generous, moral, or fair society is limited by the dominance of money as the be-all and end-all. It puts a ceiling on what we can be.

    On a similar topic, I also had a read of Amy Lui’s Abolish Silicon Valley. Both are good reads and fit right alongside the R&D work into human values. Yancey is also one of our extremely knowledgeable guests in our Human values podcast series.

 

On reading the Inner Level

The Inner Level

I recently read (actually listened to) The Inner Level by Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett. I first came across them at Nesta’s Futurefest conference, but had heard about the Spirit level beforehand.

The book leans a lot on the Spirit level but expands the results with new data and papers looking directly at the psychological effects of inequality on society

In short the inner level can be summed up in this graph

More inequality = more problemsIts not a surprise but the evidence is clear and the examples are spot on. You might also prefer the keynote where Kate takes directly takes bits from the book.

While I’m working from home, I have been listening to a lot podcasts and audiobooks. Each book has got me writing and thinking but this one really has given me a framework for a lot of the ills of the world. Now I’m a lot clearer on the fact equality is the core (or very likely one of them) of so many.

Lets take for example the American dream which I have been critical of previously. Work hard and you too can be successful and rich? Casey Gerald’s book and talks titled there will be no miracles here, highlights the problems of the American dream and the ultimate effect of inequality. If you want more have a read of the world economic forum.

It reminds me why the likes of Jeff Bezo’s net worth growing, is just all types of awful for us all. First time I heard about this, I wasn’t best pleased but besides the comment Amazon must pay their taxes, theres little more I could really say. I hadn’t really factor in the bigger effects of stuff like this.

In the book they mention the equality trust and trying to reach out further to gain some impact on policy makers. This reminded me the badges work and of course our own BBC Human Values work.

Dyslexics thriving in the workplace

Reading the Dyslexic Advantage
Quite a few people have said good things to me since I posted about reading the dyslexic advantage. On Saturday I finished the whole book and although there are so many great sections the last one had so much to talk/blog about

The last section which is all about work, and so very fitting…

For individuals with dyslexia, good-fitting jobs have several common features. First, they engage strengths and avoid weaknesses. As we’ve discussed, many individuals with dyslexia excel in big-picture reasoning, or the ability to see the overall features, “contours,” or implications of objects or ideas. The occupation or position in which they best display this ability depends upon which MIND strengths they possess, but as a general rule, jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well stress problem solving, troubleshooting, fixing things, coming up with new ideas, thinking about what’s missing or not being addressed, or telling stories (e.g., sales, counseling, coaching, advertising, entrepreneurship).
[…]
In contrast, individuals with dyslexia often struggle with fine-detail processing, mastering routine procedures to the point of automaticity, or rote memory. As a result, they often find that jobs that stress repetition, efficiency, consistency, attention to details, use of procedures, application of fixed rules, or routine processing tasks (especially clerical tasks that involve the manipulation and use of written symbols) are a poor fit.

I can’t tell you the cognitive pain of repetition, I find it super uncomfortable and far prefer the new and unknown. My mind wonders and before long I’m innovating my way out of doing the task as is. Better way to spend my cognitive surplus?

After choosing a job that seems to be a good fit, individuals with dyslexia should work hard to optimize that job environment by being proactive in pursuing opportunities, self-advocating with supervisors and co-workers, building partnerships, pursuing leadership opportunities, and using technologies to maximize their productivity.
Many individuals with dyslexia are especially good at spotting opportunities that others have missed and then aggressively and proactively taking advantage of those opportunities. Professor Julie Logan cited this ability as one of the most common characteristics she’s observed in the dyslexic entrepreneurs she’s studied.
We’ve also observed this ability in many of the individuals with dyslexia we’ve interviewed—and not just in business. Astrophysicist Matt Schneps told us, “One thing I’m very proud of is that I’m very good at taking advantage of opportunities. If I see something I think is useful for me, I think about how I can make the most of it and take advantage of that.” Because of this ability (and strong self-advocacy skills like those we’ll discuss later), Matt has been able to enjoy four entirely different careers over the past thirty years, all with the same employer.

Making and taking those opportunities is a big thing, which I’m certainly hard-wired for. Most people take and give out business cards as a brush off but I take them seriously. I do like to meet or follow up, see if theres a chance for collaboration. I’m also generally interested in the person and if I can connect them with someone else I might know.

A second key feature of jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well is that they engage interests. While everyone works better on tasks they find interesting and enjoyable, individuals with dyslexia are often especially dependent upon interest to produce their best efforts. In contrast, when tasks fail to engage their interest, they often struggle to perform well and remain focused. This is largely because many of the rote or automatic skills needed to perform routine tasks require more focused attention for individuals with dyslexia. This need for heightened attention can be difficult to sustain unless there are things about the job that are especially interesting. When work heightens interest and mood, dyslexics typically respond with greater creativity and performance.

Absolutely, like most people I assume but I guess I actively find my mind drifting away to more interesting things. Focus is difficult when not in my wider area of interest. I mean I’m curious about lots of things, so its really got to be something poor/bad for me.

A third key feature of jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well is that they focus on results rather than on methods. Many of our interviewees mentioned that they often perform tasks in unconventional ways—frequently of their own devising. For example, more than half told us that they solved math problems differently from how they were taught by using unconventional methods that made more sense to them.

This is something I’ve known for a long while, I can’t help but find alternative ways to do things. This is why if you tell me a task without the bigger context/picture I find it frustrating as hell. I’m always thinking about the final impact not the individual steps to get there. Those are just details to me. Reminds me of Do you have humility, a sense of craft and can you hustle?

Jobs that allow flexibility can open the door to success for dyslexics. It’s often while devising new methods for routine tasks that dyslexics come up with innovative approaches that save time, effort, and expense and improve outcomes for everyone.
[…]
There is evidence that this kind of flexibility is often more easily found in positions very near the top or the bottom of the structures of large organizations but in shorter supply in the middle. Professor Julie Logan has found that although many large corporations have CEOs with dyslexia, fewer than 1 percent of middle managers in such firms are dyslexic.

Now this is very interesting detail… Be interesting to look into the stats for the BBC via the BBC’s Neurodiversity project.

Some large companies, like his former employer Intel, manage to maintain their flexible attitudes despite their size. Douglas Merrill also told us that supporting this diversity in thinking styles was one of his primary goals as chief information officer at Google. Douglas worked hard to give employees the greatest possible flexibility in choosing the work habits and technologies that allowed them to be their most productive. When a company shows this kind of flexibility, it’s likely to be a good fit for individuals with dyslexia. Of course, there’s no employer that can provide more flexibility than oneself, which is one reason why so many dyslexics start their own businesses.

And theres a long long list of successful dyslexic entrepreneurs. Interestingly the guardian piece pretty much says the same thing as I read in the dyslexic advantage.

Its a great book, I do wish it was more dyslexic friendly to read but the content is certainly incredible.