Book Recommendations

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

By Cal Newport

Thoughts about the book

Cal’s Newport’s Deep Work is the best book on productivity we’ve ever read, bar none.  (Go for the Audible version if you don’t have time for the written.) Highly recommended!

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Goya

By Robert Hughes

Thoughts about the book

Goya, by Robert Hughes. Barb’s recent visit to Madrid allowed her to linger in person to examine at some of Goya’s most famous paintings, including the remarkable The Third of May 1808, as well as many of Goya’s more obscure, but equally riveting works.  An artist is able to focus on reality in a way that helps us “mere mortals” to also see that deeper reality. We decided to dig deeper into Goya’s life to discover what set him apart and made him one of Spain’s –and the world’s–greatest painters.  As Hughes’ biography reveals, Goya’s journey to greatness was spurred in part by an illness that made him deaf.  This, perhaps, set Goya unwillingly apart from the world–allowing him to be the last of the Old Masters as well as the first of the Moderns.

If you read the Kindle version, be prepared to look up many of Goya’s paintings on your cell phone beside you.  Hughes biography isn’t just a biography–it’s an insightful view of Spain of the late 1700s and early 1800s.  As you’ll discover, today’s seemingly modern societal trends are often simply repetitions of trends from centuries past.

Robert Hughes’  The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding became an international best-seller.  His The Shock of the New: The Hundred-Year History of Modern Art–Its Rise, Its Dazzling Achievement, Its Fall, is also on our “must read” list.

Incidentally, here’s Barb at the Cajal Institute in Madrid, with Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s death mask peering over her shoulder.

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The Keystone Approach: Healing Arthritis and Psoriasis by Restoring the Microbiome

By Rebecca Fett

Thoughts about the book

If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or other autoimmune-related disorders, we highly recommend The Keystone Approach: Healing Arthritis and Psoriasis by Restoring the Microbiome, by Rebecca Fett. (Rebecca read the Audible version of her book.) Rebecca Fett is a science author with a degree in molecular biotechnology and biochemistry. Before becoming a full-time author, Rebecca spent ten years as a biotechnology patent litigation attorney in New York, where she specialized in analyzing the scientific and clinical evidence for biotechnology companies. This book has enabled Barb to largely get off of medications for rheumatoid arthritis—remarkable, given her 30 years on a cornucopia of drugs.

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World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech

By Franklin Foer

Thoughts about the book

The central idea of this book is that Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple have become pernicious monopolies. One result, according to Foer, is that the writing world has changed dramatically, and not for the better. Foer has personally experienced this upheaval. The magazine he edited, the New Republic, ran roughshod over his career. Franklin makes some important points, even as it’s amusing to see him show the same “we know best” bias he’s accusing others of. Franklin, incidentally, is the brother of Learning How to Learn author fave Joshua Foer, who described how he became an unlikely memory champion in Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.

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Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins

By Garry Kasparov

Thoughts about the book

What a contrast with Foer’s book! Although Kasparov acknowledges the same seductive, monopolistic problems that Foer alludes to, Kasparov’s overall assessment is upbeat. This is a surprise, given that Kasparov will go down in history as the first world chess champion to be felled by artificial intelligence. Lots of readable insights about how AI experts went about tackling strategy in the games of chess and go. The gripping description of the final battle with Deep Blue will keep you up at night. We love Kasparov’s quote of Coursera’s co-founder, Andrew Ng, who has said that “worrying about super-intelligent and evil AI today is like worrying about ‘the problem of overcrowding on Mars.’”

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