With Christmas coming up you may have a bit of time on your hands whilst you digest the turkey and the TV is playing Frozen on loop. You may need something to listen to or read. You may even be in the need of a Christmas present idea for your Brother in Law/Dad/Uncle.
I have put together a list of things I have enjoyed recently or in the past. It’s a little male-centric but all the items have a little something extra that I think everyone can appreciate. Most are related to sports, but not all. I have tried to mix it up a little bit and think all have a strong message and something to learn.
I previously posted about films and podcasts here.
Focus at Will
When I am studying or writing, I like many will struggle with total silence. I also struggle with finding the correct music that suits the exercise. Not too fast, not too slow. Lyrics or no lyrics. I just end up flicking through my library.
A company called Focus at Will have created scientifically optimised music to helps you focus. There is plenty of science behind the choice of music and I have been using this for a few weeks now and though I can’t assess whether concentration my improved, I definitely like it. There is a few 60 minutes playlist available on YouTube and there’s a monthly subscription service that accesses the full catalogue. Try it out and see if it helps your focus.
If you want to improve your concentration, take a look at this post from my friends at Health Ambition.
22 A Million – Bon Iver
Whilst I don’t have my finger on the pulse of new music, I do try to keep my ear in as best I can. One recent new album I’m enjoying is 22 A Million by Bon Iver.
22, A Million is not as assessable at the other albums and is a kick back to the mainstream success their previous album had and the lead singer and songwriter’s struggle with the attention. There is a bit too much autotune, but please don’t let that deter you. There are still a number of standout track and is a nice antithesis to the same old chart music.
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game– Michael Lewis
Another book about an obscure American sport that no one on this side of the Atlantic is bothered about? Well yes, but there’s more to it than that.
The book follows the Oakland Athletics baseball team as they go about an analytical, evidence-based approach (known as sabermetrics) of putting together a baseball team that’s deemed better than the traditional ways using scouts and the eye test, which are subjective and often flawed. The approach found undervalued players (what in England we might call hidden gems) with the use of statistical analysis highlighting cheap young players and veterans that are still valuable and can be picked up at a good price.
The book is “not really “about baseball but follows the birth of sabermetrics and how the Athletics with the 3rd lowest payroll in baseball could take on the New York Yankees that had a payroll of 3 times the amount by thinking differently, being smart and flying in the face of tradition.
Sabermetrics is now an accepted part of baseball, especially following the Chicago Cubs who won their first World Series in 108 years will elements of its use. The methods have also been tried in other sports including football, but to lesser success.
The book was made into a film with Brad Pitt as the lead in 2011, which is also a good watch, but not as good as the book!
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster – Jon Krakauer
Quite possibly my favourite non-fiction book. It details the author’s account of how he joined a fee paying expedition team to write a story about the commercialism of Everest and ended up in the middle of the 1996 Everest disaster that killed 8 people on the same night.
An expertly told story about the microcosm of the mountain and the politics and (lack of) humanity where life and death are so finely balanced. There is plenty of controversy in the mountaineering world about Krakauer’s account and many books have been written by others who were on the mountain that day (off the back of Into Thin Air) but none in my eyes come close. The expedition’s leader’s phone call to his wife in New Zealand, still sends shivers down my spine whenever I think about it. A fantastic book!
Agassi – Andre Agassi with JR Moehringer
Everyone favourite tennis player, right?
Andre’s autobiography chronicles his life as a child prodigy to Wimbledon champion in 1992 and onwards. The world number 1 ranking, the fall, the crystal meth use, the failed celebrity marriage and the subsequent rise to the top again. Agassi talks about how he had always hated tennis during his career because of the constant pressure and there is a hilarious story about his disintegrating wig before 1990 French Open final. If you know who his current wife is. How his path crosses with a certain German blonde superstar is fascinating.
How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease – Michael Greger
A good wedge of a book in which Dr Michael Greger (founder of NutritionFacts.org) uses scientific evidence on how a plant-based diet and lifestyle changes can prevent and reverse many of the causes of disease-related death. Some, fascinating insights on how certain fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts can have a huge impact on your mortality. Though it can get slightly repetitive, it is a hugely interesting and a good starting point (and later reference book) and provides good motivation for someone struggling with health or diet and whats to make some changes.
I am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes
I don’t read fiction very often, but I’m currently reading this. A high concept thriller about an investigation and race against time to stop a planned mass murder. Fantastic, so far. At 705 pages, it’s a bit of a beast and recommended on Kindle.
I hope you enjoy some of the things in the post and give them a try. Happy Christmas!