Atomic Habits by James Clear

This was a new book, a book-buying ban exception since it’s nonfiction. I had fully intended for Atomic Habits to be my first read for 2020, and I am proud to say that I have no regrets: this was a great book to have started my year with.

Before I started reading, I had mixed feelings about the book. I usually find it very hard to appreciate self-help books—personal preference—but James Clear had me at chapter one and all the way through the end of the book. I enjoyed his examples (compounding interest, my friends; invest in yourself!) and appreciated his writing style (straightforward and approachable). I didn’t find Clear tiresome to read; his points were actionable and just made sense.

Granted, I’d read a some of his references already (Duhigg, Eyal, Csikszentmihalyi, and part of Kahneman), so the ideas in the book were quite familiar to me. In that sense, Atomic Habits wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it was a worthwhile read. (Despite the familiar concepts, I still marked up many pages with highlights and sticky notes. I wanted to be able to easily come back to them anyway.) I appreciated how James Clear put all of these ideas together into one cohesive and relatable book.

This is the book I would tell my friends to read if they’re interested in habit formation.

2020 Resolutions

When I revived this blog in 2019, I did not expect that I would be able to keep it up until the end of the year. (There was a lull shortly after I started working and then as I changed directions, but for the most part, I was posting regularly.) Looking back at my posts, I’m glad I documented my adventures in reading, eating, and traveling as the months went by.

2019 was eventful, and I’m sure 2020 will be, too.

Now that I’ve closed the books (with last minute additions—see here and here) for 2019, I decided it’s time to focus on making 2020 another year to remember. In my quest to document my ideas and adventures, I came up with some resolutions to keep the flow going.

  1. Post content on a regular basis, preferably once a week.
  2. Post content about professional or personal growth once a month.
  3. Post content about travel once a quarter.
  4. Finish reading books already on hand before buying new ones.
  5. Jot down daily thoughts and plans on my journal.

The travel content resolution is a bit conservative, I admit, but trips, even weekend ones, involve reservations, schedules, budgets, etc., all of which need to be coordinated with others. On the other hand, the journal resolution is a bit aggressive for me. I’ve never been one to commit to writing thoughts down daily, but I think it would be a great way to memorialize my year. It should help that I am now trying out a customized journal, so I’m not bound to one format or structure for the rest of the year.

I’m super excited to see how this year goes.

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

This one is another book from the pile of unread books I’d accumulated over the years. I bought Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries in New York back in 2017 and finally read this at the end of 2019. So here’s a familiar sounding remark about my latest read: I can’t believe I didn’t read this sooner. (I am currently on a book-buying ban—I make exceptions here and there, particularly for nonfiction—so I can focus on reading the books I already have.)

Reading this was fun. Like the dictionary, it wasn’t instructive (or meant to be); it was descriptive. I wasn’t expecting to bookmark anything on this book, but there were some anecdotes that jived with my humor that I wanted to make sure I could easily find them in the future. Here are two fun pages: 133 and 199—check them out.

Perhaps another reason I am partial to this book is that I have always enjoyed reading and writing. I also used to have very strong opinions about grammar, but I eventually grew to appreciate how language evolves and with it its words and grammar. (Although I have finally accepted the existence of “irregardless,” I still avoid using it like the plague.) It was interesting to read about how the evolution of a word’s definition is captured by lexicographers. In a way, they’re historians.

Something that took me by surprise was that people actually take the time to write to dictionary editors to express their opinions. Wow, people read the dictionary? As it turns out, the answer is yes, and these people’s opinions must be heard. Even lexicographers must read and address angry emails. Imagine that. But there were some friendly neighborhood emails, too (there were a bunch of interesting comments about “irregardless”). As with every industry, there are a handful of thoughtful people that write in out of goodwill. (To these people—thank you. Your words are always a breath of fresh air.)

Finally, there was something about Kory Stamper’s writing style that captured my heart. I found it quite charming, as if I was reading a fairy tale or something. Everything flowed so well that I found myself reading through the night, and let me emphasize that this is the only nonfiction book (by far) that I have chosen to read over sleep. I enjoyed it that much. Eventually sleep got in the way, but don’t let that invalidate my praise.