February: Amazing books and articles that I read and recommend

Every month, I’ll post the best stuff I read, watched, listened to, etc. in the prior month. So this is from January.


January was a huge month, in part because I was traveling. When traveling, I read a lot in my down time, and I’d just bought an iPad mini (and then promptly left in the seatback pocket of an international flight).

I finished:

blue-zones-dan-buettner Blue Zones by Dan Buettner [Amazon]. Given my interest in living forever, this was high on my list of longevity/health-related books.

Buettner does a great job combining storytelling, health science, and applicable advice into a fast read. Hara hachi bu!


good-without-god-greg-epsteinGood without God by Greg Epstein [Amazon]. I created a Good Life Guide for this book, check it out here.

Well-written, thorough in scope, and with real passion/emotion.



spark-john-ratey SPARK: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain by John Ratey [Amazon]. This book immediately changed my behavior. Basically a long, well-constructed argument for why we should all be runners.

Since finishing it, I’ve run on average 30 minutes/day, 5 days/week. Trying to up that to 45 minutes; ultimate target: one hour/day, 6 days/week. Aerobic exercise, to slightly adjust a frequent Ratey saying, is like “miracle-gro for the brain”. Better focus, better memory, better mood, better sleep, better sex, better everything. Read it now!


I mostly consume RSS feeds (using Netvibes), the occasional article from Facebook/Twitter, and what my friends forward. Here’s the best stuff this month. Note that not all of it is “fresh”: I emphasize quality, not topical-ity.

  • That which does not kill me makes me stranger (Daniel Coyle, NYT). The best article I’ve read on ultra-endurance athletes. Snippet: Around Day 2 of a typical weeklong race, his speech goes staccato. By Day 3, he is belligerent and sometimes paranoid. His short-term memory vanishes, and he weeps uncontrollably.
  • What is your biggest secret desire that you are ashamed of telling anyone? (Reddit). Amazing, the secrets we hold. Snippet: In the middle of the night, I would pack one bag and drive away from my life. Not look back for one second and drive clear across the country. Find a small, rural town and just rebuild where nobody has an idea of who I am.
  • The distractions of social media, 1673 style (Tom Standage). History repeats itself, which is why its valuable to understand history. Coffeehouses!! Snippet: With the promise of a constant and unpredictable stream of news, messages and gossip, coffeehouses offered an exciting and novel platform for sharing information.
  • A Pickpocket’s Tale (Adam Green, The New Yorker). Read this, and watch the videos too. Will blow your mind. Snippet: Attention is like water. It flows. It’s liquid. You create channels to divert it, and you hope that it flows the right way.
  • late bloomer, not a loser. (I hope) (Dave McClure). Another classic from Dave, honest, powerful, irreverent. Snippet: Most folks thought I was a decent fellow, but over the hill with my best days behind me… and I guess I thought so too. I watched as other friends helped make companies like Google and Facebook and Twitter into juggernauts, but mostly I was on the sidelines, only peripherally involved in their big ideas.

For a complete list, check out my Amazing media page. All of these will be added there.

In a followup post, I’ll talk about movies and podcasts.

What did you read/watch in January that blew your mind? Share away! Thanks as always for your time.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.