To close the year out, let me talk about 5 of the books I had the most fun reading this year. I'll be taking a break from writing next week, FYI.

Stolen Focus

The average attention span is reducing every year. It is becoming nearly impossible to focus, and to not get distracted. Johann Hari dives into this topic and uncovers the obvious and insightful.

A few highlighted passages that struck me:

But we told ourselves we could have a massive expansion in the amount of information we are exposed to, and the speed at which it hits us, with no costs.
This is a delusion. It becomes exhausting. What we are sacrificing is depth. Depth takes time. And depth takes reflection.


If you have spent long enough being interrupted in your daily life, you will start to interrupt yourself even when you are set free from all these external interruptions.


We internalise the texture of the voices we're exposed to. When you expose yourself to complex stories about the inner lives of other people over long periods of time, that will repattern your consciousness. You too will become more perceptive, open and empathetic. If, by contrast, you expose yourself for hours a day to the disconnected fragments of shrieking and fury that dominate social media, your thoughts will start to be shaped like that.

If you are troubled by your lack of focus, or the lack of focus that your employees/customers/friends/family display and want to dig deeper, this is a great book to help you dive into that.


A good fun science book. Combining evolutionary biology, physiology and anthropology.

Most nutrition research will keep talking about the Kitavans and the Inuits and one school of research. Herman Pontzer instead talks about his primary research with the Hadza. And gives us a paradigm shifting notion - that the body conserves energy beyond a point. Doubling down on the notion that fat loss and good health happens in the kitchen, and is aided significantly by activity. And definitely not the other way around. He calls it constrained daily energy expenditure.

Our metabolic engines shift and change to make room for increased activity costs, ultimately keeping daily energy expenditure within a narrow window. As a result, physically active people – whether it's hunter-gatherers living today or in our collective past, or people in the industrialised world who exercise regularly – burn the same amount of energy as people who are much more sedentary.

The Creative Act

If I had to pick one book for 2023, it would be this. The entire book is filled with stuff that clicked for me.

Practice gets us part of the way there. Then it takes time for practice to be absorbed into the body.
We might call this the recovery phase.
In weightlifting, the practice breaks down muscle and recovery builds it back stronger than before.
The passive element of practice is as important as the active one.


A rule is a way of structuring awareness.


is the information you need
to get where you are going.


I finally got around to reading this book after multiple tries. Nassim Taleb's writing might not be for everyone but it is highly entertaining. And he takes care and patience to drive home his single idea of antifragility. Basically, things that improve when shaken about - not things that are unharmed (resilient) but actually improve.

Evolution is not a competition between ideas, but between humans and systems based on such ideas. As idea does not survive because it is better than the competition, but rather because the person who holds it has survived! Accordingly, wisdom you learn from your grandmother should be vastly superior (empirically, hence scientifically) to what you get from a class in business school.


If we put technologies through scrutiny, we would see that most do in fact resemble cooking a lot more than physics.


Ancestral humans did it differently. They exhibit a remarkable lack of concentration in their predatorial behaviour, with a strategy of prey switching. They were not as sticky and rigid as us in their habits. Whenever they got low on a resource, they switched to another one, as if to preserve the ecosystem. So they understood convexity effects – or, rather, their habits did.

The Good Life

The largest longitudinal study on happiness. This study started in 1938 in and around Harvard and has been going on for 80+ years. The study aims to study happiness, physical and mental health. And has a resounding conclusion.

The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health.
Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.
Disagreements, and the emotions that come with them, are opportunities to revitalize a relationship by revealing those important truths hidden below the surface.


In the end, what matters most are not the challenges we face in relationships, but how we manage them.

Other notable mentions

A few other books that resonated with me the past year:

Tell me your book recommendations - if you had to pick ONE book, what would it be?