The Reading Week Reading List (Fall, 2015)

Welcome to the (new) Fall Term reading week! If you've got all your work done (ha!) and are looking for some good reads, I've got ya covered.

BTW, these are not the books I'm reading this week. These are leftovers from my summer reading list. Wait, that sounds bad--like I'm not reading all the time. I read constantly, either book-books or ebooks or audiobooks. Listening to an audiobook is a great way to make the commute go a lot faster. Time travel? Nope. Psychology!

So, in no particular order...


Thinking, Fast and Slow
This book has been on my to-read list since it came out in 2011. Daniel Kahneman is one of the few psychologists to have won the Nobel prize (in Economic Sciences). He gave a talk at UAlberta a few years ago. Totally worth cancelling my class for. In this book, Kahneman describes his research, which includes behavioural economics, judgment and decision-making, and subjective well-being. Along the way, he generously gives props to his colleague Amos Tversky, who died in 1996. Kahneman's work (and this book) is broadly applicable to everyone--it's not esoteric, inaccessible academic blatherings. Read this if you have a mind and want to know how it works.

The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control
Mischel is best known for his research study that has come to be known as "the marshmallow experiment." You know, put a kid in a room with a marshmallow--if they can resist eating it, they get two marshmallows. Waiting is taken as an index of self-control. Years later, Mischel started to wonder about these kids, and what their lives were like. The follow-up research showed that high self-control is predictive of a staggering array of life outcomes, including increased educational attainment, longer-term marriages, higher incomes, greater career satisfaction, better health, lower incidence of drug use, and more fulfilling lives. Mischel even consulted with Sesame Workshop on the application of his research in episodes of Sesame Street. Mischel describes some good self-control strategies in later chapters.
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives
Gretchen Rubin is not a scientist...and it shows. I was eagerly waiting for this book, stoked by Rubin's frequent blog posts about the book's progress. Teaching behaviour modification (which includes habits), this book seemed to be right up my alley. Unfortunately, I ended up disappointed by this hot mess of anecdotes and personal stories, with supporting research only tossed in briefly if and when it supports the anecdotes. Looking for a better book on changing your bad habits? Try Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit. Or Jeremy Dean's Making Habits, Breaking Habits. Or even Kelly McGonigal's The Willpower Instinct. Or Roy Baumeister & John Tierney's excellent Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.
We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy
In my first ever post on this blog, I admitted my fondness for behind-the-scenes director's commentaries. As if there's not enough goodies in the new Blu-ray BTTF set (for the record, that's a triple-dip more me: the third time I've bought Back to the Future discs), this book has loads of interviews with and stories from Bob Gale, Robert Zemeckis, Neil Canton, Dean Cundey, and actor people like Christopher Lloyd, Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson... It's a love letter to the movies and fans; don't expect a lot of trash talk. Well, maybe a little about Crispin Glover.
Armada
Finally, we come to my guilty pleasure read of the summer. (No, the previous book was not a guilty pleasure. What's guilty about it?) Ernest Cline wrote one of my favourite fiction novels of the past few years, so I was hoping for, well, more of the same. I got it--sort of. Once again, it's a book bursting with 1980s pop-culture references to movies, music, and computer games. Just the thing for a middle-aged guy like me. But it's a bit harder to justify some of the more implausible twists when the characters are not in a "game-world," but are in the "real world." Not as much a page-turner as Ready Player One, but it was an okay summer read. Even I have to turn my brain function down to "low" sometimes.

What have you been reading lately?

Why aren't you studying?

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