I try to squeeze in time to read books outside of my research area. I read more non-fiction books nowadays, especially those in the self-help and academic writing genre. Here I’m sharing 8 books from my 2017 reading list. These are the ones that resonated with me the most.
Life of the mind
1. Advice for a young investigator by Santiago Ramon y Cajal
This anecdotal guide by Cajal, father of modern anatomy and neurobiology, provides a lot of practical advice for newly-minted researchers. Cajal is introspective and open in sharing his life experiences. I can sense his devotion to his work.
2. Mentor’s new and ever more impeccable advice for women and men in academia by Emily Toth
Ms. Mentor’s advice is always on point and provides a glimpse into academic life. I love the way Ms. Mentor finds humour in politics and the pettiness in academic life.
Time management and productivity
3. The procrastination equation: How to stop putting things off and start getting stuff done by Piers Steel
This book tells us the costs of procrastination, reasons why we procrastinate, and steps to curb the tendency. Most of the advice can be useful to graduate students, especially those in the dissertation / thesis writing stages.
4. The power of habit by Charles Duhigg
This book is a classic for the time management and productivity genre. I enjoy the way Duhigg presents evidence on the impact of habits to individuals, organizations, and societies. After reading this book, I’m convinced that to be successful we need to nurture good habits.
5. Deep work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world by Cal Newport
Newport promotes deep work. He defines deep work as professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skills, and are hard to replicate. The best part of this book for me is discussion on how to go into deep work.
6. Overwhelmed: Work, love, play when no one has the time by Brigid Schulte
This book reminds me that most of us are trying to do a lot of things in our life. We are trying to juggle between work, family, friends, and our own need for personal downtime. Schulte advises not to stretch myself too thin, rather enjoy the present.
When you are feeling down
Academia is full of ups and downs. Rejections are not uncommon. I found the two books below helpful in giving me a more positive outlook when I’m feeling blue.
7. The consolations of philosophy by Alain de Botton
What is interesting about this book is that it gives a glimpse of the lives of several key philosophers and tries to console us based on the lives and teachings of these philosophers. What I like is the interpretation on how the lives of these philosophers influence their work. This is also a good book about philosophy for the laymen.
8. Do not be sad by Ibn Kathir
Practical advice based on the Quran and Sunnah (the verbal teachings of the Prophet Muhammad SAW) on how to be happier and have a more positive outlook in life.
Please note that of all the books listed above, I only own one of them – #8. I borrowed the other books from either the Queen’s University Library (mostly through the interlibrary loan service) or the Kingston Frontenac Public Library. I urge all fellow graduate students to take advantage of the great resources we have at these two libraries.
Your turn – What are some of your favorite books?