Category Archives: books

52 Books: The 2nd Half of 2016

At the beginning of this year, 2016, I set a goal to read 52 books. Why I didn’t give myself 2 weeks off for vacation I don’t know. The number 52 sounded catchy. On December 10th, I’d made it to 43. If I add the books I read at, used for reference or just couldn’t bring myself to finish, the number is 47. With the holidays fast approaching and Christmas shopping and mailing of packages yet to be finished or even started, I’m calling this good enough. Enjoy!

My key takeaways for the 2nd half are:

Here’s the list of books that I read (and read at) for the 2nd half:

  1. Grand Trail by Alexis and Frédéric Bert
  2. Nowhere Near First by Cory Reese
  3. Beautiful Faces by Jane Davenport
  4. My Beer Year by Lucy Burningham
  5. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
  6. New Aging by Matthias Hollwich
  7. Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi
  8. The Art of Communicating by Thich Nhat Hanh
  9. The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
  10. Lexicon: A Novel by Max Barry
  11. You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt
  12. Running: A Love Story Jenn Shelton
  13. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by Kim Barker
  14. The Drifter by Nicolas Petrie
  15. Run the World by Becky Wade
  16. Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels (I used the 3 hops chapters in Part One to brew my Flowers American Pale Ale)
  17. Craft Beverage Business Management by Madeleine Pullman and John Harris (This was a textbook for a class I was taking through PSU. Sadly, I got too busy I didn’t finish the class, yet. However, I’m retaking it this winter.)
  18. Moments of Impact by Chris Ertel and Lisa Kay Solomon
  19. A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger

You can read about the first 27 books here.




Beautiful Faces


Beautiful Faces by Jane Davenport has done wonders for my ability to draw a certain type of face. I love her whimsical graceful style. The book sat on my shelf for a couple of years before I finally cracked the spine and put in the time. I’ve loved it so much that I’m now taking Jane’s Supplies Me workshop on-line. Here is a slideshow of a few of the faces I’ve created just by learning from the book. I can’t wait to see what I learn from the workshop!

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My Beer Year


My Beer Year by Lucy Birmingham shares stories from her year of learning about beer by experience in preparation for the Certified Cicerone (beer sommelier) test. She

  • went to a hop harvest
  • participated in a beer judging contest as a judge
  • cleaned the lines at a pub
  • brewed beer with new friends
  • attended a beer festival to educate her palate

She frequently invoked the flashcards she made based on the Beer Judging Style Guidelines during this journey. There’s an excellent Beer Master’s Bookshelf as well at the end.

This is the perfect syllabus if you ever decide you too would like to be a Certified Cicerone (which Birmingham is now by the way). Tempting.

The Happiness Advantage

Author Shawn Achor used to suffer from depression. His book proves we can fashion happiness for ourselves. First we need to understand how it works and Achor supplies 7 principles:

  1. The Happiness Advantage: happiness is a work ethic and there are specific exercises you can do to boost your happiness:
  • Meditate
  • Find something to look forward to
  • Commit conscious pre-determined acts of kindness
  • Infuse positivity into your surroundings
  • Exercise
  • Spend money on experiences
  • Exercise a signature strength
  1. The Fulcrum and the Lever: use your beliefs determine your future
  2. The Tetris Effect: scan the world for the best not the worst and maintain an attitude of healthy optimism
  3. Falling Up: make the best out of things that happen, resist believing in the futility of your own action, adopt a positive explanatory style of past events by practicing your ABCDs: Adversity (happens), Belief (explains), Consequence (from belief), and Disputation (is there another way to look at it.)
  4. The Zorro Circle: limit your focus to small manageable goals and expand your sphere of influence from there, believe in your locus of control even over something so small as caring for a house plant. At work concentrate your efforts on small areas where you know you can make a difference. Make a list of things in your control and things not. Work on those you can control.
  5. The 20 second Rule: willpower weakens the more we use it so put the desired activity on the path of least resistance so that you can start it in less than 20 seconds. For example, sleep in your jogging clothes. If you want to watch less TV, make it take more than 20 seconds to get to the remote.
  6. Social Investment: in the midst of challenges hold on tight to the people around us. Our relationships with other people matter more than anything else in the world. Our social support protects us from a brutal sack.


New Aging

According to a recent Pew Study, for the first time there are more Millenials than Baby Boomers. Generation X lags but not by as much as you’d think making up 27% of the total vs 30% for Boomers.

Given that roughly 1/3 of the population is confronting aging (I can see Julia Child saying, “You must confront the duck!”) it makes sense to hack it. Matthias Hollwich (with Bruce Mau Design) at 40 years old saw old age coming and didn’t like it so he tasked all of his resources to study how to make it better. The result is this book: New Aging: Live Smarter Now to Live Better Forever.

New Aging is a list in chapter form of probably 100s of ideas that turn the challenges that aging presents into opportunities. Hollwich divides the actions into 9 chapters:

  • Love Aging
  • Be Social
  • Never Retire
  • Stay Fit
  • You are How You Eat
  • Access vs Mobility
  • Our Homes are Our Castles
  • Add Services and Conveniences
  • Pass it On

I found some of the ideas in Add Services to be the most interesting. For example, share one person or share help as a group. You may not be able to afford or need a person on your own, but could use help the equivalent of one day a week. Sharing a person with 6 other friends would allow you to stay in touch with them and get help with some of the most demanding tasks on a regular basis.

Another empowering example that I like is to created a shared calendar of volunteer needs.  For example, if I was caring for someone, I could create a calendar of needs for them. The whole family and friends would then know what’s needed and could volunteer to pitch in when it works for them.

In the Access vs Mobility section, using Uber and Lyft and embracing the self-driving car when it arrives are all ways to stay mobile and remove the burden and risk of driving.

Most of the ideas are immediately actionable and worth picking up.

Bad Arguments


Engagingly written and beautifully illustrated, Bad Arguments: Learn the Lost Art of Making Sense, is the perfect guide to this political season.

Example: Appeal to Fear: “Mr. Frog lost the election after Mr. Donkey convinced everyone that if Mr. Frog became the school Dean, soon enough, the entire university would be run by frogs.

There’s a lot of argument from personal incredulity going on in the newspapers post-election. Reporters can’t imagine that President-elect Trump would actually fulfill some of his campaign promises so they conclude that they won’t happen.

Ali Almossawi, the author, holds a Masters in Engineering Systems from MIT and a Masters in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon and he’s done a number of data visualization projects. Check his website out.

Endorsed by Cory Doctorow of, Kevin Tang of and Lauren Davis of, I suggest keeping this one handy while reading any kind of news.

Come Home to Yourself

Have you ever had a “failure to communicate”? (a famous line by Paul Newman in the movie Cool Hand Luke).  Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Art of Communicating will help.

It Starts with You

It all starts with communicating with yourself and Hanh devotes a whole chapter to it.

“Many of us spend a lot of time in meetings or e-mailing with others, and not a lot of time communicating with ourselves. The result is that we don’t know what is going on within us…How, then, can we communicate with another person?”

Throughout the book, Hanh urges us to come home to ourselves by breathing, practicing mindfulness and being present to ourselves. Hanh advises that when we begin listening to ourselves, we notice the suffering present in our lives. He urges us to connect to that suffering because, “If we know how to take good care of suffering, we will know how to take good care of happiness.”

Deep Listening

When communicating with others, the keys to effective and true communication are deep listening and loving speech. The quality of our listening and writing is powerful and reflexive. “If you can listen for thirty minutes with compassion, you can help the other person suffer much less.” And “If you can write a letter that’s full of understanding and compassion, then during the time of writhing that letter you will nourish yourself.”

Loving Speech

Hanh outlines 6 phrases that are loving speech.

  • I am here for you. “To be there like that, for yourself and for the other person, is an act of love.”
  • I know you are there, and I am very happy. “You are letting your loved one know that his or her presence is important to your happiness.”
  • I know you suffer, and that is why I am here for you. When you notice that something is not going well with a loved one.
  • I suffer. I want you to know. I am doing my best. Please help. When we suffer, we often want to punish the person we believe caused our suffering by telling them we don’t need them.
  • This is a happy moment.
  • You are partly right. When receiving praise or criticism.

When Difficulties Arise

Hanh includes a brilliant chapter on communicating “when difficulties arise.”Pretending everything is fine isn’t the answer.

“When anger is there, we should handle it with tenderness because our anger is us. We shouldn’t do violence to our anger. Doing violence to our anger is doing violence to ourselves.”

It’s the perfect time to say, “I suffer, I want you to know, I am doing my best. Please help.”

At Work

I love this insight from Hanh:

“Communication is as much a part of your job as is the end product. If you communicate well in your work environment, not only do you enjoy yourself more, but you create a harmonious atmosphere that will carry over into your work. Everything you do will have a stronger element of compassion and be of greater benefit to more people.”

After I finish reading books I usually sell them back. But I will keep this one for a reference and reminder.