Reading life

Some September Reading

Happy: Why Everything is More or Less Fine – Derren Brown

What the Cover Says: Everyone says they want to be happy. But that’s much more easily said than done. What does being happy actually mean? And how do you even know when you feel it?  Across the millennia, philosophers have thought long and hard about happiness. They have defined it in many different ways and come up with myriad strategies for living the good life. Drawing on this vast body of work, in Happy Derren Brown explores changing concepts of happiness – from the surprisingly modern wisdom of the Stoics and Epicureans in classical times right up until today, when the self-help industry has attempted to claim happiness as its own. He shows how many of self-help’s suggested routes to happiness and success – such as positive thinking, self-belief and setting goals – can be disastrous to follow and, indeed, actually cause anxiety. This brilliant, candid and deeply entertaining book exposes the flaws in these ways of thinking, and in return poses challenging but stimulating questions about how we choose to live and the way we think about death.  Happy aims to reclaim happiness and to enable us to appreciate the good things in life, in all their transient glory. By taking control of the stories we tell ourselves, by remembering that ‘everything’s fine’ even when it might not feel that way, we can allow ourselves to flourish and to live more happily.

Why I Picked It Up: Recommended by a friend

What I Thought: ⭐⭐⭐⭐  One of the best synopses of Stoic philosophy I have read, this made ancient thinking relevant and accessible to the 21st Century.  However, it is hyper-critical and very dismissive of any other approach with, what I felt was, limited understanding.  It was quite long too – I really got into the early chapters but struggled to actually get to the end!

Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World – Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler

What the Cover Says:  Bold unfolds in three parts. Part One focuses on the exponential technologies that are disrupting today’s Fortune 500 companies and enabling upstart entrepreneurs to go from “I’ve got an idea” to “I run a billion-dollar company” far faster than ever before. The authors provide exceptional insight into the power of 3D printing, artificial intelligence, robotics, networks and sensors, and synthetic biology. Part Two of the book focuses on the Psychology of Bold, drawing on insights from billionaire entrepreneurs Larry Page, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos. In addition, Diamandis reveals his entrepreneurial secrets garnered from building fifteen companies, including such audacious ventures as Singularity University, XPRIZE, Planetary Resources, and Human Longevity, Inc. Finally, Bold closes with a look at the best practices that allow anyone to leverage today’s hyper-connected crowd like never before. Here, the authors teach how to design and use incentive competitions, launch million-dollar crowdfunding campaigns to tap into ten’s of billions of dollars of capital, and finally how to build communities–armies of exponentially enabled individuals willing and able to help today’s entrepreneurs make their boldest dreams come true. Bold is both a manifesto and a manual. It is today’s exponential entrepreneur’s go-to resource on the use of emerging technologies, thinking at scale, and the awesome power of crowd-powered tools.

Why I Picked It Up: Another recommendation from the amazing Ben Keene.

What I Thought: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Brilliant, just brilliant!  Hugely inspiring and aspirational, this also manages to offer practical resources to help you dream big then go and make those dreams a reality.  The perfect prep ahead of my own new entrepreneurial adventure with Zinc  

Cure: A Journey Into the Science of Mind Over Body – Jo Marchant

What the Cover Says: A rigorous, sceptical, deeply reported look at the new science behind the mind’s surprising ability to heal the body.  Have you ever felt a surge of adrenaline after narrowly avoiding an accident? Salivated at the sight (or thought) of a sour lemon? Felt turned on just from hearing your partner’s voice? If so, then you’ve experienced how dramatically the workings of your mind can affect your body.  Yet while we accept that stress or anxiety can damage our health, the idea of “healing thoughts” was long ago hijacked by New Age gurus and spiritual healers. Recently, however, serious scientists from a range of fields have been uncovering evidence that our thoughts, emotions and beliefs can ease pain, heal wounds, fend off infection and heart disease and even slow the progression of AIDS and some cancers.  In Cure, award-winning science writer Jo Marchant travels the world to meet the physicians, patients and researchers on the cutting edge of this new world of medicine. We learn how meditation protects against depression and dementia, how social connections increase life expectancy and how patients who feel cared for recover from surgery faster. We meet Iraq war veterans who are using a virtual arctic world to treat their burns and children whose ADHD is kept under control with half the normal dose of medication. We watch as a transplant patient uses the smell of lavender to calm his hostile immune system and an Olympic runner shaves vital seconds off his time through mind-power alone.  Drawing on the very latest research, Marchant explores the vast potential of the mind’s ability to heal, lays out its limitations and explains how we can make use of the findings in our own lives. With clarity and compassion, Cure points the way towards a system of medicine that treats us not simply as bodies but as human beings.

Why I Picked It Up: One of the two recommended books ahead of Zinc.

What I Thought: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I loved this!  It was absolutely fascinating and clearly balanced the available scientific research.  The more I read, the more I am convinced that the mind-body connection is a powerful way to think about our health and well-being.

The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness – Prof Steve Peters

What the Cover Says: The Chimp Paradox is an incredibly powerful mind management model that can help you become a happy, confident, healthier and more successful person. Prof Steve Peters explains the struggle that takes place within your mind and then shows how to apply this understanding to every area of your life so you can:
– Recognise how your mind is working
– Understand and manage your emotions and thoughts
– Manage yourself and become the person you would like to be
The Chimp Mind Management Model is based on scientific facts and principles, which have been simplified into a workable model for easy use. It will help you to develop yourself and give you the skills, for example, to remove anxiety, have confidence and choose your emotions. The book will do this by giving you an understanding of the way in which your mind works and how you can manage it. It will also help you to identify what is holding you back or preventing you from having a happier and more successful life.  Each chapter explains different aspects of how you function and highlights key facts for you to understand. There are also exercises for you to work with. By undertaking these exercises you will see immediate improvements in your daily living and, over time, you will develop emotional skills and practical habits that will help you to become the person that you want to be, and live the life that you want to live.

Why I Picked It Up: The other recommended book ahead of Zinc.

What I Thought: ⭐⭐ This is the second time I’ve read this and I still don’t like it that much!  The core model of the chimp and the human is an easy-to-understand model of the brain.  Although I much prefer Daniel Kahneman or Jonathan Haidt’s paradigms, I do use the chimp in some of my work with clients.  The issue I have with book is that it is simultaneously overly simplistic – it feels patronising and condescending – whilst constructing a ridiculously overly-complicated metaphor.  I think this a Marmite book – you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it.

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3 thoughts on “Some September Reading”

  1. Hi Vix

    I hope all is good with you and also sincerely hope that you’re still running! I’m in training for an ultra at the moment, and really enjoying slowing things down a bit. I’d love to catch up with you – several miles along the Thames, a good veggie lunch and chat about life, books, travel, exercise, etc. I like your blog – very interesting.



    1. Thanks, Ben – so glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog. I also launched a website for my coaching business if you’re interested ( A run, lunch and chin-wag sounds perfect – when were you thinking?


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