Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything

This book has been mentioned in several articles I have been reading and so I thought it was worth a quick read. Dr. Fogg writes that in her research on forming habits: “There are only three things we can do that will create lasting change: have an epiphany, change our environment, or change our habits in tiny ways.” This book is about changing habits in tiny ways. And no way is too small. It reminds me when a friend of mine wanted to start doing triathlons. He was a decent runner and biker, but swimming terrified him. I gave him a workout schedule that began with him moving his arms in a swimming motion while taking a shower. He laughed, but you should have seen his smile when he came out of the ocean at his triathlon.

 

That’s how small Dr. Fogg often starts things. Tiny changes help form new habits and keep us from being overwhelmed at the magnitude of change. One of my favorite sections was her advice to create a “swarm” of tiny ideas, then pick the ones from those that are most doable. We pick the ones that are not only easy to do, but actually have the greatest chance of success. It’s a quick read, it’s well thought out, and it might just make the difference.

The Nickel Boys

I “read” this book via an audiobook. I love audiobooks when I am traveling, but for some reason, not while commuting. I listened to this one as I drove up and back from visiting my son up in Sacramento. It’s a historical fiction book, but it is based on research and in my mind, highly believable. If it did not happen exactly this way, it was close. It’s a story of a promising young African-American boy who is arrested in assigned to a reform school. This “school,” based on the Dozier School in Marianna, Florida, was really a prison full of torture, murder, profiteering, and flagrant law breaking, all right under the nose of the Florida state government. And they knew. This is a powerful book – it’s sad, shocking, and in spite of the small rays of humanity and hope that sometimes appear, it beats me up that this is our country, 100 years after the Civil War. 

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

I don’t know why I have not read this book until now. But Bryan Stevenson has been someone who’s been mentioned to me by several of my friends in the last six months, and there’s a movie coming out based on this book, so many forces conspired to have me read it. And why did I wait so long? It’s a story of Mr. Stevenson’s journey that has led him to be one of the great change agents of our time. Since leaving Harvard Law School, he has dedicated his life to helping those sentenced with the death penalty or juveniles sentenced to life without parole. His book is filled with many of his stories, some of which ended with success and the person being freed, and others with him watching the person die by injection or electrocution. It’s brutal and uplifting at the same time. His decades of work with the Equal Justice Initiative have taught him so much about the concepts of justice and mercy. This book will change you. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Make Your Bed: Little Things that Can Change Your Life … and Maybe the World

I’ll get to the title of the book later. This is written about the trials and travails of life. It’s about how life can kick you in the teeth, whether or not you deserve it. He writes about Naval SEAL training and the strength you need to get through that. SEAL training prepares our young men and women to be ready for the worst that could be inflicted upon them. He finds many ways to say this in the book, but a summary he writes is, “Of all the lessons I learned in SEAL training, this was the most important. Never quit.” He talks about that many times.

 

As for the making of the bed, he says it’s our routines in daily life that can get us through when times are particularly difficult. Even something as simple as starting each day with a success, such as making your bed, can give you a feeling of success in a day when you might not have much otherwise. Simple and profound. My new daily habit after reading this book is something my wife is quite thankful for, and that is, I do not leave the house in the morning until the kitchen is spotless from the night before. Dishwasher emptied, sink cleared, counters perfect, and then and only then am I off for the day with one success already under my belt. And, oh yeah, never quit.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

This was a majorly eye-opening book. To me, the key to the whole book is Wilkerson’s assertion that there have been three caste societies in our last 2,000 years. One is the Indian caste system that we all read about in our textbooks with the brahmin at the top and the untouchables at the bottom. The second is the mercifully short-lived Nazi reign, where Jews, Catholics, gays, and others were in a caste far below the Aryans. But the society that the Nazis studied to try to figure out how to codify a caste system was the segregation in the American south. Wilkerson believes that since 1619, we have developed a caste system in our United States with whites at the top and African Americans at the bottom that has not at all vanished. Her work is convincing, her research is stunning, and it made me look at our country in an entirely different way. When she was introduced by another academic, a former untouchable from India, at a conference on caste systems, the introducer said, “Young people. I would like to present to you a fellow untouchable from the United States of America.” Those who are in other caste systems get it. Reading this book, you understand that the task of eliminating racism is even more massive than we may have previously thought.

The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100

I learned about this book when I received my Blue Zones newsletter in my in box, and then I was so pleased to get the book as a gift from my friends at Beach Cities Health District. BCHD has been promoting Blue Zones for a long time. Manhattan Beach is a Blue Zones city, committed to promoting healthier habits to help our citizens obtain a longer and healthier life span. I read this book just after I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and it fits. Blue Zones Kitchen pushes a plant-based diet, though not all vegetarian. The recipes are from some of the longest-living areas in the world and I found them enticing. I’ve already cooked a few of them. The minestrone soup from Sardinia was a hit in our family. The cookbook has stories, examples, and authentic recipes. I recommend it!