One of the hardest parts of reviewing books (both privately, and in a public forum) is in justifying one rating against another. In my own rating system, a colour-coded spreadsheet which my wife rightly points out is somewhat over the top, I allow for half-ratings (I readily admit this is something of a cop-out, as it allows me to pile on the 4.5 ratings while preserving five star ratings for the best of the best. Should I start allowing for quarter stars, or is that going too far?), which helps but doesn’t solve this problem.
For example, I recently gave both Robert Greene’s Mastery and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking a 4.5. Do I personally believe both books to be equal in status? No. For me, Mastery is the superior book (no offence Joan), but when I rate books I’m rating them against similar books in their field, as well as against other titles by the same author.
Every morning we go through a very personal routine to put ourselves together. We have perfected this routine throughout our lives. We know each part of the routine intimately.
We recognise our different pairs of socks. They may not be in any way special to us, but we could pick them out in a laundry bin full of others. We know them intimately, yet the people we see each and every day couldn’t recognise a pair of our socks from one day to the next.
Next, we spend some time with our favourite mug. Our mug doesn’t enter into our consciousness throughout our day, but in that moment, we’re aware that it’s a great mug. We look at the other mugs in our kitchen in disgust. “You’ll never hold my tea”, you think. “You’ll never be my favourite.”
I’ve been thinking about quake books recently. The concept of ‘quake’ reading came to me through Ryan Holiday, who in an almost decade-old blog post discussed an email exchange he had with the economist Tyler Cowen. In the exchange, Cowen noted that as he gets older he’s running out of books to read that can profoundly change his views or open up his mind to something new (or at least that’s how I interpreted his thoughts).
I’ve found this to be true in my own reading, yet I am fortunate to be young enough (and to not have read especially voraciously in my early twenties) that such books still exist to grab me. I’ve read two this year, though this is out of 45 total.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a blog. I wrote extensively between 2009-2013 before falling out of the habit. At this point I was working on My Morning Routine (which had launched the previous year) and client commissions, leading my blog to falter.
Looking back on some of those earlier posts, with an eye to re-publish some them here, I’m mostly just cringing, though there are some good pieces to be salvaged.
A lot has happened since 2013. I’ve since married and moved to the United States (San Francisco), which, I’ll tell you, is surprisingly un-life-jolting when you’re doing it with the person who is, in fact, your whole life.