Recommended Reading

Continuing my theme from last month, I've been reading a lot about unlocking creativity and about food systems. It's opening up not just a whole new world of food but a way of living a more 'whole' life.

I've found that once you find a passion for something, anything it becomes easier and easier to dive deeper. A whole new world appears that never previously existed. When I started following tennis I only knew about Wimbledon and the US Open... as I dove deeper I found a nearly year long tour of tournaments, all around the world, to follow. It's amazing how things open up once you start asking questions.

Here are some highlights from the books I read in February.

February Reading

1. Designing Your Life (Bill Burnett & Dave Evans)

Those of us fortunate enough to live in the modern world with access to some degree of choice, freedom, mobility, education, and technology spend most of our time immersed in a world obsessed with optimization. There's always got to be a better idea, a better way-- even a best way. That kind of thinking is pretty dangerous to life design. The truth is that all of us have more than one life in us. When we ask our students, "How many lifetimes' worth of living are there in you?," the average answer is 3.4. And if you accept this idea-- that there are multiple great designs for your life, though you'll still only get to live one-- it is rather liberating. There is no one idea for your life. There are many lives your could live happily and productively (no matter how many years old you are), and there are lots of different  paths you could take to live each of those productive, amazingly different lives. So do the math; this adds us to tons of different possible ideas you might have. And we're going to give you the tools to generate such ideas. (P. 67)

2. Farmacology: Total Health From the Ground Up (Dr. Daphne Miller)

Several months earlier I’d written a letter on cream-colored paper that surely must have landed in this very same box. I’d just finished reading The Unsettling of America, a book by writer, activist, and sixth-generation Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry. I left one particular chapter, “The Body and the Earth,” so riddled with notes and stars that I could barely read the original text. There were two sentences that I found especially inspiring:

While we live our bodies are moving particles of the earth, joined inextricably both to the soil and to the bodies of other living creatures. It is hardly surprising, then, that there should be some profound resemblances between our treatment of our bodies and our treatment of the earth.

This was exactly what I was looking for! A farmer who had given considerable thought to the links between agriculture and human health. I wrote to Mr. Berry immediately, introducing myself and asking if I might pay him a visit. To my delight, a week later he called me, an overture that I now understand to have been singularly generous, given that he handwrites everything and avoids even the most basic technologies. He explained that he receives many requests and has to be selective about visitors, but a doctor interested in having a conversation about medicine and farming could not be denied. (P. xii)

3. The Jungle Effect (Dr. Daphne Miller)

I was dying to ask the vendor her age, but fearing this would appear rude, I decided to ask if I could take a picture of her yams. She spoke very little English but seemed to appreciate my interest in her tubers. She came around the stall, picked up a yam, and said "imo" as she lifted it overhead. Then she ceremoniously broke it open to reveal a lustrous golden interior. Next she picked up a different root, and to my amazement, the drab brown peel was hiding an intense amethyst purple center. She explained to me partly with sign language and partly through Shima's valiant effort at translation that these tubers are yummy (smacking her lips and rubbing her belly) and good for your health and that they are one of the most popular foods in Okinawa. In the days that followed, I was served imo with meals, imo for snacks, and even had imo ice cream and custard for dessert. I also learned that after the Second World War, imo was literally life sustaining. It grew easily and quickly even in the postwar rubble and for several years was the main source of nutrients for many Okinawans. (P. 203)

4. The War of Art (Steven Pressfield)

Here's another test. Of any activity you do, ask yourself: If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it?

If you're all alone on the planet, a hierarchical orientation makes no sense. There's no one to impress. So, if you'd still pursue that activity, congratulations. You're doing it territorially. (P. 158)