Book Review: Happiness Hacks

9781615194421Title: Happiness Hacks: 100% Scientific! Curiously Effective!
Author: Alex Palmer
Genre: Self-help
Publisher: The Experiment
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Pages: 176
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: August 21, 2019

Goodreads Description: Could you be happier at work . . . in love . . . in life? You may not need a total overhaul—just a few good Happiness Hacks! Here are hundreds of shortcuts to brighten your day and boost your mood—and the science behind how they work. Discover why . . .
57°F (13.9°C) is the happiest temperature
Selfies give you a jolt of joy
Renters have a surprising edge over homeowners
17-minute breaks are the most productive
Intimacy is better than sex
It’s more satisfying to work a full 40-hour week
Date night is the key to a happy marriage
Just 10 minutes of exercise can cheer you up!
Whether you’re seeking better health, stronger friendships, or that elusive “happy place,” these stunningly simple tips are proven to help. You can hack your way to happiness!

My Review: I’m currently going through that little funk you experience when you get back from an amazing vacation and have to go back to real life. I thought reading a book about grabbing some happiness in your every day life would help me move passed this funk. For the most part, this book is states a lot of the same key points you learn reading other happiness-related books – exercise more, drink more water, volunteer, go outside more (clearly the author doesn’t live in the hot hell that is Texas), take breaks from technology, and watch less television. This book does give you a bit more as far as everyday tasks that can help on your way to living a happier life and provides the scientific research to back up these ideas.

This book talks about the ways to be happier at work, at home, in relationship, and with yourself. It dives into the topics of technology, health and finances. I really don’t feel that this book left out any component. I think it covered all the happiness highlights, which is why I think it felt a bit more repetitious to me.

I did appreciate a few happiness hacks that I am going to try to incorporate into my life:

  1. Personalize my work space. I have a sort of cubicle style desk space. While I don’t have a private office space, I could put up some personal pictures or other things personal items that might make my space more comfortable.
  2. Take more work breaks to induce more productivity. During the work day, I do have a few burnout moments, and I think getting up and away from my computer would be a helpful thing to clear my mind for a minute.
  3. Cut down on my television watching. There has been so many wonderful things to binge this summer on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime, etc., that I have spent much more time in front of the television than I should. I think I would be more productive at home and get more sleep if I don’t spend so much time in front of the television.
  4. Financial plan with spouse. Finances can be a stressful on a personal relationship. Having a present and future plan when it comes to money might be helpful.
  5. Exercise with others. Exercising with others holds you accountable to someone else. You can’t talk yourself out of doing it. A few years back, my husband and I would take nightly walks. It was a great way to connect, while moving at the same time. I would like to get back to that.

While I actually don’t spend that much time on my phone anymore – scrolling through different social media sights – I know plenty of people who do. This book addresses limiting the time you are on your phone or other tech gadgets. That technology does not necessarily make us happy and can lead to addiction, anxiety and possible harm to relationships.

If you are new to self-help and looking at ways to bring more happiness to your life, Happiness Hacks is a good baseline with plenty of helpful suggestions.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

Book Review: Reclaiming Conversation

reclaiming-conversation-1Title: Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age
Author: Sherry Turkle
Genre: Psychology
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Pages: 448
Format Read: audiobook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: June 19, 2019

Goodreads Description: Renowned media scholar Sherry Turkle investigates how a flight from conversation undermines our relationships, creativity, and productivity—and why reclaiming face-to-face conversation can help us regain lost ground.

We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don’t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves.

We develop a taste for what mere connection offers. The dinner table falls silent as children compete with phones for their parents’ attention. Friends learn strategies to keep conversations going when only a few people are looking up from their phones. At work, we retreat to our screens although it is conversation at the water cooler that increases not only productivity but commitment to work. Online, we only want to share opinions that our followers will agree with – a politics that shies away from the real conflicts and solutions of the public square.

The case for conversation begins with the necessary conversations of solitude and self-reflection. They are endangered: these days, always connected, we see loneliness as a problem that technology should solve. Afraid of being alone, we rely on other people to give us a sense of ourselves, and our capacity for empathy and relationship suffers. We see the costs of the flight from conversation everywhere: conversation is the cornerstone for democracy and in business it is good for the bottom line. In the private sphere, it builds empathy, friendship, love, learning, and productivity.

But there is good news: we are resilient. Conversation cures.

Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human—and humanizing—thing that we do.

The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other.

My Review: Sherry Turkle dives into the debate that we have been having more and more, especially in the last decade. The advancement of technology has changed our lives and the way that we communicate with others. However, this book was a bit disappointing, because I personally have a love/hate relationship with technology, and I wish there had more discussion throughout the book related to the positives of technology. Technology allows us to have information readily available. I know what is going on in the world and can stay connected to family and friends no matter where I am. As someone who lives far away from my parents and many of my lifelong friends, the ability to stay connected to them through calls with my cell phone or the WhatsApp messaging and video service has been such an amazing thing for me and has helped me not feel so lonely.

I do believe there needs to be a balance. Devices should not get in the way of face-to-face communication. I never touch my cell phone during meals with friends and family nor do I use it much when I am hanging out with people. However, as mentioned by the author, that is not quite the norm anymore. I have on occasion had to tell people I am with to put down their phone and listen to me, and this can be a bit frustrating. The author mentions that younger people are attending device-free camps, and I really like that concept. My niece, who is 11 years old, has been attending a device-free summer camp for a couple of years now and absolutely loves it. I’ve also been lucky enough to not have had a breakup text message (mentioned in the book), and seriously I can not even imagine that, though I know it happens all the time.

One thing I have trouble with is keeping myself from going on social media while I am at work. I know that by checking Facebook, Twitter, etc. my level of actual work productivity declines. I believe for most of the book, the author was stressing how technology is addictive, and we have just adjusted our lives around that by how we spend our time and how we communicate with others.

While many great points were brought up, the following are things that I had issues with throughout this book that caused me not to get much benefit out of it:

  • Take in account introverts. Even before cell phone and other devices – yes I am old enough to remember those days – I still did not talk to random strangers in the doctor’s office waiting room and many times car rides would just be silent with no conversation. I am that person that often prefers not talking. I probably converse much more now through technology then I ever would have without it.
  • What is the up with the author’s obsession with Thoreau? I enjoy some good ol’ Thoreau as well, but the author seemed to mention him or quote him in every section of this book. It led to me getting overly excited when she would quote or mention other authors or influential people. She should expand her influences a bit.
  • Robots? Was it really important to spend so much of the book on the danger of  robots? Maybe that is where the world is headed, as more and more machines are doing jobs that people formally did. Maybe I will have robots doing my housework in the future – to be honest I would welcome that. However, I felt that this section at the end of the book was just another way of saying that technology is bad and scary.
  • Technology is bad. As mentioned above, there are some benefits to the age of technology. Those benefits should be mentioned more. I felt that the author was really hating on technology for most of the book instead of really discussing how we can continue having one-on-one communication and attention while still existing in this technological age. While the author might not be fond of the fact that society now exists in a world of technology, it is what it is, and as humans we adapt to the world we live in, so why not talk a little about the good aspects of technology. For example:
    • Through my cell phone applications, I am able to listen to podcasts and books (including this one), while I am out for a walk or driving (though for the record I do not play or text on my phone while I am driving, even while I am at a stop light – please stop doing that people as it is so dangerous – this is the end of my PSA).
    • Research for educational papers and books are much easier and efficient now with information at our finger tips.
    • While communication has changed from face-to-face conversations to online conversations, I will say, as mentioned above, that I now communicate with more people on a regular basis than I would have without the online conversations, especially since I have family and friends all over the world.

Yes, we live in a world now where people play on their phones more than talk to each other; teachers are having to attract students attention away from phones; drivers are getting into accidents because they are texting and driving; and privacy is a thing of the past. It is a different world than the one that existed 40 years ago, but I do believe that people are adapting. I think while social media is still very addictive to a majority of the population, there are many people I know who have purposely ended their social media accounts or deleted those apps from their phones. I just wish this book would have focused a bit more on what people are doing to not allow technology to be their only method of conversation.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ 

What are your thoughts of this age of technology that we live in? What are some things that you do to reclaim conversation? Can you exist without technology?

Book Review: Bad Blood

bad-bloodTitle: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
Author: John Carreyrou
Genre: Business, True Crime
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Publication Date: May 21, 2018
Pages: 299
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby App
Date finished reading: March 3, 2019

Goodreads Description: The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar biotech startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end, despite pressure from its charismatic CEO and threats by her lawyers.

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work.

A riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley.

My Review: Bad Blood is the fascinating story of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and her startup company Theranos. This book is basically a manual on what not do when starting a company. Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t start a company just because you want to become a billionaire.
  2. Start a company in a field you have expertise. If you are creating medical tools, you might need more than two years of science classes at a university.
  3. Using scare tactics is not a great way to win loyalty in your fellow employees.
  4. Don’t believe just any science data – look specifically for peer-review publications that outline extensive research and testing.
  5. Lying about your product is not only morally wrong but could lead to fatalities.
  6. Even if you serve on the board of a fraudulent company and advocate fake technology, you can still get a job as President Trump’s Secretary of Defense.

Journalist John Carreyrou’s research finally led to the closing of Theranos, criminal charges against Elizabeth Holmes, and justice for the individuals and families who suffered because of Holmes and her fake technology. It is still shocking that it took more than a decade to do so. I really wanted the book to include a “where are they now” section. The whole time I was reading this, I kept thinking that it would make a fantastic Hollywood movie. Guest what? It is in fact going to be a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. YES!!!

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½