The Mental Pivot Newsletter: No.15

In this issue: A thoughtful theme, my year-end review, the non-fiction book club I wish I had, and a muster of new links.

Welcome to all the new subscribers and hello again to everyone else. I’m happy to report that I’ve finally decided on my annual theme for 2021.

Thoughtfulness (noun)

  1. The state of being absorbed in thought. 

    1.1. Careful consideration or attention.

  2. Consideration for the needs of other people.

Source: Lexico/Oxford Languages

2021 will be my “year of thoughtfulness” (new subscribers can find an earlier discussion of annual themes in Newsletter 13).

I’m keen on the dual definitions of the idea, one inward-facing and the other outward-facing. Regarding the former, I plan on scheduling time for daily introspection and reflection. I also want to inject more thoughtfulness into my writing and be more mindful about my default states (for instance, not habitually pulling out my smartphone when I have time to kill). As for outward-facing thoughtfulness, I aim to improve my attention, patience, and kindness in dealing with others—particularly my family, friends, and (especially) my children. Naturally, more specifics are needed to translate this theme into a genuine practice. I’ll cover those in my blog when I post my “Personal Theme, Habits and Objectives for 2021” article in January.

For those who are interested in annual themes, The Cortex Podcast (which introduced me to the idea), posted a new episode in which the hosts discuss their 2021 yearly themes.

Now onto the updates...

This Week’s Pick

Wiser than Yesterday is a podcast series in which hosts Sam Harris and Nicolas Vereecke discuss a single book each episode (usually non-fiction). It’s the book club I wish I had.

I periodically listen to non-fiction book podcasts (Bookworm and The Book Review in particular), but most don’t cover books of interest, are rambling and long-winded, or simply aren’t worth the time due to the poor signal-to-noise ratio. Wiser than Yesterday delivers on all three areas: their book recommendations are varied and match my interests, they (mostly) keep episodes under 30 minutes, and they provide listeners with a good understanding of the main ideas of the book.

Here’s a sampling of authors they’ve discussed: Robert Wright, Nassim Taleb, Thomas Sowell, Ibram X. Kendi, Rebecca Solnit, Plato, and Saint Augustine.

Wiser than Yesterday is a worthy addition to your podcast subscriptions. Highly recommended.

What’s New on the Blog:

1. My Year in Review for 2020

A look back at what worked and what didn’t, reflections on my 2020 theme (momentum), a list of the 54 books I read this past year (and which were my favorites), and thoughts on my favorite new apps.

If you enjoy these types of posts, here are other bloggers’ year-end reflections for 2020: Anne-Laure Le CunffBruno RaljicEugene YanKhoa PhamNick AngTiago ForteTom Whitewell, and The Cortex Podcast.

2. Articles and Podcasts of Note (Week of 12/14/2020)

This is my weekly roundup of interesting links and internet finds. You can read the complete post on the blog, but here are the highlights:

Odds & Ends:

  • A Book Like Foo! is a book discovery tool. Enter multiple books you’ve enjoyed and the site will offer reading recommendations. The website recently released a tool called Break the Bubble! which suggests books that you are unlikely to read, but are likely to enjoy. Per the site: “The query can be summarised as: which highly rated books are least read (and enjoyed) by people who've also read the books I have?”

  • Last week I mentioned Longreads’ annual Best of 2020 list (link). This week, I’ll point you to Longform’s Best of 2020 list (I assure you they are different sites, despite the similar names). It’s an outstanding list of long-form content.

  • The New York Times’ “2020: The Year in Pictures” is a compelling photo-diary of a tumultuous year. 

  • The Visual Capitalist offers a different kind of retrospective in their “The Year in Review: 2020 in 20 Visualizations.” The visualizations cover a wide range of topics: the Australian bush fires, BLM protests, the disbursement of CARES Act funds in the USA, and more.

  • David Li’s Blob Opera is a machine learning experiment in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture. Users can manipulate individual “singers” in real-time in their web browser (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) to make music. The accompanying singers, owing to the AI algorithm, will maintain harmony with you. It’s an amazingly fun musical toy. If you want to check out more of David Li’s incredible creations, visit his homepage.

Note: Due to the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, I’ll be publishing the newsletter on Thursday for the next two weeks. Meanwhile, the blog is taking a break for the remainder of the year and will resume at the start of 2021.

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Alternatively, you can also read the full archive of posts, book notes and link roundups on my blog: