“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope."

-Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations

Random Books Together

Random Books Together

I love it when I am reading two books simultaneously, and they perfectly compliment each other. This happens on a pretty regular basis for me. It may just be my good fortunate. It may also be that I often find myself reading five books at a time (i.e. I am currently reading The Power of Habit, Bird by Bird, Au Contraire, The Republic, Eloquent JavaScript, The English Gentleman, and I keep a copy of Le Morte D'Arthur next to my bed to read before I go to sleep). Having so many books on my mind at once, it is likely that the information will eventually overlap and relate one to another.

Some great winning combinations that stick out in my mind are when I was reading Charles Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities at the same time I was reading Ron Chernow's Washington: A Life (actually I listened to both of these books, Washington mostly while doing yard work, and Tale of Two Cities while stuck in I-77 traffic). I was pleasantly surprised when I realized these books complimented one another. Both take place around the time of the French Revolution. Although, Tale of Two Cities is fiction, and Washington is a biography on George Washington, each book gave me insight into understanding the other. And because each book was long, I was able to immerse myself in new ideas and apply them to my own experience and understanding of the world.

A great combination I have right now is The Power of Habit and Eloquent JavaScript. The Power of Habit is how habits are formed and changed. Eloquent JavaScript is all about the computer programming language JavaScript, which has a very important role as you surf the modern World Wide Web. Habits are programs. JavaScript is a way to write programs. Of course, they are very different kinds of programs, but they both operate under some of the same rules. There is a cue, something that tells the program or the habit to start. For JavaScript, that could be clicking on something on a webpage. For human habits, it could be the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked sticky buns. After the cue, is the actual habit or program. The click may bring up an option to sign up for a newsletter. The aroma of sticky buns could prompt you to eat one.

Programs, habits, or whatever you want to call it, we can set things up to happen automatically for our benefit or harm. The same principles are at work that establish healthy routines for brushing our teeth, getting to work on time, and exercising, that are at work for unhealthy addictions and self-defeating thoughts and actions. Maybe, if we understand the mechanisms behind our habits, we can figure out how to keep the ones we want, and ditch the ones we don't. Computer programming would not work if codes did not have a consistent and predictable outcome. If it was random, it would be impossible to learn. Fortunately, one plus one consistently equals two, so JavaScript programs can be written that consistently do the same thing on just about everyone's computer. Charles Duhig's book The Power of Habit claims that our daily habits, which make many tasks (and even decisions) automatic, also operates in a predictable way.

There is a saying: "thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, and habits become character". Our habits are important. They can define who we are. If Duhig is correct (and The Power of Habit is full of cited research), then we have the opportunity to change our habits, and potentially change our life. We can reprogram ourselves.

Habits save time and energy. My goal in reading The Power of Habit was to develop a healthy and productive routine. Every time you make a decision, you are expending valuable mental energy. I want to put that mental energy towards more important decisions than what I will eat for breakfast.

I am reading Eloquent JavaScript with the goal of improving this website, and open up other opportunities that require coding in the future.

I consider myself fortunate, though, that the subject of habit formation and coding with JavaScript have a common thread.

How does this fit in with "Syntopical Reading" from How to Read a Book? It's like accidental or reverse syntopical reading. If syntopical reading is intentionally reading a variety of books on a particular subject to synthesis new ideas that may or may not be in any of the individual texts, I am doing this unintentionally (and linking books that I never would have initially thought were related to each other).

A Game of Chess

A Game of Chess