Fiction: The Expanse series
I got slightly obsessed with The Expanse last winter and tore through all the books. I thus recommend them, which is certainly not the sunk cost fallacy. They are top sci-fi, I promise. Humane, thoughtful, and rich. Cavalier captains, cowboy pilots, badass marines, sweary diplomats, noir detectives – it’s just great.
Fiction: Children of Time
Do you want to read a book about giant space spiders? Are you sure you want to read a book about giant space spiders? Because it is an odd sensation to experience constant low-level revulsion while reading a story, but if you’re good with that this is the book for you. It is a book about giant space spiders. They evolve out of tiny space spiders. There are some humans too, but they’re mostly jerks. The spiders are where it’s at. Just relax into it.
Non-fiction: The Natural Navigator
I assume everyone’s jealous of people who can read nature. People who can identify bird calls, or point at a tree and say ‘that’s unusual’, or point at a cloud and say ‘that’s worrying’, or point at a bee and say ‘that’s Ernesto’, or very confidently know what a fern is. Such people seem to experience the world in a very satisfying way. It’d be nice to be like that.
I figure your options for achieving this are:
- Retroactively develop an interest at age 5
- Experience some sort of amnesia, get rescued by a hot recluse, learn the wonders of nature, get rescued, go back to the city and realise it sucks and you want to be a hot recluse too
- Get an ecology degree
- Tristan Gooley
Tristan Gooley is the easiest option. He will get you 10% of the way there, anyway, and that’s enough to feel like a wizard for a bit.
I’ve read three of his books about the natural world, and they’re all one fascinating fact after another. The Natural Navigator is a good start. It teaches you to answer one question: which way am I facing? Other than the position of the sun, how do you know?
You learn that the branches of trees are most dense towards the south, and then you suddenly notice that lots of trees are like this. You learn that birds usually sit facing the wind so they can take off quickly, and then you suddenly notice birds more. It’s great.
You read one book for 90mins and then get to wander around the world spotting all sorts of patterns and clues that were there the whole time. I recommend this experience wholeheartedly.
This is Us
This is Us is the best written show on TV and I will hear nothing against it. The words, man.
(I haven’t actually finished it yet, so don’t tell me anything please)
Blundstone boots are the magic trinity of ankle boots: light, comfortable, and hard-wearing. They work for the office, and for the Devon coastline. They have grip, without looking like hiking boots. If you walk funny, like me, they take two years to wear down on one side. And the colour doesn’t fade for ages.
In 2022 mine dealt with Norwegian forests, muddy towpaths, snowy pontoons, Disneyland, and fundraising dinners. They aren’t actively waterproof unless you buy a specific model, but in practice I’ve had no trouble. There are dressier versions too, although they’re still boots.
If you would like a second opinion, see Adam Savage.
The Body Coach app
Joe Wicks’ Body Coach app has kept me fit for 2 years now. You get a series of workouts to do, at home, in monthly cycles. Some are 20mins, some are (urgh) 40mins. Once complete, you get a harder series. And repeat. It’s always a challenge, but always achievable.
Joe does the workouts in real-time with you, so it’s not like those YouTube videos where you’re yelled at by some beefcake who won the genetic lottery. You see him struggling, or needing a rest, or really not enjoying himself. He’s likeable too, or at least he is when he’s not making you do fucking squat jumps.
It’s a mixture of aerobic exercise and weight-training. He introduces dumbbells at a certain point, but you don’t need any more equipment than that.
And most of all, it actually works. I have kept it up. As a result I’ve been doing weight-training for 18 months, which is not a sentence I ever thought I’d write. It is very pleasant to feel fit, and I do – anecdotally, sample size of 1 etc – feel mentally sharper. I recommend just getting up and doing it before work: you get an early sense of achievement, and very little time to think up an excuse.
She’s a Beast
Relatedly: if you’re interested in weight-training but are put off by the constellation of bullshit that surrounds it, I recommend the She’s a Beast newsletter. It’s not about magically gaining 30lb of muscle in 3 months (impossible), or wanting to look like Chris Hemsworth (losing his hair anyway, pfff). It’s just lifting weights to be strong and healthy, via evidence, evidence, and more evidence. What works (slow and steady), what’s wishful thinking (you can’t lose weight and gain muscle at the same time), what’s unknown (how different genetics interact with different routines), what’s stupid (random supplements).