5 Books to Improve Mind-Body Performance

It’s the time of year when people think about how to be better, fitter, and smarter; so I thought I’d drop a list of books that I found helpful and thought-provoking.


If you’re interested in learning more about any of these books, the hyperlinks take you to my review in GoodReads, and from GoodReads you can get to Amazon page.


1.) THE RISE OF SUPERMAN by Steven Kotler: How do extreme athletes achieve Flow when one false move will kill them?



2.) FASTER, HIGHER, STRONGER by Mark McClusky: How do elite athletes squeeze the most out of the potential of the human body?



3.) BECOMING BATMAN by E. Paul Zehr: What would it take, physically and mentally, to become the Caped Crusader?



4.) FLOW by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: How does one achieve that state of relaxed and confident concentration in which we perform our best called Flow?



5.) Extreme Fear by Jeff Wise: How does one overcome anxiety and fear to perform one’s best?


2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

From Goobe's Books, one of my favorite local bookstores in Bangalore

From Goobe’s Books, one of my favorite local bookstores in Bangalore

Recently, a FaceBook friend posted a link for the 2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. This is a scavenger hunt for readers. There are 24 categories for which one should read at least one book each. For many categories there are also links to posts that will provide some recommendations.


While I’m not particularly good at planning out my reading, I thought it would be fun to give it a try.


What follows are my choices in each category.

1.) Author was under 25 years old:  The Icarus Girl  by Helen Oyeyemi

or possibly Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

2.) The author was over 65 years old: All That Is by James Salter

3.) A short story collection or anthology: 999: New Stories of Horror and Suspense ed. Al Sarrantonia

4.) Indie press published book: I Have Blinded Myself Writing This by Jess Stoner (and, incidentally, SF/LD [Short Flight / Long Drive] Press)

or, alternatively: Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach (published by Akashic Books)

5.) By or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ: Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima

6.) A book by someone of the opposite gender: House of Bathory by Linda Lafferty, or The Tale of the Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

7.) Book takes place in Asia: My Boyhood Days by Rabindranath Tagore

or, possibly, Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, or  Underground by Haruki Murakami. I’ll likely read several books in this category.

8.) Author is from Africa: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

9.) Book by or about someone from an aboriginal culture: Lightfinder by Aaron Paquette

10.) A microhistory: Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World by Dan Koeppel

or The Emperor of Maladies by Siddartha Mukherjee, or The Pirate Coast by Richard Zacks,

but–most likely– Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice by Mark Singleton (Which I just realized qualified and I already have queued up to read soon.)

11.) A YA novel: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

12.) A Sci-fi novel: The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, or Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, or Tears in Rain by Rosa Montero, or Under the Empyrian Sky by Chuck Wendig. I’ll likely read several books in this category.

13.) A romance novel: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

14.) A recent winner of the National Book Award, the Man Booker Prize, or a Pulitzer: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (2012 National Book Award) or The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2014 Pulitzer)

15.) A retelling of a classic tale: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (of Hamlet), or Going Bovine by Libba Bray (of Don Quixote.)

16.) An audiobook: (Truth be told, I probably won’t listen to any books this year. I used to get audiobooks all the time when I had a commute, but it’s not so convenient anymore. However, to play the game to its fullest): All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

17.) A collection of poetry: Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

18.) A book someone has recommended for you: It may be cheating because I already have it down, but so far the only book I’ve had recommended for me recently (that I haven’t yet read) is Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

If you want to keep me from being a dirty cheat, feel free to make me a recommendation.

19.) A book originally published in another language: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, or Thirukkural by Thiruvalluvar

20.) A graphic novel or comic collection: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, or Serenity: Leaves on Wind by Zach Whedon

21.) A guilty pleasure read: Never Go Back by Lee Child, or Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, or Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

22.) A book published before 1850: The Aeneid by Virgil (19 B.C.), or Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (1605)

23.) A book published in 2014: Station Eleven  by Emily St. John Mandel, or The Martian by Andy Weir

24.) A self-improvement / self-help book: A Conversation with Fear by Mermer Blakeslee, or Golden Cloud, Silver Lining by Ashok Chopra


Well, there’s my list. Now I’ve got to go get cracking on doing the reading.

New Year’s Resolutions: Going to the Place that Scares You

Harajuku Huggers

Harajuku Huggers

I took the picture above one Sunday afternoon in the summer of 2008 at Harajuku in Tokyo, Japan. For those of you who aren’t familiar, there’s a bridge between the Harajuku rail station and the Meiji shrine where crowds gather on Sunday afternoons to –for inexplicable reasons– dress up in costumes. It’s a festive environment with a mix of cos-players, travelers taking photos and reveling in the weirdness, and conservatively dressed visitors heading to the nearby shrine.

I digress. As I was thinking about New Year’s resolutions, this moment popped into my head. I was thinking about how a good resolution involves going to a place that scares you. That’s how one grows. When I thought about the place that scared me, FREE HUGS leapt to mind.

What if random strangers start hugging you?

What if they don’t?

And I wouldn’t even have to worry about a third issue that the two comely lasses in the photo did (i.e. What if some creepy jerk lingers, reeking of impure thoughts and Old Spice aftershave?)

Does one have to give up one’s clean-cut, god-fearing, Midwestern, conservative club card in favor of a granola-munching, dreadlocked, ganja-smoking hacky-sack club card?

This will sound insane to many because everybody’s scary place is different. I should note that I was in Japan for martial arts training. Having my body subjected to all manner of beatings –I must say– was not nearly as intimidating.