Reading List

Fabulous Read – Emily Belden

Title – Husband Material
Author – Emily Belden

This was another book I picked up at my local library, from the “New Reads” section. The date was close to Valentine’s Day, the title was supremely catchy, and the blurb was intriguing to say the least! After all, how many romance books involve an urn holding the ashes of the heroine’s dead husband’s ashes, mailed in a package?

SCORE: 5* out of 5

If I had to describe this book with movie analogies, then this is a book where “Double Jeopardy” meets “Legally Blonde”. Or “Confessions of a Shopaholic” meets “The Intern”. Or the recent “The Spy Who Dumped Me”.

This author portrays drama, grief, betrayal, unusual friendships, romance and dating set in the glitzy background of LA, complete with control-freak, unapproving and RICH mother-in-law and romantic male character who may turn out to be the hero or the villain! All the characters are very well fleshed out and the heroine’s

I read the whole book in one go (~ 2 hours)! ? It’s been awhile since I found a romance or chick lit book so gripping, so do want to appreciate the book thoroughly. I suspect I finished half the book just to find out how the husband died in the first place – even though I knew this was a “hook” I was willingly ready to take the bait!

The book is classified as “coming of age” fiction on Amazon, but honestly “Women’s Fiction” would be a better category or Urban Drama! Or even RomCom. Why do authors classify books this way and make it difficult for readers to find them? (bit annoyed, but the author writes so well! ) Thankfully, my library correctly had it marked under “New Age Romance”.

I loved how the author weaved some very controversial and depressing questions relating to death, hurtful relationships without making it sordid or overwhelming! After all, we read such books for entertainment, but it’s beautiful that the author was able to intersperse them without losing the story’s magic!

Similar Works

If you like any of the below, you will appreciate reading this author too:

Genres – Drama, contemporary romance, Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction.

Movies – The Spy Who Dumped Me, Double Jeopardy, The Intern, Legally Blonde, Devil wears Prada, Confessions of a Shopaholic.

TV Series – Modern Love.

Books – “The Summerhouse” by Jude Deveraux, “Confessions of a Shopaholic” by Sophie Kinsella, “Right Fit Wrong Shoe” by Varsha Dixit, “Marriage Clock” by Zara Raheem.             

Overall, a fantastic read, and ideal for traveling or gifting! Happy Reading!

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Happy International Women’s Day!

March 8th is International Women’s Day, so this month is dedicated to all the amazing women authors out there, as well as books that advocate for women. Below is my reading list for the month, so also hoping to accomplish a good chunk of my reading goals and “clear the clutter” Goodreads challenge. So many birds with one stone! 😉

March 2020 Reading list

  1. Presence, by Amy Cuddy.
  2. Women Still Don’t Get the Corner Office. Author Lois Frankel.
  3. Squeezed by Alyssa Quart
  4. America for Beginners. Author = Leah Franqui. (Fiction)
  5. Head over Heels, Lila Monroe. (Fiction)
  6. Husband Material. Author = Emily Belden. (Fiction)
  7. You are a BadAss, by Jen Sincero.
  8. 365 Days of Facebook. Author = Nirupama. (Fiction)
  9. Achtung Baby, by Sara Zaske.
  10. You Woke up Worthy, Britny West.
  11. To Winter at Wildsyde, by Emma Leech. (Fiction)
  12. Mirror Work, Louisa Hay.
  13. The Profitable Content System, by Meera Kothand.
  14. Evening is the Whole Day. Preeta Samarasan. (Fiction)
  15. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Women and Leadership. Harvard Business Review.
  16. Secrets of Six-Figure Women. Barbara Stanny. Non-fiction business.
  17. The Big Book of Juices. Natalie Savona. Health & Living.
  18. Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling. Non-fiction business.
  19. The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae. Stephanie Laurens.
  20. The Marriage Clock: A Novel. Zara Raheem.
Go Girl Power!

Happy Reading!

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more time, more reading!

Since I posted about my reading goals for 2020, and a new reading list, it feels like I’ve been bombarded with Qs about finding time to truly accomplish that goal. So I wanted to share some tips I use to create time for my life’s top priorities.

Of course, you might want to know why I am qualified to dole out productivity advice and time-saving hacks! After all, TIME is that elusive elixir that we all want to have, but never seem to find! However, in the last year, I’ve been a little more mindful about my time, and found that I was able to accomplish so much more:

  1. Published a book on DataScience jobs, which hit the Amazon bestseller charts for almost 2 months!
  2. Grew my blog from 5k views per month, to 10k views, compared to last year.
  3. Won an all-expenses paid Diversity scholarship to KubeCon San Diego!
  4. Completed my MBA Finance with a 3.4 GPA, while holding a full-time job.
  5. Traveled to Everglades National Park, ticking off a long-listed item off my bucket list.
  6. Took over the reins of a 1500+ member meetup group!
  7. Read 25+ books over the year!

Many of the time-saving hacks that helped me achieve these are also valuable techniques to find chunks of time to read more, even for the most hectic schedules. Here are my Top 15 favorite tips:

Use 2020 wisely – read more books!
  1. READING GOALS – Have a weekly/ monthly goal and decide what you are going to read. Just wanting to read is too vague, and will get drowned by other “firefighting” priorities. With the goal in mind, keep books handy – by either keeping light paperbacks in your bag or on mobile apps like Kindle and BookShout.
  2. Use Waiting Rooms wisely. We all have these “wasted” moments, 10 minutes at the doctor’s clinics, 30+ minutes at airports, 5-10 mins waiting for a kids class to get over or just a serpentine queue at the grocery stores. Most people use it to check social media, or browse clickbait articles or the never-ending stream of office emails. I use it to read books. I have to admit this is harder, and takes willpower. Sometimes its hard to remember, too. I normally go “offline” and force myself to read. TRY IT, you will be surprised how much reading can be integrated into these invisible pockets of time.
  3. Schedule 20 minutes in the morning with coffee / breakfast. Yes, there are a 1001 chores pending, fidgety kids and spouse and 250 emails from work that need your attention. But here is a secret. They will wait another 20 minutes, too! But not spending time on your personal development and expanding your mind (or just down time) is making you less smarter, and decreasing your productivity, joy and creativity far more than you know. If you prefer, do it way early in the morning before others wake up. I was scheduling 45 minutes way early in the morning, when everyone is asleep for my MBA and now that the degree is over, I’ve replaced it with reading, exercise, prayers and other personal priorities.
  4. 20 minutes “offline” time before bed. Seriously, all the “blue light” from electronics devices is not good for health. Reading a physical book before bed forces me to step away from my devices, promotes better sleep and makes me feel amazing about myself.
  5. Use your commute time. Instead of listening to the radio or taking office calls, commit half of your commute (or one way) to audiobooks. Hubby and I have committed 25% of all long-drives and road trips to audiobooks. I hated the thought at first, but he picked some truly interesting titles like “Freakonomics” and “12 rules of life” and now I am hooked!
  6. Listen to Audiobooks at 1.5x or 2x speed. Seriously, this one tip (from my MBA phase) has made me so much more efficient. You will need to work your way up to such high-speeds, but I’ve found the increased speed forces me to focus more. Downside – now I can rarely listen at 1x speeds, even for Youtube videos!
  7. Make chores interesting. Who likes making the bed, or doing dishes or folding clothes? I don’t so I grab my lovely Bose headphones and make them interesting by listening to escaping to the world of audiobooks!
  8. Read faster. It’s amazing that schools teach you to read, but not how to read faster. So try to consciously increase your speed without compromising on retention. There are many tools out there, and reading apps like BookShout calculate it for you automatically. Comes easily with practice, and you’ll get more achieved, at work and your personal goals.
  9. Read more efficiently. You don’t need to read word-by-word. Not every chapter is useful or important, and you won’t remember it in 3 months anyway! Life is too short to waste on bad books, so make sure you read what is truly remarkable, entertaining, valuable in practice, or all of the three!
  10. No monkey behavior. Don’t jump from 1 book to another. Even with my reading speeds, I find myself with a large list of incomplete books. So I stick to two book at a time (one ebook/audio + 1 hardcopy). If you want to do more, make sure they are from different genres, so it is easier to follow the various content tracks.
  11. Use your lunch hour. This was advice from an amazing mentor, who emphasized the importance of using the lunch hour for networking or reading. If I am in office, I force myself to get out of my cube and chat with 1 new person everyday. But since I work remote a lot, I do spend 20 mins on lunch while reading a good book. It’s amazing how this “clean” 20 minutes break from work helps me relax better, complete more pages on my goal, and improves my efficiency when I resume work.
  12. Leverage your smart phones for some good – if you cannot carry physical books, then there are many amazing apps like Kindle, Bookshout or GooglePlayBooks. Audible for audiobooks. Most offer metrics – how many days/weeks you read continuously, cute badges for reading sprints, reading speeds and much more. All these add motivation to help you read more!
  13. Scared of breaking the bank? – visit your library. In the US, all have dedicated mobile apps, which allow you to read ebooks and listen to audiofiles. In India, there are some amazing local libraries that provide vast number of titles at very reasonable rates. Plus, I’ve noticed that the more I read and buy on Google and Amazon, I seem to get more credits to encourage more spending!
  14. Keep a time log. Phantom slots keep slipping away. Don’t schedule every minute, but at least be aware of where your time-sucks are. Chances are, some of these can be used to slip in reading time.
  15. Say NO. The world does NOT hand out Nobel Prizes to super-moms or super-dads. So get off your invisible hamster wheels, and spend time on yourself, in self-development goals and reading time!

Those were my reading hacks. You don’t need to use all 15 techniques, but incorporating even 3-4 will help you reclaim valuable slots of time that might otherwise be frittered away on low priorities, or worse without your knowledge.

Happy Reading! 🙂

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2020 Reading Challenge

Goal 2020 = Read 100 books, as part of “Clear the Shelves” Challenge.

I’ve been a GoodReads user for years now (who isn’t? ) but never really completed a reading challenge even though I read a ton of books, based on my WSJ subscription or what catches my fancy at the library or even random Google recommendations to use up my e-book credits. However, with the dawn of a new decade (Hurrah 2020), I decided to login and just check the reading challenges posted for this year. And boy, they are amazing!

GoodReads currently has reading challenges in various themes and genres. Don’t like picking any single one? Use the “Bingo” challenge to cover multiple genres. I chose the “Clear the Shelves” Reading challenge, because I realized I have a sea of books at home, on my Kindle/ BookShout/ GooglePlayBooks and other apps. I’ve started many, and some I read so long ago that I can’t recollect anything.

So the Clear the Shelves challenge seemed perfect. NO buying new books, ebooks or audible titles until I’ve cleared this list. Was not very consistent in adding my “read” shelves either, so planning to post reviews on Goodreads an Amazon. After all, as an author myself, I understand the potent power of reviews, so it makes good karma that I return the favor.

To further add accountability, I am adding the list publicly on this blog, too:

  • Physical books = 50
  • eBooks = 40
  • Audible = 10
  • Total = 100

Obviously, at some point in the future I will cave in and get other books or read books by other indie authors I like, but having this “to-do” list seems like a good way of making sure I tackle this long overdue task.

Tackle my friends – lovely paperbacks & hardcopy books!

Physical Books I own:

  1. The Star Attraction. Allison Sweeney. Romance.
  2. The Inseparables. Stuart Nadler. Drama.
  3. Evening is the Whole Day. Preeta Samarasan. Chicklit.
  4. The Woman who stole my Life. Marian Keyes. Chicklit.
  5. The Black Widow. Daniel Silva. Thriller.
  6. The New Abs Diet. David Zinczenko. Health & Living.
  7. Designing Data-Intensive Applications. Martin Kleppmann. Technical.
  8. Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior. Dennis Coon & John Mitterer. Psychology.
  9. OH, MIND RELAX PLEASE. Swami Sukhabodhananda. Non-fiction business.
  10. Spark of Light. Jodi Picoult. Drama.
  11. House of Spies. Daniel Silva. Thriller.
  12. Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe. Bill Bryson. Travel.
  13. HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Women and Leadership. Harvard Business Review.
  14. The 30-Day Money Cleanse. Ashley Gertsley. Non-fiction business.
  15. Smart Women Love Money. Alice Finn. Non-fiction business.
  16. All Things are Working for Your Good. Joel Osteen. Non-fiction business.
  17. Secrets of Six-Figure Women. Barbara Stanny. Non-fiction business.
  18. You’ve Got 8 Seconds. Paul Hellman. Non-fiction business.
  19. You Woke up Worthy. Britny West. Health & Living.
  20. 12 Rules for Life. Jordan Peterson. Non-fiction business.
  21. Capitalism. Ayn Rand. Non-fiction business.
  22. The Success Priniciples. Jack Canfield. Non-fiction business.
  23. You are a Badass. Jen Sincero. Non-fiction business.
  24. The Big Book of Juices. Natalie Savona. Health & Living.
  25. The Accidental Creative. Todd Henry. Non-fiction business.
  26. Rule #1: The Simple Strategy for Successful Investing in Only 15 Minutes a Week! Phile Town. Non-fiction business.
  27. Connect: The Secret LinkedIn Playbook. Josh Turner. Non-fiction business.
  28. The Happiness Hypothesis. Jonathan Haidt. Psychology.
  29. Inviting Disaster: Lessons From the Edge of Technology. James Chiles. Non-fiction business.
  30. Invested. Danielle & Phil Town. Non-fiction business.
  31. The Pledge: Your Master Plan for an Abundant Life. Michael Masterson. Non-fiction business.
  32. The Truth About Managing People. Stephen Robbins. Non-fiction business.
  33. Foods that Harm Foods that Heal. Joe Schwarcz & Fran Berkoff. Health & Living.
  34. Zero Belly Smoothies. David Zinczenko. Health & Living.
  35. 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse. JJ Smith. Health & Living.
  36. The Beauty Detox Solution. Kimberly Snyder. Health & Living.
  37. You Can Heal Your Life. (Gift Edition) Louise Hay. Health & Living.
  38. Earn It. Mika Brzezinski. Non-fiction business.
  39. Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling. Non-fiction business.
  40. Kiss Your But Goodbye. Joseph Azelby. Non-fiction business.
  41. End Game. David Baldacci. Thriller.
  42. How to Talk to Anyone. Leila Lowndes. Non-fiction business.
  43. The Greatness Guide Book 2. Robin Sharma. Non-fiction business.
  44. Corporate Finance: The Core. Jonathan Berk & Peter DeMarzo. Technical.
  45. Big Data. Bernard Marr. Technical.
  46. The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae. Stephanie Laurens. Romance.
  47. The Marriage Clock: A Novel. Zara Raheem. ChickLit.
  48. Everyone Worth Knowing. Lauren Weisberger. Drama.
  49. When Life gives You Lululemons. Lauren Weisberger. Drama.
  50. Presence. Amy Cuddy. Psychology.

Audible Titles

  1. Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office. Lois Frankel.
  2. Obsessed or be Average. Grant Cardone.
  3. Ultralearning. Scott Young. Non-fiction business.
  4. Range. Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. David Epstein. Non-fiction business.
  5. Never Split the Difference. Chris Voss. Psychology.
  6. The Phoenix Project. Gene Kim, Kevin Behr & George Spafford. Non-fiction business.
  7. The Like Switch. Jack Schafer & Marvin Karlins. Psychology.
  8. The Millionaire Fastlane. MJ DeMarco. Non-fiction business.
  9. Creating Personal Presence. Diana Booher. Non-fiction business.
  10. The Science of Social Intelligence. Patrick King. Psychology.

eBooks from Various Apps & Subscriptions:

Eliminate the Hoard of eBooks!
  1. Make Money from Non-fiction books. John Tighe. Non-fiction business.
  2. Unlocking Potential. Michael Simpson. Non-fiction business.
  3. Head over Heels. Lila Monroe. Romance.
  4. Montana Mistletoe. Kim Law. Romance.
  5. Influencer. Brittany Hennessy. Non-fiction business.
  6. The Profitable Content System. Meera kothand. Non-fiction business.
  7. The Telomere effect. Elizabeth Blackburn & Elissa Epel. Health & Living.
  8. Creativity Inc. Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace. Non-fiction.
  9. Manipulation Secrets. Patrick Lightman. Psychology.
  10. The 1-page Marketing Plan. Allan Dib. Non-fiction business.
  11. The Happy Mind. Kevin Horsley & Louis Fourie. Psychology.
  12. Instabrain. Sarah Weise. Non-fiction business.
  13. Discipline Decoded. Stephen Taylor. Psychology.
  14. Supportive Accountability. Sylvia Melena. Non-fiction business.
  15. But I am Not an Expert. Meera Kothand. Non-fiction business.
  16. People First. Mike Nutley. Non-fiction business.
  17. Don’t Lie to Me. Willow Rose. Mystery.
  18. LinkedIn Riches. John Nemo. Non-fiction business.
  19. Influencer Fast Track. Gundi Gabrielle. Non-fiction business.
  20. Kindle Bestseller Publishing. Gundi Gabrille. Non-fiction business.
  21. Data Jujitsu. DJ Patil. Technical.
  22. The Science of Human Nature. William Pyle. Psychology.
  23. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin. Memoir.
  24. To Dare A Duke. Emma Leech. Romance.
  25. Essentialism. Greg McKeown. Non-fiction business.
  26. It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work. Jason Fried & David Hansson. Non-fiction business.
  27. Getting Things Done. David Allen. Non-fiction business.
  28. The Internet of Money. Andreas Antonopoulos. Non-fiction business.
  29. Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life. Tonianne DeMaria Barry.
  30. What you do is Who you are. Ben Horowitz. Non-fiction business.
  31. Cold Storage. David Koepp. Thriller.
  32. The Education of an Idealist. Samantha Power. Memoir.
  33. Squeezed. Alissa Quant. Non-fiction business.
  34. An Elegant Defense. Matt Richtel. Non-fiction business.
  35. Sapiens. Yuval Noah Harari. Non-fiction business.
  36. Chaos Monkeys. Antonio Martinez. Non-fiction business.
  37. Kissinger the Negotiator. James Sebenius. Memoir.
  38. Just Sit. Sukey & Elizabeth Novogratz. Health & Living.
  39. Remix. Lindsey Pollak. Non-fiction business.
  40. Iris Apfel: Accidental icon. Iris Apfel. Memoir.
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Who doesn’t want a successful career, million dollar savings account, fame in their community and the chance to explore the world? Well, look no further. This book will give you practical, proven strategies to do all that and more. This book is also listed in the Top 25 reading list for 2020.

REVIEW SCORE = 5/5 *****

If you only have time to read one book this year, then this should be it! This book is simply that valuable! The book is divided into 3 sections – health, wealth and wisdom and each contains easily digestible chapters, each one from a different industry leader.

The book has remarkable stories and advice from chefs, actors, world famous athletes, technocrats, venture capitalists, Harvard professors and even YouTube stars! No matter which field or career stage you belong to, you will find tips to guide you to greater heights. Think of the book as a “mentor in a book”!

Here are some pearls of wisdom that truly resonated with me, and to give you a jump-start, if you are unsure where to begin.

HEALTH

Healthy body and productive mind
Healthy body = productive mind & more success!

The book has a lot of techniques to improve your health, and I don’t need to tell you that good health automatically translates into higher productivity, better salary and more success. My favorite chapters in this section teach the following:

(1) How to sleep more efficiently, so you wake up feeling truly refreshed, not groggy and grumpy. (page 138) Better sleep means the same 6-8 hours leaves you without a mid-day energy slump, sharper memory and higher efficiency.

(2) There are description on how some common over-the-counter multivitamin supplements work, which can aid in better sleep, digestion and energy booster. For example did you know melatonin helps to beat jet lag (excellent for travelers) and magnesium supplements aid digestion, mineral absorption and can improve your exercise regimen? There are some other medicines too, recommended by doctors and athletes, which are easily available with few side effects (compared to the amazing benefits) Refer page 21, 129 and many more chapters.

(3) You and I barely spend 3 hours per week in the gym. Instead of worrying how to increase the length of your workouts, try hacking the intensity and efficiency! Learn how the best athletes train and CEOs stay fit. Pages 14, 57 and others.

WEALTH

Strategies to make more money.

Read on if you want answers or advice on the following:

(1) Are you a struggling artist or under-paid teacher or a solopreneur who is unable to make ends meet? Go from being a minimal wage employee to earning $500+/hour using the chapters in this section. (P292, p296) Won’t be overnight, for sure, but at least you will see hope to bring you out of despair. Again, this book has so many industry influencers that you should be able to find something that works for your exact circumstances.

(2) Website getting zero traffic, or boss does not recognize your contributions? Don’t worry solutions to monetize your branding and visibility are also listed.

(3) How to identify lucrative investments or start off as a venture capitalist. (P343)

(4) Want to fund a “real-life” MBA? We got you covered in this book. (P250)

Wisdom & Personal Growth

Money & Happiness – What everyone wants to achieve!

(1) Are you curious about transcendental meditation? If you’ve never heard of it, then this is a meditation technique that celebrities and CEOs swear has changed their life, and allowed them to scale new heights of peak success. This book contains multiple references, and you will be compelled to apply it to your own life. (P151, p176)

(2) What beliefs are holding you back? The concepts that worked for our parents and grandparents may not be relevant anymore, but unless you think or test them gently, you will never know what is possible. Read the brilliant chapter on “17 Questions that changed my life” on page 595.

(3) How to conquer your fear. (P474, p463)

(4) Hack learning using the same techniques that propelled a small-time journalist into the American Memory champion in less than an year. (p577)

Hopefully, the snippets above would have whetted your appetite for the book. So get started, and let me know what you think! And best of luck for a new year filled with unlimited possibilities.

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