What I Learned Reading 52 Books In 2014 (Part 3)

Welcome to the third installment of my reading review of 2014. If you missed the earlier editions, you can click the links for part one and part two.

And now for numbers 27 – 39 of my 2014 reading:

27. The Sports Motivation Master Plan: How To Go Further Faster and Achieve Your Sporting Dream
by Lee Ness (5/5)


I was given an advanced copy of this book by the author, who I met one day whilst training at Salisbury AC. If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect this book to be incredibly good, so I didn’t have high hopes. Instead, I thought the book was excellent, and I read it all the way through in a few days. Lee discusses the journey an athlete must go on from being a beginner, to Olympic champion. He discusses methods and tools you can use to help you achieve this goal, and provides plenty of examples. Lee also provides information for parents of promising young athletes, as well as their coaches. I think the advice is spot on, and made me realise how lucky I was that my parents intuitively knew a lot of this stuff. History is littered with promising youngsters who don’t reach their full potential for one reason or another (you might class me as one of these) – Lee is trying to change that. I would strongly recommend picking up this book.

28. The Little Book of Talent
by Daniel Coyle (5/5)


Brilliant book. Part of high-level sport is learning to do skills correctly. In sprinting, this takes the form of sprint mechanics. A sprinter has to place their body parts in certain positions at certain times in order to achieve an elite sprint performance. As a coach, I need to think about how I can best facilitate this skill learning for my athletes. Daniel wrote the Talent Code, which explores the science of skill learning in more depth, and then followed it up with this short book of easily digestible, actionable tips. A pleasing aspect to note for myself was that a lot of the tips he mentions, I had utilised when transferring from athletics to bobsleigh, which was a big skill learning challenge. I’m using these tips now to whilst learning how to skateboard and surf (when the weather is nice!), and when trying to create an optimal learning environment for the athletes I coach.


29. Sort Your Brain out: Boost Your Performance, Manage Stress and Achieve More
by Adrian Webster (2/5)


This book was ok. I’ve forgotten most of it, which isn’t a good sign – I remember there being sections of interesting facts and few good tips, but overall I just wanted to get it finished. It promised a lot but didn’t really deliver what I wanted – which may well by my fault for having unrealistic expectations, as opposed to an issue with book.


30. A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke
by Ronald Reng (5/5).


Enke was a German football goalkeeper, who had played for FC Barcelona, Benfica, and a couple of big German clubs. He also suffered from long-term depression. During one particularly bad bout, Enke spent all day driving around his home town, before stepping in front of a high speed express train, and killing himself, aged 32. This book tells the story of his life, and gives insight into what it can be like to suffer from depression. It’s a really gripping read, and beautifully written. The last ten pages in particular hooked me; I knew what was coming but still I was drawn into the story of what happened that day. This book is absolutely excellent.


31. Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing
by Po Bronson and Ashleigh Merriman (5/5)


Why do some people perform well under pressure? Do they not feel the pressure, or do they just deal with it differently? Is there a gene that predicts this? If you’re underperforming in an academic background, is it better to pair up with someone really clever, or someone on your level. Do males and females respond to competition differently? If so, do we need different approaches in how we coach them? What factors come together within an organisation that performs well, and why don’t these factors occur in a poorly performing one? Bronson and Merriman discuss these questions, and many more, in this book. I thought it was really good, and I learned some valuable information to take forward into my coaching. The most interesting for me revolved around the sex differences, which is something I hadn’t really considered before. All the training groups I have been in have been mostly men, and females didn’t really fit in (despite my best efforts). I could never understand this, but this book helps explain why this might be. Similarly in my coaching, I’ve often struggled to provide an environment for females to flourish. Reading this book was an important step in overcoming this.


32. How to Change the World (The School of Life)
by John-Paul Flintoff (3/5)


This is yet another book in the School for Life series. I bought it for my girlfriend, who is a Revolutionist; however she is very busy being a doctor so I snuck it off her bookcase to take a look. It’s a short read, and quite enjoyable. It goes into reasonable in-depth philosophical points regarding change, which wasn’t for me really. It also provides practical tips for making a change, which is a bit more actionable. The key message for me was that changing the world doesn’t have to be on a huge scale. If we can all do little things within our local communities, we can make the world a better place. This resonated with me; I’m unlikely to change the world on a global scale. However, I do want to make a difference to peoples lives, and make them healthier in today’s world. A lot of the work I do now is focused on enabling people to lose weight, and be healthier and happier as a result. This book made me realise that what I do is worthwhile (despite what some people may think!).


33. Night School: Wake up to the power of sleep
by Richard Wiseman (4/5)


I enjoyed this book so much, that it inspired me to write this blog post on sleep and the athlete. The book spends its first half exploring the physiological processes involved in sleep, and what happens when we have too little sleep (we hallucinate, and eventually die). It also gives practical tips on how to ensure you can make the most of your time asleep. The second half discuses dreams, what they are, what they mean (if anything), and if we can use them. Eventually, I think that it might be possible to improve motor skill learning through sleep. Its already established in the scientific literature that sleep helps learning, and if you learn some facts pre-sleep, then test then 24 hours later, you recall them much better than if you learnt them first thing, then recalled them first thing the next day. Sleep is obviously a powerful learning tool, probably via the medium of dreams (problem solving can occurs via dreams), and so there is certainly scope at some point for this to happen. An examination of lucid dreaming also takes place in the book; something that I am very interested in, but too scared to try!


34. How to be Interesting
by David Gillespie (1/5)


To sum up: To be interesting, be interested in other people. Then add 100+ pages of waffle. The end. I’ll allow Kamal from goodreads to have the final say:


The last thing the literate world needs are two old British white men who think that they are an authority on a matter of “interest” when in actuality they know nothing. That is my assessment of this book and its authors, who resemble Statler and Waldorf (of The Muppet Show) if they had decided to become life coaches. It is surprisingly and hypocritically unoriginal and boring, cribbing heavily from the great classics on human relations and creativity How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Edward De Bono’s How to Be More Interesting. They meretriciously dress up these classics, in a mind-mapping, info-graphical, sound-byte-laden dog’s breakfast whose sole purpose is to make these tired old men (and their silly musings) seem hip. If you actually want to become “interesting” (whatever that means), go straight to De Bono and Carnegie and bypass this turd. If you are looking for more light-hearted, contemporary approach to the subject, check out How to be Interesting by Jessica Hagy or How to Be An Explorer of the World by Keri Smith. You’ll get better results for sure.


35. Infographica: The World As You Have Never Seen It Before
by Martin Toseland (2/5).


Another infographics book. But where Information is Beautiful was, well, beautiful, this one is much less breath-taking. The infographics are very basic; whilst this is still a good way of visualising information, it makes for a less interesting read.


36. The Go-to Expert: How to Grow Your Reputation, Differentiate Yourself from the Competition and Win New Business
by Heather Townsend (4/5)


I’ve changed. I’ve never been that into business;I found it generally un-interesting. Then I retired, and had to make money. This is the first business book I’ve ever read, and I really enjoyed it. Townsend gives you practical tips on how to become the Go-To expert in your field. Its aimed at more ”city” jobs, but can still be applicable to those in the health and fitness sphere. I read this book at the start of September, around about the same time I started blogging and growing my website….. coincidence?


  1. The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest To Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind
    by Michio Kaku (3/5).


Michio Kaku is a well-known physicist, who has written other books including “The Future of Physics”. In this book, he looks at the mind, and what recent research is indicating we might be able to do in the future. Some of these I have never heard of – I didn’t know it was possible, for example, to be able to live without the two hemispheres of your brain being connected. Very few people find themselves in this position, but those that do have unusual experiences. For example, the right brain can’t speak, so it cannot communicate. However, if you set up an experiment so that an image in only visible to the right hemisphere, then the left hand will draw that image – even though the left (speaking) brain has never seen it! I found aspects like that really interesting. Kaku also explores whether we can transmit our mind across space without our body, making long-distance space travel much easier and feasible (provided we had a suitable avatar at the other end). Another interesting section was that on alien life – if aliens do exist (which statistically they should), why haven’t we heard from them? One potential reason is that they are far too advanced for us to even notice them, as the exist on a level of consciousness that we cant even comprehend. Overall, this book was interesting, if not just a tiny bit long and speculative.


  1. Zen of Social Media Marketing
    by Shama Kabani (3/5)


I read this book as I was trying to put a bit more effort into my website and building my social media profiles (I thought at the time that this is what I wanted to do). However, being someone who has grown up with the internet, and spent a lot of time with twitter and facebook, I don’t really think I learnt anything new. Obviously, I am not bothered with video guides or facebook marketing, as they don’t affect what I do, but if I was setting up a slightly bigger business that might have been a bit more important for me. Overall, useful if you don’t know much about social media, but if you’ve grown up using it you might not need this book.


  1. Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery
    by Henry Marsh (4/5).


This book gave a pretty interesting look into the day-to-day goings on of a brain surgeon in the UK. It examined some of the procedures that are common (and less common), and what happens when things go wrong. It was an enjoyable read, however it appears that brain surgery is very slow and precise and deliberate (as well it should be!), and so the actual surgeries themselves aren’t all that interesting. A good insight into the NHS and patient care though – and you could tell this surgeon really cared about his patients. My girlfriend is a doctor in training now, so it was good to see what it can be like for her dealing with people who have to make tough decisions about their futures.

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