To save me answering questions about the tools I use for various things, I have compiled this curated list. Here are some things which I recommend and which you might like. All bring something beneficial to my everyday life.
- BlueHost - a high quality hosting service, essential if you want to start your own blog. Hosting is normally expensive, but you can get a half-price plan via this link.
- Mail Chimp - my service for sending newsletters. Cheap, easy to use and never lets me down, plus there are some cool features.
- Grammarly - a chrome extension which spell checks everything you type.
- Hemingway App - a desktop app which flags up structural issues in writing.
- EditMinion - useful for spotting duplicate words, passive voice and other issues.
- Evernote - I use this for cataloging drafts, references, quotes and other bits of writing.
- Writeordie - life changing if you procrastinate while writing.
- Four Sigma Mushroom Coffee - I crack this out when I need a substantial boost in focus and energy. It's delicious and works as a cognitive enhancer. It might be more expensive than regular instant coffee, but it's worth it for the extra work I get done after drinking just half a sachet.
For making my daily plans or writing on the go:
- Moleskine year planner - my current planner for 2017.
- Moleskine cahiers - I use these for monthly plans and taking notes.
- Pocket sized Moleskines - I carry these everywhere for notes and ideas.
- Lamy fountain pen - the nicest pen I have ever used which makes my handwriting much neater.
- Pilot pens - useful for finer writing and diagrams.
- List notebooks - I use these to make lists of goals which I hang by mirror.
- The camera I use for all my photography. This is a BRILLIANT, inexpensive camera. It is lightweight, has a touch screen, powerful zoom and some very useful modes. The film footage it takes is also excellant and the integrated mic is surprisingly good.
- Photography lamp for indoor pictures (so, so useful in the winter when the light is terrible.) This model is cheap for how strong it is and not at all bulky.
- Tripod for self timer pictures. Essential for taking shots independently or if you have unsteady hands.
- Pixlr (my editing software of choice.) It is pretty much the same as Photoshop and is free. I strongly recommend taking a couple on one-to-one lessons in photo editing if you want to get good at it. Just two hours of training with a professional editor taught me all I needed to know for the work I do.
Some of my favorite non fiction books:
- On the Shortness of Life- Seneca. There's a reason this book remains popular close to 2000 years after being written. It is still relevant and more accessible than many Stoic texts. Seneca is a timeless genius with a remarkable awareness of what matters in life. Realising how little people have changed since the Roman era is somewhat reassuring. People have always procrastinated, worried about the future and been unsure of their own purpose. Reading Seneca always make me feel less alone on bad days.
- On Writing - Stephen King. I found an abandoned copy of this in the street a few months ago and am super grateful to whoever left it there. This book is a masterclass in writing well by the best-selling author ever. His advice is simple, useful and not at all pretentious. Here's one of my favourite extracts; 'Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. It's about enriching the lives of who will read your work, and enriching your own life. It's about getting up, getting well and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.'
- The Hidden Pleasures of Life - Theodore Zeldin. Five weeks. That's how long it took me to read this- longer than any other book before. Each page is thick with insights and every sentence is a work of art. Reading more than a few pages in one go is almost impossible. Carry this book with you, dip into passages and unravel it at a slow pace. This is writing to ponder, not to just read.
- Deep Work and So Good They can't Ignore You - Cal Newport. These two books transformed the way I work. Many of my keys habits/changes - quitting social media, creating an autopilot schedule, single tasking etc - came from Newport's work. Read them both together for maximum benefit.
- The Productivity Project - Chris Bailey. I love it when a blogger I follow gets a book deal, and I pre-ordered this as soon as it was announced. This should be compulsory reading for all students. Bailey spent a year testing out productivity techniques to establish what works. The result is a book which focuses on the management of energy and attention, not time.
- Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell. This is an interesting book, full of fascinating research. I always love the fusion of science, sociology, psychology and other fields in Gladwell's books. I also recommend Tipping Point. He can turn even the most dull sounding topics (Korean etiquette, the spread of HIV, Hush Puppies) into an absorbing narrative. I favor them for long flights or train journeys.
- Poke The Box, We Are All Weird and Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin. I've been on a bit of a Godin rampage of late, working my way through all his books. Choosing one favorite from them would be impossible. One of my rules in life is 'once you decide someone gives good advice, follow all of it.' Seth is one of those people and it's extraordinary how much I've learnt from his work. A digital version of SSD is available for free on his website.
- Walden - Henry Thoreau. This is required reading for all minimalists. My copy recently fell apart from being carried about and referred to several times a day. It's hard to explain how much I love this book, or how much it has altered my perspective. Just read it and you'll understand why.
Some of my favorite fiction books. I don't read much fiction and go for classics most of the time. These are all thought provoking, unusual books which have taught me a lot.
- On the Road, Dharma Bums and Lonesome Traveller - Jack Kerouac. I don't doubt that Kerouac is one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. A librarian told me that copies of his books always seem to get stolen, which is why many places don't stock them. I replied that stealing books is a rather Kerouac-esque thing to do. She was not amused. Borrow or buy these and don't steal them. Each is a glorious portrait of a long-gone era and the way people lived during it. They make me nostalgic for a time I never experienced. A time when one could hop in a car with a few friends, $10 and a bottle of whisky and drive across America. Expect lots of dialogue and little plot.
- Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov. Controversial, yes. Nonetheless, it remains one of my all-time favourite books. I also love Laura, the unfinished manuscript of his final book. Considering how meticulous Nabokov was with his editing, reading a draft is intriguing. Some versions include scans of the original pages- a glimpse of his unusual notecard system for writing.
- The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde. This is a glorious, unashamed exploration of hedonistic bohemian society. It exists within an unreal world where everyone is rich, beautiful and opulent. I'll need to reread it a dozen more times before I can give an articulate review. Still, books should be challenging.
- The Third Policeman - Flann O'Brien. A wacky, bizarre book set in a strange world where nothing quite makes sense. I was lent it by my friend Corrie who asked me to underline the passages which I found meaningful. She asks each person who reads it to do that in a different pen, to see if eventually every part of the book is underlined. The whole thing is so wonderful that I expect this will happen. It's hard to summarise the plot, so just read it.
- Portrait of a Man - Georges Perec. This was Perec's first novel, yet it was the last to be published. The original manuscript was found a few years ago and translated into English. I love how it flits between 1st, 2nd and 3rd person in a manner which keeps you on your toes throughout the book. It's about an art forger who kills his (sort of) manager and then has an existential crisis. Very little happens, it's mostly about his thoughts. Perec is perhaps one of the most creative writers imaginable.
- Under the Dome - Stephen King. For some odd reason, a lot of people consider King to be a 'non-serious' sort of writer. My college tried to prevent me from listing his as one of my favorites on my university application. I refused because I disagree. Selling 350 million+ books is no small feat. Likewise, holding a reader's attention for over 1000 pages is the mark of a talented author. This book was my life for a solid week and I barely knew what to do with myself upon finishing it. It's gripping, somehow uncomfortable and full of exquisite human moments. Even if you are a slow reader, I can promise you will be unable to put this one down.