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15 Books to Read While Studying (from a 180-scorer)

edited September 2021 in General 1532 karma

I posted this as a comment on my post "146 —> 180 (Thank you 7sage!) Very tired Mom edition": But it has become difficult for people to find amidst the other comments on there, so I am posting it separately here. See the original post for my schedule, RC tips, and LG tips.

Comment below with your favorite books; would love to get some more ideas of books to read now that I'm in the midst of finally applying to law school!

My 15 favorite books that I read while studying for the LSAT

“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds…”- Rene Descartes

Books on Habits, Exercise, Mindset, and Psychology

James Clear - Atomic Habits: start here! This book inspires and has tons of practical resources on how to build routines, schedules, and habits that will allow you to thrive while juggling multiple priorities.

Dr. Ratey - Spark: From Dr. Ratey, I learned that exercise may be the most effective way we can combat depression and improve our brain functioning each day. Exercise has actually been shown to be one of the most effective treatments for depression. Research has shown that 3 days of exercise per week is as effective as regular doses of the antidepressant Zoloft.

Dr. Dweck - Mindset: From Dr. Dweck, I learned the importance of a growth mindset, which is the belief that our “inherent” traits ARE shapeable (including intelligence, personality) and how to cultivate one with practice. I learned how destructive LABELING is: both positive and negative labels are destructive. When we label ourselves and others we tend act consistently with those labels instead of growing in our ideals. They become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Books on Process, Mindfulness, and the Brain:

Dr. Daniel Siegel - Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation: From a pioneer in the field of mental health comes a groundbreaking book on the healing power of "mindsight," the potent skill that allows you to make positive changes in your brain–and in your life.

Thomas Sterner -The Practicing Mind: really honed in why focusing on the process is necessary. In order to achieve the goals we are striving for, we need to let go of the result, so we do not become impatient with the process. I learned from the stoics not to label what happens (the outcome), and this book affirmed this. “Failure” in the outcome is learning. Learning something new requires practice and involves mistakes. We will make mistakes when we are doing hard things and challenging ourselves.

Thomas Sterner - Fully Engaged: Better Results and Less Stress through Proven Techniques: To be fully engaged in life means that we have clear goals as well as the focus and skills to accomplish those goals with ease and a sense of calm awareness. This book explores specific techniques, such as thought awareness training and setting goals with accurate data, and demonstrates how using these techniques will not only help you reach your objectives, but will keep you engaged in each moment of your life, throughout the process of accomplishing those goals. Being thus engaged will result in less stress and more satisfaction in every aspect of life.

Dr. Ian McGilchrist - Ways of Attending: Attention is not just receptive, but actively creative of the world we inhabit. How we attend makes all the difference to the world we experience. And nowadays in the West we generally attend in a rather unusual way: governed by the narrowly focussed, target-driven left hemisphere of the brain.

Books on How to Study and Learn More Effectively

Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning: this book has given me a new strategy for studying for the LSAT that incorporates the latest research on the most effective ways to learn new subject matter. The focus of the book is memory and how to best promote long term retention of subject matter. It details the research behind the most effective study strategies we can employ to promote our memory. It offers many strategies all based in robust research. Each chapter is packed with studies and stories that capture real-life applications of the strategies. I highly recommend this book to anyone committed to lifelong learning. Even if you are beyond the years of formal study, you stand to benefit from learning better ways to retain information.

Cal Newport’s How to be a Straight A student:
Connection to other concepts: this aligns with what I’ve read about Growth Mindset - we are truly shapeable and if we want to be good students, we can hone the habits of good students. I love that this book allows for us to shape ourselves, with practice, into being good students. This book offers STRATEGIES that can help us be better students of life.

A big realization I had while reading this book was that the LSAT is a TECHNICAL exam, so my approach should be as such. So I am treating the test as this. There are a set of LOGIC rules that underlie the test. It is not a philosophy test, although there is theory behind the rules, it is really more of a MATH test. So my study approach should reflect this.

Books on Stoicism

Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations: I was deeply inspired by this book! This book is a collection of meditations that Marcus wrote to himself. He was encouraging himself and reminding himself to stay grounded. Each point could have been reflected on for 15 minutes or so. They reflected what Marcus was struggling with at the time or needed to remind himself of. It was a helpful reminder that no matter what we are doing, we need these reminders of what we are called to do in our lives. Thousands of years ago, Marcus Aurelius needed to remind himself that what other people think doesn’t matter.

Ryan Holiday -The Obstacle is the Way: What I learned from this book is about the philosophy of stoicism; this book is a modern day take on stoicism. There is an incredibly long tradition of stoicism dating back to the founding fathers and before that to ancient Greece and Rome. Ryan Holiday gives many examples of stoics in his books, much like James Clear does in his Atomic Habits. I was struck that Abraham Lincoln struggled with depression and was forced to manage it over the years. Ryan Holiday made the point that Lincoln’s depression gave him a unique perspective on his own mortality. He read voraciously which helped him manage his depression. It reminded me that nothing happens to us that we can’t endure. I enjoyed reading this book in conjunction with Marcus Aurelius, one of the original stoics.

Favorite Memoirs

Tara Westover - Educated: an incredible book. Something I learned from this book is that it is important to acknowledge the power that old ideas and ways of thinking have over us. They are passed down from generation to generation. To grow, we need to leave old ways behind and keep pushing before. A part of growing is leaving aside ideas that were passed down from our parents and grandparents. I think one of the most important lessons we can learn from the book is that we are shapeable. Our past does not define us. With effort we can grow and become capable of more in our lives.

Tori Murden - A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean: Was struck by how much this woman had a heart for the vulnerable and how much that drove her to do what she did. She protected her mentally handicapped brother from bullies. This is a true story of Tori Murden McClure, the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. McClure’s memoir is more than a woman-against-the-elements adventure tale; it is a story of courage, adventure, and personal discovery that will appeal to women and men of all ages. Beautiful, breathtaking, moving, and inspiring. I read this book in 24 hours.

Other Favorites

Digital Minimalism - Cal Newport: Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It's the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world. In this timely and enlightening book, Newport introduces a philosophy for technology use that has already improved countless lives.Digital minimalists are all around us. They're the calm, happy people who can hold long conversations without furtive glances at their phones. They can get lost in a good book, a woodworking project, or a leisurely morning run. They can have fun with friends and family without the obsessive urge to document the experience. They stay informed about the news of the day, but don't feel overwhelmed by it. They don't experience "fear of missing out" because they already know which activities provide them meaning and satisfaction.

Set Boundaries, Find Peace - Nedra Glover Tawwab: Learning to set boundaries is an acquired skill that we can master through practice. Boundaries allow for healthy relationships with our spouses, children, family, friends, work, volunteer efforts, and ourselves. This book offers practical advice on how to identify when boundaries are needed in various aspects of life and how we can go about setting assertive boundaries. What I learned from Nedra Glover Tawwab is that actually “feelings of guilt” are inevitable when you’re setting boundaries in areas you haven’t before, but where boundaries are desperately needed. It won’t feel “good” to set much-needed boundaries but it will allow for a more joy-filled, balanced life.


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