What Are You Reading? For March 3, 2019 (Feat. Harari’s Sapiens, Newport’s Digital Minimalism and Tomlinson’s Elephant in the Room)

This month, I started a monthly newsletter of book recommendations call “What Are You Reading?”. I’ll be archiving the newsletter here on good old Milo.

If you want to sign up for the newsletter head on over here. 


Welcome to the inaugural edition of “What Are You Reading?”, a monthly newsletter of book and article recommendations by me, Sean Sullivan. I am a father, husband, lawyer, runner and avid reader. My reading is a buckshot affair encompassing fiction, memoir, ancient and modern history, biography, theology, current affairs, self help, philosophy, genre literature in almost all its forms, diet books, and more. I’ll document it all here, but focus on the good stuff.

Ok, onto the books I read this month!

Recommended Books

Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind, Yuval Noah Harari This book comes with so much hype, and such rave reviews, I was sure I was going to be disappointed. I wasn’t. Harari’s sweeping history of homo-sapiens is rivetting from start to finish. The central thesis is simple. What separates us from other species is our ability to organize large groups, and our ability to organize large groups is because of our ability to tell stories. Said differently, narrative is what makes us the ultimate apex predator. I was not always convinced Harari was right, but I was always deeply impressed with the clarity of his argument and writing. This type of big idea book often comes and goes, but I think this one is here to stay for some time.

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, Cal Newport I’m a big fan of Cal Newport’s work (I’ve read Deep Work, twice). This feels like his best book yet. Part evisceration of social media and what it does to our brains, part guidebook on how to live a less distracted life, this book is essential for someone like me who has trouble standing in an elevator for five minutes without checking his phone. Newport puts together an excellent mix of practical advice, reporting, and science. Halfway through, I deleted all social media from my phone. I feel better already.

The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America, Tommy Tomlinsin. Tomlisin is a lifelong reporter. It shows in this memoir of eating (and over-eating), love (and loss), and what it means to try to wrestle back a healthy life with a body that is fighting you, in a world that is trying to get you to hit the drive-through just one more time. Tomlinsin brings the crisp, direct, prose of someone who has written thousands of words on deadline. He couples that with the brutal, heartrending honesty of someone who has looked deep into himself and decided to make some changes. I devoured this in a couple days, seeing myself in many of Tomlinsin’s struggles and deeply impressed with his honesty.


Recommended Articles

Why Marlon James Decided to Write a African Game of Thrones, Jia Tolentino (The New Yorker) Marlon James is one of the more interesting writers today, moving from high literary novel to literary crime novel to, most recently, literary fantasy novel in the much anticipated Black Leopard, Red Wolf. This profile by tell you how a great writer develops and hones his craft. It is well worth your time.

A Post-Modern Murder Mystery by David Grann (The New Yorker) Many read this article when it came out years ago, but I did not. If you missed it too, this story of murder, post-modern thought, and police work in Poland will suck you in.


I also read Becoming Ageless: The Four Secrets to Looking and Feeling Younger Than Ever, by Strauss Zelnick.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that this newsletter was inspired by the great monthly newsletter put out by Ryan Holiday, which you can sign up for here.

Quick Thought on Weight Loss

I’m trying to stay off twitter, but still want to write (and, apparently, share) my random thoughts. Here’s one:

Since my second kid was born, I’ve put on a little weight. Not a ton, but some. At the height of my running prowess, such as it was, I was about 170 pounds. These days I’m floating around in the low 190s. I’m six feet tall, so twenty five pounds is noticeable, but not life altering. My clothes still fit, but a bit snugger. My face is fuller,  but not pudgy. Horrifically, I can feel some jiggle when I run, but at least I can still run.

This is the current state of things:

Me. circa July 2018

I’m trying to reverse this. But with two kids and a demanding career, it isn’t easy. Most of the change has to happen not through my old stand by – high mileage, but instead through  my biggest challenge — controlling what I eat.

All of this is made even harder by the fact that I’m 43 years old now. Old enough that the metabolism is really starting to slow, and every poor food choice goes right to the gut.

So, I’m doing my best to follow the diet protocol described by Dr. Valter Longo. Its simple, its intuitive, and its showing some modest results.

It’s also leaving me hungry.

And that’s fine. I need to remember that if I’m eating a snack and two meals in a twelve hour window, that’s significantly less than I was eating before. And a body at rest likes to stay at rest. Once you get to 195 pounds, your body wants to stay at 195 pounds. Changes to that are going to be hard. They’re going to require some unpleasant hours when you’re not starving, but you could definitely eat.  I need to get through that, I need to find a new equilibrium. I need to be hungry.

As Dr. Peter Attia said somewhere, if our ancestors couldn’t perform complex tasks while hungry, we wouldn’t be here today. I’m trying to remember that while I write this memo on an empty stomach.

62 day challenge Day 8: Easy monday

Day 8 done, 54 days to go.

Reflection: I’m starting to really like Monday nights. 3 miles, very easy, on the treadmill then push-ups, some light weight lifting, and some stretching. All very easy, all very enjoyable. Reminds me why I love the gym.

Eating is going… ok. I find the fruit in the morning a struggle and am caving to my comfort food, chips, way too often. Time to change that.


Daily Weight 178.2 (weight, why you no move?)
Breakfast ½ avocado, 1 bananna, 1 apple
Lunch Pret nori sandwich, bag of chips, diet coke
Dinner Chicken curry with white rice. One beer
Run: 3 miles in 36:13
Bike: 0
Swim: 0
Strength/ Flexibility: 15:00
100 push-ups (20,20,10,20,15,10,5)
Total Exercise Time(day/week) ~00:50:00/00:50:00
Mediation: 5:00
Steps (goal/actual) 13134/15154

Losing It

Yesterday, I ran.  But only three miles.  No real pain and no need to rush things.  After that, I spent about forty five minutes on push-ups, pull-ups, handstands, stretches and balance drills.  it was low key, and it was fun.

Last night was exactly the kind of thing I’m interested in right now.  Long term, I’m not sure where my exercise is going, but all the things I’m interested in (i.e. running, cycling, rock climbing, mountaineering, etc.) reward the thin. I’m never going to be Dave Graham, or Ryan Hall, but I could always stand to lose a couple of pounds.

Dave Graham, 5′ 9″; 137ish; crushing some problem

Ryan Hall; 5’10”; 130ish, killing it at the USA marathon trials


Me; 6′; 175ish pushing a kid in a giant plastic tube

Currently, I’m weighing in at 175, which is about where I’ve been for the past year.  I’d like to see what it feels like to be about ten pounds lighter.  So while I am on this find myself reexamination of my working out life, I’m going to actually watch what I eat for the first time, half-heartedly track calories, and see if I can slim down a little.  I’m not going to go on a diet, but I am going to try and be smarter about what I put in my mouth — cut down on the carbs and beer, and re-up on the greens and water.  I’ll update my weight in the weekly training totals going forward because I know there is absolutely nothing you care more about than how much I weigh.  Lets see what kind of results I can produce.

Training Totals 6.6.2010

RECAP: Not the world’s best week, people. I came off last week’s marathon excited about how much my running has progressed in the last six months and basically ran right into an injury. Since the marathon, I’ve been having some pain in my left ankle whenever I run, sometimes its pretty bad, sometimes it is just annoying. Yesterday, it was bad and is still kind of aching today. I don’t know what to do about it. I really, really, don’t want to take time off, but I also don’t want to be stupid. I’m going to do really light mileage for a couple of days and see if it gets any better, if it doesn’t, I’ll have to reassess.

In other news, because I am very smart indeed, I am signed up for a 10K race this weekend, the Lawyers have a Heart 10k. Seemed appropriate since I am a lawyer, and I have a heart. This will be my first 10K and I have no idea what to expect for time. McMillian calculator says I should be able to do it in around 47:00, but with my ankle being wonky, who knows.


Work out streak: 158 days; (229 to go)

Run Streak: 110 Days

Average Weight – 182 (same as last week)

Running Miles: 18.5 miles in  2:57:43 for an average pace of 9:47 pace

Row Meters: 0

Bike Miles: 0

Swim Miles: 0

Body weight exercises and balance work: 1:00:00

Total exercise time: ~4:00 hours

Weekly Data:

Monday – Ran 1 in 12:00

Tuesday – Ran 3 in 30:30; Body weight work (various stretches, abs, etc) in 30:00

Wednesday – Ran 4 in 34:59; Bodyweight work (56 push ups, stretches) in 20:00

Thursday – Ran 4 in 38:47; Body weight work (various stretches, abs, etc) in 20:00

Friday – Ran 1 in 8:45

Saturday – Ran 1 in 10:00

Sunday – Ran 4.5 in 46:42

Goals for Last Week:

1. Resist the urge to immediately jump back into serious running – DONE

2. Stretch every day – FAIL

3. Assess where you’re at and begin planning for the summer. – DONE

4. Register for Philly! – DONE!!!

Goals for Next Week:

1. Pay attention to this ankle and determine whether or not it is a serious problem

2. Watch what I eat and try and lose a pound

3.  Run the Lawyers Have a Heart 10k

4. Make a concerted effort to find time for bodyweight work at least three times.

Training Totals: 5.16.2010

RECAP: The taper for my spring marathon has begun, and so far, so good. A Saturday long run of twelve miles is a heck of a lot more reasonable than a 22 miler. It was nice to feel like I could have handled more. Weight stayed constant this week, which is a little bit of a disappointment. I’d really like to be under 180 pounds for the marathon, even if it is just by a pound. I’m going to redouble the effort this week.

Anyway, here are the numbers


Work out streak: 137 days; (235 to go)

Run Streak: 89 Days

Average Weight – 181 (same as last week)

Running Miles: 36.5 miles in  5:20:56 for an average pace of 8:48 pace

Row Meters: 0

Bike Miles: 0

Swim Miles: 0

Body weight exercises and balance work: 0

Total exercise time: ~5:30 hours

Weekly Data:

Monday – Ran 4 in 32:49

Tuesday – Ran 1 in 8:30

Wednesday – Ran 6 in 55:29

Thursday – Ran 6.5 in 56:48

Friday – Ran 2.5 in 20:44

Saturday – Ran 12 in 1:45:15

Sunday – Ran 4.5 in 41:21

Goals for Last Week:

1. Pay attention to my daily weight and what I am shoving in my mouth and hopefully lose a pound or two. – FAIL

2. Pamper the hamstrings and feet so as to avoid injury down the final stretch. DONE

3. Write up plan for tackling the race FAIL

4. Don’t freak out. (SORTA)

Goals for Next Week:

1. Pay attention to my daily weight and what I am shoving in my mouth and hopefully lose a pound or two.

2. Pamper the hamstrings and feet so as to avoid injury down the final stretch

3. Write up plan for tackling the race.

4. Don’t freak out.

Training Totals 5.9.2010

RECAP: 48 miles is a lot of running. Its Tuesday and I am still exhausted. But now its taper time and man am I looking forward to it.

Saturday’s long run started off great, for the first fifteen miles or so, I felt strong and fast. I Rahm Emanuel, I kept a good pace and I was getting a tan. But miles 18-22, wow those sucked. I had to walk a lot in the last two miles, but psychologically, it was very helpful to get in that last long run. Now, I’ll just chill, do a long run of twelve miles this coming weekend and try to watch what I eat to be below 180 by marathon day.

Anyway, here are the numbers


Work out streak: 130 days; (242 to go)

Run Streak: 82 Days

Average Weight – 181 (two pounds less than last week)

Running Miles: 48 miles in  7:23:18 for an average pace of 9:15 pace

Row Meters: 0

Bike Miles: 0

Swim Miles: 0

Body weight exercises and balance work: 0

Total exercise time: ~7:30 hours

Weekly Data:

Monday – Ran 4 in 33:33

Tuesday – Ran 6.5 in 56:42

Wednesday – Ran 4 in 32:42

Thursday – Ran 6.5 in 57:29

Friday – Ran 3 in 26:49

Saturday – Ran 22! in 3:40:15

Sunday – Ran 2 in 15:48

Goals for Last Week:

1. Run at least 45 miles – DONE!

2. Pay attention to my daily weight and what I am shoving in my mouth and hopefully lose a pound. – DONE!

3. Exercise for at least six hours – DONE!

4. Mirror race time and condition in long run including what you’ll eat the night before and the morning of. – DONE! (Sorta)

Goals for Next Week:

1. Pay attention to my daily weight and what I am shoving in my mouth and hopefully lose a pound or two.

2. Pamper the hamstrings and feet so as to avoid injury down the final stretch

3. Write up plan for tackling the race

4. Don’t freak out.