Sustainability Book Review: The Shallows and Trick Yourself to Sleep

As a reoccurring feature on the Sustainability Roundtable blog, we will post reviews of books related to sustainability.  Interested in submitting your own review to the blog? Contact August at

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
and Trick Yourself to Sleep by Kim Jones

Book Reviews by Kacper Jarecki

Since it’s the holidays and everything, I thought that I would give a big treat by writing a double-book review! If you’re like me, you’ve been spending a ton of time on the computer, with meetings, workshops, webinars, and yes, more meetings, right? In fact, if you’re reading this, you’re on the computer, right now, I can tell!

So I came across this book, The Shallows, and it interested me because it talks about how computers and phones are changing not just our way of life, but our minds too! Every new technology changes us in some way, including plain old-fashioned books. When books first came out, nearly everyone was reading them out loud, and the author, Nicholas Carr, mentions that reading silently was considered a new innovation for the time. However, now “we are devoting much less time to reading words printed on paper” (p. 88).

Although we have more information available than ever, our attention is more scattered than ever before and constantly jumping from one push notification to another. Americans are spending half their time looking at screens. The author states, “the more distracted we become, the less able we are to experience the subtlest, most distinctively human forms of empathy, compassion, and other emotions” (p.221). What is missing now is time to stop and reflect and focus. However, the author notes that nature has important restorative properties, and that people even looking at “pictures of nature were able to exert substantially stronger control over their attention” (p.220).

So, talking about the internet, often I’ll stay up late looking at my phone screen and before I know it, it’s super late and I don’t even know what happened! So I read this book, Trick Yourself to Sleep for tips on how to sleep better. This book is easy to read, with 222 way to fall asleep. In fact, this author recommends setting an alarm clock for 2 hours before going to bed, to just relax and get in the mood for sleeping! And one great way to relax is… drumroll please… reading! “When the stress hormone cortisol in each individual’s blood was measured, it was discovered that the readers’ level had dropped the most – by 68%” (p.11). Reading a book before bed is one of the best ways to decompress; however, the author also mentions that listening to a bedtime story is also great! Some other tips: a lavender smell is great to have at night-time, smiling in bed to make yourself happier and less worried, and thinking of 5 ways your day went well.

The first step to sustainability is taking care of your health. So if you’re reading this, shut off your computer and go for a walk in nature instead, and then read a book! Good luck!!! Happy New Year!!!

Discussion questions:

1. Do you feel like you spend too much time online?

2. What time do you usually go to bed? Are you satisfied with your rest?

3. Do you have any resolutions for New Year? 

4. What are some things you do for self-care?

5. How do you plan to stay in touch with nature in 2021?

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