Not all books are meant to be read. here’s how to pick the right ones

As a culture, we have become reverential of books and the written word. This is a great thing. A great book can challenge us, change the way we think, or tell us fantastic stories that stick with us. This is why I write, why I chose to study literature at university.

I believe prose is the greatest story telling form we have, and poetry the greatest method of self expression.

Yet, are reverence of books is such that many of us see it as a faultless medium, that a bad book will always be superior to a great film or great video game…just because…
Well like with everything, there are a lot of bad books out there, books certainly not worth your valuable time. Especially as books, being a long form medium, can take many hours to read, far more than, a film or documentary.

It has been estimated that on average people read about 4 books a year [1] , with the more voracious readers, going through about 12. [2] Both of these numbers are surprisingly small. We may only read a few hundred books in our life times. Perhaps the reason for this is that people are just too busy to spend time on books. Our lives are consumed by work and responsibilities, that it can sometimes be difficult to put the necessary time in to truly enjoy a book.

Life is too short to spend reading bad books

Spending hours of your life on books you don’t enjoy is ultimately doing yourself a disservice and wasting valuable time that you could be spending in other pursuits, or simply reading a better book.

Now, there are countless articles online suggesting good books to read, this isn’t going to be one of those. Nor is this article isn’t going to be a list of bad books, I am way too unqualified and not nearly sufficiently well read to give that advice. Books rely on personal taste, which is inherently subjective. There will be books others love that you will hate, and there will be books you hate that others will love. Both views are right and both views are wrong, such is the way with taste.

What we need then is a list of potential categories, a checklist that people should consider to help work out what book you are likely to enjoy or find interesting, and what books might only waste your time.

How to tell if a book is for you

Generally we tend to buy the best sellers, after all, if millions of people are reading and buying the same book, then they can’t be wrong surely?
Well, often when a book is a best seller it means that its marketing budget has meant it has attracted a larger readership, it is not necessarily a sign of quality, as it only shows a book as been brought, not enjoyed.

Although there are countless books in the world, covering an infinite amount of subjects. So, before you decide on buying a book, you should consider why you want to read it, and what kind of book you want to read.

Are you looking for a book that might challenge the way you think? Encourage a mental paradigm shift? Then perhaps a book on philosophy is something you’d enjoy.

Are you looking to be entertained? Then perhaps check out a thriller, or even a piece of great literature.

Do you want to know more about the life of a successful or interesting section. Then look into biographies and autobiographies.

Are you looking to expand you knowledge? Then an interesting piece of non fiction such as history is something you’d be interested in.

Once you have narrowed down and have better ascertained what kind of book you are looking for, then here is a five step guide for finding the perfect book for you.

Five things to check to find the perfect book

Pre existing interest

Let’s imagine you just walked into a bookshop, you know you are going to buy something, but you don’t know what yet.
Firstly, consider what you like already, perhaps there is some great show on and you want to read the books its based on, or read more about the subject.

For the purposes of this, lets say you really like the series Game of Thrones, but you’ve already read the books and really enjoyed them. So you go to the fiction section. If you hadn’t you’d simply buy the books they are based on.


You find the author George RR Martin, the writer of the original Game of Thrones novels, and go through his works. It makes sense that if you enjoyed one book by an author, there is a good chance you’d enjoy another.

But on this bookshelf, you’ve read all the books by him.


You stop to think what you like about Game of Thrones. For you, its the medieval setting, and political intrigue. Not so much fantasy, so you head towards the historical fiction setting.

Not knowing what books are worth reading, you decide to call a friend.


Your friend recommends a few titles, but you remember one time they recommended a movie once which you hated, so probably your tastes are too different. Instead you go online and search for books like Game of Thrones.

You come across a novel about the English Wars of the Roses, the conflict which loosely inspired the story of Game of Thrones. It seems interesting, but you need more.


You search online for the book and notice that all the reviews for it are really positive. Some of the things said about the book seem interesting to you. So you decide to buy it and once you start reading, you know it’s a book you will enjoy.

There are so many bad books with good premises, so its always a good idea to check out reviews. Of course, some reviews you will disagree with, but if the majority of the reviews of the book are positive then its a good indication that the book is worth reading.

No matter how digitally advanced the world gets, books are (or ought to be) a timeless part of our lives. Between iconic cover art and their sweet smell locked inside the enriching pages of generations, books are incredible. No electronic version can ever replicate the magic of a physical book. Which is why, as long as there’s Strand, you’ll swing by, picking up bargain books for 50 cents like the educated boss you are.

Your apartment, however, probably isn’t big enough to store all the books you’ve collected since childhood. Unless of course, you live in a penthouse that has a bookshelf with a secret revolving door to a secret room filled with towers of bookcases that’d make Belle from Beauty and the Beast jealous.

Until that happens, though, what are you supposed to do? Before you attempt these creative book storage hacks for small apartments, you have to decide what books to keep or get rid of. Because more important than the sanctity of your bookshelf is the sanctity of your space.

Here are 10 ways to decide what books you should eliminate from your home:

1. Get rid of a book that’s been adapted into a bad movie.

Before it was a lackluster Hollywood movie, World War Z was a pretty legit book. The same goes for Life of Pi, which has a treasure trove of wisdom and knowledge for your spirit and soul.

If a book’s movie is worse than the book, which it usually is, it might be time for the book to take a backseat. If an author doesn’t stand behind the sanctity of the written word over the cinematic, should you?

On the flip side, you might want to keep the book and read it again a few times to help you forget that its movie ever existed. The choice is obviously yours.

2. Let go of any books in a series that you don’t love.

We get it, you love Harry Potter, Twilight, and Ender’s Game. But if your bookshelf feels a little cramped, it’s time to reevaluate which books in their respective series’ should stay or leave.

Pick the one book in the series you love the most and let that shine. If you rock with the Half-Blood Prince, let that be the star, and donate, gift, sell, or recycle the rest.

3. Recycle magazines that you haven’t opened within the past month.

Ok, so magazines aren’t a book, but surprisingly, they can still be tough to throw away. Especially if your celebrity crush is on the cover. The next thing you know, you’ve got five issues of US Weekly chilling like Leo in Waikiki before you can say, “Stars — They’re just like us!”

Take a few minutes to sort through your magazines and then recycle the ones you haven’t read within the past month. If you haven’t opened a certain magazine within that timeframe, chances are you won’t open it next month either.

And if you really want to save the cover, you can always take a picture of it and save it on your phone. Or rip the page off, frame it, and hang it on your wall. Both of which takes up zero space on your coffee table.

4. Choose contemporary over classics.

Shakespeare. Hawthorne. They’ve sustained the English language throughout the centuries with their iconic tales of romance, love, and friendship.

All of them will always have a special place in your heart. And in your brain, because you can quote lines from their work with ease. Which means you don’t necessarily need their books taking up space on your shelf.

Consider giving those books away, and make space on your shelf, and in your mind, for a book from an emerging writer who produces incredible work.

5. Give cookbooks whose recipes you’ve mastered away.

You’ve mastered all of Bobby Flay’s and Giada’s recipes. Awesome! But has your friend who eats the majority of his/her meals from a microwave or restaurant on Seamless?

Give those cookbooks to someone who needs them. Because when it comes to food, there’s nothing more satisfying than a delicious meal you cooked for yourself and your significant other.

What happens if you forget one of your favorite recipes?

There’s always the internet. That, and your phone in which you can save your recipes forever.

6. Recycle college textbooks, or give them to a college student.

Depending where you live, any college and post-grad textbooks you paid for cost more than your rent. And if you don’t use those textbooks in your current profession, it’s time to recycle them, donate them, or depending what year you graduated, sell or give them to a student in need.

Besides, there are plenty of ways to relive your glory days as an undergrad. Like by turning your living room into a part-time Barcade.

7. Get rid of your Steve Jobs biography and any book by Marie Kondo that you already finished reading.

There’s no question that Steve Jobs was (and through his legacy, still is) one of the most influential people in the world. The same goes for Marie Kondo, the famous organizing consultant who TIME named as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2015.

At the same time, both Jobs and Kondo were/are quintessential minimalists. If you’ve finished reading their books, follow their leads. Recycle, donate, sell, or gift the books to someone who could benefit from their life-changing knowledge.

8. Store your books, magazines, and comic books in MakeSpace.

Ultimately, only you can decide what books to keep or get rid of. So, consider these tips as guidelines for helping you come to that conclusion.

At the same time, things aren’t always black or white. You might have trouble deciding what novels, magazines, and comic books should stay or go. And even then, you might get rid of a book in that gray area, only to regret it a week later.

For those books, and anything else that you love, but don’t necessarily need within arm’s reach right now, store them in MakeSpace. We’ll take excellent care of them, just like we do with Alex Stone’s impressive comic book collection:

This article was written by Robert Wohner, a writer from Queens, New York. He is an avid supporter of Spotify Premium, the Museum of the City of New York, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

Not all books are meant to be read. here's how to pick the right ones

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

It’s the beginning of a new semester for introductory physics students. I have a new message that might not be very popular: Read the textbook. And I don’t just mean, like, here and there. Read the whole thing as as soon as possible. I know many students have different ideas about the role of the textbook in college courses, so let me go over some of the reasons that students should start reading right away.

Yes, textbooks aren’t perfect. I can think of a bunch of reasons that textbooks suck: They are too expensive, they have too many chapters, they put these stupid sidebars with extra info in them . I could go on. But they’re still useful.

Today’s textbooks have been refined over several editions to make them more readable (or sometimes just to add extra problems). They cover the basic ideas that are in the course (hopefully), and they usually give a different perspective on the material. It’s also common for textbooks to include example problems, connections to other ideas, and plenty of pretty pictures. That’s good stuff in there. Don’t waste good stuff.

There’s so much good stuff, in fact, that I tell my student this: If I use all of the class time to go over everything that is in the textbook, then we won’t have time to do anything else. In fact, I probably couldn’t even cover all the material. On top of that, what’s the point of having a book if it’s identical to a lecture? In days of yore, before the invention of the printing press, students didn’t even have a book. The lecturer’s job was simply to take the class book and read it so that students could copy it all down.

Luckily, we’re beyond that now. And if we don’t spend class time going over every little thing in the textbook, then students can do all sorts of useful things. They could ask questions about things that they don’t understand in the book. (Really, who would expect them to fully grok physics by just reading the book?) Also, we can practice solving problems or do things that aren’t in the textbook—like use numerical calculations to solve problems with python. It will be fun. Promise.

One of the most important skills a student can acquire in college is to learn how to learn. You can’t expect to pick up everything you will need to know and understand for the rest of your life just from your four years in college. In fact, many employers are looking to hire humans that can learn stuff, not people that already know stuff. This is one of the reasons that physicists pop up in all sorts of interesting jobs (see Hidden Physicists).

When you read a book, you are practicing learning. It doesn’t mean you already understand everything. If you already understood it, you wouldn’t even need to read it. I think all too often people put too much pressure on themselves to not be confused—but remember that confusion is part of the learning process. Don’t worry, it’s OK to be confused. Trust me.

In physics, students often use the textbook in the wrong way. The most common misuse is to turn to it as a source for answers. Consider the following physics question:

A 5 kg block is placed on an incline that is angled 45 degrees above the horizontal. If the coefficient of kinetic friction between the two surfaces is 0.2, what is the acceleration of the block?

There are a significant number of students that will start off with the textbook and search to the chapter on inclines. But wait, there is no such chapter! How about the kinetic friction chapter? Again, no such luck. Maybe just flip through the book until there is a problem with a block on a plane—oh, here’s one, but it’s static friction. OK, well maybe that will work.

But physics problems aren’t a game of hide and seek. It’s not as if that particular problem is in the book and the student just needs to find it. Instead, physics problems are based on basic, fundamental ideas. For the case of the block on the plane you should use either the momentum principle or forces and acceleration. Remember, it’s a textbook, not a scavenger hunt.

Then what should you do with your book? Every student is a little bit different, but here are some tips. First, open the darn thing. Don’t wait until you get stuck on a physics problem to start looking at the book—start on it before class. In fact, as soon as you get that book, why don’t you read through it? Read as much as you can. While you are reading, take some notes (or write in the book—depending on your preference and your book). Write down the things that you find confusing. These are like little questions to your future self. You can try to answer them yourself, or they can make excellent questions to ask during lecture class or office hours.

For physics books, there is something else—the examples. Most physics textbooks include sections where a physics problem is solved and the solution is worked out in some degree of detail (how much detail depends on the textbook). Here’s my recommendation for dealing with these examples. Start off with the question and see if you can solve the problem. Get as far as you can, and don’t give up after just five minutes—keep working on it and try not to look at the solution.

Of course you might eventually need to get a hint; when you do, just look at the next step and not the whole thing. See if that will help you solve the problem. Keep working on the problem and get hints when you get stuck (really stuck). At the end, go through the textbook solution and fill in any of the missing steps. That might seem like a lot of work, but remember that learning is difficult. If learning was easy they would call it pie (you know—easy as pie).

The decline of book reading may have costly implications for cognition and social skills

Not all books are meant to be read. here's how to pick the right ones

May 2, 2019 · 5 min read

Not all books are meant to be read. here's how to pick the right ones

Every week, the Nuance will go beyond the basics, offering a deep and researched look at the latest science and expert insights on a buzzed-about health topic.

Not all books are meant to be read. here's how to pick the right onesT hanks to the text-centric nature of internet content, it’s possible that the average American today is reading — or at least skimming — more words in a given day than people of previous generations. Book reading, however, is on the decline and has been for decades.

Back in 1978, just 8% of Am e ricans said they had not read a book during the previous year, according to a Gallup poll. Last year, that figure had jumped to 24% — and that included listening to audiobooks — according to a Pew Research Center survey.

Experts say the abandonment of book reading may have some unappealing consequences for cognition. “People are clearly reading fewer books now than they used to, and that has to have a cost because we know book reading is very good cognitive exercise,” says Ken Pugh, director of research at the Yale-affiliated Haskins Laboratories, which examines the importance of spoken and written language.

Pugh says the process of reading a book involves “a highly variable set of skills that are deep and complex” and that activate all of the brain’s major domains. “Language, selective attention, sustained attention, cognition, and imagination — there’s no question reading is going to strengthen all those,” he says. In particular, reading novels and works of narrative non-fiction — basically, books that tell a story — train a reader’s imagination and aspects of cognition that other forms of reading mostly neglect, he says.

Pugh says there’s debate right now among educators and academics about whether certain types of reading are superior or deficient compared to others. A common juxtaposition is between reading online in order to acquire information and reading a novel for enjoyment. But Pugh says both activities clearly offer benefits, and so the real risk is in abandoning one in favor of the other.

“Reading helps us to take the perspective of characters we normally wouldn’t interact with, and to give us a sense of their psychological experiences.”

“There are only so many minutes a day to do things that are educational and good for the brain, and if all that time is spent clicking on hyperlinks and surfing the web and none is spent on reading books, I think the brain is poorer for it,” he says.

Along with strengthening your brain, there’s evidence that book reading may help you connect with friends and loved ones. “Many have theorized that reading fiction improves social skills because fiction often focuses on interpersonal relationships,” says Maria Eugenia Panero, a research associate at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

Panero highlights a 2013 study that found reading passages of highbrow “literary” fiction — as opposed to non-fiction or popular fiction — led to improvements on tests that measured readers’ theory of mind. “Theory of mind is defined as the ability to recognize the internal states of others — their thoughts, beliefs, intentions, emotions, etc.,” she says.

The implication of this research was that, by reading literary fiction — even a little bit — people could improve their ability to recognize and empathize with the feelings and viewpoints of people who were different from themselves. “It was exciting because it was a causational study,” meaning reading fiction actually seemed to make one aspect of a person’s brain better, she says.

Unfortunately, when Panero and her colleagues tried to replicate the 2013 study’s findings, they failed. “We did, however, consistently find that a lifetime of reading fiction predicts your theory of mind,” she says. The benefits may not be immediate, but it’s possible that reading books helps you to better understand and communicate with other people, she says. “Reading helps us to take the perspective of different characters we normally wouldn’t interact with, and to give us a sense of their psychological experiences and how they interact with other people and situations.”

While some non-fiction books or even TV may offer similar insights, she says people are unlikely to get the same depth or richness from non-book forms of media. “Reading requires more mental energy and imagination than TV, which is more of a passive medium,” she says.

More research suggests book reading improves vocabulary, and possessing a broad vocabulary isn’t just useful for its own sake, Panero says. “It helps us to describe our experiences and emotions to others in a clear way.” This, in turn, may help us form and maintain close relationships, she says.

Other experts say there’s evidence that reading traditional books — the kind that are bound and printed on paper — may offer benefits not associated with e-readers or audiobooks. “We’ve found that reading from screens tends to be less efficient — meaning it takes longer,” says David Daniel, a professor of psychology at James Madison University.

A lot of Daniel’s research focuses on the ways people absorb and process information in education settings. One of his studies, published in 2010, found students who listened to an audio version of a text performed worse on a comprehension quiz than students who had read the same text on paper. His work has shown that the freedom to briefly pause in order to reread or consider a sentence sets reading apart from audiobooks.

Other studies have found that readers comprehend long sections of text less fully when reading on a screen instead of on paper. Still more research has found paper reading also beats screen reading when it comes to student comprehension scores. “I think reading from screens somehow changes the reading experience,” Daniel says.

It’s important to note that most of the research comparing one medium to another is preliminary, Pugh says. “Most of what we can say today is based on common sense and insights based on what we know about strengthening the brain.”

Still, he adds, “I think we can say that a society that doesn’t encourage attention and imagination and story reading is losing part of its strength.”

So, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to expand the types of books I read. While reading has always been a hobby of mine, I tend to gravitate towards the same types of books: fiction stories and John Green novels. Partially inspired by Mark Zuckerberg’s New Year’s resolution to read a book a month, with the requirement that the book had to be recommended to him, I decided to expand my reading list, hitting up Barnes and Noble to seek out books that I normally never would have picked up. Here is a list of books I’ve read and enjoyed that’ll help you step outside your literary comfort zone!

1. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by BJ Novak: Okay, so before I gush about this book and how much I enjoyed reading the different short stories and seeing how they intertwined, I have to first admit that I’ve casually had the world’s biggest crush on B.J. Novak when I started watching The Office during sophomore year of high school. While I am very likely to pick up anything that has B.J. Novak’s name on it, this book was outside of my typical literary comfort zone because it is a collection of short stories rather than my typical novel with one overarching plotline. One More Thing is full of humor and wit; it’s just as smart and funny as you would expect from a Harvard grad, writer and producer for The Office, and BFF/possible soulmate of Mindy Kaling.

2. Into the Wild by Jon Kraukauer: Part of my new year’s resolution involved reading more nonfiction works since I usually tend to gravitate towards fictional stories. Even though I had heard of the movie, I really had no clue what the book was about. This book instantly made me want to go hiking and emulate Man vs. Wild. It also brings up the interesting question of whether you should go on a crazy and dangerous exploration to go find yourself, or if that’s just being overly idealistic and immature. Is that feeling of being young and invincible something to be acted upon, or should you always keep human limitations in mind? Overall, this book details the endlessly fascinating life and death of Chris McCandless, which will get you out of your literary comfort zone — if not inspiring you to truly challenge yourself by being more adventuresome and risk-taking.

3. The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore: This is another great nonfiction read. I actually stayed up all night reading this over winter break. Take a second to take that statement in: I willingly gave up sleep over three weeks that are very much meant to make up for sleep lost during the fall semester in order to finish this book. That’s how interesting it is. The author, Wes Moore, is highly successful, having served in the military as well as being a Rhodes Scholar. (Plus, he wrote a New York Times bestseller, so that’s chill.) In The Other Wes Moore, he writes about how he found another Wes Moore who grew up in the same neighborhood as him in almost the same circumstances, but, unlike him, ended up in prison with a life-sentence. He details his own life experiences and those who helped up accomplish so much in his life as well as gathering accounts from the other Wes Moore to see where their paths diverged.

4. Dispatches from the Edge by Anderson Cooper: Okay, so Anderson Cooper is another crush I’ve had since sophomore year of high school. But, on the real, who doesn’t have a crush on Anderson Cooper? His memoir on the disasters and conflicts he’s witnessed, such as Hurricane Katrina, as well as his own personal hardships with the loss of his father and brother, is an emotional read, but a most worth-while one. This is yet again another nonfiction book, and it served as a reminder that writing about reality can be just as emotional as a fictional narrative that is constructed with plot twists just to be a tear-jerker.

5. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh: This is another nonfiction read because I think I’m starting to fall in love with nonfiction works as all the pieces I’ve read as part of this New Year’s resolution — including Hyperbole and a Half — have shown me how wrong I was when I thought nonfiction works would be boring or lacking in poetic writing. Allie Brosh has garnered support and praise from those suffering with depression as well as psychologists for her blog’s accurate depiction of what it’s like to live with depression. Since the book is an extension of her blog, Hyperbole and a Half balances humor as well as insightful look into mental illnesses. And, I’m glad I read a nonfiction book about depression because there’s no room for romanticizing a serious health problem into a character quirk or into a problem whose solution is to fall in love.

So while many of you likely don’t have the time to read right now with finals and papers and all that fun stuff, you should remember this list for the summer time. (Because, on the real, who hasn’t taken breaks from their New Year’s resolutions?) Also, more importantly, just remember the idea that your goals and resolutions don’t have to be something you’ve never done before, but they could be a new approach to something that you’ve gotten too comfortable with.

When your students become fluent readers, they’ll get even more joy and understanding with every turn of the page.

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Not all books are meant to be read. here's how to pick the right ones

Being able to read fluently—meaning with speed, accuracy, and expression—is an important literacy skill for students to develop. When students are able to read without stumbling over words—and with appropriate tone and expression—their comprehension will improve, and they’ll enjoy reading even more.

Of course, reading aloud to students is one of the most effective ways to improve fluency, and it’s also one of the easiest. To improve fluency during your read-aloud time, all you need are a few good books and your students’ undivided attention. Once you have that, here’s what to do next:

Be a good model
When reading aloud to your students, be sure to model the reading process. By hearing you use proper expression and pronunciation, your students will pick up on those cues and translate them to their own reading.

Take a time out
When reading aloud, read the book first all the way through, and then read it again, stopping in places that may pose a challenge or introduce a new concept to students. When you take a time out during reading, you’ll show your students that it’s okay to stop and ask questions. You can also begin teaching them how to use context clues to learn new vocabulary or understand complex topics—an important skill when it comes to reading fluency.В В

Encourage a role reversal
Have students work in pairs and read aloud a book from their favorite series or collection. When students are able to read aloud fluently themselves, they’ll take what they’ve learned and apply it to their own quiet, independent reading.В

Focus on specific reading skill
Read-alouds, especially ones your students already know and love, are great tools for practicing critical reading skills that will improve fluency. Sight words are often a challenge for early readers, so take the time during your read-aloud to point out sight words, using the book as an introduction to further sight word learning.В В

Turn your read-aloud into a performance piece
Transforming your read-aloud into full-blown performance is another great way to improve reading fluency. Choose a prepared script for your reader’s theater, or better yet, adapt your own from a favorite read-aloud to give your young readers and aspiring playwrights the opportunity to bring a story to life in your classroom.

Reading aloud to your students is just one way to help your students become fluent readers. For more tips and tools for developing the next generation of strong, independent readers, check out these essential teacher resources from Scholastic.В

Not all books are meant to be read. here's how to pick the right ones

Finding a good primary care doctor can feel a little bit like dating. It’s awkward. Your expectations are high. You know it’s rough out there, but you’re still secretly hoping to find the one.

So where do you begin? Just like dating, finding a doctor you click with is all about trusting your intuition.

Explore Life Kit

This article comes from Life Kit’s Be A Powerful Patient. For more like this, check out Life Kit, NPR’s family of podcasts for navigating your life — everything from finances to diet and exercise to raising kids. Sign up for the newsletter and follow @NPRLifeKit on Twitter.

Be A Powerful Patient

How To Get The Best From Your Doctor

“What you get in a snapshot isn’t that far from the truth,” says Dr. Kimberly Manning, a primary care doctor and associate professor at Emory University. “In terms of interactions, in how someone talks to you — I think those things can be really powerful markers to help you decide if this is a good fit.”

It’s worth it to get this relationship right. Your primary care doctor is your first point of contact in the health care system, someone who knows the full you — not just your kidneys or your heart. The doctor is there to help prevent you from getting sick and guide you through a complicated network of hospitals and specialists if you do become ill.

And research shows that having a primary care doctor you feel comfortable with can be critical to your well-being. A 2005 paper by Johns Hopkins pediatrician Barbara Starfield found that robust relationships with primary care providers help prevent illness and death and can help reduce racial and socioeconomic health disparities.

Shop around

A good place to start your search for a primary care provider is the directory of in-network doctors that your health insurance provides. By the way, your primary care provider doesn’t have to be a doctor — you can also work with a nurse practitioner or physician assistant; both of these types of clinicians are fully qualified to handle your care.

You can call around to different offices and make preliminary appointments with different providers, so you can get a sense of which ones you like. This kind of doctor shopping is common when expectant parents interview different pediatricians — totally OK for grown-ups, too!

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If you don’t have insurance, don’t give up. Many community health centers see uninsured patients free or for a sliding-scale fee. To find one, search online for “federally qualified health centers” near you.

Know your needs: convenience vs. complexity

As you start to narrow your search, Manning recommends asking yourself some questions about what kind of patient you are.

If you’re young and pretty healthy, it’s totally fine to prioritize convenience. Look for a doctor who is close to your home or work. Many offices offer evening or weekend hours, and some will do virtual visits for simple problems like a urinary tract infection or a cold. You can and should call and ask about amenities like these when you make your first appointment.

But for those of you who have some medical problems or have been hospitalized in the past year, it’s important that you see a primary care doctor who shares electronic medical records with any specialists you see. This allows your doctor or nurse to communicate with your specialists about your treatment plan — which can be crucial for your health.

“As a practicing physician, I know how much better it is for us to take care of patients when we can all see the electronic medical record of what’s been going on,” Manning says. “It just allows for continuity.”

All of this means you should probably look for a doctor who works for the same hospital system or physician’s group as do a variety of specialists and hospitals. You can find this out on your doctor’s website or by asking when you call the office. Be aware, this isn’t the same thing as checking whether the doctor is in your insurance network.

Look for a personal connection

The most important factor is that you feel comfortable with your provider. Be on the lookout for someone who makes eye contact and who listens without interrupting.

It’s about more than just pleasantries. Going to a doctor or nurse who is empathetic can actually help you stay on top of taking your medications and getting the preventive tests you need.

“Find somebody who is curious, who asks questions that let you know that you’re being heard,” says Sana Goldberg, a nurse and the author of How To Be A Patient.

If you’re a person of color, there’s research that shows that having a minority physician may be good for your health. One recent study showed that when black patients have black doctors, for example, they’re more likely to get recommended preventive services.

And if English isn’t your first language, it may be a good idea to call different doctors and see whether you can find one who speaks your native language.

Breaking up

So what if you have a doctor but things haven’t been going so well? How do you tell your doctor, “I think we need to talk?”

First of all, you shouldn’t hesitate to give your provider feedback. We promise: Your doctor really does want to hear from you about what she could be doing better.

Start with personal language about how your doctor makes you feel, and try to keep your feedback specific. You can try something like: “It makes me feel dismissed when you look at the computer more than me.” Or, “I am having a hard time understanding the plan. Can you use less medical terminology?”

And if you’ve given all this a shot, and still feel you aren’t connecting with your doctor? It may be time to break up, Goldberg says.

“If you feel like you’ve made an effort and you’re not heard, you’re not listened to, it’s always OK to find somebody else,” she says.

When you meet new potential doctors, feel free to tell them what wasn’t working with your old one — it will help make sure you start off on the right foot.

It may be frustrating to start your search again, but it’s worth it to find a doctor who really gets you. Your health depends on it.

Mara Gordon is a physician and the 2018-2019 health and media fellow at NPR and Georgetown University. In August, she joins the faculty at Cooper Medical School in Camden, NJ.

To understand your social impact, you need to measure the right things.

To understand your social impact, you need to measure the right things.

How many views make a YouTube video a success? How about 1.5 million? That’s how many views a video our organization,, posted in 2011 got. It featured some well-known YouTube celebrities, who asked young people to donate their used sports equipment to youth in need. It was twice as popular as any video had posted to date. Success! Then came the data report: only eight viewers had signed up to donate equipment, and zero actually donated.

Zero donations. From 1.5 million views. Suddenly, it was clear that for, views did not equal success. In terms of donations, the video was a complete failure.

What happened? We were concerned with the wrong metric. A metric contains a single type of data, e.g., video views or equipment donations. A successful organization can only measure so many things well and what it measures ties to its definition of success. For, that’s social change. In the case above, success meant donations, not video views. As we learned, there is a difference between numbers and numbers that matter. This is what separates data from metrics.

You can’t pick your data, but you must pick your metrics.

Take baseball. Every team has the same definition of success — winning the World Series. This requires one main asset: good players. But what makes a player good? In baseball, teams used to answer this question with a handful of simple metrics like batting average and runs batted in (RBIs). Then came the statisticians (remember Moneyball?). New metrics provided teams with the ability to slice their data in new ways, find better ways of defining good players, and thus win more games.

Keep in mind that all metrics are proxies for what ultimately matters (in the case of baseball, a combination of championships and profitability), but some are better than others. The data of the game has never changed — there are still RBIs and batting averages; what has changed is how we look at the data. And those teams that slice the data in smarter ways are able to find good players that have been traditionally undervalued.

Organizations become their metrics.

Metrics are what you measure. And what you measure is what you manage to. In baseball, a critical question is how effective is a player when he steps up to the plate? One measure is hits. A better measure turns out to be the sabermetric “OPS” — a combination of on-base percentage (which includes hits and walks) and total bases (slugging). Teams that look only at hitting suffer. Players on these teams walk less, with no offsetting gains in hits. In short, players play to the metrics their management values, even at the cost of the team.

The same happens in workplaces. Measure YouTube views? Your employees will strive for more and more views. Measure downloads of a product? You’ll get more of that. But if your actual goal is to boost sales or acquire members, better measures might be return-on-investment (ROI), on-site conversion, or retention. Do people who download the product keep using it, or share it with others? If not, all the downloads in the world won’t help your business.

In the business world, we talk about the difference between vanity metrics and meaningful metrics. Vanity metrics are like dandelions – they might look pretty, but to most of us, they’re weeds, using up resources, and doing nothing for your property value. Vanity metrics for your organization might include website visitors per month, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and media impressions. Here’s the thing: if these numbers go up, it might drive up sales of your product. But can you prove it? If yes, great. Measure away. But if you can’t, they aren’t valuable.

Metrics are only valuable if you can manage to them.

Good metrics have three key attributes: their data are consistent, cheap, and quick to collect. A simple rule of thumb: if you can’t measure results within a week for free (and if you can’t replicate the process), then you’re prioritizing the wrong ones. There are exceptions, but they are rare. In baseball, the metrics an organization uses to measure a successful plate appearance will impact player strategy in the short term (do they draw more walks, prioritize home runs, etc.?) and personnel strategy in the mid and long terms. The data to make these decisions is readily available and continuously updated.

Organizations can’t control their data, but they do control what they care about. If our metric on the YouTube video had been views, we would have called it a huge success. In fact, we wrote it off as a massive failure. Does that mean no more videos? Not necessarily, but for now, we’ll be spending our resources elsewhere, collecting data on metrics that matter. Good data scientists know that analyzing the data is the easy part. The hard part is deciding what data matters.

Please join the conversation and check back for regular updates. Follow the Scaling Social Impact insight center on Twitter @ScalingSocial and give us feedback.

Not all books are meant to be read. here's how to pick the right onesNow Available! The Stormlight Archive Book 4 LEARN MORE


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Wax & Wayne 4 Update + Cosmere Art Book Question

Not all books are meant to be read. here's how to pick the right ones

Hey! Brandon here for our next Weekly Update. This is an exciting one because I have been writing on the new Wax and Wayne book, and I am 7,000 words into it. I have had three very solid days of writing. I want to get around 2,500 average a day, but that’s going to be average across multiple months. And I usually write faster at the end of the book and slower at the beginning. And so having hit around 2,000 each day and then a little bit more on Wednesday says that I am really on a good track, I feel, for finishing this book.

Now, I’m worried this book might go long. I know you guys will be so sad if it does. I’m kind of estimating it at 150,000. The others I estimated at 100,000. And so that’s why I’m putting the percentage bar ticking up the way it is. It’ll be ticking up at around 1% equaling around 1,500 words for that reason. And so it says 3% right now. It needs to be updated. It’s not quite on track yet. It might be by the time this goes up. I am targeting getting done by August 1st. And so you can follow along and see how that is going. I’m just very, very pleased with the way the book is looking right now. I’ve had lots of fun with the characters already. So I think you guys are going to enjoy this.

I do have a question for you this week. One of the things that I’ve been asked about a lot is if we will do any art books based on the Stormlight or on the Cosmere. It’s one of the more common things I get asked, to the point that I went to Isaac, my art director, and said, “Maybe it’s time to start thinking about this, that we would release it after Stormlight 5. We would do a Stormlight focused art book.” And it’s a good place for it because the first five books, as I’ve said before, are kind of one arc, and when we come back it’ll be 10 years later in world. So having that book come out then is a good idea. It also means you’ll get a Stormlight something in between books 5 and 6, where there’s going to be a gap as I’m writing the next Mistborn trilogy.

The thing is, Isaac went and did some research, and he came back and said, “All right. There are a couple of different styles of art book that we could do.” And we’re not sure what you guys actually want. So I’m going to lay out for you three different art books. And our goal would be to be releasing this, like, not till like 2025, or something like 2024, somewhere in there, because the next Stormlight book is 2023. We’re looking at the gap in between, probably 2025. Maybe, depending on how it works, we would do a Kickstarter on it. We will see.

So the idea is that you could choose between art book that kind of is focused on the art entirely. This is showing behind-the-scenes sketches and how they became finished art. It is new pieces of art, but also concept art for the world, showing some of the original concept art that I got commissioned, and that sort of thing, and a big kind of coffee table book of the art of the Stormlight Archive. That is what Isaac was thinking that people want when they say, “art book.”

I was thinking something more like what we see having existed in The Wheel of Time and Song of Ice and Fire worlds, where it’s more a guidebook to the world, almost kind of in world, where there is artwork and also text. And the artwork is featured prominently, but it’s less about the concept art and more about the “here is the paintings of some of the characters,” along with talking about them and things like that. That is what I had imagined.

But then I realized there’s a third style of this that is more encyclopedia, that is companion piece that has sketches of the characters to show you what they look like, but it’s the least art-focused of the art books.

And so the question is, what would you like of these three? If you were going to pick one of these three, would you want coffee table book about the art of the Stormlight Archive? Would you want more guidebook, kind of with in-world sort of writings about it, and more like sweeping pieces of pastoral art showing different scenes and different locations and things like that, and then maybe some of the characters? Or would you like more encyclopedia with a lot more text and then more sketch work to kind of look at here’s what a character would look like? Maybe like something that this one would not be in world. It would be more like a companion for the books. Or I suppose there’s an option four, all three of these.

Maybe to not give you kind of a dilemma in choosing that, I will have this be attached with two polls. One is, if you could only have one of these three books, which one would you pick? And then the second poll would be, if we did all three together, would you prefer that to getting the one that you picked above? And so that’s going to be our poll for you. Thank you so much for letting me know about these things. And we will be looking at maybe doing one of these 2025-ish.