The 3 Best Quantified Self Books

I wake up at 5.45am on the dot, and rise at 5.50am.

I walk into my study, open my laptop and turn on my time tracker to start writing.

I stop at 7.30 and turn off my timer, data which to be parsed at a later, predetermined time.

I get changed for my morning run, leaving the house at 7.40am.

I click the button on my smartwatch to monitor my route, running speed and heart rate.

5 miles currently takes 37 minutes, 20 seconds, on average.

I return home and shower, first hot and then cold. This will be logged later.

I dress, sit down and activate my meditation app, Insight Timer, to start 30 minutes of mindfulness.

I’ve completed 25,800 minutes of meditation overall.

Sound weird? This is a rather typical morning for me, both in activities and associated tracking.

Popularity

The quantified self movement is exploding in popularity.

Practitioners are self-tracking like never before, with unremitting data access provided by a host of new and exciting technologies.

Investigating everything from body mass to using running and cycling to inform fashion, we’ve reached a landmark where behaviour monitoring is limited only by imagination.

Whatever obscurity you wish to measure is surely possible with the array of sensors and wearables available on the consumer market.

Best Quantified Self books

To be honest, this will be a rather short section, because there aren’t many of them.

The ones that are available tend to lean towards theory more than practical application, meaning they may be less interesting for the budding self tracker.

In my opinion, it may be more fruitful to join internet communities, visit the main websites in the field or follow personal blogs for tips and recommendations as people document their experience.

Having said that, if you do want a more academic discussion regarding Quantified Self, here are your options:

experimental man

Experimental Man (David Ewing Duncan)

A well-written and researched book, providing a thought provoking look at personal measurement. Some parts are dense with technical information, which may prove a slog for some. There might be few actionable takeaways for readers other than diet and weight maintenance. However, the author’s dedication and voyage into medical self-discovery must be admired.

self tracking

Self-Tracking (Gina Neff and Dawn Nafus)

This book provides a broader overview of the topic, addressing societal themes such as privacy, economy and culture pertaining to data collection. Would be interesting if it included a wider range of self-tracking activities, such as learning and skill acquisition.

trackers

Trackers (Richard MacManus)

This book presents a personal journey into medical self-tracking. Written after his diagnosis with diabetes, blogger Richard MacManus explores technologies such as smartphone apps, wearables and personal genomics. It’s not a systematic review, but rather an interesting snapshot of the industry and the motivations of QS practitioners. As with any book in this incredibly fast-moving space, it is in danger of becoming outdated and may not contain enough practical application for some.

Summary

Reading options for the quantified self movement are currently limited.

Considering the rapid development of the space and number of passionate practitioners, I find this surprising.

Hopefully, new books that focus on evergreen aspects of the industry and practical tools are in the works.

Until then, check out my article on the quantified self movement for an introduction to the topic.

Check out more best books and recommended reads.



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