(Disclaimer: I know the author.) This book is a humorous look at human behavior as seen through the eyes of a drive test examiner. The stories are fun...more(Disclaimer: I know the author.) This book is a humorous look at human behavior as seen through the eyes of a drive test examiner. The stories are funny, moving, and sometimes absolutely incredible. The writing puts a spin of humor on all of them but without losing the sometimes brief insights into life. I highly recommend it!(less)
I found this to be a useful and interesting book. Sandberg makes some important points about people's behavior with regards to work and gives many use...moreI found this to be a useful and interesting book. Sandberg makes some important points about people's behavior with regards to work and gives many useful tips. I did not feel that she was "blaming the victim" as some accuse her of doing: she admits right up front that she is well aware that there are larger societal issues at work, but that doesn't mean that women shouldn't step up and take charge of their lives where they can. She also focuses more on some of those larger societal issues in the last couple chapters. She cites numerous psychology, sociology, and neurobiology studies to support her points about behaviors. It is true that her book is certainly corporate focused, and not that applicable to a large swath of the population who do not have the luxuries or choices that she is writing about. However, she does also admit this up front - that her book is not for everyone. I think there are many aspects of it that can be useful to anyone who sometimes lacks confidence or feels intimidated by the men in the workforce around them.(less)
In The Lemon Tree, Sandy Tolan follows the lives of two people, an Arab and a Jew, who lived in the same house in Palestine/Israel - the Arab before 1...moreIn The Lemon Tree, Sandy Tolan follows the lives of two people, an Arab and a Jew, who lived in the same house in Palestine/Israel - the Arab before 1948 and the Jew after. These people met in real life in 1967 and continued to interact, write, and see each other over the years up to the 2000s. They had hard discussions with each other over how the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should be resolved, and continued to stay in interaction with each other despite being on opposite sides of the issue.
Tolan does a good job presenting these two people's story, and their story itself is one of hope, although it does not have a nice happy ending (clearly, since the conflict is ongoing). However, I felt that he spent far too many pages describing the historical context in great detail. I understand that some historical context is necessary to understand the story being told, but I think it could have been done much more succinctly. I found these sections boring and I skimmed some of them in order to get back to Dalia and Bashir's story.
Overall the book is interesting, but not compelling. I did not come away from it with any new insights into this conflict - although perhaps that is because I am not the target audience, since I already believe that humanizing the other is the only way to move forward in an intractable conflict. I mildly recommend the book but cannot give it a strong recommendation.(less)
I did not find Creating Melodies all that useful of a book. It is aimed at people who want to make a living as songwriters, which is not what I am try...moreI did not find Creating Melodies all that useful of a book. It is aimed at people who want to make a living as songwriters, which is not what I am trying to do. With that as the goal, Weissman focuses on how to write catchy pop-style melodies that will have mass appeal, and the result is pretty conservative characterization of what makes a good melody. Many of his tips and suggestions simply reinforced things that I already do naturally or intuitively when writing melodies, but there were perhaps a few tidbits here and there that I may find helpful. On the other hand, I also take everything he says with a grain of salt since I am not trying to write for the mass market.
The book also seemed to be geared more towards people who perhaps play an instrument in a band but don't necessarily know how to read music. This is rather different from my own musical background, so in that sense also the book didn't seem to quite fit where I was coming from. I skipped the chapter on composing on the guitar, as I do not play the guitar, but perhaps someday I will come back to it if I decide I want to learn a little guitar. I also only skimmed the chapter on reading music (which, a bit oddly, is at the very end of the book), as I already know how to read music.
There are not really any exercises to speak of in the book; it is more descriptive of various approaches than actually instructional. Weissman does refer to a large number of different songs as examples of different things, many of which I was not familiar with. I think I would have gotten a little more out of the book if I'd read it at the computer where I could look up the songs on youtube as he mentioned them, but for the most part I didn't do that.
All in all, Creating Melodies is a quick read and I am sure I filed something away in my sub-conscious that I will come back to later. I think that reading anything about writing music is helpful in further inspiring me, even if it is not the greatest book ever.(less)
In The Religious Case Against Belief, James P. Carse presents his arguments that there is a distinction to be made between religion and belief. For hi...moreIn The Religious Case Against Belief, James P. Carse presents his arguments that there is a distinction to be made between religion and belief. For him, religion is about higher ignorance - "knowing that you don't know" - and having a sense of wonder, awe, questioning, and striving towards continually deepening your knowledge. Belief, on the other hand, requires willful ignorance - choosing not to know something that can potentially be known or at least explored.
In the first half of the book, Carse discusses the characteristics of belief in great depth. In the second half, he presents an attempt at a definition of religion, and finally discusses what he means by a "religious case against belief". Essentially this is the idea that while belief systems have developed around religion, they are not inherent to religion itself, and that we need to return to the sense of wonder that is true religion.
Many of his arguments made sense to me, and there were some gems of insight through-out the book. However, it was often difficult for me to follow his flow of thought and the discussion sometimes got quite abstract and esoteric. It did not always hold my interest and I almost did not finish the book. (It probably did not help that I started reading it when I had a fever, but I think I would have struggled a bit even if that weren't the case - and I didn't have a fever the whole time I was reading it.) This is the kind of book that reminds me why I studied a technical subject in college rather than the humanities - I think very logically and don't do so well with books where the flow of a text is unclear and there is too much heady musing about concepts with nothing much concrete behind them.(less)
I got Teacher Man from the library on my husband's request, and ended up reading it first! It is Frank McCourt's memoir of the 30 years he spent teach...moreI got Teacher Man from the library on my husband's request, and ended up reading it first! It is Frank McCourt's memoir of the 30 years he spent teaching in public high schools (and one community college) in New York City. McCourt is an excellent writer and I thoroughly enjoyed his memoir. He has many insightful comments about teenagers, teaching, and life in general. I highly recommend Teacher Man whether or not you are a teacher yourself.(less)
In Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain explores introversion in some depth, looking at psychology, brain stu...moreIn Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain explores introversion in some depth, looking at psychology, brain studies, and anecdotal examples of people she has worked with to illuminate the ways in which introverts have their own power and strengths that just happen to differ from the Western ideal of extroversion.
Nothing in the book was especially surprising or a brand new idea to me, but there were many interesting tidbits and I found it affirming and inspiring. I have previously thought of the term "quiet leader" for myself and it was encouraging to read so many examples of people who are just that. As just one example of the many things I could relate to in the book, Cain has many references to introverted individuals who do not speak up in groups until they are quite confident and clear in what they want to say, which reflects my experience exactly. I appreciate her emphasis that introverts and extroverts have different ways of relating to the world and that introverts have an important perspective to provide: a deep-thinking, risk-averse, careful approach to problems and activities.
I found her exploration of how the Western ideal of extroversion developed quite fascinating, as I had never really thought about this ideal so concretely before. I also appreciated and found interesting her comparison to other cultures, especially Asian, that have an introvert ideal.
She has various helpful tips for introverts on how to function effectively in the world, including a whole chapter on children. A couple things I found useful were: when introverts are working on a core personal project, they are able to act like extroverts as needed, because the end goal holds enough meaning for them that behaving outside their comfort zone is tolerable; and that introverts need to be sure to make time in their lives for "restorative niches" - times when they allow themselves to act as an introvert in their comfort zone, thus restoring their inner strength.
I think that introvert and extrovert are useful categories for understanding people's behavior, but I am not convinced that they are actually completely valid distinctions. Much of what she discussed is very similar to the concept of a "highly sensitive person", developed by Elaine Aron, which is based on a biological difference in sensory processing. According to Aron, only 70% of highly sensitive people are also introverts, but I am not really clear on where the distinctions lie between the two. I would enjoy seeing a deeper exploration of the overlap and differences between introvert and highly sensitive person. Overall, however, I do find that thinking of myself as an introvert, into addition to an HSP, does help me understand myself even better, so it seems useful for that if nothing else.
I definitely recommend Quiet whether or not you consider yourself an introvert. I think it is important for extroverts to read this book as well so that they can understand a large percentage of the population better.(less)
I love Barbara Kingsolver and her collection of essays, Small Wonder was no exception. She covers a wide variety of topics such as the aftermath of 9/...moreI love Barbara Kingsolver and her collection of essays, Small Wonder was no exception. She covers a wide variety of topics such as the aftermath of 9/11, parenting, television, biodiversity, growing food, and patriotism, and through them all she shines a light on what it means to live a full, meaningful, heartfelt life and how to make the best of our little bit of time here on earth. I think I love her writing so much simply because she puts into words so very well things that I have myself felt deeply. I especially appreciate her deep belief in biodiversity and community and the persuasive way in which she writes about these things. Barbara Kingsolver is a wonderful voice of hope and sanity in a world that often seems to me rather insane. I'll leave you with a few quotes from the essays:
I wish all children could be taught the basics of agriculture in school along with math and English literature, because it's surely as important a subject as these. Most adults my age couldn't pass a simple test on what foods are grown in their home counties and what month they come into maturity. In just two generations we've passed from a time when people almost never ate a fruit out of season to a near-universal ignorance of what seasons mean... [T]he strategy of our nation is to run on a collision course with the possibility of being able to feed ourselves decently (or at all) in twenty years' time. I can't see how any animal could be this stupid; surely it's happening only because humans no longer believe food comes from dirt.
I start fidgeting at any community meeting where the first item on the agenda is to discuss and vote on the order of the other items on the agenda; I have to do discreet yoga relaxation postures in my chair to keep myself from hollering, "Yo, people, life is short!"
Meanwhile, viewers are lured into assuming, at least subconsciously, that this "news" is a random sampling of everything that happened on planet earth that day, and so represents reality. One friend of mine argued... that he felt a moral obligation to watch CNN so he could see all there was and sort out what was actually true - as if CNN were some huge window thrown wide on the whole world at once. Not true, not remotely true. The world, a much wider place than seventeen inches, includes songbird migration, emphysema, pollinating insects, the Krebs cycle, my neighbor who recycles knitting-factory scraps to make quilts, natural selection, the Loess Hills of Iowa, and a trillion other things outside the notice of CNN. Are they important? Everything on that list I just tossed off is life or death to somebody somewhere, half of them are life and death to you and me, and you may well agree that they're all more interesting than Monica Lewinsky. it's just a nasty, tiny subset of reality they're subsisting on there in TV land - the subset invested with some visual component likely to cause an adrenal reaction, ideally horror.
Outsiders can destroy airplanes and buildings, but only we the people have the power to demolish our own ideals.
In Waking Up in Time: Finding Inner Peace in Times of Accelerating Change, Peter Russell presents an interesting perspective on the crises our planet...moreIn Waking Up in Time: Finding Inner Peace in Times of Accelerating Change, Peter Russell presents an interesting perspective on the crises our planet and species are facing. He takes the reader through a convincing explanation for why we have reached this point of materialism and self-centered shortsightedness that explains without placing blame, and suggests that what we are really trying to do is fulfill inner needs with exterior solutions. Therefore, the solution to the crises may well lie in us rediscovering inner peace and realizing that inner needs can only be fulfilled internally.
Towards the end of the book Russell moves into a realm that was less compelling to me, proposing that we may reach a "singularity" in our evolution soon and that there may be a "hidden purpose to evolution". He makes the mistake of assuming that just because the probability of all factors being right for life to begin on earth was very low, that because it did happen, therefore it was somehow "meant" to happen or there is a "purpose" to it. This sort of argument bothers me, but I think the earlier parts of what Russell had to say were still valid even if the end of the book got a bit strange.
The book is a fast read with short chapters, but still felt a little repetitive at times. Overall I found it interesting and I'm glad I read it.(less)
The Solace of Open Spaces, by Gretel Ehrlich, is a beautiful little book that I happened upon in the sale bin at a used book store. In the late 1970s,...moreThe Solace of Open Spaces, by Gretel Ehrlich, is a beautiful little book that I happened upon in the sale bin at a used book store. In the late 1970s, Ehrlich traveled to Wyoming on assignment for her work, and stayed because it draw her in in her grief upon losing her loved one to cancer. She lived there for many years, living and working on ranches, and this book is a collection of essays describing her time there and the feeling of living there. Her writing is lyrical and almost what I would call "prose poetry" at times. She conveys effectively the wide open feeling of Wyoming, and I was easily able to imagine the scenes and sensations she described. It is a lovely book and I highly recommend it. Here is a quote, selected randomly:
In Wyoming we are supplicants, waiting all spring for the water to come down, for the snow pack to melt and fill the creeks from which we irrigate. Fall and spring rains amount to less than eight inches a year, while above our ranches, the mountains hold their snows like a secret: no one knows when they will melt or how fast. When the water does come, it floods through the state as if the peaks were silver pitchers tipped forward by mistake.
I am planning to visit the island of Capri this summer and while browsing the guidebooks at the library this slim book Capri and No Longer Capri, by R...moreI am planning to visit the island of Capri this summer and while browsing the guidebooks at the library this slim book Capri and No Longer Capri, by Raffaele La Capria, caught my eye. Unfortunately the book did not do much for me, and I almost considered abandoning it a few times.
It is basically a memoir/history of Capri written in a series of essays or meditations on different aspects of the island. There is some progression from the past to the present through the book; it is clear that the author put some thought into the organization and outline. Some of the content was interesting but much of it referred to people I had never heard of: he spends quite a bit of time on several individuals who spent time on Capri in the early 20th century and who all ultimately committed suicide there. I had never heard of these people and his meditations on them were not very interesting to me. I am not familiar with the myth that surrounds Capri.
The later part of the book dwelt on the loss of the island the author knew as a boy, as it has become increasing overrun by tourists and pleasure seekers. The strong sense that the past was better and we are on a downward spiral of decay was disturbing and felt overly melodramatic.
The tone of the book is strongly romantic, nostalgic, and melancholic, and I found it difficult to read. I don't think this is due to a poor translation; I have no doubt the original Italian had this same tone - flowery, romantic language that often went in one ear and out the other for me, so to speak. Although there were bits and pieces that I enjoyed and appreciated, as a whole I felt that I could not relate to it.
I think I mainly have to conclude that this is just not my kind of book. I am, however, quite excited to visit Capri and definitely intend to do my best to go off the beaten path while there. (less)