Wednesday, April 18, 2018


by Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles

Do you know what your Ikigai is?  Welcome to the book Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, the story of the Japanese secret to a long and happy life.  The Japanese word for Ikigai means “the reason you breathe, the reason for living.”  We find our reason for living by concentrating on what is good/important/what gives us joy and not focusing on what appears urgent in our lives. Ikigai is our passion, our mission and the work we love to do.  The authors study a place in this world with the most centenarians: Okinawa, Japan.  They interview and learn many things about stress (some amount is good for us), how we eat (or should), how much sleep we get (7-9 hours, more than that will make you retire), be around good people (talk often and engage) to form your community, and do what you love… forever. Never retire, do what you love, and be around people who love you.  The book ends with the following ten rules to incorporate Ikigai in your life:    

1.       Stay active don’t retire, keep doing things of value – people die when they give it up

2.       Take it slow, walk slowly and you will go far

3.       Don’t fill your stomach, less is more.  80% rule don’t stuff ourselves.  Be like those in Okinawa, eat small portions

4.       Surround yourself with good friends, they are the best medicine

5.       Get in shape for your next birthday, and be like water moves, it’s best when it flows – be like it

6.       Smile.  A cheerful attitude attracts others.  Be in the “here and now” and find the possibilities that life offers

7.       Reconnect with nature. Be a part of the natural world and get back to the roots of life

8.       Give thanks to nature and ancestors and family and friends and to that which gives you joy

9.       Live in the moment, that’s what we are given.  Don’t regret the past nor fear the future. Today is all that you have - make the most of it and make it worth remembering

10.   Follow your Ikigai and give meaning to your days and share YOU.  And never forget…your mission is to discover your Ikigai

A really simple and thoughtful read.  Good ideas that, if we all embraced, we would feel less stressed and more confident/self-assured.  Go find your meaning! 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Truth About Stories

The Truth About Stories
by Thomas King

I decided to read a book that was recommended to me at the NASPA Conference this year as I have always been interested in the art of storytelling.  So picking up The Truth About Stories by Thomas King was a no-brainer for me.  King is a Native American and discusses the history and importance of story-telling as a form of education and community-bonding among his families.  Storytelling has been long associated with the Native American community, and King begins with the story of “how the world began” and the who influenced his storytelling.  I love this statement from him in particular: “the truth about stories is that that’s all we are… through my language, I understand I am being spoken to, I’m not the one speaking.  The words are coming from many tongues and mouths of the people from the land around them….”  He shares that “you’ll never believe what happened” is a phrase that captures the listener and begins the storytelling journey.  King notes, “we have choices, a world in which creation is a solidary, individual act or a world in which creation is a shared activity… a world that begins in harmony and slides toward chaos or a world that begins in chaos and moves toward harmony; a world marked by competition or a world determined by cooperation.”  That is our dilemma.  The series of chapters (essays) examines the role of oral presentation through history and how it is linked to the culture of the Native people.  King divulges personal hardships in drawing the reader into his philosophy, from a colleague who commits suicide, to an adopted child who is physically challenged, to how family members are removed from their community, all with special meaning that needs to be evoked in the story.  He has a talent to draw the reader into his life and the unique lives of the Native people.  I have much to learn from enhancing my skills as a storyteller from readings of an educator who has dedicated his life to listening and bringing to life people who have crossed his path.  A book well worth reading.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


 Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
by Joseph Aoun

I had a recent recommendation from a colleague to read Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Joseph Aoun.  Dr. Aoun serves as the President of Northeastern University, an institution that has experienced a significant increase in applications and ratings within the US World and News report over the past decade.  Northeastern is one of the few “co-op” universities in the US which have the advantage of “affordability” and employability after receiving your bachelor’s degree.  Aoun argues that we should not be afraid of the future with technology advances. Instead, those looking to get the edge in the future will simply need constant re-education.  Aoun begins the book with a brief overview of the history of American higher education and how it modeled itself after the German model, using research as the foundation for our colleges/universities.  He then discusses the growth of higher education after WWII and the GI bill as well as where we are today in terms of professions available in our society. This leads into his argument about how we need to think differently for the future.   He then shares data/statistics on the changing workforce based on the automation of jobs (I personally appreciate his perspectives on “imagining” and how curiosity is a key quality for those who will be most successful in the workforce, something we need to focus on teaching the youth of our country).  Aoun has worked with the companies that provide the co-op experience for the students at Northeastern and asked the employers: what qualities are you looking for in your employees?  What traits are most desirable?  Their response? Leadership, followed by working on a team.  Are we teaching these skills in colleges and universities?  (This may be where student affairs can fit in!) He also notes that technical skills ranked in the middle of the pack of desired skills – I guess most employers think they can teach them or that any candidates they hire will have them.  Additionally, companies like Google tend to hire “generalists” and people who have ‘deep listening skills,’ those who are interdisciplinary AND can take direction.  Aoun then presents a learning model (which he call ‘humanics’) for moving forward to assist the employee of the future. Of course, he draws upon the Northeastern model of co-ops! Nothing like using your institution’s mission and practice to sell itself. Well done – brilliant in fact!  The final chapters focus on discussing how experiential learning is superior to all other models of learning, using data to reinforce his points.  He also focuses on the distributed model of institutions bringing their education around the world, even noting NYU in the book.  Overall, this is an important read for student affairs professionals who have a place in this discussion on how we look at the experiences we provide for student leaders (OAs, RAs, student government leaders, etc.) to intentionally capture the learning they receive in our world.  I highly recommend this book as means to review our work and discover how we can improve.  Well done, Dr. Aoun.  

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

RA Book Club Fall 2017: You Are the Universe

 You Are the Universe
by Deepak Chopra & Menas Kafatos

Christine's review:
When I approached the novel that brought together a medical doctor and a physicist, I felt that this would be a colloquially-written and interesting novel, helping me "find myself" in a way. While I will admit that the language was written in a way to try and reach out to the mass including those unfamiliar with the theories and concepts of physics, I found myself very much overwhelmed by all of the science language. It was informative but difficult to follow especially because I spent a majority of time trying to understand the connection to how these abstract concepts and theories could be tied back into reality. There were moments that seemed it could be applied to the life of humans in that the novel seemed to keep pushing the idea that we are all interconnected in one way or another. On that note, it is a good reminder on how we do depend on each other to function individually and collaboratively. We must always understand how our actions not only impact our life, but also others' lives surrounding us. 

Roza's review:
Okay, so it definitely wasn't the transformative self-help book I thought it would be. And it certainly wasn't a light read. This is the type of book that will deceive you with its relatively large font size and make you think you can breeze through a chapter, when, in reality, you can't, at least not if you want to really grasp and digest what you're reading. As somebody who almost exclusively reads fiction and doesn't quite have a mind for the intricacies of science, this book was a challenge for me. I had to read and re-read to understand a scientific concept being laid out. And you can't just gloss over certain sections because each idea introduced builds upon other ideas to create one big argument that you are, in fact, the universe. I will say that, though I certainly did not fully grasp everything that I read, I came away from this book thinking about science in a slightly different way. I was quite taken by the notion that we live in a participatory universe, as Chopra and Kafatos argue. I like the idea that different types of science do not exist in completely different worlds; rather, they exist within one big universe. While I'm happy to have read this book and to have had the chance to discuss it in an academic setting, I'm not so sure I'd recommend this to anybody else. 

Sam's review:
You Are the Universe puts forth an interesting take on what it means for us to exist, depicting the universe as a conscious, living thing, and posits that our thoughts influence the cosmos. Chopra and Kafatos break the book down into key scientific questions and through examples and analogies are able to clearly explain complex scientific theories in layman's terms.  Some may hesitant to read You Are the Universe, expecting religious dogma; however, the book manages to strike a balance between spirituality and science without endorsing any particular established religion. All in all, it was a refreshing piece that often leads readers to consider the role they play in a participatory universe.

Jaylan's review:
You Are the Universe is an intellectually stimulating and philosophically imaginative read that merges quantum physics with thoughts of consciousness, to construct the human universe. Deepak Chopra and Menas Kafatos question the limits of the understanding of the universe provided by quantum physics and explore the mysteries of these limits through a philosophical lens. The authors' ability to explain complex theories like cosmic inflation and dark matter in layman's terms offers the reader the ability to understand knowledge that is often out of reach for most people. Chopra and Kafatos mark these mysteries and limits as more than just coincidence. The central idea of You Are the Universe, the human universe, is the belief that the universe and human consciousness are intrinsically linked; and at the center of this connection is You, who has the ability to shape and transform yourself, and by virtue, the universe. This idea is expected to transform the human experience by putting the consciousness, not to be confused with the mind, at the center of existence. This newfound idea of person hood - or should i say universe hood - is somewhat liberating, allowing the reader to feel empowered and in control of their own existence. It adds a new meaning to "putting it out in the universe". However, this idea of universe hood is limited to the individual -given the existing systems of thought and structures of power. The idea that you are the center of the universe can be stifled by social inequalities imposed by classicism, racism, sexism, ableism, etc. which is fairly present in the lives of millions of people globally. This reality leads me to believe that the human universe is more idealistic than practical. However, reality isn't set in stone and reception can change for Chopra.

Tanya's review:
Learning more about quantum mechanics was my favorite surprise while reading this book.  As someone not in the sciences, I commend the authors for using remarkably understandable metaphors to explain difficult concepts in physics.  That said, I was not convinced by the book's contention that we live in a "human universe."  Nevertheless, I appreciated the idea that each of us contributes to creating reality.  By setting up such large stakes--that is, that each of us can participate in the tangible creation of the universe--the book asks its readers to reflect on their actions and to feel agency and responsibility.  I wondered, however, if this idea is more psychological than physical.  I would have liked to hear how the mental "paradigm shift" that the authors encourage for each of the readers has impacted the authors' own experiences of daily life. 

Jocelyn's review:
You Are the Universe explores a scientifically philosophical approach to human existence, consciousness, and reality, both in the way we physically exist, but also in the way our minds construct the reality that surrounds us. Chopra and Kafatos reflect on how perspectives and understandings -- our worldview or paradigm -- is constantly changing, and we must recognize this to better understand our own realities. Through combining science, philosophy, and human existence, the complexities of perspective and reality, aligned with other concepts, begin to shape the image of a new paradigm. The authors guide the reader towards a greater understanding of the existence of reality within our own perspectives, creating power to reframe those perspectives and our own lives. In acknowledging that our own experience in the universe is completely constructed by ourselves, we can begin to realize that the world operates in the way we choose to participate.

Joshua's review:
You Are the Universe gives readers an alternative way of looking at the world. By emphasizing the importance and centrality of the individual in an attempt to understand life, the meaning of it, or at least our place in the universe, the book observes both cosmological and intrapersonal methods of reckoning with being. For me, the book approaches humanity and humanhood from an altogether simultaneously too individualistic and universal perspective. While it does provide good sorts of spiritual and ontological methodologies for navigating humanhood, it does not provide the type of anthropological and ethnographic perspective from which I was hoping it would approach questions of identity--and the lack of address of difference. I would have preferred a text that incorporates social, economic, and political histories in understanding the politics of difference and identification as they relate to navigating through larger systems of government and being. That being said, for what it is--essentially a self-help book for those who want to think about themselves in cosmological terms--it does an adequate job. Dr. Chopra is eloquent in writing and does provoke the reader to think, but I believe the book could have addressed some more pressing issues.

Sunny's review:
What stuck with me the most after reading You Are the Universe is the idea of a universal consciousness that serves to connect the consciousness of all people. I think that it's something to think about if you are a spiritual person, especially if you deeply believe that "fate" exists. The book can be a little less captivating in the beginning because it dives into areas of physics to introduce the idea of this consciousness, but in many ways such approach is able to convey the claims the authors make in a convincing way by tying it with theoretical approaches that created a paradigm shift in our scientific history. Overall, I enjoyed the book, and the discussion with book club gave me perspectives I haven't considered before and it would be a different read if I were to read it again some time.

Adrienne's review:
We Are The Universe was an interesting read in ways I did not expect. It was a lot more scientific than I had anticipated. Still, it was filled with insight on a world that is not as stagnant as it is sometimes viewed. Instead, it poses the idea of the changing humans who make up the universe being a reflection of the universe. The depth that can be found in such a conviction is immense. We are powerful enough to change our own lives, and thus the universe, because "we are the universe," a construct of our own mind, along with time and other facets explored in the book. Realizing just how much agency we have as individuals in this vast "universe" is the essence of this book to me.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Half Moon

Half Moon
by Douglas Hunter

I do try and read ALL of the book recommendations that I am given, especially when they give me the book.  I thank Olivier Berthe, FFIR at Lafayette Hall, for providing me the book I just finished, Half Moon, by Douglas Hunter.  Hunter tracks the history of Henry Hudson on his journey, sponsored by the largest trading company (VOC) from Amsterdam, to map the waterways of America in an attempt to gain more trading ports for future outposts.  Hunter is not afforded the journals of Hudson, who captained the boat, the Half Moon, as the journals were lost, but he uses the first mate Robert Jute as a resource.  Hunter goes through journals and information from other sources to piece together the 1609 voyage to North America. The first part of the book was rather dull.  The historical perspective of what was happening with various voyages and what Hudson would have learned before his trip was quite detailed but didn’t keep my interest.  The second part of the book was very interesting as it followed Hudson’s journey into Manhattan and up the Hudson River to my home town of Troy, NY!  I learned a great deal about the route, which I have taken many times during the course of my life.  When I was younger, my family had the opportunity to take many trips down the Hudson, under the Verrazano Bridge, and into the Atlantic Ocean to Cape Cod/Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.  A great book for anyone interested in history and how Hudson made it through the tide changes and the shallow parts of the river named after the voyager.  Enjoyed it!


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Learning to Play the Game

Learning to Play the Game
by Jonathan Kohlmeier

Always great to receive suggestions for books, especially when it is a book written by the son of a person I know (my financial advisor).   His son suffers from Selective Mutism (a condition related to severe anxiety).  For his senior year high school project, Jonathan Kohlmeier decides that his culminating project will be to capture his life’s challenge in Learning to Play the Game.  Jon switches schools at the end of middle school and continues at the same institution through his high school years.  He does an outstanding job of capturing the emotions, feelings and thoughts related to his condition and how he begins to think about working through it.  After years of experience in an elementary school in which he and his parents have to fight with the school district, they finally find a small school that meets Jon’s needs.  Jon’s story provides great insight to what it means to feel alone, scared, and frustrated while being unable to name those emotions.  Luckily, he finds some teachers and eventually some friends that make comfortable enough to be himself.  High school students can be really brutal, but, through theatre, hard work, and loving teachers, he is able to succeed.  Congrats on writing your first journey book.  I’m sure there are many more books to be written – go out and do it!  

Friday, December 22, 2017

Born to Be Wild

Born to Be Wild
by Jess P. Shatkin

I had the chance to read NYU’s own Dr. Jess Shatkin’s book Born to Be Wild.  Jess is the director of the CAMS program at NYU, a program that helps students understand ways to enhance resiliency in this world full of crazy situations….  This book is especially helpful to those who are parenting or working with teens.  The book explores why teenagers are risk takers with behaviors that challenge authority figures and sometimes their own safety (such as use of illicit drugs, premarital sex, driving a motorcycle without a helmet, etc.).  Jess is a remarkably competent and likeable person.  The book shares personal stories of how he engages with his clients (at NYU’s Child Study Center) and his own children as they grew up. His easy-to-learn suggestions for being the best parent possible uses a ‘connect-the-dots’ approach.  He uses theoretical frameworks from noted researchers as a basis for his work and presents the material in an easy-to-digest manner.  He also shows how previously popular methods of “scaring kids straight” on topics of drugs and other behaviors that can harm them hasn’t worked, and he delves into the neuroscience to discuss how the brain works.  A relatively quick read – two nights and I was done.  Do yourself a favor and give this book to someone who has kids or those who can be a positive influence on kids.  Thanks, Jess! 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Mutant Message Down Under

Mutant Message Down Under
by Marlo Morgan

During my two-month illness, my oldest sister, Nancy, sent me Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan.  Morgan, a fifty-year-old divorced mother with two adult children, is asked to work on a health care project in Australia.  Morgan was a health care professional who believed in wellness related strategies to cure patients.  Morgan arrives in Australia and begins her project.  One day, she attends an event where she has her future told by a fortune teller. She is told that there is a journey in her future where she will meet her soul mate, which does indeed come true.  Morgan later goes on a tour of the outback and is asked to immediately join the Aboriginal tribe she had visited on a 90-day walk through the desert.  She feels compelled to do it.  The rest of the story captures Morgan’s journey of learning about respect of our world/nature, how to control her fear and pain (walking across the desert with no shoes), and how to connect to others through telepathy.  Each chapter teaches a new lesson.  The book is controversial, as many who read the book think that Morgan made up the entire trip.  Hummm…either way, still a series of valuable lessons for a person to learn.  Timely read for me. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Children of the Matrix

Children of the Matrix
by David Icke

What a way to finish with the RA Favorite book list for 2017-18.  A total of over 950 books read in the past decade.  The variety of books always astonishes me.  I will say, I wasn’t able to connect with this last book, Children of the Matrix by David Icke.  It is hard to read a book that philosophically I just don’t get….  Icke is well known for serving as a ‘conspiracy theorist’ and his proclamations are pretty far out there.  This book was published in 2000 and focuses on the Illuminati and how they have infiltrated all powerful leaders in our society.  He proclaims that the governmental and financial leaders of the world all come from one of seven bloodlines, all connected through an early ancestry that involves mating of a reptilian and man.  If that isn’t so hard to believe, Icke destroys the idea of religion and quotes documents and materials from thousands of years ago to prove his points.  He takes on every institution and shows how society needs ‘hope’ in that which doesn’t exist.  He spends a great deal of time attempting to sell an older book he wrote, referring back to it at least 125 times in this 480-page book.   He believes in UFOs and provides significant data to prove his case.  Through and through, he attacks anything that is ‘structured’ in our world.  He believes that all institutions are connected to Satan and evil ways (such as being pedophiles, blood drinkers, killers of animals)…and the list goes on.  I thought it was so outrageous that I went online and watched him being interviewed by BBC reporters in 2016.  He is for real and believes 100% in what he preaches.  I was so underwhelmed and not at all in sync with his atheist and over-the-top claims on the “who’s who” of leaders from George Washington to Bill Clinton – all “evil doers” – that I had enough.  While I read the book, I was pretty disgusted with his claims, especially saying that one of my distant cousins (former comedienne Bob Hope) used to participate in demonic rituals, and I lost any and all faith that this guy has any sense at all.  I’m surprised that this book was a favorite.  Hard to find anything to connect with in this book.  Nothing redeeming for me in this one.  I guess I’m stuck with thinking about this one for a LONG time…hurry and hire some new RAs for the spring, I need a new book to read!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Gastronomical Me

The Gastronomical Me
by M. F. K. Fisher

M.F. K. Fisher’s book The Gastronomical Me presents a really creative and interesting way to write an autobiography of your early life by.  Fisher, who grew up in California, chronicles a 29-year period of her life from her childhood days through her 40’s.  Each chapter tells a brief history of what she was doing (at home with family, going to college, traveling around the world, being married to a young struggling professor, and finally being present as her second husband dies from a debilitating disease), but, just as importantly, she connects each chapter to food! From something she learned to cook, to an exquisite meal she had during the memorable experience she wrote about in the chapter, there’s always a connection.  Each experience in her life was connected to a new cuisine, a delicious dessert, or even home grown vegetables that simmered on the stove. Your taste buds will flare up as she describes in depth the food choice of that day/experience.  Fisher is a woman ahead of her time.  The first chapter begins in 1912, a time when woman had few opportunities to ‘follow their dreams’, but Fisher did just that.  She left home for college, ventured with her newlywed husband to Europe for his first job, then traveled the world after their marriage disintegrated and she fell in love with another man.  A really unique way to illustrate the coming of age of a fiercely independent woman while receiving new recipes and food choices to expand the palate.  A very accessible read that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Fisher’s life is one worth learning about.