Saturday, December 31, 2016

All the Light We Cannot See (extra book)

Happy New Year!  Finished the last book of the year and what a great one!  Anthony Doerr’s 2014 book called All the Light We Cannot See.   The author uses a technique I love, start with an ending passage, and then go back and forth in time.  He follows three characters’ lives with very short chapters, 2-3 pages or shorter.  The story moves quickly.  Enter World War II in Paris, France where the main character Marie-Laure, whom at the age of six, becomes blind, yet is able to understand her surroundings based on the miniature neighborhood her father builds for her to memorize.  She and her father are forced from Paris to relocate to her great uncle’s home in Saint-Melo, a coastal city where her father had grown-up.  Marie-Laure’s father works as the locksmith for the Museum of Natural History, where he is entrusted with a secret jewel which saves the life of the owner.  Simultaneously, in a mining town in Germany, is a similarly aged orphan young boy, Werner and his sister Jutta, who live in an orphanage.  Werner is a talented youth who immerses himself into radio technology.  This leads him to enter the prestigious Hitler Youth academy, where he is saved from being an infantry member, based on his ability to work transmitters.  The third story follows a dying German military leader who is dying of cancer and in search of the missing secret jewel.  This is a beautiful story of helplessness, selflessness, and survival, all within the framework of the Nazi’s desire to destroy the world.    I could not put this book down and finished it in two seatings.  Amazing story which will make you smile, cry, and realize even in the depths of utter destruction, there is at least one person who cares for justice.  A book I hope we use for book club for RAs next semester.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

There is Life After College (extra book)

An industry book as I call it on the importance of college called, There is Life After College, by Jeffrey Selingo.  This is a great read for parents and children to read BEFORE they go to college, which is weird based on the title.  The book focuses on the job market and what the future holds for post-graduates, but in fact, it actually spends more time discussing what makes a great college for students (location, internships, co-ops, knowing ‘how to learn,’ and skills needed for life after college).  I took a good amount of nuggets of information for coaching young people.  Selingo focuses on the growing opportunities offered through ‘gap-years’ prior to college and how many students really shouldn’t go to college immediately after high school.  He also spends time citing statistics from Linkedin on correlating location of school, types of careers in those cities, and perecent of students hired from those schools in the area.  The book has ten chapters, beginning with the three types of students that exist: the sprinters, the wanderers, and the stragglers.  He chronicles the three groups and what each one would benefit from moving forward.  Selingo is highly critical, as are the sources he cites from industry, that rip Higher Education for cuddling students and not pushing them to think, and in the end not preparing them for working in a professional position.  Hmmmm, not sure he is talking about an institution like NYU, where I know my son is prepared for real life experiences and a full-time job!  Here are the life skills/qualities needed from the top students in the job market today:  being curious (be a learner for life), build an expertise/take risks; have GRIT (as outlined in Angela Duckworth’s work), be a ‘digital native’ (know technology); deal with ambiguity; and be humble/learn from your peers and mentors.  A final lesson learned includes his chapter on ‘telling your career story.’  Not enough young people know how to tell a good story on the abstract of your journey of life, so reflect on your lessons learned and be able to tell it in a concise manner.  Selingo’s work is on the mark and well worth reading.  I will be sharing more lessons learned in my weekly Linkedin blog post.  Take a peak!  I’d send this book to any high school juniors/seniors. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala

Right before the break I met a newly hired RA from our Brooklyn campus.  Her favorite book was, I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, edited by Elisabeth Burgos-Debray.  It is the real story of the book’s title, an Indian woman from Guatemala who shares her life’s story to the editor.  The book is broken into short chapters from her youth to her leadership roles in helping form unions to address the massacres, unfair labor laws, and mutilations of her peers.  The early chapters focus on her family and the destitute living conditions they existed.  She also shares the traditions and customs of her people.  She shares the differences among young boys and girls, working on the farm, and the death of her younger brother.  The trauma that faces Rigoberta and her family is of epic proportion. There is no happy moments in this book, even when she seemingly is on the verge of winning the land from the locals, they learn they were tricked by signing a form that had Spanish, which they couldn’t read and lost the land after two years of cultivating it.  This is a very hard book to read.  Interesting to note there is a book out that disputes the reality of the claims made by Rigoberta, so it leaves it in question.  Nonetheless, hard to think anyone could think these things up by themselves.  While learning the customs of a tribal village within Central America is educational, the death, destruction, rape and pillaging makes this one a very hard read with no sense of hope for closure for the exiled lead character.   Hard to read this one, but understand the importance of the story being told.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Curious Mind (extra book)

RA Dan, from Lafayette Hall, suggested a second book for me to read, A Curious Mind, by Brian Grazer, the Hollywood producer.  Grazer makes the point that we have not embraced the idea of being curious enough as a society.  Grazer tells his life story, from quitting USC’s Law School to his work delivering contracts for a movie studio.  Grazer learns early in his career to be curious and applies this lesson by meeting important people for “curiosity interviews.”   The book is a series of stories centered on the many movies he produced with his partner, Ron Howard.  He connects uncovering the mystery in many of his movies, to include his favorite, A Beautiful Mind, which reminds him of his own son’s challenges with autism.  Grazer’s chapters connect an aspect of curiosity with a tale from a curiosity interview and a movie he produced.  From former LA Police Chief Daryl Gates, to Oprah Winfrey, Lady Di, and Michael Jackson, his list is a “who’s who.”  In fact, in the appendix is a listing of his thirty years of interviews.  My favorite is his interview with Fidel Castro who made fun of Grazer’s signature hairstyle, which is pretty goofy looking for a 60 + year old guy…  A few nuggets of good information.  I’m not a huge movie fan, so it may have had more impact if I was.  Overall, ok book.  Pretty repetitive bits of why curiosity, otherwise, worth a read.   

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Book Without Words (extra book)

It is now pretty common that when I interact with RAs across campus, they have a new favorite book to add to my reading list.  I try and read them when time allows.  Since I have caught up on this year’s list, I started the second tier of favorites.  I thoroughly enjoyed the latest, The Book Without Words, which is a medieval fable by Avi.  The fable tells the tale of Thorston, an alchemist, who is seeking to discover the secret formula for immortality.  Over the years he has made concoctions through trial and error and has finally found the right formula.  He found the answer in the Book Without Words, which he had stolen years prior from Brother Wilfred.  The book can only be read by people with green eyes!  Thorston finally has the means to read it and as documented in the book, he has made four stones, which he must eat in order.  In the midst of his discovery, Thorston’s servant, Sybil, a thirteen year-old girl, and Odo, his treasured pet raven, which he magically changed from being a goat, are the only two that could stop him from living forever.  It is through him living, that they will die.  It is a pretty quick read with some great messages on how we should focus on living our life, rather than planning to live forever.  Highly recommend.    

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Breathing Underwater (extra book)

I’m now reading second recommendations from RAs.  Breathing Underwater, by Alex Flinn is a young adult book aimed at educating on how domestic violence is fostered.  Sixteen year-old, Nick Andreas, falls prey to anger, generated from his father’s abuse over the years.  The book begins at the trial where Nick is found guilty for hitting former girlfriend, Caitlin.  He is sanctioned to a weekly six-month course where he is asked to track his emotions through his life.  The reader learns of Nick’s history of abuse as he tells the story of falling in love with Caitlin and letting fear, jealousy, and loss of control to take over.  Nick’s physical assault of Caitlin is public and he gets ridiculed henceforth at school.  It is an important story to be told, though the author does have a Jodi Piccoult “esque” approach in throwing suicide, abuse, and murder all within a pretty compact tale.  This really isn’t a read I would necessarily suggest to older adults as the story “fits nicely” with a heartwarming ends of sorts.  Not sure that it follows reality in some cases.  This is definitely an after school special type of made for TV script...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Between the World and Me (extra book)

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I decided to start and finish Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, a book he writes (as a letter) to his son about Coates’s experience as a black man growing up in the inner city of Baltimore within the context of “white America.”  Coates shares his fear between school, where things were taught from one context, and the streets, which taught another context of how to survive, and keep one’s body living.  The rawness of the real-life experiences of how embedded fear becomes a part of the inner city lessons for youth, join-in or try and live by evading the drugs, the gangs, the fear of living.  Coates finds repose when he gets to “the Mecca,” Howard University in DC.  A historically black college, he finds people like him, all with similar experiences, trying to survive and make meaning.    He meets his wife and another central figure in the book, Prince Carmen Jones Jr., a college friend, whom later is killed by a police officer while driving to see his girlfriend, unarmed.  Police brutality towards black American males is a continuation from the days of slavery from the beginning of this country.  Not much has changed as characterized in the book.  The lessons he presents to his son is his way of trying to keep his son alive and aware that he needs to keep his body safe.  Coates’s world is real and for anyone who has not entered his world, it may be hard to fathom, because we don’t want to experience it, it may mean looking at ourselves and question, what are we doing to make this world continue to flourish?   So is the “American Dream” accessible for all?  In his concluding paragraphs, Coates visits the mother of Jones, Jr., Dr. Mable Jones, the granddaughter of a sharecropper who rose in social standing in her life to become a doctor as a black woman, yet as Coates captures, education and financial means did not protect her own son from being saved from white America.  Gripping, powerful, sad, real, and much more.  It was hard reading so much fear from a society that is fractured and unable to recognize all humans are worthy of equality.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Cuckoo’s Calling

Finished my last book from the RA Favorite list for 2016-17, The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, aka J K Rowling.  Dead body found on the city streets of London, appears to be a suicide, but wait… it is the body of a famous young model, Lula Landry, but her adopted brother, John Bristow, is not convinced that the supermodel, at the top of her career would have killed herself by jumping from the balcony of her apartment.  Bristow, three months after the final ruling by the police that it was a suicide, seeks out the help of a private investigator, Cormoran Strike, who has a strange connection to his new employer.  Strike and Bristow’s deceased brother, Charlie, who died at age ten by riding his bike off a cliff, were best friends.  Bristow hires Strike, a down on his luck investigator, to find the killer.  Strike is assisted by a temp secretary, Robin Ellacott, who ends up being a right-hand aide to the long and complicated inquiry.  There is a very long list of potential killers, including Lula’s addict boyfriend, her personal driver, her homeless friend from the outpatient clinic, her clothes designer, her model friend Ciara, her neighbor and film producer, the film producer’s wife, her personal makeup artist, her biological mother, and the list goes on.  Lots going on here and Rowling does a great job of weaving in all of the stories together very nicely.  As I read on I had a weird feeling that the ending might be convoluted.  To my worst fears, ugh, the worst possible killer was selected.  No way!   Won’t ruin it for you, but horrible ending, in my opinion.  She should have selected another ending, though I was happy that Robin would stay around working for Cormoran.  Sorry, the ending killed it for me, otherwise I would say, read the book.  I look forward to next year’s new books.  Enjoy reading, it’s so important!

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Adventures of Amir Hamza

The next to last RA favorite book for the 2016-17 year (well, we may have 1 or 2 more new ones over the next 4-5 months, but for now), The Adventures of Amir Hamza by Ghalib Lakhnavi is taken from stories dating back a thousand years, if not longer.  The setting is the Middle East and captures the adventures of the lead character Amir Hamza and his two peers.  The tales capture verbal stories passed down from the various escapades of prophet Muhammed’s uncle, Amir Hamza, who falls in love with the daughter, Mehr-Nigar, of Naushervan, a Persian emperor.  Hamza has various near death experiences, but always gets saved/saves himself on his way to find the Mehr-Higar.  He is helped along the way by his “side-kick,” Amar Ayyar (hard to keep the two apart as they are often referred to Amar and Amir - not the best aspect of naming characters).  Amar, uses trickery to help dupe others trying to kill Amir.  Magic, royal-power, and fighting to the death are all featured in this epic tale.  As with “multiple books” I only read the first book, but I got the idea that there would be ‘more of the same’ in the other three books.  In some ways I was reminded of the stories of the battles of The Game of Thrones or the on-going family strife in One Hundred Years of Solitude, though very different in writing styles and endings, as Amir Hamza always makes good, or at least in book one.  Enjoyed the book, though some of the story is repetitive in theme, though different ways of getting there.  A classic, especially in Arabic culture, so for that reason, worth reading to broaden perspective.  And yes, the heroes do end up triumphant! 

Monday, November 7, 2016


Down to my last three RA Favorite books for this year!  Enter the world of futuristic / sci-fi in the city of Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  The time period is 126 years after World War IV which devastated the world as we know it.  Linh Cinder, a cyborg and mechanic, in her mid-teens, is an orphaned young girl now living with a “wicked” step-mother and two sisters, aka Cinderella type-fame.  The Prince’s ball is only a week away, yet Cinder is having to do chores and hold a job to finance the household of wicked step-mom Ardi. One of her “sisters” comes down with the fatal disease letumosis, which kills people within a week.  Cinder being a recreated human through technology is scorned by society as a ‘second-class citizen’.  Early in the story, while working as a tech mechanic, she is visited by the noble Prince Kai, whose father, the Emperor, is fighting to save the world from the wicked Queen Levana, of the moon colony, who has designs to take over Earth.  Kai is smitten with Cinder, but doesn’t realize she is a cyborg, and keeps inviting her to the ball as his guest.  Knowing that her step-mom won’t allow her to go, coupled with the realization she is a cyborg, she repeatedly turns the Prince down.  She does however fix his personal android, a discovery she later learns was broken due to the wicked Queen.  As the story unfolds, Cinder is given to the government by her step-mom, as a means to be the guinea pig of experiments on the potential cure of the illness letumosis. The doctor, Dr. Erland, learns through experimentation, that Cinder is more than a cyborg, rather she is a Lunar (from the same original country as the wicked Queen.  Lunars have special powers on Earth and Cinder is forced to face the reality of who she is with a showdown with the Queen.  Kai becomes the Emperor when is father contracts letumisis and is asked to try and negotiate with the Queen, who plans on marrying him, with the hopes of taking over Earth, but he is attracted to Cinder.  The book comes to a climax during the grand ball when Kai discovers Cinder’s real identity, at the same time Lunar learns new revelations of Cinder and that she is really the nemesis she thought she killed.  What revelations at every turn.  The pace is quick, the story engaging, and the plot thickens. Only one problem… this is a series book!  So to find out what happens, there are more volumes to read.  Quite an idea for a plot, just wish there weren’t more books added to learn the ending. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Going after Cacciato

Sometimes traveling on a long flight allows one to start and finish a book, and it did on a trip to Austria.  A classic 1970s book by renowned author and Viet Nam war veteran, Tim O’Brien, Going after Cacciato.  The book tells the story of an Army squad during the war in Viet Nam.  The group has faced many gruesome loses of lives from members of the squad and now faces another challenge, the disappearance of one of their men, Cacciato.  The lieutenant (Corson) in charge decides that the remaining men in the squad must try and find Cacciato by following where they think he is going, from Viet Nam to Paris, through Asia.  The journey includes escaping an underground tunnel, hiding in Mandalay, and being arrested while being in Afghanistan.  The squad is joined by a young Vietnamese woman, Sarkin Aung Wan, whose oxen is shot by one of the squad members.  She helps the squad many times escape difficult situations.  Paul falls in love with her.  During the various stops on their journey, Paul Berlin almost captures Cacciato numerous times, though he always escapes.   In the end the men lose Cacciato and are back where they belong, lost in isolation and psychological trauma, war that destroys dreams and has soldiers whose life is nothing but staying alive by the fear of death. O’Brien’s skillful knowledge on the psychological damage of the psyche from war is brilliant.  There are so many levels of soul searching we, as a society, should do before ever allowing more war to happen.  Hard to read, but important.  Captures the Viet Nam era perfectly, challenging the beliefs of our country that war solves conflict.  It doesn’t for the individual, who will carry it forever. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Golden Chariot

A griping tale of oppression for women in Arabic culture is found in Salwa Bakr’s The Golden Chariot.  The main character, Aziza, kills her step-father, after he decides on another woman, rather than stay with Aziza as his sexual partner after decades together.  Aziza’s step-father duped his wife (Aziza’s blind mother) of the relationship he began with her when she was under ten years old.  When her mother dies, she continues to live with him throughout her adult life, until the point in which he decides he has found a new woman.  Aziza takes a knife and plunges it into his heart while he is asleep.  She is found guilty of the crime and is sentenced to solitary confinement for fourteen hours each day while in prison.  She dreams of escaping this world and ascending directly into heaven in a golden chariot.   While in prison, she introduces numerous women imprisoned with her, whom she plans on taking with her.  Each of the women who have been incarcerated have similar stories as Aziza, some even more compelling.  Each chapter provides the background stories of two additional woman, ranging from sexual abuse, rape, drug-addiction, poverty, prostitution, and stolen opportunities.  In some way these women become Aziza’s kindred spirits.  Each of the women are escaping the “prison” that they inhabited before coming to this prison.  Bakr’s story captures the multiple injustices that have occurred to this society in transition.  Each of the women portrayed yearn for a life better for their children, and those who are removed from the horror that they have experienced.  Bakr’s rather short stories for each woman is detailed and shows the reader how difficult it is to be a woman in a male dominated culture.  In the end Aziza’s dream comes to a climax…  is it a real escape, or is it solely a dream  that will never be answered?  I was very moved by the book and would encourage this as a top read on the list. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Inventing Paradise – The Greek Journey 1937-1947

Well it happens infrequently, but once in a while you read a book and you immediately question, “I wonder what class this was required reading in?”  Edmund Keeley’s Inventing Paradise – The Greek Journey 1937-1947 is a narrowly focused book on literature, specifically authors who lived in Greece during the pre-through-post World War II era.  Henry Miller, an American writer, is visiting Greece during the low period of the country and provides in-depth picturesque descriptions of the beautiful landscapes and simultaneously, the impending dangers facing the country as Germany inches closer to annihilating the citizenry as it stands at the time.  Miller also presents his various liaisons with Greek writers, such as, Lawrence Durrell (whom Miller had gone to visit), George Katsimbalis, and George Seferis (whom later received a Nobel laureate in literature).  Interspersed throughout the narrative were poems that helped capture the essence of the moments depicting a dark foreshadowing of what was to follow.  The authors would gather together to lament the Greek culture, art, freedom and what may face the society.  Certainly the major issues of politics were central to the conversations.  After the war Miller strayed away from his colleagues, while Greece was to enter a dark period of rebuilding.  The book broke into almost two parts for me, the friendship and comradery of the writers and then the actual historical events that occurred in Greece in the War era.  It almost felt disconnected and hard to stay immersed.  I will admit I am not the biggest history reader, so adding the writers experiences to the book made it hard to stay focused on what the author was doing, or maybe it was me.  Clearly this was a required reading for a Twentieth Century Greek culture course.  If that is your interest, grab the book.  While an ok read, I wouldn’t run out and order it.  For me, I’ll take a pass.  

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Folded Clock

A very unique approach to writing a book, using the “diary-entry” format.  The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits captures entries from diaries from twenty or so years before.  The entries are not in chronological order and serve to illustrate the jumbled and complicated nature of our lives.  Julavits was born in Maine and now serves as a faculty member at Columbia University and is the author of many books.  In this book, she celebrates the life of a woman who seeks to better understand relationships, from mother-hood to wife, from daughter, to friend, and neighbor to teacher.  The diary format feels like a set of short stories as very few entries directly connect to future entries, though we learn a great deal about her two marriages and why the first one didn’t work.  There are moments of raw humor, undeniable sadness, and utter brilliance in capturing how she learns about herself at a given moment in time.  I really loved how her entries capture the inner-conflict that one has, stuck in the turmoil we create for ourselves.  She splits her time from her growing up in Maine (and her return home for summer vacation later in life) and her days residing in New York City.  It makes complete sense why an author would want the NYC feel, but need the solitude and escape to the rural fortress of a place like Maine.  Her honesty and ability to show her weak side provide insight to others how often we make wrong decisions, say wrong things, but in the end don’t regret them.  I think my wife would love to hang with Heidi as she would appreciate her direct and honest nature.  This was a welcome change from the ‘normal’ writing style of an author.  Recently published, 2015, I’d highly recommend an entrance into the private mind of a very intelligent late-forty year old woman. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tokyo Ghoul

It takes all kinds of favorite books to make the list.   Time for a graphic novel called Tokyo Ghoul written and illustrated by Sui Ishida.  While the illustrations are pretty darn good, the story wasn’t what I’d call super interesting.  The lead character, Ken Kaneki, is excited to go on a date, only to find out that his date is a flesh-eating ghoul!  From this he turns into the first half-human, half-ghoul hybrid.  There are lots of ghoul vs. ghoul fights determining who will rule a particular area of the town.  The ghouls are able to disguise themselves in order to get to eat the flesh of humans.  I only read the first of many volumes, though in the part I read, it seemed like a repetitive story with lots of gore and doom.  I think it has a niched reading audience, adolescent boys?  I’d take a pass, though it’s a pretty popular read in some Asian cultures. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Brutal Art

Remember the mystery novels that were best presented by great novelists like Agatha Christie? Well, I found another one in Jesse Kellerman’s The Brutal Art.  In the recently published book, Kellerman uses many of the devises of the great Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and current authors, Dan Brown and Jeffery Archer.  In the story, the main character Ethan Muller, the estranged son of a multi-millionaire, is a twenty-something art gallery promoter.  His father’s chief of staff, Tony Wexler, calls him one morning asking him to drop all that he is doing, as he has found a collection of art that was left in one of the rental apartments that his father owned, and he believes the art paintings/drawings will make Ethan rich.  Ethan finally agrees to go and realizes, there are masterpieces in his midst!  The mystery involves who the missing artist is (an older man who has lived a ‘hermit-type’ life) and why he left all the art pieces behind (he has disappeared).  Ethan shows the art in his gallery and the hoopla surrounding the new art hits the press, including the front page of the NY Times.  A few days later a retired NYPD investigator contacts Ethan wanting to know more about the art, as the one picture captured in the paper is of a young boy murdered forty years earlier that the retired cop was looking to solve.  Ethan, skeptical at first, rebuffs the retired police investigator, until he is beaten unconscious while inventorying the vast art pieces by the artist.  He reaches out to the dying investigator, meets his daughter (a NYC ADA) and gets involved in the solving the mystery, which includes, a bidding war on the rest of the collection, warning notes to stop selling the collection, and uncovering his own family’s dysfunction.  All in all, this is a gripping thriller that surprises and has real life emotion and intrigue.  I actually couldn’t put the book down.  Took me 28 hours (with interruptions) to complete.  If you like psychological thrillers, this is one to read.  And yes, an NYU reference in it as well.     

Sunday, October 23, 2016


I just finished listening to one of the longest books that has been referred to me since Proust’s work.  This time one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami, a Japanese author, pens the book, 1Q84.  Entering a world led by Murakami is an adventure that blurs reality and dream-state, so one has to be open to the ‘possibilities,’ otherwise it isn’t the book for you.  I tend to tremendously enjoy his works, and this one did not disappoint.  The book focuses on two characters, Aomame, the heroine, and Tengo, the male counterpart whom met each other at ten years of age while in elementary school but haven’t seen each other since that time.  An interaction occurred one day in class that would bind them forever, yet their lives were separate until the end of the book.  In fact, each chapter, for the most part, follows the life of them individually.  Aomame enters a ‘new world’ of 1Q84, leaving the year 1984, when she enters a deserted subway emergency escape route when stuck in highway traffic.  When she exits out she enters a subtler different world, or an alternate reality.  Tengo is a writer and is drawn into re-writing a high school student, Fuka-Eri’s, novel called Air Chrysalis, by a demanding editor who believes that the book could win national awards.  Tengo learns about Fuka-Eri’s upbringing in a commune, abandonment by her parents, and inability to communicate outwardly, yet agrees to re-write the book.  The book is lauded with praise, and national awards.  This is when the adventure begins.  At the same time, Aomame, is hired by one of her clients at the gym she is employed by The Dowager, a 70 year old millionaire, to kill the leader of a religious sect, Sakigake, because he has sexually abused young girls for years.   The genius of the book is the intersection of the two lives, Tengo and Aomame.  There are a number of other characters who join in as they try and find Aomame for Sakigake’s murder, in addition to Tengo, who eventually is found out by Sakigake’s body guards that he wrote Air ChrysalisThe book itself has imaginary powers that lead to the empowerment of “the little people” and the idea that the ‘chrysalis’ holds powers.    The Dowager through the aid of her body guard, Tamura, work to try and keep Aomame alive as she attempts to regain the memory of the young boy, Tengo, from twenty years earlier, to seek refuge.  With most translated books, one hopes that it really does capture the meaning of the original language.  I find most of Murakami’s work is understandable, yet in exceedingly specific detail.  While I have given a very high-level overview of the plot, believe me when I say, there is a lot of symbolism, character development, and yes, a good amount of sexual exploits, some sensually described, and some the very opposite and brutal rape.  He is not afraid to dig into taboo topics, and find the underbelly of our society.  If you can stick with the story, it does move fast and all things ‘fit nicely’ together in the end.  I appreciate the precision he places in his story.  The blurring of reality and the dream-state is real life, and none do it better than Murakami.  If you are afraid of long reads, this one is not for you.  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Milk and Honey

Just finished a moving book of poetry focused on human frailty and emotion.  There are few books that capture the spirit with simple but raw feeling in every word like Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.  The book is segmented into four chapters: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing.  Kaur describes the brutality of rape/sexual assault, how physicality can inhumanize others, male dominance, recovery through love, and so many other human emotions.  Her prose is “short and simple.”  What makes the book even more relatable are the drawings that support the words.  Pain is all around us, and while it is a focal point of the book, she also addresses how the pain can be healed, through love and respect of oneself.  Here are a few of her healing thoughts:

                If you are not enough for yourself   --  you will never be enough for someone else

                Some people are so bitter  -- to them you must be kindest

                You  ---  are your own ---- soul mate

                I have what I have and I am happy --- I’ve lost what I’ve lost and I am still happy

                If the hurt comes – so will the happiness

                Accept yourself --- as you were designed

And my favorite:

                How you love yourself is  -- how you teach others to love you

Thank you Rupi for allowing us into your world.  It is a world that we should share often to all.  We are only as good of a people as we act towards others, and most importantly ourselves.  This is worth a read for all!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Lost Boys of Sudan

I’m in the reading zone these days.  Almost a book a day, luckily they are in the 200-220 page range, otherwise I wouldn’t get there.  Just finished the real life story of the how America brought over 3,800 Sudanese refugees to the United States beginning in 2000.  The book, The Lost Boys of Sudan, written by Mark Bixler, provides a historical context into the bloody wars during the Second Sudanese Civil War from 1983-2005 where over 2.5 million people were killed and left approx. 20,000 boys of two tribes (the Dinka and the Nuer) orphaned and moving out of Sudan to other countries in the region. The war was between the Christian and the Muslim sects fighting for control of the country.  The book mainly focused of the struggles of four young men, whom relocated to the Atlanta region.  The author, a newspaper columnist from Atlanta, chronicles their entry to the US, learning how to live in an apartment, getting monies to live, finding jobs, attempting to get an education, and the trials involved of working with non-profit organizations that allegedly are working on their behalf.  The stories illustrate how hard it is for foreigners to acclimate to a new country, how immigrants are constantly being taken advantage of, and that in the end, education does enhance one’s life-time dreams.  Some of the other challenges highlighted include, getting a driver’s license, working through the bureaucracy of receiving a social security card, and finding champions who will help battle through the hoops of US life.  Bixler also exposes each of the four young men’s story of survival through the most inhumane and devastatingly long wars in our world’s history.  Watching parents get tortured, peers being chased into rivers full of crocodiles ready to prey, and walking across deserts at the hottest temperatures possible with no food or water.  The book rips at one’s heart realizing that this level of human degradation occurs every day on this planet, and we as a society allow it to continue.  Religion, envy, greed, and power… they all seem to be motivators for stomping on others.  I remember watching the 60 Minutes segment a decade or so ago.  These young man are a testament to what the American Dream can be for those who have the mentorship and guidance to never give up the dream.  A compelling reminder for all that evil does lurk right around the corner and how lucky Americans are today to have the freedoms we have.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Simply Einstein

There are some books that I finish, but can’t say that I thoroughly enjoy.  Having never been a science geek, when I see books like this one, I have to gear myself up to muster the energy to get through it.  While it is not a boring topic, it is not one I can fully concentrate, hence why physics was not my best class.  You can ask my high school friends, John C. and Scott L.  We took it in senior year and had already achieved senioritis before the class began.  Hence, reading Simply Einstein by Richard Wolfson was difficult at best.  I give an RA much credit for having an academic book, probably a mandatory read in a college course, as their all-time favorite book.  Or was I duped?  It does happen every once in a while that a truly academic read would be given to me.  (I may go back and check on it, nonetheless, I did read it.)  The title says it all, the author’s goal is to have the reader believe that Einstein’s theory is easy and very applicable as a basis for all that follows, “the laws of physics are the same everywhere and every place, and light is always measured to be traveling at the same speed, regardless of how it is created or measured”.  Once you get this concept, Wolfson spends much of the next few chapters methodically sharing examples of how this is true. By doing so, he works to illustrate, “now that wasn’t so difficult to understand, was it?” … physics made easy.  Well… not so fast! What about Galileo’s theory?  Now you have a divergent approach, which Wolfson attempts to connect, albeit with a deep set of examples.  So who is right?  If in fact I was a more of a ‘How’ person rather than a, “just tell me a story” that ‘moves me’ then I may have been more interested.  This is definitely a book for a very niched population of people.  I am not in that crowd, so, it is a big pass on this one for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

An Unquiet Mind

Imagine having clinical manic-depression and persevering to achieve a PhD in clinical psychology, getting tenure at one of the elite academic institutions in the country, and writing numerous journal articles and book chapters while conducting research and running a clinic all at the same time?  Enter the world of Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison whose struggles led her to suicide attempts, moments of exhalations, followed by deep depressions.  Dr. Jamison risked a great deal by telling her true life story, starting from her youth, through her success as a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  She was a pioneer in so many ways, now 70 years old, she not only broke a barrier for women entering the field, but also living with the illness by taking lithium, which can be a very dangerous drug to take.  In her story, Jamison shares the moments she first noticed the struggle, which is hereditary, (her father also suffered from the illness), and the struggles at work, in love, and in friendship.  Her divorce, lost loves, and finally finding her life partner were all explored.  This is a brave woman, who has role modeled how to overcome the odds, which were certainly stacked against her.  Jamison shared the highs and lows and opened her heart to the pains that caused her near death on a number of occasions.  What a brave woman.  For anyone who has experienced mental illness to someone close to them, this story opens up wounds, but knowing that there may be answer warms the heart.  Thanks for sharing your journey Dr. Jamison.  Worth a read.  Quick but powerful. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Everything I Never Told You

A really moving and sad story written by Celeste Ng called, Everything I Never Told You.  The first sentence sets the tone for the entire book, “Lydia is dead”…  Lydia, a sixteen year old girl is found dead in a lake not far from her house.  The rest of the book uncovers what happened along the way.  Lydia, a recluse daughter of James and Marilyn, has been taught to be shy and studious by her environment. She is a born from parents of two different cultures and races, Caucasian mother and Chinese father.  The book is set in 1977 in northern rural Ohio, where her father is a tenured history professor.  Lydia’s siblings, Nath, two years older, and Hannah, nine years younger, have all faced their fair share of stares and out-right racism, though it would not be referred to it in that day and age.  The series of events that led to her death will surprise the reader as the police deem her death a suicide.  Nath, a senior in high school, only four months from entering Harvard University as a first-year student; neighbor Jack, who grows up in a single parent household, and whose mother is a local doctor who works six days a week; and both her parents, who have had a difficult marriage, are all pivotal in the events that led to her death.  The story does an excellent job of capturing the challenges related to children born of mixed-race and heritage and how hard it is to be isolated at such a young age.  I will not ruin the ending of the story, but was surprised in what really happened.  Just goes to show, even in stories, like real life, listening intently to others can provide great clarity.  I sat down and read this book in three and a half hours as it was hard to put down.  I’d suggest this one for anyone with kids, and for those who don’t understand the complexity of multiple identities.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I am Malala

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai is the life story of the young Pakistani teenager who fights for the freedom for other young girls to be educated.  A great education on how American reach constantly impacts the lives of those outside our country.  Malala’s book begins when she is shot in the head by a Taliban militant who wants to end her crusade to provide girls the freedom to gain an education.  The remainder of the book focuses on the years before the shooting, from her birth to the present day.  She presents the political strife from when the country was created as the first homeland for Muslims to the overthrown leaders (those killed and those who were exiled from the country), and to the takeover by the Taliban due to other forces at play in the Middle East.  Much of the politics raised, echo my previous read by Chomsky, noting the US on-again/off-again dealings with thugs who claimed to be leading the country in a way that benefitted the US.  Malala is a product of her father’s upbringing.  He was a staunch believer that girls should have the same opportunities to learn as boys.  He started a school for girls in the valley of Swat and faced the ramifications by the newly formed Taliban military faction.  Over the years the group became more and more corrupt and had a very conservative view of Muslim beliefs, such that they used terror and murder as a means to stop people who did not follow their message.  This eventually led to the shooting of Malala, who was beginning to rise as a country spokesperson in the region for education.  The last chapters of the book focus on Malala’s near death and eventual recovery from the shooting.  She has earned many awards and accolades as a young speaker and motivator for those who want to be educated.  She and her family had to be sent to England for safe haven from the Taliban.  This is a heart-warming story that captures the very essence of the cross roads our society faces today.   Malala stared evil in the eyes and is living a life worth emulating.  Her words are beyond her age, but her life experiences are not.  Every young person should read her life story and will be better able to understand why role models exist.  Have a cause, never give up, and fear nothing.  Her commitment to God, her family, and her cause are refreshing to see in this day and age of hatred, ignorance, and lack of sustained commitment.  A phenomenal story!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

How the World Works

Another politically charged book, this time Noam Chomsky’s How the World Works.  The book discusses Chomsky’s four separate articles/speeches that focus on the US and democracy.  The books focus on US policy decisions during and after WW II through the late 1990s.  Chomsky, a highly critical philosopher, political scientist, and faculty member from MIT, has studied American and world-wide political issues.  Each of the short readings all seem to follow the same message, be distrustful of those in leadership because most politicians work for big business.  His arguments, if grounded in the real data he presents, is not only compelling, but simply put, “we should be doing it!”  Chomsky discusses our alleged “commitment” to democracy and how the vast majority of American voices just don’t understand that they can change the direction of the country by being more vocal.  Chomsky outlines the funding that American leaders have given to corrupt partners in the following countries since WW II: El Salvador; Nicaragua; Panama; Vietnam; Iraq; Somalia; the former republic of Yugoslavia; Israel and Palestine; Japan; India; the Balkans; South Africa; Haiti; Cuba; Mexico; Brazil; Argentina; Chile; Columbia; Guatemala; Pakistan; and Timor (I’m sure I missed a few along the way).  Where hasn’t Chomsky studied?  He also discusses the following issues facing the US: how the Cold War worked for America; Iran/Contra escapade; the war on drugs (why are we so worried about marijuana (it’s making our jails explode); the media (which doesn’t really cover the issues we need them to do, and won’t allow him to share his thoughts); the global economy (GATT and NAFTA disasters for America); the CIA (and what it really focuses on); keeping the rich… rich; healthcare reform (and how we never have gotten to where Canada and most other countries are today); gun control; labor issues/unionization; and campaign finance reform.  Chomsky has a lot to say and he doesn’t seem to have many mainstream friends.  His criticism is jarring and consistent.  He doesn’t trust many in leadership roles and notes that the last President whom we could trust was prior to World War II.  For those studying the current state of the US, this is a must read.  It is a perspective that draws upon data and thoughtful reflection.  I haven’t read many political inquires previously, so I enjoyed it.  I’m surprised that 60 Minutes or other undercover news shows haven’t followed more on Chomsky’s work. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Long Walk to Freedom

A long but important book to have read, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. Mandela’s autobiography on his life as well as his counterparts from the ANC (African National Congress), starts with his youth growing up in the district of Umtata, the capital of Transkei.  Mandela shares the realities of growing up in a village surrounded by poverty and little formal education.   Fortunately for him, he was chosen as one of the few young males to receive a formal education, but this meant leaving home and venturing out into Clarkbury  and then to Healdtown schools.  Mandela was early on a “trouble maker” of sorts, pushing the envelope for fairness and asking questions related to the black African plight.   Each of the chapters capture another aspect of his struggle, from receiving education (to include a law degree), working as an apprentice in a law firm, getting married twice, establishing a law firm dedicated to black Africans, and then his fight against apartheid.  Mandela’s capture after arriving in Johannesburg upon his studies, sets the stage for how he would lead in the future, advocating Ghandi’s approach of non-violent resistance, striking against the government was the response.  White Africans were outraged by this response and began their approach, arresting leaders in the ANC, whom were connected to the communist group within Africa.  Mandela was convicted for his leadership in the strike and was sentenced to five years in prison.  But during the next case against him, in the Rivonia Trial, he was charged for trying to sabotage the government.  He was found guilty, but did not get the death penalty, instead he went to jail at Robben Island with many of his ANC colleagues for 28 years.  The men on Robben Island were forced to do manual labor and many times they were sent to isolation, eating little, and being treated by force and intimidation.  As the years progressed, others continued the fight, especially pressure being placed on the South African government by outside countries to treat Black Africans as equals, giving a voice for voting and better living conditions.  Later, during his imprisonment, Mandela was given access to African government leaders, and when he was released, a highly political process, he began to work behind the scenes with South African president, de Klerk. The final chapter captures Mandela’s rise to being elected as President of South Africa, a feat no one could have ever dreamed of happening.  The book is the real-life voice of the great leader who overcame the most harrowing of challenges to change a country full of racism and hate.  A hero of our time that during these most challenging of times in the US proves that a plan of action that is consistent and on-going will prevail.  Mandela is a man for all ages and all should read this history, that unbelievably was only twenty years ago.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


A fun young adult book in Keeper by Mal Peet.  The story is about a young man nicknamed El Gato who visits reporter Paul Faustino immediately following the victory which earned his team the World Cup championship.  Gato is being interviewed to share his personal story, which he has kept private his entire life.  Gato shares his secret on how he learned how to play soccer.  As a youngster, Gato was under-sized, and not very coordinated.  His family had very limited means and Gato needed to quit school to take on a full-time job where his father also worked.  One day he was startled by a vision of a man, who he later named the Keeper.   The Keeper challenged Gato to play soccer, in particular to be a goalie.  Over the next few years, Gato worked to improve his skills, which would be used when he was called upon to serve as the team goalie at the logging camp, where he was now employed at age fifteen.  Within the next two months he received an offer from a rich business man to join one of the professional soccer club’s high school academy.  After some disagreement from his parents, his uncle convinces the family to allow Gato to follow his dreams.  Gato, after losing in the finals of the World Cup four years earlier, finally gets the championship he has worked so hard to attain.  During his meeting with the reporter, Gato explains the story he wants written…. The story of how he became a superstar.  Imagine Faustino’s response as he hears of the Keeper, a spirit of a deceased soccer player.  It is a fun fantasy story that shows how hard work, having a mentor, and loving something so deeply can assist a person in realizing their dreams.  Young athletes will love this one.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Outsider in the White House

I now know why so many young people got behind Bernie Sanders after reading his book Outsider in the White House.  It is a “book within a book” in which he wrote many years ago, 1997, while he served in Congress and then an added intro and conclusion as he enters the race for President of the United States.  This memoir focuses on his political ideology as a progressive with strong socialist views.   Sanders presents all of his various campaigns for office, from his early losses as Mayor and Congressman, to his wins as Burlington mayor and later as Congressman for Vermont. Sanders serves as the first independent elected to the office of Congress in more than 40 years.  He is clearly a pioneer who fights for the benefit of the poor.  Much of the book shares the intricacies of his campaigns in which he fights big-financed challengers, always in the pockets of companies willing to have a political candidate keep the rich-richer.  Sanders advocates for campaign finance reform where there are caps in how much a candidate can raise for an election.  But his major focus always comes back to the poor, where he believes that if the poor realized their ability to impact an election, they would vote more for candidates who cared for them.  Minimum wage increase, welfare support, education enhancements, and other initiatives that impacted the poor to be more advantaged in our society has always been his main pursuit, ensuring there is more economic equity among all Americans.  Additionally, he describes how he fought the Persian Gulf War, always fearing that innocent men and women in the military would die for fights not worth fighting.  He also has been strong on immigration reform, environmental focus to save our world, voter registration initiatives, improving and focusing on key international world relations, and education affordability.  He is a staunch believer in equal rights from a gender, sexual-orientation, and religion/cultural basis.  His platform and when he presents his ideas suggest he is usually ahead of mainstream thought.  During the Clinton (Bill) Presidency, he argued for more and faster movement on many of the issues listed above.  While he clashed with many during his run for office, he always seemed to present a congenial and respectful disagreement.    The book is timely and helps reinforce this platform, but also a chance for one to compare it to the two current political front runners for President of the United States.  If you aren’t into politics, Sanders presents a case why you should.  I enjoyed reviewing his history and all of the challenges that a third party politician faces.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

As I Lay Dying

I always enjoy reading one of the all-time classic books I have not read previously.  So reading William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, gave me the chance to place a checkmark in the list of all-time Top 100 best novels I had not read yet.  And it was worth it!  Faulkner, a Nobel Prize winning American author from the south, is known for his books that best capture the human condition and challenge that life often gives to each of us.  Faulkner uses a unique style of writing in this book having fifteen different characters narrate the various chapters in the book.  The story focuses on Addie Bundren, a married woman and mother of five, who is very ill while living on the family farm.  Addie dies early in the book and the remainder of the story focuses on the process of bringing Addie’s body for a proper burial in the town of Jefferson, which is a good travel from their farm.  (Note the time of the novel is set prior to cars and other transportation, so their journey involves taking the body, in a home-made coffin, by horse and wagon.  The journey is difficult, which includes: a major rain storm; a washed-away bridge; meeting various people who attempt to help and/or challenge the family; and various personal family issues (broken leg of one son, the knowledge that the daughter is pregnant, and family squabbles over money).  Throughout the book the reader enters the minds of the individual characters, who all face their own personal grief of a lost mother/spouse and also the issues that each one faces in a very difficult world.  Faulkner’s ability to present the psychological dimensions of a family unit and real-life dilemmas using the words of poor people from the south makes for a masterpiece, a book that speaks to the times.  While at first I was worried about the various voices bringing confusion as a reader, this was not the case.  I highly recommend this rather short story.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Redefining Realness

As I traveled down to Atlanta for a consulting presentation, I had the opportunity to read the book Redefining Realness by Janet Mock.  Mock’s compelling real-life story is a huge educational moment for all who are unaware of the struggle that people who are born as one gender, but feel they are another gender, experience everyday of their lives.   Mock, born as a boy named Charles, the descendant of a black father and Hawaiian mother, lived through much turmoil along with her brother bouncing from her two-parent home, then from mother, grandparents, father, aunt, and finally back to her mother.  Mock was steeped in life transitions throughout the challenge to be accepted for living as she believed she was, a girl.  Today, Mock is an author, tv personality, model, and activist for Trans and LGBT rights.    Her story begins as she begins to fall in love with a man and knows that she must tell him her story.  Before she does so, Mock shares her history… how it all began.  Mock acknowledges how difficult her journey was through hiding the deep desire to be a girl, being sexually abused and molested, her early days of thinking performing sexual acts on young peers was her way to gain acceptance, her struggles in school by being bullied by peers AND teachers/administrators, and her decision for reconstructive surgery.  One can’t imagine how lonely this journey must have been, yet she remained committed to being in the body she always felt she should be in.  Her struggles financially to receive treatment and the surgery made her compromise her own values by selling herself sexually to save enough to have the surgery completed.  The reader also gets a glimpse into the ‘grit’ of Mock to commit to her education, winning a full ride scholarship for her undergraduate degree in Hawaii.  She does receive significant support from the trans-community within Hawaii, some which supports her selling her sexual services to men.  Her struggles and final acceptance of what she did along the way to become a writer for and receive her Master’s degree from NYU, yes NYU!, are a  true testament that having dreams matter.  Never giving up and focusing on what you believe in can drive a person to get to whatever they want, no matter the cost.  Mock’s story may be different than others, she explains that she never was depressed or suicidal, unlike many who struggle from the psychological tolls of being outcast by family, friends, and strangers.  Mock ends the book where it began, telling her story.  Surprisingly, the man she loves listens and instead of staying friends, determines that he will be her life partner.   This is a struggle and achieving personal success story worth reading.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Song Machine

Enter the world of the music industry in John Seabrook’s The Song Machine.  Seabrook, a writer for the New Yorker magazine investigates the past few decades of what makes a song popular in today’s society.  He spends time hunting down the history of the “hook,” the beat that keeps on beating in one’s head.  He tracks down the best writers/producers who have the knack in developing these top-rated industry favorites, which he contends mainly stem from Sweden!  (Yes, who would have thought that the beat started by Abba in songs like the Dancing Queen could be the beginnings of the industry that impacts our US music scene most?)  For the ‘pop’ music lover, especially of the past two decades, this book tells you how it unfolded.  From the boys band creation, yes Menudo/New Kids on the Block of the 80s to Boyz II Men, Back Street Boys, NSYNC, to the top Korean boys and girls bands, Seabrook provides insight to their creation and demise and it all starts with the ‘hook’ within the song, what catches the listeners to like or LOVE a song. How the beat sticks in the brain. He meets the label owners, music producers, and those who are writing the lyrics and musical sounds.  His exposés on the rise of Britney Spears, Flo Rida, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, Beyonce and an in-depth look at Rihanna’s rise to stardom are some of his best works within the book.  Yes, for fans of those stars, you will learn how they rose, and some who fell along the way based on their own inability to beat the demons of a rise to stardom.  It appears that few music writers seem to be the ones who are really dictating who the stars will be, sharing their work with a small cast of performers who bring the songs to life.  But besides the individual star reviews, Seabrook presents an investigative approach to how music has changed through the decades as technology has changed (albums, CD, internet streaming) and illustrates how the money stream is affecting today’s talent.  How long can the power of the radio remain the vehicle for new artists to get their move to stardom?  Is Spotify the new way to launch a successful career?  What new communication tools through technology will provide success for a performer based on a delivery system to ensure that money flows to the source who made it?  The book is great.  Understanding how the song, the performer, and the lyrics for some of Pop music’s top songs of the past two decades came together was fun to listen to, yes I did listen to this one.  Make sure you take the time to then pull-up the songs on YouTube as you are reading.  It is true the songs he has chosen to discuss are those that have stuck in your head many times before.  It’s almost as if the repeat button has never stopped and as they say, the beat goes on!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Boy who was Raised as a Dog

I learned a great deal from this RA Favorite book, The Boy who was Raised as a Dog, by Dr. Bruce Perry, a child psychiatrist.   The student, who studies in our CAMS program (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Studies), said that the book is a requirement of one of the courses for the minor.  Dr. Perry shares a series of cases involving children that all broaden his learning and knowledge about the neurosciences.  The cases that are discussed include: parents who try and kill their kids, a parent who keeps their child in a cage, satanic rituals that harm a child, sexual abuse by parent’s boyfriend, kids from the Davidian ranch in Waco, the babysitter who left the child in their crib all day while she had another job away from the home.  Certainly not an uplifting set of stories, but absolutely amazing how Dr. Perry approached each child, using techniques of care and concern, meeting the child where they needed to be met.  The book gives important lessons to parents and affirms the important role counseling plays in answering challenges that our youth face.  It is so sad to read the abuse cases that are all around us, but knowing dedicated professionals like Perry and his colleagues provide optimism in a world of pain, destructive relationships, and abuse.  His last chapter, on creating healing communities is a classic read for all parents, providers, and others who realize the importance of caring.  This is a truly moving set of stories where in most cases, the child is given a chance for a new life.  Thanks Dr. Perry for all of your work.  

Friday, September 16, 2016

One Man’s Wilderness

A fun read which chronicles the real life adventure of Richard Proenneke after his time as a mechanic.  Proenneke, a former US Navy enlistee who spent time at Pearl Harbor returns home to work long hours in the shop but knows he is missing something, serenity!  The book, One Man’s Wilderness, is the actual journal entries of Proenneke during his sixteen month stay in the wilderness of Alaska.  Proenneke moves to Twin Lakes, a very rural location in Alaska where he has friends who built a house and allow him to use it until he can build his own.  Proenneke moves to the area at the end of May, just as the ice is melting from the lakes, and finds a great place to build his log cabin home.  The journal entries from Proenneke include the daily temperature, and a series of topics including: his engagements/search for wildlife, his daily work progress on the house, the depth of the ice buildup on the lake, what he cooks for breakfast, the on-going fishing challenge, or his scenic trip around the area.  Proenneke receives regular visits from his friend, Babe, who brings food and other supplies via his airplane.  This trip and living in the wilderness is a dream come true for Proenneke, whom gave up the fifty hour a week grind.  While the book is taken from the journal and photos that Proenneke wrote, he ends up living there for over thirty years, up to age 90!  While I can’t ever imagine living in a rather deserted area, in Alaska, where temperatures go below negative 40 degrees in the height of winter, eating off of the land, for the most part, I applaud Proenneke for doing so.  He is a complete hero for every Boy Scout and nature lover.  His commitment to the land, keeping it pure, is one of the messages he leaves behind to others.  A fun read and helpful reminder of how life was loved just a century ago for most.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Open City

This is one of those journey of life stories that all of a sudden... BOOM, surprise, totally unexpected.  The book, Open City by Teju Cole, is the story of Julius, an immigrant to the US from Nigeria.  Julius is in graduate school at a local NY hospital, Columbia, studying psychiatry.  The story moves from current day, to his childhood, to his travels around the world.  In each of these times in his life, Julius is searching to find answers to life, make friends, and finish his education.  Much of the book captures Julius’s walks throughout NYC from Wall Street to the parks to uptown, and around the world.  He constantly engages with others to hear their perspectives on life.    At times I wondered, where it would move away from Julius’s chats with the mailman, the homeless person, or the person running the internet café, or if there would be any change that would impact Julius.  A mystery woman, whom he meets in the grocery store introduces herself to Julius, as a former acquaintance, the sister of a former best-friend.   Julius doesn’t remember the woman.  She goes into further detail about attending a party together, still Julius doesn’t remember.  She offers to stay in touch, hoping that she can invite him to meet her boyfriend.  This person will become a critical focus near the end of the book and it may actually have direct impact on his own understanding of impact – that which he has on others.  I won’t give the ending away, but will say it leaves the reader wondering are all of my actions, words and deeds, things that make me happy with whom I am?  On another note, the challenges of being an immigrant are real and we are once again reminded of how the US is not the most welcoming country for those seeking that “Dream” that is often mentioned about America.  What makes this country great is the opportunity to do anything you can dream, but it is not often attainable when means, language barriers, and discrimination raises its ugly head.  There is a lot to like about the book.  I left it being completely uncomfortable.  Hard to say whether I truly enjoyed reading it or not.  But if the goal of a book is to leave you thinking, yes this one did and still does.  

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Graduate

I have read and seen the play, watched the movie, and now I have read the novel, The Graduate by Charles Webb.  The story of a “wiz” kid finishing college after receiving many awards, including a free ride to graduate school for a teaching degree. The story begins right after Benjamin Braddock returns to his west-coast home after his college graduation from an elite east-coast institution.  The problem is that Benjamin has absolutely no motivation to continue his education, get a job, engage with others, or anything else.  His mother and father do everything they can to get Benjamin “jump-started” to move beyond the slump he has entered.  But, they never thought that a party thrown in his honor would have a lasting effect on Benjamin’s life.  Enter the Robinson’s, Mr. Braddock’s partner in his firm, and his wife are invited to the gathering.  Benjamin is cajoled by Mrs. Robinson to drive him home after the party and then the fireworks occur.  Mrs. Robinson seduces Benjamin, a virgin, into her bed and this begins a summer-fall affair.  All this comes to an interesting twist when Mr. Robinson gets Benjamin, who is reluctant to do so, to ask his daughter (Elaine) out for a date when she comes home from college (Berkeley) for Thanksgiving break.  Mrs. Robinson warns Benjamin not to do so, but he does, and he falls in love over the course of the evening.  The rest of the book focuses on Benjamin’s attempt to lure Elaine back after she learns from her mother that she had an affair with Benjamin.  Will Benjamin be able to repair the “love-at-first-sight” that he had with Elaine, or will Mrs. Robinson be successful at keeping her hidden from Benjamin?  In the future, I think they will call this a “period piece” where the language and the actions are very 1960s.  Not totally enamored with this one.  Though when I saw it on Broadway, Benjamin was played by an RA from the Greenwich Hotel and Lorraine Bracco from The Sopranos.  Lots of other stories interest me more.    

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


A series of short poems can ignite the senses, especially when they focus on love, lost loves, loves that never connected, and the dream of falling in love.  All of this and more are contained in Lang Leav’s book of poems titled Lullabies.  Her short stanzas of meaning touch the heart (literally!).  I can see how the RA who suggested it re-reads the book often.  The book is broken into three sections, Duet, Interlude, and Finale.  In the introduction she notes, “I always thought poems were a little like spells … with an almost hypnotic effect.  This combined with love, becomes ever more potent and intoxicating…. What greater magic is there than love?”  Truer words never spoken!  In her poem Keys, she notes the following discussion between two people who certainly are in the infancy stage of love, developing love…  “hearts don’t have locks, she said…… some do, he replied.  There are people who give away the key to theirs for safekeeping.  Others are more mistrustful and give out several keys, just in case.  Then there are those who have misplaced them but never cared to look.  What about your heart, she asked.  He smiled.  Your words are the key to mine, he replied.  Never forget your words.”  A brilliant early phase of the art of finding the right lover.  At times Leav appears to be giving advice, such as the poem, a cautionary tale, which has two lines: “There is a girl who never returns her library books.  Don’t give her your heart --- it is unlikely you will ever see it again.” And Forewarned (advice about a boy): “If a boy ever says, you remind me of someone – don’t fall in love with him.  You will never be anything more than second best.”   And other times she is looking for advice on how to find a heart full of love.  She weaves emotions with language accessible to any reader.  The poems are very short, none longer than two pages, though most only two to three stanzas.  While anyone can enjoy the book, I think it really speaks to those in the early stages of life, looking for answers on how, when, and where love can be found.  I wish I had this when I was 18 years old realizing how my actions and words can impact those who I was attracted to, yet incapable of communicating effectively.  Great read.

Monday, September 5, 2016


One of the faces behind the world of sports and news on national television wrote his own memoir, Roone, by Roone Arledge.  Arledge, a Columbia University alum, tells his story from starting out at the bottom rung of the hierarchy and then proceeding to climb all of the way to President of ABC Sports and the President of ABC News.  Arledge presents himself as a “wheel and deal” guy, always looking to enhance the low-rated ABC Network.  He first created the turn-around for the sports division by bringing in contracts to cover the Olympics, NCAA Football, and his claim to fame, Monday Night Football.  His deals brought ABC into first place against the ultra-rich competition, NBC and CBS.  Arledge shares stories on how he brought the talent of producers, production leadership, and of course, on-air talent.  His stories of how he kept Howard Cosell and Don Meredith in line, while on-air, are among the best, especially for someone like me who was growing up watching the NFL at that time.  After securing significant kudos and support from ownership, Arledge was given the chance to perform a similar turn-around of the news division.  First with ABC News, then Good Morning America, he added both Nightline, 20/20, and Prime Time Live.  Arledge shared many of his innovations for on-air changes that enhanced the productions.  Again, collected (stealing) talent from other networks helped him bring the third-rate shows into first place.  While he was terrible at responding to messages, he was good at selecting talent, especially if they were a team.  He brought Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Geraldo Rivera, David Brinkley, and Peter Jennings to ABC.  All of whom later made their mark in the industry under his tutelage.  Arledge shared many stories of the hard sell and the difficult internationally witnessed headlines of the day.  From the Iran Hostage Crisis (which started Nightline), to the Munich Olympic terrorist kidnapping.  The book is a “tell-all” on how the author experienced the ride to stardom in his field.  Thirty-seven Emmys for his work certainly illustrate his ability to be at the top of the industry.  This is a great read for those in the field of communications, especially network television.  It is a completely different world now with so many cable television channels, the internet, and social media changing the playing field.  If you aren’t interested in the field or not a fan of network news/sports, this may be a sleeper for you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Grit by Angela Duckworth (extra book)

When I was meeting with one of the RAs recently, I asked the regular question: What is your favorite book?  As he began to explain the book, which sounded great, he noted he was half-way through with it.  UGH!  Doesn’t count.  You need to read the entire book to become your favorite.  So he gave me another book, but the title stuck in my mind.  One week later after I entered a book store, I found the book and purchased.  I read it when traveling to NYU Paris.  Well, I will say he was right, it’s a great read.  Grit by Angela Duckworth reviews research conducted by others followed by her own research on what makes someone successful.  Surprising to some, it isn’t talent!  Passion and perseverance are the two variables that lead to a higher level of grit in an individual.  Some of the studies that Duckworth employs to support her hypothesis include: West Point Cadets, Spelling Bee Champions, Olympic Swimmers, and what she learns from top performing CEOs.  The book balances quantitative and qualitative information sources.  Her own life story, always being told by her father that she wasn’t the smartest kid in school, made her work harder.  I have often wondered what makes life-long elite performers on the field, in the workplace, and in the classroom.  Duckworth’s work provided some clarity and understanding on the topic.  The personal stories and experiences make the book accessible to all.  I hope to use the lessons learned for my students, and also for how I want to be going forward in becoming the best I can be at whatever I commit to doing.  Great read!