Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Promise of a Pencil

I series of strange “coincidences” occurred recently… first, at the ACUHO-I conference last week, I had the opportunity to witness the opening keynote, Adam Braun, discuss his “for-purpose” organization, The Promise of a Pencil.  The organization was his brain-child after a few years working at Bain Consulting.  He gave it all up to follow his dreams of starting schools for children in impoverished countries around the globe.  So a coincidence when I returned and the first RA I met with shared that their favorite book was, The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun?  Then in the midst of reading the book, my son called me reminding me of attending a Justin Bieber concert, when I picked the book up, Braun describes how his brother, now a promoter, found this great new 13 year-old talent named….. Justin Bieber.  I haven’t found the third coincidence yet, but I’ll keep looking.  The book itself is a motivating read that outlines a 25 year old who gives up financial security to live his dream, giving purpose to his life and helping others.  Braun’s story of his brief life is captured in thirty “mantras” on how to live big.   He draws upon stories to illustrate his point, weaving in his commitment to his family and friends.  If you don’t get motivated by how he approaches living his dream, what book are you reading?  In addition to the lessons learned, the reader can think about getting involved in the “P of P” movement and help to build a school.  Braun was great live, and having his stories told in more robust fashion was a great follow-up for me.  I highly encourage all college students to pick this one up.  I find way too many young people unsure of living the dream vs. making money.  Read this one, anything is possible.  Braun’s mantras are sensible and easy to understand.  I love his energy, commitment, and ability to dream big!  Get this book….

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Man Called Ove (extra book)

Yes, I love how so many friends enjoy adding to my reading list based on the RA Favorite books.  This time a big thanks to Pat Connor, who actually gave me a book of a friend, (I wonder if Pat actually read this one?).  Nonetheless, since I was caught up with all of the RA Favs, I decided to read this one.  The book by Fredrik Backman, is titled A Man Called Ove that chronicles the life of Ove, beginning in his ‘golden’ age.  The story is much like the cartoon movie “Up” where an older lonely angry widowed male is confronted to face the kindness of neighbors, who introduce themselves by running into his mailbox.  Ove’s life story comes back in bits throughout the tale, where we learn how this orphaned child faces much adversity to become the person he is today.  It is a moving story and one that is worth reading.  You may even shed a tear or two.  It is worth picking up.   

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Streets of Melted Gold (extra book)

I take recommendations for books when I am all caught up with RA Favorite Reads and just finished one today.  This was a special book as it is written by an incoming NYU student, Brittany DuBois, who will be one of my AnBryce scholars.  An amazing task to write a book, but how about at the age of 17?  Brittany presents an “arguably fictional memoir” in Streets of Melted Gold.  A well-crafted tale Ronnelle Khan who immigrates to the US after her parents lose a home to fire and are eventually kicked out of their parent’s home, with a  new baby brother for Ronnelle in tow.   They move to a suburb of Philadelphia, not knowing the language, having a tiny basement apartment to live in, and fighting to get “papers” to become US citizens.  Poverty, lack of language, limited connections, and eating only fast-food, are some of the many barriers facing the Khans.  For Ronnelle, she also is subjected to bullying as she enters the fifth grade.  Her clothes don’t fit, her accent and appearance are both joked on by her peers, and she has limited access to the tools needed to be successful at school.  Through it all Ronnelle survives and along the way she learns valuable lessons about being nice to others, and herself.  Ronnelle befriends the landlord of the home they are living, a solidary middle-aged waitress, whom the neighborhood kids constantly mock.  Ronnelle’s story will warm your heart.  The book captures the various aspects and challenges of being an immigrant and how hard it is to make it in the US.  Very nicely written book by Brittany!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Opposite of Loneliness

Very grateful to the parents of this author for keeping their daughter’s writings alive.  This is an example of turning tragedy into remembrance.  The author, five days after graduating from Yale University was killed in a car accident with her boyfriend, he lived.  After her death, her parents and teachers from Yale and high school put many of her writings together in a book titled, The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan.  It is a series of short stories, fiction and non-fiction.  The author in her brief life, has a unique ability to draw upon an emotional bank exceedingly rich for being so youthful.  The stories focus more on the voices of young female characters, except her real life tale of the 60 year old exterminator.  After many discussions from the seniors at NYU, I sense that Keegan was well aware of the issues that face her generation, fear, self-doubt, desire to achieve at the highest level, an unending need to be loved.  She is clearly an optimist, looking at life as a journey worth pursuing.  Her essay on why 25% of Yale graduates go into consulting was “spot-on” and reflects the challenges of college expense.  She was taken from this world much too early as her talent was beyond her years.  While she does not over glamourize youthful sex, drugs, and rock and roll, it is prevalent throughout.  My favorite story was Hail, Full of Grace.  The story of two high schoolers in a relationship that leads to an unplanned pregnancy.  They put the child up for adoption and the relationship ends, but Audrey (the girlfriend) never finds a true love like Julian (the boyfriend), who himself gets married and has three children.  Audrey returns, in tow with an adopted child at age forty, to her hometown for Christmas and her past life comes to face her head on.  A poignant and beautiful story of regret, love lost, and never letting go of that which drives you.  There is a story for everyone in this one. I have no doubt that this will be one of my top five reads this year.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Princess Diaries

I went from the depth of complexity of the Tunnel by Gass to a lighthearted story of a young teen who discovers she is now a princess in the Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. An interesting fact about the author of this book is that she was employed within the Office of Residential Life and Housing Services at New York University, though it was before my time here.  She worked at Hayden Hall serving as the RHRM, I believe that was the title at the time.  Mia Thermopolis is a ninth grader attending the Albert Einstein high school in NYC.  She is raised by her single mom, her Dad lives far away in Genovia, a small country in Europe.  While in ninth grade, Mia struggles with algebra, hasn’t progressed in growing breasts yet, doesn’t have a date for the prom, and is not a member of the “in-crowd.”  To make matters worse for her is her math teacher is dating her mother!  All of this changes during a visit from her father when it is leaked in the newspaper that she is in real life the Princess of Genovia!  Her life is about to change in a big way.  The boys who gave her no attention, now make her front and center!  But winning big has its down-side.  Being a real life princess means body guards, people who will use you for your wealth, and learning a whole new landscape of being rich.  I had heard of the book and the movies, but never seen them.  This is a fun read of rags to riches with a happy twist at the end.  Wouldn’t take a long time to read and yes, you will guess the ending!  Love that NYU seemingly has a connection on all popular books these days! 

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Tunnel

Have you ever read a book that was clearly smarter than you?  Enter the world of William Gass and his book the Tunnel.  It took him thirty years to write! …and about 30 years for me to ever understand the subtext throughout his “stream of consciousness” on-going 675 pages about a college professor writing a book about Hitler and Nazi Germany.  While there are fragments that focus on the atrocities of the German leadership, the author’s main character, Professor William Fredrick Kohler, offers insights into his own life, with an unending fascination with his penis and his own insecurities around being a male, and the concerns he has about his previous book, Guilt and Innocence in Hitler’s Germany.  He realizes that his own life is full of innocence and guilt and begins to dig a hole (the tunnel) to hide his work as the flaws begin to control his life.   There is SO much in this book that reminds me of a combination of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and Kurt Vonnegut’s books.  How so?  The stream of consciousness of both authors and the writing over the pages with funny words, notes in the margins, etc.  It also has the subtext that requires the reader to be slow and methodical to completely understand the various messages contained within.  This is one of those books that from the onset I had a really hard time connecting.  It needs complete attention and constant reframing.  You also need about 2-3 weeks of solid commitment to get through this one, or you may miss the many themes, issues, and humor, which I caught a little bit.  Yes, this one is beyond my attention span and comprehension, or at least on warm sunny days sitting on a boat! This one won’t make my top five this year…