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...