Friday, November 17, 2017

Children of the Matrix

Children of the Matrix
by David Icke

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Gastronomical Me

The Gastronomical Me
by M. F. K. Fisher

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim
by Mahmood Mamdani

Finished reading Good Muslim, Bad Muslim by Mahmood Mamdani.  I expected a very different book based on the title, thinking it was about how one can be perceived as a ‘good Muslim’ or ‘bad Muslim’. Instead, the book illustrated how the US has helped create a positive view of Muslims when they acquiesce to the country’s demands, and a negative view when they don’t adhere to the demands of US leadership. The book provides historical context on how powerful/rich countries have greatly influenced how another country is run, and not always in a positive manner.  The author’s historical backdrop, which includes periods from the French Revolution to the Cold War, describes how countries have not been very forthright with their people in communicating their real intentions when they attempt to form a ‘collaboration’ with Muslims. Of course, the book does also tie in the perception of Muslims being “bad” when countries manipulate them for their own benefit (in this case, oil or other goods/services or use of the collective people for political purposes – Iran vs. Iraq, etc.)  How could Osama bin Laden be a strong ally to the US and then be seen as terrorist enemy #1 in the world?  The ever-changing US foreign policy is analyzed and shown to be a major cause in the shift from once friendly “partners” to terrorists who allegedly bombed the Twin Towers in NYC.  Mamdani presents data and examples of how he believes the US actually fostered the terror that hit our country and the world by deciding to harness and even cultivate terrorists during the latter half of the Cold War as it sought to roll back the Soviet Union's global influence. He later goes on to suggest that no Chinese wall divides 'our' terrorism from 'their' terrorism. Each tends to feed the other.  Mamdani makes the distinction between "political Islam" and "Islamic fundamentalism". The reader is left to seriously question the succession of ‘fatal errors’ our leadership made in making deals with individuals/groups that the government later tried to destroy.  Most of what is presented in the book (Iran Contra hearings, 9/11, Central American unrest, military coups in South America) were all things I remembered growing up, and I found it helpful to gain another perspective.  Historians and those looking to serve in governmental leadership positions will enjoy this particular point of view, whether to agree with or emphatically debate. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Leopard

The Leopard
by Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa

I really enjoyed reading The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa as I have been in the mode of ‘heritage’ learning as of late.  Having grown up around many Italians, and later living in Little Italy in NYC, learning about the Sicilian society was a treat.  The story begins in the mid-nineteenth century where the protagonist, Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, and his people are in the midst of a civil war. The novel follows a 25-year period during which Fabrizio grows into an old man, facing the change of leadership within the country and the eventual merging of the separate “city-states” into one country with a changing political system.  Fabrizio’s family (nephews and children) play large parts as secondary story lines, showing the process of falling in love, family commitment to one another, and the challenge to stay true to the elders of the ‘tribe’.  Fabrizio’s own aging process as a family patriarch and the ability to stand firm against other governmental leaders to keep his community intact are traits to be admired and followed.  One gets a real sense of the old European traditions, politics, and family values.  I can see why this was such a huge success when it was published.  A strong book worth reading!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

In the Footsteps of the Prophet

In the Footsteps of the Prophet
by Tariq Ramadan

I always enjoy learning about topics that I don’t know as much as I should, so reading In the Footsteps of the Prophet by Tariq Ramadan was exceedingly helpful.  As NYU has experienced an increase in its Muslim student population, I have had the opportunity to engage with more RAs who are members of the Muslim faith tradition.  This book allowed me to learn the life story of the religious leader, the prophet Muhammad.  Muhammad received the last revealed book, the Quran, which shares the position of the faith leader.  He is believed to be the chosen one to reveal the message from God.  Muhammad reveals the path of spirituality by “transcending the respect and love for God in the worship and love they must offer to ask of the One who begets not and is not begotten”.  The book presents Muhammad’s life from beginning to end and shares the five pillars of Islam: Faith; Prayer; Charity; Fasting; and pilgrimage to Mecca.  A must-read for anyone curious about the origins and faith tradition of the Muslim religion.  The book helped me tremendously in understanding the historical context and many of the rituals I witness our students practicing.  We have a vibrant community on our campus, and, as Western society is confused by the teachings of the religion, I say this is a ‘go-to’ teaching guide to refer to in your introduction to the faith.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Punished – Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys

Punished
by Victor M. Rios

A similar read to Gang Member for a Day, the book Punished – Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys studies Black and Latino boys in the Oakland, California area. It is written by another sociologist, Victor Rios, who himself comes from the life of the boys he studies, having committed crimes and being a ‘self-described’ delinquent as a teen.  He was a member of a gang, witnessed murders, and was involved in illegal activities.  In the book, Dr. Rios follows 40 young men from his home area.  His main focus is to demonstrate that “punitive social-control” does not work.  Having more police, who physically intimidate the youth, only forces them to resist more.  Additionally, having teachers who aren't supportive and don’t create environments where kids are given multiple chances to prove themselves only pushes the students further away.  Three-strikes-and-you’re-out laws don’t work and will lead to more funds spent on jails.  Rios begins his book with definitions that explain ‘hypercriminalization’ (illustrating trends in how youth are punished today), the context of the area (the demographics and breakdown of diversity in the Bay area), and showing how few community programs exist as funding has been reduced.  After the inputs, Rios shows the outputs (consequences), which include more jails, more arrests, and the low graduation rates of youth in the urban center.  He provides a rich, qualitative voice from the youth who participated in his study.  He puts a face on the kids who aren’t given a name but feel only the wrath of the local police.  His data is substantial and once again proves the point that most government-led efforts, such as ‘attempting to help impoverished youth’ needs to be more than ‘carrying the heavy stick’ – more effort needs to be made to show the youth that getting out is possible.  Congratulations to Dr. Rios for escaping his gang and for his work in telling the stories of those who can’t escape.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Alamut

Alamut
by Judith Tarr

This was a hard one to wrap my head around, partially because it’s hard to listen to a book over a long period of time and especially so when you are also reading books at the same time. Three of my last six books on the RA Favorite list are connected to the Muslim religion.  Enter the world of Alamut by Judith Tarr. (Note: I only listened to book one, so I can’t tell you how it all ends.) Set in the 11th century, a war between the young King (representing the Islamic state) versus the stronghold, Saladin. It is a war representing two religions, and stuck in the middle is Prince Aidan.  The Prince is taken with the beautiful Morgiana, who is some sort of spirit (not human nor mortal).  She lures him into her bed, though he is already betrothed to another who is with child.  The battle between religions, temptation of beauty, and the inner struggle of doing the right thing all make for a compelling story.  In the end, the beautiful Morgiana shows up, unexpectedly demanding to keep Aidan for her own.  I guess I should read part two…but part one didn’t lure me in enough.  Aidan, the enemies in battle, the various wives and lovers made for some confusing storylines….  I’ll take a pass. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Great Unknown – Seven Journeys to the Frontiers of Science

The Great Unknown
by Marcus du Sautoy

I remain convinced that the diversity of interests and topical areas that RAs engage with at NYU is second to none.  There are some subjects that are beyond my full understanding – this book is in that category. In The Great Unknown – Seven Journeys to the Frontiers of Science, the author, Marcus du Sautoy, seeks to explore the seven ‘edges’ of knowledge in the areas of science that are unknown, and provides current and past lessons learned.  Sautoy provides historical research as he posits each of the seven ‘edges’: Chaos; matter; Quantum physics; the universe; time; consciousness; and infinity.  He notes early in the book that he is an atheist, though he does come to realize that IF God is like “this”, then it is plausible that he could be persuaded there is a God.  From Big Bang theory to the realization that the world isn’t flat; from math equations that help science be better understood to which number will my die land on when I roll it next….  This is a book for those who sit around contemplating how the world began, how it sustains itself, and what the future has in store.  Black holes, planets colliding, what neural transmitters help best with an activity – Sautoy is brilliant and asks questions that are great for any non-scientist stuck in an elevator….  This book is out of my own sphere of interest, but I would hand it off to math and science focused readers.  It is recently published (2017), so the information is pertinent to today’s greatest thinkers.  For me, a pass; for the science enthusiast, pick it up now!

  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Surfacing

Surfacing
by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s second novel, Surfacing, is clearly a book that was supposed to be read on Halloween.  First, the protagonist is unnamed, an element of writing you don’t often find.  Second, we learn that our protagonist, a female in her twenties (I think), travels back to her summertime family cabin in the Canadian wilderness to find her missing father…. Has he disappeared to get away from something, did someone kill him, or did he kill himself?  Our protagonist brings three friends with her on the journey for her father.  The group is embedded in the 1970's culture of free love, where sex with each other, across lovers, has no boundaries.  We learn of our protagonist’s past: an abusive husband; losing her child to her ex-husband; a brother who drowned in the lake where they are now searching for her father; and some other family tragedies.  As the search continues, the protagonist learns of her father’s death (he too has drowned) and is challenged to find sanity having lived an insane life.  This journey is one worth reading.  Atwood’s ‘line crossing’ from real and imagined, finding sanity through devastating life experiences, makes for a great psychological downward spin.  No wonder I enjoy Atwood’s books so much...   

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Far From the Madding Crowd

Far From the Madding Crowd
by Thomas Hardy

Listened to a classic love story, one for the ages, in Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd.  The title confused me, but, after looking it up, I understood that it referred to a “frenzied” crowd, and what a crowd it is when it relates to the heroine, Bathsheba Everdene.  The story is set in rural England, where the protagonist, Gabriel Oak, a young farmer, begins his travels with a group of sheep and sets eyes upon the lovely Bathsheba, with whom he immediately falls in love but also realizes that she may be out of his league.  Still, he garners the courage to ask for her hand in marriage after spending numerous hours with her.  He is rebuffed and she leaves to live with her aunt.  After he loses his own sheep due to some bad luck, he, by chance, while looking for jobs, helps to put out a fire on a farm in a nearby town. He asks for a job but shortly discovers that the owner is…Bathsheba!  She reluctantly hires him.  Bathsheba discovers that she has a new admirer, whom she decides to play a trick on by sending the older, well-off farmer, William Boldwood, a Valentine’s Day card with no signature.  This blows up on her when she finds out Boldwood is serious about marrying her. She, once again, also spurns Gabriel, who learns of her ‘mischievous’ ways towards Boldwood, by firing him.  There is a third man who comes into Bathsheba’s life, the young and handsome Frank Troy, whom she eventually marries, even though he had promised to marry another woman prior. What he is unaware of, though, is that he impregnated his former lover.  And guess who this woman is…Bathsheba’s former servant, Fanny.  All the while, Bathsheba has rehired Gabriel to oversee the sheep and the farm, as things went badly without him.  Things get worse for Bathsheba as Boldwood has never forgotten about his love for her and awaits any opportunity to have her as his wife.  That opportunity comes when Frank Troy, also a bad gambler, learns of Fanny’s death and the death of his unborn child, which leads him to pronounce to Bathsheba that he loved Fanny more than he could ever love her.  He leaves and is presumed dead when his clothes are found near the ocean.  Boldwood offers to marry Bathsheba after a six-year period during which Frank’s death is accepted as reality.  As the years progressed, Boldwood pressures her more and more to marry him.  But before the ceremony is to occur, guess who returns?  Frank Troy!  What ensues is a twist for all times…Boldwood shoots him dead and is arrested.  Bathsheba, who still loved Frank through it all, is devastated, but who comes to save the day?  And yes this is how a love story ends…the guy gets his woman…. Gabriel, through his consistency and never-ending love for Bathsheba, finally has her realize love was in front of her all along.  In many ways, this story is a precursor for all of the drama serials that are on TV today.  It’s nice when the “good guy” finally is recognized for his undying love.  Melodramatic?  Sure, but the power of love wins out. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The History of Vartan

The History of Vartan
by Elisacus

A really hard book to find from the RA Favorite list – the ancient tale of the Persians vs. the Armenians in Elisacus’ book The History of Vartan, And Of The Battle of the Armenians. Religion is inextricably linked to early civilizations in the world.  Welcome to the story of the Armenian faith, tested by bloodshed and power struggles, but rooted in faith.  The Christian traditions are present throughout and explained in chapters one and two, from Adam and Eve, the birth of Jesus, his days as a prophet and then to his death.  Vartan, the leader of the Armenians, wins a huge battle against the Persians, only to be set up by the leader of the Persians - Vagas - who lies, cheats, and eventually defeats Vartan, killing him.  But the religious leaders of Armenia appeal to some of their counterparts and Vagas is found to be a fraud, giving back Armenia’s rightful place as a republic.  A quick but comprehensive overview of the Christian ideology and history as well as how religion played such an influential role in the past, and still does today….  

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Shock Doctrine

The Shock Doctrine
by Naomi Klein

Some text books aren’t as bad as others for me to read, and this one helped provide perspective on economic life within our society and what drives it down – “capitalism at its worst”, as described by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine.  The term ‘shock therapy’ refers to a series of actions taken with the sudden release of price and currency controls, withdrawal of state subsidies, and immediate trade liberalization within a country. This is done in conjunction with high utilization of the private sector to do work rather than reliance on government under the theory that the private sector can ‘save’ the economy.  Klein provides clear examples in the book that suggest this is not an effective way to solve the problems of the country in question, at least not on its own.   Klein points to countries all over the world where the ‘neoliberal free market’ policies, which were crafted in-part by economist Milton Freidman (noted U Chicago faculty member), created disaster over the past 50+ years.  Klein’s examples are well studied with credible sources to back up her claims.  Examples include: the beginning of Chile’s demise through Milton Friedman and his University of Chicago outpost in that country; the transformation of South American countries to embrace capitalist markets, which led to 365% inflation rate; the rise of Boris Yeltsin as the first President of Russia (and the consequent collapse of the Russian markets); the Middle East’s demise after relying on the private sector to solve its problems;  the United States’ downfall after 9/11 with former politicians who now sell their services to the government; and a flurry of other countries from South Africa to Israel.   If you don’t have knowledge on how economics are influenced by strategy, read this book. It is thoughtful and shows how, in this age of focus on security and safety, the investment markets have changed.  Powerful and a must read for anyone studying the economics of civilizations.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Seveneves

Seveneves
by Neal Stephenson

Listening to a 33-hour book is not always easy, but, in this case, I found a book that I can recommend to others.  The book Seveneves by Neil Stephenson was published in 2015 and has lots of references to recent technological advances (Snapchat, Twitter, etc.), so it’s relatable to many readers.  It is a pre- and post-apocalyptic story that relates to the end of Earth when the moon breaks into 7 pieces and heads to Earth in two years, which is expected to destroy everyone on the planet.  What I liked about the story is that the author took three stories and put it into one book, rather than book 1, 2 and 3.  The first part of the story revolves around the characters located in the space station, who are watching the situation unfold on earth while working to expand the space station. On the ground, scientists/astronomers along with political leaders are trying to plan for the end of Earth in just over 700 days.  Part two revolves around what happens when earth is destroyed and the space station is the only salvation for the human race (yes, there is a collection of egg and sperm in the space station to help with rebuilding civilization).  And part three looks 5,000 years into the future when earth becomes inhabitable again and details the story of the seven races (taken from the remaining seven women who made it on the space station and their descendants).  Parts one and two were great, full of fast-paced action, but part three dragged on with too many references to the various communities within earth and the Seveneves’ offspring.  The author did a great job scaring me with the reality he created…a phenomenal concept for how the world might end.  High marks for compelling characters and storyline, though, again, part three didn’t work for me too much.  You need to have a lot of time to read this one.  Harder to listen with so many characters being introduced throughout.  

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Analects of Confucius

The Analects of Confucius

One of the most popular phrases in advice giving in civilization (albeit less today) is “Confucius says….” Enter the world of the book The Analects of Confucius.  While I don’t remember many of them, there was a familiarity of this ancient Chinese philosopher’s words as I listened to the audiobook this past weekend.  Confucius was a moralist, a believer in a higher being, and expressed love towards parents (and those in authority).  Virtue was a thing to be harnessed and shared.  He wanted people to be educated, live an ethical life, and carry oneself with dignity, respect, and speak with integrity.  The book is broken into a series of ‘books’ which focus on ritual, discipline, governance, politics and history.   Here are a few of the statements that follow his philosophy:

The Master said: When the father is alive, observe the son’s intent. When the father dies, observe the son’s conduct.

Do not be concerned that no one recognizes your merits. Be concerned that you may not recognize others’.

When I was fifteen, I set my heart on learning. At thirty, I took my stand. At forty, I was without confusion. At fifty, I knew the command of Tian. At sixty, I heard it with a compliant ear. At seventy, I follow the desires of my heart and do not overstep the bounds.

When you see a worthy, think of becoming equal to him; when you see an unworthy person, survey yourself within.

That I have not cultivated virtue, that I have learned but not explained, that I have heard what is right but failed to align with it, that what is not good in me I have been unable to change – these are my worries.

When walking in a group of three, my teachers are always present. I draw out what is good in them so as to emulate it myself, and what is not good in them so as to alter it in myself.

What I like about the book is the repeated simplistic ideas on improving oneself.  Especially prevalent is the concept of reflection and working to ‘self-actualization’ as a person.  What better thing than trying to be better and better, yet never getting there.  This is a rather short read but highly influential in its time for the ruling class.  High marks as it pertains to us today, especially with this political world we live in.  Maybe we can send a copy to some of our leading politicians….

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Once and Future King

The Once and Future King
by T.H. White

33 hours of listening on audible and I’m finished with a thrilling classic novel called The Once and Future King by T. H. White.  It is the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the round table.  Many of you have heard of King Arthur, Merlyn (the wizard), Queen Guenever and Sir Lancelot, but have you read their entire story, from origin to conclusion?  I can now say I have.  This book is broken into five parts (in this edition):

1.) The Sword in the Stone: Arthur’s early life with his uncle, Sir Ector and how Merlyn trained him through his wizardry, turning Arthur (known as Wart at the time) into animals and insects to teach him lessons needed for his reign as King.
2.) The Queen of Air and Darkness: Arthur’s life with his relatives in the Orkney Clan.  Arthur coming into his own as a very young ruler, establishing his close relationship with Lancelot, and the creation of the round table of knights.  It is the beginning of how he will rule as the King.
3.) The Ill-Made Knight: Lancelot falls in love with Queen Guenever, and they attempt to hide their relationship from the King.  We are also introduced to Elaine, who has an affair with Lancelot (though he is tricked to think it is Guenever), and this one-night affair produces a son, Galahad.
4.) The Candle in the Wind:  the house of Agravaine reveals itself to Arthur and the secret of Guenever and Lancelot are brought to light, affecting all three characters.
5.) The Book of Merlyn: Merlyn’s lessons are revealed to Arthur as his life is coming to an end.  All of the insects and animals appear to reflect each of the lessons.

While I have watched movies & read a short synopsis of this classic tale, this was my first time taking it all in.  The third and fourth parts were my favorite as it brought much of what I remember together.  It is a rich, complicated history with some twists and turns.  The relationship between Lancelot and Arthur from childhood is remarkable as is the story of betrayal.  Even Guenever has to endure Elaine’s production of an offspring, something she herself could never do.  This might be a good read for a long break…perhaps between semesters?  Glad I added it to my collection of books finished!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Electric Sound

Electric Sound
by Joel Chadabe

I will say it was hard to read a “text book” even if it is an RA Favorite Book.  For some industries, it makes sense, especially when one has so much passion for the topic.  In this case, the book is a history of how “electric music” was added to the world of music.  The book, appropriately named Electric Sound, was written by Joel Chadabe.  Chadabe has composed music and is recognized as one of the pioneers in the creation and advancement of interactive music systems.  The book details how music was enhanced by adding systems of electronics to the sound, how it was created, how it sold, and who influenced whom in the industry.  It is a “who did what and when” and how that influenced the next generation.  Chadabe presents the early instruments that changed the entire music scene.  His book stems from the early 1900s and how the sound worked in concert with the early days of the telephone and even got mixed up in the same wires.  He later discusses the evolution of taped sound, which led to the creation of ‘sound studios’ and even outside studios to record this new music.  He profiles synthesizers, computer generated sound and then how sound is now invented.  His last chapter reflects on the next generation and what music will look like going forward.  Overall, if you aren’t into sound creation and this movement of computer/studio-created sounds, you will be bored -for much of the book, I was.  I never played an instrument (I’ll refrain from arguing that my 4th grade violin experiment as making music), though I enjoy listening to music, so the history of the electronics influencing today’s music was simply a topic I have no interest in reading about further.  I did finish it but clearly not a fan of this type of book.  A very niched read for sure.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Inheritance

The Inheritance
by Sahar Khalifa

Finished The Inheritance by Sahar Khalifa, a Palestinian author who shares the moving story of a young woman, Zayna, born in America from the union of a Palestinian father and American mother.  Her mother leaves the family after her birth and she lives with her father in Brooklyn.  At age 15, she violates his honor by getting pregnant.  His rage includes an attempt to kill Zayna, but he is stopped by her maternal grandmother.  Her father leaves her to go back to his homeland in the West Bank, and she remains with her grandmother.  After a successful academic trajectory, which included receiving her doctorate and being hired as a professor, Zayna longs to be reconnected to her father, which leads to a search of his homeland.  The second part of the book focuses on Zayna’s unhappiness in life, and a letter from an uncle informing her of father’s impending death.  Zayna decides to face whatever she will find in the West Bank and a family she didn't know existed.  What she finds is a new “stepmother”, who recently wed her father, who has done well financially.  Her uncle and his family believe that Zayna should inherit all of his land and money, but his new wife informs all that she is pregnant, even as a woman in her 40s, 30 years his junior (she was inseminated just a few months prior to her husband’s illness.)  The rest of the story goes into great detail of the issues related to family, the role of women in the Middle East during the 1990s, and who should get the inheritance of a large financial windfall.  The story reveals the restricted role women have in Palestine through the lens of a woman.  Father against children, daughters against brother, and raw horror of sexual abuse are all detailed in a very moving story.  (Note: it is translated into English so the glossary in the back is helpful for Arabic idioms and language nuances.)  Another book hard to put down.

  

Monday, October 9, 2017

Moments Captured

Moments Captured
by Robert Seidman

An interesting story by Robert Seidman in Moments Captured, which uses the real-life photographer, Edward Muybridge, and some stories from his life in conjunction with some divergent storylines.  It is a unique approach to utilize one of the “father figures” of photography to create a story.  Muybridge had two patents and is best known for his work in capturing animals in still and moving pictures.  In the novel, Muybridge, who hails from the UK, moves to the US in the 1860s at the time of the gold rush and migration of the east coast residents to the great west.  Muybridge assists in capturing a ‘gunslinging’ robber by taking a still picture of him, well before cameras were known by most people.  The picture helps capture and eventually is used to find the man guilty of the crime, for which he is later executed.  During the incident, Muybridge meets Holly Hughes, and they immediately become lovers.  The author goes into great detail describing the sexual exploits of the couple, and we learn that Hughes is a self-made woman who believes in “free-love”, being comfortable in numerous relationships at once (though her feelings for Edward make her think otherwise).  Hughes is a renowned French dancer and feminist and she pushes her agenda to the aristocracy of the San Francisco Bay area.  Muybridge gets hired by Leland Stanford (the man after which Stanford University is named) to help capture the movement of his horses on film.  Stanford later hires him to take stills of the building of the Pacific rim railroad tracks.  Hughes’ old lover, Jacques Fauconier, arrives during her opening night show, which she ends by spouting why “corsets are damaging to women” while the rich, white audience is aghast.  Fauconier tries to seduce Hughes, but she reneges his advances because of her attachment to Muybridge.  Muybridge becomes so enthralled with getting a large salary from Stanford, coupled with his desire to enhance his standing as a great photographer, that he leaves Hughes for a few months and forgets to contact her.  While he is away, Fauconier is finally able to convince Holly to spend an evening together.  It is an “over the top” sexual escapade that ends with him returning to her home.  That same evening, Muybridge returns after abruptly leaving the winter mountain site of the Pacific railroad buildout.  He finds Fauconier and Holly nude, asleep in each other’s arms.  He becomes so angry that he kills Fauconier with a gun that was given to him by a friend to escape from the mountain.  A trial ensues and Muybridge is found not guilty of manslaughter because of temporary insanity.  Holly can’t forgive him for killing Fauconier and leaves town for good.  Muybridge’s life is never complete now that he has lost Holly.  Will they ever get back together?  How will Muybridge ever move forward with his life having lost his work for Stanford?  What further contributions will he make to the field of photography?  It’s a really interesting story with some further twists related to the feminist movement, photography, and the story of the man who helped create Stanford University.  This was one of those books I couldn’t put down.  Interesting plot line with lots of twists, and a surprising plot from the very first part of the book comes into play at the end.  Again, like the device of using real-life people but changing many aspects of their life.       

Saturday, October 7, 2017

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
by Jules Verne

Finished what some believe should be on the greatest 100 classic novels of all time, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  It isn’t a short read, so be prepared as it has a great deal of detail throughout (I’d argue too much at times).  The story takes place in the year 1866, and some believe there is a sea monster in the ocean that needs to be captured.  Professor Aronnax, a French marine biologist who serves as the narrator of the story, accepts an invitation to join the expedition along with two other interested parties – a harpoonist (Ned Land) and Aronnax’s faithful companion, Conseil.  They leave from New York’s harbor and get to the Pacific Ocean where they face the monster!  They are knocked into the ocean and captured by the “monster”, which, in reality, is a submarine.  Submarines were not recognized at that time, and as the three men are brought aboard, the captain, Captain Nemo, welcomes them to the vessel - the Nautilus - which was built in secrecy.  Nemo also shares that the state-of-the-art boat is used for scientific experiments and is not to be revealed to anyone – hence they are now his captives forever.  The three captives endure 20,000 miles of travels throughout Earth’s oceans.  They see fish species they had never seen before, all types of organisms, and shipwrecked boats under the sea.  They endure being trapped under icebergs in the South Pole and they see landscapes from one continent to another.  The men become depressed as the months move on, realizing the Nemo has no intention of ever letting them free.  The men plan an escape, but, before they can act, the submarine enters the Norwegian “Maelstrom”, one of the most turbulent seas in all the world.  Will they escape? Will they be stuck on the Nautilus with Nemo forever?  You will need to pick this one up to learn what happens to Aronnax and his two shipmates.  While it is a classic, it does tend to roam a bit.  The story picks up a bit in the last ¼ of the novel.  I can take one more of the “greatest written” off my list to read.

  

Friday, October 6, 2017

A is for Activist

A is for Activist
by Innosanto Nagana

Lessons can be learned from all books, ranging from large volume books to 16 page children's books. The latter is the case in Innosanto Nagana’s A is for Activist.  Nagana’s book goes through the alphabet, educating young children (and adults, I’m sure) on aspects of civil engagement.  The illustrations that accompany the lessons for each letter are a plus.  I won’t go through all 26, but below is a sampling of some of the best:
            “C”: Co-op meaning cooperating cultures
            “D”: Democracy is more than voting
            "H": Healthy food
“M”: Megaphones making noise
“P”: Peace, power to the people
“Q”: Question
 “R”: Radical reds, (w/pictures of key advocates of peace: MLK, Nelson Mandela, Rosa                        Parks)
 “S”: Sun, fuels all life
“W”: Wondrous world, we cannot be whole unless we delight in diversity

Nagana chooses just the right words to help one think through the importance of voice, participation, and being active in all that is around us.  The book brings me to the letter “Q” for question: am I doing enough myself in these turbulent days we face? 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Endurance

Endurance
by Alfred Lansing

Alfred Lansing, renowned author, penned a historical novel titled Endurance, which combines portions of the journals of several shipmates on Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic expedition to the South Pole in 1914.  The twenty-eight-member crew began their journey from England to head to South America before trying to be the first to circle the area and return home.  The book outlines the harrowing journey in which the ship gets caught in ice and has to set a new course, using small life boats to finish the trip.  The intricacies of the crew’s survival and hopes to be saved after it escapes in the smaller boats is one of the most amazing tales I’ve read.  Lansing does a terrific job of taking separate crew members’ journals to piece together the daily struggles which lasted over two years!  Shackleton and his crew are faced with many minute-to-minute decisions that challenge their survival from being on the seas, stuck on an iceberg, or when they are on the last leg of the journey, having to descend a thousand feet down a cliff.  The book keeps you at the edge of your seat thinking there is no way they will live, yet they do!  Unbelievable that men can live in subzero temperatures, wet, with limited food, no water for 2-3 days and no way to get dry.  It makes one ask, why are we as a society so weak today?  Great story of courage, passion and perseverance.  Lansing’s work is top notch and an inspiration to read how it all unfolded.  Read it!


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Centre of My World

Centre of My World
by Andreas Steinhofel

It was hard book to find, since it was written in German and recently translated into English, but I found a copy of it, and I’m glad I did.  Centre of My World by Andreas Steinhofel is a really good book that I could not put down.  Glass, a seventeen-year-old who is 8 ½ months pregnant, abruptly leaves America and goes to a remote part of Europe to move in with her older sister, who owns an old mansion.  As she approaches the mansion, she falls down and begins experiencing contractions, delivering a set of twins (Phil and Dianne) in the midst of the winter eve.  She is found by a woman, a lawyer assigned to find the mansion’s owner as the sister has died.  Now the story begins….The mystery surrounding Glass and her children coming to the new town, the strange people who inhabit the area, the people who befriend Glass, and the stories of Phil and Dianne growing up.  The author’s device of returning to earlier aspects of the story to fill in what we don’t know works well.  The family dynamics between Glass and her children and learning who their father is becomes an ongoing issue that plays a role in Phil’s development.  Phil is the protagonist of the story and his friendships, need for a father figure, and understanding his sexuality, and learning to love are all beautifully presented.  Phil’s relationship with a mysterious classmate, Nicholas, and what happens when his best friend, Katja, learns of his budding sexual relationship turns into jealousy and an unexpected outcome.  So much in this book, great character development, real family drama and love, jealousy, envy, and secrets.  This is one of the books you pick up with low expectations and end up changed a bit because of what you experienced.  Growing up is never easy, but unanswered questions about your history make it all the more difficult.  Glad they decided to translate this one to English.  I see this as a new AP English book for high schoolers!  Very good book that keeps you guessing throughout.  It never is as you think it will be.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Freedom Writers Diary

The Freedom Writers Diary
by Erin Gruwell

Growing up in South Central in Los Angeles, California in the 1990’s can’t be easy.  Imagine attending an integrated high school that has all levels of students but is broken into ethnicities based on academic performance. So, based on their elementary school preparation, the students are separated into groups:  Asian, White, Black and Hispanic.  Enter the world of Erin Gruwell, a recent college graduate teaching 9th grade English to the lowest level class, an unmotivated mixture of students from low-income families.  Gruwell decides she will have students read books that reflect the students who are in the class: classics written by Asians, African-Americans and Hispanic authors.  She introduces play acting, drawing, and movie-making to the class.  She brings in authors who wrote about their experiences being held captive by the Nazis, fighting as a youth in Bosnia, and succeeding professionally despite coming from low socio-economic backgrounds.  After the first year, she was given the opportunity to keep the same class for their sophomore & junior years after winning accolades in local and national media.  The class receives computers and trips to Washington DC to speak with the US Secretary of Education. During their senior year, they are welcomed to NYC upon the announcement that the class was going to have their story published as a book: The Freedom Writer’s Diary.  Each of the entries tells the real-life story of numerous students in the class, addressing issues of sexual abuse, the shooting of friends and family members on the streets of NYC, drug abuse, pregnancy, poverty, and a litany of other personal hardships.  The success of the book is not only showing students that their voice matters, but also illustrating the importance of their story, that it needed to be told – they just needed a way to be validated and motivated to do so.  Gruwell’s creativity and persistence to never give up is a model for all educators who want to make a difference for students who don’t know that a future is possible.  An inspirational, real-life story that any and every educator should read.  We can change the dial for success.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up
by Daniel Handler

A great book written by Daniel Handler for young adults encountering love for the first time: Why We Broke Up.  Min, a sixteen-year-old junior in high school, decides to write a letter to her first love, Ed, the co-captain of the basketball team, after being with him for 4 weeks.  She drops off the letter with a box of trinkets she collected during their brief but intense relationship.  Min writes this tell-all story of how they met, when Ed shows up uninvited to her best friend Al’s bittersweet birthday party at his home with the artsy kids.  Ed and his friends are a year older (seniors) and a bit drunk.  Min is attracted to Ed and hence the budding relationship begins.  But the two are so different: Min wants to be a movie director, and Ed thinks only about high school sports, girls and friends. As each chapter unfolds, Min shares a new object that she has included in the box for Ed.  Ed has a list of former girlfriends, many of whom Min meets during the relationship, including one who befriends her. This girl, Annette, makes an effort to show her that Ed really does love her.  This is Min’s first relationship, and over the next few weeks, she contemplates having sex with Ed, as she believes she loves him.  Min turns to her friend Al for guidance – he remains supportive but is unwilling to encourage her relationship with Ed.  After much discussion and contemplation, Min decides to give up her virginity to Ed, who continues to profess that she is different from the other girls given her artistic/non-cheerleader style.  The day after they have sex, Min and Ed work on planning a birthday party for a former movie star the two think they saw when they went to their first date at an old-time movie.  When they go to get flowers for the honoree of the party, the florist thinks Min is Annette, the former girlfriend, for whom Ed has just ordered flowers. The florist has a note for her.  Min grabs the note and reads that Ed misses Annette, and all hell breaks loose as Min realizes Ed is just a sex-crazed high school athlete who has used her…hence Min’s letter explaining “Ed, let me tell you why we broke up”.  A sad reality that I think happens way too often in this generation of high school students.  A pretty compelling book for the 13-15 year olds to read to better understand the realities of today’s life for the young.  It’s a quick read, has good pictures and details a girl’s hard lesson in “love”.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Immortals of Meluha

The Immortals of Meluha
by Amish Tripathi

It will be a reading weekend for me! First up, The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi.  It is a trilogy - good to know before you pick up the first book - but I only plan to finish part one.  What an exciting read! It was hard to put down.  The story flowed with action, great character development, and suspense.  It begins when the leader of Shiva’s land decides to lead the people of the war stricken area to the land of Meluha, a place of ethical rules and codes of strict behavior among its people.  When Shiva and his people enter Meluha, they are given a cleansing solution to drink, which causes Shiva's throat to turn bright blue.  This is the sign for the Meluhans that their God has arrived to help them continue their good work across the lands.  Shiva’s adventure causes him to fall in love with the Emperor’s daughter (who is deemed ‘scarred’ by the Meluhans), to lead the Meluhans to victory against the warring neighbors, and to drive change in some of the rules of the country.  Book one ends with Shiva and Sati (the princess) getting married with a child on its way while they are caught in a fight for their life against the evil Nagas.  Will Sati have their baby (she had a miscarriage years earlier)?  Will Shiva be able to convince the Meluhans that some of their rules are actually inconsistent with their philosophy?  Will Shiva’s throat continue to be blue? Or will it change colors, causing the people to lose faith in him?  So many questions and so much intrigue – I’m actually interested in books two and three, which rarely happens in trilogies.  Great story!


Monday, September 25, 2017

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
by Judy Blume

You never know what you might read about next with the RA Favorite Books.  I don’t have a daughter, my sisters were ten and twelve years older than me, so reading this book, about religion and young girls having their periods, was, let’s say…a learning experience.  Enter the world of Judy Blume (yes, NYU alumna) and the coming-of-age book, Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret.  Margaret, an eleven-year-old girl from NYC, relocates with her parents to their new home in suburbia New Jersey.  Her parents were raised different religions (Jewish and Christian), and because of the difficulties they experienced, they decide not to force religion on Margaret and allow her to choose her own belief structure later in life.  Simultaneously, Margaret is introduced to sixth grade in NJ, meeting new friends and being asked to do a yearlong project, which leads her to consider what religion she should practice.  All the while, Margaret and her three girlfriends create a secret club that focuses on boys, bras, and trying to guess when they will get their period.  Well, what can I say…this probably was an impactful book for the RA and many other young girls.  Might even be an eye opener for young boys, if they are mature and want to learn about the life changes that members of the opposite sex experience, though I surely wouldn’t have been at that age.  But I opened this blog never knowing what I’d read next!  Hard to rate this one as my perspective and life really didn’t intersect much with this topic.  Reads light and quick, good message for those who would benefit….

Saturday, September 23, 2017

House of Leaves

House of Leaves
by Mark Danielewski

House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski, is a pretty long book but flows nicely.  Kudos to an author who brings in 3-4 storylines using unusual methods to separate them: varied font sizes, mixing in art, playing with spacing on the page, and placing words on different parts of a page.  The technique makes it easier for the reader to know which storyline he/she is entering.  It is a book about a book/movie/experience and brings the reader in through its brief thirteen-page introduction, describing how Johnny Truant finds the work that recently deceased “Zampano”, a ‘mystery man’, leaves behind.  Truant, the protagonist, is searching for the Navidson Record, the work that shares the story of a family by the same name, living in a haunted house in Virginia where disappearance and death rule the day!  Truant’s own life, his friendships, his early childhood abuse, sexual exploits, drug and alcohol addictions, and the story of his parent’s abandonment play large roles in his own exploration of the Navidson Record.  The writing is raw, great style, and the author draws the reader’s interest in the mysteries that the characters are all trying to solve.  The author also adds another level of intrigue by adding celebrity feedback on the Navidson Record (Stephen King, Edward Albee, and key political leaders) and pictures of artifacts from the house, drawings of movements in the house, and sketches of portraits.  This is a full-package book with multiple stories and innovative structures.  I never lost interest – in fact, I started the book in the morning and finished it by evening!  Not bad for a 600+ book!  I would recommend this one for those comfortable with non-linear storylines and a new approach to a novel.   The appendices also provide a perspective that fills in the rest of the story on Johnny’s childhood.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Nobody

Nobody
by Marc Lamont Hill

Marc Lamont Hill’s book Nobody captures the most recent tragedies from Ferguson to Flint, from Eric Garner to Trayvon Martin, and the long list continues.  Lamont Hill not only provides the historical context of each case, but he also looks deep into the decades of how these issues have recently been catapulted into our society today.  White aggression, decades of poverty, laws that harm the poor and those who have limited resources to education - these are just some of the concerns discussed.  His research is spot-on with a long section of notes that support all of his points.  This is an essential read for anyone who questions why America is divided racially.  It is not a geographical issue within the US, i.e., South or North, but it permeates all areas of our country.  It is a hard book to read because of the realities of our society.  Every time one thinks that the killings can’t be more atrocious, the next one happens.  Young black boys carrying skittles and an Arizona Ice Tea or a man who is choked by the police screaming “I can’t breathe”…what is this world coming to?  When we can’t see the individual, when we are blinded by skin color?  We need to move from dialogue to action.  If this book doesn’t move you, I’m not sure anything will!  Thanks for the recommendation.  A compelling call to action with in-depth reasons why…    

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Intelligent Investor

The Intelligent Investor
by Benjamin Graham

Surprising that an RA would have enjoyed a dated finance book – The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham – albeit a seminal read in the industry at that time (late 1970s).  (Note that the author died in the late 1970s and the book had a latest edition in 2015 with input from Warren Buffett, which was not the version suggested.)  The book provided historical perspectives from the early days of the Stock Market (late 1890s) through the 1970s.  I’m not sure if the suggestions I read would be applicable now that mergers and acquisitions have come so far (in addition to international trade and technology), but certainly information helpful to understanding how we got to where we are today.  One suggestion that few would follow today is investing in CDs from local banks, which paid double digit interest in the late 1970s (today closer to 0.1% or lower).   The book was lauded for its value on the topic of investing.  Chapters include: the investor vs. inflation; how to think about your portfolio; the investor and market fluctuations; the investor and their advisors; and a series of case studies using top industry mergers from the era.  For business students, a great historical view on how to invest, who to best include as advisors, and a way to diversify investments.  A yawn for anyone not inclined to invest.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Overachievers

The Overachievers
by Alexandra Robbins

A must read for anyone who has a high school student preparing for the college search process in The Overachievers, by Alexandra Robbins.  Robbins goes back to her alma mater, Walt Whitman High School, in the prestigious town of Bethesda, Maryland, to follow juniors, seniors and one alum who headed to Harvard for college.  Robbins chooses a cross section of students – the nerds, athletes, social-conscious, the tease, and the popular kids.  The chapters follow the timeline of the academic year over the course of sixteen months, introducing the various issues that students face in the college search process.  Of all the stories, I appreciate Robbins’ inclusion of “APFrank”, the student who had just graduated from Walt Whitman, was moving on to Harvard and had a younger brother attending the same high school.  Robbins discusses the role of hired consultants to assist with the college process, the pressures of getting accepted to the “Ivy” institutions, the challenges of SAT prep, the peer pressure involved in alcohol consumption, finding a date for the prom, balancing academics and extra-curricular activities, and so much more.   Robbins concludes the book with where each of the students got accepted and how they made their decisions – well, decisions were made for some students who didn’t get into Stanford, Yale and Princeton.  Robbins’ best contribution is her suggestions to high schools:
Delay schools start times (start later, let kids sleep more); drop class rank (stop the competition!); de-emphasize testing; provide less competitive alternatives; assign and enforce coordinated departmental project and test days; increase awareness of self-harming behaviors; limit AP classes (yes!); and reinstitute recess time (too many overachievers take classes during lunch)
Robbins also suggests that colleges should:
Boycott the rankings; scrap the SAT; eliminate early decision; prioritize mental health concerns: send a message of what is important (well-rounded students!).
She has advice for high school counselors:
Focus on the student, not on the schools
And what should parents do?
Limit young childrens’ activities; get a life; schedule family time; place character above performance
And finally, what should students do with the support of their parents:
Stop the guilt; adjust the superstar mentality; carve an individual path; ignore the peanut gallery and accept that name doesn’t reflect ability; pare down activities, take a year off after high school; try an unrewarding activity; reclaim summer; accept that admissions aren’t personal; take charge

As you can see, a great list.  Pick up the book and enjoy reading what it is we should be doing for our high school students.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Gloria

Gloria
by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Every year, there is at least one Tisch student who shares with me a play as their favorite book.  Today’s read was Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ top-rated play Gloria.  The character, Gloria, is a fifteen-plus-year veteran at the mid-town Manhattan magazine publication office.  Many of the young staff leave this office to go on to outstanding careers in the field.  Gloria is viewed as an awkward peer who is always trying to connect with her colleagues.  The play begins the evening after Gloria hosts a party at her home that only one staffer attends.   In the office, all other staffers make fun of Dean, the sole member who attended.  He describes how uncomfortable he felt being there.  The first act focuses on everyone’s crass comments regarding Gloria and how strange she is as a person.  The act ends with Gloria walking into the office & shooting all of her colleagues!  The rest of the play discusses how the owners of the magazine and those who survived the killings tried to produce books, screenplays, and TV pilots about Gloria’s killing of her office mates.  There are some good soliloquies and character development, but the story for me is weak, reminding me of a BRAVO or WE Network movie.  Maybe seeing it on stage might change my opinion, but I doubt it.  The subject matter is overplayed in media outlets and the reader never really gets to know Gloria - she only comes in the End of Act 1 to shoot her peers.  It does have good reviews, so maybe I am being too harsh.  Not the best read to pick-up after a number of weeks under the weather.  Hope the next one will be better. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

In the Country

In the Country
by Mia Alvar

Yet another book focused on a non-American culture, which continues to reflect the composition of the RA staff at NYU.  This book, In the Country, by Mia Alvar, is a collection of short stories which discuss the social issues that arose around the time of government turmoil in the mid-1970s through late 1980s in the Philippines.  Each story reveals different aspects of the culture: political issues, poverty, hardships on women, and government intervention in people’s daily lives.  My favorite aspect of the stories is that, in each one, there is a pivotal “plot twist” that comes as a surprise to the reader.  One of my favorites was The Virgin of Monte Ramon.  In the story, a little boy is born with no feet and lives in his wheelchair, told by his mother that he inherited the deformity from his grandfather who was injured in the army and died a hero with the same physical condition.  For years, the boy and his mother received financial support from many men in town, who appeared to have a “relationship” with his mother.  One man in particular, Dr. Delacruz, visited frequently to provide food, clothes and other amenities.  The boy was picked on by classmates because of his condition and the fact his mother was a recipient of numerous “gifts” from mature men. This left him to be ridiculed as the son of a whore. The twist to the story is that Dr. Delacruz is actually the boy’s biological father….Alvar is a young author on the rise.  Her ability to capture the realities of her culture and the horrors that occurred during the dictatorship of the country illustrate the atrocities on so many levels.  This is a book worth picking up!

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
by Marie Kondo

Went home to clean the apartment and picked up one of the RA Favorite books: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.  This ‘self-help’ book provides the reader with the steps to getting your house in order, which, in turn, will get your life in order as well.  The author explains why people have such a hard time keeping the home organized, suggesting that a little-by-little approach NEVER works.  You need to go full-out to accomplish the task, and the author extends this process to cleaning all aspects of your life (your relationships, your career, your priorities, etc.).  Some helpful hints include: NO storage units; sort by category, not by location; make tidying a special event, not a daily chore; and discard all things you need to get rid of before organizing.  She suggests keeping family away from this process as they usually serve as enablers for a messy life!  Here is the order in which to organize:
1.)    Clothing!  With a sub-order as follows:
a.       Tops (shirts, sweaters)
b.       Bottoms (pants, etc.)
c.       Clothes to be hung
d.       Socks
e.       Underwear
f.        Bags
g.       Accessories
h.       Shoes
2.)    Loungewear
3.)    Books (unread books means you’ll never read it!)
4.)    Sorting papers (get rid of old checkbooks and throw away those old electrical appliance manuals)
5.)    Miscellaneous items

Designate a place for each one.  And once you have this all taken care of, then you will be doing the daily work/maintenance!  She then shares how the ‘magic’ of a new life will appear.  Sound easy?  We will see how well the work I did last night based on the book turns out.  Pretty common-sense ideas done in a fairly quick read, one hour tops!  Excellent reading opportunity when waiting at the DMV…