It's safe to say that if I'm posting a book on this blog, that I liked it because I don't finish books I don't enjoy (and therefore never end up on this site). I read Michelle Obama's Becoming and loved it.
This was a beautifully written memoir. Michelle does such a great job painting the picture of her life, she captivated me from the very first chapter and I couldn't put it down.
The first half of the book was my favorite, where she talked through her childhood, mostly chronologically. When she entered the part of her time as First Lady, it was tactfully written and fun to learn some insight and read anecdotes about her time at the White House.
I'm so glad this story was written and I wish I wasn't done with the book. Michelle writes it in such a way that you feel connected to her - it's very down to earth.
I actually have a better understanding of President Obama's idealism/idealistic nature from the insights I got from this book, and have a better understanding of how Obama got elected for two terms (not that I didn't already know, but this book gave me so many more tangible insights into this fact). And unfortunately that also sheds light on the fact that we really weren't ready for an African American president, and our nation has a lot of fixing to do when it comes to politics (and I say this from a bipartisan standpoint, fully understanding that idealism alone doesn't necessarily get us anywhere).
In the end, you'll see from this book that Michelle is a classy, strong, smart, awesome woman, and it's nice to hear from someone coming out of the White House who is self proclaimed to "not be a politics person." Michelle, you rock.
I picked up another parenting book after hearing about it from Ryan Holiday, The Gift of Failure: How the best parents learn to let go so their children can succeed by Jessica Lahey. My oldest son will be entering kindergarten next fall, so I thought this would be a good book to breeze through.
Overall, the message was on point and I appreciated the perspective of Lahey as a teacher and a self proclaimed failure of a parent for over protecting her own kids from failure. Her introduction to the book was my favorite part. She eloquently explained her turning point in parenting and teaching, and explained how we got to where we are today - a world where we have taught our kids to fear failure, and in doing so have blocked the clearest path to their success.
A lot of the book simply had me in agreement, nodding my head at the suggestions because I already try to parent my young kids in a way that gives them as much age-appropriate autonomy as possible. There were also parts of the book I quickly skimmed because it talked about high school years, so I'll re-read as a nice reminder when my kids are a bit older.
If anyone feels they put a lot of time researching, planning and constructing perfectly comfortable lives for their kids, then I'd say this is a must read. There's no parent bashing here, just a clear look at what this loving and well-intentioned type of parenting is doing to our kids, and how we can reframe our approach to raising kids so that they grow up independent, successful, confident and capable.
I heard about the movie coming out so I grabbed Crazy Rich Asians the book so I could read it first. This was a fun one to read. It took me some time to get into it, but once I was about 1/4 of the way through I finished it quickly.
It was funny, light, and had some surprises at the end. I won't rush to read Kwan's other two in this series but I'll probably read them at some point when I'm looking for easy novel reading (maybe on a beach somewhere). I definitely recommend this as a vacation/beach read.
I did have a hard time keeping up with all the characters, but realized quickly that I didn't have to worry much about keeping everyone straight and where they fit in the family tree of the main characters. The book kept up with me and I was able to move through it quickly and enjoy the wit and reading about a crazy rich world.
I officially went down a spiritual rabbit hole these last few months and once I read The Surrender Experiment I had to read Michael Singer's other book The Untethered Soul.
This book does a deep dive into making the leap from being a self absorbed person living in the fog that most of us live in (making daily decisions based on our own preferences, getting angry over the minutia as we are oblivious to the fact that we live in a world for a tiny amount of time when you look at the big picture), to becoming enlightened and taking the brain and the self to a higher state of living.
I must admit, I'm glad I started with Michael Singer's other book (which he wrote after this one), because otherwise I probably would've judged Singer as a little too out there for me. But if you stick with this book, I think it's a great book for anyone looking to do some serious personal growth.
Singer starts by explaining that voice that we all hear in our heads. That voice narrating the world for us, judging what we see. The untrained eye (most of us) think that's us. But it's not. We can observe this chatter like a subject-object relationship, and the first step to a higher level of consciousness and true personal growth is to recognize this voice.
So what's so wrong with this voice? Well, it's ruining us and we don't even know it. What typically happens is this constant narration makes us feel more comfortable and in control of the world around us. But what really is happening is these thoughts influence the experience of the world around us so what we end up experiencing is really a personal presentation of the world according to us, rather than the stark, unfiltered experience of what is really out there.
Basically, we are buffering reality as it comes in so that we can control the experience so it all fits inside our own minds. We re-create the world within our minds because we can control our mind and we can't control the world. Some people may think this is fine, but what you end up with are people who are limited very much so by their own preferences and controlled by fear.
So that's how Singer sets up the book, leaving us with the idea that true personal growth is about getting past that part of you that is not okay and needs protection. He then walks through how to connect with a higher power and truly live in a state of happiness.
I read The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer in 4 days after hearing Singer on James Altucher's podcast. I guess Oprah loved this book too.
In his book, Singer walks readers through his 40 year experiment of surrendering - letting life happen according to its natural flow.
He starts by saying that as humans, we believe that things should be the way we want them, instead of being the natural result of all the forces of creation. So we say things like, "I better get that raise because I really need the money," or "It better not rain on my wedding day." These claims are based solely on our personal preferences we've made up in our own minds.
So without realizing it, we do this with everything, believing the world around us is supposed to manifest itself in accordance to what we prefer. We make strong attempts to control the world around us. When we win that battle, we are happy and relaxed. When we don't we are stressed. Therefore we constantly attempt to control every thing in our lives.
The reality is, life will continue with or without us. Energy moves around the world to create beings and all matter, the Earth and the planets orbit in space and don't combust.
The basis for Singer's experiment is this: is he better off making up an alternate reality in his mind then fighting with reality to make it be his way, or is he better off letting go of what he wants and serving the same forces of reality that managed to create the entire perfection of the universe around him? The experiment would not be about dropping out of life, it would be about leaping into life to live in a place where he is no longer controlled by his personal fears and desires.
The journey Singer takes is pretty cool, and if nothing else, a fun read to follow him every step of the way. This book gave me interest in learning more about Eastern traditions such as Yoga, Buddhism, meditation, etc.
Jesus: A Biography from a Believer by Paul Johnson was a quick read and I thought a perfect written record of Jesus's life (as we know it from historical documents), from beginning to end.
This was a nice refresher of the history of Jesus's life and his teachings without diving into the complexity of the Bible. This book could be used as a precursor to reading the Bible (or the Gospels) to give you more context going in.
I thought the author did a good job trying his best to keep things historically accurate, but it's clear that this book comes from a Christian perspective.
Christian or not, there's no doubt that the history and teachings of Jesus stand the test of time, and are important to learn from a historical perspective. As Johnson points out, as you read about Palestine in the first century AD, you notice a world that in many ways is familiar to ours today.
I’m going to use this post to combine several books under one Category: Parenting. I haven’t read all these books in 2018 but I always go back and re-read sections of them so I thought I’d list them all out as I've been referring to these a lot this year.
Elevating Child Care by Janet Lansbury
I wish Janet could live with me full time and help me parent. She introduced me to the Respectful Parenting Method. If you’re interested in a respectful parenting approach, you have to learn from Janet. I think many people misunderstand and misuse this approach and sometimes it gets a bad rap. Janet’s mentor was the late Magda Gerber, you can also read anything she’s written for an accurate and timeless portrayal of a parenting approach that works. This book pretty much summarizes how to approach parenting from the day a child is born.
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury
This was actually the first book of Janet’s I read. It’s super helpful in figuring out the difficult toddler years. I got the language and support I needed from this book.
How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber & Mazlish
This book is full of actionable takeaways to communicate and listen to kids of any age. I really like the approach of the authors, very much in line with the Respectful Approach, but this is not teaching that method. Rather, the authors work to give parents the tools to survive and thrive at home by teaching the best ways to help children deal with their feelings, give praise, find alternatives to punishment, encourage autonomy and more.
Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber & Mazlish
I will read and re-read this so I can ensure I provide the right environment in which my two kids can grow to respect each other and maybe, (hopefully) like each other and be friends. The same authors of the How To Talk Kids book above give some good insight and tools to help children live together under the same roof.
This book was recommended reading suggested by the company I work with, Cheshire Impact. I read it in just a few sittings. It's a quick read and I really enjoyed it.
Fish: A Proven Way To Boost Morale And Improve Results is a fictional tale about transforming your work into something you enjoy. Through an easy to read parable, you learn how to bring energy and fulfillment back to your work.
Here's the thing - many of us cannot simply change our jobs or our line of work to something we truly love. Other commitments, home life and current financial obligations sometimes mean you're stuck where you are, making the money you need to make. Other times a true calling hasn't yet made itself available.
People spend about 75% of their adult waking time doing work related activities. The book argues, if this is the case, we ought to enjoy and be energized by it. And instead of looking for a new job, it's possible to change your attitude and enjoy the work you are already doing.
If your department and/or office does the same, we can begin to get rid of that "thank God it's Friday" attitude about work. We can choose to have fun and make people's day. We can make small changes and be fulfilled by what we do every day. This creates stronger businesses, happier customers, happier people all around.
This book is now on my "favorites" list of Business books, and I love that it can also apply to your live outside the workplace.
I love book recommendations from Ryan Holiday. This was a quick read by Tyler Cowen, The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest For The American Dream and overall I enjoyed it.
Cowen is an economist, and I like reading books by economists because they show you truths and make predictions based on numbers and patterns.
Here's the problem posed by Cowen: There are a growing number of people in our society who accept, welcome or enforce a resistance to anything new, different or challenging. And this is going to eventually destroy the country. I know, sounds depressing but I summarize some of what Cowen points out about our country below...
There is a lack of a sense of urgency among Americans. People are too comfortable. More and more Americans are entering the higher segment of income. 15-20% of the American population is doing very well, based on income and social indicators.
There has been a collapse of the middle class, an argument we are all familiar with, but what's not being reported is the fact that a big reason for that is actually the upward mobility of lower income class to higher income class.
So more Americans today are happy and comfortable. The bad part of that is the structures we have can't sustain the majority of the population.
In spite of people doing great, our economy is growing at a slower rate, which started to hold steady right after the 1980's.
It is much more expensive now to move into a dynamic city, one that would allow for upward mobility. This slows economic progress. It causes people to move less and stay in the same jobs. This means less innovation and movement of the economy.
Now, if it were cheaper to, say, move into a high productivity city like NYC, researchers indicate there would be a GDP increase of 9.5%, which is pretty freakin' significant.
Income mixing is not happening for groups who might benefit from it the most. This is a result of societal forces like high rent due to gentrification rather than explicit racism or prejudice. So some of the low income populations and minorities are stuck where they are, without much of a chance for upward mobility.
There is also a lot of matching going on. Technology allows us to find people like us so we can date and marry them, we can find music we like and other music that matches that and so on. In one respect this is causing increased happiness in some areas, but it's also causing unintentional segregation. People are sticking around people that are like them.
Americans don't riot anymore. The 60's and 70's were much more violent. Society is now more bureaucratized and safety obsessed and less tolerant of any kind of disruption at all, which makes civil right movements of the past impossible today.
Less violence sounds like a good thing, and of course, it is, but Cowen points out that there are negative consequences to this and you're seeing more and more a resistance to uprise which is what eventually causes positive change.
At some points the book felt all over the place. And then it ended sort of dismally. I was hoping for a clear conclusion about what we can do to change or avoid too much damage. It was mixed into the content but not clear at the end. Cowen pretty much says - Watch out! The world is going to shit again!
I suppose this is fair considering Cowen is writing this from an economist point of view. And the trends and pictures he paints are truly eye opening.
I am glad I read this book and would recommend it. It provides a great view into some of the trends and actions that have led us to where we are today, and the fascinating part is that most of it has been unintentional. Therefore this will become an important read for many.