What Makes Sammy Run by Budd Schulberg was another recommendation by Ryan Holiday. I read this in a week, it was an engaging and well written story, a classic Hollywood novel from 1941 that I haven't come across until now.
The story is sort of a cautionary tale of the true cost of egoism and narcissism, as well as a glimpse into how "old" 1930's Hollywood worked. The story proves it has stood the test of time, as Sammy characters are still seen in our world today.
Though it's a novel, Schulberg was a talented screen writer in his day and his father ran one of the then top production studios in Hollywood. Hollywood is certainly Schulberg's element and it shows in this portrayal of the business of movies.
Apparently Schulberg got flack when the book was published for giving Hollywood a bad look and was accused of antisemitism (because Sammy is Jewish). These arguments don't seem as relevant today, (and in the updated publication of this book Schulberg counters the anti-Semitic argument) and this story I think stands the test of time and would be a great read for a young professional, recent grad or anyone in the business world.
If anyone today hails the character Sammy as a hero, they are missing the point. While it may appear Sammy has achieved everything he set out for, in the end it comes at a great cost.
I read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, a recommendation from Pete Holmes. This book may seem a little out there to some, but it really has stood the test of time, it was first published in 1997. I definitely read it at a time and place in my life where it really resonated with me.
I enjoyed reading Singer's The Surrender Experiment, which made me interested in the idea and practice of meditation. But it wasn't until I read The Power of Now that I actually understood what the goal of mediation truly is and how to get there.
Meditation, ancient wisdom and philosophy, religious teachings - they all get you to the true goal, which Tolle says is full consciousness and enlightenment. Tolle makes an effort to get you there by teaching how to exist in the present moment and no longer identify with the mind, which causes thought to become compulsive. This incessant mental noise is normal (and unnoticed) among most people and is what blocks the discovery of inner stillness that is your true self, your Being.
This book can be read and enjoyed with or without a religious background. For anyone who is interested in mindfulness and stillness, this is a must read. The mindfulness trend that seems to be all around us in the U.S. right now is good and necessary but sometimes feels superficial in my opinion.
I understand the rejection and decrease in the practice of religion in our current times (I'm speaking of my observation in America since I live here), but there still must exist a way to "access" the one spiritual teaching that every religious and spiritual leader in history seems to be pointing us to. Tolle is a great start before diving into any specific teachers such as Buddha or Jesus, as well as a good read for anyone currently practicing/following a particular religion.
Stillness is the Key is Ryan Holiday's latest book and while I'm a huge fan of his this is the first book he wrote that I actually read from front to back.
This was a quick and inspiring read, filled with references and stories from historical greats. I must admit that since I'm in the middle of reading other spiritual and religious texts (my rabbit hole on this topic that I still haven't gotten out of), this book felt less important to me as I'm so deep in the weeds of material that's teaching stillness and inner peace. With that said, everyone should try reading at least one of Holiday's books, he's super well read and therefore does a great job at putting together something worth reading.
Holiday says himself in the book that he wrote this as a first step on the journey to wisdom; an introduction to classical thinking and history. He urges everyone to continue on the path of finding wisdom and stillness through other texts and looking inward.
Stillness, according to Holiday, means to be steady while the world spins around you. To act without frenzy. To hear only what needs to be heard. To possess quietude - exterior and interior - on command.
Buddhism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Christianity, Hinduism and more have all gotten people to this stillness, the key to elite performance and a happy life. Holiday references all of these ancient wisdoms, as they all agree that this stillness is what everyone should look to achieve in life.
After I read Love Wins by Rob Bell I had to read another one of his books so picked up What Is the Bible. Bell brings to this book more perspective about the Bible and Christianity that I wish I knew about sooner. But as Bell says, it's never too late to change and develop knew thoughts and beliefs, and something as big as spirituality and historic and religious texts should be constantly wrestled with and questioned with the goal always being personal growth and improvement of the earth.
Rob makes a strong argument for why and how we should look at the Bible in a new way and why it's still relevant and helpful in today's world. One of the key points Bell makes is that the Bible was not created by God, it was created by humans, and you cannot get to the holy without going through the human first. So you have to understand the humans that wrote the book, and its historical context.
Therefore, it's pointless to argue whether the Bible is true or not or whether or not it's the word of God and needs to be followed exactly as written. Yes, people in the Bible quote God and say things are the word of God, but that was their perspective of God in their time..
The Bible was written by real people, in a real world at a point in time in history when real (and terrible) things were happening to them. When we take that into consideration as we read the Bible, we can start to understand it better and actually allow it to be useful to us for growth.
We must ask ourselves, why did these people decide to keep this story alive (at a time when there was no printing press)? What where they trying to get across and could they perhaps be using language and innuendo and humor in strategic ways to be sure this message gets across in the right way and creates change?
I loved this fresh perspective on the Bible and think this is a must read even for those who are not religious or don't believe in God. The Bible is a historical document. It was refreshing learning more about it from this perspective.
I picked up Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell after Pete Holmes recommended it in his book Comedy Sex God as well as Ryan Holiday in his books to read newsletter. This was a great follow up to the insightful and pleasantly surprising commentary about God and the meaning of life from comedian Pete Holmes.
Bell gives a refreshing take on Jesus's story that I've been waiting to hear. Here's a Christian Pastor who's saying, 'yea, some people just are looking at this the wrong way.'
He starts by acknowledging the staggering number of us who have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven while the rest of those who did not accept Christ into their heart will burn in hell forever. Bell says this is misguided and a toxic way to spread the word of God and Christianity.
Instead, Bell hopes to spread a contextualized version of the story that focuses on spreading Jesus's message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear. This book is about the meaning of life and why we should be good people - now. His take is that people can find peace and "heaven" and "eternal life" here and now, and alternatively have the chance and choice to live in hell on earth - now.
Bell dives into how and when the Bible mentions the word heaven and hell (a surprisingly few number of times), what the context is around it, how the Hebrew words got translated and what the original words meant to the people at that point in time. It's a quick read and if you haven't read Rob Bell, I'd recommend reading this.
I picked up Comedy Sex God by comedian Pete Holmes after he promoted it on a podcast and was recommended by my favorite person to get book recommendations from, Ryan Holiday.
I liked this book more than I thought I would, and Holmes surprised me with his insightful look into spirituality and religion. I had no idea this book would help me continue down my religion rabbit hole I took last year (see my book reviews from summer of 2018). I'm glad I read this.
Holmes grew up an Evangelical Christian, and tells his story about this upbringing, getting into comedy, falling out of religion and then ending up finding God again just through a different lens. His story is very relatable. I hadn't seen any of his comedy work or shows, but once I read this I watched his latest stand up special and enjoyed it more because I felt I knew him.
I probably would've laughed more at the book if I knew about his comedy beforehand, but because I resonated with the religious content, I was hooked. His podcast You Made it Weird is also great. If it doesn't resonate, I'd suggest reading the book first.
I read Dirty Looks: The Secret to Beautiful Skin by Whitney Bowe after hearing her on the Atomic Moms podcast. If you're looking for better skin and to be all around healthier, this is a decent and informative read, and Bowe even lays out a plan to follow to get there.
I wasn't looking for a specific plan to follow, so I was able to quickly read through some of this. Lately I've been interested in gut health and Whitney shed light into how the body works and how to glow from the inside out. Spoiler alert - everything in the body is connected and the stomach and intestines control much more than you may think. Getting back to basics, plant based foods, less processed foods, moving/exercising and protecting yourself from the sun won't just make you look good but will help you live longer and feel better. If you don't need all the details a book can provide, the Atomic Moms episode is here.
No, I have not read any of the Harry Potter books up to this point (and haven't seen the movies). Blasphemy, I know. I finally wanted to learn what all the fuss was about (plus my almost 5 year old has already been hearing a little about Harry Potter in school), so I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I even watched the movie after!
I enjoyed this children's book, it's a nice coming of age story. It reminded me a little of Matilda. Now I can't say I fully get all the fanfare, but I'm sure I have to read the rest of the books (and maybe I will). I do like to sprinkle in some youth/YA books when I read, so this was enjoyable for me to finally check this book off my list after many years of watching people go crazy over Harry Potter. I'm sure I'll be reading them with my kids once they get a bit older.
As usual, you must read the book before watching the movie! No excuses, don't take literacy for granted and READ!
I read Educated by Tara Westover book in a week (which is fast for me, at least at this point in my life). This was an excellent memoir, I could not put it down.
It was horrifying and beautiful, it reminded me of The Glass Castle. Tara recounts her life living with a survivalist family, her dad convinced that his kids getting a public education would be detrimental.
This was well written and even though Tara's life seems unique, the impact family has on an individual is not. It's also an interesting look at how education can be taken for granted, when juxtaposed with Tara's extreme circumstances. Her story is truly amazing.
I finally finished my first book of 2019, Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen. At the end of last year, my husband and I watched his show on broadway on Netflix (Brian wanted to see it live but any ticket he could find was thousands of dollars, which, even in his eyes was a bit too much).
I've never been a huge Bruce fan, but I married a fan, so since 2009 I've been periodically inundated with all-Bruce-all-day satellite radio, heard some of his stories, and attended 2 of his concerts. (See this blog post I wrote for more about my intro to Bruce by Brian). Even without loving all of his music, there's no doubting Bruce Springsteen stands the test of time and deserves his spot among the rock and roll greats.
After seeing his broadway one-man-show, which was very well done, I felt I had to read the book and get the rest of his story. It look me some time to get through but I really enjoyed this book. A must read for any Bruce fan, and I'd also recommend it to any music fan, even if not a fan of Springsteen's music. His dedication and work ethic, combined with his showmanship has always impressed me.
Springsteen writes the book like a long poem, many parts are really beautiful. I'm glad I stuck it out and got to the end, it was an inspirational read and a sincere and humble look into such a legend. Music aside, this was a well written autobiography.
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