All That You Leave Behind is a memoir by documentary filmmaker Erin Lee Carr, daughter of the late New York Times columnist David Carr. This is a raw, well written memoir that starts with David Carr's untimely death and somersaults into a story about grief, alcoholism, drugs and the often dysfunctional but intensely loving relationship between Erin and her dad.
I couldn't put this one down. It reminded me of how I felt when I read Educated.
My brain wanted this to end differently - I wanted Erin to dive further into some of the questions she had about her life and how her relationship with her father was dysfunctional. Many reviews tout all the great advice David Carr gave to Erin and how they want to give the same advice to their own kids, but I was more interested in the too-close relationship and how that affected both Erin and David. But this was her story to tell, not my interpretation of it, and it was still a book I really enjoyed reading. I'll probably now read David Carr's memoir The Night of the Gun.
I enjoyed reading Range by David Epstein. It was filled with interesting research and stories, all lending itself to the idea that early and intense specialization is not always a good thing.
This is a must read for parents, coaches, soon to be or recent college grads and anyone in the world of business or sports. Epstein gives a well supported case for breadth of activities and not being afraid of getting a late start. This means no need to force your kid into one sport at age 4 so he/she doesn't fall behind, it means college students don't have to know exactly what they want to do and will actually be of more value to the world if they get a variety of experiences and take detours, and it means generalists can be more innovative in a particular field than those who have specialized solely in said field.
Experiment, take detours, learn from a variety of sources, don't aim for efficiency perfect focus all the time. This is a breath of fresh air from Epstein in an ever more specialized and focused world.
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.
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 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.
The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-age-Crisis--and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance was a surprisingly good, and refreshing book. It's written by politician Ben Sasse, and it's completely bipartisan. This book steps above politics and takes a look at what it means to be an adult, a citizen and a contributing member of society.
I almost didn't read this book because I didn't feel like being lectured to about how 'terrible kids are these days' and how we are failing as a country. But I'm glad I picked up this book because Sasse didn't just knock on parenting and America, he was actually constructive and posed some good arguments.
Sasse explains the problem in the first part of the book - kids don't know what an adult is anymore, or how to become one, and older generations have forgotten that we need to teach them.
The second part of the book talks about how to tackle the problem. He says that we must help the children of America transition from dependence to adulthood, and explores how to do this by diving into several themes:
Overcome Peer Culture: As generations pass, we become more age segregated. Before people commuted to a specialized job, families worked together, households were intergenerational and kids saw adult's gainful employment up close. Kids were apprentices to adults. As the world changed and work became more specialized, kids lacked exposure to different kids of work. Young people now spend the majority of their time in school and with people of their own age. The progression makes sense, but it has also led to an unawareness of adulthood among children and a loss of a sense of mortality.
Work Hard: Each generation gains more luxuries with the advancement of our world, technology, etc. This generally is a good thing, but there are consequences. Sasse says our culture now tries to protect kids from hard work and experiences, when we should be figuring out how to give them hard tasks so they can view suffering as something to be conquered, not avoided.
Resist Consumption: Meaningful work is the key to happiness, not consumption. It's harder and harder to stop consuming media and everything on a screen. It leads to passiveness and a loss of motivation to make positive change by doing meaningful things like helping a neighbor and contributing to the world through action.
Meaningful Travel - Meaningful travel means absorbing and learning about a new culture, not just following the tourist book. If people focus just on travel as a tourist and for luxury it doesn't allow them to put themselves in another's shoes and reap the true benefits travel can provide.
Becoming Truly Literate - There's a difference between reading and reading well and critically. Reading on a phone usually doesn't allow us to retain and be fully engaged - we skim. Students in this country continue to struggle with basic reading comprehension. Being truly literate means absorbing books and creating an extensive book list to wrestle with for life. Sasse gives ideas of books that could be on everyone's Canon, and I love his idea of creating a bookshelf in the home with this Canon of books to read, share, go back to and wrestle with.
Sasse did go into some of the history of education in our country, which was interesting and has made me want to read more books on this topic. You can see how the progression of education in America happened, but it's interesting to take a step back and look at the history and think about how education can be revamped in order to solve some of the problems we are running into.
Literacy is a prerequisite for freedom. Read deeply. Read what matters. Build a reading list. Don't take literacy for granted.