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06:36 am: Books
I quite like Brené Brown as a speaker and blogger, but have mixed feelings about her books so far. I’m still working on I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), ’cause there’s only so much self-help I can absorb in a short time span (which may be why I prefer the videos and blog posts). The Gifts of Imperfection is good, but there are some things that just… bug me.

Anyone who says “trust me” is asking not to be trusted. Add a fair dose of spirituality, and y’tend to lose me. Granted, her definition of spirituality is broad and would include my own feelings and experience, but still… ick. Telling me that I need to be spiritual to lead a wholehearted life is pretty much the perfect way to alienate me from the get-go (or a good way, anyway; perfect would be embrace a higher power/come to Jesus/give over to God).

Her research is definitely on a squishy topic, and probably a fair amount of self-disclosure helps with that, but I’m not wholly comfortable with it (in a John Michael Higgins as Ally McBeal’s therapist kind of way, to make a ridiculously obscure pop culture reference that will actually help me recall the feeling so I’m not expunging it, sorry).

And yet… I think part of why I’m not comfortable is because it’s difficult, uncomfortable stuff that I really do need to think about. So I’ll keep on working on I Thought It Was Just Me and keep thinking about it and see what emerges.

I've re-read a whole mess of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch books too, all of which I'd completely forgotten and thoroughly enjoyed. They're going to the swap shop, despite my enjoyment, because I figure if I've read something three times and still don't remember it, maybe I should try something else.

The Scent of Jasmine is Jude Deveraux' latest in the Edilean series - a sequel of sorts to Days of Gold and a prequel to Lavendar Morning. Deveraux characters are funny and flawed, her women strong (generally), and her plots only semi-implausible... a good combination in romance books. Solid recommend for those who dig romances (which almost nobody reading this does, sadly).

Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson of 37signals' Rework is a very quick read with solid, specific, and somewhat superficial business advice. It’s a bit like Sutton’s Weird Ideas That Work, in that it sells itself in part by being provocative (pick a fight, planning is guessing, meetings are toxic, under-do the competition), but the underlying advice is sound: meet a small need, keep meeting that need, and resist the urge to grow to meet all needs. It has a fair amount of snark mixed in, which I always enjoy.

Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby’s Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body is like Rethinking Thin with less science, more smacks upside the head, and greater humor. I don’t generally read a lot of fat acceptance blogs (they’re depressing because they’re true), but I do like Harding and Kirby’s various blogs when I’m in the right mood. They’re excellent writers who leave no doubts about (and make no apologies for) their point of view. I love the Health at Every Size philosophy, but am still struggling with the acceptance thing. Much as I’ve seen the truth that dieting doesn’t work, much as I try to focus on health rather than size, I do indulge in too much if-I-lost-weight-life-would-be-X thinking, but I’m working on it. Good book. Solid research. The fact that I find it depressing means I need it. Dammit.

Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki I was an early reviewer of Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment, which I admit might incline me in its favor (especially because I’m in the acknowledgments under “beyond the call of duty,” which gives me a cuh-razy fan-grrrl frisson of excitement). That said, it’s a damned fine book. It’s kind of a Carnegie for the 21st century: how to win friends and influence people in a digital age. It’s very practical and ends each chapter with a vignette of someone’s personal experience of enchantment (I love those).

I don’t know why I’d never read Robert Parker’s Double Play. It had been in my stack for ages, but I never picked it up. I’m not a baseball fan and I know nothing about Jackie Robinson. Maybe that’s why. But I’m a huge Parker fan and I like learning about new things. Maybe I’m just an idiot. In any case, it’s a fictionalized account of Robinson’s first season with the Dodgers. Of course, it’s not really about baseball – it’s Spenser. Hawk (Burke here) is white, Spenser (Robinson) is black… although in the end, Burke is also Spenser, so there’s a bit of character cross. Terrific book. Really solid. I’ll definitely re-read this one, and happily.

Neil Pasricha’s The Book of Awesome is a stupid waste of space, unless what you’re really looking for is The Book of Minor Cool Moments, which is ok. But I’m not looking for such a book. I enjoy my minor cool moments as they arise, and I certainly have had occasions where I’ve relived them because the rest of my day was full of Teh Suck, but this is ridiculous. This guy had some bad stuff happen (divorce, friend's suicide), made a blog (1000 awesome moments, or something like that – I’m not going to link to it, ‘cause it’s stupid). But anyone who thinks a new checkout line opening at the grocery store is awesome has never given birth, felt her dan tien, seen the Grand Canyon, or anything else that actually invoked awe. Fer pete’s sake.

I’m not even sure why I bought the damned book, but I suspect it’s ‘cause I felt sorry for the guy (and I’m an idiot). His TED talk kinda sucked but I thought “oh, poor guy, some people just aren’t great speakers” and I dug the idea of someone turning a bad situation into something positive. But this? Makes Pollyana look like a pessimist. It is trite.

I’m also not entirely sure why it makes me so angry. Partly because I would love this guy’s success, I’m sure (I’m a feeble, small person). Partly because a friend* of mine has a blog that is about looking for the truly awesome without birth or the Grand Canyon and I know it involves a lot of work (both the writing and the thinking) and Pasricha’s crap trivializes Paul’s efforts. Blech.

(Kawasaki references Pasricha at one point in his book, which is one of two points where he lost me. The other was quoting Zig Ziglar. At least I think that was Kawasaki. Could've been someone else.)

Dana Stabenow’s Though Not Dead is a solid addition to the Kate Shugack canon. I love that Kate continues to evolve and change (unlike Stephanie Plum or Kinsey Milhone). This book has a tiny detail (about a paragraph) about how she got her scar and it haunts me. We’ve known all along that it was bad and ugly, but Stabenow writes it so simply and directly (y’know, well) that it’s deeply upsetting. Ugh. I’ll definitely keep this book and I’ll definitely re-read it, but I’ve seriously thought about crossing out the nasty bit. The only thing that’s stopping me (other than a deep-seated inability to deface books, even when they’re my own) is that I know I’ll remember it just as vividly if it’s crossed out.

* Real-life acquaintance; online friend. In case that matters.

Current Location: Longmeadow
Current Mood: goodgood
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[User Picture]
From:Paul Overton
Date:February 22nd, 2011 01:37 pm (UTC)

Thanks Kate

Aw, thanks for the nice words.I don't begrudge Pasricha his success though. Right place, right time and somebody is digging it. He's just a kid who was trying to get over some terrible stuff and started a blog. I think the book deal and the TED talk were probably as much a surprise to him as to anyone else. Totally different journey from ours, that's all.
[User Picture]
Date:February 22nd, 2011 10:10 pm (UTC)

I don't begrudge him, exactly...

I just don't like the book and resent that I spent money on it (especially after not liking his blog or his TED talk much - I have this... problem... with compulsively buying books).

Maybe I'm still under the influence (not entirely positive) of a college mentor who just can't let go his resentment of Robert Fulghum's success.

Maybe I'm just crabby. Dunno.

(BTW, your comment double-posted, so I deleted the extra.)
[User Picture]
Date:February 22nd, 2011 10:20 pm (UTC)

and thank you, again, for being a good influence

His is a different journey, and that's absolutely, totally cool. Wonderful, even.

... but I wish I'd stuck to reading a couple of pages of his blog instead of trying to slog through the book. It's the rare book indeed that I don't finish, but I just couldn't read any more. I could've spent that time meditating or reading something enlightening (or, y'know, smut). I chose not to, and that irks me about myself. I'm working on using my time well, and on not redirecting my anger to undeserving sources.

My own journey ain't all that fascinating either. Oops.
[User Picture]
From:Paul Overton
Date:February 23rd, 2011 12:12 pm (UTC)

Re: and thank you, again, for being a good influence

Well, it's funny, isn't it? I mean, I have had the same reaction to this stuff in the past, both with DudeCraft and EDiA. Who wouldn't want a book deal and a TED talk, right?

Thing is, if I did his kind of site, I wouldn't have the wonderful readers I have now. My life would be poorer for not having the benefits of all the wisdom I find in the comments. Plus, I'd be being pressured by my agent to write a follow up book right now instead of being left alone to explore my thoughts and commit them to my blogs. Really,I'm pretty lucky.

And hey, don't short change your journey! Everybody's journey is fascinating in one way or another. I wouldn't have bothered to comment if you weren't fascinating. :-)
[User Picture]
Date:February 23rd, 2011 12:46 pm (UTC)

excellent points

You do have wonderful communities on both your blogs... I know I learn a lot from your readers.

Thanks for commenting here!
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