The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt: Psychology is not a field of study that interests me much. However, if I were to study psychology I likely would gravitate towards positive psychology as a way to better understand my emotional state, personal tendencies, and for insights into how to live a more fulfilling life. This gravitation towards the positive end of the psychology spectrum is likely why I picked up this book to begin with. Overall, I think it was a decent read and worth reading if a person is interested in how Eastern and Western philosophies and perspectives can come together to create a more fulfilling life. With that said, I wasn’t drawn into this book like I am with others and I struggled to finish it over a 3 week period. Perhaps it was the way the author went about making his argument and how he integrated scientific examples and studies, or that I found multiple chapters to be repetitive of those which came before, but there was something about this book that didn’t ‘click’ with me. If I were to focus any of my studies on positive psychology I would like pick up this book again as a starting point to investigate other authors, researchers, and theories. However, I would be unlikely to re-read this book in the future for any enjoyment or pleasure.
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King: I am not certain why I didn’t pick up this book sooner. While not a complete history, or likely a 100% accurate account, this read provided what I would call a good survey of the relationship and conflicts which Native people in North America have with us colonizers and settlers. While the writing style took a little to get use to—it is very informal and personable, it fit well with the narrative the author was trying to tell. With that said, I could do without the author’s constant inclusion of comments about his wife and all of the ways in which she pointed out how wrong he was from time to time.
Outskirts: Women Writing from Small Places by Emily Schultz: A surprising read. While moving from story to story in this anthology of short fiction I often found myself forgetting that these works were in fact, fiction. Compelling tales and emotional narratives, the words on the page made it seem like I was in the same room where the story itself was unfolding. Although many of the environments, scenes and activities were highly unfamiliar to me, taking place in rural locations, I found ways to associate myself with the characters themselves and all they were going through. An easy read, although not a shallow one.
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell: This is, by far, one of the most important books I’ll read this year and likely one of the ones I’ve consumed in recent years that I’ll return to time and time again. Odell has a way of bringing together multiple artistic perspectives with topics such as philosophy, bio-regionalism, Indigenous understanding of being, technology, and bird watching. Combined, all of these things offer a take on space & place which I wasn’t at all expecting when I opened this book. Touching on the importance of spatial and temporal context, or rather that the attention economy regularly lacks this element, helps to bring together a view that sometimes—more often than not—we need to simply be present in a space, observe, given back to places where it makes sense, and make it so that we do not easily exist in spaces that demand our attention without pushing back a little on such demands. This is a read that I will be purchasing a copy for my personal library so that I may re-read it on an annual basis.
A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload by Cal Newport: A compelling work on the idea that email isn’t making us more productive, but less. In the same vein as Deep Work and So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport proposes a premise about email that runs contradictory to what the prevailing understanding of this tool likely is. Suggesting that email hasn’t delivered on the promise it brought with it as it came into existing—and that it hasn’t aged well—Newport offers some thoughts on how to move away from work in our professional (and personal) lives in order to be productive in the things we are most skilled at. Some of the author’s proposals seem radical, and likely are depending on the organization and systems a person works within—and how much of their work processes are within their direct control. With that said, when consideration is given to the entire premise Newport is making, a person can begin to understand that it might be be a crazy premise but one rooted in sound logic. A highly recommended read especially for those who are in positions to change how their teams communicate on a daily basis.
Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman: A read that I typically wouldn’t have partaken in if it wasn’t for its inclusion in a bulk box of books I received. A quick, young adult read that I thoroughly enjoyed. Capturing the (fictional) story of how a community garden came to be in a diverse neighbourhood of Cleveland, the method of developing the narrative from a variety of mini, perspective based stories was engaging. I’m not certain if this piece has been adapted as a short play for stage, but it definitely would lend itself well to that medium. A quick read, but one I would enjoy someone to enjoy if they are given the opportunity.
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: I wish this book was a non-fiction read, unfortunately it was not and the value of it was essentially lost on me. I appreciated the attempt to critique society, gender, motherhood, individuality, and marital norms that we have come to accept as the de facto standard throughout history. With that said, I would have received this read more openly if it were written as an actual commentary of these topics and not a fictional account of what could be. Rather than coming out and clearly stating what may be wrong with the standards of the era this work was writing in, the author hides behind “what ifs” and the make believe. Perhaps I am simple minded and need things to be blatantly communicated, but I felt that the approach to Gilman’s social commentary and critique masked both its importance and potential impact. I’m in absolute support of what the author may have tried to achieve in this work but feel that a better job could have been done in explicitly calling out what needed to be said.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading by Leah Price: Even as a lover of books and all they represent I couldn’t have imagined how much I ended up enjoying this read. A short work which connects the act of reading—our physical relationships with books and how this has changed over time—to technology and society, I wasn’t able to put this book down. Taking into consideration the different environments we read in, how these have changed over time as a result of the changing nature of books—and how books have in turn been shaped as a result of the environments they are consumed within—this read hit on everything that I love about the world: books, sense of place, technology, and a love for the things that make us realize that we’re human. Perhaps that last point is a bit of a stretch. Likely not. I didn’t realize that book history was a ‘thing’, although this should come as a surprise as I did read A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel just over a year ago. If I had one criticism it would be that this world was too short. While a perfect length for a casual read, I found myself wanting more. Had I not borrowed this book from the library I would have had like to purchase it. Definitely something I will be on the look-out for as a used book.
The Art of Reading by Damon Young: K wanted to enjoy this book, I really did. The synopsis from the library, it’s introduction, and the values at the core of it—everything led me to believe that the writer and I would be on the same page. It wasn’t so. If I were to sum up my feelings I would say this; the writer needs to get off their “high horse” and appreciate that The Art of Meaning is deeper than his shallow appreciation of it is. That statement seems funny to me to write, as the author claims to be a philosopher, but I can’t think of a more straight forward way to put it. The clearest example is this: the author takes some heavy shots at, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Some of these shots are valid and I certainly agree with the author that the book is less than stellar in many ways. Unfortunately, the author fails to fully appreciate or articulate the value for a larger group of readers. It seems like the author is only considering one perspective, one full of nothing but privilege and status. The Da Vinci Code is garbage in many ways, but there’s a reason why it was so popular and well received by “the masses.” What I would have liked is for the Young to have expanded the audience for their book, or at least considered that The Art of Reading can take any shape and form, appealing to different audiences. I think the author was trying to do this but it was poorly executed. As I read this work I couldn’t help to think of Alberto Manguel’s commentary on, The Book Fool. If I remember correctly, Manguel’s perspective was that popular culture is popular for a reason—that it is representative of a broader culture at a given moment in time. That the fool may not be those who read works like, The Da Vinci Code, but rather those of us (me included) who criticize such work and those who read it. Young, in failing to considering the broadest of perspectives, may be an incarnation of Manguel’s fool.
Remarkable Reads: 34 Writers and Their Adventures in Reading by J. Peder Zane: As a collection of articles which at one time appears in a paper-of-record, this is a quick read through the relationships different authors have with specific books which they associate unique emotions or experiences with. What I found most interesting about this read, or rather the stories shared by the various contributors, were the number of reading experiences which began when the readers were children and continued on throughout their adult life through re-reading of the same work. Additionally, the number of contributors—most of whom are authors themselves—who at one time or another met the author of their “favourite” read seemed rather high. Most, if not all, of the works included I have never read, nor do I imagine I will in the future. With that said, if nothing more this read has encouraged me to think about the different types of books I return to based on the emotion they evoke or the experiences they provide.
Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance by Mark Whitaker: This book is dense, to say the least. With a focus on black culture over the course of modern history, primary through the eyes of a coloured newspaper in Pittsburg, Smoketown offers an in-depth look at everything from sports, to music, to the contributions of black Americans in war efforts, politics, and economic development. I really enjoyed this book—for what I read of it. My only criticism is that each chapter, typically focused on one area of culture and a single individual, had so much history and so many names packed into a single chapter that the process of reading got tiring. If I were reading this to research the influence of black culture on historical USA developments over time, this would be a great resource. However, for an entertainment read, there was far too much included in this read. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in black history, and a perspective on how an industrial USA develops over time, but be warned—this book depends all of your attention, and stamina.
Bibliotherapy: The Right Book at the Right Time by Claudia Cornett and Charles Cornett: A quick read regarding bibliotherapy as a discipline. Half overview, half instruction, this small tomb—categorized as a “fastback”—provides a basic overview of the process of bibliotherapy and suggests some techniques that can be used to implement it. If I were a counsellor or teacher of small children this would likely provide greater value than it does for the position I’m in. For nothing else, this is a good starting point to understanding what bibliotherapy is, its historical routes, the limitations of it as a practice, and offering a list of potential reads for individuals using bibliotherapy as a form of therapy for themselves.
How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren: This work codifies the process by which an individual can choose to read a book. From understanding the purposes of the different sections a book contains, to realizing that you need not always read an entire work to consider it read; How to Read a Book functions as a great resource to better engage with, and extract value from, the books we read by focusing on analytical reading–consuming a single work and the arguments of the author; and providing some closing thoughts on syntopical reading–reading multiple works across a given topic. While this book provides a highly methodical approach to reading a book, recommending a set of rules an individual should follow, it is valuable in the aggregate as well for those who choose not to follow its prescriptive method. Although I read the updated version (1972) of the book originally published in 1940 I was surprised to see that there wasn’t another revision in more recent years that made note of any changes to its recommended method in terms of the different formats books now come in. As the focus of this work was on the content of the books we read, and not the shape and forms they take, I shouldn’t be too critical of this omission. In short: I wish I had of read this book before starting any post-secondary education.
2020- My annual re-read of Essentialism, during No-vember, took me the entire month to read this time around. Sure, I wasn’t in a rush to read it, but for whatever reason I couldn’t find myself getting into it this year. Perhaps my brain was already mush having read so many books this year already. Then again, maybe the content and main point of the book is something I have consumed so many times that I simply glaze over much of the content. With that said, I was reminded that there is always room for improvement in how a person approaches an essentialist lifestyle and that no one is ever perfect. I am hopeful that in the future I will be in a leadership role where I have others looking to me for guidance & support and in turn employ some essentialist strategies to combat the very elements of leadership and management which drive me crazy.
2019- My annual re-read of this book as a reminder that it’s okay to say no, and not to feel bad about it. My realization in more recent months is this—taking things in life down to the most important is essential, but at some point ‘yes’ needs to be said more often. I’ve excluded less important things for so long, to help me focus on what really matters, that I haven’t brought into my life some less-important things to help balance things out and to provide meaning and value to the things/experiences I cherish so very much. There needs to be a balance between the essential and the non-essential.
2018- An annual re-read, I took away this time around that saying “no” sometimes is not enough. If an individual finds themselves saying “no” long enough, without any “yeses” to provide a necessary balance, both personal and professional lives may be unfulfilling. My anticipation is to re-read this again in early 2019 to provide some perspective for the year.
How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi: This, by far, is one of the most challenging books I have ever read. The language used, the perspectives shared, and the unpacking of the historically engrained stories we tell ourselves to be found un-true. If I am to be completely honest I must say that I struggled to complete this book. I found the need to investigate each sentence in an attempt to fully understand the thoughts being conveyed. Even when finished I feel like I did not give this book the attention it deserved. Whereas, White Fragility, was a wakeup call this book is the follow-up that dives deep into how we got to where we are today in a racist North American culture which offers some strategies to shift perspectives if we wish to undo all of the bad we have done over the years.
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis: A short but intense read. A series of notes written after the author’s wife had passed, I particularly enjoyed—if one should enjoy reading such a volume—the thoughts on the existence of God, the dead, and the impact they can have on someone’s day-to-day life. Not a read I would normally pick up, I can imagine that this would be useful to individuals in certain circumstances where they are grappling some of life’s greatest challenges.
Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West by Bryce Andrews: Picked from a box of books I purchased at a mega sale, I had hoped that this memoir would paint a vivid narrative of the connection between man and a place I know nothing about—the America west. While at times it seemed promising that I would be presented with the story I was in search of, that promise was left unfulfilled as I turned the last page. Often confusing the reader of why it was that they picked up this book in the first place, the author’s fixation with the wolves on the ranch where he worked seemed to be both the purpose of the book and an after thought at the same time. Becoming the focus of the book too late in its pages—except for some crudely written accounts, all in italics, between chapters which seemed to be wildly out of place—this memoir could have been a much stronger read and compelling story if the author stuck to other elements of his time on the ranch. I assume this to be the case, having never spent any time on a ranch myself. However, as an avid reader who welcomes new reads outside of his normal haunts, I was sadly disappointed with this book.
Voices from the Rust Belt by Anne Trubek: Picked up on a whim as a gateway read for starting a book club, I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed this collection of essays. Hearing many different voices from those whom live in rust best cities in the USA has given me pause and has allowed me to reconsider the value of the city where I live and those which surround me within a couple hours drive. Looking for a way to recreate the learning opportunities which regular weekend trips to rust best city would offer, in the time of the pandemic we are living in where travel is out of the question, this book has helped to fill such a voice. For anyone that is interested in learning more about cities, or wants to hear different perspectives on growing up in changing places, this book is definitely worth the read.
Walking Home: A Poet’s Journey by Simon Armitage: Exactly what the book promises to be and nothing more—one man/poet’s account of his journey along a national trail. I picked up this book as I’m always curious about the reasons different individuals choose to embark on longer-than-normal hikes. While the premise of the author’s journey seemed to be intriguing, it got old very very quickly. A read of the first couple of chapters sets the reader up for the remainder of the book. Something I am not likely to read ever again, or recommend to another. Sadly, lacklustre in every way.
The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class-and What We Can Do About It by Richard Florida: I can’t recommend this book if someone has already read anything previously published by Florida. I can’t help to think that if I placed all of his books side-by-side and ripped off the covers that telling the difference between them would be impossible. I feel as if he’s re-publishing the same concept, over and over, simply by using new buzz words. The New Urban Crisis is no different than any of his works that have come before. If you’ve read anything else by Florida I’d recommend you skip this one and not waste your time.
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler: A must read. A book about race, neighbours, family, lovers, and the relationships which exists among all of these intertwined elements. An intense and moving fictional image, which seems all too real given how society is unfolding daily around us. Although I can’t remember why I picked up this book, I am thankful that I did. Upon finishing the book I found myself contemplating some of the more important questions surrounding my everyday existence and how I interact with those I engage with. A highly recommended read.
Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf: This book wasn’t really what I was hoping for or expected. Why? The author chooses to include a fair bit of science related to how the brain works but fails to commit the inclusion of this information substantially enough. Meaning, the scientific information seemed like it was a half-thought afterthought. I would have preferred the author to rely more heavily on this perspective of reading and the brain rather than trying to sneak in a little bit regarding the science but not enough to have the impact it should. Also, there is a large focus in this book on children, reading, and as a result, parenting. Not that there is anything wrong with this as it is highly relevant, just that I wasn’t expecting such an emphasis to be placed on this. I admit, I glazed over these sections—which in turn exemplified how much of a non- deep reader I was, in relation to this book—and went to the ‘letters’ (which makes up the structure of the book) which more closely resonated with my interests. Overall, the premise of this book is something I find deep connection with, and I think it is an important read to anyone considering, questioning, or defending the value of traditional reading materials as they compare to their digital counterparts.
Trudeau: The Education of a Prime Minister by John Ivison: Not a fan of ‘Big-P’ Politics, I typically don’t concern myself with much related to political parties or politicians themselves. So, what led me to pick up this read is a little unclear. Regardless, it was eye opening. My takeaways from this book are the following: 1) I would make a horrible Politician, but I would likely be a politician that our country needs, 2) People, regardless of title, make mistakes, 3) Politicians (Big-P) aren’t leaders at all; they just like to hear themselves talk, and 4) The political landscape in Canada hasn’t changed all that much since the country’s beginning, and currently Politicians are likely to make any changes for the next 150 years. As for Justin Trudeau, he’s just another figure head for a few years. Meh.
Brother by David Chariandy: This book was the, OneBookOneLondon, read from a few years back. Had I read this work back when the rest of the community was I’m not certain I would have appreciated as much as I did today, or that it would have had the same impact as it has. While it is a work of fiction, it reads in many ways like a memoir of a young black man who great up in a suburb of Toronto. With all of the recent, race related, actions creating a watershed moment in society—both in North America and around the world—I couldn’t think of a better time to read this book. It’s themes are subtle but the realities that I can only imagine young black men face, and the challenges their mothers and families must overcome, are nothing but vivid and in some ways scary how real they feel. While not my favourite of all of the OneBookOneLondon reads, this one is worthwhile to read none the less.
City Quitters: An Exploration of Post-Urban Life by Karen Rosenkranz: This book is what it is. While there was potential to have a book full of encouraging and eye opening stories what I feel this book offered was the same single story, told in a dozen or so different ways. As I was one third of the way through the book I felt like I could anticipate what I would be reading, and seeing, on the next few pages. I had hoped that there would have been a greater variety of stories, filled with different perspectives on the same topic. What I was presented with was what seemed like a single minimalist, city quitting story, re-told over and over, without much value add content beyond the first few pages.
Grit by Angela Duckworth: Having been on my to-read list for a while, I’m surprised that I haven’t picked this one up sooner. Building upon what was covered in Peak by Anders Ericsson, and Range by David Epstein, Grit’s author provides a lot of food for thought. How to purpose and passion align? How does focused and deliberate practice make us better at what we do? And how much does pure force of will help us succeed over skill? For anyone interested in how to do better, and support others in achieving goals, this might be a valuable read.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo: Another race related read. What I struggle with most when I read books on this topic is what I can do, as a white male, to better the conditions of society for all BIPOC people, and society at large, without it coming across as tokenism. I’m still working on this. I appreciated that Oluo brought her personal experiences as a mother and the interactions she has with her children into the book. These examples helped to make the arguments in the book even more real.
From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle: I can’t recall why I picked up this volume—it was likely a recommendation in The Globe and Mail—but I am thankful I did. This is an insightful into one man’s journey as a Métis Canadian, alcoholic, and drug addict, and the twists and turns presented to him throughout life. Although I do wish that the latter portion of the book wasn’t as rushed as it was, in how it uncovered the more recent experiences in the author’s life, this isn’t a fault that is unique to this work. Far too many of the books I read I feel don’t distribute their attention adequately enough across the entire spectrum of content. But I digress. This work but a Métis scholar is worth the read for anyone interested in starting to understand the various challenges that members of Canada’s Indigenous communities face as they navigate society.
They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life, and Growing Up by Eternity Martis: One women’s commentary on life in London, Canada, and at Western University and all the racism it includes. Being from London myself, this read hit close to home and really resonated. While I am not a black woman, the challenges, fights, and indignities the author documents facing while a resident of my city and a student at my alma mater was hard for me to swallow but I couldn’t deny that what she outlined was anything but the truth. An important read for anyone that isn’t a visible minority, or visible minority alike. If anything, what I took away from this read is that I need to be more aware of the words I use and the actions I take—even if I do not have racist intentions, or believe that my words and actions are anything but genuine in intentions, there are likely to be some entrenched micro-aggressions within them and I need to be attentive to these while understanding not only their origins but how to remove them as best I can from all I do. If I have any criticism of this work it would be that it wasn’t long enough and didn’t go into adequate depth to have more of an impact.
Deeds/Abstracts: The History of a London Lot, 1 January 1991 — 6 October 1992 by Greg Curnoe: It is ten years since I initially read this book. When I picked it up the first time I did so out of an interest for anything local; I read it but likely didn’t “get” it, thinking it was too artsy or irrelevant. Now, with a more entrenched curiosity regarding place, and the histories that tell a version of a story of who we are today, this re-read was much more engaging than my initial pass. Giving consideration to all of the histories that make up the cultural history of the places we occupy, Curnoe takes a deep dive into his home/lot/property to understand how it came to be, including all of the surrounding and external factors that shape a specific parcel of land, and the broader region it is situated within.
Ten Cities: The Past Is Present by Wayne Johnston: I had picked this book up in my local bookstore as I thought it might have provided an interesting escape from the mundane every day of my home city. It did not have this effect. The memories the author shares, while important for him, offer little for the reader. There’s no insight into why they are important, why he remembered them, or why he thought it would be a good idea to publish them. To each their own, but this is not what I thought it was nor what I needed.
Becoming by Michelle Obama: It is clear that Michelle Obama has had an interesting life. A life where she’s overcome many obstacles and has achieved many great things. While I am certain that some of these things likely wouldn’t have happened without being the First Lady—like the publishing of this book—most of her accomplishments she can certainly take all of the credit for. While this book wasn’t written for me as an audience, and often while reading it I couldn’t think of it as anything other than an advertisement for Barack, I know that this book is what many people need to read and highlights the important work that a strong, female, black leader is doing in the USA and across the globe.
Columbine by Dave Cullen: A gruesome tale of something that should have never happened. While I do think that this book is longer than it needed to be—there’s a great deal of repetition that I believe is unnecessary—I thoroughly enjoyed it, if anyone can say such a thing about the documentation of a tragedy. If anything, this is an interesting perspective into the psyche of a pair of killers and how a community has had to work through their grief, sadness, and anger. It’s not the right book for most people, and I would never read it again, but it is worth the time for the right type of person.
Huron & Erie Regional Digest: A literary magazine for my liking. A collection of pieces about not the city I live in, but the region. For it’s first issue I’m thoroughly impress and I’ve come on board as a subscriber for the remainder of the year. I am interested to see how it continues to unfold, and just maybe I’ll have a feature in an upcoming issue.
Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich: It’s easy for me to get behind the premise of this book–that schools have failed our individual needs and might not be the best place to encourage learning and develop the citizens which society needs. With that said, as is so often the case, the delivery of this idea is what I find difficult to accept with this book. Perhaps because of the prevailing dialog of the days of when it was published (1971) or the social and political structures the author was intending to take down–the critical discourse on education this book offers is, perhaps, too critical. Often times I believe that a more balanced approach to delivering a message might be met with greater update and understanding. Then again, this perspective is likely a result of my privileged upbringing.
Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin: I’m not certain why I started reading this piece, given that I was less than moved by the authors previous book, but I attempted to give this work an honest go. Meh. I found this read to be lacklustre at best. It’s superficial and lacks any type of depth. Perhaps there’s value in this book for someone who has yet to do any type of self reflection or introspection however, I found it to be more of an annoyance than any type of worthwhile read for myself.
When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink: Written in typical Pink style, following a very fluid problem-to-conclusion methodology, I really enjoyed this read. Basic in premise, and leading the reader to develop a curiosity about the larger concepts that are only touched upon, this book is a good tool to help individuals and organizations understand who timing of activities (or downtime) is so important, and that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to being ‘productive.’ Easy, but highly worthwhile read.
Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell: Not what I was expecting at all in terms of how I was interpreting the title, this recent Gladwell book was an interesting read. I think I pulled something valuable out of it, but as with most of the author’s works, I find it hard to take him serious or believe what he writes because I feel like it lacks the necessary depth to make a compelling argument, or excludes a certain aspect regarding the discussion that would negate the premise he’s trying to deliver on. What I found most interesting from this read was the theory of, coupling—that a behaviour is linked to a specific context. I think I’ll follow-up on this a bit more.
They Won’t Demolish Me! by Roch Carrier: A hilarious read about a boarding house in Montreal. Written by the same author of the historic and iconic, The Hockey Sweater, the only thing I could think of while reading this book was how great of a small-stage adaption it would make. The characters are still vividly in my mind, and I continue to laugh about the ongoing escapades. The language of the book is certainly illustrative of the period it was written in / about. A short but entertaining read.
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy: An important topic, told though a compelling story. The entire pharmaceutical sector (in the USA) is a bit unbelievable, but it’s a reality. This read opened by eyes to the how integrated the drug epidemic is to the economy, politics, and our every day social structures. I think this is an important read for most people. My only criticism is that it accomplishes its point early on in the book, with the remainder being highly repetitive and offering little additional value. This book could have been 1/2 the size and delivered the same message.
The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods by John McKnight: How do we shift our thinking, habits, and tendencies from those rooted in consumerism back to ones rooted in community; this is the central premise of this book. Having sat on my ‘community development to-read list’ for far too long, I was happy to finally get to this work. While simple in concept, the message it conveys becomes complex when a person begins to evaluate their current situation in society and begin to understand the depth of community they may be attached to. How can we begin to re-form the connections we once had with others in our neighbourhoods and family that have been replaced overtime with services we pay for to absolve us from the very duties and actions that make us human? In the current world-wide public health crisis this book and its message is even more paramount.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: Although I am not sure how I missed reading this while growing up, it’s a book I wish I had read sooner. As a fan of most all dystopian future works of fiction, I couldn’t put this read down. Clearly all of the raves and reviews Atwood has received in the past—and continues to receive—are well arranged. Now, I’m interested in exploring other books and stories that were probably presented to me in my youth but that I would have likely turned my nose up at. Here’s to being a (very) late bloomer.
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein: Relatively quick read that helps to validate a premise that I strongly connect with. Not without it’s faults, no argument is, this book offers a perspective on both generalists and specialists and what type of work and environments they may be best suited for. I’m not certain the depth of the research backing this book is adequately conveyed through its pages, so further reading into the academic side of the foundational arguments might be needed.
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer: I began listening to this as I thought it would be a compelling narrative about a pair of murders, what I got though was an overview of Mormonism, polygamy, and a narrow history of the united states. Having read other works by Krakauer before I knew that I was going to enjoy the delivery of the content, but I did not expect the path that the delivery would take. Feeling like I could better appreciate the hit tv show, Big Love, after listening to this book, my eyes were opened a bit more to the vast and complex world of religion. I’m not exactly sure who is book is best suited for, and thus can’t make a recommendation. I wouldn’t read it again, but I am thankful I did.
Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Not the book I initially thought I was picking up from the library, but a sequel of sorts, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Taking his theory of flow and applying it to one’s life, Csikszentmihalyi helps to uncover the essence of engagement in one’s daily activities and how to identify what type of work someone should be doing, what they should avoid, and how to get through the boring, routine, and monotonous work we all must face. Although I have yet to read the author’s initial work, Flow, I imagine this read would be more applicable to most people.
Deepening Community: Finding Joy Together in Chaotic Times by Paul Born: A re-read in anticipation of some work with the author’s community engagement organization, this book isn’t as deep as the title would leave you to believe—and that’s perfectly ok. Providing an entrance into the idea of community, and community building, this book is a short survey of what defines community and how one can differ from the next. Full of anecdotal stories, and personal experiences, Born is attempting to speak to those on the cusp of deepening the relationships they have with those closest to them geographically. A good primer for someone new to the field of community development, or a helpful reminder to those who are already invested in this work of why it is important work, Deepening Community is anything but deep, and that’s exactly what it should be.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo: I’m not certain I have the words to express what I feel now that I have completed this read. The authors approach to putting such a charged and historically entrenched topic into perspective may not sit well with some. However, it’s an important topic regardless of opinion. Making a distinction between—being a racist and being complicit in racism—caught my attention early on in the book. While I would never label myself as a racist (does anyone actually call themselves this?) I certainly can see some of the ways which I contribute to ongoing racism. I still haven’t processed all of the thoughts I’ve had since reading this book, but know that this work certainly deserves another, closer read, with some guidance to fully unpack and appreciate what its offering.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond:
Housing is a problem everywhere. It’s next to impossible for anyone to purchase a home anymore, including those who live in places of relative privilege in society. Renting in North America is becoming as bad, with rents much more than what most people can afford. There is a crisis. If, Evicted, offered anything—in addition to it’s compelling format and delivery of this important topic—it was a descriptive look into some of the most depressing living conditions in America. While at times the format of this book threw me for a loop, whereas I thought I was reading a work of fiction, its delivery of such an important and very real topic was a welcomed treat in comparison to other non-fiction reads on the same issue. Although after a while the stories captured seemed repetitive in nature, and proved to be more depressing—and real—than I initially thought the book would be, I was thankful I continued the book to the end. It’s epilogue on the idea of, home and hope was a highly compelling wrap up to the read and forced me, as a reader, to really think about what ‘home’ means to me, and more broadly what the ideas of belonging, identity, and place really come down to for an individual. I highly recommend this read to anyone interested in cities, social issues, poverty, or those concerned with how America is failing Americans in building the American dream.
Long live trump.
Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life by Eric Klinenberg: The library is by far one of my most favourite places in the community. Along with the local art gallery/museum, I can’t image what my hometown would be like without them. It’s no surprise then that, Palaces for the People, struck a cord with me. Whether the library, the garden, soccer pitch, local cafes, our schools, places of worship, or simply the sidewalk; these places that bring us together with those we share common space with are often forgotten when it comes to planning, and paying for our cities. More than anything, this read reminded me of how social infrastructure levels fields of power, and affords each and every citizen an opportunity to be considered equals. Bringing us together, to build and re-build community, these spaces are undervalued, under funded, and under recognized. Palaces for the People is a great read for anyone who is looking to further understand the value of the social infrastructure all around them, and to encourage each and every one of us to connect with our neighbours and fellow citizens more often than we do.
Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik: I stuck with this book to the very end because I was interested in learning the innermost details of the everyday stuff around me but felt like the book didn’t deliver in the end. Neither focused on the highly technical elements of the makeup of stuff, or the delivery of broad ideas in general terms, this book felt like it was having an identity crisis and as if the author didn’t have a specific audience in mind when he wrote it. I have no doubt that the author is knowledgeable on the subject matter, but I wish he would have enlisted someone else to write this book for him.
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport: As my first read of the new year, this was a helpful reminder of many of the concepts I’ve come to regard as essential in living a more intentional life. Cal Newport is an author and scholar I have come to respect, and I find that his worldview, and that on the role technology plays in our lives, to be one which echos the values I have come to hold close to me. If anything, this read was a reminder of the the habits I should continue with daily, and some new practices I might find worthwhile to begin. The concepts in this book aren’t overly complicated or mind blowing, but for those who don’t have a handle on the role of technology in their daily lives this book is a good place to start. For others, like myself, who feel that they have a good “relationship” with technological and digital things, this book is a reminder that at the end of the day we are human and always have room to grow.
A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel: As the last book of the year for me, this read was a struggle. Rooted in the history of literature, Greek and Roman cultures, and religious stories, there was a great deal of this book that I found myself not understanding. With that said, I worked my way through the entire book and by the time I was finished I was thankful I did. The why and how the written work has come to be printed on pages, to the reader as a distinct individual; I found myself picking up enough value from the parts of the book that I could understand to really enjoy it. The last chapter titled, “The Book Fool,” was of particular interest. Helping to distinguish between High Society and Popular Culture, this section was a great way to wrap up the read. If I have one criticism it would be this: A History of Reading was hardly a complete history. Most of the 20th century, aside from a couple of mentions of specific events, was excluded from consideration within this work. Perhaps the author could revisit his work and update it to take into account new, more modern elements of reading.
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer: This is not the type of book I would typically pick up to read, but given I’ve enjoyed the author’s previous works I figured I would give this a shot. By far, this is the most disturbing book I’ve read in as long as I can remember, and a horrible, unfortunately true story that is all too common. On more than one occasion while reading this book I found myself wanting to stop reading and move to something much easier and less depressing to read. But, I couldn’t put it down. As an important topic and a difficult subject, it’s imperative that the world knows how imperfect our systems of justice are and what, as a society, we are allowing to happen. More than once while reading this book I found myself yelling out loud at the “characters” because I not only was I disappointed with their words and actions, but because I felt sick inside while reading.
Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber: Compelling premise. Lackluster delivery. Having now made two separate attempts at this book, only being successful via audiobook, I had great expectations for this read but failed to find connection to the work. The author finds the needs to construct his own lexicon to categorize different types of jobs, the terms which seem a little elementary and less than professional. Additionally, the book’s tone and voice is highly informal and makes one wonder of it’s value and credibility. I’d still recommend the read to anyone interested in the topics of work, employment, self worth, and societal expectations, but provide the caveat that the delivery may not be what you expect.
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel: Such a great read. I’m always partial to story about individuals who go against the grain of day-to-day society, and have it within them to seek out the life which works for them. The story of Christopher Knight is no different. What was most interesting about this book is the references made by the author, and Knight himself, to other “hermits” who have selected to live lives of solitude, and the literature they have composed which highlight all of the benefits and reasons for doing so. I picked this up on recommendation from a friend and I’d encourage others to read it as well.
Reality never changes. Only our recollections of it do. Whenever a moment passes, we pass along with it into the realm of memory. And in that realm, geometries change. Contours shift, shades lighten, objectivities dissolve. Memory becomes what we need it to be.
The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson: Not as compelling of a read as last year’s One Book One London read, but a nice deviation from what I would typically find myself consuming. I enjoyed that it was set in Niagara Falls, a location familiar to myself. And, the character reveal at the end of the book helps to provide some context for what unfolds during the majority of the pages. Certainly worth a read for anyone looking for something relatively easy to let their mind wander.
Handbook for the Positive Revolution by Edward de Bono: [throwing up sounds] I’m not really sure what I expected from this book—one of many purchased for a flat rate at a book sale—but I was highly disappointed. This work is too prescriptive and filled with little substance. Its goals are admirable, but the approach to delivering on said goals are lacking in every which way. Perhaps I simply won’t understand the purpose of the book, or was looking to get something different out of it than the others who have read it, but I can’t imagine ever recommending this to anyone.
Drinking in America: Our Secret History by Susan Cheever: This book can be summed up by stating: Americans are drunks. Although it gets tiring, reading story after story of famous individuals who had intimate relationships with alcohol—the point is made after the first dozen pages—I couldn’t put this book down. Reading how America’s relationship with different types of alcohol over the centuries of its history makes for a narrative that helps to give context to why certain things are they way which they are in modern society. Not the best read out there, it’s worth a read if a person is looking to fill a few hours of boredom in their week.
Book Ends: A Year Between the Covers by Naomi Beth Wakan: Picked-up as part of a random collection of books at a book sale, I was hopeful that Wakan’s take on her year of reading would offer me some direction for what I have been trying to takeaway from my own reading efforts. However, this was hardly the case. Wakan’s own words sum up my feelings of her offerings very succinctly: “Every time I open a new book, I do so with almost breathless hope. Hope for what, I am not sure; but usually just after the middle of the book, my hope turns sour and I finish the book listlessly knowing that, yet once more, I have not found what I was seeking.” The only difference between her thought and my own process is that I couldn’t bring myself to finish this read—it was that un-fulfilling.
But the utter mental absorption we experience when we read a written narrative, the way the world disappears around us and an entirely imaginary place springs to life in our consciousness, is unparalleled and impossible to replicate with any other medium. Reading is dreaming awake—Kurt Vonnegut called it the “western version of meditation.” The internet may give us immersion, and it may give us community, but what it can never give us is this experience of dreaming in tandem with an individual author’s imagination. Only books do that.
Who Needs Books?: Reading in the Digital Age by Lynn Coady: A succinct essay on the state of reading, books, and language in a digital age. This read provided a gentle re-connection to books and reading for enjoyment, after a prolonged period away from reading while focused on academic writing. I enjoyed the author’s simple premise—that books, and the language they are founded upon, may be in no worse condition—perhaps better—than in previous decades or centuries. Some insightful consideration is given for the value of the internet and the other media platforms that have been introduced into society over time.
The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age by Sven Birkerts: Contemplations on the printed word, the digital age, and what it means to appreciate books in a time of her changing expectations about what reading should be. It took me much longer to get through this than it should have–life happens–but it was well worth it. Not something I would find myself re-reading in the future, but well worth consuming if someone is at all interested in thoughts on the relationship we have with words, paper, and the printed word.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: A read as part of a road trip to Canada’s east coast, I was thoroughly surprised by this book. Never having read the story as a youngster, or seen any of the filmography created based upon it, I wasn’t certain that it was going to be something I’d enjoy. I am happy to report that I’d glad I took it in (via audiobook) over the length of the trip. The book was so well written, although at times the repetitive use of certain words became a bit much, and I never once felt like it was a chore to keep up with the story. Regarding Anne herself—I know that she is a fictional character, but I really connected with her wit, curiosity, interest in language, and the conversations she could spark and carry on with anyone. I highly recommend this read to anyone looking for an escape from the everyday.
Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford: A re-read of something from years past, I wanted to be reminded of the need to connect to one’s work on a physical basis. As a “knowledge” worker and someone who sits at a computer for most of the day, I often question what value I am contributing to society on a regular basis. As someone who has not used his hands on a regular basis to create value/meaning for others—other than the occasional dinner—I’ve been contemplating how I can get back to using my hands, helping me to feel a greater connection to some type of work. Stripping away the examples from the life of a motorcycle shop mechanic, there is lots of thoughts in this book on life, community, work (ethic), value generation, and understanding one’s self.
Letters from a Stoic by Seneca: As an entry point to get me acquainted with philosophy, I chose this book as a to learn more about Stoicism. This volume is full of great thoughts on life, purpose, problem solving, and becoming more comfortable with one’s self. Having heard that Stoicism might be a philosophy that would resonate deeply with my existing believe, I am happy to report that after an initial read I think I am on the right track. Having highlighted a number of passages, for one reason or another, I will definitely be re-reading this in the future.
Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer: Recommended and loaned to me by a colleague, Let Your Life Speak was a quick read but one I thoroughly enjoyed. Offering thoughts on how to find your true calling, rather than moving towards a predefined path Palmer suggests you let your experiences, actions, and core values provide the necessary direction needed. I particularly found valuable the sections on: Selfhood, Society, and Service; and, Leading from Within. This little book is likely worth reading every now and again as a reminder to accept our true calling and stop wasting time needlessly going down paths we shouldn’t be going down.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain: As a re-read, 2 or 3 times now, I can’t say enough good things about this book. For introverts, it can act as a tool to develop a sense of personal empowerment. Sometimes simply being told that the way you are is, OK, is more than enough. This book has that affect on me, in addition to helping me to better understand the interactions I have with others, introverts or extrovertsalike. Each time I read Quiet I find myself becoming more comfortable with who I am, and more aware of what I am capable of. Whether you’re an introvert or not, I highly recommend this read.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling: Having been on a reading streak of 1 book a week for the first four months of the year, I struggled to complete Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Taking a month to complete this work of juvenile fiction, I’m happy to be done with it. While I can appreciate why these works are such great hits with a given crowd, I found it challenging to stay interested/invested in, and felt like I was often disappointing with the author taking “the easy way out” when it came to plot choices. Although these books are “just not my thing” I’ll probably put myself through reading the remainder 5 books just to say I did it.
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom: As one read in a series of books I picked up on mentoring, Tuesdays with Morrie provided a different approach to providing thoughts on fostering meaningful relationships with others. While I came to this book late, as apparently it has been available for a couple of decades, it provided value to me in the same way I imagine it did when it was first released. As a tale of compassion, Tuesdays with Morrie illustrates that meaningful and fulfilling relationships can take many different shapes, even very simple forms. That a mentor and mentee each have something to gain from a relationship and that this should be top of mind when investing in each other. Although not the be all and end all of mentoring books, this read has helped me to realize that having a purposeful relationship with someone which fosters individual and communal growth needn’t be complicated.
How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen: Having picked up this book based on a search for mentoring resources I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect but imagined it would be related, somewhat, to mentoring. It wasn’t. A poor attempt at combining a business book of best practices, with a self-help and family guidance/child rearing resource—this read was less than impressive or valuable. In trying to draw parallels between one’s personal and professional lives, it serves neither purpose particularly well. Additionally, near the end of the book the primary author, Christensen, begins to tote the importance of God and his particular brand of faith for providing meaning in life. This addition to the book seemed sloppily added. If one’s faith is an essential element in developing a perspective on life, and how to identify and find meaning, I would have hoped this would have been a central element found through the book. It was not. I can’t recommend this read.
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown: A follow up to the handful of other books she has penned, Brené Brown offers thoughts on leadership and trust in the context of shame and vulnerability. Coming as a difficult time in my career, where I feel like I’m now unable to trust my direct manager and have lost almost all respect I’ve had for them as a result, this read has me rethinking how I approach leadership roles and the ways I interact with the teams I am a part of. Questions I find myself asking include: how can I more authentically be myself around others?; how am I contributing to negative workplace cultures?; how can I build empathy with those who look to me for support?; and, how can I open up, be vulnerable, and let my personal life meld, appropriately, with my professional image?
Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by K. Anders Ericsson: This was an interesting read regarding deliberate practice and what makes experts in a given field extraordinary. Find something you’re interested in and motivated to succeed in; select a teacher or mentor who is an expert in the field; and set along a course of purposeful and systematic—deliberate—practice to develop and hone the skills essential to be the best in your field. Perhaps a simplification of a much more complicated process but this is, in essence, what was outlined in Peak. I particularly enjoyed Ericsson’s attempt to clarify the “ten thousand hours” concept which Malcolm Gladwell popularized, and shine some light on the fact that practicing isn’t enough on it’s own; practicing the same thing over and over, in a wrong way, for hours on end will not make an expert. Although I do think this book could have accomplished the same level of commentary in far fewer pages it was a worthwhile read.
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline: The 2018/2019 pick for the One Book One London, collaborative reading campaign—The Marrow Theives is an easy, and unfortunately uneventful young fiction read. Although the themes throughout the book, about: belonging, community, culture, identity, race, relationships, and the unfortunate history which our current nation (Canada) was built upon, are important for their own reasons and the collective at large, I found the story line a repetitive at times and without the depth I would have like to have read. Given that this is a young adult read perhaps I shouldn’t hold much against it, and given that I haven’t been all that impressed with the previous year’s picks for the One Book One London campaign, it’s probably in-line with what I should have expected.
Experience and Education by John Dewey: Comparing and contrasting “traditional” and “progressive” approaches to education, Dewey proposes that both ways of educating are incomplete, and in many respects mis-educative. Believing that a carefully developed philosophy of education is essential regardless of how an educator or system approaches the “problem” of fostering learning, grounded in either traditional top-down methods or rooted in experience, Dewey leaves readers with the following thought:
What we want and need is education pure and simple, and we shall make surer and faster progress when we develop ourselves to finding out just what education is and what conditions have to be satisfied in order that education may be a reality and not a name or a slogan. It is for this reason alone that I have emphasized the need for a sound philosophy of experience.
Utopia by Thomas More:
A commentary on society—on what is, as well as what could be—More’s work, whose title translates as, “no place,” is an interesting read to say the least. Offering thoughts on both an ideal society and an unrealistic one at that, there are some concepts in this classic that if were to be adopted by specific countries we, as a population, may find ourselves living in greater harmony. Not perfect by any means, and open to any number of interpretations, this book sat on the shelf in my apartment for far too long.
Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh: In many of the same ways as, Educated by Tara Westover, did earlier in 2018 when it was published, Heartland tells the story of a young woman and the challenges she faced growing up in a society that wasn’t welcoming to her. A tale of place, poverty, identity, and belonging; Heartland seems to have brought Brené Brown’s, Daring Greatly, to life. Not a challenging read by any meaning of the words, and leaving a little left to be desired: the book jumps around far too much for my liking, and wrapped up as many books do—in a rushed manner; I would still recommend this read to someone looking to gain some perspective into their personal situation regardless of how dissimilar it may be from the story being told.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: As an unanticipated recommendation from a friend, provided without any context, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from my first Vonnegut experience. I was underwhelmed to say the least. Maybe it was the fact that Tralfamadorian experiences that the main character, Billy Pilgrim, has aren’t in-fact PTSD episodes but concocted as an actual alien encounters which led the book astray for myself. I’m actually a believer in aliens, but I found that this part of the book was unnecessary in the way it was presented, as an interaction with another being, while offering a valuable piece for character development that could have been delivered more tactfully. While it may be considered one of the top 100 novels of all time I’m not convinced that I’d put it in my list.
Fifty Days of Solitude by Doris Grumbach: This book was a beautiful look into a person’s soul and what makes them the way they are. In addition to Grumbach’s own thoughts on solitude, and the multifaceted forms they take, the inclusions of others’ interpretation of what solitude is, and isn’t, brought more depth and meaning to her words. Thoughts on friendship, community, the purpose of life, and what really matters on an essential level are themes found throughout this book.
Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris:
In defining the difference between loneliness and solitude, Harris takes the time to argue for the need to find solitude in the everyday while illustrating the immense value in doing so. Whether it’s considering the function of maps in our daily excursions, the power that lies within traditional (love) letter writing, or how and why we should allow ourselves to slip in-and-out of daydreams, Solitude was a pleasant read if only to help reaffirm some of the many things I already believe. Most importantly, this read helped me to realize that while I appreciate, value, and need to be alone on a regular basis, I have never been completely alone in my life. Recognizing this, there may be a time in the (near) future that I find myself correcting this.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: A compelling read about the life of a series of broken homes, the children who grew up in these homes through the years, aging and passing loved ones, and how their story is shared with the world. While a work of fiction, Commonwealth caused me to pause for a moment and consider my family interactions and what I value most of the community I am a part of.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: One of the few works of fiction that I have read this year, and in a long time, I thoroughly enjoyed this post-apocalyptic story against a familiar southwestern Ontario backdrop. Blending the present with the past through creative means of story telling, I appreciated that the future world depicted in this work was not overly grim and contains a glimmer of hope for both society and the individuals central to its story. A populate read from a few years ago, I’m not certain why I did not previous pick this up.
The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker: Although I do not typically appreciate non-fiction works that are filled with personal anecdotes rather than factual statements, The Art of Gathering is a read that I will not easily forget. Helping me to (re-)consider the way I interact with guests, I am interested in if some easy changes to the way I host people can help to increase the connections I have with others. As Someone at the beginning of planning a wedding, I am interested what I can pull from this work to shape our communal gathering. While not mind-blowing book has helped me to slow down, and think any means, this book when it comes to gathering with friends and strangers alike.
Educated by Tara Westover: This book is not what I expected it to be. A “slow build” of a story, by the end of reading this work I could not but help to think about the story of long-term abuse it depicted. As someone who has not read memoirs in the past, this book may be a gateway to a genre that can provide a bridge for me between the non-fiction works I almost only read, and those of fiction that I would like to become lost within.
Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Vicki Robin: Hailed as a “classic” of sorts in the personal finance world, I was not overly captivated by this read. The how-to nature of this book did not speak to my needs or interests. With that said, the broader theme which is was created out of—simple living, and working towards identifying and providing for one’s means—is certainly something that stuck with me. I might say that this work belongs on the more radical, and somewhat unnecessary end of the personal finance spectrum, but to each their own.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert by John Gottman: Recommended as an “important” read as part of a “relaxed” marriage preparation course, the findings of this book are supposedly based on factual, scientific evidence. Admitting to “reading” this in the audiobook format (the only book I remember reading in this fashion) there was lots of check-lists, and work sheets that did not translate in the audio format. Like most self-help, or marriage prep books, it can be challenging to follow the rules or suggestions without having the book in front of you. As with any good book on relationships, the central themes of mutual respect, and good communication were present.
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works: A True Story by Dan Harris: Again, a book at turned out to me something other than what I thought it might have been about. This book provided a gateway to other potential future reads regarding the power of meditation in every-day life and how an individual can integrate such a practice to support their basic needs. I am not certain that I would recommend this book to anyone as it did not include a truly compelling, underlying statement, but it might be valuable to some.
Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese: Having read this on recommendation by my social worker, after she found out about my shared $1-million lottery win with co-workers, this was a relatively quick read for me. Penned by a leading First Nations author, this book’s approach at telling the story through the eyes of all of the major characters involved helped to provide some perspective. I am not sure how much of the story itself would be likely to unfold as it did, if it were to happen in real life, but that is the point of works of fiction, no?
Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery: Having re-read this book in an attempt to join a local book club I had high hopes, I was rather unimpressed (again) with the book. Funny enough, I was also unimpressed with the purpose of the bookclub itself and organization. I feel that this book is only surface deep and fails to recognize all of interconnected realities of the cities we live within.
Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution by Brene Brown: See my comments regarding Brown’s other book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone which I also recently read.
On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King: I wish I had of read this book much sooner. Not a compelling work, for myself, based on what it offers in terms of the writing process, On Writing was a phenomenal look into the life and development of Stephen King. As I am not generally a fan of King’s written work, I was surprised when I easily read through this book on a trans-Atlantic flight this summer. I have lent my copy of this book to a couple of friends already and have heard good things in return.
Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown: Having been moved, last year, by Daring Greatly I was hoping that this work from the same author would have done the same. Unfortunately, it did not have the same impact on me. I am hoping that in 2019 perhaps I can revisit this, along with Brown’s new work, Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts (2018), to reconsider if it/they provide as much value as her breakout hit did.
The comments above also go for, Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution by Brene Brown, which I also recently read.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: It’s really hard to capture the essence of this book. The easiest way is to tell someone to watch the movie, remove the epic soundtrack, and enjoy the ride. This coming of age story is one that I can’t get enough of. I find there’s great depth within the words of this story, whether on paper or on the screen.
People Space: The Making and Breaking of Human Boundaries by Norman Ashcraf: A dated read regarding the space that people occupy, and how they interact with such space and the others in their vicinity. Some minor foundational thoughts about the aforementioned interactions, but given that many of the examples are from eras passed, I am not certain if it is valuable enough to recommend. This book was picked up at a used bookstore in Kingston, Ontario during the Family Day weekend in 2018.