The Best Life Stories

best life stories reader's digest 2013The Best Life Stories: 150 Real-life tales of resilience, joy and hope–all 150 words or less! collected by Reader’s Digest, 5/5

I enjoyed the wide variety of writing styles, perspectives and meaningful experiences represented in this concise collection.  The fact that these stories were collected from the general public via Facebook just goes to show that you don’t have to be a famous writer, poet or personality to express beautiful insights about the human experience.

Why I read it: found it while wandering through the library looking for something light and inspirational to read while cutting weight for my first MMA fight.

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Go Add Value Someplace Else

go add value someplace else scott adams andrews mcmeel publishing 2014Go Add Value Someplace Else by Scott Adams, 4/5

This probably would have seemed funnier if I hadn’t read it while sitting in a sauna, cutting weight for my first MMA fight.  Still, it made the time pass!

The Last Lecture

last lecture randy pausch hyperion 2008The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow, 2/5

Is it the mystery of death or mere crass curiosity that makes people so fascinated by “last words”?  For whatever reason, the appeal is undeniable.  However, it is also undeniable that everyone dies and, heartless as it may sound, imminent death is no philosophical or literary credential.  Mostly according to himself, Pausch was a great success as a human being: intelligent, successful, hard-working, loved and loving…but this short book somehow still left ample opportunity for me to repeatedly wonder when it was going to get profound, insightful, or helpful in any way.  It felt rather like a Wikipedia article written about someone, not because they had such a noteworthy effect on the world that it deserved lasting mention, but merely because they died.  (Interestingly, I later looked up Pausch’s Wikipedia article and that is almost exactly what happened–it was created the month he got his terminal diagnosis, not at any time during his career).   Perhaps people who are dealing with life-threatening illness would have a different perspective, but I felt this book had very little to offer besides voyeuristic appeal, though I’m sure that as a memoir for his family, it is beyond value.

Why I read it: My gym friend, Tyler, thought I might enjoy it and lent me his copy.

helium

helium rudy francisco button poetry 2017helium by Rudy Francisco, 3/5

By the time my library bought this book for me (have I mentioned how much I LOVE libraries?!) and I got around to reading it, I had forgotten why I requested it in the first place and only remembered a vague feeling of excitement and anticipation.  Despite the positive feelings going into it, I didn’t really connect well with most of Francisco’s poetry and found the vocabulary a bit forced, cliched, and melodramatic.  It wasn’t until I reached the penultimate poem that I remembered why I had looked the book up in the first place and also why I wasn’t enjoying it.  Earlier, I had come across Francisco’s powerful spoken-word performance of “Complainers” and it had inspired me to find out more about his work.  Turns out, spoken-word poetry needs a speaker just like a song needs a singer.  Both the artist and the performance are such an integral part of the art that it is virtually lifeless without these elements.  So, this book has value as a physical collection of Francisco’s writings and as a way that fans can provide financial support for him, but to really explore his work, I think YouTube is a better option.

2017 Stats

In 2017 I read twenty-three books, sixteen of which were nonfiction, three fiction, two webcomics and two poetry.

I averaged about two books a month, but the most books I read in a single month was five (September).

I read 1 book written in the 4th century
1 book written in the 1600s
1 book written in the 1700s
1 book written in the 1800s
2 books written between 1900-1949
6 books written between 1950-1999
11 books written between 2000-2017

Books that I rated 1 star: 1 (~4%)
2 stars: 4 (~17%)
3 stars: 8 (~35%)
4 stars: 3 (~13%)
5 stars: 7 (~30%)

So why has my reading output dropped 50% for two years in a row?  Well, last year the answer to this question was martial arts.  This year, I also acquired a boyfriend (who does martial arts and is at least a thousand times more fun to hang out with than a book).  Also, I got hung up on Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, which took months to get through.

The Book of Five Rings

book of five rings musashi wilson kodansha international 2002The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, translated by William Scott Wilson, 5/5

It is absolutely stunning how relevant this book remains to today’s students of combat sports, though it was written almost 400 years ago for Japanese swordsmen.  I recognize so many of the techniques and concepts that Musashi describes from my own kickboxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA sparring experiences.  In fact, I believe such review and recognition is likely where this work’s main interest and value lies–I certainly don’t feel able to learn subtle martial arts concepts from a book (certainly not from a picture-less book!), but it is fascinating to see what I have learned from my coaches and through experience reflected on the page.  Perhaps this is why the ever-practical Musashi ends each lesson with a comment like “You should make efforts in this,” or “You should practice this well.”

Why I read it: I came across Musashi’s “21 Rules of Life” online, read a bit about him and remembered that though I had given my brother a beautifully illustrated copy of The Book of Five Rings many years ago, I had never actually gotten around to reading it myself.

The Five Languages of Apology

five languages of apology chapman thomas thomson gale 2007The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, 4/5

Making and receiving apologies has always seemed like a fairly natural part of human interaction to me, so I’ve never given the topic much thought.  However, I was recently very confused to be told plaintively by someone that “so-and-so has never apologized to me in twenty years!”  What was so confusing about this comment?  Well “so-and-so” had recently made an unexpected and unsolicited apology to me!  Was I to believe this same person had purposefully withheld all apologies from someone else, or was there some other communication issue at play?

It turns out that different people have different expectations when it comes to what makes a sincere apology.  According to this book, if one or more of the five “languages” of apology is lacking, the whole effort can fail to register with the recipient as a sincere apology, no matter how genuine it was intended to be.

  1. Expressing Regret: “I am sorry.”
  2. Accepting Responsibility: “I was wrong.”
  3. Making Restitution: “What can I do to make it right?”
  4. Genuinely Repenting: “I’ll try not to do that again.”
  5. Requesting Forgiveness: “Will you please forgive me?”

I feel that the use of the word “languages” to describe these five aspects is a too-obvious effort to tie this book in with Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, but it is undeniably helpful to know what shortcomings could cause an apology to ring untrue.  While the main focus of the book is on how to make sure your apology meets the intended recipient’s subconscious criteria, it is also interesting to understand that just because an apology doesn’t cover the aspect that is most important to you, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is insincere.

Another very interesting point the authors make is that, while forgiveness is a decision, trust is an emotion (213).  You can choose to forgive someone, but trust should be earned.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting what someone has done, making light of their bad actions, or going back to the way things were, but it does mean giving your relationship with them a chance to heal and grow.

Why I read it: my sister recommended it and I’m always interested in learning to be a better communicator.