Tagged: Nonfiction

Confessions of a Casting Director

confessions of a casting director jen rudin harpercollins 2014Confessions of a Casting Director: Help Actors Land Any Role with Secrets from Inside the Audition Room, by Jen Rudin, 3/5

This book provides an interesting perspective into the more prosaic side of glamorous showbiz.  I really enjoyed the variety of personal anecdotes, not just from the author, but from a variety of people associated with the entertainment industry.  The whole audition circuit sounds intense and I’m amazed how much rejection aspiring actors can endure while still maintaining the will to live.  I guess it helps that the focus seems more on finding “the one” for each role than on weeding out bad actors.  So even if you’re not “the one,” it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.  The author’s attitude is very positive and encouraging overall, giving all-purpose advice that emphasizes the importance of professionalism and self-confidence.

Why I read it: thought it looked interesting while wandering around the library.


Beach Stones

beach stones josie iselin margaret carruthers harry n abrams 2006Beach Stones, photography by Josie Iselin, text by Margaret W. Carruthers, 5/5

Great photography and informative descriptions make for a book that is as beautiful as it is interesting.

Why I read it: a random library find.

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.


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.


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.


The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle

Nicomachean ethics of aristotle ross oxford university press 1954The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle, translated by Sir David Ross, 3/5

It took several attempts over a span of many months for me to get through this short book, in which Aristotle addresses topics of timeless interest, such as happiness, virtue, and friendship.  The difficulty of this book lies, for me, not so much in the complexity of the ideas but in the general lack of reasoning provided to support them.  A few moments of profundity are obscured by mundane observations, personal opinions (unsupported by fact) and attempts to force nebulous concepts into various organizational schemes.  At first, I felt frustrated and disappointed that the Nicomachean Ethics, similar to Plato’s Phaedo, did not meet my expectations.  However, after reading the Wikipedia article and a helpful lecture on the topic, it became clearer to me that this book’s value is more in the framework it provides for discussion and thought than for any definitive claims it makes.  To me, it represents just the beginnings of thought on a complicated topic, made more remarkable by its age and practical, community-centered perspective on morality.  Though its broader themes are difficult to grasp, it does reward a casual reading with the always-fascinating insight that human nature has not changed over thousands of years, and occasional gems like this:

But we must not follow those who advise us, being men, to think of human things, and, being mortal, of mortal things, but must, so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more does it in power and worth surpass everything (265).

Why I read it: C.S. Lewis referenced it in The Abolition of Man so I recognized the title while book shopping in Wales.