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Archive for the ‘Books I’m Reading’ Category

I just finished reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and I must say, it is one of the best books I have ever read.  The intensity and a substance found in this book is not something you would normally find in your typical fiction novel. 

Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob Jankowski’s life with this circus. It’s obvious that Sara Gruen did her research and spares no detail in narrating the horrible circumstances in which Jacob find himself. As with most books, the story is told in the first person but in the case of Water for Elephants, you are transported seamlessly between past and present, from early twenties Jacob riding the circus train, to the perspective of an early nineties Jacob living out his final days in a assisted-living center. 

You’ll find yourself fascinated by both the unusual subject matter and the deep emotion found throughout this profoundly moving book. You’ll see first hand the horror and brutality of life with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth and you’ll feel all the tragic emotion and uplifting love and passion between the characters.

This book is heart wrenching yet hopeful and I promise that you will not be disappointed. The characters (both significant and trivial) are abundantly detailed and even the animals are given complex characters that make them a fundamental piece of the novel. 

Overall, this is a fascinating, well-rounded book that is filled with controversy, adventure, jealousy, love, friendship, brutality and hope.

I highly recommend this book!

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I just finished reading a phenomenal, beautifully written book called “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova.

It is a fiction novel but is so well written that you’d swear it was true-life story written about a real person named Alice. This is a heartbreaking book about Alzheimer’s and the devastating effects it has on the lives of all those affected.

Alice is a 50 year old, healthy, athletic, intelligent Harvard psychology professor. She starts to forget little things like a certain word while giving a speech. At first she ignores these symptoms assuming it’s only menopause, but after she gets lost in Harvard Square, the area she run’s through daily, she goes to see her doctor. After being referred to see a neurologist and participating in a number of memory tests, she is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The book is a depiction of how her once fulfilling life steadily begins to unravel.

The really fascinating aspect of this book, however, is that it is written from Alice’s perspective. Instead of seeing her memory deteriorate from the viewpoint of an outsider, you are immersed in her horrifying world, feeling all the terror right along with her.

I love dramatic, fear-inducing books but I have never read anything as terrifying as Still Alice. I actually had to put the book down and stop reading a few times because I was getting too frightened. Lisa Genova does such an amazing job at capturing what Alice goes through that at times, you actually start to feel like you have Alzheimer’s too. You really become entirely connected to Alice and her struggles and feel like you are going through all the same emotions and heartache that she is.

This novel is powerful, haunting and absolutely heartbreaking. This is by far one of the best books I have read and I highly recommend this book to anyone willing to submerge themselves in Alice’s frightening world…just be aware that it is not a book to be taken lightly. It is truly terrifying and your fear of Alzheimer’s will certainly grow after reading this book.

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I recently finished reading a very cool book by Robert Sutton called ‘The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t’. The title of the book was enough to get me hooked and it didn’t disappoint.

I found that this book was aimed a little more at “building a civilized workplace”, which isn’t all that helpful for someone like me with zero influence, but it certainly was fascinating to read. Sutton shares plenty of statistics, talks about a ton of research and uses a lot of great examples in his book. The really interesting stuff was the research he presents showcasing the extent of damage these people do to organizations. If I were a CEO, this data alone would make me want to implement the “no asshole rule” immediately.

This book is filled with lots of great info including how to avoid being an asshole, identifying a temporary asshole from a certified asshole, and the effects of ‘asshole poisoning’ in your company. Although the entire book was very intriguing, the chapter I enjoyed the most, and the reason I bought the book, was tips for surviving nasty people and workplaces.

So many books I’ve read focus on being compassionate, enthusiastic, looking on the bright side and giving it your all. Well let me tell you, from someone who works with a major jerk on a daily basis, compassion is neither the easiest nor the best solution in all cases. Sure, it would be great to be able to find something wonderful about a certain co-worker and embrace their individuality but the reality is, I’m not all sunshine and rainbows and I can’t just put on a happy face when someone deliberately takes me down time after time. Self-help can only go so far when you are dealing with a really nasty person and Sutton gives you some ways of surviving their wrath that actually work.

One of my favourite methods Sutton suggests is to limit your exposure. By limiting your exposure you not only suffer less direct damage but you also gain some control which protects your sense of self, spirit and physical health.

Another unconventional suggestion is to develop indifference and emotional detachment. He says to focus on just going through the motions, on caring as little as possible about the jerks around you, and to think about something more pleasant as often as you can.

I may not spend each day in an emotionally detached fantasy, and I certainly can’t avoid contact with my office jerk at all times, but I now feel like I am in a little more control. I can celebrate my small victories and I know I’m not alone. So thank you Bob Sutton for putting a spotlight on the assholes of the world and making us victims feel a little more powerful. 🙂

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I finally finished reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It took me two months! This is a book that either inspired and enlightened people or endlessly annoyed them. Unfortunately I was in the latter category. I picked this book up after hearing great reviews and recommendations but I struggled to read the entire thing. I was deeply disappointed because I was really hoping to be enlightened by this book and I wasn’t. Even as I struggled through, and attempted to delay judgment and finish the book in its entirety, there was never a point in which I became fully engrossed in the story. Truthfully, I was bored. I so badly wanted to live vicariously through the author and her experiences but was frustrated with her inability to illustrate her own experience in a way that I could capture and fully appreciate it.

I apologize if this post offended anyone that did enjoy this book but I just wanted to give my perspective to others who had not yet read the book. I hope that they might take the time to read other reviews and make an informed decision before spending their hard-earned money and getting their hopes up.

I’d appreciate any feedback from others who have read this book, especially from those that really did love it. Maybe I’m not normal; maybe I missed something big and enlightening, some grand “a-ha” moment; or maybe this type of book or writing style just wasn’t my cup of tea. Perhaps if I hear other people’s opinions and perspectives I can find something inspiring in those pages.

On the positive side (there always needs to be a positive side), I have become more interested in exploring meditation and the benefits it can bring. So thank you Elizabeth Gilbert for sparking my interest in meditation.

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I first saw The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha a couple of months ago. Its name and brightly coloured cover instantly caught my attention but for some reason I didn’t buy it. I saw it again at another book store, and again at a third store, my mom even called and asked me “Have you seen The Book of Awesome? I think you’d really like it.” I received a ton of gift certificates to the book store for Christmas and yet I still held back on ordering the book, instead choosing such books and ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and ‘The Art of Happiness’. Then one day, while browsing the internet, I came across a link to a presentation by Neil Pasricha called “The 3 A’s of Awesome”. I instantly fell in love with him! As soon as I finished watching his presentation, I ordered the book and could barely stand the two day wait until it finally arrived at my door. I immediately dug in and could not believe how quickly it put a smile on my face. Not only does Neil show you how to appreciate the little things in life but he does it in such an amazing, entertaining way. He truly is a hilarious writer and knows just how to get you smiling! My only question now is, do I read the book all at once and overdose on awesomeness, or do I read a little each day to spread it out? Either way, I’m positive this book is going to make me very happy!

 AWESOME!

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In my previous post I talked about reading The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin. It is a fabulous book and has totally inspired me to start my own Happiness Project for 2011 and infuse more happiness into my life! 🙂

What is a Happiness Project?

From Gretchen Rubin’s site:  A “happiness project” is an approach to changing your life. First is the preparation stage, when you identify what brings you joy, satisfaction, and engagement, and also what brings you guilt, anger, boredom, and remorse. Second is the making of resolutions, when you identify the concrete actions that will boost your happiness. Then comes the interesting part: keeping your resolutions.

After creating my massive resolutions list, I started looking for themes. Each month has a theme that will serve as the main focus/obsession for those 28-31 days. With each theme, I will choose 5-10 specific resolutions/goals that I will adhere to.

There are some goals and resolutions, however, which are so broad that they defy any one category so I am listing these as my 12 Personal Commandments:

  • Be Authentic.
  • Talk less, listen more.
  • Mind your business.
  • Act the way I want to feel.
  • Slow down.
  • Don’t take things personally.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Do what ought to be done and do it now!
  • Experience something new whenever you can.
  • Ask for help.
  • Enjoy the process.
  • Lighten up.

Stay tuned for the first month of my Happiness Project!!!

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