Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

Catch Up: Books 14-16

It has been on my to-do list for nearly a month to write posts about my last two reads. Now that I finished a third book last night, I came to the realization that I simply had to put something down — no matter how short it is — and give the books some attention. I also want to make sure that I have a record of my thoughts before the reading experience is too far separated. I regret that these tremendous books are being grouped together in a single post, but I feel it is the only way to make sure that they are covered here on Reading for Me.

#14: Grit by Angela Duckworth

I think it was this outstanding book that was causing me the greatest difficulty in reviewing. It is a remarkable work that explores the importance of persistence, patience, and perseverance in the pursuit of success. Duckworth’s writing is very detailed and thorough, but she maintains a manner that is approachable by the careful reader. I especially enjoyed her application of concepts as they were found in the lives of athletes, businessmen, and musicians. There is nothing that I can say here that will adequately express my admiration for Grit other than this — I plan to review the book again in a future reading and strongly recommend that it be read by every student, parent, professor, and professional. I promise that you will be challenged and encouraged by each page.

#15: Naturally Tan by Tan France

While driving back to my native Arkansas a few weeks ago, I decided to devote my time to enjoying the audio book of Tan France’s memoir. What a delightful and insightful way to spend several hours in the car! As most of my followers will already be aware, Mr. France is one of the hosts of the current iteration of Netflix’s Queer Eye. (I have also read the memoirs of Karamo Brown and Jonathan Van Ness.  I look forward to reading similar books by Bobby Berk and Antoni Porowski when they *hopefully* appear.) I enjoyed Tan’s stories from the fashion industry and his journey to stardom. What I found most profound were his candid discussions about race, prejudice, and discrimination. Little did I know that Tan’s openness would resound so clearly in my ears as I watched the upheaval that our nation is currently facing. Simply an exquisite read.

#16: The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer

This second volume of the Clifton Chronicles was just as riveting and well-written as its predecessor. Set against the backdrop of the Second World War, the novel focuses largely on Harry Clifton’s time in the United States as a convict, serving time for a crime he did not commit. Emma, Harry’s jilted love, travels to America in hopes of finding out what happened to the man she adored when he left British soil. Many of the characters we came to enjoy during Only Time Will Tell reappear and continue their story line. In typical Archer fashion, the second novel of the series ends with a tremendous cliff hanger that leaves the reader wondering what will happen and longing to know how the circumstances will impact Harry, Emma, and Giles. Thankfully, the entire series is published and the next volume sits on my night stand, waiting to be read. The Clifton Chronicles are proving to be enthralling yet do not demand so much brain power that I feel as though I must labor through them. Perfect material for a summer vacation as we all try to recover from the recent pandemic’s strain upon our minds and emotions.

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#6: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (Lori Gottlieb)

February has been a challenging month in my reading life. Here’s hoping that finally finishing my latest audio read is the beginning of a return to a somewhat normal reading routine.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed is a riveting book that connects the reader to Gottlieb and two of her clients: Julie and John. Julie is facing terminal cancer and struggling with the unfairness of dying as a very young woman who has just married the love of her life. John is a writer for a hit television series who thinks everyone he encounters is an absolute idiot. Through therapy, the real source of John’s problems will be discovered — a life filled with tragedy and unimaginable loss. While counseling her clients, Lori is facing her own struggles as she comes to terms with a relationship that has gone south and her fear that she will never find love. The memoir takes the reader on a roller coaster ride from the outlandishly funny to tearfulness and absolute sorrow.

Personally, this was not a good selection for me to read as an audiobook. The irregularity of my listening habits made it challenging to connect with the characters and follow the discoveries made in therapy. Additionally, since I have been dealing with personal emotional stresses while reading Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, I found it challenging to listen to the personal stories the book contained. If I had read this book at a different time in my own life, I think I would have had a very different response. For right now, though, it was just a little too much for me to handle. So I’m going to take a respite from audiobooks for a few weeks. I’m not spending enough time alone in the car at the moment (which is where I typically read these books) and I need to refresh my palate for a little while. Maybe You Should Talk hit a little too close to home for me this time around.

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Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time (Brian Tracy)

With a title like Eat that Frog, how could I not crack open the pages of this book to see what in the world the author was actually talking about? I’ve been on a time management kick lately. I suppose it has much to do with the fact that it has been a constant topic of discussion with students this semester. I’m not a master of the discipline either, but since I was offering advice to others, I decided it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to get some other ideas.

Tracy’s thoughts can be summed up fairly easily into a couple of statements. Plan and prioritize your day before getting things started. Do the task you are dreading the most at the beginning of the day. (That’s what “Eat that frog” actually means.) Realize that 80% of your activity should be spent on the 3 or 4 tasks that only you can do that bring success to your company. Delegate and let unnecessary tasks go the way of the dodo.

Eat that Frog is clearly written from a business perspective. While some of its premises seem out-dated (especially the advice to refrain from using any type of electronic device during a meeting), the ideas are manageable to implement and seem like good advice. Personally, I really like the simplicity of Tracy’s planning process. List everything that needs to be done tomorrow and categorize into what A) must be done, B) would be nice to do, C) eventually needs to be done, D) can be delegated, and E) should be eliminated. Begin working in category A with the most important and then proceed down the list. No file folders to sort. No grouping according to location. Just put your head down and get the work done.

Tracy’s premise does seem problematic in the world of academia. How do you manage getting things done when you are constantly interrupted by classes, office hours, and meetings? I like the ideas, but I don’t know that they will actually hold up in reality for the majority of the workforce — including those outside of the academic realm.

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#3: The Practicing Mind (Thomas M. Sterner)

I finished reading this book earlier this month and never got around to writing a blog post about it. Here it is….better late than never, I suppose.

The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life is applicable to all areas of life. With special attention to the study of music and golf, Sterner looks at the steps necessary in “mastering any skill by learning to love the process.” To summarize the book very quickly, Sterner advocates using a DOC approach to practice — Do, Observe, Correct. His emphasis on the observation step and its non-judgmental, non-self-depreciating aspects are extremely valuable to the growing musician.

Written in an anecdotal style, The Practicing Mind is an extremely easy read. Its thought-provoking ideas will challenge the reader in the early stages of the work. As Sterner continues through the book, his prose and ideas become rather repetitive, which I found to diminish the power of the work. (To be fair, the idea of repetition is central to Sterner’s argument and its use in his writing may be intentional. However, the repetition without the addition of new ideas was grating for this reader.)

Will I assign The Practicing Mind to all of my college students? Certainly not. I do think it can be a powerful tool in specific situations and has earned a place on my resource bookshelf.

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#1: Seven Things That Steal Your Joy (Joyce Meyer)

January is almost over and I’ve gotten behind in posting here. That will explain why two posts will appear in two consecutive days. (I wish I would finish a book in less than 24 hours!)

The year began with reading Joyce Meyer’s Seven Things That Steal Your Joy. In this Biblically based book, Meyer explores those things in our lives that steal the joy that comes from our relationship with Christ. Thankfully, Meyer doesn’t stop there; after each joy-stealer, she presents a chapter on how to reclaim the stolen joy. This isn’t a book that I would normally gravitate to, but thought it would be a good reminder to start the year off on the right foot. I’m glad I read it and plan to be on the lookout for Joy-stealers lurking around my life in the coming months.

In case you are curious, here are the Seven Joy-Stealers that Meyer identifies.

  1. Works of the Flesh
  2. Religious Legalism
  3. Complicating Simple Issues
  4. Excessive Reasoning
  5. Ungodly Anger
  6. Jealousy and Envy
  7. Habitual Discontentment

 

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#20: Do Yourself a Favor…Forgive (Joyce Meyer)

Being on sabbatical from the church job has been a good time to begin looking honestly at my life. I’m learning a lot about myself — both good and bad — and the things that are shaping my emotions. One thing that I have been forced to admit to myself is that I continue to harbor some anger and resentment against people who have hurt me over the years in my ministry role. Some of the attacks were vindictive, aggressive, and intended to destroy me personally. People knew what they were doing and willingly chose to become the very embodiment of evil. In other cases, the pain came from a thoughtless word or action that the person didn’t even realize had cut me to the core. I can’t change the fact that I have been hurt, but I can deal with my feelings after the fact. I suppose that’s why Joyce Meyer’s audiobook on forgiveness jumped out at me. It wasn’t an enjoyable read, but it was something I needed to begin addressing this week.

In Do Yourself a Favor….Forgive, Meyer begins by examining the characteristics of anger. Why does anger appear in our life? Is anger ever justified? Through sharing of personal stories, Meyer presents a clear portrait of anger that is honest, yet is completely non-judgmental and encouraging. In the second half of the book, Meyer speaks about the importance and freeing effects of forgiveness. Again Meyer’s stories (both humorous and life-altering) are coupled with Scriptural instruction that provides a clear map through the journey to forgiveness. Through all of the reading and powerful statements that were expressed, this simple truth was the most powerful for me:  “As long as we are talking about our wounds, we haven’t gotten over them.”

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