The world of books evens the playing field-- delivering truth, connectedness, and beauty across miles and generations. These are a few of my favorite reads that have inspired, shaped, and motivated me.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott

("Some Instructions on Writing and Life")

Anne Lamott has an incredibly engaging style
and a simple descriptive narrative that truly
feels conversational, like you're right there in
the room witnessing her insights yourself.

"Bird by Bird" is about stories from her life,
from teaching, from others, as she explores
what makes a good story (and what the process
of writing entails to actually produce a good story.)

It isn't all sunshine and roses, but it's always refreshing
and honest and necessary. It's an intervention when
seeing things as they are may not be what you're after.
She's clever and incisive without being preachy or smug,
and plenty self-deprecating (not, as some imagine, a
trait all writers share...and certainly not one they
reveal to others!)

This is a great read whether you're a writer, a lover of books,
curious about the creative process, or simply enjoy life stories.


Monday, March 19, 2012

"Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell

Many of us have notions about what makes a success
that are long held and possibly outdated (or just plain wrong.)
Others give no conscious thought to what pushes some
people to succeed while others languish.

The studies incorporated in this book reinforce some old
adages, shatter others, and present some new spins on
things that have been revolutionary.

Have you considered the importance of the time of year you
were born in determining your potential success?
What about your family of origin?
Your geographic location?
The number of hours you work at something?
(Well, okay, that last one is sort of a given...although
perhaps not so much in today's instant-success media

The entire book is fascinating and compelling in its exploration of 
the reasons behind success, but one bit stood out for me in particular.
As a child of the South, Chapter Six in the book (dealing with Legacy,)
and in particular the whole "culture of honor" that is outlined,
was remarkably revealing.

The intensity behind generational imprints, decades-long feuds,
anger at the drop of a hat, and much of the south's insanity
is explained in a gripping way. I was unfamiliar with this
particular aspect of our history, though I have been
unfortunately well-apprised of the end results.

The point of this book is not to deduce that you
don't have a shot based on statistics or studies,
but rather to understand the prevailing factors and
learn how to achieve and accomplish in spite of
the odds. Persistence is, after all, at the heart of
most every success story, no matter the history or
resources available.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Beautiful Boy" by David Sheff

("A Father's Journey Through His Son's Meth Addiction")

"Beautiful Boy" is a riveting and unapologetic true story
about David Sheff and his son, Nic, and their years of struggle
and heartache dealing with Nic's methamphetamine addiction.
It is also the story of Daisy and Jasper and Karen and Vicki,
and all the other loved ones affected and abused by Nic's
choices in active addiction.

It is a story of lives, before, during, and after addiction,
and how quickly things change. During the course of his own
personal path of worry and fear and chaos, David seeks
balance to keep his own life going, and deals with an
avalanche of questions and guilt.

This story grabbed me on several levels; from the exquisite portrait
of a loving and affluent family (a life unknown to me,) to the
intimately detailed particulars of a young man's downward
spiral in his progressive illness (all too often witnessed by me
and millions more,) to the honest sharing of a father's journey
through guilt, resentment, and
soul-wrenching love.

Whereas Sheff has a very different view of some matters (like 12
Step programs) than I do, his convictions are well spoken,
and--again with that exception--well researched and well documented.
(He does explore the disease model of
addiction, but unfortunately comes out with a
perspective I don't share.)
Equal time seems given to all sides and all persons,
and he does a good job of showcasing just how cruel
drug use and addiction are, as well as how unique every
manifestation of it can be.

A gripping exploration of addiction, meth, a man,
his family, and the tenuous nature of life.
And thankfully, a lot of hope and learning.