THINK AGAIN by Adam Grant: A Review

One of the best non-fiction reads so far this year

The subtitle, “Knowing What You Don’t Know,” let’s us know this is a book about the value of rethinking. Taking tests as a student, I was always told “Go with your first instinct and never change answers; don’t overthink.” Grant says just the opposite. He complains that when we get an idea, we freeze it and seize it, and hold on to it too many times. Because we are human, we enjoy living in our “comfort of conviction” over the “discomfort of doubt.”

There is something for everyone in this book: for teachers in the chapter “Rethinking the Textbook, which has excellent ideas to teach ‘rethinking;’ for young people who are in a quandary over making a career decision or life plan; for mid-lifer crazies who are in a career crisis; and parents, who want their children to be able to solve problems that don’t even exist yet. It is especially applicable to business bosses and leaders who wish their companies/organizations to be effective and efficient.

Timely answers for NOW, for Covid questions, NASA examples and experiences from his own kids and family fill the book with readable and relatable anecdotes that keep the reader turning pages.

It is a “darned good read’ and very helpful in dealing with life.

MANTIVORE DREAMS by S.J. Higbee: A Review

Mantivore Dreams by blogging friend S.J. Higbee is an exciting novel aimed at YA target readers. This far from YA reader, LOL, enjoyed it immensely.

If the cover is intriguing, wait until you begin to read!

After having read the Sunblind trilogy by this friend, my appetite was whetted for more, and this new series, The Arcadian Chronicles really delivers.

Kyrilla, a teenage heroine lives in a Cinderella world, a slave to her hateful mother and her disabled uncle. Her inner Mantivore, Vrox, often directs her thoughts and actions as she lives out her miserable live on a strange planet.

The book is full of young love and young like, as well as family secrets and mysteries that affect Kyrilla and the entire planet. Higbee’s writing style is engaging, and her word choices are original and spot-on. Reading this book was a pleasure, even though sci fi, specifically space operas and life on other planets is a tad distant from my standard reading tastes. This book, however, is extremely readable as any good novel, full of plot twists and turns and strong on character development, things I specifically enjoy.

I fully intend to read the other books in the series and know I will enjoy what I have come to expect from this author–a darned good read!

TUESDAY TEASER

Tuesday Teaser, brought to you by the Purple Booker asks that you grab a book you are reading and copy a few lines in order to “tease” someone else into looking into that book for further reads. Here is my teaser for Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come, a non-fiction look at an introvert exploring extrovert territory, by Jessica Pan.

Summing up the results of her one year experiment, Pan writes, “It was more than I ever could have hoped for when I started. I feel more in control of my life because I can extrovert.” She goes on to describe the many new things she can “handle” which she couldn’t before as a result of saying “yes” to things that were definitely out of her comfort zone before as a dyed-in-the-wool introvert.

This has been the best non-fiction read of 2020 for me. I highly recommend it.

DRIVING WITH BUDDHA

I have just finished the road-trip books by Roland Merullo that have a philosophy side to them. I was hooked early on by Breakfast with Buddha ,the first book in the series and really enjoyed meeting Otto, his screwy sister, and her boyfriend, the semi-Buddhist priest, Rimproche. At first I was skeptical (as was Otto) about all this meditation and enlightenment “stuff,” and followed more closely Otto’s efforts to show Rimproche the “real America.” Picturing the Burgundy, gold-trimmed robed priest playing miniature golf and bowling was a fun thought, but soon I began to pay more attention to the Holy Man’s words. I think Otto’s reaction followed the same trajectory. By the end of Breakfast, I, like Otto was beginning to really like Rimproche and to wonder if there wasn’t something to this meditation “thingy.”I began to notice and sometimes read columns and articles that touted the value of meditation that came my way.

Lunch with Buddha continued the saga, Rimproche now married to Otto’s sister with a small daughter. This second book dealt with another road trip, but also with Otto’s maturation of a spiritual side which was clearly necessary for him to survive the death of his beloved wife. It went into detail about his meditations, his seeking for enlightenment, and the relative success he had with both. My inquisitive mind and spirit “ate this up”! By this point I had found a columnist in our Houston newspaper that came out each week, featuring self-care and advocating guided meditation as a way to destress, relax, and change one’s busy lifestyle. I downloaded twenty something guided meditations and began enjoying them on a regular basis. In fact, I became “good at it” and saw a definite relax in my normal “driven” attitude and lifestyle.

That’s when the fun began. Book three , Dinner with Buddha (published in 2015–hopefully there will be a book four, maybe “After Dinner Coffee With Buddha,” LOL, because this book upped and amped the plot 100%. Otto’s little niece turns out to be a very special child with special abilities (bordering on superpowers, LOL). Plus sinister Chinese strangers seem to be stalking her and her family and join the “chase” across country in the third road trip. Talk about action! The final meet-up in Las Vegas, of all places, is action packed and eerie to say the least. Otto comes to a turning place in his life and the end of the book gives us his dramatic decision. All of this action and many side-trips to National parks and scenic places manage to tie in all this meditation recommendation with an appreciation of Nature and a sense of cosmic and spiritual benefits to those who seek.

The three road trips with Otto and Rimproche have not only been a darned good, fun read, but they have enlightened my way of thinking about meditation specifically and “religion” in general. Who says a novel (or series of novels) can’t make you think?

REVIEW: REDHEAD BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD by Anne Tyler (2020)

Ann Tyler’s latest offering, Redhead by the Side of the Road, delivers what we have come to expect from Ann Tyler: excellent characterization, “ordinary” protagonists, and middle aged angst.

The opening lines, “Micha Mortimer is a creature of habit,” introduce us to the most neutral man in the United States, and our first impression of him, as well as our empathy for him is just that–neutral. Micha is a handyman and manager of an apartment building who also runs a computer fix-it business, “Tech Hermit.”

The storyline is described as being, “an intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who finds those around him just beyond reach.” We, as readers, are vaguely interested in Micha, this vague man who just “doesn’t seem to get it,” yet is satisfied with his mundane life. He goes about his scheduled routine, a specific day for each household chore, a specific daily round of activities, beginning with a morning run. It is on one of these runs that the reader sees the world through Micha’s myopic eyes, as he looks at a fire hydrant and sees it as a person, “a red head by the side of the road”–thus the title.

The book/narrative itself is not dull nor myopic, it is written in a witty, clever, detailed, pleasing style and never loses the reader from the first line to the last, a darned good read.

a darned good read

BACK TO POETRY

In April, National Poetry Month, I read poetry daily, and like all times when I read poetry, I thought to myself, “I ought to read poetry more often.” In an effort to do just that, and to add to the 20 books recommended by fellow bloggers I set for a goal in 2020, I finished a poetry collection yesterday.

Kaur’s unusual and sometimes disquieting poetry is something a bit out of my comfort zone, but am I ever glad I bought this one to read! It certainly kept my attention as the poems connected and transitioned into each other. Also, in the middle of the book, there was a poetically worded prose section which told a story, a convicting, disturbing story.

The entire book is one the reader experiences, not just reads. The poet’s thoughts and talents are outstanding, and I will be on the lookout for other collections by her, for sure. A shout-out to blogging friend, Khyati Gautam for this recommendation.

2020, ALPHABET SOUP CHALLENGE, author version LETTER “M”

ALPHABET-SOUP-2020-AUTHOR-EDITION-BE-820  In attempting to whittle down my TBR shelves, an on-going goal, I checked there first for a book whose author’s  name began with an “M.” I was rewarded with The Song of the Jade Lily, a 2019, hefty 450 paged novel by Kirsty Manning. It took me a while to read it, but its mysteries and family secrets that were revealed kept me turning pages. The novel was formatted in one of my favorite ways: alternating chapters set between1939 Shanghai where Romy, a Chinese girl adopted by Jewish parents flees Germany and 2016 present-day Shanghai where her granddaughter Alexandria, visits seeking her grandmother’s story after being notified of her beloved grandfather’s impending death in Australia. What he says to her, telling her to seek out “Li” and the evasiveness of her grandmother, whose silence often suggests hidden secrets rather than the mere grief of losing a spouse, present the opportunity for mystery, war stories, romance, and the finding of identity.

Themes of friendship, love, family loyalty, heritage, and stories of what happened during the War abound as the true facts of Romy’s life and background are peeled away like the numerous skins of an onion by Alexandria. The difference this investigating makes in both their lives is not only significant but also life-direction changing.

MY FAVORITE NON-FICTION WRITER

shopping I’ve read several non-fiction books this summer, and my favorite so far is Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile. As a fan of novels set in WWII, and a baby born during that war, I’ve always had a fascination with Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt and especially their relationship as heads of nations so dependent on each other. This book was written just for me.

I’ve read other Larson books, Issac’s Storm, The Devil in White City and Dead Wake, but this one not only reads like a novel (as do all Larson’s books), it characterizes the major figures of the war as well as any novelist does. We see the first impressions, the interplay of personality, and the desire to present one’s country in the best light in both Churchill and Roosevelt. Splendid/Vile focuses on the period of the blitz and the stamina and character of the English people. It focuses on Roosevelt’s desire to keep America out of the war but to retain Britain as a “sister nation.” Through this focus it tells an amazing story of politics, war strategy, and change as the war progresses. Sources used (diaries, documents, and once secret intelligence reports, some released fairly recently) and research done are a testament to the author’s desire for detail and correctness.  It is an amazing read, and also amazing is the way Larson is able to pull everything together to offer the reader a “darned good read”[ing] experience.

SUNDAY REVIEW

ALPHABET-SOUP-2020-AUTHOR-EDITION-BE-820  A book I read for the 2020 Alphabet Challenge, author edition sponsored by Dollycas is Robert Inman’s Old Dogs and Children. This is one of novelist Inman’s lesser known novels than his Home Fires Burning, but it had everything a reader would want in a Southern story: a family matriarch named Bright Birdsong, whose father opened the sawmill that founded the town and whose son is a state senator; civil rights protests ; and as the title suggests, old dogs (Gladys, who lives under the house) and children (Jimbo, Bright’s stuffy, city-reared grandson whom she soon changes into a real “country boy” complete with bare feet and bib overalls.)

The author has a true gift for description, whether it be the grand parade on the governor’s return to his hometown after a nasty scandal where he is literally caught with his pants down, or the road trip to the capitol by Bright and Jimbo carrying their lottery ticket winnings in cash in an old, beat up suitcase stuffed under the front seat of Bright’s decrepit old car. There are several zany scenes that made me laugh out loud, yet the book is warm in that it “shimmers with joy and wisdom, understanding and forgiveness.”

Bright is an impulsive woman who tries to right wrongs but doesn’t always think about the best way to do things. She is both strong willed and empathetic when it comes to what’s right and what’s wrong. Because of this she finds herself caught up in protests and marches reminiscent of the 60s in their little town. Bright’s philosophy is the same as her dad’s , “Something will always come along.” and in this moving delightful story, it always does–sometimes prompted by Bright.

MARRIAGE UNARRANGED by Ritu Bhathal : A Review

 

 

41RSRN4EudL-1   Blogging friend Ritu Bhathal, whom I had read previously as a poet (Poetic Ritual) and appreciated and enjoyed, has written a novel. Its characters are lovely Indian-British young people.  Aashi, the bride-to-be and her family: brothers Sunny and Bali, the perfect mom and pop, best friend Kiran are awaiting the nuptials of Aashi and Ravi, her fiancee.

As the story opens, Aashi arrives unexpectedly at Ravi’s apartment, catching him and his “other girlfriend” in the act. Devastated, Aashi refuses to give up her dream trip to India to prepare for the wedding, and instead embarks with both brothers and Kiran rather than waste the tickets. Their itinerary has just changed–not to plan a wedding but to cancel plans already made. The friends meet handsome Arjun on a train, and drag him along on the errands adding much hilarity and communications blunders.

The book is filled with travel, glamor, fashion and adventure as the five young people encounter the culture and people of India. The most spectacular scene occurs at the Golden Temple where the group explores and observes religious observances involving bathing in the beautiful pools and working in the temple kitchens, doing sewa. So many characters with so many motivations and differences could be confusing, but the author conveniently titles each chapter with a character’s name, then presents both that character’s point of view and his/her plot twists and character changes which makes it easy for the reader to follow the amazingly glamorous trips, photo shoots, and buying excursions as the young people make their way.

This is a read where the reader comes to really care about the characters and the outcomes of the plots and subplots. It all comes to a very satisfying conclusion which the author promises to flesh out in a sequel. I, for one, can hardly wait to read more.