charles duhigg has made the ivy league rounds
yale B.A. / harvard M.B.A. / now New York Times
i suspect he is a very, very bright young man
most of his observations however seem a little hollow
they consistently betray the aroma of a business school bias
"...hey ! once you figure this out you can make more $..."
he is plowing the same field as other more talented writers
what those other authors have might be called depth or soul
mr. duhigg's intellect is dazzling but changing a habit takes more than that
he would do well to re-read bill wilson the founder of AA
if anyone ever understood the good and bad power of habits it was him
wilson would argue that we are fundamentally paradoxical beings
"... how privileged we are to understand so well the divine paradox...
that strength rises from weakness; that humiliation goes before resurrection;
that pain is not only the price but the very touchstone of spiritual rebirth..."
changing a habit is not some intellectual MBA formula
the latest functional MRI scan will never answer the entire question
it all begins when we accept the basic, painful, broken of ourselves
? do most modern comedians just seem too frantic for you
? do their manic ravings tend to wear you out after a while
? does " funny " always need to be mach3 with your hair on fire
SNL's jack handey is the practitioner of the sly comedic off-speed pitch
he's the absolute master of the wry, kick-in-the-pants, backdoor laugh
at times, the jokes would hit me as i was about to " drive by them "
i've listened to the book three times, always on a long road trip
the relaxed " don't rush me " style of the prose fits car travel well
if you're more thoughtful than hyper, it might just suit you too
i was only 17 years old when the vietnam draft ended
the guys, a year ahead of me, were the last to " get a number "
it was a ranking system based solely on your date of birth
? do you ever wonder what really makes warriors tick
? do you think you have the willful talents that combat requires
? does war's brutal majesty hold some fascination for you
karl marlantes has written a more than thoughtful book for you
it is a sequel to his excellent vietnam novel " matterhorn "
this book beautifully outlines for americans " the way of the warrior "
marlantes is obviously a troubled and more than talented man
from a blue collar childhood in oregon to rhodes scholar at yale
but then his almost visceral need for combat pulls him to vietnam
? how can i love a mean and evil thing so deeply, marlantes asks
? why does war make me feel alive, in a way, nothing else does
? how do i turn off my warrior self as i try to return to civilian life
marlantes' post-vietnam life has been spent answering those questions
in a way, the book is a deeply personal, philosophical wrestling match
if those same issues churn in your soul; this book is a great guide
allegedly, twain toured the south many years after the civil war
the trip broke his heart, as he saw how little the region had changed
he became despondent, thinking "...all that suffering was for naught..."
it was that despair, that prompted him to write a companion to Tom Sawyer
he turned his sadness and anger into our first and truest american voice
the 2 basic american themes : slavery (race) and frontier (space) are joined
twain's tone is bold, funny, sarcastic, sentimental, angry, kind and irreverent
he simply refuses to apologize, for even one minute, for being an american
we're not a footnote to the old world, he says, we have our own greatness
the narration, by norman dietz, is exceptional in each of the many voices
twain's humor makes the bitter pill of his social commentary easier to swallow
each time i read the book, it makes me tearfully proud to be an american
are you a life long resident of southern california ?
are you curious about john travolta and tom cruise ?
can science fiction and pseudo religion really intersect ?
well, lawrence wright has written a strong willed book for you
his previous book was about the rise of al-queda
i suspect that was good preparation for this current effort
scientology's mildly talented founder was layfette ronald hubbard
sadly, he died as a morbidly obese, chain smoker living in a trailer
sounds a little more like west virginia than transcendent world leader
mr. hubbard is clearly no match for mr. wright's keen, lawyerly insights
documenting and dissecting scientology's flaws comes easily to mr. wright
in the end, i was left wondering just who would find scientology appealing ?
insecure, narcissistic and not terribly bright people seem to be its' main target
i don't want to be unkind, but that covers about 1/2 of southern californians
scientology's appeal to struggling actors and celebrities is almost intuitive
in the years to come, i suspect there will be more and similar exposes
the campy and mercenary aspects of scientology will be too hard to pass up
as one reviewer said, mr. wright should be applauded for "...outing a bully..."
do you find your modern life uncomfortably light ?
do you wonder how you'd measure up in a real storm ?
would you like to hear from someone who endured the unendurable ?
sonali deraniyagala (SD) is an odd but appropriate authority on all this
she was pampered as a child ( maid, cook, driver, private schools etc.)
her middling academic career with a husband and 2 boys seemed a good fit
but, in the span of a morning she lost her parents and her entire family
the fact that the tsunami spared her life seemed almost cruel at first
she spent the better part of the next two years being watched by friends
they, of course, thought she'd try to kill herself and they were quite right
her temptation to just crawl in a hole and join her family was overwhelming
her tantrums, alcohol and dark theatrical moods were endured by her family
it's impressive how her achingly slow recovery didn't fit a modern stereotype
SD doesn't seem to dwell on freud, medications, ECT or the latest fad
the extended network of her Sri Lankan family gets most of the credit
SD's multiple academic contacts and a chance to travel also helped her
it really makes me wonder how a modern "bowling alone" person would do
i certainly don't have a web of support like that at home or at work
at it's heart, the book is SD's meditation on grief as the price we pay for love
she misses them all so much because she loved them all so much
SD's surviving the storm was fate, that SD goes on without them is brave
? does the prospect of parenthood seem daunting to you
? do you have strained relations with your parents or children
? do you struggle to just understand members of your own family
andrew solomon has written a vast and well-researched 2 part book for you
the miles travelled and calories burned, in writing this book, are impressive
i suspect, it will incentivize other lesser writers to explore this topic
the 1st book involves dwarfism, autism, deafness, schizophrenia and down's
the tone is empathetic and insightful / the emphasis is on fixing the problem
mr. solomon puts his subjects at ease as he draws out their stories
the 2nd book involves rape, MSD, crime, prodigies, transgender and father/son
the tone is a bit caustic and preachy / the emphasis is on fixing the blame
mr. solomon seems to use his subjects to make his personal point
overall, the book's empathy and patience and time invested are impressive
however, mr. solomon is clear eyed and critical when he needs to be
especially when risks aren't assessed and mistakes are made repeatedly
in the future, i hope the book's scope may extend beyond our shores
american medicine is such an outlier compared to other 1st world countries
we just love invasive surgery, expensive drugs and the latest therapeutic fad
? could it be that other, less affluent, cultures have answers for these issues
? if the book's struggles truly are universal, there may be better foreign answers
i'd be interested to know how the world's most ancient cultures approach them
mr. solomon is an operatic, depressed, misunderstood, gay, jewish new yorker
it's impressive how often he fits these attributes into his subjects stories
this tendency is so persistent that it's almost anthropomorphic
mr. solomon has written a truly great book that will help many people
but his own story is not as important as the story of his subjects
he's a more than talented writer and, in time, he'll learn to get out of the way
dr. kelly mc gonigal now teaches psychology at stanford
previous academic stops include new jersey and boston
i'm told, her lectures are popular and more than well attended
basically, this book is an outgrowth of those lectures and lessons
i assume her audience includes neurotic, bay area undergraduates
she patiently guides them through willpower exercises and experiments
the tone of the book is that of a charming, perky yoga instructor
it implies that 20 minutes of slow breathing will solve most problems
recent small studies with short followup are cited to support her claims
the material is presented in a soothing, optimistic and deliberate manner
issues include fast food, depression, exercise, tobacco, chocolate etc.
if those are the sort of things you struggle with, then you'll like this book
i had hoped the author might address more consequential willpower issues
i.e. narcotic addiction, pedophilia, suicide, autism, divorce, anger etc.
these topics may simply be beyond the scope of her collegiate audience
the 1995 film " the usual suspects " had a character - keyser soze
he was a powerful, mysterious and relentlessly willful criminal mastermind
it was said of him : "...he showed these men of will, what will was..."
but, mr. soze might have to look to other sources to learn about willpower
roy baumeister, scott jurek and daniel kahneman have written good books
each of these three authors approach the subject from very different angles
true willpower, like excellence, is a habit and comes at a great cost
people who tell you differently are selling an easy, "royal road" to happiness
dr. mc gonigal's book is a comfortable, first step along that important path
have you spent significant time in washington DC ?
do the inner workings of politics just fascinate you ?
do you have a greater tolerance for gossip than your classmates ?
if so, this might be a very good book for you
if not, you might find the book insular and a bit repetitive
it's basically a prolonged and chatty lesson on human nature
in 1975, 3 % of former congressmen became lobbyists
in today's washington DC, the number has risen to about 40 %
mr. leibovich would like to tell us just how that transition occurred
those in political power are a sad but predictable bunch of people
p.j. o'rourke's book " parliament of whores " outlined them clearly
it's those next to power that are an even sadder, clumsier group
the press corp, legislative aides and socialites all buzz around DC
they all lack the power and leverage that money or electability brings
so they traffic in the only commodity left to them : relationships
mr. o'rourke's effective book commented on DC from the outside
sadly, mr. leibovich tries to the same from " inside the machine "
it's a difficult task since the reader can often questions his motives
can mr. leibovich remain next to power without actually having power ?
will all of his efforts keep the wolf of insignificance away from the door ?
niccolo machiavelli would say no and he's probably right
did you grow up in the turbulence and drugs of the 1960's ?
was your family built on a foundation of fundamentalist religion ?
was your youth devoted to brothers and athletics and academics ?
do you have the patience for an epic, lengthy novel with literary references ?
if so, this might be the book for you / if not, it might be a long haul
the characters are all lovingly drawn and have an honest affection for each other
but the regular references to the (SDA) seventh day adventist church grew tiresome
the SDA denomination has a high school graduation rate of only 30%
almost all SDA universities remain in the "unranked" category
it just doesn't add up to an especially insightful, literary or self aware group
the book has a pleasantly indulgent and somewhat sophomoric tone
the problems of the main characters, however, seem to be largely self-inflicted
they all seemed like very kind and friendly people / just not too bright
do you just love dogs ? / did you have a favorite dog as a kid ?
do you believe that dogs are unique within the animal world ?
does all the recent canine scientific research confuse you ?
john homans has written the perfect book for you
he is not an academic veterinarian or a research scientist
he is simply a NY magazine editor with a breezy and urbane curiosity
homans makes no attempt to be exhaustive or authoritative
he simply asks and answers the questions he thinks we'd like to know
the book has an ironic, humorous, sophisticated and affectionate tone
recent MRI research confirms that dogs can in fact "read" humans
they're also an antidote for the sadness and loneliness of modern city life
homans reminds us that most dog owners have known these facts for years
books by g. berns, c. warren, a. horowitz and t. grandin are more scientific
homans is happy to let them have their expertise and elegant theories
he simply wants to tell us what a real dog lover would want to know
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