In his commencement address to the graduating class of 2016, James E. Ryan, dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, offered remarkable advice to the crowd of hopeful men and women eager to make their marks on the world. The key to achieving emotional connections and social progress, he told them, can be found in five essential questions.
I was really surprised how broad the scope of Wait, What? was. It is, after all, quite simply, the expansion of a graduation speech. (Hmmm... maybe that should've told me about how much ground it had to cover?)
In a humorous and enlightening fashion, Ryan covers the five top questions we need to ask ourselves and others whilst traversing this uneven terrain we call Life.
Questions such as: Wait, what? (Clarification); I wonder (Curiosity); Couldn't we at least? (A way to get started, to find progress); How can I help? (Recognizing that others are experts in their own lives); and down to the nitty gritty: What truly matters? (Absolutely indispensable when dealing with colleagues, friends, close loved ones).
Plus there's a Bonus Question with a touching story behind it.
But there are many touching stories here, many truly funny moments too.
Filled with anecdotes and examples galore that'll stick with you for years to come, Wait, What? is essential, especially as it clocks in at under 3 hours. You'll have time to listen to it, time to absorb it; and it's not so odiously long that you can't come back to it again and again should you need the boost.
The only thing worse than a waste of money is a waste of time. This book is, quite happily, neither!
40 of 46 people found this review helpful
Shawn Harrington returned to Marshall High School as an assistant coach years after appearing as a player in the iconic basketball documentary film Hoop Dreams. In January of 2014, Marshall's struggling team was about to improve after the addition of a charismatic but troubled player. Everything changed, however, when two young men opened fired on Harrington's car as he drove his daughter to school. Harrington was struck and paralyzed. The mistaken-identity shooting was followed by a series of events that had a devastating impact on Harrington and Marshall's basketball family.
The Publisher's Summary for All the Dreams We've Dreamed is a tad misleading. Harrington wasn't really in the movie/documentary; he was years behind Arthur Agee, so wasn't much connected to him other than being in a featured school. Still, this book, like the documentary, shows that basketball can be an honest to God hope for, not a better future, but quite simply, ANY future. We're talking hard neighborhoods, hard lives--and many, many young men don't survive.
This was a really good book, though it ends rather suddenly. After all that happens, all that is delved into, the neat little bow we, the listeners, are handed just seems like set-up for the rest of the story. Truly, I wouldn't have minded waiting another year for release to see how things REALLY turn out.
Along the way, we meet many memorable young men, and that's a tragedy: because they're just memories at this point. A good deal of them fall victim to gun violence and utter hopelessness, living in a world with few options, where a decent 2-year college could mean the difference between life and death. There is plenty about the politics of education, the politics of managing guns, the politics of nothing mattering because it's black young men who are being decimated by the violence, not whites. (But this isn't a racially political book by any means).
A really good book, just short and sometimes it wanders a bit. We're taken into the lives and tragic circumstances/endings of many people before we get back to Shawn and what happens in his life, with his recovery. But a worthy listen.
2 of 4 people found this review helpful
Set in Greenwich Village, Harlem, and France, Another Country tells the story of the suicide of jazz-musician Rufus Scott and the friends who search for an understanding of his life and death, discovering uncomfortable truths about themselves along the way. Another Country is a work that is as powerful today as it was 40 years ago - and expertly narrated by Dion Graham.
Another Country is supposed to be a classic, one which exposes the worst parts of ourselves, the worst parts of our society and culture. Well, it does expose the worst, and that's the problem. There's no good to be found anywhere.
It starts off aimless, but well-written. Then it devolves into the most mean-spirited, back-biting melodrama imaginable. There are relationships everywhere: platonic, lovers, you name it. But there's no love or respect to be had anywhere. I came away wondering why on earth these people even talked to each other let alone had sex with each other. The few times a character showed enough insight, somebody else basically trashed them.
I really wondered what I was missing, so I researched common takeaways from the book. Rufus is supposed to be self-hatred due to the internalization of racism, and that's why he mistreats the white people who care for him. He's supposed to be a Christ figure.
Uhm, sorry. He just seemed like the poster boy for mental illness to me the way he and his actions, his thoughts, were written. And the whole story hinges on how everybody, each character deems his memory to be sacred, his loss a travesty.
Dion Graham does an okay job with narration, but there's plenty of off-key singing, and plenty of venom spewed, so this was pretty hard to listen to.
I go into each book I purchase, especially something considered a classic, expecting to give it 5-stars. It's usually mildly disappointing to go down a star or two, but it's downright heartbreaking and mind-boggling to come away knowing that a purchase merited a single star. But believe me: With Another Country, x1.5 speed wasn't fast enough to get me away from some mean and petty characters.
No beauty, no wisdom to be found in the brutality. Perhaps it's meant as a reflection of our society, but I don't know. In real life, there are still friendships to be found, and maybe even a little, even just a tiny bit of love to be nurtured.
3 of 5 people found this review helpful
Want more out of life? You're not alone. And best-selling author Mel Robbins is here to help with no-bullshit life and business advice that you won't get anywhere else. This follow-up to The 5-Second Rule - available only in audio - takes the classic talk-show format and elevates it to a premium audio experience. Listen to private, one-on-one coaching sessions between the celebrated motivational speaker and people like you - people who want better relationships, to be healthier and more productive, to get unstuck from destructive habits.
After The 5 Second Rule, I guess I didn't have really high expectations here. After all, 5 Second got pretty repetitive, and Mel didn't seem to feel bad that most of that book got to be same-old/same-old. So I suppose I expected to hear people who had the same problem at the root, or had differing problems, but they wound up being solved by the same tool. But I'm a person who thrives on self-development books, so I gave this one a try.
Boy! Every single person who Mel talks to here has a different sort of problem: Business problems, relationship problems, self-acceptance problems, and the list goes on. Some have had decent childhoods (though it was interesting that the majority of iconic issues occurred when people were in 4th grade/9-years old) with remarkably wounding episodes; some have had real horror shows in their backgrounds.
But, and this I liked, Robbins has a way of cutting to the quick with each of them: You are NOT your wound, so stop acting like it. And the people wound up seeing their own parts in their problems, their own failings. Some discovered they were manipulative, some wanted all the attention, one was just plain mean. But that was gotten to quickly and the tools to change were handed over immediately, so it's not like they were beaten over the head with their flaws. Mel is not a mean person; she's just honest and yikes is she quick on the draw.
I didn't give this five-stars because for a credit, I guess I kinda expected more clients. And as far as the Performance rating goes: What can I say? A couple of them speak like they're guest-stars, hoping to become famous. And a couple of them have laughs that about drove me up the wall (okay, so I'll shut up now about the petty things, shall I?).
The best part was that, at the end of each session, Robbins wraps it all up with takeaways that both you and I are privy to. We can all take something from each and every session (and don't get all offended if you hear profanity. There's a lot of pretty common language used).
So basically, this is a binge listen (and I'm not quoting the title or Audible will hold my review or remove it).
Think about yourself, think about your own issues, and find yourself in each and every one of these people who are struggling.
You ready to end a chapter and start a whole new one?
21 of 27 people found this review helpful
On February 1, 2003, Columbia disintegrated on reentry before the nation's eyes, and all seven astronauts aboard were lost. Author Mike Leinbach was a key leader in the search and recovery effort as NASA, FEMA, the FBI, the US Forest Service, and dozens more federal, state, and local agencies combed an area of rural east Texas the size of Rhode Island for every piece of the shuttle and her crew they could find. Assisted by hundreds of volunteers, it would become the largest ground search operation in US history.
I got involved in animal rescue in the areas of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina and did a stint in New Orleans for a bit. And I can attest to what this book says loud and clear: Nothing, nothing feels so good during a bad time as a community coming together around you, that soft place to land.
Bringing Columbia Home is the story of how many, many agencies, thousands of private citizens joined with NASA personnel and others to do the unthinkable: reverentially recover remains, respectfully gather remnants. Entire communities joined in doing what they could, whether it was as grid searchers or it was serving sweet tea to the weary. Or offering a well-timed hug when a grieving astronaut just couldn't stand one more minute.
The biggest flaw of the book is Danny Campbell's narration--he's not bad, but he has the tones of a radio newsman. A lot of the power is lost when he conveys what is very emotional. But that's not too great a flaw in a pretty good book.
I liked how people came together, how elected officials responded with sensitivity, how the families were treated with the utmost care.
Truly, a sensitive look at what was a pretty bad time.
3 of 5 people found this review helpful
While he's not quite a household name, most people would consider H. Jon Benjamin, the voice-actor star of Archer and Bob's Burgers (and a sentient can of mixed vegetables in 2015's Wet Hot American Summer) a comedy show business success. But he'd like to remind everyone that as great as success can be, failure is also an option. In a hilarious, self-deprecating memoir, Jon lays out some of his many failures in all areas of life, from Work ("wherein I'm unable to deliver a sizzling fajita") to Family ("wherein a trip to PF Chang's fractures a family").
Here we go!
You tired of being around over-achievers? Are you wallowing in despair because of flaws, failure, rejection?
Don't worry. In Failure Is An Option, H. Jon Benjamin has been there, done that... only ten times worse!
While I didn't laugh out loud that many times (heads up: watch for diarrhea in rental cars), I certainly did smile and chuckle my way through not quite 5 hours of tremendously clever writing and pitch-perfect delivery (seriously, Benjamin's voice cracks in despair and anguish over that rental car scene).
There are robberies that could have been foiled... just weren't quite. Children driving small electric cars (wearing shades, no less)... who are worthy of scorn and loathing. Your own wonderful fathering skills... that end with your kid eating dog poop.
Seriously, this is not a serious book. Plus, at the very end, there's a truly enlightening bit about how to fail, why it's good to fail and not take it all so dash-blast-it personally.
Worth the groans. Worth the giggles.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful
Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” or Sam “Hell” by his classmates; “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. Her words were of little comfort, but Sam persevered. Sam believed it was God who sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to be the friend he so desperately needed. And that it was God’s idea for Mickie Kennedy to storm into Our Lady of Mercy like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had been taught about boys and girls. Forty years later, Sam, a small-town eye doctor, is no longer certain anything was by design.
Sam Hill didn't know what hit him. One day, he's just an ordinary kid whose mother fights all his battles with zeal, verve, and rosary beads; the next, he's being targeted by a bully without conscience--someone who will grow up to be a psychopath, somebody sure to haunt his dreams his whole life long.
The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell chronicles his journey as an outsider, as a hurt and angry kid, as a young man who doesn't believe in a God who loves, as an older man trying to outrun the consequences of his greatest act of strength and projected bravery.
Through it all are his very loving mother and father, and his very loving friends.
Though the book touts itself as an epic journey in the life of one man, I found it to be rather simply written. Don't get me wrong, it's a good book, just not very literary. Its strength lies in the fact that its characters are so well-developed, so well-written, that you care about them immensely.
From a young boy beaten to within an inch of his life, to a teen-ager trying to fit in and find sex, love, and popularity, to a man trying to feel himself worthy of love, this is an engaging listen, despite Dugoni's sometimes halting narration (but hey, at least as the author he knows the story backwards, forwards, with just precisely which notes to hit).
Not quite 12 hours of a fine story where you find yourself rooting for the underdog, wanting very much for Sam's Happily Ever After...
8 of 12 people found this review helpful
In January 1957, which brings a rare killing freeze to Florida's orange groves, Blanche Bosanquet Knowles, the wealthy, young wife of a citrus baron, is raped in her home while her husband is away. She says a "husky Negro" did it, and Lake County's infamously racist sheriff, Willis McCall, has no hesitation in rounding up a herd of suspects matching that description, alibis be damned. But within days, they are released, and instead, the crime is pinned on Jesse Daniels, a slight, white 19-year-old with the mental capacity of a six-year-old.
And by that I mean: We start the book off with Jesse, our victim/hero, and get a sense of whom he is, his childlike ways and mental capacities. Then we digress like crazy to the weather, citrus princes, Blanche's childhood, the love who was shot down during the war, some of the culture of the area and Florida in general. Really, it takes quite a while before we get back to the main story.
That's how all of Beneath a Ruthless Sun is. Main story, digressions to various civil rights members, civil rights activities, the sheriff department's ruthless ways, atrocities committed against the civil rights movement, a little about Mabel, some about Jesse and his mother Pearl, more atrocities, and on it goes.
Fortunately, King is such a good writer, writes in such an emotionally evocative manner, that I was engaged throughout, barely noticing I'd gone down a rabbit hole with him until he brought the story back to the main people, the main point. (Also, I've never read/listened to Devil in the Grove so I can't tell just how much is lifted from it per se, but that crime, those victims are covered in GREAT detail here too).
Farr does a decent job with the narration--doesn't strive overmuch to make verbal/vocal distinctions between genders, so no growly men, no high-pitched women to distract from it all.
All in all, I spent 14+ hours interested in the subject matter and really, really interested in the people. It is shocking; it's outrageous, and in the end, I wonder if justice truly was served and if lost years were made up for.
10 of 13 people found this review helpful
Atz Kilcher learned many vital skills while helping his parents carve a homestead out of the Alaskan wilderness: how to work hard, think on his feet, make do, invent, and use what was on hand to accomplish whatever task was in front of him. He also learned how to lie in order to please his often volatile father and put himself in harm's way to protect his mother and younger, weaker members of the family. Much later in life, as Atz began to reflect on his upbringing, seek to understand his father, and heal his emotional scars, he discovered that the work of pioneering the frontier of the soul is an infinitely more difficult task.
I had every intention of loving Son of a Midnight Land. After all it gathers all my favorites: adventure, living off the land, memoir, resilience after hardship, courage to face the past, present, and future.
And the book does indeed have some of that. But not much. Mostly, it's a book about Atz telling us over and over and over, "The reason I'm so abusive is, well, it's my dad's fault. All of it!"
I did expect hard memories, but who hasn't had a rough childhood? Atz treats his wives, each of his children (and oh my, is he proud that he's Jewel's father, or what?) so abusively it's horrible. My husband told me that the man is showing courage for owning up to what he did, who he is, in such a public way, so I started cutting Atz some slack. But the more the book went on, the more whining I endured. He wasn't abusive, his "hand was filled with the devil". His children had a hard time when he was beating them, and he didn't want to be like his own father, so he stopped beating and started grabbing them by their shirts, shaking them until they chattered and shook. And so he stopped that, sometimes, and stuck to shaming and berating. And in an open letter to his kids as a whole, he apologizes for hitting them (not the rest) but then says, "Oh I failed; I was supposed to make you see your failings."
Yes, there's some strength in the writing, some sheer poetry. He is, after all, a master storyteller. And when he describes butchering at an age when he was far too young to see it, it's the harshest, most honestly brutal thing I've ever heard. VERY strongly and well-written.
But for the most part, Atz is a man who says, "I've done wrong, it was my dad's fault."
He does show some insight. I only hope it's come early enough so that his grandson feels the honest love that's there.
6 of 9 people found this review helpful
A Rift in the Earth tells the remarkable story of the ferocious "art war" that raged between 1979 and 1984 over what kind of memorial should be built to honor the men and women who died in the Vietnam War. The story intertwines art, politics, historical memory, patriotism, racism, and a fascinating set of characters, from those who fought in the conflict and those who resisted it to politicians at the highest level.
If you have any interest in history, wars back at home, humanity at its worst and best, you'll not want to miss A Rift in the Earth. Reston writes with great warmth and sensitivity about a troubling war, a troubled nation, all that is confused and passionate following the loss of the Vietnam War.
Though Hart's statue comes off as being an interloping compromise, I still want to see it (Up front: I've never had the honor of actually seeing the memorial(s) in person). To me, just a pup during Vietnam, the soldiers and POWs were my heroes, and I want to see it all--Maya Lin's wall, Hart's depiction of youth, fearful and tired. Both together are sure to astound.
This book covers the birth of an idea, the backlash, compromises that are hard to swallow all around. Lin, whom an outraged and insensitive Ross Perot referred to as Egg Roll due to her Asian heritage, is contentious and sometimes outrageous, grows to become thoughtful and reflective as Reston follows her through the years after the fight to get the memorial made. I didn't like her at first, but one always respects her as she navigates through a labyrinth of the political, of the emotional, of the hard memories that a nation is learning to deal with. (And by the way, Reagan doesn't wind up looking so good: Though Reston writes without acrimony, the man's actions and choices speak for themselves, and he could've done more to heal a hurting nation).
Expect even-handed writing, heavy on the thoughts, emotions, deeds and misdeeds, of all sides of the aisle, all sides of the conflict. Even the thoughts of those living post-war in Vietnam are expressed as Reston journeys there to find answers and a sense of closure. He lost a good friend at Hue, and he grieves as much as the soldiers, as much as the protesters (he has since written much on granting amnesty to all who left the country), as much as any mother or family member has.
A Rift in the Earth has none of the dryness that sometimes marks books on history. It's not a lesson but a hands-on experience sure to enlighten and sure to make you feel something.
Just looking at the picture on the book's cover says it all: All war is horrible; all war comes with grief and sacrifice that is hard to bear.
4 of 7 people found this review helpful