• 79
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  • 79
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  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing

  • By: Madeleine Thien
  • Narrated by: Angela Lin
  • Length: 20 hrs and 11 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 287
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 262
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 262

Madeleine Thien's new novel is breathtaking in scope and ambition, even as it is hauntingly intimate. With the ease and skill of a master storyteller, Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations - those who lived through Mao's Cultural Revolution in the mid-20th century; and the children of the survivors, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square in 1989, in one of the most important political moments of the past century.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Devastating and complex

  • By Amazon Customer on 02-13-17

20th Century China in a Russian Lit Motif

5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-13-18

"One thing I have learned, dear Sparrow, is that light is never still and solid and so it is with love. Light can be split into many directions. Its nature is to break apart." --Comrade Glass Eye

'Where to begin with this review?' is an apt question for my writing of these notes for Thien's 2016 historical fiction novel, for continuous life cycles (in all their varieties) are one of 'Do Not Say's' main themes.

So many themes: music/silence, writing/composition/self-expression, Chinese history/government, freedom, identity, remorse, and the like. Thien weaves her characters into the major milestones of actual Chinese history (The Great Leap Forward, The Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen 1989) a la Tolstoy, diving in and out of macro and micro details across a music conservatory and three generations of families.

I found 'Do Not Say' profoundly moving. I really had no idea about some of the horrors of 20th century China until now, which Thien brings to full color. While I haven't fully grasped how this book changed me yet (an increased appreciation of freedoms in the US for starters) I know it certainly changed--and will continue to change--me for the better. Angela Lin's narration was great; the print book has lots to enjoy as well (Chinese characters, jianpu musical notation, and the like). Pocket notes (tl;dr) below.

- Jiang Kai: did what he needed to survive.
- Zhuli: stuck to her beliefs.
- Sparrow: caught in the middle.
- The drawer of glass eyes: it is better to see, or be seen?
- "The only life that matters is in your mind. The only truth is the one that lives invisibly, that waits even after you close the book. Silence, too, is a kind of music. Silence will last." --Zhuli
- "[Sparrow had] been thinking about the quality of sunshine, that is, how daylight wipes away the stars and the planets, making them invisible to human eyes. If one needed the darkness in order to see the heavens, might daylight be a form of blindness? Could it be that sound was also a form of deafness? If so, what was silence?"
- Jiang Kai's reaction to Ai-ming abandoning the phone call.
- Ai-ming's inability to process 1989.
- He Luting on the television: "Shame on you!"
- Zhuli's thoughts at the conservatory: "The present, Sparrow seemed to say, is all we have, yet it is the one thing we will never learn to hold in our hands."
- "I wondered: what happens when a hundred thousand people memorize the same poem? Does anything change?" --Jiang Kai

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Snow Leopard

  • By: Peter Matthiessen, Pico Iyer (introduction)
  • Narrated by: Peter Matthiessen
  • Length: 7 hrs and 56 mins
  • Abridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 323
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 287
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 287

In 1973, Peter Matthiessen and field biologist George Schaller traveled high into the remote mountains of Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and possibly glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard. Matthiessen, a student of Z en Buddhism, was also on a spiritual quest to find the Lama of Shey at the ancient shrine on Crystal Mountain. As the climb proceeds, Matthiessen charts his inner path as well as his outer one.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Worth the wait

  • By Robert on 04-13-14

Expect Nothing

3 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-31-18

'The secret of the mountains is that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself. The mountains exist simply, which I do not.' --Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

On the surface, this book seemed very much in my wheelhouse. By the end--for better or worse--I was happy the read was over. I grappled with this title for several reasons:

- I couldn't ever get rid of my frustration--if not outright anger--at the protagonist who chose to selfishly cope with his wife's death in his mid-40s by taking a multi-month, high-risk trip to the most remote inhabited region of the planet with a pocket full of cannabis at the expense of his teary-eyed son who doesn't really know when his only surviving parent is going to return home.
- Books have a well-established plot, and no loose ends upon conclusion. We don't hear much about his son. The relationship with his wife is scant with detail. There are distracting sections about yetis and (print only) his relationship with another woman and their drug experiments. 'The Snow Leopard' isn't a book. It's a journal.
- So much of the scenery in this book depends upon space and silence. It's tough to express and experience silence through an audiobook.
- The abridged production is half-baked: reel-to-reel noise, awkward splices, etc.

That said: there are nuggets of wisdom within TSL, it’s just that they are scattered and hard to get to. Much like the Dolpo gompas, I suppose. There are some quotes from Matthiessen’s teachers that are truly knockout when narrated by Matthiessen himself. The history of the region and the migration of Buddhism through China and Japan was great. The personality of Tukten comes through. No doubt Matthiessen has an appreciation for nature (though this appreciation gets repetitive).

Perhaps this whole read was a meta-exercise for me. Why am I disappointed with this title? Was I expecting something other than nothing? If nothing, perhaps that is my greatest takeaway. Pocket notes below for reference.


History of Saddahartma
Movement through China
Doing work for works sake
The lightheartedness of the Sherpas
Switzerland and the bowl
Etymology of Ohm Sarda Hatmi Um
The Smile
''Simplicity is the whole secret of well-being. '' -PM (in reference to Turgenevs Virgin Soil)
To clutch the mountain is to die.
The dust free mirror of buddhism symbolism, like the lake. Colorless, yet reflects everything.
Win my life by losing it, not by recklessness but acceptance, not passivity but non attachment.
The dropped pack in the stream: that happy-go-lucky spirit, that acceptance which is not fatalism but a deep trust in life, made me ashamed.
Sakyamuni laments: don't spend decades learning to walk on water when you can be ferried across for a small coin.
Do not be heavy. Be light, light, full of light.
When your mind is empty like a valley or a canyon only THEN will you know the power of The Way -- Lao Tzu.
The secret of the mountains is that the mountains simply exist, as I do myself. The mountains exist simply, which I do not. The mountains have no meaning. They are meaning.
Solitary meditation: the short path to true knowledge. The supreme form of existence. Requires the ultimate discipline.
I long to see the snow leopard. Yet to induce it by camera flash, crouched on a bait is not to see it.
Of course I'm happy here! Especially when I have no choice! Rinpoche.
They appealed to me with their permanence, that intensified the sense of my own transience. Perhaps this explains our greed for the few gobbets of experience in life.
The purpose of mediation practice is not enlightenment’ it is to pay attention even at unextraordinary times, to be of the present, nothing-but-the-present, to bear this mindfulness of now into each event of ordinary life.
When I watch blue sheep, I must watch blue sheep, not be thinking about sex or danger... or the present. For this present, even while I think of it, is gone.
All other mountains are covered with snow, why is this one bare? I know this mountain because I am this mountain. If the snow leopard were to jump out of this stone and I perceive it, scared out of my wits, only then will I be truly free.
God offers man the choice of repose or truth, but not both.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Les Misérables: Translated by Julie Rose

  • By: Victor Hugo, Julie Rose (translator)
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 60 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,433
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,197
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,204

One of the great classics of world literature and the inspiration for the most beloved stage musical of all time, Les Misérables is legendary author Victor Hugo’s masterpiece. This extraordinary English version by renowned translator Julie Rose captures all the majesty and brilliance of Hugo’s work. Here is the timeless story of the quintessential hunted man—Jean Valjean—and the injustices, violence, and social inequalities that torment him.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A Book that Made Me a Better Person

  • By Coalition Deadboys Podcast on 03-29-13

Great Intro to Epic Fiction

5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-04-18

" long as ignorance and misery exist in this world, books like the one you are about to read are, perhaps, not entirely useless." --Victor Hugo (Les Miserables, Epigraph)

The best part about reading through classic lit in my 40s without any academic background: every book is a surprise. I didn't get more than a few hours into Les Mis before I yelled "I'm reading Tolstoy!" I was wholly unaware that Hugo had a profound influence on Tolstoy's W&P.

That said: Les Mis comes off as a structurally 'junior' version of W&P. (That's a complement to both parties.) The LM storyline is more linear, and there are 10x fewer characters. Content-wise, there is still tons to love about LM: every other day had some sublime quote or passage. There were too many quotes to keep track (pocket notes below). Perhaps the scene that moved me the most was middle-aged Valjean ripping Montparnasse a new ear on what constitues the 'easy' life, and Hugo's subsequent attack on epicureanism. Or perhaps Cosette's doll. So tough to choose.

In only my sixth year of being a father to my two daughters, the Valjean/Cosette allegories struck me to the core. (I'm having a very difficult time convincing myself I will not suffer the same fate as Valjean N years from now if my Cosette finds her Marius. Yet, it was Valjean who freed Cosette in her youth. God--such a good novel.)

I listened to the 1980 musical after reading the novel. The novel is much darker than the musical (which is to say: I preferred the novel), though the muscial expands upon Eponine more so than in the novel (which is very much for the better).

If you've thought about tackling your first epic audiobook, the Rose/Guidall LM is a great place to start. To whet your palette further: Chernow's 'Alexander Hamilton', Les Mis, and W&P make for a trilogy unlike any other. Pocket notes below.


Memorable scenes:
Mothers death scene
Helping Cosette with the bucket and the doll at the fairgrounds.
The convent and the prison.
JV didn't want to lock Cosette in the convent, didn't want to take away her freedom.
Cosette and her father's relationship as she blossoms.
Monologue on work by JV.
Monologue on love by Marius.
Etiology of slang. Suffering.
Mankind will be saved when we feed our minds like we feed our stomachs.
The darkness of the Parisian streets and the toxin of the St Marie bell running.
There is no civil war. Only just and unjust war.
Marius had not lived long enough to know that nothing is more inevitable than the impossible, and what you must always forsee is the unseeable.
The sewers.

  • The Upside of Stress

  • Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It
  • By: Kelly McGonigal
  • Narrated by: Kelly McGonigal
  • Length: 8 hrs and 32 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 768
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 675
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 672

More than 44 percent of Americans admit to losing sleep over stress. And while most of us do everything we can to reduce it, Stanford psychologist and best-selling author Kelly McGonigal, PhD, delivers a startling message: Stress isn't bad. In The Upside of Stress, McGonigal highlights new research indicating that stress can, in fact, make us stronger, smarter, and happier - if we learn how to embrace it.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Mind Boggling, Life Changing

  • By Ding Wuen Liw on 08-12-15

Bedtime Reading for Insomniacs

5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-26-17

Akido--according to Wikipedia--is 'the martial arts principle or tactic of blending with an attacker's movements for the purpose of controlling their actions with minimal effort'. In this case, stress is the attacker. McGonigal's 'The Upside of Stress' is your akido.

In this title, McGonigal states that viewing stress as an intrusion to what-would-be-our-otherwise-normal life kills people. How many of us have spent months/years/decades wishing for a particular stress to go away? Of those, how many of us have actually succeeded in that wish? Such wishing and resisting has been proven to age a person quickly; McGonigal presents a cogent, engaging and empirical argument that all of us need to take a different (and initially non-intuitive) approach to the stresses that bind us.

If McGonigal's TED talk doesn't speak to you, then perhaps spend your credit elsewhere (and be thankful for your well-balanced mindset). For me, this title was earth-shifting: I wish I would have read this book twenty years ago, but am glad that I didn't wait any longer. McGonigal's excellent self-narration adds a further degree of sincerity to the title. My roughly-edited pocket notes below for reference.

----- tl;dr -----

- Allow the larger forces of the world to move as they do: Those would don't believe aging is bad live longer. Those who trust others live longer.
- Strategies that backfire: showing smokers lung cancer photos. Shaming women for being overweight.
- Stress is an overused term, ranging from the trivial to the traumatic. McGonigal's definition: stress is something that arises when something you care about is at stake. Thus, stress and meaning are irrovacably linked.
- Transform your relationship with stress: rethink and embrace it. Choose to see the good in it.
- Mindset reset: how you think about something can transform it's affect on you. 'The effect you expect is the effect you get.'
- Milkshake experiment: body's chemical reaction is a function of what's on the label, not what's in the milkshake.
- Mock interview experiment: more positive chemical reactions for those subjects who were told that stress is good.
- Placebo effects are temporary. Mindset effects are permanent.
- Those who believe stress is beneficial are less depressed and more satisfied with their lives.
- View stress as a challenge, not an overwhelming problem. Find meaning in difficult circumstances.
- Mindsets do not correlate with optimism, the amount of stress in your life, mindfulness, or the ability to tolerate uncertainty.
- Those unaccepting of stress tend to be avoidant, distract themselves, turn to alcohol.
- The belief that stress is helpful is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Experiment: freshmen ivy league school one-hour intervention on belonging closed the minority GPA gap
- Three steps to stress: acknowledge it, embrace that you care about something, make use of the energy that stress gives you.
- Steps to an effective intervention: learn the new point of view, do an exercise, share the idea.
- View stress as flexible, not black and white. Choose the side you want.
- Successful stress coping: Have hope. Make a choice. Find meaning. You are not a lab rat in an uncontrolled, meaningless and unpredictable scenario.
- Stress responses: fight/flight, challenge, tend/befriend.
- The stress paradox: a meaningful life is a stressful life. Higher stress yields a less depressed society.
- Stress awakens the search for meaning.
- The mindset that stress is an intrusion is what kills.
- Understand your values, not just what is good. Create a narrative of personal adequacy.
- Avoiding stress creates more stress.
- 'Just another cold dark night on the side of Mount Everest.'
- You are most likely to become a victim of your own stress when you forget the context in which it arises.
- Experiment: Bell Telephone employees: the healthiest took action on whatever they could, and either changed the situation or changed how the situation affected them.
- Hardiness: the courage to grow and change from stress.
- Experiment: practice GREs. the students with highest stress plus mindset intervention did the best.
- Physiological anxiety is different than worry. The latter you can transform. The former will always be there. (Your palms sweat on a first date because you're close to something you want.)
- When people are instructed they can handle stress, it works.
- Experiment: videotaped speech with planted critics. Mindset intervention was better than calming intervention or distraction by video games. Experiment done with people with severe anxiety disorder.
- Those with an anxiety disorder have the same physiological reaction as others, they just believe it to be higher than others.
- Most people cannot choose the stress they have in their lives. You can choose how you deal with it. The one resource you always have is yourself.
- Stress trigger chemicals that make you social, smart and brave.
- Electing to care for others releases the same chemicals as stress.
- Experiment: helping others--even the smallest gesture--alleviated time scarcity in subjects more than awarding them more time.
- 'Greater than self goals' have a similar effect: define yoru job not by your skills, but by what larger purpose it serves. Personal goals are more likely to be achieved when greater-than-self goals are the focus.
- We tend to underestimate others' stress (re: everyone is happy on social media). Nothing is more universal in humanity than suffering.
- Make the invisible visible. Experiment: common suffering anonymous survey with a group of people.
- 'May we all know our own strength'
- Experiment: those most resistant to freezing water on the hand are those with the most past traumas.
- Those with the least amount of stress in their history tend to catastrophize.
- 'Shift and resist' - allows those with the most stress to be more healthy.
- Extreme traumas: 'It's not that X is good. I just found the good in X.' Need to acknowledge both the good and bad--don't just blow sunshine.
- Restorative journalism creates vicarious resilience in a community. Example: 9/11 widow who eventually adopted more children.
- Stress is harmful when it isolates, creates inadequacy, and feels random/meaningless.
- Create yearly stress goals that challenge and create growth, not yearly resolutions.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Endurance

  • Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
  • By: Alfred Lansing
  • Narrated by: Simon Prebble
  • Length: 10 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13,169
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,600
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 11,590

In August of 1914, the British ship Endurance set sail for the South Atlantic. In October, 1915, still half a continent away from its intended base, the ship was trapped, then crushed in the ice. For five months, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men, drifting on ice packs, were castaways in one of the most savage regions of the world.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Superb in so many ways

  • By David on 01-19-14

Imperfect Storytelling; Powerful Allegory

4 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-03-17

I found Endurance to be a memorable read, but with exceptions.

The against-all-odds allegory that Endurance provides to the reader is powerful. POWERFUL. Have you ever make a mistake in your life? A big mistake? How did you respond? How does it measure up to being stranded in the most remote place on the planet in the early 20th century without shelter and the fate of 25+ human souls in your hands? There’s so much to chew on from an allegorical perspective; to that end, this book was worth the voyage.

Still, I was left with a lot of wanting. First: the story has a tone of heroism. Let’s be perfectly clear: this Antarctic expedition was a GIANT miscalculation. Shackleton sought personal glory, and paid dearly. This story isn’t so much about heroism as it is about being face-to-face with death. Second: there seems to be a lot of fabricated storytelling (conversations, etc.). Perhaps I’m wrong, but I certainly wondered how much of these details were truly recorded in the voyager’s diaries. (2018 UPDATE: I -was- wrong. There was -a lot- of research and written accounts that lent to the details in this book. Wow.) Third: what happened to all these people and their families AFTER this traumatic ordeal? There’s an entire second book that could be written on that topic, and I’m sure that would be a wildly interesting read.

Finally: the dogs. Dear God, the dogs. This book was especially fitting to read in October when the local climate dropped 40+ degrees over the span of one week.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Bell Jar

  • By: Sylvia Plath
  • Narrated by: Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • Length: 7 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,548
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,212
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,199

The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful but slowly going under - maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Beautifully written, brilliantly performed.

  • By Debra W. on 02-04-16

Life with Depression, with Eloquence and Accuracy

5 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-22-17

I came into ‘The Bell Jar’ knowing nothing more than the author committed suicide and that this book had autobiographical roots. I left fully riveted and grateful my time not knowing this book has ended. TBJ is required reading for anyone who has ever lived with depression, or has a loved one living with depression.

This title is so profoundly moving. Every character has its place. Every action has its meaning. All all moves toward a passionate portrait of depression, persistence, assistance and (purported) recovery. Obviously I cannot speak to the experience of being a young adult woman in a conservative male-dominated society, but I have zero reason to believe that Plath pulled any punches and I leave with nothing but deep sympathy for the protagonist. (Clearly this book is one of the cornerstones for the much-needed feminist movement that would arise over next half-century.) I can, however, speak somewhat to the experience of living with depression and the desire for recovery, and the allegories that Plath creates in this regard are WILDLY accurate and profound.

Gyllenhaal nails the narration. To wit: in Esther’s introduction of Dr. Gordon ('I had imagined a kind, ugly, intuitive man...'), Gyllenhaal lets out this wonderfully sympathetic 'Ah!' that captures Esther’s needs at that exact moment, creating the foil for what becomes Esther and Dr. Gordon’s working relationship. I dock one star not for the narration, but rather the director’s decision to insert arbitrary chapter breaks instead of using the breaks as Plath intended. (For shame.)

'This is what it is to be happy.' How I would have loved this book 25 years ago. That doesn’t prevent me from having those feelings about this book today.

  • Nonviolent Communication

  • Create Your Life, Your Relationships, and Your World in Harmony with Your Values
  • By: Marshall Rosenberg PhD
  • Narrated by: Marshall Rosenberg PhD
  • Length: 5 hrs and 9 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,711
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,323
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,293

On Nonviolent Communication, this renowned peacemaker presents his complete system for speaking our deepest truths, addressing our unrecognized needs and emotions, and honoring those same concerns in others. With this adaptation of the best-selling book of the same title, Marshall Rosenberg teaches in his own words.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • This is an amazing life changing book!!!

  • By Olesya on 08-03-16

A (Much-Needed) Fred Rogers for Adults

5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-07-17

What attracts me most to Rosenberg’s NVC is the simplicity of the teachings and the their immediate applicability to a broad spectrum of interpersonal scenarios (intimate, professional, child/parent, etc.). What surprised me most about NVC is its applicability to one’s self: how that negative backtalk that instinctively occurs (in most all of) our own minds (I strongly believe) is indeed a form of violence that--upon correction and improvement--can lead to better self-knowledge and ultimately a stronger society. (Sure: that seems like lofty idealism, but certainly Rosenberg’s approach can do no harm.) Rosenberg’s temperament is well-suited for this narration (which is well-adapted from the print edition), creating an intimate space between the author and the listener for learning and self-discovery. My pocket notes below (tl;dr) for reference.

- Stop viewing violence as a pathology. View it as a mis-education.
- ‘Out beyond ideas of right and wrong doing, there is a field. I will meet you there.’ - Rumi
- Current attention is paid to levels or right and wrongness, not whether life is being served or not
- The downfall of society will not be due to evil forces and their counterparts, but due to acquiescent subservient minds
- We want those who we want to act to do so from intrinsic motivation (i.e. ‘Punished by Rewards’). Demands only promote compliance or rebellion
- Take responsibility for your own feelings. ‘I feel X because I…’
- When expressing your own needs, express via a ‘Santa Claus’ attitude, not a ‘Kick Me’ attitude
- Indian ‘vas’: my needs are met
- Empathy: getting to others’ needs. Don’t put your ‘buts’ in front of an angry person.
- Self-compassion: anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. You’ll never fall out of bed if you sleep on the floor.
- The difference between self-judgment and mourning/self-forgiveness. Find the unmet need and connect to it.
- Never use blameful or shaming language with yourself. You’re not getting closer to understanding your needs.
- Turn the ‘shoulds/musts’ actions of your life into ‘choose/because’ wants. Be honest with yourself..
- Punitive force undercuts the intrinsic motivation of the actor--avoid. Counter-example: the ‘Do Nothing’ room that allows unmotivated students to voluntarily remove themselves from becoming a distraction
- Expressing anger: no one makes you feel the way you do. Focus on unmet needs. Take your time.
- Praise must be very specific as to what needs of yours our being met by both giving and receiving parties. When receiving praise, do not fall into traps of egotism or false humility. Give and receive praise with joy.
- ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light--not our darkness--that frightens us. You are a child of God, your playing small does not serve the world. As we let our own light shine, we consciously let other people do the same.’ -- Marianne Williamson (paraphrased)
- Do not condition those around you to be praise-seeking.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • It's So Easy

  • And Other Lies
  • By: Duff McKagan
  • Narrated by: Christian Rummel
  • Length: 10 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 814
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 754
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 756

In 1984, at the age of 20, Duff McKagan left his native Seattle - partly to pursue music, but mainly to get away from a host of heroin overdoses then-decimating his closest group of friends in the local punk scene. In LA only a few weeks and still living in his car, he answered a want ad for a bass player placed by someone who identified himself only as "Slash." Soon after, the most dangerous band in the world was born. Guns N' Roses went on to sell more than 100 million albums worldwide.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • This book just may save a life.

  • By Katrina Hamilton on 10-16-16

A Cautionary Life with An Unlikely Ending

4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-21-17

'We're all in this together. There's no such thing as a rock star, just musicians and listeners!' --Joe Strummer, The Clash

You'll start this book because you listened to Guns N' Roses at one point and time in your life. You'll finish this book because of the physical and spiritual transformation of their bassist after the original lineup split, and you'll leave this book a better person because of it. Certainly you'll add some new words to your vocabulary that you probably didn't know (e.g., 'White China', 'Normies', etc.), but on a higher level you'll add some new understanding of what it means to live a fulfilling and intention-filled life.

While 'Easy' isn't the most eloquently written autobiography, the candor and spirit of the author shines through. Duff's story is an important one to tell, and this title is well worth the purchase. Rummel's surfer-dude narration fits the West Coast context that the majority of the book is in (personally, I don't know if McKagan actually talks that way in real life). Pocket notes below.

- Confidence is knowing you can do something before you actually do it.
- Benny the Jet's five rules for fighting:
1 - Never move back in a straight line.
2 - Never set (long enough for your opponent to think about what to do).
3 - Redirect.
4 - Fight your opponent the way he fights you.
5 - Place your opponent where you want him.
- Know the difference between good pain and bad pain. Let good pain float away.
- Fight training enables the fighter not to fight.
- Manliness: being honest and true with myself and others; being forthright with friends and business associates.

  • Emotional Chaos to Clarity

  • How to Live More Skillfully, Make Better Decisions, and Find Purpose in Life
  • By: Phillip Moffitt
  • Narrated by: Fred Stella
  • Length: 8 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 148
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 123
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 122

Despite our best-laid plans, life can often be difficult, disappointing, and stressful. Consequently, when things don’t go right, we are often left in a state of emotional chaos, dealing with feelings like anger, anxiety, frustration, and doubt, which can cloud our perspective and negatively affect the way we live our lives. But in this inspiring book, Phillip Moffitt shows us that we need not be at the mercy of our emotions. By cultivating a responsive mind rather than a reactive one, we can achieve a state of emotional clarity.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • You Are Not Your Emotions

  • By Sara on 10-23-14

'Dancing's' Practical Companion

4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-16-17

I found Phillip Moffitt's 'Dancing with Life' exceptional, so I sprung for this audiobook, his second title. Where 'Dancing' is the theoretical framework, 'Chaos' is the practical application of this framework in a wide variety of contexts. Moffitt walks through different manners in which the reader can be deceived by their own ego, and various means in which the reader can learn and grow with a Buddhist-based mindset. Numerous critical thinking exercises and questionnaires for the reader are throughout, all of high quality.

Unlike 'Dancing', 'Chaos' talks very little about Buddhism proper. I found 'Chaos' to be engaging, sincere and helpful in my own journey of understanding myself and others. This book is worth a second read, and is easily worth the credit. My chicken-scratch notes below (tl;dr) for future reference.


- Who are you? You are neither your emotions, nor your responsibilities nor your achievements. Your core values are who you are.
- Core values temper how you see and react to what you see.
- Goals are important, they are the summits to which we all climb. But core values are what ensure you enjoy every step, and are not disappointed if the summit is covered in fog.
- 'Just Start Over' attitude. Forgive the failures of yourself and others.
- The 'And' Method: 'I am upset, -and- I am going to [positive action]'
- Expectations are trapped in the past and future. Potential exists only in the now. Everyone has expectations; anyone who says they do not is most likely fooling themselves with their own hidden agendas. Find your own hidden agendas, and work to remove them.
- Staying mindful of your core values allow you to be proactively responsive, versus reactive
- Priorities: What are your top three internal? Top three external? Keep the list simple. Be honest with yourself, then prune the activities of your life accordingly. Do not allow for disconnects.
- Focus on actions and intentions, not results.
- Identify stories about yourself, and recognize they are just stories. Understand the difference between experience and interpreting your experience.
- Do not demand a different/better past.
- Focus on gratitude on what is working in your life. Understand that gratitude is not conditional on circumstance.
- Do not identify with being right or being wrong. This leads to agendas and martyrdom.
- Big changes should not be done on impulse. 'With increased awareness comes increased responsibility.' - Carl Jung
- 'You must have a self before you can go beyond yourself.'
- Time constraints, being busy and stress are forms of self-violence.
- Renounce self-righteousness. God is not whispering in your ear.
- Renounce measuring your life by success.
- Renounce being the star of your own movie.
- Moments of time are weightless. It is only delusion that gives them weight.
- Compulsions stem from unmet needs, that are independent of your core values. Meet compulsions with compassionate curiosity.
- Living with the difficult: understand that pain is a part of life, but it does not define you.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Winesburg, Ohio

  • By: Sherwood Anderson
  • Narrated by: George Guidall
  • Length: 8 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3.5 out of 5 stars 96
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 84
  • Story
    3.5 out of 5 stars 83

Winesburg, Ohio is a little-known masterpiece that forever changed the course of American storytelling. At the center of this collection of stories stands George Willard, an earnest young reporter for the Winesburg Eagle who sets out to gather the town’s daily news. He ends up discovering the town’s deepest secrets as one by one, the townsfolk confide their hopes, dreams, and fears to the reporter. In their recollections of first loves and last rites, of sprawling farms and winding country roads, the town rises vividly - and poignantly - to life.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Isolation, Loneliness, Love & Midwest Grotesque

  • By Darwin8u on 06-27-13

Pieces of You - Probably Better in Print

3 out of 5 stars
1 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-25-17

I wanted to like 'Winesburg', but this book is probably better in print.

- There are zero seconds between chapters. That doesn't sound like a huge deal, but I promise: it gets annoying fast, and seriously takes away from your internalization of what you just read.
- I'm not a fan of Guidall's narration for this title. With all the different characters and disjoint scenes, the stories feel like one homogeneous blur. And it shouldn't.

'Winesburg' presents some great unspoken honesty into the human condition. Some of the scenes are real gems: the priest/Kate Swift/George Willard sequence, the married men in the cornfield, the final chapters with Helen and George. Perhaps this title will grow on me with time. If I read it again, it will be after a trip to the library/bookstore.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful