Sunday, June 29, 2008

Runaway by Alice Munro

This is a collection of short stories, all about women of various ages. Well-written and pleasant to read. My favorite story was titled "Tricks." It was heartbreaking and sad, all about the timing of things that happen and don't happen and how it can affect the course of the rest of our lives.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your Life's True Calling by Diane Dreher

I love reading anything, not just books. Newspapers, magazines, blogs, and yes, I am probably one of the few that actually read prayer newsletters from missionaries. I also like to read things tacked on bulletin boards in public places, especially in downtown Mountain View on Castro Street. The other bulletin boards that I regularly read are on campus. When I am on campus for class, as I walk up to the third floor of the building, I stop on each landing to read the flyers tacked to the bulletin boards. Which is how I found out about this book.

This book is written by a professor at my school and the flyer on the board was announcing her fall class titled Finding Your Calling. This book will be one of the course readings. When I read the flyer, it touched something inside of me. So, I looked around to see if anyone was coming up or down the stairs...and I took the flyer off the bulletin board and put it in my backpack. Yes, I lead a very wild life these days.

I brought the flyer home and stuck it on my own bulletin board above my desk. I ordered the book and when it arrived, I saw that the professor/author was one of my peers in a class I took on Aging last quarter. When I took the class with her, I didn't even know she was a professor, but I did know that she was writing a book. I guess this is what she was working on!

This book is about finding your calling. It combines examples of people from the Renaissance with concepts in the fairly recent field of positive psychology (focusing on what promotes wellness rather than always looking at what goes wrong with us). Twelve steps are covered with exercises throughout (Dreher suggests you keep a "Renaissance Notebook," but I just jotted some thing down in my journal).

Overall, a very inspiring book, making me think about living more intentionally and working toward my dreams. The exercises were helpful in getting to know myself better and also in helping me think of ways to take better care of myself. Some of the examples from the Renaissance were kinda boring and I skimmed them. Also, the font was a bit annoying until I got used to it. However, I would recommend this book, especially if you're going through a transition or just wondering what to do next. I will keep this one in my library since I'll probably want to go through it sometime again in the future.

Here is a list of the twelve chapters. Just the titles inspire me. =D
Discovery: Realizing your joys and talents
Detachment: Clearing the path within
Discernment: Embracing your values, living with heart
Direction: Turning your ideals into action
Faith: Trusting your life and your world
Daily Examen: Staying on course with your dreams
Community: Gaining support from mentors and friends
Contemplation: Finding your inner oasis of peace
Creativity: Making your life a work of art
Reading and Reflection: Exploring new worlds within and around you
Physical Exercise: Building strength and wisdom
Discipline and Dedication: Bringing your dreams to life

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A trilogy by Joan Anderson

There arethree books in this trilogy by Joan Anderson: A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman, An Unfinished Marriage, and A Walk on the Beach.

A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman describes the year that Anderson took a sabbatical from marriage. Her marriage had grown stale and when her husband re-located for a new job, Anderson didn't go with him. Instead, she stays at the family's Cape Cod cottage for a year and rediscovers who she is after an adulthood of caring for everyone but herself.

A sabbatical from marriage? Sounds pretty strange and unconventional. So the story doesn't end there. In the second book, An Unfinished Marriage, Anderson's husband retires and joins her at the cottage. After a year of his own growth, the two of them begin reworking and healing their relationship. It is hopeful and hard at the same time.

The third book, A Walk on the Beach, goes back to Joan's sabbatical year and talks about the friendship she cultivated with Joan Erikson, wife of the late Erik Erikson (the psychologist who came up with the stages of development). The two Joans hang out, play, talk, and support each other in becoming who they really are as individuals.
I read these three books back-to-back this last week. I'm glad I decided to check them all out at the same time. My favorite was the first one. I'm glad it was followed by the second one because it provided some sort of redemption of the relationship. The last one, although full of wisdom, seemed a bit of a sell-out. However, all of them made for restful, thoughtful reading. They were all an encouragement to examine the expectations we have been living by and to determine our own standards and values.

Some quotes that I wrote down in my journal:

"The great loneliness is that most people don't know who they are." --Joan Erikson

"...all I know is that I have spent the bulk of this year unlearning all the rules, the conditions and goals that were set for me by someone else. Finally I feel mature enough to recover myself - that person I was born to be." --Joan Anderson

Friday, June 13, 2008

Now that the Harry Potter series is over...

From the June 7th Economist in an article about new technologies in book publishing:

"Reading in America, as in many rich countries, is down. A study by the National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency, says leisure reading is declining, especially among the young. Since 1985, books' share of entertainment spending has fallen by seven percentage points."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

Predictable and sappy, but a perfect book for a warm summer afternoon of reading. I read this in a day and stayed up late finishing it (this is rare for me...usually I get into bed, read two sentences, and I'm out).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wanted: Book Recommendations

Have you read any good books lately? I have a couple of weeks off before summer school starts and I'd like to read some good books. Preferably fiction and nothing in the self-help/psychology/sociology realm. I get enough of that during school. I would appreciate any of your suggestions!

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

This is the fictional story of Lily and Snow Flower, two ladies in 19th century China. Through a matchmaker, they vow to be lifelong friends. They communicate through writing on a fan in the nu shu characters reserved just for women. This book goes into the lives of Chinese women during this period: footbinding, arranged marriages, social class, and the Taiping rebellion. Through all of this, Lily and Snow Flower remain friends until some miscommunication severs their relationship.

I found this book to be quite engrossing. It consumed the first day of my summer break. The descriptions about footbinding made me squirm. I don't know how accurate the descriptions of social conventions and rituals are, but overall, I thought this story was quite fascinating and also kind of sad.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

How To Be an Adult: A Handbook on Psychological and Spiritual Integration by David Richo

What a great title, huh? It's like we should all get a copy of this on our 18th birthdays.

So most of us didn't receive everything we needed as a child. And now it's time to take responsibility for ourselves and grow up and be adults. Easier said than done, eh? This book tackles what that might look like, including mourning and letting go.

This book starts with a section on Personal Work. The author discusses how our childhood experiences affect our later adult relationships. He also describes the characteristics of a healthy adult whose childhood needs were met. There are chapters on Assertiveness, Fear, Anger, Guilt, and Values.

The second part of the book is on Relationship Issues such as how to maintain personal boundaries and what true intimacy is like.

Lastly, there is a section on flexible integration and wholeness.

This was a very helpful book for me. It's one that I first checked out from the library, read a couple of chapters, and found myself copying lengthy passages in my journal. My hand was getting tired, so I ordered my own copy so I could mark it up instead of copying it all by hand.

"An adult loves to find out where his work really lies, so he can lay it to rest once and for all."

"Old feelings about betrayal, abandonment, and rejection are restimulated by contemporary versions of them. The strong feelings we have now show us where our unmourned issues are."

--David Richo

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This is a memoir of Walls' experience growing up in a poor West Virginia town with a very dysfunctional family (including an alcoholic father). This is really a story of survival. Walls and her siblings find creative ways of coping without parental support, care, and provision. Amazing and sad at the same time. I highly recommend this book for the memoir part of it and also because it is really well-written. It is one of the best books I've read this year and one that I'm going to keep in my library instead of giving away.