Monthly Archives: February 2020

‘You are Awesome: How to Navigate Change, Wrestle with Failure, and Live an Intentional Life’ by Neil Pasricha

“You win some, you learn some.”Pasricha is the author of ‘The Book of Awesome‘ which I actually never read, but do remember seeing around a lot when it first came out…I guess I assumed Pasricha’s writing was inspirational fluff, but when I heard him speak on CBC about this next book, I realised I was wrong.

There are a lot of interesting and highly practical suggestions he makes about building resilience and dealing with failure. If you’re the type who dissolves because of a nasty email or judges yourself too harshly because you tried something and it didn’t work out, this book is for you. Pasricha warns against hiding failure or putting too much of a spotlight on it. He says we should actually even plan and budget for failure!

Now I can think of professions where failure-seeking may be rather less acceptable, for say a heart surgeon or an airline pilot, but perhaps the sentiment could be applied to creative endeavours in their leisure time!! And some of his examples were a bit far fetched and not really anything I would try (like one-night-stands) but I forgave him since he makes his points very well in every other regard. He definitely has some great things to say about navigating change and building resilience in a climate where there hasn’t been a lot of struggle or scarcity and oddly people seem to be very stressed. This trailer is really worth watching:

‘The Body: A Guide for Occupants’ by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson started as a travel writer and then moved into writing about science. In this one he travels through the human body. Bryson does an incredible amount of research into complicated things and then casually talks about them as if he’s giving you directions to the corner store. He can be very funny, in a gentle self-deprecating way (a quality that has no doubt flourished by living in the UK) and he makes the facts entertaining.

For me, learning more about our inner workings, system by system, produced amazement and wonder–he does make science understandable. We seldom stop to thing about all of the wonderful things that are going on while we slouch unawares on the couch, munching popcorn, until something goes wrong of course. His chapters on germs, disease, and microbes read like a thriller, and leave you feeling as many aches and pains as a first year medical student! But because this book is  a long one, and not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as some of his other books, I would recommend the audio version, read by the author himself–he has an amusing American accent with a telltale British twang.

I really like Bryson’s books. They are always a pleasant journey that leaves me with greater general knowledge and an appreciation for the topic he has tackled. I have especially liked his travel books about Great Britain and Australia, and his book called At Home which discusses how we as a society became comfortable. His funniest book is A Walk in the Woods about hiking the Appalachian trail with his fat friend, which also became a movie with Robert Redford. A Short History of Nearly Everything is about the universe and ourselves. It is an awesome adventure into the realms of human knowledge. If you read that one, make sure you get the special illustrated edition.

‘Free, Melania: The Unauthorized Biography’ by Kate Bennett

Melania Trump is an enigma. She’s beautiful and so intriguing, perhaps because she is a very private stoic Slovenian, and not an enthusiastic emotive American. We don’t know much about her, and that makes her even more mysterious. Don’t we all wonder how she could be married to someone like Trump? She has spoken out publicly about how toxic social media can be, especially for young people, and yet her husband is the leading bully in that arena. She’s done a number of confusing things that people have wondered about. Why did she wear that jacket to the Mexican border with the phrase, “I don’t care, do you?” stencilled on the back. And what of the ‘pussy bow’ choice for a blouse, after that lewd comment uttered by her husband on a bus hit the press. Was it protest? Is she naive? Does she truly not care? Then there was that speech that was plagiarised almost word for word from Michelle Obama’s speech. And yet she says nothing about any of it.

After thoroughly enjoying Michelle Obama’s top-notch autobiography Becoming, I was curious about this one. There is no comparison. Obama’s memoir is heartwarming and inspirational and shows how the Obamas as a family were a class act in the White House. Obama is a principled, intelligent, self-sacrificing individual, making herself authentically and vulnerably known as she tells her own story. Becoming is a beautiful read. Free, Melania on the other hand, is an unauthorised biography, written by a journalist who covered Melania Trump for CNN. Because it contains information from Bennett’s own experience as well as tidbits gleaned from other reporters and various sources, the book has a gossipy tone and much of it feels like speculation. It offers context, satisfies some curiosity, and perhaps provides a bit of understanding, but is certainly not enlightening or inspirational in any way. The Guardian has an interesting article about her, claiming that no matter what you think of Melania, there has never been a First Lady quite like her: click here. It’s worth a visit, even if you don’t read Free, Melania. And for the record, there’s one more mystery. No one really seems to know what that comma in the title of this book even means. If you have any idea, please let me know.

‘When God Made the World’ by Matthew Paul Turner and illustrated by Gillian Gamble

“Among the stars and the planets and cosmic dust, God made a place for the story of us.”

Lyrical verse, warm evocative illustration, and creative narrative describe this new book by Matthew Paul Turner. What’s great about this picture book is the fresh perspective it offers about how all of us fit into the creation story. The dedication is in memory of Rachel Held Evans, a beloved and well respected young Christian writer who died from complications of the flu last year. When God Made the World has been endorsed and promoted by people like Amy Grant, Ann Voskamp, and Shauna Niequist.

In this book there are directives to help save and protect the planet, “Save a whale, hug a tree, protect every bee. Recycle, repurpose, reject apathy.” Included in passages that impart the wonder of creation and the diversity of humanity, are cute little phrases like: a warning against touching poison ivy and a reminder to drink more water in hot weather. The book ends on an open-ended note by saying that creation was just the beginning and how we live and how we love tells God’s story too! Children can glimpse the divine and celebrate the complexity of our world, but also think about the fact that they too are an intentional part of God’s very big story.

‘The Brutal Telling’ by Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache, Three Pines Mystery #5)

Where there is love there is courage,

where there is courage there is peace,
where there is peace there is God.
And when you have God, you have everything.

See, this quote demonstrates why I love Louise Penny mysteries. They are so much more than a curiosity about who was the murderer and why. There is thoughtfulness, depth of character, beauty of place, appreciation of culture, gentle humour, and lyrical prose. Three Pines has become a retreat of sorts to me, a place to escape to that is familiar when I’ve just traveled through a number of other books. Of course, there is always a gruesome murder to contend with once there, but again, Penny handles that deftly and compassionately. In this instalment I loved Inspector Gamache’s trip to Haida Gwaii and there was so much detailed description of the food on offer in Gabri and Olivier’s bistro, that it made my mouth water!!

I am reading the Inspector Gamache series in order. This instalment is about a hermit who is found dead in Olivier’s bistro. But because I had stepped out of my reading order to read the sixth instalment for a book club assignment, I actually knew who the murderer was while reading the book, which was fun. And perhaps it was merciful too. This book ends on a cliffhanger for fans of Three Pines, and happily I didn’t have to go through that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting to read them out of order, I just think that you should follow #5 with #6 as quickly as you can, because they really go together. Oh, and by the way, this title holds a clue to who the killer is, especially if you google ‘brutal telling and Emily Carr’ or pay attention when the character of Clara Morrow describes the phrase, or watch this youtube of Penny herself. 🙂