Category Archives: Five Star

‘The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-discovery ‘ by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

The enneagram (any-a-gram) is an ancient tool for understanding human psyche through nine personality types. How we view ourselves, how we interact with others, and what our default tendencies are, can be instructive and hugely interesting. The way you discover your type is simply by reading descriptions of the nine types and discerning which comes closest to capturing you. Of course everyone is a unique version of one of the types and, unlike other personality tests, the discovery process itself is a journey.

There are a lot of resources out there on the enneagram. Someone I trust recommended this one, and it was an excellent place to start because the book is simple, clear and engaging. The authors do a good job of introducing the enneagram and I appreciate their perspective on its use. Self-awareness is a positive thing. I know I will be referring back to this book in future, and it has given me an excellent background. I was delighted to discover that Stabile has another book coming out soon about enneagram in relationships (The Path Between Us), and the authors have a  podcast: The Road Back to You Podcast

Though knowing your type and those of others can be helpful in a relationship like marriage or with colleagues in the workplace, it’s not something you can figure out for someone else.This is not a spectator sport! You can wonder and speculate for someone who hasn’t undergone the process, and even that may be revealing for you, but you can’t say, “oh you are such a three” or “stop being such an eight” or “I know exactly what number you are.” That’s not how it works. This is a personal journey.  Just like in The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia), Aslan says, “I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”

‘Press Here’ by Hervé Tullet


Following instructions becomes a delight in this ingenious picture book for young children. Brilliant! (3-5 years)

I love the simplicity and interactivity of this book. Who needs an iPad? Press Here is not quite a board book, but the pages are extra strong and thick. What a playful and fun adventure to embark on together with a child in your life!

‘The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World’ by Christina Crook

“My focus is less on setting limits than it is on creating the positive conditions in which technology becomes less compelling and different kinds of engagements thrive and flourish.”
Albert Borgmann

So we all know about FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) but what about JOMO? Is it possible in today’s digital world to reach a point where we find enough balance and perspective to actually find joy in being less than 3 meters from our smartphones? especially for young people who have never known a world without one? How do we maintain a health relationship with technology for ourselves and our children? How do we teach our kids that technology is a privilege, not a right?

This is a thoughtful book that draws on collective wisdom about human development and interaction and uses that as the starting point. Even though communication has improved with technology, we are all too aware of how all-consuming our devices can be and how advertisers and software developers exploit us and want us to become hooked. It’s not that screens are inherently bad–they are an amazing tool.  It’s just that we may have lost our perspective in keeping them in their place. We need to control them, not be controlled by them.

The focus needs to be on humanity. If technology enhances our human connection, that is good. But if it replaces or hampers it, or alienates us from others, then we need to think again and perhaps take a step back. Crook actually starkly points out on a timeline how technological advances and cases of anxiety and depression have marched ahead together hand in hand over the years. Ironically instead of technology saving us time for other things, we seem lost in a maze of ‘never enough time’ and being anxious about it to boot!

The big push of our age is to consume. More information, more products, more communication. How then do we push back? To slow down, be present, and draw closer. The author does a great job of stressing the importance of face-to-face communication, physical activity, and hands-on creativity.  I was happy to find no preaching in this book, just a reasoned discussion of the issues and suggestions for a healthy balanced perspective. Finding balance is important in so many areas of our lives, this is an excellent contribution to that goal!

‘Jabari Jumps’ by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari is finished his swimming lessons and has passed his swim test. Now there is one more thing he wants to do, but … maybe he should do some stretches first. Even though it looks easy, when Jabari is faced with the height and depth of the jump itself, he is going to need some courage. His wise Dad comes to the rescue with the best encouragement of all. He tells Jabari to think of it as a ‘surprise’ rather than a scary new thing, and that makes all the difference.

When I was taking piano lessons, my teacher Judy taught me a valuable life lesson on courage. When I was afraid that nerves would hamper my piano exam, she said something that has stood me in good stead ever since. She said, “Instead of dreading it, just try looking forward to it. See it as something that you can’t wait to get to.” Like Jabari, the positive twist of thinking of the scary thing as a ‘surprise’ was the key to helping him make the big splash.

Gaia Cornwall loved swimming when she was little and Jabari Jumps is her first picture book. I loved the illustrations which are beautifully done in warm water colours! The pictures capture the excitement and fun of a day’s outing to the pool. Road tested by a teacher friend of mine, kids love this book, evidenced by the neat student work they produced. Here is a sample!

‘Life’ by Cynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel

Happy 2018!

Another year of reading and conversations about books coming up! Looking forward to it! Thanks for journeying together on this adventure! Can’t think of a better way to start the New Year than with an Annie Dillard quote and a children’s picture book about Life (thanks for the suggestion Nel)! Happy reading!

There is so much to love about life.

Stunning unique illustrations are a graceful backdrop for a few simple words about the wonders of being alive in the world. The narrative is honest about the ups and downs that are inevitable in life, but encourages readers to have hope–there are always new roads to take after a time in the wilderness. This is a gorgeous picture book with a good perspective on life that stresses the beauty of the natural world. A great addition to any young child’s library because it will also appeal to adults!

Rylant is an award winning children’s book author. She has written more than 100 children’s books. Here is her website.

An ardent conservationist, Brendan Wenzel is a proud collaborator with many organizations working to ensure the future of wild places and threatened species, especially within Southeast Asia. For a taste of his illustrations, here is a clip of They All Saw a Cat.

‘The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future’ by Kevin Kelly

I’m giving full marks to this mind-blowing, highly readable forecast of inevitable technological trends, already in motion, that will be transforming our lives in the next 30 years. It’s a prediction of a much larger scope than what features the next generation of iPhone might have. Its a visionary exploration of the emerging connectivity of our world, enabled by the internet. Twelve trends are identified and explained by the author that could revolutionize the way we work, play, learn, buy, and communicate with one another. Kelly claims that even though we think technology may have already reached a pinnacle, actually it is just in its infancy.

This is a brilliant and provocative choice of Christmas gift for the techie/business person in your life. Actually, I am neither of those and I loved it. I liked how the author is prophetic, but doesn’t preach doom and gloom… yes, the future will be very different, but let’s be optimistic and embrace change rather than shy away from it. Let’s be aware of what the future may bring and be part of steering and shaping it. Let’s realize that robots and artificial intelligence are inevitable and figure out how to best work with them. This is not just a cinematic brave new world, this is a possible reality for our grandchildren. How can we best prepare them?

If you’d rather listen than read, this is an excellent overview on youtube:

‘Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End’ by Atul Gawande

The old saying goes that once you have faced death, you can truly live. Trite but true. Of course we spend much of our lives taking very good care to see that we remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible, but the reality is still that we are going to die.

Atul Gawande, a medical doctor himself,  wrestles profoundly but personally with the dilemma of submitting ourselves to medical systems and mindsets that have been geared to prolonging life at all costs (a great strategy that has us living longer than ever before) but also coming to grips with the fact that at some point the inventions and interventions will no longer work and may actually increase suffering. In this pivotal moment, the important thing to remember is that we are mortal and the choices we make at the end of life need to be more around the quality of life remaining, even if those choices shorten life and involve refusing treatments that are available. The goal should not be a good death, but a good life to the very end. And that will look very different in each unique person, family, and situation. Gawande doesn’t offer solutions, just discusses the issues in a very accessible format.

Gawande talks about nursing homes where the focus on safety can prevent a full and dignified assistance of individual needs. He points out the high value in hospice care as an alternative to further treatment, if that is available and appropriate. Unfortunately hospice is sometimes seen as a giving up or as a failure or weakness once everything else has been tried, rather than a positive alternative to being cared for in the final chapter that leads to fullness of life till the end. Useful and engaging, the stories he tells in the book give a dignified view of those who are in the process of giving up their independence to old age or illness. His models of care focus on living a meaningful life.

Through gently storytelling, the book is also very useful in walking the reader through difficult conversations, accepting hard truths, whether patient or carer.  The final chapter of our lives may have a fullness and a richness we could never have imagined, if the right choices are made. That chapter might include sharing memories, passing on wisdom and keepsakes, settling relationships, establishing legacies, making peace with God, and ensuring that those left behind will be ok. “As people become aware of the finitude of their life, they do not ask for much. They do not seek more riches. They do not seek more power. They ask only to be permitted, insofar as possible, to keep shaping the story of their life in the world–to make choices and sustain connection to others according to their own priorities.”