The Wolf Gift

This was a book that my wife Jill was reading for her book club near their Halloween meeting. Although I’m a fan of science fiction, I’m not much into the Werewolf/Vampire genre of books. I certainly appreciated Lupin the werewolf in the Harry Potter books, but this book focuses entirely on it. I hate to admit it, but I enjoyed the book and found it to be a great read. I particularly appreciated the idea that we as humans have dulled our senses to our environment, and we neither notice nor appreciate what the world feels like, smells like, and tastes like. We are in such a hurry that we ignore most of what is around us. It reminded me of The Power of Now. I’m probably reading too much into that, but it did cross my mind a few times while reading. Fun read.

Winter of the World

If you liked the Fall of Giants (I did), then you will like this one too. The same families in the first book now witness the rise of the Third Reich, World War II, and all of the surrounding events of the 30s and 40s. A great page turner. I look forward to reading the last book in the trilogy soon.

Wheat Belly

After reading this, my weight dropped from 205 to 197. If I was truly dedicated, it would go even lower. I recommend it for a very quick read. I don’t think he is wrong. My favorite line is when Dr. Davis talks about all of the marathoners and triathletes who have a paunch. How can that be? Carbs and wheat he thinks. But I do love good bread. Somewhere there has to be a middle ground!

Stranger in a Strange Land

My dad recommended this book to me. It’s a combination of science fiction, sixties mentality and utopian society thinking that had me going back and forth between wanting to stop reading the book but also wanting to see the full evolution of the thinking of Mr. Heinlein. The hero, a Martian, tries to (1) adapt to our society and (2) get us to see why his society has advantages, changes lives and then frightens the whole world with his radical thinking.  There are some things we are just not ready for.

The One Thing

First and foremost, any book that contains a reference to any of my amazing family is a great book for me to to read. Mr. Keller praises my artist brother Pat Matthews, and his focus and ability to paint one painting each and every day. Way to go Pat!

 

As you can see from this section of my website, I love reading of leadership books. Some of my guiding thinkers include Steven Covey, Daniel Pink, Chip & Dan Heath, David Allen and Jim Collins. I read Keller’s book shortly after visiting and speaking with brain scientists from The Center for Brain Health in Dallas, Texas then reading Make Your Brain Smarter, by Dr. Sandra Chapman. Both books hit hard campaigning against the idea of multi-tasking. Both say there is no such thing. Both hit on the idea of spending sustained time on one complex task. Dr. Chapman says to do it to make your brain smarter, while Gary Keller says to do it to be more successful in everything you do.

Some of the main points of Keller’s book:

  • “Don’t fear big. Fear mediocrity.”
  • What is the one thing I can do such by doing it that everything else will become easier or unnecessary. See chart below. 
  • Step one is often to find out what others have learned. 
  • Priority matters. Priorities don’t. 
  • Productivity is not about working hard. It’s about priorities, planning and fiercely protecting your time.  – Margarita Tartakovsky
  • Block four hours of time early in your day. Or as much as you can
  • I love the chart on the limits of intelligence without a clear sense of purpose. Only purposeful work allows for great breakthroughs. See chart below. 
  • Take care of your body with diet and exercise. If nothing else, get 10,000 steps a day. 
  • “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the sail winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  Mark Twain

The Hobbit

My 25 year old son, who just graduated from law school, was my companion as we watched all of the Lord of the Rings movies come out during his time in high school.  Between the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, we read some really fun books and got to see some highly entertaining movies. One of my best memories is going to Walmart in Arkansas and purchasing the final Harry Potter book. We then went out on the lake to water ski and play. By the end of the day, both Ryan and I had finished the book. He read it in the early morning, and I read it after he was done, and we talked about it the rest of the day.

For my younger son, the Hobbit movie gave us the opportunity to re-read an old classic. I read it first in 9th grade as a part of a history class. I still don’t get why, but I loved the book. We then saw the movie. We saw it first in the 48 frames per second mode, and hated it. Then we saw it in normal mode, and thought it most excellent.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Kind of a Catch 22 for Science Fiction. This is a book I’ve heard much about, but I’ve never read. The author is crazy, and I thought it highly entertaining and though provoking. Earth being blown up is really not even a passing thought, and it goes haywire from there.

Fall of Giants

It’s been years since I read Pillars of the Earth, but I remember loving it. Follett has published two books recently: Fall of Giants, a WWI book, and Winter of the World, on WWII. Fall of Giants is historical fiction were characters from the US, Russia, Germany and UK. It was one of those books I reached for whenever I had a free moment and it was a great read. I’ll move quickly to the next book. I highly recommend it!

Fahrenheit 451

I reread this book after Ray Bradbury died. It was my way of paying homage to a great thinker. I was struck by his prediction of reality TV, something that existed neither when he wrote it nor when I read it in the 1970s, and how it sucks people in. His version of Big Brother is a government that makes the people think about trivial nonsense so much that the realities of the world are almost completely ignored. TVs influence is so strong that we don’t see the beauty and pains of the world. One great quote from Faber, the English professor in the book, “I don’t talk things sir. I talk the meaning of things. I sit here and know I’m alive.”

 

Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching

We are doing a lot of work on teacher evaluation in MBUSD, and Charlotte Danielson is regarded as one of the foremost experts on the subject. I worked with her many years ago on a teacher evaluation project in Santa Monica – Malibu USD, and I found her to be bright, engaging and completely passionate about teacher evaluation. She has developed a framework for how to define quality teaching, and it’s a great reference point.

The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer

My sister-in-law recommended this book to me. It’s a science fiction book about a futuristic world where computers and humans are incredibly intertwined. I did not love the book, but there were many interesting elements of trying to bring reality back into people’s lives. The fascination of the future with the morality of the Victorian era is another fascinating part of the book. It might be something that grows on me, but for now I liked it, and got a few insights from it.