Spark Joy

The introduction to this book has Marie Kondo saying, “I don’t really see a need for this book. I told you everything in this first book but people keep writing me asking for details on how to do stuff, so here it goes.” I raced through this book and when I was done, I firmly agreed with Ms. Kondo. This book is not necessary nor is it too useful. The tips that I saw in the book I had already seen her give on YouTube videos that I had searched (yes – I admit that I looked for YouTube videos on how she folds clothes. I’m a little ashamed of that, but it is awesome and super helpful). So if you can’t get enough of Marie Kondo, yes go ahead and read this book. But it is, as she states in the beginning, unnecessary.

The Short Bus

I learned about this book when I heard about Jonathan Mooney speaking to a group of educators locally. I learned that he was an elementary school student and high school student with us before going on to Brown University. I learned that he faced many challenges as a special education student and that he had written several books. I read this one and afterwards decided that he should be speaking to all of our employees.

 

The story is basically his journey in a short bus that he purchased and refurbished across the country meeting with students and adults who were clearly different types of learners. Some had been in special education classes. But all had faced unique challenges. His main theme is that there is no such thing as normal. When people are made to feel abnormal or different than the norm, that can be a feeling of inadequacy. I was struck by many of his experiences with the families of the students he visited. Many of those families were full of love and appreciation for his subjects. The families talked about how they added so much to their lives. There is a lot that he had to go through to get where he is. And he shares that he may have been just as guilty about making other students feel different than the norm. It’s a protective mechanism that we all have. This book gives great insight. It’s from one of our own here in Manhattan Beach, and I want to celebrate the book.

News of the World

This was recommended to me by my father. It is a story of a 70+-year-old cowboy and war veteran whose main occupation was going around Texas and other western states reading citizens the news that they cannot get otherwise. It was a time when literacy was very low and news publications could not be accessed so his services were in demand. Along the way, he meets a man who has a girl who had been abducted by Native Americans and recently taken back from that tribe. He agrees, reluctantly, to return her to her family in Texas. This book is about that journey. This fascinating, tender, exciting, and a great combination of a western and a heartfelt story. I loved it all and highly recommend it.

Kitchen Confidential, by (2000)

After the untimely death of Anthony Bourdain, I began to learn a lot about this TV celebrity that so many in the world were inspired by. I have to admit that I am not a very good TV watcher. I have missed so many great series. Dr. Dale recommended that I watch West Wing and I “binge watched” the entire seven seasons of West Wing in just over seven years. That’s not very good, by the way. So, I have never seen an episode of Mr. Bourdain’s show, but I do love cooking and I am fascinated by the idea of what restaurants are really like. I sometimes wonder if I can take my recipes from my cooking website, principalchef.com, and turn it into something else. After reading this, I know I have no hope of doing that at all, so I’ll just keep enjoying cooking in my backyard and in my kitchen.

 

Bourdain’s book is absolutely fascinating. Often profane, and drug-laced throughout the first part of his adult life, it’s a miracle that he lived through it, and a bigger miracle that any food of quality at all emerged from the kitchens he was in. Yet it did because of his sense of adventure, his love for food, and the long-lasting friendships that he developed with high-quality people in the kitchen. He tells of ill-fated restaurant dreams, of improperly managed restaurants, and of the occasional restaurants that were big successes. He is an outstanding storyteller, and an excellent writer, which, I guess, is why his TV show was such a success. If you can get past the profanity, not be turned off by his addictions, and be ready for the misogynistic nature of the kitchens he worked in, it’s an excellent read.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I was listening to an architect who specialized in building new schools talk about what classrooms should be. One of his pet peeves was all of the nonsensical and nonpurposeful clutter that occupies many classrooms. He thought that every classroom should contain only those items which are useful for teaching and learning or inspirational for teaching and learning. He said that one of the books that inspired him the most in this area was The Magical Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. So, I bought it and read it. And my life is different because of it. It has become one of my major sources of inspiration, and perhaps at least a minor irritant to others in my home.

 

Here is the basic premise: throw out anything that does not give you joy, then take all those things that give you joy, and store them properly. She thinks this takes strong commitment, but once you commit, it’s easy to do and you don’t need anyone else to help you do it. Yet, she makes a great living by standing next to people and helping them to make the decisions that need to be made to get this done. So far in my own home, I have emptied our closet, our bathrooms, and our indoor and outdoor kitchens. Through it all, I have probably donated 15 or 20 large trash bags full of clothes, kitchen utensils and small appliances, books, and other assorted items. I have thrown away almost as much. It is absolutely crazy how much we all accumulate. I have learned how to fold clothes and towels in a different way that makes them highly accessible and makes my closets and kitchens beautiful. If my 18-year-old self could hear my 56-year-old self saying all this, he might try to come and kick my butt. But he’s not here anymore, is he? So my 56-year-old self is enjoying this new ride, enjoying walking into and living in the rooms that contain only the things I truly love, and finding things much more easily everywhere. I highly recommend the book, and I encourage you to take the plunge!

Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want

I am a big goal-setter. I find that I am much more focused and driven when I write down my goals or when I have target events to shoot for. If I have neither, I can kind of drift. This book caught my attention because it was recommended by many and it clearly focuses on the idea of drift and how to avoid it. I think the book I have relied on the most for goal-setting in the past has been my Steven Covey bible. This certainly relies on many of the tenets of Covey, but it is a new perspective.

 

Hyatt begins with the end in mind (that’s a definite Covey reference). In fact, he says start with the people who you think you would want to speak at your funeral. He asks what statements they would make in a eulogy about you, or more pertinently, what statements would you want them to make about you. So you have to think about your parents and your siblings and your spouse and your children and your friends and your work colleagues and the impact that you want to have. You could look at it as pretty depressing or you could look at it as just another way of looking at what’s important in life and how you need to refocus on that. He actually has you write those statements out.

 

Next, he relies on yet another Covey concept, the idea of the bank account. Covey talks about having to invest in a bank account so that when you mess up or when you don’t have time, or when you need something, those accounts are not only paid in full, but they have reserves in them for you to draw upon. Hyatt has you create “life accounts.” There’s a life account in my case for my spouse, for my children, for my parents, for my siblings, for my friends, for my work colleagues and you have to discuss what your target is with each of those and what your specific goals are for each of those life accounts. You also need to refer to the current state in those accounts. Again, it makes you think rather deeply about what is going on in all aspects of your life. This is where you might put bucket lists for all parts of your life in the goals section.

 

That is the bulk of the work. What comes next is a traditional goal-setting. But not only is it annual goals, but it is monthly and more importantly, weekly goals. So the end result is a process where each week, you look at all that you set forth in this process and determine what you can do that week to move forward or to maintain your progress towards improved relationships and goal targets.

 

It’s a fascinating approach and it took a lot of work. He suggests reserving at least two full days for all of this. I did it over winter break on some long flights that I had and in some other time that I had and then broke up into 3-hour chunks. I like it, I recommend it, and I will see if I go back to it next year after a full year of being with it.

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

My wife recommended this book to me. It is a nonfiction story of an ill-fated journey to the north pole in the 1870’s. There were many theories about the north pole at that time, and one of them was that there was a large ring of ice around the arctic circle but inside that, once you broke through, was a great polar sea waiting to be explored. Easy for us to say that’s not true now, that we have pictures from space, but commonly accepted at that time. Though the journey was supposed to break through that ice and make it to the top. It failed miserably, but there’s so much interesting information about what led up to the journey, the people who made the journey, the bravery and courage of those on the journey, and the love of families and those left behind. A solid read that is well-researched and highly enjoyable.

Between the World and Me

Manhattan Beach has spent a lot of time over the last 18 months talking about the importance of inclusion. We have seen events in our community and in our schools that make us realize that we need to make sure that every student and every community member do all they can to respect and include every member of the community. This is a book recommended to me by a person on a committee that works on this topic. It is a letter from an African-American father to his son. It let me walk some miles in people’s shoes that I could not otherwise walk in. I think it’s important to see Mr. Coates’ perspective, his challenges in raising his son in America, showing what he has learned, his fears, and his hopes. It’s a powerful book that is in many ways challenging to read, but it is important. I highly recommend it.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

solid read.

 

by  (2017)

I’ll give you two quotes from the book. One from the intro: “If you’re too busy to absorb the cosmos via classes, textbooks, or documentaries, and you nonetheless seek a brief but meaningful introduction to the field, I offer you Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.” That is completely accurate. When I read that, though, I had the fast impression that it would be Astrophysics for Dummies … no. It’s complicated stuff. When I read it, I have to really think about what the heck these things mean. It’s almost beyond comprehension. That leads me to my second quote: “In the beginning, nearly 14 billion years ago, all the space and all the matter and all the energy of the known universe was contained in a volume less than one-trillionth the size of the period that ends this sentence.” If that doesn’t blow your mind, what can? It’s infathomable. Still, the book gives incredible insight into the universe and our small little place in it. I highly enjoyed it, even though I had to read several sections several times to even come close to understanding, or realizing I would never understand. Read it.