Thursday, April 13, 2017

Books of 2017

I have a difficult time with New Years Resolutions.  Oddly enough, I have a difficult time with goals in general.  But if I have a goal for 2017 it is this quote often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds talk events; small minds discuss people"

I figure if my goal is to discuss more ideas I need to fill my mind with new ideas.  So on my typically 75 minute commute each day and my typically 60-75 minute run every other morning I figure I should be listening to more ideas.  By the end of 2016 most books I was listening to were just fluff.  Good entertaining fluff.  But I decided it's time to buckle down and listen to some new ideas.  Here are the books I have listened to and a take away I got from the books in 2017 so far: 

What Alice Forgot - the story of a woman who due to a head injury is able to see her current life from the perspective of her 10 years younger self.  

My take aways: One of my favorite books of this reading adventure. If I was going to say the most valuable thing I gained from this book I could sum it up in one of my dad's famous quotes, "Don't sweat the small stuff."  Sadly it is often the small stuff that eats at us.  If we could take a step back and look at a situation with the perspective of ten years difference how easily it is to 'not sweat' the small stuff.  I am trying to do this, trying to live my life now how I want my life to be in 10 years.  That is hard stuff.

The Last Lecture - like every teacher, this professor wanted to leave one last bit of wisdom for his students, or in his case his children.

My Take Aways: If you really want something, go after it even if time and time the answer is no.  Life is short, why in the world would you want to live it with regret?

 Argo - a detailed look at the inner workings of a CIA agent working in world affairs between 1950-1990.

My take aways: I loved this book.  Couple things I loved most.  One was about buy in.  Long story short, this agent who clearly knew WAY more about covers, secrest, and the ability to get around any system more than anyone else knew something that often times people forget.  The power of buy in.  (I am currently going through major drama at my school because of it.)  Anyway, rather than just telling the people he's trying to sneak out of Iran (a crazy insane feat) the plan, he gives them 3 options.  Then he leaves the room and let's them decide on their own what plan they should do.  One plan was FAR superior to the other plans.  But this agent knew what so often people forget.  Having people invested or having them "buy in" to a plan is paramount to the success of the plan.  Loved seeing this agent use this technique.

Second take away.  I can't even imagine how many things have happened in American history that we as the common people don't know, will never know, or won't know until it is irrelevant.  In some ways I am thrilled and some ways obviously it is tragic.  Real heroes are never known.

 You are a Bad A - How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life.

My Take Aways: I didn't write about this book as soon as I finished it so it is starting to blur together.  The one thing I remember from it that caused me to soul search is "What is the one thing you love to do so much that when you do it you loose track of time?" Time is a very difficult thing for me.  Probably the thing I wish I could change most in life.  Life I've stated before I feel like time moves slower for me than the normal human.  So I laughed when I saw this question.  No one in the world is more aware of time than me.  At every given second of the day I can tell you the exact time.  That being said.  Something shocking happened the other day while I was teaching AP Geography.  We were talking about lessons from history.  We were making connections.  We were having so much fun that we all completely lost track of time.  So much so that we all gasped when the bell rang.  Literally gasped.  We were confused.  We had no idea what the bell meant.  It was seriously crazy.  So my take away from this book: true, real teaching is the one thing in this world that makes me loose track of time.

The Happiness Project - Little useful things to try and make life a little bit happier.

My take aways: where to begin?  I am afraid that Gretchen and I are two peas in a pod.  The exact same personality.  So every single thing of this book sang to my soul.  The one different between us.... I am probably way more lazy than her with no strong desire to change. 



Memoirs of a Geisha - the victorious tale of a poor, orphaned fisherman's daughter who was sold into the work of being a Geisha in Japan in the early to mid 20th century.

My take aways: It's so interesting to see the world of another culture.

East of Eden - the brutal journey of 2 families as they try and settle in Northern California.

My Take Aways: Some people are good, some people are bad and in this book there is a character that is really really really bad.  But as always in life, the really really bad makes the light even brighter.

These is my Words - diary entries from a pioneer girl as she tries to tame the Wild Wild West.

My Take Aways: Perspective of previous experiences change current circumstances so much.  It's so easy to look back at an event in history and place blame... if only we could know what previous experiences had happened to people before they did something horrible to understand why they did. 


The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up - everything we own either brings us joy or drags us down.  Getting rid of all things that don't bring joy will make us happier and more free.

My take aways: This book is magic and I love everything about it.  I followed her advice completely with most of my belongs.  I truly feel more free and happy and keep my room much cleaner now.

Three Cups of Tea - a lost mountain climber stumbles into a Pakistani village after failing to climb K2.  He promises the leaders of the village that he will return and build a school.  He spends the next 20 years of his life keeping that promise.

Take aways: people who really impact and change the world are often difficult, crazy people.  I am so glad that exist.

Me Before You - a girls journey to find herself while taking care of a miserable paraplegic.  

My take aways - Unlike most women who read this book expecting it to me a romance - did you know there is a difference between a romance novel and women's fiction???? - yeah me neither - I loved the ending.  Probably morbid to say it but I did.  

10 Stupid Things Couples Do to Mess up Their Reliationshps - Dr. Laura doing what she does best.  Frankly, bluntly telling people exactly how it is.

My Take Away - I love her definition of the difference between secret and private.  In relationships, it's okay to have things that are private.  Private things happen typically in a bathroom behind closed doors.  Secretive is not okay.  Secretive is anything that in any way shape or form affects the other party.  

The Story of the World Volume 4 - The history of the world from 1850-1994.  

My Take Aways - I think reading this book or a book like it should be required in order to vote.  (I know, I know kinda extreme) This book does a great job at quickly and easily painting the current picture of all world current affairs.  It's boring and tough to get through at parts but I absolutely love seeing so quickly and easily the basic history of the last 150 years.  I have a much better grasp on the entire world because of it.  (I am making all my AP Geography students read this book this summer)

Super Freakonomics - people are not good nor bad but easily incentivized.  

My Take Aways: OH HOW I LOVE LOVE LOVE Levitt and Dubner!  Geniuses that I adore with all my heart!  The one thing I read from the book that would have probably been better if I had never known...... after the age of 2, there is no significant data that supports that a child in a carseat is safer than just wearing a seatbelt.  After Brad turns 2, every struggle to get him into his carseat will just eat at me. We love false securities but hey, at least car seat manufactures are making billions of dollars lobbying legislatures to make my kid be a carseat until he's an adult.  


Daring Greatly - How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live.

My take aways: She used this quote from who knows where, "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?"  The awesome thing is when I asked Jason this question, the answer was nothing.  So awesome.  Sadly, I wouldn't say nothing.  And I need to figure out how to attempt more things.  I really appreciated her chapter on shame.  How we all handle shame differently. 

The Nightgale - the story of a French family that lives through Nazi occupation and their undercover fight to try and save France.

My take aways: It's so hard for my generation and younger to even imagine war.  At least my parents lived with parents who experience war.  We never have.  Of course it is a good, wonderful thing.  But it also makes us so complacent.  Every time I read about war I passionately want to do everything in my power to prevent it.  Of course I recognize there is little I can do.  I recently watched Clueless and laughed.  I have turned into the passionate teacher trying so hard to fight a crusade while the students sit there bored.  Anyway, back to the book.  My favorite quote, “If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”  There is obvious benefits from going through a refiners fire.  War is a pretty terrible fire to go through.... The most emotional heartbreak for me in this book wasn't in death or cruelty.  The heartbreak was in a fight I felt the main character should have fought and didn't.  But I won't be a spoiler.  It was a wonderful book.


When Breath Becomes Air  - the life of a resident physician and his battle with terminal cancer and death.  But really his book is an introspective look at living.  About values and meaning.  And what is the point of our existence.

My take aways: It is important to feel like my job as a teacher is a calling more than just a job. The value of good literature.  The importance of family. Constantly striving should be our goal.  The urgency to seize the day! In the end relationships are all that matter.


All the Light We Cannot See - the dual stories of a blind French girl and a orphaned genius German boy who have to live through the tragic world of war.

My take aways: This was the most difficult of all the books to finish.  I really wasn't feeling it.  The story in the end was beautiful but a lot of randomness to finally get to the meet cute.


The Agony and the Ecstasy - a biographical novel about  in my humble opinion, the best artist of all time, Michelangelo.

I LOVED this book.  And I am shocked how whenever I ask people about this book, they groan like I am asking them if they have read War and Peace.  *For the record, I have read 900 pages of War and Peace and actually really loved it too. Anyway, back to The Agony and the Ecstasy.  It is awesome.  It also helps that I can picture all of the places described around Florence.  Both Michelangelo and Florence will always have a special place in my heart.   

My take aways: “One should not become an artist because he can, but because he must. It is only for those who would be miserable without it.”  I love this quote... and feel like it should be the motto for being a junior high teacher as well as an artist.
It is hard work doing great things.  That is why they stand out.  Because doing and being great isn't the norm.  Michelangelo was great because he was absolutely obsessed with working.  It absolutely consumed his life.  All relationships he had were ruined because he was so obsessed with his art.  And I love him for it.  I also didn't realize the number of Pope's in his lifetime and how closely he worked with many of them.  
Also I grew to hate Leonardo de Vinci because of the book. Leonardo may have been more innovative but I think Michelangelo was a superior artist.  
If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/michelange183868.html

Eleanor and Park - a Romeo and Juliet meets Perk of being a Wallflower.  The story of two misfits that find love. HORRIBLE language.  Would not recommend this book to anyone.  

Take Aways: All the time I deal with students that have horrible home lifes.  As I listened to the description of Eleanor's home life I couldn't help but scroll the the memories of all the students I've had that I am sure had home life's like her's or worse.  I think it is good to have such an awful description as a teacher every once in a while to remind myself what my students are going through.  It helps me become more sympathetic.  



Born a Crime - Awesome autobiography of a "mixed" boy growing up at the end of the Apartheid in South Africa.  

My take away: My favorite quote that I want to implement into why Geography is so important is, "When you make the effort to speak someone else's language even if it's just basic phrases here and there you are saying to them, 'I understand that you have a culture and an identity that exists beyond me.  I can see you as a human being.'"


Love and Gelato - a cheesy teen book about a teen who goes to live in Florence for the summer.

My Take Away: Didn't really have one.  Just loved to picture all the beautiful places in and around Florence as described in the book.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - Jason and I listened to this on our travels back from Christmas Vacation.  There will never be a reader as good as Jim Dale.

My take away: J.K. you are a genius.

I am Malala - the personal account for a teenage girl trying to fight against the Taliban.

My take away:  I love any book or story that shows the contrast between different Muslims.  Often times no matter how I try and teach it, I feel my students/American society views all Muslims the same.  (which is tragic since A. there are over a billion of them. B. some are so evil and some are so beautiful.)

The Family Romanov - Using primary source quotes, this book puts together the story of the fall of the Romanov family.  It was awesome.

My take aways: 1. The contrast between the two classes was so drastic.  2. I didn't realize the lower class was actually starting to get educated right before the revolution which might have even been worse because stupid young educated people thought communism would work.  3. and most important, by the end of Lennon's life he was starting to doubt communism.  He saw the people couldn't run the government.  And his doubt is what makes people conspire that Stalin killed him.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology - I only started reading this book because Stacy Carosi.  I had no idea what it was going to be about.  This whole book is about Scientology and Leah's experience within the church and trying to get out.  Very interesting.

My take away: I can't look at Tom Cruise the same which is sad because I really did like his movies.  But breaking away from a religion you had given your whole life to would be a very difficult thing.

A Man Called Ove - the story a depressed old Autistic man that tries to kill himself but helping others kept getting in the way.

My take away:  Reaffirmed the tender spot in my heart that old people need young people as much as young people need old people.  And I sure hope that someday my parents get to live in my backyard.

Anna Kendrick:Scrappy Little Nobody  - the struggle to become an actress.

My take away: It's shocking how much the world wants to portray that celebrities are different from us, when they really are just like us.

Defy Series - Defy, Ignite, and Endure - A fun fantasy series about an unrealistic teenagish girl who can fight better than any man.

Take away: Sadly... don't really have one?

Boys on the Boat - The inspirational story of a orphaned boy who is able to make it to the 1930ish Olympics by becoming a rower.

My take away: I have been involved and hope to be involved again with a group that has synergy like described in the book.



Honorable Mentions:
I also listen to podcasts.  The hard and good thing about podcasts is the fact that they are short.  Good because they are easy, and fun, and usually entertaining.  Bad because I feel like they are forgotten as easily as they came.  I am not changed by podcasts the way I am by a book.  But that being said there are many wonderful ideas I have gained through podcasts.  Some of my favorite podcasts are:
1. Freakenomics.  It rocks my world and I adore it.
2. TED Radio Hour.  Sometimes it's awesome, sometimes just super boring.
3. The Tim Ferris Show.  This guy is a genius and always gets me thinking.
4. This American Life.  I used to LOVE this show but now too often I find it WAY too political for me and it is hard to swallow.
5. Planet Money.

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