Thirteen Books!

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For a while now, I’ve been attempting to post about every book I read but I think I’m changing my plan. I have a backlog and it’s disrupting my peace. The picture you see above is my current pile of already read books waiting to be summed up. When anything starts to pile up, my anxiety starts to build and that’s when I shut down and discontinue my practice. Homework, email, laundry, diet plans: that overwhelm feeling grates on my nerves and colors everything else I attempt to do. I’ve found that it’s much better for me to pick and choose my battles. I can’t just throw out the clothes or the dishes instead of washing them when they pile up, but I can delete all the emails, drop the class, or walk away from the diet, so I do.

So here we are with a pile of books on the corner of my desk, waiting to be reviewed and blogged about. Every day I see them and walk by. Every day I pick up the top one, thumb through it, look at the rest of the pile, and walk away. I can’t even sit at my computer and write about something else, because those books are looking at me in the accusatory way that makes me start to sweat every time I see them.

This morning, I walked by and thought, “My that pile looks so pretty like that. I should take a picture.” As I did, I had an epiphany. Why not post about that pile? Maybe pull one thing from each book to write about, give them closure so to speak, and then file them away on my bookshelf? And that is exactly what I’m doing right now.

This may be a bit long and boring but it has to be done. My reader heart needs closure on these. Feel free to scroll through and find a title that catches your eye! I will allow it…this time!

“Following Muhammad – Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World” by Carl W. Ernst

This book was suggested reading from another book I read about religious literacy and it was an excellent read. I highly recommend it for everyone. It really helped me understand Islam, its history, its diversity, and cleared up a lot of misunderstandings for me. It’s also not a long, boring, overly detailed read. It’s just an overview, something to get you started on the path to understanding and tolerance. Go get this book right now.

“The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California” by Curt Gentry

A friend sent me this book, with a few others, after our last big earthquake. He thought I’d like it and he was so right! It’s historical fiction, written as if the “Big One” hit and all of California was dumped into the sea, disappearing forever. It’s so easy to read and a great story. Most of the book highlights California history in the first half of the 20th century. What would the rest of the country miss if California disappeared? I couldn’t put it down and ended up adding a few other California History books to my reading list.

“Writing as a Path to Awakening” by Albert Flynn DeSilver

This one was a little too “woke” for me, but not a waste of time. I found some inspiration. Little things like “we are meaning-making machines” made me smile. I wrote that one down and posted in on my “writing altar” along with “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes process, and with consistent attention, proficiency, and eventually, with further devotion, mastery.”

“The Best American Essays – 2018” edited by Hilton Als

I love a good essay! These would have been better if fewer of them were about how much Trump has ruined their lives. There were some great ones though. I love hearing people’s perspectives and experiences.

“Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them” by Francine Prose

“Hey! That’s me!” That’s what I thought when I saw the title on Amazon and clicked BUY. It was a bad idea though because…well…it added a couple dozen books to my reading list! Ha! It is full of great examples of narration, character, and dialogue, among other things. Reading it is like talking to a fellow book lover!

“The Man Who Quit Money” by Mark Sundeen

I read this under duress. It was assigned to my son by a college English Composition teacher last year and there has been much debate about its content, premise, and subject, but…no one had actually read it all. I decided I would. “In 2000, Daniel Suelo gave away his life savings. And began to live.” It was hard to read. I kept thinking, he’s not living with less or living without or “off the land,” he’s only living off others. He stays with friends, dumpster dives, and uses the internet at the library. I honestly don’t think he was any happier living that way than if he had just focused on being more conservative in how he lives, using less, etc. The only reason he could live the way he did was because most people don’t. Most people have more than they need, throw away excess, underuse what they have, so he has those resources. There was a lot to think about though and I appreciated his journey.

“Bright Lights, Big City” by Jay McInerney

So, what do I think when I read that title? “James and the Giant Peach” of course! I hear the centipede singing it every time I read those words. I hear there was a movie of this very book. I know…I’m so lost. Anyway, book was…interesting. Pretty darn sad. And deep at the end. Wow.

Two things I took away from it that were awesome. First of all, he works in a magazine’s “Department of Factual Verification.” I can’t imagine doing this job before the internet! Every article they buy from a writer must be “fact checked” by a third party before printing. They have to call places and look things up in the encyclopedia, libraries, and other publications. It’s a huge amount of work. The magazine has a reputation to protect. They can’t just pull an article off the internet if it turns out to be false like they do now. Once it’s in print, it’s there forever! Wow.

The other thing was this quote, “…what you are left with is a premonition of the way your life will fade behind you, like a book you have read too quickly, leaving a dwindling trail of images and emotions, until all you can remember is a name.” Ouch.

“Carrie” by Stephen King

This book has a back story too. It’s one of the scariest movies I ever saw, mostly because I saw it when I was around six years old! Before you go calling my mom a monster, little kids are supposed fall asleep late at night and my brother and I were safely tucked away and sound asleep in the back seat of our car in our feet pajamas when the movie started. You just gotta love drive-ins! My parents were watching the movie in the front seat and at the end of the movie, there I was with my head poked between the seats, eyes wide. I had nightmares for years! We were all traumatized!

Something I noticed when I finished the book…Carrie is just Frozen with a much more horrifying ending. Small girl with latent powers the adults can’t deal with so they lock her away until she becomes an adolescent, at which point her powers are too much for anyone to deal with including the girl.

“How to do Nothing – Resisting the Attention Economy” by Jenny Odell

Another great book with some amazing insight into stepping out of the world for a bit and changing your focus. I just wish it could have been done in a more positive way, without adding “the world is ending because Trump is president” bologna. The world is just as messed up as it always was. The internet isn’t destroying us. Facebook is not the great Satan. Please. Just stop. I also wish it had more examples and ideas of “how” instead of so much “why.”

“Wise Blood” by Flannery O’Connor

Ok. This…was strange. I never got the point of the story. Didn’t really care about the characters. The whole book was odd. Maybe I missed the point? While I did finish the book, desperately hoping for meaning, it did start a series of DNF’s (did not finish) in August.

“Beyond Good and Evil” by Friedrich Nietzsche

DNF. That’s what they write by your name if you start a race but don’t finish. Maybe your bike broke down or (Lord forbid) you crashed and didn’t get back on the bike, but you never crossed the finish line.

This book I did not finish. I just couldn’t read it. Several pages in and I had no idea what he was trying to say and no patience to have every page explained. I’m not sure if it’s the translation or what. I enjoy Nietzsche’s philosophy, so I was disappointed that I couldn’t read it for myself. Maybe I’ll find about book that explains it better? Or…maybe…take a class?

“Revolution at Berkeley” by Miller and Gilmore

Another DNF. A collection of articles about the protest at Berkeley in the 60’s. Fascinating read, mostly because the articles are from that time, not ours, but I gave up reading about a third of the way through. I had enough information and just wasn’t interested the subject anymore.

“Night Shift” by Stephen King

On a bit of a Stephen King jag lately. I have two more on my “to read” shelf! This guy really knows how to entertain through horror. My husband walked into the room while I was reading this and I about jumped out of my skin!

So, there you have it! Thirteen books! Phew…I’m exhausted!

Adventure Story

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“Wind, Sand and Stars” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery

This book…wow…the imagery he brings up through his words is amazing. Every page is filled with beauty. And it’s a true story. I have never given much of a thought about Africa or the Middle East before our own time, much less about how mail would get across the desert in those areas! And now, well, I’m enchanted. A technology was invented that changed the world, airplanes. Suddenly, there was a way to communicate with people across vast distances in a fraction of the time it used to take. And there were people that were unhappy about it. Imagine that!

He describes amazing scenes and adventures, some that didn’t end well, with an insight to human nature that we can all use a dose of today. Imagine the risk of flying those old airplanes across the desert just to get a letter or other document to a relative or business partner? Makes posting to social media seem like child’s play, but imagine the impact it can have compared to that one letter!

I never even knew this book existed until I heard another author mention it as his favorite book as a child, one he has read over and over again. Ahh…that…reading one book over and over. I’ve never done it. I sometimes wonder if, in my quest for more information, more story, I miss the deeper meaning and joy of really knowing one small piece of the world. I probably do.

Sometimes I feel like a collector. At the moment, I’m collecting books like there’s no tomorrow. What if there isn’t? What if the time comes when I can buy no more for some reason or another, and all I have is what I’ve already collected? That will be the time to start re-reading!


 “Numerous, nevertheless, are the moralists who have attacked the machine as the source of all the ills we bear, who, creating a fictitious dichotomy, have denounced the mechanical civilization as the enemy of the spiritual civilization.”

Funny to think a book written in 1939 would have the same complaints we have today. When I hear people complain that the technology we have today is the end of the civilization, I wonder if they’ve ever read anything older than 20 years.


“What are the hundred years of the history of the machine compared with the two hundred thousand years of the history of man? It was only yesterday that we began to pitch our camp in this country of laboratories and power stations, that we took possession of this new, this still unfinished, house we live in. Everything around us is new and different – our concerns, our working habits, our relations with one another.

“Our very psychology has been shaken to its foundations, to its most secret recesses. Our notions of separation, absence, distance, return, are reflections of a new set of realities, though the words themselves remain unchanged. To grasp the meaning of the world today we use a language created to express the world of yesterday.”

How’s that? How much more has changed in 100 years, more than any other century of the past? We’ve created a technology that will change everything yet again. Yes, things seem insane and upside down. It will be ugly for awhile. Evolution isn’t pretty and it doesn’t always end well. But it’s happening and the only way to deal with it is to ride the wave and see where it goes.


“Every doctrine swears that it can breed men, but none can tell us in advance what sort of men it will breed. Men are not cattle to be fattened for market.”

That’s what I think schools are doing, fattening cattle for market. In the past we could know what the market will be one from one generation to the next. We’d need farmers, businessmen, explorers, etc. There were jobs we needed to fill that were predictable. And to do those jobs there was a set amount of information, education that each would need. Life has changed so much that that has become increasingly untrue. I think it started just before the author’s time and has steadily increased in the number of changes until now and beyond. We’re better off teaching our children basic skills like communication and how to stay flexible and alert, than a set of rules and dictations as we have in the past. Right now, anything can happen and we need to be ready to move one way or another. Those that can’t, won’t survive.


And this sweet reminder to write!

“Let a man in a garret but burn with enough intensity and he will set fire to the world.”


“For man’s greatness does not reside merely in the destiny of the species: each individual is an empire.” I don’t think we respect the individual as much as we should. We tend to act like hive mates and treat the hive as supreme. It’s limiting. Each of us holds a world in our heads and hearts. Each of us has something to add to the world, no matter how young or old, rich or poor, brilliant or dull. “Interdependent” that’s the word I love. We are each our own sovereign world, capable of taking care of ourselves, but when we work together we become so much more. It’s the same with people as it is when nations and cultures. If we could only see that and stop trying to force each other to bend to each other’s will.

“Each shell that fell upon Madrid fortified something in the town. It persuaded the hesitant neutral to plump for the defenders. A dead child weighs heavily in the balance when it is one’s own. It was clear to me that a bombardment did not disperse – it unified. Horror causes men to clench their fists, and in horror men join together.”

How, after all these years of war, can we not see this today? Do we really think we are doing any good in the world when we commit violence against another?


And the last…

“To come to man’s estate it is not necessary to get oneself killed round Madrid, or to fly mail planes, or to struggle wearily in the snows out of respect for the dignity of life. The man who can see the miraculous in a poem, who can take joy from music, who can break his bread with comrades, opens his window to the same refreshing sea. He too learns a language of men.

But too many men are left unawakened.”

It can be easy to read true stories of adventure and start to think that the only way to really live is be out there living through disasters, that they only way to learn to live through struggle is to struggle yourself, that the only way to respect life is by losing parts of it, but that’s not true. Humans have an amazing ability to communicate over generations. It’s what sets us apart from any other animal. It’s what I believe is the “image of God” in us. We communicate through all types of medium, the written word, music, paint, and technology. Open yourself up to it. Read, experience, and create. Wake up to the world around you!

“Everything is F… – A Book About Hope”

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I’m so far behind on book reviews that it’s just ridiculous. Should I just give up on the pile of just finished books I have here on my desk? Start fresh, so to speak, and simply review the one I’m currently reading when I’m done? That would be the easy way, wouldn’t it?

I think I’ll go ahead and do “mini” reviews for these books. I’ll pull out an idea or two from each and leave it there. Here we go.

I started to write a review for this over a week ago and realized I just can’t. First of all, I should have written it last month when I finished it. That would have been ideal, when the ideas were fresh. I sat here thumbing through looking at the words I underlined and getting a glimpse of the awesome

When I listened to the interview, he said the book would trigger anger in some people. His first book was gentler, this one goes for the throat, right to many people’s most sensitive spots. He got me too and I was prepared. I found myself thinking, “Hold on just one stinkin’ minute, Mark!” But then set it aside to wonder what it was he was really trying to say.

When you go to a doctor about a pain you have, say in your foot, he feels around that foot looking for the pain. He pushes on it in small increments until he pokes it right where it hurts most. “Sorry. I know that hurts. But now I know where exactly to put the medicine.” That’s what the author is doing here, I think.

To find a cure for what ails us, we need to look at all the pieces, all our life narratives, all the things we hold dear, to see which one, and then which part of the that one, is really causing the trouble.

This is one of those books that I’ll have to read again to get more meat off the bone. There was just so much to digest.

Here’s just one idea that I fell in love with!

“…why don’t we do things we know we should do? Because we don’t FEEL like it. Every problem of self-control is not a problem of information or discipline or reason but, rather, of emotion.

…emotional problems are much harder to deal with than logical ones. There are equations to help you calculate the monthly payments on your car loan. There are no equations to help you end a bad relationship.”

His caricature of humans as a consciousness car, driven by a feeling brain with a thinking brain in the passenger seat is just beautiful. Our feelings drive us, and our brain justifies and explains why we’re doing the things we want to do. That’s why we keep doing things we know are not logical. We eat when we’re not hungry. We throw tantrums instead of using our words to communicate needs. And we ruin our long-term relationships, knowing full well that we could navigate the waters a better way.

What can we do to fix it? He goes into some ideas and why they work. Some I’ve heard from my own kids. And some I’ve thought of myself. The big one being, sometimes we have to replace habits instead of kick them.

The book is just awesome. I was looking through my notes and found “How can one book have so many awesome ideas?!” I’d probably have written a thousand page essay about all the brilliant things he said if I had done the review last month when it was all fresh in my head, but instead, I’ll enthusiastically point you in the direction of it so you can read it yourself.

Don’t let the title and sarcastic tone make you think it’s a negative tale of doom. It’s not. Society, government, religion…all the forbidden dinner party topics, wrapped up in 232 pages. You won’t regret it!