‘That is very kind of you,’ said Dorthea, looking up at Mr. Casaubon with delight. ‘It is noble. After all, people may really have in them some vocation which is not quite plain to themselves, may they not? They may seem idle and weak because they are growing. We should be very patient with each other, I think.'”
George Eliot, Middlemarch
This compilation by Katie Couric is a delightful and inspirational book – and depending on the reader, it may be completely life changing, or just make the day a little brighter. Either way, it’s not all that surprising, given the book’s obvious title – it’s the best advice she’s ever gotten. Coming from a woman who has spent years interviewing hundreds of notable figures from around the world, she has her pick of thoughtful, successful people to choose from.
Each section of the book contains essays on a theme like “On Passion and Dreams” or “On Rejection and Resilience,” with an introductory piece written by Couric. While the individual essays are heart-warming, inspiring, and moving in all the ways you’d expect, the chapter introductions contained the most substantial content – Couric gives personal anecdotes about the chapter’s theme, and her plucky yet sincere attitude is infectious. The advice pieces are all separate first-person accounts, many of which have been culled from previous publications or speeches. Other, more cynical reviews have said the entries are too pat, too predictable. Well sure, good advice is sometimes like that. The essays are entertaining not necessarily for any sage wisdom, but for their tone and temperament. As though this head of State or Oscar-winning actor has written the reader a nice letter, giving off a “we’re all in this together” as one human family kind of feel.
The book lends itself to highlighting and note taking; each reader will take away something different, find something poignant for their particular place in life.
I’ll leave you with one gem I particularly enjoyed, from Ina Garten:
“You can’t figure out what you want to do from the sidelines. You need to jump into the pond and splash around to see what the water feels like. You might like that pond, or it might lead to another pond, but you need to figure it out in the pond.”
Every once in awhile, when I hear about someone teaching or studying literature, I feel a pang of nostalgia and remorse, all at once. It’s my one-that-got-away, my if-only. And as of late, I’ve found myself especially sensitive to the harshness of the world and its over-wrought media. So it’s only fitting that this poem, particularly the first line, has been resounding in my head quite a bit these past few weeks.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. – Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
– William Wordsworth
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works – A True Story
I stumbled upon this book while in the middle of a bathroom renovation (more on that next week). I needed an audiobook to help pass the time, and this was advertised on the home page of Audible. I had no idea at the time it was becoming such a sensation. I liked the idea of a first person narrative about someone else’s dabbling in self-help and self-improvement. In our house, we’re not shy about books on self-improvement. I listened to preview, and liked this Dan Harris character. I don’t watch evening news or morning shows, so I have to say I wasn’t familiar with him. (Which made listening to the book maybe more entertaining? I had no idea what the narrator looked like.)
To the nuts and bolts – this isn’t a self-help book, so you won’t really find that here. But what you will find is a candid, wry, humorous take on one man’s journey to find something to keep him afloat. It’s entertaining and insightful, not a combination you find very often. Harris seems pretty normal, aside from his anxiety and depression being accelerated by wartime reporting for primetime television. His experiences could be those of anyone. Being in the journalism world, Harris had unique access to interview some quite notable figures, everyone from Christian evangelicals to Eckhart Tolle. But what struck me as endearing, is that even after his conversations with these up-and-coming, famous, or infamous people, he still just buys the books and does the homework, like the rest of us do it. And in 10% Happier, he didn’t let the notoriety of any of these folks cloud the way he distilled their message. It either worked or didn’t. I won’t get into specifics over the different avenues that Harris explores, those are part of the value of the story. But what he arrives at in the end makes very good sense.
I can’t recall if it’s in the book, or if it was in an interview I read, but something that made me appreciate Harris, and his book, even more was that he said he originally wanted the title to be “The Voice in My Head is an Asshole.” And that’s something I can relate to.
Uncle. I officially cry uncle on this winter. I give up. Shoveling and snow boots have lost their luster; my puffy coats have had WAY more than their share of time on display. I’m ready for the weather to break. To wear all those cute shoes languishing in my closet, to stop wearing long johns to the office. BUT, this is mid-Michigan, so we’ve got a healthy month left – although, does anyone remember that AH-mazing St. Patrick’s Day about three years ago where it was 80 degrees? That was pretty crazy. So we might not be too far away from a break in the snow? (Hear that hopefulness?)
Whatever the weather may bring, we’ve still got to tough it out, and by this time, if you’re like me, you’re a little “over” winter activities. The next few weekends will be spent with home-baked goods, take-out, and lots of reading. Hunkering down, if you will. With that, I bring you a handful of titles to help you get lost in the lives of others, right in your living room (or your bed, I won’t judge). These are captivating binge-worthy reads; and while they might not totally change your life, are the literary equivalent of a really good movie. They’ll make you sit back and really think, or exercise your imagination, or just transport you to another country or time period for awhile. Continue reading