Posts

Death by Meeting

Image
Before Christmas I interviewed for a new job. The role for which I was interviewing had more responsibility and would require me to flex a bit more leadership muscle. At that time, I began to ask for recommendations from people who read books on leadership. I was not able to finish the first one I started because it was largely based on political examples from the 1980s. While I am sure the concepts are still relevant, the context made it difficult for me to digest.

Death By Meeting was the next one I tried. This is actually a fiction book that describes itself as a leadership "fable," which is designed to show you the ways that meetings can go wrong and how to better handle them. A lot of the book goes through best practices on structuring meetings and the purposes and values of different types and lengths of meetings.

Like dominoes falling, a series of events occurred after my interview in December that resulted in me eventually accepting the role of area supervisor, which…

A Lot of Sorrow; A Lot of Hope

Image
Reading is for learning -- that's what I've always said. I watch television and movies to have fun and zone out; I read books to learn something. Until recently, this has taken the form of mostly reading non-fiction as I understood it to be more educational than fiction. But, I was wrong. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a novel written in 2007 and set in Afghanistan.

This novel takes the reader through the head spinning actual historical scuffles in Afghanistan in the years prior to and slightly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Most of it was regrettably unfamiliar to me, but the putting faces and names to these events (though fiction) helped me to learn about these events in a way that I never would have without the fictional setting.

Much of the book was horrifying -- brutality, violence, oppression. Last year, one of the books I read dealt, in part, with the statistics surrounding women's rights and education (See Factfulness by Hans Rosling). While neither Factfulness no…

Cold Shower Required

Image
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence -- I see now why this one was once banned material. When I decided to read this, my thinking was that it was about time for a novel, and I was in the mood for a classic. I got out my tablet and searched on the Hoopla app for a classic (Hoopla is free for me using my public library card - kudos to Marion Public Library). I had heard of the book, but I didn't know anything about it and had never seen the movie. From the title, I considered that there would likely be a love affair. However, as a classic, I figured that the descriptions and terminology would be somewhat veiled and vague, perhaps in the mode of Clarissa, which took 900 or so pages to eventually lead the reader to infer that the protagonist had been raped.

So, let me say this: This book contained the most descriptive erotic encounter(s) that I have ever read in my life. Furthermore, I have to give credit to the author for being able to write about this with not only precisio…

Impossible Owls

Image
In general, essays are long enough to make a point, but short enough to make for easy reading. Unlike short stories, they don't require me to suspend disbelief in order to feign concern for characters, nor am I left to make up my own denouement just for the sake of making it short. A collection of essays isn't necessarily cohesive, yet it requires its readers to consider whether it achieves some continuity.

Impossible Owls by Brian Phillips is a collection of essays on various topics. Right away, I was dismayed to find myself reading an essay based on the Iditarod because I am perpetually cold and Brian Phillips is a good writer. If you're ever hot on a summer day and need a little psychological relief from the summer oppression, pick up this book and read the first essay for its description of the setting.

The other essays were about sumo wrestling, extraterrestrial visits to Earth, Russia, tigers, television, the British royal family, and the fascinating story of Lydie M…

The Church in Exile

Image
I first encountered Brian Zahnd in 2014 after I watched a debate about Calvanism online. Brian was representing the side that argued that unconditional predestination is incongruent with the way God is revealed in the Bible. Although I haven't watched that debate in almost five years, I remember thinking that Brian made some great points and came across well. I've been following him on twitter ever since. Since that time, he has written a few books, but I have never felt compelled to read any of them until now.

Postcards from Babylon was just released a week ago (1/14/19). The book's main thesis is that America is more of a modern Babylon than a modern Israel. Brian cites many examples from history and the Bible to support his position. His views are based largely on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which he refers to throughout the book. That sermon was not easy to hear at the time it was delivered, and should make modern American Christians reflect whether we are living u…

The Improbability Principle by David J. Hand

Image
The Improbability Principle by David J. Hand attempts to explain (as the subtitle tells us) why "coincidences, miracles, and rare events happen every day". This book caught my attention because I find myself wondering about this topic a lot. As a person with quite a few odd coincidences to my name, I find myself making theories about why some of this has happened.

Prior to reading this book, I made some guesses about what I thought might be included in this book. While my little theories were not stated so nicely, I am happy to report that many of them appeared here -- and much more was included that I didn't see coming.

Written by a professor emeritus of mathematics, this book was less of a narrative than I would prefer. I found myself zoning out when specifics of the numbers were discussed and rejoining the party when the summary was made regarding the relevance of the numbers. The author uses many examples of tossing dice -- certain types of dice (I never realized the…

What's in a Name?

Image
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is a novel about a culture, a family, a boy growing up and growing into his name, and his lovers. It's a book with an omniscient, third person narrator that switches perspectives. It was said in the book that the purpose of reading is to travel without moving an inch. This novel embodies that sentiment rather well. I will try to be as vague as possible for those who want to read this book, but you may want to return and read this later if you ever plan to read this one.

The story follows a couple's life in the United States after their arranged marriage in India. As can be expected, they are awkward in getting to know one another, getting to know a new culture, and facing parenting together while they try to retain their cultural identity for their children. The book's title comes from this couple's struggle to name their firstborn, a son. The family custom dictated that the maternal grandmother would name the child, but circumstances prev…