Geetanjali Mukherjee

Friday, May 26, 2017

What I'm Reading - May

I had meant to share regularly the books I have been reading, but in my race to get through the reading, I forgot to write about it!

The past month or so I have been catching up with reading books that I promised to review, and I thought I would share the books I read and my thoughts on them, briefly.

No Limits - John Maxwell

I love author John Maxwell's books, and this one was no exception. I enjoyed this one even more because it was aimed more at all individuals rather than just those looking to get ahead in the business world.

I think it would make an amazing graduation gift for anyone stepping into the world, giving them essentially a tool kit to develop "success skills". Although many of the skills and topics touched on in the book have been written about elsewhere, the author bestows his unique perspective and draws on decades of experience. Anyone who reads the book will be inspired, not just to imagine more productivity and success, but will have concrete tools and action points to "blow the cap off their capacity". 

The book to me felt like a combination of a memoir and a motivational self-help book, and initially that put me off a little and I took a while to get into the book. That changed a couple of chapters in, and I raced through the remainder of the book. I even found myself quoting from the book in conversations, and really wanted everyone I met to stop what they were doing to read the book.

The book inspired me and made me look again at the parts of my life on autopilot, made me rethink how I was approaching many aspects and just generally made me feel inspired to see things in a new way. Unlike many other self-help books, this doesn’t give you a list of strategies and tactics; instead the author challenges you to think differently. To see the circumstances of your life differently. As an avid reader of psychology and self-help books, instead of rehashed and trite messages, I genuinely found many lessons in the book, that were new to me or presented in a way that made me see something in my life profoundly differently. I had many "a-ha" moments while reading this book.

The author's story is an inspirational one; but it wasn't just the story of how he overcame incredible odds that inspired me, it was that he shared lessons from his experiences that the reader can begin to apply to their life. I recommend this book to parents, teachers and anyone looking to inspire themselves and others to living more fully, be more engaged with life and live "on fire".

The Courage of a Samurai - Lori Tsugawa Whaley

This book wasn’t at all what I expected - but in a good way. Although at times it seemed somewhat like reading a sermon, the simplicity of the moral code presented in the book is in especially sharp contrast with the current political climate. Presented through the stories of distinguished Japanese-Americans, the author describes a simple code of conduct derived from the samurai or warrior culture of Japan.

As a student of Japanese law and history myself, I found a lot of the stories in the book fascinating, giving me a completely new perspective into the history of the second world war and the cultural nuances of Japanese society. The principles described in the book may be familiar, but they are made new and interesting through the lens of the stories that accompany each principle and illustrate it. I found myself fascinated and read through the book in a few days.

The Courage of a Samurai reminds us that timeless principles like loyalty, honor and integrity can be guiding lights, regardless of who we are and where we come from, and especially when times are hard and we are tempted to give in to complaint and bitterness and complacency, we can live a completely different life by simply making different choices.

I really enjoyed both Lean In and Originals, the authors' previous books, and I knew that I would be interested in their next book as well. 

This book is unique in that it combines the personal story of Sheryl Sandberg losing her husband and how she and her family coped with this loss, along with research on how to develop resilience and strength in the face of grief and trauma and come out on the other side. I won't state clich├ęs about how adversity makes you stronger, and neither does the book, but the personal anecdotes paired with research from studies on developing resilience helps you have hope, for yourself or for others in your life who are suffering.

In some ways it is helpful to see that even those who live a very different life from us are affected in the same ways by adversity. The advice and perspective in the book is extremely helpful no matter what you are struggling with, and I found myself wishing this book had been available sooner.  The only drawback - the abrupt shifts from the personal story to research data was a little jarring at times, but overall, a good read.

Self-Publishing and Libraries - Denise Weldon-Siviy

Most indie authors I know would love to have their books available in libraries, and when I was offered the chance to read an early copy of a book that discusses this topic, I jumped at it.

This book is very well-researched and comprehensive. If you are an indie or self-published author, you will already know some of the information on self-publishing given in the book, but the thorough primer would be invaluable to anyone who isn't familiar with the subject and the various options available.

I found the chapters that discussed the perspective of libraries and what it takes for books to get catalogued really eye-opening, because as either an author or a library user, you don't get to see the other side, and understand the steps that go into choosing a book to include and the constraints behind those decisions.

The book includes a list of recommendations for both indie authors and librarians, and I found the list particularly helpful, as were the resources included. Overall, if you are an author wanting to get your books into libraries, or librarians wishing to include more self-published books in your collection and wondering how to go about it, this book is highly recommended!

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