ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Daily Archive: 16/04/2016

Saturday

16

April 2016

0

COMMENTS

On Writing by Stephen King

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

I didn’t realize that Stephen King had written a book on writing until someone in a class mentioned how much she loved it. I picked it up and I definitely enjoyed it, and recommend it to those who are interested in writing.

It focuses mostly on fiction, but I think the tips he offers are relevant to folks like me, who are mostly all about that non-fiction writing. The book starts with a brief memoir of his life in writing, starting as a very young kid. It then moves into more practical suggestions, although it never veers into textbook terriroty. Finally, it ends with a chapter that discusses the time he was nearly killed by a distracted driver, and how he was able to write as he recovered.

I like a lot of his suggestions about time management, and about what it takes to be a competent writer. He’s very realistic in his assessment that you can’t make a good writer great, and you can’t make a bad writer competent, but you can make a competent writer good.

One thing I realized as I finished this book is that it was the first Stephen King book I’d ever read. I’ve seen the Shining and Shawshank Redemption, but never read a word of his fiction. So at the airport yesterday I picked up one of his novels. Guys, I don’t know if you know, but this King guy can write.

Saturday

16

April 2016

0

COMMENTS

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Five Stars

This book was not written for me, or other people that society sees (or who see themselves) as white. This is a letter from a black man in the US to a black son in the US. It is full of harsh truths that a lot of people who aren’t black don’t want to read. It doesn’t end on some false note of hope. It’s one man’s truth that he is choosing to share with another person, a man who is generous enough to allow the rest of us a chance to read it.

Racism is part of the history of the US, but it is also a part of the present in the US. A big part. It’s present in the neighborhoods that are segregated, the neighborhoods that are gentrifying. It’s present in our criminal justice system, and our school systems. It is everywhere. Some of us, however, are at times able to pretend it isn’t present because we aren’t the ones being stopped and frisked, or shot when seeking help after a car accident, or strangled when selling cigarettes.

I don’t think a review of this book – especially by someone who the book is not for – is really appropriate. I think the best I can do is suggest that everyone read it. Then read it again.

Saturday

16

April 2016

0

COMMENTS

All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior

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Five Stars

Parenthood

I’m working on a book right now about how those of us without children can relate to our friends with kids. I don’t have kids and I won’t be having kids, so most of what I know about kids comes from watching my friends raising their own.

But I live in the world, and I see so much out there about the best ways to parent. It seems overwhelming, but it also seems to almost always be focused on what the parents do and how that impacts the children. Other than the occasional “are parents happier than non-parents?” studies, nothing (until now) has focused on what parenting does to the parents.

This book is a fascinating treasure trove for those of us without kids. Ms. Senior (a parent herself) spent time with parents, read loads of studies, and consulted with the experts before putting together this long but extremely quick read. She covers autonomy, marriage, the joys and challenges of raising small children, the (new?) trend of scheduling and planning all of a child’s free time, and the special hell that is adolescence.

One thing I appreciated from this book is that (with one tiny, and likely unintentional exception) Ms. Senior doesn’t spend time comparing parents to non-parents in any way that suggests one life choice is better than the other.  I also liked that Ms. Senior was also very straightforward about the limitations of this book – it does not address very poor or very rich families; it is focused on studying middle class families.

Another great component of this book is Ms. Senior’s way of weaving the history of parenthood into the narrative. So many things that seem ‘common sense’ or ‘parental intuition’ are pretty new to parenthood! But the best parts are the families she interviews and how she includes their stories. She does this seamlessly without interrupting the flow of the book.

 Obviously as someone without kids I can’t speak to whether parents themselves will enjoy this book. They might find it hits way too close to home, they might angrily disagree, or they might find relief in knowing their experiences are not unique. But I’d love to hear a parent’s perspective on this one!

Saturday

16

April 2016

0

COMMENTS

You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh

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Four StarsYouAreHereSo clearly I haven’t totally taken to heart the teachings of this book, as I’m currently writing this review in a loud Starbucks with Grey’s Anatomy playing on Hulu in the background.

This delightful, brief book on how to really be present is written by Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh, who you may have heard of before. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive introduction to Buddhism; instead it provides guidance on ways to find the happiness in life. Ways to be more present in our lives.

There are so many parts of this book that really spoke to me, and that I’m trying to take to heart. But I feel like this book can have such individual impacts on folks that pulling out any one quote won’t do it justice. If you’re looking for ways to be more present in your life, and you’re open to a spiritual approach, I think that this could be a good place to start.

Saturday

16

April 2016

1

COMMENTS

Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

adulting

I’ve technically been an adult for half my life now. Exactly half my life, actually. In fact, if I’d had a kid at the time when I technically became an adult, that kid would now be an adult.

Crap.

Anyway, despite the fact that I’ve been more or less succeeding at being an adult for all those years doesn’t mean I can’t benefit from really sound advice from Ms. Williams Brown. A journalist by trade, Ms. Williams Brown has written a clever and fun to read book that offers tips that are relevant both for those about to leave home for the first time and those who have been living out in the world for a decade or more.

The sections on family and cooking were the most helpful for me; the section on jobs and getting a place to live would probably be really useful for new folks.

The only real area I disagree with her on is in the job section, where she says that if you don’t have a job and are offered one, to take it, and that your needs in the interview process are not as important as the hiring organization’s needs. Look, I get that people have bills to pay, and I’m not talking about declining jobs outside of one’s field. But when looking for jobs in your field, and you aren’t about to be evicted, I actually think it is really important to both make sure that the job is a decent fit, and yes, your needs in an interview DO matter. And I don’t think enough young people are told that. They’re told they’re asking for too much, and should just take whatever job they can find. I’m not cool with that.

Setting aside that really minor complaint (seriously, maybe two lines in the whole book gave be serious pause), I’m recommending this one. Strongly.