ASK Musings

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Monthly Archive: December 2014

Saturday

6

December 2014

0

COMMENTS

Sustainable Happiness

Written by , Posted in Politics, Reviews

Three Stars

I subscribe to Yes! magazine. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is a a great quarterly magazine that looks at the issues facing our world from the lens of trying to actually address them. Where some magazines just talk about the problems, this one tells stories about people who are actively solving, or trying to solve, them. When I got an email telling me they’d put together a book called “Sustainable Happiness,” I decided to buy it.

It’s not exactly what I was expecting – instead of a book about simple living and making a different in society, with a clear narrative, it instead is more of a grouping of some of their past magazine articles. Which isn’t a problem – I review Bad Feminist just a few weeks ago, and many of the essays in it had already appeared in other places – but it didn’t totally work for me. Some of the essays are really interesting, like the ones on restorative justice and equity, but because of the nature of magazine articles, the chapters leave me wanting a lot more. I feel like books can serve as a way to go deeper into some of the issues that magazine articles usually don’t, but this book missed that opportunity.

That said there are some great reminders and take-aways. The Tech Sabbath article is one I read before, and had toyed with incorporating. Re-reading it makes me want to pursue at least one day a month where I don’t use my computer or smartphone or tablet, and just spend the day reading, walking, or talking with friends. However, there are a couple of essays that feel a bit out of place, like the one on porn addiction (seriously). The magazine is definitely worth checking out, and this book is a good introduction to it, but if you already read the magazine, I don’t really see the need for the book.

Wednesday

3

December 2014

0

COMMENTS

Cannonball Read 6 – My Year in Books

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Alright. I did it! Review #52 is done. I’ll still be reading this year, and possibly reviewing what I read, but for now, I’m going to enjoy the fact that I did it. Two years running!

So what did I read, exactly?

Well … in terms of topics, I was spread pretty widely. I read only 10 fiction books (down from 16 last year), and 42 non-fiction books. Those non-fiction books included nine about history and seven that were humorous memoirs. Yup. I still like those.

The authors were sort of varied – I read 35 women and 20 male (a couple books had two authors). Unfortunately my diversity beyond male or female wasn’t so great. As far as I could determine (some biographical information was not available), 40 of the authors were white (European), five were Black, and two were Indian. 43 are from the USA; two are from the UK, one from Nigeria, one from India and two from France. Only four publicly identify as LGBTQ and only one author is trans.

As far as my ratings go, the average is a 3.5. I read nine 2-star books, 17 three-star books, 14 4-star books, and 12 5-star books.

I’ve not completely settled on it yet, but I think that my favorite book of the year was either Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, or A Storm of Swords. Yeah, I know. Kind of different. So let’s say that was my favorite non-fiction and my favorite fiction.

So much of what I read made me angry, from the failings of our police (Rise of the Warrior Cop) to the failings of the media (#Newsfail) to the failings of politics (Pro). But I also read a lot that I found to be really inspiring, especially with Caitlin Doughty and Atul Gawande‘s books. The humorous memoirs weren’t as good as last year’s crop, although Amy Poehler continues to bring me joy.

So .. now what? Well, I think I’m going to attempt the double cannonball next year. I’m thinking of picking a couple of themes and pursuing them, like all of Jane Austen’s books, or many books recommended by the author of my favorite non-fiction.

In the meantime, I’m going to check out a few magazines.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday

3

December 2014

0

COMMENTS

Being Mortal

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

“A colleague once told her, Wilson said, ‘We want autonomy for ourselves and safety for those we love.’ That remains the main problem and paradox for the frail.”

The above quote sums up beautifully much of what Dr. Gawande discusses in this really lovely, interesting and motivating book. Being Mortal focuses on how modern medicine has failed us in that it can keep people alive much longer than it used to, but often at a very serious cost. His focus is primarily on the elderly, but he also includes the seriously, terminally ill in this exploration.

Think about the above quote. We all want to do what we want – to have the freedom to decide when we will get up in the morning, what we will eat, and who we will spend time with. But, when it comes to our loved ones, it seems that so often what we most want is for them to be safe. It is that concern that has led us to do things like put people into nursing homes to keep them safe from falls, even though they are much more miserable. As long as they are safe, that’s all that matters. But Dr. Gawande makes the very compelling argument that the safety isn’t the primary concern, or shouldn’t be. Allowing people to live meaningful lives, whatever the person’s own definition, should be our concern as people age or experience the end stages of a terminal illness.

The book does a great job of illustrating how doctors really shy away from having the frank conversations with their seriously ill patients. They provide information, but that information is often based on what to do to lengthen life, not improve the quality of it. Taking a page from the palliative care / hospice movement, Dr. Gawande advocates for asking the hard questions, like what do the patients fear most, what is the quality of life they’d be willing to tolerate, and similar questions, to really get at the heart of their concern.

Dr. Gawande also looks at how, especially with the elderly, we focus too much on keeping them safe as opposed to happy. He provides the back story on the nation’s first true assisted living facility, where residents were allowed to do things like lock their doors. Yes, they might fall, but the staff was dedicated to providing whatever support services were necessary to allow these residents to keep as much independence as possible. It is amazing when you really think about how much we focus on things like fall prevention (which is important, obviously), but not on really figuring out ways to prevent the falls WHILE allowing people access to the things in their lives that matter, like deciding when to get out of bed in the morning.

I strongly recommend this book, especially for those who have parents who are elderly, or for those who care about the quality of life of seriously ill people. It asks us to reframe our thinking, and really consider what it is that we value, and how we would want others to take that into consideration as we got older or sicker.

And with that, I complete my second Cannonball Read.