Thursday, March 21, 2013

A book trip



During a purple patch in the middle of spring last year, I did some reading that was entertaining, edifying, and ultimately, life-enhancing: all qualifications for sharing on this blog. I had even written this blog post immediately afterward, but the intention to post only found fulfillment now.

First up is Self-Compassion, by Kristin Neff. I had first heard about it on DailyGood (more about that later), and had resolved to read it based on just a brief description of the subject. I was already a strong advocate of compassion, and what better place in which to start its practice than oneself? But upon discovering that the author was a primary character in The Horse Boy, a book (and movie) of particular fascination to me, I hastened to check it out immediately. For those of you who haven’t read The Horse Boy, it’s an enthralling narrative featuring a boy with autism, horses (obviously) and Mongolia (not so obviously). But Self-Compassion is worth a read even if you don’t have any particular interest in horses or boys. It pulls from diverse influences, such as Buddhism and India, but what added most to the power of the book were the searingly honest looks at the author’s personal experiences.

I normally don’t pick up books at random from the library shelves, but made an exception for this one: Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way, by Dan Buettner. I can’t say its insights into finding happiness were especially illuminating, but it certainly made for an entertaining read, especially the descriptions of life in Denmark, Singapore and Mexico, each of which topped their respective continents on surveys of happiness. I was fascinated to find that despite the fact that a large proportion of Danes belong to clubs and associations, they would tend to call the police if you smiled, waved and said Hi to one on the street. And when a Danish man was asked what he would think if his neighbor were to purchase a shiny new BMW one day, he responded by saying he would think the neighbor was feeling insecure about his manliness. Similar idiosyncratic tidbits are sprinkled throughout, lending a very personal feel to the book.

Along the way, I also thumbed through Daniel Goleman’s Social Intelligence, but it somehow didn’t grab me in the same way his earlier book did, the more well-known “Emotional Intelligence”. There’s a lot of research presented, much of it interesting in itself, but it didn’t seem to come together very well.

And finally, I'll Mature When I'm Dead, penned by one of my very favorite authors, a literary giant in his genre, and a social commentator of keen insight and wit: Dave Barry. For those who haven’t been hooked yet to his irreverent and often insightful brand of humor, here’s a sample:

The greatest Greek physician of all was Hippocrates, who is often called ``the father of modern medicine'' because he invented the concept that remains the foundation of all medical care as we know it today: the receptionist. Prior to this invention, when patients came to see the doctor, the doctor had to actually see them, which, as you can imagine, took up a lot of his valuable time because they were always nattering on and on about being sick. But all of a sudden, thanks to Hippocrates, incoming patients could be intercepted by a receptionist, who would (1) tell them to take a seat, and then (2) avoid making eye contact with them for the rest of the afternoon. This breakthrough meant that a single doctor could schedule as many as 375 appointments per hour, which is the system we still use today.

Any books tickled your fancy lately?
Sree

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