Saturday, July 29, 2017


Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined AmericaBright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An in-depth look at the "power" of positive thinking, and what it's done to America, by the author of Nickel & Dimed.

First thoughts: While I appreciate all the work Ehrenreich clearly did for this book, I got a bit lost in all the referenced studies and histories of positive psychologists. I agree with her basic points, so that kept me with the book, but sometimes it felt like it took her a while to get to those points.

Favorite quote: "A vigilant realism does not foreclose the pursuit of happiness; in fact, it makes it possible."

Recommended for: People wondering why their positive outlook isn't working, realists, and those who think they can attract wealth by thinking about it.

Final thoughts: Ehrenreich's send off is essentially to make heaven on Earth - instead of drawing into ourselves to think our way to happiness, we should work to make the world around us a better place. This seems like such a simple solution, but one that many people (myself included) don't come to on their own. I wish this sentiment had been introduced earlier in the book, and then reinforced in each chapter. It's a beautiful idea, and one that I think most happiness seekers can get behind.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

How to Find Fulfilling Work

How To Find Fulfilling WorkHow To Find Fulfilling Work by Roman Krznaric
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A quick, if simplified look into what makes work "fulfilling" - and if that is even a worthy ideal to want.

First thoughts: I was ready for this to be a fluff read, but the idea of the luxury of fulfillment is brought up on page one, which I appreciated. I'm lucky that my general career path has been meaningful, even if not always the most lucrative. I just want it to stay meaningful!

Career thoughts: What's most frustrating about reading this is knowing what the fulfilling work of your life has been/could be, but needing an employer to agree and hire you.

Favorite quotes:

On growing into your vocation: "Simply by devoting ourselves to work that gives us deep fulfillment through meaning, flow, and freedom....Over time, a tangible and inspiring goal may quietly germinate, grow larger, and eventually flower into life."

On fears and inhibitions: "Yet if we are to move beyond them, if we are to cut the rope and be free, we need to treat life as an experiment and discover the little bit of madness that lies within us all."

Recommended for: thinkers and dreamers, time-clock watchers, those in the midst of a mid-life crisis, and employers.

Final thoughts: This took me about a day to read. It has a few good thoughts, nothing Earth-shattering, but still affirming to read!

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Museum of Contemporary Art: Murakami

I've lived in Chicago for almost seven years, and this past weekend I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art for the first time! My fiance isn't huge on the concept of "contemporary art," and I'm not passionate about it, so it hasn't been high on our list of things to see, but their current Murakami exhibit beckoned us to finally check a look.
One of the things about contemporary art is it's always changing (to be contemporary, ya know), so none of the exhibitions at the MCA are permanent. Right now (and until September 24), Murakami is the anchor exhibit, taking up most of the top floor, but smaller galleries on the lower floors were...interesting as well.

If I'm being honest, it was difficult to take some of the pieces seriously in these smaller galleries. At times, I literally looked around me to see if we were all being punk'd. While the spaces, how they were arranged, and the presentation of the art were all seamless and effective, I wasn't as immersed in the emotion or talent of the art as I have been at other museums. I mean, there was literally a collection of contact lenses in one of the galleries. This is just a clay bowl with an imprint of a debit card in it. It felt too come mierda (as a Puerto Rican would say) to have a reaction other than "Hmm." I don't doubt that what's in the museum is art, but it's more commentary and statement than art for art's sake.

Takashi Murakami though, didn't disappoint. Neither Jesus nor I knew who he was before seeing his works at the museum, other than that he is Japanese and has collaborated with Kanye West. The entire gallery read like a visual autobiography, tracing Murakami's artistic journey to the creator he is today. I'm always a sucker for diverse portfolios and seeing how an artist (of any kind) evolves. Moods and phases are obvious in retrospect and you can further appreciate recent works knowing where they came from. Murakami is a contemporary artist, yes, but his influences reach deep into Japanese history. Add that to his own personal history, and all those layers add up to a wonderful viewing experience.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Ptolemy's Gate

Ptolemy's Gate (Bartimaeus, #3)Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The final installment of The Bartimaeus Trilogy (which I finally read!) doesn't disappoint, but it does take some commitment. At 501 pages, this wasn't a flimsy read, especially considering it's been over 10 years since I read the second book and even more since the first.

First thoughts: I miss YA - note to self to read more of it! Reading this reminded me of all the joys of reading as a teenager: getting involved in fantastic worlds full of dynamic characters, losing track of time, creating my own fan fictions.

First thoughts 2.0: Did I wait too long to read this? It took me a bit to remember who characters were and where we last saw them. This isn't a fluffy trilogy - especially this last book - so it helped me to re-read at least the summaries of the first two books.

Favorite quote: "It's not about doing. It's about being. Don't expect to understand it: you're a human - you can only see surfaces, and then you want to impose yourself upon them."

Themes: the messiness of humanity, the balance between spontaneity and legacy, the impermanence and resilience of life.

Recommended for: any YA buffs, teachers, fans of Harry Potter/Charlie Bone/etc, parents with tweens & teens, and young adults, of course.

Final thoughts: I have to give this book five stars, despite a slow start. I'm satisfied with how the whole trilogy ended, and can't think of anything I'd change, except to know more (aka, continue the series). I guess I'd change my own reading so that I read all three books closer together!

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

All These Wonders

The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories about Facing the UnknownThe Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories about Facing the Unknown by Catherine Burns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A collection of stories told on various Moth stages, all relating to the theme of "Facing the Unknown" and including storytellers old, young, familiar, and fresh.

First thoughts: This book is beautiful, heartbreaking, and timely. What better time to read about facing the unknown than when staring down the unknown? It's a humbling feeling to know you're not alone, or that different from a wide variety of other humans.

Favorite quote: "Honesty matters. Vulnerability matters. Being open about who you were at a moment in time when you were in a difficult or an impossible place matters more than anything." - Neil Gaiman, foreword

Storytelling thoughts: While The Moth is about live storytelling more so than reading, I was still so moved by the emotions of the tellers. I can only imagine how powerful it is to be in the room when the stories are being told. Luckily, there are Moth events in Chicago, so someday (as soon as this month!) I can be in the room. For those who don't live near a city where they have live events, there's always the Moth Podcast or Radio Hour. And for those who don't do podcasts, there's this wonderful book.

Storyteller thoughts: I'm excited to seek out other works by the storytellers featured in this collection - some are published authors, others are comedians with Netflix specials, and others have no obvious connection to the storytelling world, except their humanity and a need to share their beautiful stories.

Recommended for: EVERYBODY. This book is now a permanent fixture in my personal library, and I'm going to share it with anyone who says they need something new to read. I can see this being a great gift for graduates or new parents.

Final thoughts: I laughed and cried and felt better about my place on this planet. This will be one of the few books I reread in my lifetime.

Editor's Note: I received a copy of All These Wonders from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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