"Every since I got my first library card & could walk to the library myself I've been hooked on the medical/health/self-improvement book shelves."
-From the Healthy Librarian's Blog Profile-
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Tip: Skip over my ramblings--and go right to the essays! The real "heart" of the post!
When I was a kid, summer lasted forever. Endless lazy sunny days stretched out one after the other with plenty of time for playing on the street, porch sitting with my friends, going on bike hikes, swimming at the local pool---and best of all---walking to the library all by myself & bringing home a stack of books to explore. I'd stretch out & get cozy on the front porch glider & just enjoy a lazy summer afternoon with my "freshly picked" stack of library books.
This Tuesday just happened to feel exactly like one of those perfect sunny summer days from the late 1950's.
I even made a library stop on my way home to pick-up this Saturday's book club selection, Kurt Vonnegut's collection of short stories, Welcome to the Monkey House. Our assignment? To read two short stories: Harrison Bergeron & the book's namesake, Welcome to the Monkey House. I read the book in college, but I have zero memory about those 2 stories.
And of course, I couldn't resist taking a look at the library's shelf of New Non-Fiction. It's my ritual every time I go into my local library. Here's what I plucked off the shelves: my freshly picked stash.
There was something eerily familiar about this past Tuesday that took me straight back to my 9 year old summer-self with those lazy summer days & my pile of books on the porch.
- Katie Couric's, The Best Advice I Ever Got. Lessons from Extraordinary Lives. Couric's the former CBS Evening News anchor & 60 Minutes correspondent.
- Martin Seligman's, Flourish. A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. Seligman's the brilliant University of Pennsylvania professor and founder of the research-based academic study of positive psychology.
- Bill Moyer's, Bill Moyer's Journal. The Conversation Continues. Award-winning news journalist, PBS anchor, and founding organizer of the Peace Corps.
- Diane Ackerman's, One Hundred Names for Love. A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing. Best-selling author of the Natural History of the Senses.
- Maira Kalman's, The Principles of Uncertainty. Well-known illustrator extraordinaire--with an eye for history, philosophy, and what's important in life. If you haven't a clue as to who she is--check this out. You'll be glad you did!
I dove straight into Couric's, The Best Advice I Ever Got, as soon as I had the chance! This is right up my alley. I can't resist short essays--from people I respect--that share their best advice, life lessons and thoughtful insights. I want their short bottom-line pearls! I crave reminders to reach higher, be better, & enjoy life, in spite of all the curve balls.
And that's exactly what you'll find in Couric's book.
Here's how Katie's book was born:
"Last year, when I was giving a commencement address at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, I decided to try something new.
What else could I tell these young, bright students who were about to take flight into the world, eager to make their mark? Because I've had the privilege of meeting and interviewing so many remarkable people through the years, I decided to ask a few of them to share their personal insights. What have you learned? What lessons from your own lives might be useful and instructive?"
Then Couric cast her net even wider. To people she admired--but didn't know.
Their advice isn't just for those who are starting out; it's for those who are starting over, just taking stock--a reminder of what is important and how we can better live our lives everyday. It's for everyone!
This book is filled with the best advice that leaders & visionaries in "politics, entertainment, sports, philanthropy, the arts, & business" have to offer. Sure, some of these "stars" wouldn't be my choice of who I'd go to for advice--but it's Couric's book--not mine.
After a quick look-through the book, three essays immediately grabbed my attention--and I thought, "These need to be shared--not just sit in a book waiting to be read by only a few." You can be the judge as to how valuable (or not) this advice is to you.
Definitely check out all of the essays in Couric's book--get yourself a copy from your library--or local book store.
This post goes out to son #2 who shares my quirky love of "Best Advice" essays from "experts"--and who's also a huge fan of "Tuesdays with Morrie", Albom's first book.
"Giving is Living", by Mitch Albom, Best-Selling Author, Journalist, and Philanthropist
"Morrie was dying. We came to sit by his side. Family. Friends. Former students.
Not everyone was so comfortable. Death can make you squeamish. Many visitors, I noticed came with a plan. They were going to tell happy stories, share jokes, show photos. They'd go into Morrie's office, where he lay motionless in a long chair. The door would shut. And an hour later they'd emerge in tears.
But they were crying about...their job, their divorce, their issues.
"I went in to cheer him up," they'd say, sniffing, "but he started asking me about my life and my problems and next thing I know, I was bawling."
I watched this happen so many times that finally I went in to Morrie and said,
"I don't get it. You're the one dying from ALS, this awful, debilitating disease. If ever anyone has finally earned the right to say, 'Let's not talk about your problems, let's talk about my problems,' it's you!"
He looked at me sadly.
"Mitch," he whispered, "why would I ever take like that? Taking just reminds me that I'm dying." He smiled. "Giving makes me feel like I'm living."
Giving makes me feel like I'm living.
It is a profound little sentence.
And some of the best advice I've ever received.
Our culture, of course, tells us the opposite. The more you take, the more alive you are. The more money in your bank account, cars in your garage, or shoes in your closet, the more you are winning the game.
But think about your final moments in this world, like the ones Morrie endured. At that most crucial time, when you are clinging to life, all that you own will be of no use to you. What purpose will a sports care serve at that point? Jewelry? A big-screen TV? Chances are that stuff won't even be in the room.
All that will matter at that precious point, is that the people who love your are by your side, right? Well, the people who love you will likely be the ones to whom you gave time. The ones to whom you gave warmth and affection. When you most want to feel alive, the things you gave will be the things that return.
Try it sometime--maybe the next time you're depressed or blue. Maybe the next time taking something or achieving status doesn't make you as happy as you thought it would.
Instead, go someplace where you're needed--talk to a struggling friend, cheer up someone in a hospital, scoop potatoes at a soup kitchen. You'll be surprised how energized you feel afterward, how your blues may quietly disappear when you see someone who has it worse.
And if, on your way out, you get the small tingle in your stomach when those people whisper, "Thank you"?
That's being alive.
And it comes from giving, not taking.
Morrie, once again, had it right."
Side note: The night before I read Albom's essay, I happened on a poignant & beautiful short essay by Celia Watson Seupel, "What She Has to Offer" in the New York Times. It had me in tears. It's a must-read if you've ever cared for an aging parent. And as crazy as it sounds, I saw a movie called, Harvest, the night before, as well. Serendipity!
"Be Grateful", by Michael J. Fox, Actor, Bestselling Author, Activist
"As much as we can, it's helpful to be in a place of gratitude.
None of us is entitled to anything. We get what we get not because we want it, or we deserve it, or because it's unfair if we don't get it--but because we earn it, we respect it, and only if we share it do we keep it."
"Courage is the Ultimate Career Move", by Anna Quindlen, Bestselling Author, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist
"Here is my favorite biblical direction: Be not afraid.
It's truly the secret of life. Fear is what stunts our growth, narrows our ambitions, kills our dreams.
So fear not.
Oh, I have enough of a memory of my own youth to know that that sounds preposterous. You are surely afraid: of leaving what you know, of seeking what you want, of taking the wrong path, of failing the right one. But you can't allow any of that to warp your life. You must have the strength to say no to the wrong things and to embrace the right ones, even if you are the only one who seems to know the difference, even if you find the difference hard to calculate.
Too often we still live with the pinched expectations of a culture of conformity, which sees daring as dangerous. Go along to get along: that's its mantra. Only principled refusal to be terrorized by these stingy standards will save you from a Frankenstein life made up of other people's expectations grafted together into a poor imitation of existence. You can't afford to do that. It is what has poisoned our culture, our community, and our national character.
No one does the right thing from fear, and so many of the wrong things are done in its long shadow. Homophobia, racism, religious bigotry: they are all bricks in a wall that divides us, bricks cast of the clay of fear, fear of that which is different or unknown.
Too often public discourse fears real engagement or discussion; it pitches itself at the lowest possible level, always preaching to the choir, so that no one will be challenged. Which usually means that no one will be interested. What is the point of free speech if we are always afraid to speak freely? If we fear competing viewpoints, if we fail to state the unpopular because of some sense of plain-vanilla civility, it is not civility at all. It is the denigration of the human capacity for thought. Open your mouth. Speak your piece. Fear not.
Remember Pinocchio? There is a Jiminy Cricket on your shoulder, giving the very best advice. It is you, your authentic self, the one you were in first grade, before you learned to massage your personality into a form that would suit others. Sometimes it's hard to hear its message because all the external voices are so loud, so shrill, so adamant. Voices that loud are always meant to bully.
Do not be bullied.
Acts of bravery don't always take place on battlefields. They can take place in your heart, when you have the courage to honor your character, your intellect, your inclinations, and yes, your soul by listening to its clear, clear voice of direction instead of following the muddied messages of a timid world.
So carry your courage in an easily accessible place, the way you do your cellphone or your wallet. You may still falter or fail, but you will always know that you pushed hard and aimed high.
Take a leap of faith. Fear not Courage is the ultimate career move."
Side Note: Read Theresa MacPhail's short This I Believe essay, "Courage Comes with Practice". It's one of my favorites!
So, sometime before the summer ends, get to your library, check out a bunch of books that will teach you something, inspire you, make you think, or just give you a few hours of blissful escape!
Find a comfortable chair on your porch--or in your yard--and just enjoy a lazy sunny summer day!
Thank Goodness for Books!
Any recommendations out there?