"A beautiful thing never gives so much pain as does failing to hear and see it." – Michelangelo
In this Book Review section, I write short blurbs on fiction I have read and recommend (as not to give away the entire story.) I do the same with nonfiction books I recommend. Once a month I review a nonfiction book in more depth, one that really stands out, in the format of a blog post.
I update this section on a regular basis, with the most recent reviews on top,
10 per page.
A Complicated Kindness is the bittersweet and raw rendition of growing up in a small Mennonite community. The story is seen through the eyes of Nomi Nickel, a teenager who is on a crash course in growing up as she tries to make sense of her mother and sister’s recent disappearance. It is a story about what it means to be family and community and about what it takes to rip families and communities apart. The humor is original, sweet and dark, and it is impossible to walk away without being touched by the grit, and feeling the pain of the reluctant heroine of the story.
For more than 25 years Dr. Eben Alexander, renowned academic neurosurgeon, honed his scientific worldview, studying how the the brain, the mind and consciousness work. Then, in November 2008 he developed an inexplicable brain infection, which pushed him to the brink of death. He spent a week in a coma, during which he experienced a transcendental near-death experience (NDE). He recovered completely and recorded his experience, hence the title.
He experienced the hyper-reality of the spiritual realm, similar to numerous recounted NDEs. The past six years he has spent reconciling his unique spiritual experience with contemporary physics and scientific understanding. He is the co-founder of Eternea, which busy itself with a better understanding of science and religion, and has put together a research team to study this. You can visit him at www.ebenalexander.com and www.eternea.org
Proof of heaven is a compelling story that breaks taboos, attempting to lift the veil on the Afterlife, challenging scientists, skeptics, believers and seekers alike.
A little, but powerful book about being successful in business and life. Written in narrative nonfiction format, it tells the story of one man’s discovery of giving, abundance and success. It focuses on five laws that govern immeasurable success. At its heart it is about giving more than you can earn in monetary terms. It’s about delivering service when you wish to influence others, placing others’ needs above your own and giving your authentic self. Once you grasp these principles and apply them, business success will become more of a reality. A quick read, but worthwhile to read at least twice a year. (I recently read the Afrikaans translation.)
A gripping brave tale of the Iranian revolution, spanning three generations from 1983 t0 2011. With autobiographical undertones, Delijani paint haunting pictures of sets of children, their parents and grandparents, of how their lives are torn apart by the crackdown of a ruthless government. These are the children of the Jacaranda tree. Amidst the loss and terror, love and beauty is still to be found. A visceral journey, with rich characters, making you seethe and cry. A must read.
Physician and medical student suicide is usually kept under guarded wraps. It’s a well-kept secret. The phenomenon, which claims at least 400 individuals annually in the US, is one of the alarming results of dysfunctional medical systems. This happens globally. Often the medical culture is one “that condones hazing, bullying, sexual harassment, and teaching by public humiliation.” Physicians and students who struggle to cope with the unrelenting stress, is often marginalized by the same system that train and manage them. They are made out to be weak and incompetent. Assistance to physicians for mental health issues presently comes at the price of additional punishment by the respective colleges.
Pamela Wible, known for her international efforts to stop the abuse in medicine, answers letters of victims of abuse, and their family members. People don’t commit suicide—they die due to suicide.
Public awareness of this very real entity is necessary if we ever hope to change the culture and empower individuals who are trained to help people, but in the end see no other way out due to relentless bullying and abuse.
MINDSET: THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS
How we can learn to fulfill our potential
By Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D
The simple believes we have about ourselves, form our “mindset.” The view we adopt for ourselves, strongly affects the way we lead our lives and fulfill our potential. There are essentially two types of mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. In the fixed mindset’s eyes, your destiny is preordained: you’re either smart or dumb, talented or not, intelligence is finite and having to apply effort, signals you’re a failure. This often limits what they will and can accomplish in life.
The growth mindset embraces effort, they want to learn new things and enjoy a challenge. Failure for them is not the end of things, it only spurs them on to change their tactics, make a new plan and practice even harder; hence they continue growing and learning.
We are often a mix of the two mindsets. It is possible to learn and adopt the growth mindset, but it has to be nurtured to be maintained throughout life.
“What people believe, they achieve.” A fascinating read. Highly recommended.
Pamela Wible’s effervescent style will take you on a rollercoaster ride and introduce you to endless possibilities. Don’t let the cover fool you! She is a brave pioneer who challenges corporate bodies and groups who are attempting to make the independent family doctor in America obsolete. Through her often hilarious, sometimes heart-wrenching and otherwise brutally honest rendition of life in the medical world, she paints a picture of how it is still possible to create a more ideal clinic.
She shows that it is possible to survive the onslaught and still make an impact on people’s, on patients’ lives, beyond merely diagnosing and and cutting out or prescribing a pill. In the end, it’s all about living, caring and giving—between caregiver and recipient—and it’s reciprocal.
CHEF MD'S BIG BOOK OF CULINARY MEDICINE
A food lover's roadmap to: losing weight, preventing disease, and getting really healthy
By John La Puma, M.D. and Rebecca Powell Marx
Allow John La Puma, physician and chef, to introduce you to the exciting world of culinary medicine. You will learn the scientific reasons (in simplified bites), why certain foods are better, and how to literally spice up your diet. Master new food preparation skills. Learn about bioavailability and how to get more nutrients out of the food that you eat. By increasing certain foods and avoiding others, multiple medical conditions can be positively impacted. There is such a thing as a ‘culinary medicine chest.’ Try out his recipes and follow his lifestyle modification tips, given throughout. Eat the culinary medicine way and discover better health year round. Read it and then keep it handy in the kitchen.
Daniel H. Pink will challenge what you think you know about motivation. He makes a compelling case for the vital importance of nurturing and cultivating intrinsic motivation. Each individual, small business, big corporation or large organization, will benefit from re-assessing why they should part with the outdated carrot and stick form of motivation. Intrinsic motivation, which rests on the pillars of autonomy, mastery and purpose, will not only produce better results, it will ensure happier and more fulfilled people. Productivity and creativity, as a result, will increase. By maximizing purpose in an organization, profits can also be maximized. A New York Times Bestseller.
Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer prize-winning reporter and New York Times senior editor, has woven together a fascinating work about routine behaviours—about habits. Through a fine balance of scientific fact and colorful anecdotes, he explains why we have habits and that we can actually change them. He gives insight into how personal, corporate and societal habits shape the world we live in—and, once we understand how habit works, we can gain power over it.
Getting “rid” of bad habits isn’t the solution, but by identifying the cues that lead to the unwanted behaviours, and learning alternative routines that lead up to the reward, habits “can be kicked.” You will never think the same about habits after reading the book, and, likely be prompted to test the findings!