Tag Archive | 2 Freds

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Overview: Each day we face a barrage of images and ideas—from society and the media—telling us who we should be. We are led to believe that if we look perfect, live perfect, and do everything perfectly, we’d no longer struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Ironically, it’s the pursuit of perfection that fuels the message ‘never good enough.’

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W., the leading expert on shame, reveals that it is actually ourimperfections and vulnerabilities that connect us to one another as human beings andmake us who we are. We are naturally drawn to those we view asauthentic, real, and down-to-earth. It makes sense, then, that weshould stop reaching for something ‘better’ and, instead, strive tobe who we are, fully owning every aspect of ourselves.

This fresh 52-week guide can be read as a year-long program of WholeHearted living or by topic – whatever is the most meaningful for each reader. Brown engages our hearts, minds, and spirits in finding the beauty of authenticity and evolving our self-perceptions through fifteen guideposts that emerged from her latest groundbreaking research.

 Each guidepost is illustrated with essays, stories, inspiring quotes, meditations, and dynamic creative exercises designed to help us develop the skills to accept our vulnerabilities with compassion and practice loving-kindness toward ourselves and others.

My thoughts: When I started reading this book, I thought, This is great! It’s really interesting. Then I got to the guide posts…

This book is not a self-help book. It’s more about reflection, and you won’t find any definite “steps” to help yourself. You’ll just get ideas about issues in your life. Brown brings up issues in life that we need to talk about: shame, people-pleasing, and self-depreciation, among others. However, I don’t like the way she does it.

She talks about great things! What’s not to like? Well…I don’t like her approach. She mentions things about her research, and that’s a good point of the book. However, she always relates it back to her experiences and herself. She has all this research at the tip of her fingers, and she doesn’t rely on it to carry the book through. I expected to see more testimonials from other people because she had talked to other people, and those people influenced her thought process and life. If it influenced her, then why didn’t she share it with us so we can be inspired, too? I know there are restrictions on research, such that the researcher can’t share confidential data of participants, but I think she could’ve used testimonials from participants who consented to her writing about their experiences since she was just releasing research data and not the participants’ identifying information. In my opinion, the book is very weak just relying on her life stories. Reading about her life made me want to throw my hands in the air and just sigh exasperatedly. If I really wanted to know that much about her life, then I’d read a biography. I think this book would’ve worked much better as a memoir rather than a reflection “self-help” book.

The absolute number one thing that bothers me about this book is in Guide-post 7, page 103: “I had decided to go part-time at the university, and her dad was going to a four-day workweek.” Whoa, there! Back up. Who can afford that? And I don’t mean we can’t afford to let the achievements go. I mean, who can financially afford to cut down on work? Most people I know can’t. Unfortunately, the book is filled with stories like this, like when she went to the mall with her daughter and felt uncomfortable because dress-up women looked at her funny. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Back up. You can afford to go to the mall to buy make-up? Most people I know just buy it for a cheaper price at drug stores. That’s also another reason why I think it’s bad that the book is filled with her life stories. She has a certain way of life and a certain culture. Other people don’t share that culture, and so sometimes, it’s hard to relate to her and take the concepts seriously. It gets especially annoying when she tells the reader that spirituality doesn’t necessarily mean a relationship with God, but then she proceeds to talk about how God affects her life. It really made me wonder how does someone live Wholeheartedly without God? That’s not a question she answers.

The other biggest issue that I had was the guide post with the slashes around page 114. Asking the question, “What do you do?” is a social cue that means, “Tell me about your job that you do to make most of your money,” not “Tell me your whole life story.” Slashes are not appropriate. They’re bulky and inconvenient to read and just add pointless information that I never wanted to know. Yes, you have the right to own up to everything that you are, but most people in society do not care. That’s something you share with friends and not acquaintances because friends do care.

Some of the concepts were explained very vaguely. As a psychology major, I understand that definitions are hard to come by in research literature because there’s a lot of debate surrounding topics. Therefore, I understand why some of her terms, like power, were barely explained. However, to have a full experience of shame, power, and hope and figure out how they connect, it would’ve been nice to have more concrete definitions. I don’t agree with everything she says, but that’s good because at least she’s making me think and form my own ideas.

Another huge set back is that the book seems to be geared towards more privileged type A personalities. I’m more of a laid back type B personality, and sometimes I thought that Ms. Brown was just a little too serious and uptight for me. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying she’s stuck up. I’m just saying her methods of making lists don’t work for me. It would’ve been nice if she could’ve offered more advice than just writing lists and purposely planning things. All this digging deep was driving me insane. I’d rather just accept it and let that be the end of it.

Overall, this book is probably a good conversation starter for book clubs. However, the amount of impact it has on your life depends more on your culture and how you interpret Brown’s writing. For a type B person like me who prefers to think and then accept and let go of what’s bothering me, this book’s advice wouldn’t be my go-to guide for dealing with shame. This book has a lot of potential, but it just needs a different focus.

I bought this book from Amazon for about $10 with free shipping and handling.

Bah, Humbug by Heather Horrocks

Description: Lexi Anderson is an up-and-coming, Martha Stewart-type TV hostess whose two kids love the Jared Strong adventure novels, which happen to be written by their new neighbor, Kyle Miller. For the first time in his writing career, Kyle has writer’s block–until he sees the snowman on his lawn and realizes it’s the perfect solution to his plot problem. He digs in and discovers two things: one, his villain’s weapon will fit inside a snowman’s body, and two, this particular snowman was supposed to be the backdrop for Lexi’s next show. From this improbable beginning comes friendship, but can there be a happy ending for a woman who is afraid to get close again and a man who has shadows from his childhood? Families join together and hearts are healed as this couple goes walking in a winter wonderland.

My thoughts: The story starts out nicely. I like how Lexi and Kyle are introduced. In particular, Lexi seems to be the most developed character; she’s my favorite because she has a straight-forward yet witty personality. Everyone else is pretty flat. It’s really annoying how the children are always grouped together. They kind of have their own personalities, but then they’re still just “the children” with generic personalities.

The beginning is enjoyable as the plot builds up, but then around chapter 9, the story takes a nose dive. The action proceeds a lot faster, and some of the actions described seem physically impossible, especially when Kenneth is having a snowball fight with Kyle and Kenneth…there’s only supposed to be one Kenneth in the story. Around chapters 8 and 9, the story also speeds up a lot. Everything seems to take place within a week, which makes no sense to me, especially considering Kyle and Lexi are potential long term love interests. It’s like the book moves so fast, they’re heading for disaster.

A lot of gender stereotypes are used. Lexi and Alyssa, the two women, are good with home making and emotions while the men just try to hold things in. Really? I understand using stereotypes, but the author could’ve at least changed them a little.

Description is kept to a minimum and the author uses lots of thoughts to progress the character development. Sometimes, it seems more like telling than showing. This novella starts out with a lot of potential and then…the potential disappears.
I found this on Amazon for free and downloaded it to my kindle.

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

Overview: The first book to use the unexpected discoveries of neuroscience to help us make the best decisions

Since Plato, philosophers have described the decision-making process as either rational or emotional: we carefully deliberate, or we “blink” and go with our gut. But as scientists break open the mind’s black box with the latest tools of neuroscience, they’re discovering that this is not how the mind works. Our best decisions are a finely tuned blend of both feeling and reason—and the precise mix depends on the situation. When buying a house, for example, it’s best to let our unconscious mull over the many variables. But when we’re picking a stock, intuition often leads us astray. The trick is to determine when to use the different parts of the brain, and to do this, we need to think harder (and smarter) about how we think.

Jonah Lehrer arms us with the tools we need, drawing on cutting-edge research as well as the real-world experiences of a wide range of “deciders”—from airplane pilots and hedge fund investors to serial killers and poker players.

Lehrer shows how people are taking advantage of the new science to make better television shows, win more football games, and improve military intelligence. His goal is to answer two questions that are of interest to just about anyone, from CEOs to firefighters: How does the human mind make decisions? And how can we make those decisions better?

My thoughts: This book was very taxing to read since it took me forever to get through and my brain kept shouting, “NO!” at every scientific inconsistency.

Writing style wise, the book is captivating. Lehrer uses lots of stories to connect the psychological ideas with real-life. He’s a great storyteller. It’s easy to read, and very entertaining. I would’ve rated this book higher if it wasn’t for his bad science. If you’re not a big science person and would just like to enlighten yourself about decision-making, this may be a good book for you.

Now, to explain the taxing of the book and my brain’s reaction. I’m a psychology major, so I know many of the concepts that Lehrer is talking about. My brain just wants to facepalm itself every time he introduces a new idea. He takes an idea and then stretches it beyond its max, such that the idea is no longer valid. Let’s take the missile example. The man chose to signal an alert even though the enemy missile looked the same as an ally ship. Why? Lehrer claims it’s his emotions. The truth is, it’s the connections in his brain that has formed overtime from practice-and not emotions-that allow the man to make the right decision. Yes, it’s mostly unconscious, but the fact is it’s not an emotional decision. We don’t have the technology to probe the unconscious to know if it’s an emotion or not, but we do know neural connections influence unconscious decisions.

Let’s take another example: chapter 7 “The Brain is an Argument.” In this, Lehrer basically describes what social psychologists call the Confirmation Bias, but he never calls it that. It’s a phenomenon due to the way the brain is structured and not an emotional response. Emotions may be a symptom of Confirmation Bias, but it’s not the reason why people always support what they think is right. Many psychologists think that people use Confirmation Bias to increase their confidence and increase their confidence of their level of survival since theoretically you’re more likely to survive if you’re not experiencing a threat.

What’s funnier is that Lehrer says what every good scientist says, “Correlation does not equal causation,” yet he takes correlations and makes them into causation to support his ideas. He’s using the Confirmation Bias, not emotional reasoning.

I’m not sure what his definition of emotion is. It’s not clearly defined. He quotes it as physiological symptoms (sweating, heartrate), as neurotransmitters (dopamine), and as neural structures in the brain (amygdala), as intuition or just some “feeling?” He doesn’t fully explain how all of these aspects are connected, basically just claiming that we’re unconscious of it all. However, we can explain a good bit of our emotions (we know failing a task will make us feel miserable), so I don’t think all of his claims are valid. The biggest problem with this book is that most of the research he quotes is still under investigation. We don’t know enough about the unconscious and intuition to be able to say, “Yes, this is how emotions work.” There are so many variables in humans that science hasn’t been able to clearly classify emotions with strict definitions. To say that we can decide with “feelings” is preposterous because that word could mean so many different things. Sometimes, these “feelings” aren’t just feelings, but our brain making connections that we aren’t thinking about because we’re not practicing meta-cognition (thinking about our thinking).

To sum up his book in a more scientific way, we make decisions using experience from past events (connections between neurons formed due to learning and practice), meta-cognition, and neurotransmitters activating certain regions in our brains. None of these things fully explain emotions unless you think emotions are all biological and have no other components. However, emotions and decisions are more complex than what he claims.

I found this book in my college library.

The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea

Overview:ThImagee author of “Across the Wire” offers brilliant investigative reporting of what went wrong when, in May 2001, a group of 26 men attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona. Only 12 men came back out. “Superb . . . Nothing less than a saga on the scale of the Exodus and an ordeal as heartbreaking as the Passion . . . The book comes vividly alive with a richness of language and a mastery of narrative detail that only the most gifted of writers are able to achieve.–“Los Angeles Times Book Review.”

My thoughts: LSU Honors College selected this book for Summer Reading in 2012, hence, I read the book. I would love to rate this book as a three or four due to its subject content, but I simply cannot.

My biggest problem is the way the book is structure. The author admits upfront that he could only collect so much data, and so his knowledge is based on the sources he could find. Basically, he retells the story of the Welton  26/Yuma 14 in many different perspectives to the point where the story becomes confusing.

His opening chapter drives me insane. Each section has a different part of the story, usually with a different perspective. I understand that opening with a sporadic chapter adds to the chaos of the story, but it jolts my brain so much and just leaves me confused. I think it would’ve been better if the first chapter was more coherent.

The sporadic changing point-of-view continues through the entire book although the rest of the book isn’t as bad as the first chapter. However, it’s a lot to keep up with. Again, I understand why he does it since he probably doesn’t have all of the story from one person’s perspective, but switching perspectives so many times doesn’t work for me.

From a literary stand point, Urrea does what my teachers have told me not to do. He writes in incomplete sentences, switches point-of-view often, and goes between past tense and present tense. Sometimes, the story flows so well that these “forbidden techniques” work. Other times, I seriously scoff at them. If you’re looking for a well written literary piece, this is not the one for you. If you just want a story about Mexican immigration, this’ll probably be a good one.

Besides structure, I also had a problem with some of the information. More towards the beginning of the book, I wasn’t sure of most of the things I read. It seems like Urrea writes about specific situations that laymen wouldn’t know about unless they had previous knowledge of illegal immigration. I had never read anything about that subject matter until this book, so it was hard to keep up with it sometimes. Urrea does use some Spanish, and I could read most of it due to studying the language for about four years, but if there is no explanation for the Spanish, I don’t see the point in including it.

Urrea also tries to include metaphors, but they seem overdramatic and out of place, especially towards the end. I know he’s trying to include Mexican beliefs with the metaphors and make the Yuma 14 event seem horrific at the same time. However, sometimes the metaphors seem like a good thing and at others, they seem like a bad thing, so I just feel conflicted and I have no idea what to think about the ending.

This book isn’t a bad one, but it doesn’t work for me. If I had read about illegal immigration before this book, then I think it would have been enjoyable. Also, I think it would have been much better if he had written it from one person’s perspective and then explained everything that happened after the desert episode in another section of the book.
I borrowed this book from my library through the interlibrary loans system.

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Overview: Two years before Edgar Rice Burroughs became a worldwide celebrity with the publication of Tarzan of the Apes and its twenty-two sequels, which together have sold more than 30 million copies, he published the futuristic sci-fi romance, A Princess of Mars. A Princess of Mars tells the story of John Carter, a Civil War veteran who inexplicably finds himself held prisoner on the planet Mars by the Green Men of Thark. With Dejah Thoris, the princess of another clan on Mars, John Carter must fight for their freedom and save the entire planet from destruction as the life-sustaining Atmosphere Factory slowly grinds to a halt.

A Princess of Mars is the first in Burroughs’ eleven book Barsoon series, following the continued adventures of John Carter.

My thoughts: I had a hard time getting into this book at first. I had to reread many sentences to understand what the author meant. A few sentences contradict themselves. First, the author says, “Most…” but then counters with “A few…” right after it. Reading carefully is required to understand what’s going on. I’m not a huge fan of sci-fi, but the construction of the author’s world is very believable with a few flukes. He adheres to general scientific reasoning, especially considering it was published back in 1917.

The gender roles and characterization of the Indians in the book annoyed me a bit, but it was written a long time ago. I had to keep reminding myself of that fact as I scoffed at Dejah Thoris being unable to protect herself although the author seemed to set her up as someone who could fight for herself.

Towards the end of the book, I became more engrossed in it. It’s not the most interesting, entertaining, best thing I’ve read, but the middle and end of the book keep my interest and pulled me in. I don’t recommend me this for everyone. However, if you like sci-fi, then this will probably be a good match for you. Even though this book is a part of a series, I think the first book is complete in itself. I don’t plan to read anymore of this series, but we’ll see what happens.

I found this book for free on Amazon.com and downloaded it onto my kindle.

Sex and the City Uncovered

Overview: Sex and the City, the popular television series and motion picture franchise, glorifies the lifestyles of four fashionable New York women who hang out in bars and talk bluntly about their broad range of sexual experiences. 

The awards lavished upon the show would imply it holds some redeeming value. However, despite claims that Sex and the City is ultimately about the longing for a committed relationship, the glamorization of casual sex and always looking fabulous can take a toll on impressionable young women.

Just ask Marian Jordan. In Sex and the City Uncovered she admits, “A painful existence of ‘looking for love in all the wrong places’ is hidden behind images of couture fashion, witty dialogue, and beautiful people. I know this to be true because I’ve lived it.”

A former party girl with her own stories of hookups, hangovers, and heartbreak, Marian now speaks about the unfailing love she has found in Jesus and helps struggling women fill their hearts with this same joy.

Marian Jordan is founder of Redeemed Girl Ministries, showing girls of all ages how to apply God’s truth and promises to their unique circumstances. She speaks to students across the nation, lives in Houston, and holds her master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

My thoughts:I found out about this book by reading the advertisements on the back of the toilet stall walls in a hall at my university. It really pulled me in solely because it exposed the media. The author actually came to speak at my university, but for some reason or another, I didn’t go.

I honestly thought that the book would have been a bit different, but it’s a bit simple minded. When I first read it, all I could think of was the Condescending Willie meme saying, “Tell me more.” Many times my brain responded to the writing with “Well, no, duuuuh!” I don’t mean to disrespect the author, but my thoughts were quite mean because I’m not her targeted audience. It’s more geared towards college-aged women who actually keep up with today’s media. The language is very casual, and it sounds like it’s written by someone for someone who’s very active in the social world.

The author approached the topic of media affecting people through a religious point of view. More specifically, she details her struggle and points out how the show Sex and the City can mislead some people into thinking it’s a great lifestyle without problems. I honestly thought it would have more scientific facts, but it focuses more on a woman’s relationship with God. Sometimes the examples she uses are a bit extreme, and she doesn’t address the middle ground. Let’s just say sometimes social drinking doesn’t always lead to out of control hooking up and drug abuse and may not lead to emptiness. I also think that the author makes too many generalizations about women wanting to feel needed or desired by men to have worth. It’s true that society, especially the media, places a lot of emphasis on women’s beauty, but personally, I’ve never felt that being wanted by men makes me a woman. Sometimes it was hard for me to place myself in the shoes of her audience and actually accept her advice.

Overall, the book in itself is pretty complete, and the best part is that the author reminds every woman that she is worth something. I’d recommend it to young Christian women who want relationships, intimacy, friendships, and a place to belong. It’s great that it warns women about the dangers of believing the media, but I think it sort of sells itself short solely relying on God. It’d be a lot more convincing if she cited more studies about the damaging effects of media and then mentioned how a pathway to God can help heal the damage. Either way, it made me consider my distant relationship with God and made me question if I was walking the right path although I’m not a party girl or an empty girl. The book does have some value, especially if it’s read by the right audience.

I borrowed this book from my college library through a inter-library loan.