Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is insanely long, and worth every moment you spend with it. I've been inspired, intrigued, and downright glued to this book for the last 6 months. I knew the basics about Washington when I began, but had very little idea about his character or long chain of monumental achievements.
Chernow does an very thorough job capturing the nature of a complex and iconic figure. I felt I came to begin to understand the man and the mystery he exudes. I thought the complexities of slavery, partisan politics, relationships, and many other large parts of Washington's life were handled in a way that did not pass judgement on our first president.
This book is very long, and isn't for the casual reader. However, if you have any desire to better understand the origin of the United States of America then you really should invest the time and give this book a shot.
Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus by Kyle Idleman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book gave me lots of opportunities to reflect on my faith, character, and relationship with God. Probably more than anything, Kyle's blunt and clear invitation to self examine in the context of "fans" and "followers" provided for me some of the best articulation of the balance between believing and following. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have often been accused by other Christians that I am living a works-based lifestyle. After reading this book I was encouraged that there are other Christians who see more to following Christ than simply professing faith in Him.
Kyle's continuous analogy of relations between husband and wife to our personal relationship with Jesus elucidated some excellent points. Faithfulness, giving all of ourselves, serving out of love rather than guilt or fear, coming to KNOW, and forgetting yourself, to name just a few. The tone of the book is direct and invites somewhat difficult yet important questions.
The path of discipleship has never been easy or comfortable. The author uses stories and moments of the Bible in a very helpful way that reveals the different characteristics of fans and followers. These scriptural accounts reminded me of what Joseph Smith once said, "A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation." Obviously Jesus said it best with His simple, "Come follow Me."
It is very refreshing to read a work like this that is willing to explore and discuss the more difficult and challenging aspects of being a true follower of Jesus Christ. I feel I can be better after reading this book, and in my mind that is well worth the read.
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Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If there is any advice about this book that I can pass on it is this: GET THE AUDIO BOOK. Listening to Jim's own voice for the whole book was what made listening to it so worth it. I think lots of his humor and tone would be lost or misunderstood in reading it.
Dad Is Fat is a collection of sketches, essays, and rants that make up a hilarious and significant experience that is reminds of fathering itself. Having recently had our first child, this book resonated with me in reflecting on some of the silly things we do as parents, and insane trends that are just stupid in the ever developing western culture that permeates our lives.
Probably my favorite parts of the book include the essays on:
- Comparing babies to dogs is just dumb
- Are you done yet? And the reaction of others to the news your wife is pregnant
- Changing diapers in the middle of the night
- Family reunions
- Dad as vice president
The only reason I didn't give it all 5 stars is that I felt that there was a stretch of the book that Jim's sarcastic humor began to feel a little biting and less fun. I loved the beginning and final caps of the book that felt more direct and real and think a little more of that sprinkled through the book would have been the icing on the cake.
This is an excellent read. It is simple and fun, and one I hope to return to in a few years when I can better relate to the tales of multiple and older children.
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Othello is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, not because I am macabre or inclined to tragedy, but the layers of depth and psychology illustrated by the characters is astounding and continues to offer new insights as I study it. Iago, the devilish antagonist of the story, has long enchanted audiences with his frightening ability to plant horrible ideas into the heads of his victims and create mayhem for no apparent reason. I consider him the hipster of Inception.
One such moment is when Cassio, a military leader and friend to the great Othello, realizes he has done something stupid and he blames himself and mourns the inevitable consequences of his choices. "Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!" Iago sneers back at him, "As I am an honest man, I thought you had received some bodily wound. There is more sense in that than in reputation. Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost without deserving. You have lost no reputation at all unless you repute yourself such a loser."
Basically what I hear Iago hissing is something like, "You nit wit! Reputation is a stupid and meaningless cultural symbol that can be made and broken at will. You are an idiot because you chose to be, not because you've lost some irreplaceable and precious part of yourself." This rendition of reputation is to me, extraordinarily complex. Is reputation a tangible or even singular thing? Or can it come and go on a whim?
I am finishing up a biography on George Washington, and it is obvious that he would vote for the former of these two thoughts. He spent his whole life grooming his reputation, keeping his records impeccably organized for future generations to digest, and always responded to challenging problems in a way that would sustain or improve his unparalleled reputation. His character and image have stood the test of time greater than any other American I can think of, and he was known for his reputation in his own time and ours - being the only U.S. President to be unanimously voted into office. Twice. This was a man who knew the power of his image could have, as long has his carefully guarded reputation remained in tact.
I recently finished the "Uglies" Series which ends with Extras, a story about a teen residing in a "reputation society". There is no money, no traditional advertising, no financial markets. Everything is based on the stories you "kick" and how many people follow your posts and mention your name. The Kickers share lots of similarities to social media professionals of our day such as George Takei, Stuart Edge, or one of the many influential Mommy Bloggers. The more people who digitally follow you and "re-kick" your stories the higher you rise in the city rankings. That ranking is like the currency of the community, once your ranking breaks certain landmark numbers you can simply walk into a bigger house and announce you are moving in and the computer of the home will reset everything to your preferences.
Interesting, right? We still use and love money, but the power of influence has been utilized for a long time. Star power as an advertising mechanism is not new. However, it is changing in our connected and infobese world. There is a dark side to using celebrities to "kick" your product out the masses, as Samsung must know by now after actions from Ellen and LeBron.
Interestingly enough Extras predates Klout, a San Fransisco tech start-up all about measuring your influence on the web and rewarding you for increasing your rank or score.
Klout "is a website and mobile app that uses social media analytics to rank its users according to online social influence via the "Klout Score", which is a numerical value between 1 and 100. In determining the user score, Klout measures the size of a user's social media network and correlates the content created to measure how other users interact with that content" (thanks Wikipedia). Basically, Klout is a mini version of the society in Extras and the higher your Klout score is the more "perks" and benefits you are offered from Klout's partners. On Klout's website it states: "Klout Perks are exclusive rewards you earn because of the impact you have online. Every day, Klout users receive amazing products, special discounts, and VIP access because of their influence in certain topics." This sounds really cool, but at the same time I wonder about what the impact of such a program can have. Already there is a huge disparity between income, education levels, crime-rate, and other factors in America. Could one's Klout score (or something like that) become yet another thing that sets this chasm even wider?
In an interview with Businessweek, Klout's Co-Founder Joe Fernandez explains: "The Klout score is supposed to be a way to compare and digest what that influence means. We’re doing something controversial, and we know that . . . We’re helping you craft that persona that you’re trying to be online." I wonder about the millions who are not online, or who are but are so helplessly addicted to looking at cats and their own FaceBook profiles. I guess they are just the crowd of folks waiting to be influenced by the reputation of the Klout Kings.
I had an account on Klout. After thinking about it (probably too much) I decided to disconnect from the site and stop looking at my score. Was this a smart decision? Does it matter? I don't really know. If I was looking for a job in social media then this would have been a deal breaker.
What do you think? Am I being too pessimistic and weird about how Klout is measuring influence and online reputation? What do you believe about reputation in a connected world?
The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Perhaps the thing I like most about this book is it resonates with truths I have found in many other places. Small and simple things bring about great changes, as pointed out in "Switch", "Small Move, Big Change", The Bible, The Book of Mormon, and countless other works I have read and viewed.
The simplicity and power of the ONE thing makes sense. But not just having the ONE thing, but having the vision and purposeful drive to achieve that thing. Feeding faith over fear, being purposeful rather than going for the natural, and seeking advice and insight from others are just a few ideas from this book that reaffirmed lessons I've gained before.
Often I attend meetings, embark on projects, or take on new jobs and then struggle to understand how to move forward with what I have. Choosing the ONE thing I can work on is better than none! With a habit of doing ONE thing and getting that takeaway each time will lead to an enormous amount of results.
What is my ONE takeaway for now? Mmm.
SIMPLIFY. That is it.
If I feel I am not "healthy" - what is the one thing I can do to improve? If I am not financially stable, than what is the one thing I can do to gain that stability back? Just this simple pattern of good questioning, will lead to good answering and great results. I hope that I will continue to maintain this way of thinking and realize the myths of things like chaos, multitasking, and balanced days.
This is a short read, and worth your while.
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I am a graduate student in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. I enjoy writing, hiking, and spending time with my family.