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03 Jun 15:35

Revealed! Book Club Choices for June 2015.

by gretchenrubin
booksstackspaperbacks

Before I get to the fun of recommending some good books to read for May, here’s a quick bit of book-self-promotion: Father’s Day is coming up on June 21. If you’re looking for a good gift for a father in your life, may I suggest…you guessed it…Better Than Before.

Most of us have habits that we want to make or break, and Better Than Before explains how to do that. Really!

If you’d like a signed bookplate to make the book more special, request it here (U.S. and Canada only, sorry, mailing costs). But request that soon, because I can be a little slow. Want more info? Excerpt here. Audio clip here. Discussion guides here.

Also, over the years I’ve noticed that many people give my biography Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill as a Father’s Day gift. Turns out I’m not the only one fascinated by Churchill.

Now enough about me and my books (!) — on to the fun part. Three terrific books for June.

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

· one outstanding book about happiness or habits

· one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

· one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at the wonderful Brooklyn indie WORD, BN.com, Amazon (I’m an affiliate of all three), or your favorite local bookstore. Or visit the library! Drumroll…

An outstanding book about happiness or habits:

How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book:

The Good Master and The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy (yes, I cheated by listing two, but I couldn’t pick between the first book and the sequel)

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links. I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

In any event, I assure you that, for all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think?

Lately, I’ve been doing some good reading on airplanes and in hotel rooms, while I’m on tour for Better Than Before.  I always over-pack both physical books and e-books when I travel, because I’m so afraid of having good reading time with nothing to read.

Happy June, and happy reading! So many good books…What’s on your summer reading list? Send me your recommendations! Though my library list already has 207 books listed.

22 Oct 01:17

Does "stationary" matter?

by Seth Godin

Formality is a curious thing.

StationaryI have trouble buying paper and pens at a store that cares so little about competence that they've misspelled the very thing they sell on their sign.

It occurs to me that this is a pretty silly reason not to buy a package of paper. I know exactly what they mean. I'm just being pedantic.

And we judge people by how they choose to wear a tie and jacket, or whether or not they use the correct typeface on their resume. Even though we're hiring them to run a forklift or balance the books.

Is it okay to read and enjoy a self-published book that is poorly laid out? What does hiring a talented layout designer have to do with writing a good book?

Is adherence to cultural norms an indicator of quality and care in other areas? If it's not, how much do we lose when we shun people who don't care about the cultural foundations that we grew up with?

We don't have a word for the satisfaction of engaging with something that's just right, that's both original and also grounded in the quality of execution that comes from an awareness and embrace of the cultural norms that people like us care about. Someone who took the time to get the irrelevant details right. That satisfaction is important to me.

And yet, the irrelevant cues might not be so irrelevant.

Not everyone will judge you because you ignore or don't understand the formalities. (And in fact, the judging and the tsk-tsking aren't always something to aspire to, if it distracts us from the work we're trying to do). But some people will judge you, and if you care about them, cultural norms are a cheap way to earn trust.

It's also a privilege to do something properly.

Will our entire culture go completely to pieces if we stop defending the apostrophe? I don't think so. But understanding formalities is a choice, and you should embrace or reject them with intent.

       
11 Apr 12:39

A Tale of Two Nonprofits

by Bernie O'Hare
One of the Lehigh Valley's more worthwhile nonprofits is New Bethany Ministries, whose simple goal is "to create opportunities for a secure future for the homeless, hungry, poor and mentally ill of the Lehigh Valley." One of their biggest fundraisers is Luminaria Night. Simple votive candles, inside a white bag, light up the Christmas City each December. More importantly, the money raised helps people with nowhere else to turn. You'd think Bethlehem would go out of its way to help this worthy effort. But Bethany, unlike the Fox Environmental Center (Illick's Mill), has no City Council person at the helm.

Last December, while City Council person Karen Dolan basked in a rent-free Mill, warming up with free heating oil supplied by Parks and Public Property Director Ralph Carp, it was freezing inside the pool house a stone's throw away along Illick's Mill Road. New Bethany's Debbie Delgrosso was shoveling the snow, which the City had not done. Eventually, she got help from some people who stopped by for their luminaries.

Carp also charged New Bethany for the use of the pool house to distribute luminaries.

The difference between these two nonprofits is that one of them is run by a City Council member and one is not.

This kind of favoritism is why Dolan should resign from City Council, where she just happens to chair the Parks Committee.