Monday, September 29, 2014

September 24: 2 Books

84. Fluent Forever: How To Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It by Gabriel Wyner

I try to read every language learning book that comes out as soon as possible after its publication date. I was not aware of this one until I ran into it quite serendipitously at a small mom and pop bookshop in SoHo recently while waiting to meet my good friend Alan for dinner at a local Israeli food joint.

As a language teacher (beginning Cantonese Chinese to non-native speakers for 3 years now and beginning spoken Mandarin Chinese to non-native speakers as of this past week (this is my first semester teaching that dialect)), I am usually not particularly impressed by popular books on language learning techniques and resources. Case in point, my personal opinion about Rosetta Stone, which I view as an excellent resource for intermediate and advanced learners but just about the worst method ever for absolute beginners. However, I was VERY impressed with this book -- so impressed that I intend to reread it this fall and contact the author to hopefully interview him for my foreign language learning blog, which I also plan to develop into a fully-funtional internet learning portal in 2015.

Because of my need to keep these reviews short, due to the fact that my life recently exploded with unintended and unforeseen time-suckers and I "shouldn't" even be using this time right now to type this entry, I will summarize my impression of this book by saying this: if you are interested in learning how to mount a multi-pronged approach to learning your foreign language or languages of choice right now in 2014 / almost 2015, THIS would be one of the first books you should read, especially if you are a Youtube / Skye / social media-savvy so-and-so and would like to spend a good portion of your time using these resources, along with various apps and electronic flashcard resources in your studies. Feel free to comment on this entry and I will elaborate if there is any interest. For now, I need to move onto the next review.

85. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Boy feels that the entire world is phony and that no one he knows except for his younger sister and at times his older brother (who has sold out, but is still loved) are "real" individuals, saying what they mean and living life as they intend to live it. Boy has a fist fight with an arrogant prep school classmate and is kicked out of his umpteenth high school. Boy has a couple of weeks before he is due home in New York City for semester break. Boy travels to NYC early, accidentally hires a prostitute who is younger than him, and gets into another fist fight with said hooker's pimp when boy refuses to pay an inflated price for a trick he didn't even take. Boy calls up several girls and guys that he knows from his past in the hopes that they might not be phony like everyone else. Boy sneaks into his house and runs into his kid sister, who sees right through his scam and wants to be a part of his adventure. Kid sister refuses to back down and threatens to run away with boy. Boy relents and waits for his parents' arrival, so he can have yet another confrontation about yet another failure in his young life.

I am blessed to have my dad's original copy of this book from the late 1950s / early 1960s (alas, not a first edition pb, though), and I have read this copy 4 times now, I believe. I decided to reread this book because I have always enjoyed the writing style as well as the narrator's attitude towards trying to find meaning in life and in social interactions. Living in New York City, albeit 50 years after the main character of this book, the story has continued to resonate with me through multiple readings throughout my teens, twenties, thirties, and now forties. My friend Alan had mentioned this book in the same moment when he suggested that Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby did not measure up to Dickens. I am not sure that I agree or disagree with that statement. Good writing must first and foremost resonate with the time and world of the contemporary reader. Great writing should continue to resonate with the lives of future generations. I think that this book accomplishes that, in its comparative simplicity of style and content. It has my vote of confidence as a part of the 21st century canon of American literature.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

83 Books in 27 Days as of September 23 -- EITHER 4 or 6 more days left to The Challenge, depending on how you look at it...

So if we take my blog at face value and tally a total as of today, I have read 83 books so far. If you are rereading this entry (for whatever inane reason), you will note that I was off in my count, in my favor. I had thought I had read 79 books as of today. I am actually up to 83. No idea how that happened, but COOL!

27 total days / 83 books. 

This represents 25 actual days of reading, which means that I have either 4 days or 6 days to finish the remaining 17 books. Let's see what I can accomplish in the next 4 days.

Thanks for following this Challenge so far. Let's see what the rest of the journey brings...

September 23: 2 Books

82. The Whole World Guide to Language Learning by Terry Marshall

This book is also on my list of Top 5 Favorite Language Learning Books. I hope to read at least one of the other books from that list before the end of the current Challenge.

What I like most about this book is the same thing that I liked most about Nida's "missionary style" language learning field manual reviewed earlier in this blog: This book presents a wonderful method (though completely devoid of the pompous white man's burden ethos of earlier works in the genre, thank goodness!) for working with an "informer" or "mentor" in the field to learn the spoken version of a language from scratch without a textbook and without formal language classes or a dictionary. This method is not for the faint of heart and is most definitely only for dedicated, serious self-starters who really are determined to learn a new language on their own outside of the "traditional" classroom setting.

My copy of this book has so many dogeared pages at this point that I wouldn't know where to begin if I were to summarize the many excellent points in this short review. Perhaps I can simply say that I intend to suggest many of the methods from this book to my Cantonese and Mandarin students this fall, beginning next week, when I start volunteer-teaching beginning classes in each dialect in Manhattan's Chinatown.

83. In Other Words: The Science and Psychology of Second-Language Acquisition by Ellen Bialystok and Kenji Hakuta

Ostensibly an academic work on the subject, this book nevertheless maintains enough of a popular approach that it would certainly appeal to the average intermediate-level language learner looking for a broader understanding of the various research in recent years on language learning, and how that research might (or might not) help the language learner to acquire more of a given foreign language.

As with many of the books in my personal collection on linguistics and language learning, there needs to be some sort of distinction between books that aid in general language learning approaches and books that specifically further a knowledge about developments and prevailing theories within the field of linguistics as an academic social science discipline. This book falls into the second category.

This book does an excellent job of presenting multiple prevailing linguistic approaches or philosophies, and because this is a reread for me, my copy has many dogears and much underlining, ensuring that I will return to this book again at a later state when I want to delve deeper into an understanding of one or more concepts of the discipline of linguistics. In the short term, though, it doesn't lend much to an improvement in strategies that might increase my command of any of the languages that I am currently studying and attempting to speak.

September 22: ZERO BOOKS (no real time to read today)

Today was a weird day, alternately of productivity and procrastination as I again worked on my own purge of items from my bedroom and home office in an effort to clarify and refocus my life. Before I knew it, the entire day had gone by.

Today was the second day this month that I was not able to read a book for this Challenge.

September 21: 6 Books

76. How to Improve Your Foreign Language Immediately: Foreign Language Communication Tools by Boris Shekhtman

Ok -- so this is a super short book -- around 100 pages, and even that is stretching it, considering the font size and typset of the text. Still, in light of the 543 page book that I read the other day, my friend Amanda at Roots Cafe in South Park Slope, Brooklyn assures me that I should count this as a full book. It was indeed published as a "full book" with its own isbn and its own separate listing on, where I purchased it in 2013.

I love love love love LOVE this book. It is not a book for beginning language learners. Rather, it is a distillation of the author's main points from his much longer work, Developing Professional Level Language Proficiency, which I also read earlier this year. In How To Improve Your Foreign Language Immediately, Shekhtman provides multiple CONVERSATIONAL STRATEGIES to take whatever level the language learner has attained and maximize what he or she is able to show during conversational interactions with native speakers of that language.

The ISLAND STRATEGY is my absolute favorite point of this book, and is the main reason that I will continue to reread this short, crucial work on language learning as well as recommend it to every single intermediate learner of any foreign language that I meet for the rest of my life!!!

77. How To Learn a Foreign Language by Edwin T. Cornelius, Jr.

This book originally came with a dust jacket, which my copy is missing. Rather than post a copy of the plain blue front cover of the non-jacketed hardback, I am instead including a cover of the interior title page for those who are interested in ordering this book on Amazon or perhaps taking it out of your local public library.

Published in the 1950s, this book contains a solid method based on finding a native speaker "informer" or "mentor" in your target foreign language and then preparing lessons for yourself that you then have your mentor teach you, based on your specific needs. In this respect, though the book focuses entirely on the author's experiences learning to speak modern Greek, the book follows much the same "missionary linguistic" approach to language acquisition as several of the upcoming entries in this blog.

I have decided to keep this short work as a permanent part of my language learning book collection for two reasons:
  1. I intend to study classical Greek at some point in the future and when I do, it will be good to have an example of a practical Craigslist-style language trade method for learning modern conversational Greek at the same time; and
  2. There are some very sound "missionary" style language learning techniques in this book that I want to revisit in the future as I continue to re-evaluate my own language learning efforts in Chinese -- especially going forward as I begin to take my Chinese out "into the field" for personal fieldtrips to Cantonese and Mandarin speaking NYC Chinatowns and develop my own in-situ language "assignments."
78. Learning a Foreign Language: A Handbook Prepared Especially for Missionaries by Eugene A. Nida

From what I can tell from my cursory research on Amazon prior to ordering this book in 2012, this was THE book for the 1950s / 60s generation of "Travel to a Foreign Country and Learn the Local Language to Convert the Heathens to The Word of God" brand of Christian Missionary. If the reader is able to put aside the white man's conceit that that is even remotely an appropriate way to approach other non-Western cultures, there is much of value in this thin, pithy volume.

I have dogeared many pages in my copy, and my intention a few days ago was to write a bit about some of the more salient points in this book. However, in the interest of time, let me just end this review by saying that if you are interested in going to a foreign country or immersing yourself in a foreign language speaking community in the US, and you are a self-starter who is genuinely interested in becoming fluently conversational in another language via a method focusing on conversations with locals in which you use the language (once you learn it at a basic enough level) to learn about the culture from which the language springs, THIS is a great book to check out. If, on the other hand, you are the sort of learner who insists on sitting in a class and having some teacher or "person of authority" tell you what to do, what to learn, then this is definitely NOT the kind of book for your language learning approach.

79. The Principles of Language Study by H. E. Palmer

This is a reprint of a book on language learning from the 1920s, and if ever there was a book written from the pompous "I am a white man and I know much more than you uncivilized heathens" perspective on other languages and cultures, this would be a shining example. Still, there are some positive points and because my personal interest in language learning and teaching is much more than cursory, it is very worthwhile for me to read books like this every once in a while -- if only to make me angry about the previous generations' notions of white man's privilege...

Focusing mainly on French language examples, the author does a good job of contrasting the fors and againsts regarding spoken vs. written language study at the outset of the student's efforts to acquire a new language. Most of the book focuses on the author's 9-point action plan for learning a new language:
  1. Initial preparation
  2. Building proper habits
  3. Accuracy, particularly of pronunciation
  4. Gradation
  5. Proportion
  6. Concreteness of examples and language rules as the student acquires them
  8. Order of progression of study materials and language aspects
I have capitalized 7 and 9 because they are the 2 take-aways for me from this particular book, and are very important to my own personal language learning philosophy as I have applied it to Chinese thus far.

80. Polyglot: How I Learn Languages by Kato Lomb

This is one of my Top 5 All Time Language Learning Books.

Written by one of the most accomplished interpreters of the latter half of the 20th Century, a Hungarian woman with a command of 16 languages who, most impressively AND MOST INSPIRING FOR ME, learned most of her spoken and written languages in her 30s and 40s, this book is both informative and specific in its prescription for language learning.

I have been a big believer in EXTENSIVE READING in a foreign language (my own Bombardment Theory of Language Learning, which I have promised to write more about either in this blog or at for several years now -- before I was ever aware of Stephen Krashen's work on the topic or this book currently being reviewed here and now. It is always nice to be validated through one's reading on a given topic of passion that one's own thoughts and ideas happen to resonate with some of the current thinking in the field. Yay -- go me!

Ms. Lomb's detailed description of how she initially learned to speak Russian via reading a novel over and over again over a period of months during the wartime occupation of her country is both inspired and inspiring. Recently, I have applied the exact same method to my own reading and rereading of Dav Pilkey's seminal work, Capitán Calzoncillos y El Terrorífico Retorno de Cacapipí (the Spanish language edition of Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers), from which I have literally much improved my own conversational Spanish (albeit to a 10 year-old level).

81. A Linguistic Guide to Language Learning by William G. Moulton

This is a very dry work, focused mainly on Chomsky-style language tree diagrams and a circa 1970 understanding of the state of linguistics as a social science and how that science might aid foreign language learning. In actuality, I would argue that the contents of this book certain aid linguistics as a field, and would aid a student who wants to read ABOUT and think ABOUT language, but this particular book would do very little to actually help a student acquire a new language or learn to speak it.

This seems to be a common misunderstanding throughout the linguistics literature up until recent years: one does NOT need to study ABOUT how a language works in order to learn how to speak and use that language. Even in order to learn the grammar of that particular language. The only people aided by a book such as this would be linguistics who want to understand more about how language AS A CONCEPT might function at a deeper "social science research" level. Taken with that particular grain of salt, a book like this might be interesting to a linguist doing research into why certain language teaching methods might be more or less effective for certain segments of the population. However, this book does little to help a student learn to speak, read or write any specific language.

September 20: 5 Books

71. What is History? by Edward Hallett Carr

I was all set to begin today with Kon-Tiki (see below), but when I was walking to my regular Saturday morning therapy session with my new social worker Joanne, I found this book on the street. What an amazing collection of lectures by the author on the philosophical implications of the concept of "history" and "historians," as these terms are understood from a European/American perspective! I had already read the first 2/3 of it by the time I walked the 30 blocks from my home to my appointment!

I was actually blown away by this book; it is not often that a book that I find in recycling rocks me to my core by laying bare the workings of Western education and exposing a fundamental truth that knowledge is as much a product of those who "create" it and tell us that it is important as it is of the things or events that are supposedly important in the first place.

Wow -- this is REALLY deep stuff. On the surface, this book is an exploration of the notion that history as we know it, as it is studied in school and written about by scholars, actually represents an almost equal participation from both the events and historical figures themselves AND the historians and writers commenting and creating insights on those people and events. Something about my mood this morning when I read this book, though, made me draw a much deeper connection regarding all "knowledge" in this world -- or at least the kind that I have learned so far in my limited time on this planet.

72. Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl

As readers will remember from my earlier entry on the book Columbus Was Last, I have long been fascinated with explorations into who were the first people to "discover" the Americas. Four of Thor Hyerdahl's books have been on my shelf for several years now, and I am finally getting around to reading them in chronological order of publication date.

Kon-Tiki is a very famous book, published in 1950, detailing the author's testing of his hypothesis (now a proven theory) that the various Polynesian islands (Samoa, Hawaii, Tahiti, etc.) were originally populated by early residents of the west coast of South America (now Peru), sailing west across many miles of ocean on balsa wood rafts. What an adventure story!

Reading like a novel, this true story is well-researched and detailed enough for even the most scientifically-minded to sit up and take notice of Hyerdahl's postulates regarding the initial peopling of Polynesia. I am really looking forward to reading his follow-up book, Aku Aku, on the building of the famous Easter Island statues.

73. The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People by E. E. Evans Pritchard

Everyone should read a famous social anthropologyical monograph written during the height of British Imperialism. The Nuer are an indigenous people of Sudan in Africa, and Pritchard was sent by the British government to chronicle their inner workings, presumable so that the British government might better and more efficiently subjugate these people to British Imperial rule.

The arrogance of the white man can be astounding at times.

Taken in stride as a reflection of the age from whence it came, this is a well-written book by one of the "fathers" of modern social and cultural anthropology, my undergraduate major at Duke University, from which I graduated a million and a half years ago.

Especially in light of today's earlier book, What is History?, I couldn't help but think the entire time that I read this book, how much of the author's experience and research represents "the truth" of The Nuer (i.e. the way these people really see and understand themselves and the significances of their own social, political, religious, etc. institutions as would be discussed between educated native speakers of their language), and how much are simply guesses on the part of Pritchard -- or worse yet, misinterpretations based on language mistranslation issues or possibly even purposeful misdirection on the part of the Nuer, who may not have wanted a white outsider to really know about their lifestyle and its meanings?


74. The Secret Power Within: Zen Solutions to Real Problems by Chuck Norris

Sometimes, I buy a book just for shits and giggles, and this particular book is an example of just such an impulse purchase.

However, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that Mr. Norris filled this book with some wonderfully insightful personal  and career stories and some very valuable life insights.

Carried throughout the book is an underlying tribute to the author's brother, who died as a soldier in Vietnam, and it is this source of motivation that informed much of the author's personal philosophical quest to find deeper meaning and ultimately happiness in martial arts, movies, life and love. I found this book VERY inspiring -- so much so that I will be keeping it and rereading certain dogeared pages going forward as I reconceive my own life and career over the coming months. Funny enough, I think that maybe Chuck Norris's insights into the deeper meaning of the human condition are just what I need at this moment in my own life.

In all seriousness.

This is a witty and well-written, inspiring self-help book

75. Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a new winner for "Most Inspiring Get Rid of Your Junk / Clean Your Home and Life Book..." and it's name is Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui!

As my readers will see from all of the orange price tags in my cover photos of today's books, this afternoon provided a very profitable browsing session at The Strand Bookstore. I dogeared SOOO many pages in this book that I don't even know where to begin. THIS will actually be my bible for cleaning up my home and my life, starting next week, during my October focus on eliminating clutter from my apartment and my mind so that I can clarify and refocus my life and career going forward. Sometimes, we are very lucky to find a method to guide us through our moments of madness; this book represents just such a solution for me...

Focusing on the underlying symbology of most, if not all, clutter, this book REALLY resonated with my own personal battle to get rid of extra crap from my life. So much so this will most likely be the first book that I [re]read as soon as my 100 Book Challenge is finished!

September 19: 5 Books

66. The Third Ear by Chris Lonsdale

 This is one of my favorite language learning "psych up" / motivational books. Written by a white New Zealander who initially came to China in the 80s on a college scholarship, hacking spoken Mandarin in a much shorter time than anyone at the university where he was studying could comprehend, The Third Ear is all about an innate ability of all humans to listen (really listen) to the spoken portion of another language that we do not yet understand and use our "inner ears" (in a metaphorical sense) to begin to process incoming information and eventually acquire a new language.

I am not explaining this well, and in the interest of time (many more reviews to type today), I most likely won't be able to, so I won't really try. Chris's exploration of the "audibol" (a sound syllable) and how the human brain processes language is both fascinating and empowering for language learners. This book is a third time re-read; each time, it keeps getting better. I can't recommend it highly enough, especially to students of tonal languages like Chinese -- my own current linguistic focus.

I remember that upon my initial reading of this book 4 years ago, I was most inspired by Lonsdale's suggestions for building an initial functional vocabulary in a new language. In fact, I used his guidelines to create my first major self-study "push" with Cantonese Chinese at the time, and with the help of 2 of my first Cantonese teachers, I was able to jump wayyyyy ahead of the other students in my classes at the time, all based on the suggestions from this particular book!

67. Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World by Benny Lewis

Though I haven't spent a lot of time watching every single Benny Lewis video online, I have watched a good 8 or 10 of his vlog entries and sales pitches for his "Fluent in 3 Months / Speak from Day One" language learning method. But for the relatively high price point compared to my current budget for individual language learning resources, I would have purchased his kit long ago.

Because of this, I was super 'thused to find his recently published book at The Strand in NYC in their basement foreign language section earlier this year. I have read this book 2 or 3 times now, and my current reread has been very empowering. There are SO many positive points to this book that I can only mention a few:
  • Aspiring to and testing for internationally, academically recognized achievement levels in certain languages (mainly European languages and Chinese)
  • Memorizing short speeches in each language you are studying as vehicles to communicate and improve spoken language ability
  • Shortcut hints for new learners of languages that conjugate verbs, involving the use of helping verbs such as "want to," "can," etc.
  • Studying, speaking, AND MAINTAINING ability in multiple languages
  • Various internet and in-person resources to aid language learning in today's multimedia world

68. How to Learn Any Language Quickly, Easily, Inexpensively, Enjoyably, and On Your Own by Barry Farber

I actually met Barry Farber maybe 12 or so years ago when I was working for The Learning Annex in NYC, recording many of their Manhattan seminars for website streaming. During this phase of my resume, Mr. Farber gave a 2-hour presentation on the exact method described in this book. I am sure that he took the opportunity to plug this book as well that evening, but I had not yet caught the language learning bug, so at the time, this was just another evening of freelance income. Skip forward quite a few years...when I saw this book at The Strand Bookstore, I immediately made the connection, and when I got home that same evening, I raided my Learning Annex data archives in my basement, eventually locating the original .WAV files for Farber's lecture.

I have since read this book twice (including this time) and listened to the audio presentation of this material many times on my mp3 player. This is really good stuff!

Farber shows how, armed with a dictionary; a basic grammar textbook; at least one audio resource with accurate pronunciation of the new language; a recorder / listening device to capture and playback real-life audio examples of the target language; some highlighters; and a magazine or newspaper article written in the new language (assuming a script that the learner knows how to phonetically read and pronounce), the serious self-directed language learner can systematically take apart and then acquire an understanding of a foreign language. Great stuff for self-starters!

69. How to Learn a Foreign Language by Paul Pimsleur, PhD

This is a book that I kept seeing on Amazon listed for outrageously high prices -- until it was recently reissued in honor of the 50th anniversary of Pimseur Language Programs' all-audio language courses, the first of which was Greek in 1963.

I recently came across this brand new printing while browsing in a bookstore, waiting to have dinner with a friend in Manhattan's SOHO 2 weeks ago. I immediately ordered it from Amazon that evening, and read it the same day that it arrived.

I am a HUGE fan of the Pimsleur method. It's greatest strength (exclusive focus on pronunciation and listening comprehension) is also its greatest weakness, if the language learner is expecting a "complete" language acquisition process from a single resource. Used in its "proper" and most ideal manner, though, I am firmly of the opinion that for many languages, in particular those without immediately readable scripts or characters for the learner, an all-audio introduction to the language is ideal. In fact, this exact resource -- Pimsleur Cantonese -- is one of 2 main reasons why my pronunciation of my main foreign language that I am currently studying is so accurate 99% of the time! Go Pimsleur!!!

70.The Polyglot Project, ed. Claude Cartaginese

This huge 524 page book is actually a compilation of emails from various members of the Youtube language learning community as of 2011.

Consisting of essays of varying qualities and varying levels of inspiration, this is a really great resource for the language learning for multiple reasons:
  • It contains stories and advice about language learning from many, but not most, of the most "important" and visible amateur and professional linguists on Youtube in recent years
  • Some of the essays mention key resources that really will help the reader with any of a number of language learning processes and sticking points
  • Some of the advice and methods are really well-conceived and work very well, depending on the target language
  • Most of the resources mentioned by the various authors are completely free and available anywhere in the world with an internet connection and the ability to stream audio and video from Youtube.
This book is also available for free as an eBook, which I am considering downloading and viewing on my tablet. This would allow me to click on various links mentioned throughout the text, which would then take me to the Youtube channels of each contributor, as well as to other web resources mentioned throughout.

September 18: 4 Books

62. New Ways to Learn a Foreign Language by Robert A, Hall

At the advice of my good friend Asim Khan, previously mentioned in this blog, I will be incorporating many re-reads of important language learning books into the rest of my reading challenge. This is the first such re-read from my selection of books that made an impact on me over the past few years of my personal explorations into the art and science of foreign language learning.

This book is a bit dated, focusing entirely on European languages commonly taught in the US as of 1966. With a few interesting suggestions about generic, positive language learning habits, the main points that I was able to take away from my reading came from chapters 17, 18 and 19, dealing with real-life language learning resources and experiences (as opposed to textbooks and grammar guides), and regarding a "gestalt" type approach, incorporating many of the prevalent concepts of language teaching and learning as of the 1960s.

63. Authentic: How to Make a Living By Being Yourself by Neil Crofts

What a great, inspiring book!

Though this is not a language-learning book as many of the others that I am about to review will be, this is nevertheless also a re-read, which I came across on my shelf while gathering my language books for this challenge.

This book is a manifesto for authentic living and for creating an authentic career path which adds positive energy and gives back to the community instead of polluting people's lives with media garbage, disposable pop culture and literal disposable plastic and other non-recyclable trash items. After writing at length about many of the social ills, especially pertaining to the educational system (in Britain) today, the author then suggests a 12-step plan involving 4 "preparations" and 8 "actions," the result of which will serve to eliminate the nonsense from an individual's life, allowing more meaningful work and life pursuits to fill the space once the junk is gotten rid of from any one person's work and personal life:
  1. Preparation 1: Telling the truth
  2. Preparation 2: Perception and reality
  3. Preparation 3: Finding your "natural language"
  4. Preparation 4: What is my point in life?
  5. Action 1: Eating your energy
  6. Action 2: Exercise your mind
  7. Action 3: Taking control of your life
  8. Action 4: Avoiding distraction and inspiring change
  9. Action 5: Editing your address book
  10. Action 6: Changing habits
  11. Action 7: Making your plan
  12. Action 8: Coming out and being yourself
Preparation 3 is Crofts's version of the same crux of Kenneth Robinson's book, reviewed earlier in this blog. It, as well as preparation 4 and actions 4, 6, and 7, were most inspiring to me during my reading. I will DEFINITELY come back to this book next month, when I will be intensively journalling on my life's direction and purging all unnecessary emotional and physical garbage from my life.

64. Speak Like a Native: Professional Secrets for Mastering Foreign Languages by Michael D. Janich

Though this is a super short book at around 115 pages, it is actually one of the most practical and valuable of all of my "real life" language learning guides.

Written from a self-directed study point of view, though firmly grounded in the academic world of language learning (the author is an award-winning 2-time graduate of the US Military's prestigious Defense Language Institute, with top marks in both Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese, the latter of which led to him serving as one of the main US Government / Military representatives in Vietnam after the end of the war during the search for remaining MIA soldiers as well as unaccounted-for remains of dead soldiers in need of repatriation and US burial.

Impressive, yet simple and to the point, this book is a top pick for anyone seeking practical language learning results that do not necessary involve taking classes or "formal" language study. Most inspiring to me were descriptions of the progressive incorporation of background noise and poor quality audio recordings into the listening comprehension part of language learning. I have actually incorporated this exact strategy, to a lesser degree, into my own studies of spoken Cantonese Chinese with excellent results.

Also important were suggestions about foreign language radio and television resources, creative ways to use dubbed and native language foreign language DVDs to use visual cues and body language as aids in the language learning process; the importance of eventually practicing speaking the new language on the phone (something I have not yet incorporated into my language learning process for my own languages that I am studying); and a multi-pronged approach of language "bombardment" (my choice of word), which I will explore in more depth either later in this blog or in my own language learning blog,

65. The Way of the Linguist: A Language Learning Odyssey by Steve Kaufmann

I find Steve Kaufmann's various Youtube vlog entries very inspiring, and when I heard about his book that he had published on his own language learning life story, of course I ordered it from Amazon immediately.

This is a great book, which I initially discovered and read maybe 3 years ago. A former Canadian diplomat and international forestry businessman, Steve speaks over 10 languages to varying degrees and, unlike many of the other Youtube language community folks, Steve actually learned and uses or has used most of his functional languages for international government and business purposes. THIS I found very inspiring, and because of this PURPOSE behind Steve's language acquisition efforts, I found myself resonating with his life story on every page of this book.

My personal favorite aspect of this book is Steve's exploration of the limitations of traditional US and Canadian higher education's ideas of "teaching" language. Rather, Steve proposes completely taking away the emphasis from TEACHERS who somehow have a responsibility to put knowledge into the heads of their students and instead shifting almost all responsibility to the STUDENTS, who must instead take charge of their own language learning efforts. At ALESN, the school where I study and teach Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, we have always told our students that none of the teachers can make the students learn the language. Each student must think deeply and make a decision to put in the effort necessary to take the information we provide them with and in turn teach themselves Chinese.

[* I was feeling guilty about calling the last 2 entries separate  "books," due to the 110-125 page length of each, but my friend Amanda, who owns Roots Cafe in South Park Slope, Brooklyn, where I am typing this entry, insisted that I call these separate books for my challenge, particularly since there is one book coming up in the next couple of entries which is 543 pages long. So ok, 2 separate books. That helps my count so far...]

Thursday, September 18, 2014

September 17: 1 Book

61. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

What a fun book -- a nice change from my typical non-fiction focus of this Reading Challenge!

I spent yesterday morning on the subway going to pick up a Hampton Bay cubbyhole cabinet contraption that will make storage much more pleasant in my bedroom during and after my PURGE that I am doing (see previous blog entries). I read the first half of this 300 page novel on the subway to and from picking up my new piece of furniture, and the second half I read while enjoying a cup of coffee at my favorite South Park Slope, Brooklyn neighborhood coffee hangout, Roots Cafe.

Not much to say about this book except for this: great story, and I could not help but be inspired by the urgency of Fogg's journey to win his bet and my own urgency now to finish 100 books in the next 9 or 10 days. Could Fogg travel around the world via ship, train, horse, and land sail? Can I read 39 more books in the next 10 days?

He could.

I think I can!

Let's just see.

Though I did not read any additional full-length books today, I read bits of several others as I continue to move towards my goal. I also spent I lot of time going through 15 years' worth of personal belongings as part of my home organization purge.

60 Books So Far as of September 16

This means I need to average 4 books per day for the next 10-11 days in order to accomplish my goal.

Can I do it?!?!?!?!?!

September 16: 2 Books

59. Walden by Henry David Thoreau


"To be awake is to be alive."

I read this book in high school, and I remember wondering if Thoreau might not have frozen his brain while living off the land at the pond for the time that he wrote Walden. In retrospect, this is actually a very well-conceived rumination on the individual's place in society and manifested by Thoreau's own basket weaving, house building, and farming efforts -- as expressed via the medium of journalling...something I have personally experienced at a very deep level (journalling -- not basket weaving, house building, and farming).

I dogeared 7 pages in my copy; it seems I will want to reread this book at a later date. If nothing else, Walden is the source of quote that my musician friend George Wurzbach paraphrased to start one of his songs: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

60. Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur's Soul: Advice & Inspiration on Fulfilling Dreams by Jack Canfield et. al.

I had to take my cat Stinkie to the vet this morning to learn how to give him vitamin B12 shots once a week from now on. They really kept me waiting a long time. So long that I literally read this entire 300 page book of short essays of entrepreneurial wisdom and inspiration during my bus rides to and from the vet combined with my wait time of an hour and a half or so. Very fast reading. Very inspirational stuff.

My favorite chapter was the one written by Jack Canfield in which he discusses his 10 step process for achieving success:
  1. Decide what you want. Be clear. this is something I am really, REALLY struggling with right now in my own life. What do I really want to accomplish in the next year, 3 years, 5 years, my life?
  2. Unleash the power of goal setting. Written goal setting with accountability.
  3. Visualize accomplishing these goals. See what you want, get what you see.
  4. Take action. On a daily basis.
  5. Use feedback to adjust goals and outcomes.
  6. Commit to constant, never-ending improvement. This one I have down.
  7. Exceed expectations. Oh, how I would love to exceed my own expectations!
  8. Stay motivated by reading, listening to, and speaking with masters, mentors, authors who have traveled this road before you.
  9. Hire a personal coach.
  10. Create a Napoleon Hill-style Mastermind (something that, thanks to my good friend Asim Khan, I am about to become a part of on my own road to self-improvement and success).
Great book if, like me, you are looking to inspire yourself regarding some entrepreneurial pursuit or life change. My overall experience of reading this book was very positive, and it was truly a page-turner. This one flew by!

September 15: ZERO BOOKS (no real time to read today)

I procrastinated most of the day in a haze of trying to motivate myself to go through 15 years' worth of personal belongings and initiate my personal PURGE, which I have written about earlier in this blog.

September 14: 4 Books

55. CPR for the Professional Rescuer by The American Red Cross

No, I did not take a CPR or EMT course...

Like most of the books that I plow through these days, I picked this one up at The Strand in Manhattan's Union Square. Published in 1993, this book did a good job of presenting an overview of EMS as a profession; the human body and how its workings pertain to mouth to mouth and CPR; and breathing and cardiac emergencies.

This book makes me want to take a CPR course. In the meantime, I hope I never have to use the techniques that I read about, and if God forbid I do, I hope I can remember what to do while under the extreme pressure and stress of an emergency situation.

56. The Mucusless Diet Healing System: Scientific Method of Eating Your Way to Health by Arnold Ehret

This is actually the book by Ehret that I wanted to reread the other day when I came across my copy of his other main work, Rational Fasting.

Ok, I know, I know -- it might seem to my readers like I am preoccupied with my bodily fluids. Indeed I am -- at least as they apply to my current state of health and how I can improve that state. I have lost 18 pounds since the beginning of the summer, and my intention is to lose another 15. In addition to eating a mostly vegan diet with meat every other day or so (this works best for my due to some ongoing food allergies that I won't go into here), I have been exercising a lot.

I noticed earlier in the summer that first thing in the morning, either my coffee or possibly the oatmeal that I was eating for breakfast 4 times a week was making me cough and occasionally giving me familiar food allergy-like slight asthma symptoms. Since then, I have wanted to get another copy of this book and reread about Ehret's diet consisting mainly of non-mucous-producing fruits and leafy green (non-carby) vegetables. I am sold now that this is something I want to incorporate into my own diet more and more going forward. To that extent, I have been snacking on apples with fresh almond butter and eating a lot of broccoli and other non-carby green veggies. I feel pretty amazing when I do...

57. Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life by Gail Blanke

This is a GREAT book on purging extra personal belongings from one's life. I cannot speak highly enough about this book, because it goes much further than the other one, It's All Too Much, also reviewed in this blog.

Unlike the other book previously reviewed, which focuses only on clearing physical clutter, extra personal belongings, things that haven't been used in over a year, etc., Throw Out Fifty Things goes further to suggest 9 other categories of emotional blockages and garbage that can be cleared / thrown away as well. This second section is the real treasure of this book.

Because a cluttered home can lead to a cluttered mind, and because a cluttered mind can in turn create a cluttered home, this book, in creating a system to eliminate all of that clutter, really resonates with my life right now. Alas, though I just read this book 4 days ago as I am typing this, I am FAR FAR FAR from really implementing this knowledge, very far from changing my own life as quickly or as positively as I would hope. However, I am definitely making progress...

58. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I was having dinner with my good friend Alan earlier tonight and we got to talking about some of the great works of literature. A huge Dickens fan, Alan was saying that compared to A Tale of Two Cities or the like, he could never understand all of the hubbub over a book like The Great Gatsby.

In a wonderful case of serendipity, after I walked Alan to the Union Square 6 train, I bopped back to The Strand and found, among other things, a used copy of that very book outside for $1.

I read the first half to 2/3 of this book on the train ride home (it's a short book) and finished the remainder after a nice phone conversation with my good friend Twyla, who loves this book. I have to say, for the first 2/3 of the book, I was completely in agreement with Alan. And then , once I got to the car accident and all of the shit hitting the fan after that, I have to say that I can see why people think so highly of this book. The writing is solid, and the story is engaging, most importantly with deep character development. I wouldn't mind discussing this book at some point with someone who has studied it in a literature course, so I can learn a bit more about what other people think of this work.

September 13: 7 Books

48. Cantonese for Everyone (Daai6 Gaa1 Ge3 Gwong2 Dung1 Waa2, Jyutping Version) by Chow Bun Ching

Ok, so just like with the Mandarin textbook from yesterday's post, I did not really read this entire Cantonese textbook today. Rather, I finished reading the last of 15 lessons this morning, in an effort to review this excellent beginner Cantonese Chinese textbook, from which I will be teaching this fall (see previous posting for ALESN website information; as always, all classes are FREE FREE FREE)...

I love this book. In my mind, it is SOOO much better for beginning (and especially non-ethnically Chinese beginning) adult students learning to speak Cantonese, the official language of Hong Kong, parts of southern China, and many/most of the expat Chinese populations throughout the world (though immigration patterns are changing with the current influx of Mandarin and especially Fukienese / Fuzhouese speakers to New York City and elsewhere in the West).

Unlike Chow's other beginning Cantonese textbook, Spoken Cantonese for International Students, which I taught from for the past 3 years, this book is geared towards adults interested in learning to speak the language for travel and basic business purposes. Very useful stuff. Definitely looking forward to teaching from this book. If any of my readers are interested in free Cantonese or Mandarin Chinese classes in New York City's Chinatown during the 2014-2015 academic year, please feel free to contact me for more information.

49. The Possible Human: A Course in Enhancing Your Physical, Mental, and Creative Abilities by Jean Houston

This relic of the 80s is a pretty decent, hands on cookbook filled with recipes for enhancing creativity and exploring one's ultimate, mostly sensory, potential. Like The Artist's Way, which I am about to review,  this is a book to be DONE rather than READ. However, given my shortness of time left for my Reading Challenge, and my belief that I might still absorb some of the wisdom inherent in this book without actually DOING any of the exercises, I decided to plow ahead anyway. I am glad that I did.

The same dimensions as The Artist's Way, this book surely must have influenced the publishers of the latter 10 years later. Highlights for me were the development of the concept of the NEBISH (Yiddish) in the chapter entitled, "the Art of High Practice;" an in-depth discussion of inner space and time, and how the passing of time is relative to the person experiencing the passing of that time; learning modalities vs. standard IQ test measurements in children (at least as of the 80s); a story of one tribe in Africa demonstrating an extreme example of how preconceived notions can determine our experience of the world, regardless of what actually exists or is happening in the world when we are experiencing it; the definition of a miracle on pages 197-198; and the activity of humming (singing) at the deepest level to bring forth our core being.

50. The Artist's Way: A spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

As cheesy as the mystique has become that has grown around this book and its followers, I consider myself lucky to have been introduced to this classic work of self-actualization literature just 6 years after its publication.

16 years ago this fall/winter, I was given this book as a present by then girlfriend and now one of my best friends, Twyla Heaney. We both lived in Hoboken, NJ, and met each other while waiting tables at the local Johnny Rockets diner. Twyla is great, and she was very supportive of me and my quest for my own musical creativity while she and I dated.

As mentioned above, this is a book that you DO -- not one that you read. I have "done" the book twice -- once in 1998-1999 and again a second time 8-9 years ago when I first moved to Brooklyn, to my current apartment. Because of this book, I have written over 15,000 pages in my journal since 1998 (not a typo). The Morning Pages exercise alone is worth the price of this book, which incidentally you can get very inexpensively on Amazon and, if you are lucky, occasionally from the $1 bin at The Strand in Union Square.

So much of this book resonates with my own personal life right now that I hardly know where to begin -- so I won't. In the interest of time, I will move on to the next review.

51. Organizing for the Creative Person: Right-Brain Styles for Conquering Clutter, Mastering Time, and Reaching Your Goals by Dorothy Lehmkuhl and Dolores Cotter Lamping

Lately, I have found myself disappointed with several of the books I have read in this genre. This book is ok, but it pretty much distills and then repeats the exact same information that I recently read from Stephen R Covey and other authors whose books are included in this blog.

Though ostensibly geared towards "right-brained" (creative) people, the book falls prey to the same criticism I had for another recent organization book which had obviously been written for "traditional" left-brained "business" people. And that is this: invention of book-specific jargon used to then create a system that really isn't and doesn't need to be that complicated.

As someone who struggles with the concept of organization, and specifically currently, with purging my life of all unnecessary CRAP, I was, again disappointingly, not really helped in any meaningful way by this particular book. It is not a bad book, but as with some of the others in this milieu that I have read over the past almost 3 weeks, this particular book didn't really provide me with the solution that I am seeking to my own life, work, and home organization issues.

52. Modern Man in Search of a Soul by Carl Jung

This is a very famous collection of essays by the Father of Jungian Psychology, Carl Jung. Imagine discovering a method of Psychology that already had your own name associated with it. How cool would that have been?


There are many good tidbits in this book, but 2 that stood out to me were:

1) The notion that we often presume that the psychological processes of other people function exactly the same as our own, and because of this, we tend to project onto other people all of our own shit, assuming that their motivations for anything and everything can be explained in terms of how we live our own lives. What a breathtaking falsehood this is, people.

2) We can only truly understand another person -- their life and motivations -- by really digging deeply into the meanings of that person's experiences and doing everything in our power to recognize ONLY the meanings of the experience(s) as they pertain to that other person -- completely separate from anything that we may think about our own lives and experiences. When one delve into this deeply enough and on a cultural level, it is known as A PARTICIPATION MYSTIQUE, in which the individual can for a moment forget about the specifics of his or her own life and at that moment proceed to a deeper alignment with a more human existence.

This is really good stuff!

53. Thinking and Language by Judith Greene

This slim volume begs the issue for me of whether I am cheating in some way on the present Reading Challenge. At 135 pages, I am not sure whether this book really qualifies in the same way as most of the others I have read so far. However, it was sitting on my shelf for at least a year or two, and though I really gleaned only one meaningful thing from my reading, I am glad that this one is out of the way. You never know until you read, whether a seemingly "important" book will live up to its promise...

I didn't realize until taking a photo of the cover just how sexual the cover image might be. Boy, that's fun.

In essay number 5, which is the title piece and which is located halfway through the book as a bridge between a series of essays on cognition and another series on language, the author does a nice job of summarizing, in 10 pages or so, the prevailing views (as of 1975) regarding how language develops from thought. This was pretty interested for me, an eventual intended linguistics grad student.

54. The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self bu Alice Miller

I suppose that I would be "just like" some psychologists to use case studies of crusty old white men to try to explain away everyone under the sun -- black, white, asian, hispanic, male, female, whatever. For me, this book falls under the umbrella of that unfortunate brand of "scholarship" which comes up with a Eurocentric premise and then attempts to extrapolate from the mental "workings" of a few white male case studies to show that these findings are somehow universal to all humankind, regardless of race, culture, language, or background.

I had first heard of this thin volume from one of my best friends in Hoboken, NJ 15 years ago. His shrink at the time had recommended this book, and I think that for my friend, this title may have actually resonated with his life and concerns at the time. Speaking only for myself, I was amazed that the author could not see the fundamental stretch of logic inherent in using only a small handful of case studies of powerful, famous white men in the last chapter to try to explain the conflicts that everyone goes through with their parents during childhood and adolescence.

Perhaps it is only because of 35 years of hindsight since this book's initial publication that I am even aware that this material might be explored in a more universal, less jargony fashion...?

September 12: 4 Books

44. Integrated Chinese Level 1 Part 1: Textbook Simplified Characters by Yuehua Liu et. al

Ok, I didn't really read this whole entire textbook today, but I did finish rereading it this morning. Two years ago, this was my beginning Mandarin textbook. This fall, I will be volunteer teaching beginning spoken Mandarin (with a native speaker TA) for ALESN (Asian Language Exchange and Social Network --, and I wanted to review the book and begin planning my first few lessons -- especially regarding how I will introduce pronunciation and tones, both of which are MUCH easier in Mandarin than in Cantonese, but which nevertheless always trip up most beginning students who have never studied a tonal language before.

I am really looking forward to teaching from this book. I love the stories and the characters created especially for this series of textbooks -- Wang Pang, Li You, Gao WenZhong, et. al. I start teaching the week of September 26, and can't wait. And they say, one never really knows something until one teaches it to others...

45. The Celestine Prophecy: An Adventure by James Redfield

This cheesy book was VERY important in the genre of self-helf and self-actualization literature when it first appeared on the scene in 1993. It reads as a pretty good page-turner adventure story with a bit of well-reviewed, stated and re-re-re-restated preaching throughout regarding the 8 teachings of a mysterious manuscript which, it turns out, no one EVER gets to see in its original form during the entire reading experience.

All "knowledge" from all 8 "known" teachings at best come second or third or fifth hand (just like the Bible) and, it might be argued, are more important because they are believed rather than because they are based on any actual original teaching from hundreds or thousands of years ago.

This book has some good points. It also presented many issues for me while I was making my way through the story. I enjoyed reading it, and if I had more time and weren't now pressed to finish these reviews and then get back to purging my personal belongings in my apartment, I would explore what works and what definitely does not work for me regarding this story.

46. Get a Freelance Life:'s Insider Guide to Freelance Writing by Margit Feury Ragland

As a published writer who has never really put much, if any, effort into pursuing my writing as a legitimate full- or part-time staff or freelance career possibility, I found this book inspiring and timely. As my readers can see from the orange Strand pricetag, I happened to pick this book up just the other day for $1.

Most interesting to me were suggestions for setting up a website to host "clips" (previously published works, of which I have a bunch); how to pitch article ideas; how to research and find experts for articles; a review of retirement plan possibilities open to freelancers, consultants, and independent contractors; as reminder that freelancers need to work with their accountants to file estimated taxes 4 times a year -- something I will need to establish with my own accountant as soon as my music and entertainment business consulting company starts bringing in revenue later this fall; and contact information for The Society of American Travel Writers.

47. Creativity and Conformity by Clark Moustakas

This book has been sitting on my shelf for a little over a year. It came from the 48 cent bin at The Strand in New York City's Union Square. I was immediately hooked by the title, and had intended to read this short collection of essays at some point in the future. My current Reading Challenge seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that.

 Essays include:
  • Uniqueness and Individuality
  • the Sense of Self
  • Creativity and Confirmity
  • Confrontation and Encounter
  • Honesty, Idiocy, and Manipulation
  • Beyond Good and Evil
  • Moral and Ethical Value
  • Self-Doubt and Self-Inquiry
  • Dimensions of the Creative Life
Sadly, because of the 20+ books I have read since this collection of essays, combined with my extreme delay in typing this review, I really don't remember much about this particular volume. I do remember thinking that, while perhaps these essays shed some new light on this territory in 1967, by today's standards, and in particular in view of the glut of recent self-help and self-actualization literature that I am reading and continue to read, this book did not seem to add much to my own personal understanding of the struggle to express oneself that today's creative individual must negotiate during his or her daily interactions with the world at large.

September 11: 1 Book and A Lot of Procrastination...

43. Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway: How to Turn Your Fear and Indecision into Confidence and Action by Susan Jeffers

This is a very famous book, which kept getting mentioned in Ken Robinson's The Element. I had a copy of this book in my store, which I had completely forgotten about, and the other day when I was shipping orders, I realized that this was the case, so I decided to read this.

This is an excellent book for people who might find themselves paralyzed by fear and unable to move forward in one or more spheres of their lives. This does not happen to be my personal cross that I have to bear right now in my life, and because of this, this book did not really resonate too much with my life. However, I recognize that it is indeed a classic in the genre of self-help literature.

If my readers are curious, my own personal issue, my own greatest problem that I am working on right now, is that I am interested in WAYYYYY too many things and so far in my life, I have not been able to focus or stay with any one of my passions or talents long enough to truly succeed and move to the top of one or more fields. This is hugely frustrating for me, and figuring this out is pretty much the focus of my life right now. It led to the end of an important romantic relationship earlier this year, and much more importantly, has created a blockage to my own personal happiness and fulfillment in life.

Not that this has anything to do with Ms. Jeffer's excellent book.

September 10: 4 Books

39. It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living A Richer Life with Less Stuff by Peter Walsh

I love this book. It is a reread of one of the more inspiring life organization books I have come across. If I had to choose one book on organization and PURGING, though, it might be the other, Throw Out 50 Things, which I will be reviewing shortly. THIS book (It's All Too Much) is a fairly no-nonsense guide to going through each room in a typical house and purging everything that is no longer relevant or needed in one's life.

My favorite, life-changing concept from this particular book is the idea of TAKING PHOTOS OF EVERYTHING THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS TO, but which you haven't used in over a year and which are taking up too much space. For example, not that I have this to contend with, but suppose you have a collection of large bowling trophies. The trophies need to go -- well, take pictures and then get rid of the trophies. Make sure the photos are good quality, and then cherish your memories via the photos going forward.

This book resonates deeply with my current life, because I am currently right in the middle of a MAJOR purge of my own personal belongings, in an attempt to make my home really resonate with my current life.

40. Zen and The Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss

This is a reread of a book given to me by one of my exes earlier this year. It was one of her two favorite books and she wanted to share it with me.

I have read SO many of these books lately that this one just blends into all of the rest. I don't recall anything particularly special about this one book, but I do recall being at least a little bit inspired to be a happier person while I was reading it.

I can neither recommend or not recommend this book. I suppose that if you are looking for a short, concise book that might help you to find some meaning and happiness in your life, depending on your personal life history and direction, this might be a nice book to read. There are some inspiring stories of the author's battle with drug addition and ultimate triumph over that downward spiral.

41. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson

This is the other favorite book of the same ex from earlier this year, given to me as a gift. I wanted to reread both books so I can sell them and, quite candidly, have one less reminder of said ex.

That said, this is a great book. Not an amazing or absolutely incredible book, but a really solid book about creativity and being true to oneself, and most importantly, about finding one's tribe -- in other words, seeking out other people who share your own particular vision and creative understanding of how the world works and how you want to approach the world.

My favorite anecdote is one about a famous dancer who was thought to be learning disabled and emotionally and mentally handicapped as a child. Fortunately, a guidance counselor recognized a possible source of the child's physically restlessness and seemingly spastic energy. Leaving the child in a room and observing from further away, unseen through a window, the counselor realized upon watching the little girl move throughout the room as she played out an adventure in her own mind, that the girl was a born dancer. He explained this to the parents, who promptly relocated their child to a school of the arts and the rest is history.

The point of this book, as far as I can tell, is that it is most important for each of us to figure out what we really are best at, which is usually also what we are most passionate about, and ten to surround ourselves with people who can bring this talent out in us as much as possible.Good thoughts, good thoughts.

42. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I read this book in high school French class. French was the second foreign language I studied (Hebrew being the first, as a child in Hebrew School -- but, really, who pays attention in Hebrew School?!)...

I excelled in French as a child, but didn't speak or read it for over 20 years following high school, until an interest in Cantonese Chinese rekindled a dormant interest in foreign language learning in general, perhaps 5 years ago. I recently purchased one of many vaguely "first" editions of this classic French language children's story and thought I would add it to my 1 month reading challenge.

The point of this book? Adults really ARE stupid compared to kids, aren't they? It seems that most adults have unlearned or forgotten the most important things in life, ideas that kids know to be so crucial to happiness and fulfillment on this planet...