Wednesday, September 3, 2014

August 28, 2014: 4 Books

1. The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People by Carol Eikleberry

This book was originally recommended to me by my good friend and sometime Urdu instructor, Asim Khan. Asim is a smart cookie. With a law degree from U Penn, he may be classified as a "nonpracticing attorney," having passed the bar in NY State, but instead choosing to work in grant writing / fund raising for Carnegie Hall. Asim and I met in my mentor Ann Ruckert's musicianship class, which we took together for several years' worth of Saturdays in the mid 2000's.

A very interesting human being, Asim is currently exploring multiple life interests and passions: comic book writing and creation; computer animation; songwriting and music production; guitar playing; Sesame Street-style puppetry...the list goes on...I find Asim very inspiring for his relatively fearless commitment to himself in recent years, to literally jump into the deep end, in many ways defying his traditional Pakistani upbringing in order to pursue a uniquely American concept - -that of "following his bliss," to cite the great mythologist Joseph Campbell.

Like Asim, this book, The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People, is full of stories and strategies for pursuing an untraditional career path -- if that is your thing. It is definitely Brendan's thing, if my readers haven't already figured that much out from this and other blogs and my Facebook, if you are one of my 1200 current "friends." My personal copy is now full of blue highlighting, and I plan to devote much attention from next month on exploring and putting into practice many of the excellent suggestions in this bible for wacky people like me who want to figure out how to do something crazy -- namely to discover or create for ourselves careers that at once fulfill both a need to make money AND, perhaps more importantly for some, to be true to our deepest, innermost workings...what makes us US.

2. The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One by Margaret Lobenstine

I love this book. In fact, I am actually playing catchup, typing these entries...out of the 23 books I have read so far during this challenge, this book and the next one are 2 of my reigning favorites, as pertains to the impact they have had on my personal self-actualization quest. Both resonate with me deeply, and both are re-reads.

The Renaissance Soul sets out to paint a vivid picture of a personality type exemplified by Leonardo daVinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Maya Angelou, and countless other special people throughout history who have had many, many interests and talents, and who have refused to allow themselves to be caged or pigeonholed by peers, by society, by the world at large. Lobenstine then explains that this personality type is alive and well in today's [Western] world, and further suggests [quite intelligently] that anyone reading this book most likely falls into this category.

Well, as I say, this book is a reread. I initially discovered it via an hour or two of browsing on Amazon about a year ago, at which point I ordered it, read it, the book rocked my world, and then I promptly set it aside and moved on with my life -- even becoming passionately involved with a woman from Chile who subsequently broke up with me because I am this way -- because my brain and life function exactly as described in Lobenstine's godsend of a book. 

Man, was I inconsolable for several months earlier this summer after this particular breakup -- until I realized that I am not the one with "the problem." In fact, my life and my way of approaching life and career are something to be celebrated -- NOT something to be ashamed of, or "something that I should have grown out of by age 41," as my ex- had suggested many, many times during the breakup.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with many, many interests who finds it challenging or even impossible to reconcile your life and forge ahead with a career that both makes sense and makes money.

3. Refuse to Choose: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams

If The Renaissance Soul lays out a basic framework, a storyline, via which people like me can begin to really accept ourselves and our gifts and stop listening to naysayers. Naysayers who would have us conform to a societal expectation that never fit us in the first place about what kind of career we should have, always demanding of us this question: why can't we just pick one thing like so and so did and just do that as our job instead of daring to be so different and weird and stuff?

If this resonates with you and your life, then Refuse to Choose will help you perhaps even more than The Renaissance Soul by proposing actual coping strategies and practical solutions that might lead to some kind of practical career and life fulfillment. This is really good shit, people!

Not that Lobenstine's book doesn't propose coping strategies and solutions for wacky multiple-interest people in today's career world, but I just happen to find that the suggestions in Sher's book resonate more with my personal, particular life journey on this planet.

Both books are great, but Sher's, via her expose of 11 types of "scanners" (people with multiple interests who, like me, find it hard to reconcile everything into a "bigger picture" that makes sense career- and life-wise), and her specific suggestions for ways that each type can find career fulfillment is both inspired and inspiring.

This is a TOP, TOP, TOP pick, people. Definitely read this book if you have ever struggled with many different interests and how to reconcile them all into a meaningful career or if, like me, you still ask yourself every single morning, "What the hell do I want to be when I grow up?"

4. The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde

Man, this book was disappointing! I finished the reading experience literally pissed off for having wasted moments of my life slogging through this poorly packaged thing. First of all, the book's title is ALL WRONG! This book actually has very little to do with "Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World" in the general sense that the cover would lead the reader to expect. 

Let me explain...

The book is divided thusly:
  • The first 1/2 of the book is a somewhat engaging discussion of the worldwide and historical concepts and ramifications of "gift giving" from a Western, academic, anthropological perspective. There is a bit of grad school anthro jargon here. Fine. Probably would have been much more interesting to me circa 1993-1994 when I was immersed in my senior year at Duke University as a cultural anthropology major. Ok -- no problem...Wouldn't have been my choice of reading material now, for my 2014 life in New York City. I understand that the author began the book by making a point that "art" is a gift from its creators to society. However, what made him (or his publisher) think that devoting 200 pages to the concept of gift-giving and gift-exchanging throughout history, mostly in ways that have nothing whatsoever to do with poetry or music or art, would shed any kind of light on the larger concept of Creativity with a capital "C" that the book's cover promised to explore?
  • The 2nd 1/2  of the book is divided fairly evenly between a very academic analysis of the poetry of Walt Whitman and a second very academic analysis of the poetry of Ezra Pound, in particular during his most anti-Semitic period. REALLY? Are you fucking kidding me, because I was under the impression that this was going to be a book about "creativity and the artist in the modern world" -- not about the work of two white male poets from quite some time ago, neither of whom really has anything at all to do with the modern world.
  • Actually, there is a 12-page chapter following all of this academic bullshit in which the author does discuss this much anticipated topic. The title of the chapter? "Conclusion."
To be fair, I found this book on the street 2 weeks ago in someone's recycling, so I shouldn't look a gift book in the spine, so to speak. I cannot recommend this book -- unless you love Whitman or Pound, you really want to know about what stuffy men think about other cultures that give and receive gifts, or you plan to only read only pages 356-368.

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