Wednesday, September 3, 2014

August 29, 2014: 4 Books

5. The Road Less Traveled by Ms. Scott Peck

This book was recommended to me by an amazing woman named Susan Slavin, a very famous and important acting coach and originator of her own method in New York City with a popular studio across the street from Carnegie Hall. I was lucky enough to meet Ms. Slavin and her husband at my mentor Ann Ruckert's home several years ago. Last December, I was invited to a dinner at Ann's and reconnected with Susan. 

One month ago, I met Susan for a cup of tea and an amazing conversation about life and love and art and being true to one's vision, figuring out what one is here to accomplish on this planet and then making it happen. During our get-together, Susan recommended 2 books. This was one of them. 

I am pretty sure that I read this book either during college or perhaps when I first moved to NYC in 1998 or 1999. The book is divided into sections on discipline, love, religion and grace. The whole book resonated with what I am going through in my life right now, but in particular, the section on love -- on the differences between "falling in love" or "being in [romantic] love" and actually loving someone at a very deep level and what that means -- this was my favorite part of the book and indeed the reason that I would recommend this book to any of my readers. Having recently navigated a very disappointing breakup at the beginning of this past June, with sadness extending through much of the rest of the summer, I personally found this section both helpful and poignant in a way that will make me want to go back and reread it during future times of romantic uncertainly.

6. Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

This book was recommended to me a long time ago, but I never got around to reading it. Until now. I actually found my copy on the street last week, in someone's recycling.

This is a very insightful book about creativity in general, and about the writing process specifically. I was most impressed by the author's references to her friend Pammy, who unfortunately passed away of breast cancer. In particular, there is one passage on page 179 which brought me to the verge of tears -- seriously. These days, everything brings me to the verge of tears, as I am feeling my life very deeply now, which I think is a VERY good thing. 

Between a powerful romantic breakup in June; my own health scare a few months ago; my cat Munchkin's cancerous tumor that was removed 2 months ago; health issues in my family; my mentor Ann's fading health and various medical complications which need attention on a weekly basis; my cat Stinkie's recent health scare; a difficult decision that I made recently to stop dating a truly excellent woman, perhaps the best I have met in years, in order to be by and with myself for a while; and my current stress that I am feeling about my finances, I am definitely wearing my heart very much on my sleeve these days.

This book helped to remind me that not only is this ok, but that I should not be afraid to write about my feelings during my current process.

7. Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz

A classic 1960 self-help best-seller, written by a plastic surgeon who noticed that many of his patients' self image issues had nothing at all to do with their physical appearances or any defects in need of surgical correction, this book inspired me the first time I discovered it, approximately 8 years ago during a period in my life similar to the one I am going through right now. At that point in my life, like now, I was not officially "working" (for someone else) and spent quite a bit of my time and attention pondering and journalling about my place in the Universe.

I remembered this book resonating with "the me of then" -- so when I recently came across a 48 cent copy at The Strand in New York City's Union Square, it was a no-brainer for me to repurchase this title with the intention of rereading asap.

I am glad that I added this book to my list for my current personal challenge, which most likely will wind up including a huge proportion of self-help and self-actualization books, thereby killing 2 birds with 1 stone: allowing me to meet my personal challenge quota of 100 full-length books (or the equivalent) during a 30-day period AND at the same time helping me to figure out what I need to do to heal myself and move through where I am right now so that I can begin the next exciting phase of my very multi-faceted life.

I recommend this book to anyone wanting to reevaluate how you think about yourself,  your life, what you stand for, what you have accomplished, and most importantly, how other people's expectations have shaped your own inner monologue, which in turn have affected what you will allow yourself to accomplish in your life.

It is YOUR life, afterall -- right?

8. How You Can Give Yourself THE PRICELESS GIFT of a Rich, Cultural Education by Cornelius Hirschberg

This book was recommended by either The Renaissance Soul or Refuse to Choose, both of which were reviewed yesterday. Because I don't have either book in front of me right now, I don't remember which book suggested that I read this title. Sorry!

The point is, though, that this was a brilliant recommendation. What a great book!

Cornelius Hirschberg was a white collar middle class businessman who lived in New York City and rode the subway to work everyday during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. He wrote this book, which was published by Simon & Schuster in 1960, about his own personal learning odyssey, in which he utilized his 30+ years of subway riding time to read many, if not most, of the classic Western literature canon, as well as key works on various natural sciences, mathematics, music, the arts -- the list goes on and on.

Basically, Cornelius Hirschberg did exactly what I am doing right now. He lived his life exactly the way I am living my own -- intellectually -- and he did it 50 years before me! What an amazing, inspiring book -- one that I would recommend to anyone despite the steep prices that it currently commands on Amazon (I think I paid around $50 USD for my excellent condition copy with excellent condition dust jacket).

I welcome any comments or questions about this title in particular, as it is one of my favorites and will certainly rank in the top 10 of my 100 books this month.

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