Thursday, September 4, 2014

September 3: 2 Books

23. Don't Know Much About Geography: Everything You Need to Know About the World But Never Learned by Kenneth C. Davis

This is a charming 350+ page book on world geography for dummies, without actually being part of the "For Dummies" series. Same general premise, and in fact with rebranding and a yellow Dummies cover (or orange Idiots' Guide cover), this book could easily fit into either publisher's catalog.

Since my recently (re)discovered passion for travel (Israel in 2012; Hong Kong and Guangdung Province in 2013; Hong Kong and parts of China and Taiwan in 2014; and most recently, Mexico's Yucatan last month), I have been meaning to begin to study / review world geography in order to instill in myself a better grasp of where all of the major (and some of the minor) countries are located on this planet. This book is an excellent introduction and definitely accomplishes just that. I recommend it to anyone looking for a very basic but entertaining launchpad from which the reader might expand his or her interest in geography and travel.

24. Awareness: The Key to Living in Balance by Osho

This book is rather special to me. I did not know anything at all about Osho, and was informed yesterday by my mentor Ann's cousin Scott that Osho is actually one of only 2 Indian writers (Gandhi being the other) whose complete unabridged works are housed in India's National Library. I seriously doubt that this would be the case, and not knowing anything all about either Osho or the Indian National Library, I will need to do some research. Still, it makes for a very good story...

This book came to me via Steve, my Hong Kong AirBnB host this past February during my 1-month stay at his flat in Kowloon's Sham Shui Po District, my favorite Hong Kong neighborhood. In my room that I was renting was a small bookshelf. Towards the end of my stay, I realized that I would need to leave behind a few of my own books, and it seemed only fitting that I leave them on this bookshelf for future travelers to read and enjoy. In exchange, I asked Steve if I could borrow this book from the same shelf, intending to return it via mail once I finished reading it. Steve told me to keep the book, and it has been sitting on my own bookshelf for the past 6 months waiting to be opened and its wisdom gleaned.

Today I finally gleaned the teachings from this book. While some of it comes off as a bit preachy and cheesy, I have to say that I found this book to be a real "page turner," with many dogeared pages to prove my enthusiasm.

A few moments that stand out to me are:
  • A ridiculous story on page 7 of how not paying attention in our lives can lead to serious "foot in mouth syndrome." This story alone is worth the price of the book.
  • Transformation cannot happen when we are lukewarm. We must put all of our energy into the process.
  • The concept of watching and being aware of changes in the body as a first step towards cultivating a deeper awareness of our lives and our places in the world.
  • Identifying your particular tension, both physically in the body and spiritually in the mind and heart, from which attention and then clarity can occur.
  • Letting thoughts wash over you as you meditate -- nothing new here, but well-put by Osho.
  • The importance of spontaneity and decisiveness.
  • How the moment we can see and truly be aware of our faults, the faults will begin to melt away (once we have "owned" them, so to speak).
  • How cultivating an awareness of death and of the impermanence of our existences in this world will bring us deeper into awareness of ourselves and of how we relate to a greater impermanence.
Good stuff -- will definitely keep this book on my shelf of influential books for me to reread at a later date.

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