#amreading The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

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The title. Obviously.

My first thought: the title is a gimmick to sell self-help in an inundated market. My second thought: yeah, I’ll buy it.

I’m at the point in my life where I really don’t give a f*ck what people think most of the time…so, I’m hoping this book will enlighten the way to feel like this all of the time.

I’m also hoping this book will be as honest and practical as its title suggests.

Looking forward to some great nuggets to use on this journey of growth and search for equanimity I seem to have unwittingly embarked upon.

Seems like a short straight-forward read…can’t wait to share my thoughts on this one.

Have you read it? Would you recommend it?

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Jane Austen: An Illustrated Treasury

I received this book just over a week ago as a Christmas present from one of my beloved students.  I was touched that a student had taken the time to think of a gift that I would appreciate and like.

I have always loved the works of Jane Austen – even though that might not be a fashionable statement amidst those who believe she is not really literature.  This book by Rebecca Dickson begs to differ.

Dickson divides her book very neatly into an introduction and detailed chapters that are ordered according to the publishing  dates of Austen’s works.  Each chapter focuses on the details and plots of each novel, offers interesting notes on the nineteenth century and provides insight into Austen’s personal life.  Dickson peppers her work with anecdotes about the many films that have been made based on Austen’s work and incorporates many works of art that truly capture the feeling of the nineteenth century.  Amidst all of this, there are copies of portraits made of Jane throughout her life, copies of handwritten letters, poems and even editing notes Austen made to her last novel, Persuasion.

Dickson makes many interesting parallels between Austen’s life, the people who surrounded her and the characters and stories of her novels.  Dickson’s claims are substantiated by solid research and her easy writing style makes you feel like you’re chatting to a friend who is well schooled in all-things-Austen and not a high-brow professor of literature.

It’s been a few years since I have read a Jane Austen novel.  Between teaching English, being parent to a toddler and tyring to write more – little time is spared for reading anything new, never mind sitting down to an old favourite.

Dickson’s book has changed my mind.  Recently, I posted about my new BlackBerry Playbook and the desire to start reading ebooks.  I was debating whether to read something new or begin my ereading experience with something old and comforting.  At the time I was leaning toward new, but Dickson’s book has changed my mind.  I crave to read one of Austen’s books in light of all my new knowledge from Dickson.  The question now is, which one will it be?

All in all, Rebecca Dickson doesn’t present any mind-blowing information about the author.  She creates a portrait of a woman who knew very well what she hoped to achieve through her writing and a writer who knew enough about the cultural constraints of her time to reach those goals with humour and disguise them with themes of love.

It’s fun to poke through the clear envelopes, held together by seals of Austen’s silhouette, and (try to) read Austen’s handwriting and look at portraits.  Dickson makes the foray into reading about Austen as much fun as it is to read an Austen novel.

Jane Austen: An Illustrated Treasury

Jane Austen: An Illustrated Treasury is as pleasing to read as it is to look at.  As an English Teacher, Rebecca Dickson’s book will definitely be part of my arsenal to sell Jane Austen to a new generation of readers the next time I teach one of her works.  I believe any fan of Jane Austen will devour this book that will adorn a coffee table well and offer insightful research on a beloved writer.

A Review of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project was selected as summer reading for my book club.  As soon as I heard its title I knew I was meant to read it; it was as though the title seemed to encapsulate my mission for the past few months:  become happier.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I marched into the bookstore, found it, ran my hand over the bright blue cover and felt the chill of anticipated reading. Unfortunately, life took over and I wasn’t able to open my book for about a month.  But, it’s bright yellow letters kept calling out to me, reminding me of the promise of happiness to come.

Once I was finally able to sit down to enjoy Rubin’s journey I found myself struggling to get through the first chapter, “Getting Started”. My reasons were personal. Part of me was annoyed by Rubin because she does have a great life – a life that most people would envy.  I quickly realized that my life somewhat mirrors hers, and I was reading her book because I too was on the search for the daily, feel-good feeling.  Alright, I thought, just give her a chance. But, I didn’t want the background; I wanted the project. I was glad to see the chapter end quickly so I could get to the good stuff.

I appreciated that Rubin acknowledged her inner critic about the reasons behind her project. She knew that she wasn’t in a crisis; she just wanted to make her life better.  This made her journey credible for me, and to a certain degree, validated my own search for happiness. I wrestled my inner judge and told her to keep quiet because Rubin was on to something that just might help me.

The idea of tackling so many different parts of your life is daunting, but Rubin’s decision to focus on a different goal each month makes it less overwhelming for those of us who are not as well versed in happiness research.  Research on happiness is the backbone of this book.  Rubin smoothly supports all of her observations and reflections with quotes from scholars and saints, her favourite books and novelists, and current theories in popular culture.  Rubin made each chapter seem accessible, doable and this perhaps is the book’s greatest virtue. Rubin’s monthly objectives makes it easy for readers to find the area of their own life they wish to improve and focus on Rubin’s experiences, research and suggestions to help them on their own road to happiness.

Rubin’s voice was pragmatic throughout her work.  She seemed accessible and genuinely impassioned by her project.  I appreciated her honesty about her failures and the repetition of her truest motto to be herself.  The parts of the narrative that made me most uncomfortable was when Rubin became self-deprecating. I found it unnecessary.  She was too hard on herself.  However, I believe that this is also a symptom of modern womanhood – we expect too much of ourselves and do not treat ourselves well when we fail to meet those expectations.  Ultimately, this too is a lesson for increasing personal happiness.

Although I see the value in including responses from her readers on her blog, I didn’t find them necessary or altogether enlightening.  Perhaps it was a way of validating her experiment by showing that others experience similar feelings and situations.  It  sometimes felt that inserting these seemed like padding to the book.

I recommend this book to those who perhaps are not well read in the areas of self-improvement.  I think it’s a great work to help anyone who wants more happiness to get started.  For those who are more aware of happiness in their life and how it is affected by the decisions they make, this book might seem a bit basic.  Nevertheless, the extensive research Rubin highlights on happiness throughout her narrative does prompt moments of self-reflection and insight for readers.

Overall, Rubin presents a compelling case for one’s ability to obtain happiness.  She does it with honesty and humour.  Rubin’s extensive research and incorporation of this research throughout her work helps readers understand that finding happiness is a most noble and even necessary pursuit.