While I don’t agree with everything Sebastian Junger writes in Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, I love the way he manages to articulate some things that I’ve noticed but never been able to describe.
Just last weekend I was camping, and we had this torrential rain storm. People rushing to get their boats off the water were hurrying so much that they lost their boats off the trailers. Rain came down so hard and quick, it broke tent poles and tents literally floated away. People had to dig trenches to get water out of their campsites. And it was fun. Granted, my sleeping spot was completely dry, so I speak from a position of privilege. But everybody getting together to help make sure people were ok, finding ways to keep important things dry, finding dry places for people to sleep and ways to feed everyone, that was fun. There was a real feel of community. Of adventure. Of responsibility.
When I tell people it was fun, they give me this look and then I end up back peddling, trying to describe what I mean. Sebastian Junger describes it well. He talks about how social bonds are reinforced during disasters and “that people overwhelmingly devoted their energies toward the good of the community rather than just themselves”. Social differences and economic inequalities are temporarily irrelevant, at least until outside aid comes in.
Communities that have been devastated by natural or man-made disasters almost never lapse into chaos and disorder; if anything, they become more just, more egalitarian, and more deliberately fair to individuals. — Sebastian Junger
The same thing happens to our veterans. They join a community that’s closely knit, that trains, sleeps and eats together. They are placed in high stress combat situations where they work together regardless of background or previous social differences. Where they all have a job, they are all needed and they all work together. Ask a veteran you know about their “team”, about the people that served with them. Most of them have told me they’ll never be that close to any other group of people in their lives.
Then we bring them home. To this super loose knit society. One where not many of us are needed beyond our immediate family. One where our purpose in life, our job, is not often clear. Or doesn’t feel like our job fits into a higher purpose. As Junger says, “part of the trauma of war seems to be giving it up.”
We all need to feel like we are part of a tribe. We need to feel connected to other people and we need to feel like our work is meaningful, that it helps others.
Just yesterday I read an article in the New York Times that theorizes that we can get teenagers to eat healthier by getting them to contribute to a cause as a community: “as students work together towards a shared purpose, the impulse to resist authority fades.”
So is modern society broken? Does it make people feel unnecessary? What tribes do you belong to? During what moments do you feel most useful and connected? What moments make you feel like your life has the most purpose?
I am also doing a series of 22 pushups for 22 days to raise awareness for veteran suicides.
First published on Medium.
Always Hungry? by David Ludwig is yet another diet book but one written by a respected doctor specializing in obesity in children. I really enjoyed several articles about Dr Ludwig and his ideas, so I was expecting something more from the book but all I got additional was lots of recipes.
- Dr Ludwig, like many others, blames sugar and refined grains for many of our health problems. I like how he explained it and provided supporting science and studies, but if this is why you are reading the book, I recommend Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. Dr Ludwig does do a good job of explaining inflammation, blood sugar and fat storage in a way that people without medical backgrounds might understand.
- I love his point that the process of getting fat makes you eat more, not the other way around.
- I hate reading cook books on the Kindle. Actually, I just hate reading cook books. I think you should search for recipes or ideas for recipes, not read them.
- The advice for how to eat healthy seems pretty consistent these days — avoid processed foods, refined grains and sugar — and just as hard to follow.
- He focused more on waist size than weight and only recommended weighing yourself once a week as opposed to most people’s recommendation to weigh yourself daily.
- His supporting quotes and stories were all about people who had lost 5–20 pounds instead of the tons of weight most diet books claim.
- New studies seem to be consistently saying that exercise is good but exercise makes you eat more, not less. I really wonder what we’ll be saying a decade from now.
- He doesn’t really talk about overweight kids at all in spite of his background.
- If I could not eat carbs, I’m sure I would lose weight. I would also be really sick of eggs and chicken and meat. And while I like vegetables and fruit, I just can’t imagine them replacing pasta.
- Unlike Atkins, Dr. Ludwig recommends lots of fruits and vegetables and eventually some grains and carbs.
What did you end up thinking about as you read the book or these points?
In March I read a bunch of science fiction and fantasy along with a few nonfiction books. I also discovered Kindle Unlimited. I had bought it for one of my kids, but I discovered this month that not only are there a lot of books that I like there but many of them come with Audible editions too.
I had a few long plane rides this month which led to lots of reading. I think I read 2.5 books on my way to Berlin after my laptop battery ran out. Multiple delays also added to my reading time.
Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance Chronicles). I remember enjoying books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman way back when. I used to really crave the next one and wait anxiously for it to come out. I enjoyed the book but didn’t love it in the same way I remember. I didn’t rush out to get the next one. But maybe that’s because I had Patricia Brigg’s book waiting …
Dead Heat (Alpha & Omega Book 4) by Patricia Briggs. I’ll read anything by Patricia Briggs so I had pre-ordered this one. It was as good as I hoped and I spent a good part of a weekend reading it.
A Shade of Vampire. This was a Kindle Unlimited book (so free for me) with 4.5 stars with 4,000+ reviews and I was looking for some light reading. It was an easy, quick read but not what I was looking for. It’s well written but I had a hard time with how they portrayed the male and female stereotypes – whether or not they were human or vampires.
Quantum Lens. Another Kindle Unlimited book. Pretty good science fiction. Lots of explanation but some action and character development too. Basically about what might happen if a few people had almost super-hero powers.
The Curse Keepers. It wasn’t a book I necessarily would have continued reading, but I really enjoyed the free Audible book that came with it. Supposedly Amazon keeps the audio and text versions synced – the sync worked for me the first time, but not after that.
Growing Up Fast: How New Agile Practices Can Move Marketing And Innovation Past The Old Business Stalemates was an interesting book about how larger organizations can incorporate agile processes into their innovation. I particularly liked the idea of setting up a cross organizational innovation team.
Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security. This book is most useful to people getting close to retirement. It’s written by a couple of people who also have software that will help you calculate the best way to collect your social security. By the time you finish reading the book, you will think their software is well worth the $40 it costs. I came away with the impression that social security is super complicated unless you are single and never married.
Nonfiction, a really painful read
The End of Power. I made it through this book but it was a struggle. The author’s premise is that power is becoming more distributed (I agree) and that because of that nobody will be able to get anything done (I disagree). He thinks that if we don’t have a few powerful countries, the world will continue to see more and more terrorism. I think we need a new way to work that takes into account the distributed nature of power – both at the governmental and the corporate level. The author gives lots of data and examples and defines power in interesting ways. However, if he allowed distributed works, I think I could rewrite the book with 80% fewer words. I don’t think I’m the only one that had trouble with this book. After Mark Zuckerberg picked it as his first book of the year, it sold out. Now, 2 months later, it only has 102 reviews on Amazon, so most of those people must not have finished the book …
Book Group: General Fiction Books
My first book and last book in February were for my book group.
The Girl on the Train was an entertaining thriller. I’m not sure what to tell you about it without giving it away, but it does make you question whether you know the whole true story about anyone you meet. The book might also make you stop drinking. It wasn’t the kind of book to drink while reading a glass of wine as the main character loses large parts of her memory due to alcoholism.
I really enjoyed The Rosie Project. I don’t know how realistic it was (I’m curious to see what my friends who have more experience with Asperger’s think) but it was an entertaining read about a man who starts a Wife Project, a survey to find the perfect wife. Then he decides to help a woman with the Father Project, a project to find her biological father. During the process they form a friendship and share many misunderstandings and hilarious moments.
Science Fiction and Fantasy, a bit of every type
Inescapable. I almost quit reading on page 2 when I read “using my mirror to refresh my lip-gloss”. There was a lot of description of clothing and looks. And the way one of the main character’s accents was done was kind of annoying. And the way the mystery is revealed is pretty artificial. On the plus side, I think, the author took all those awkward high school relationships and bundled them all up and shoved them into this book. While not my kind of book, I did read the whole thing.
Third Shift – Pact (Part 8 of the Silo Series) by Hugh Howey. If it’s been a while since you read the previous books, I recommend a refresher. The author just continues the story right where it left off with no reminder of who the characters are or what’s going on. If you haven’t read the Wool Silo series, I highly recommend the books. I think they’d be good for people who haven’t read much science fiction too.
Soul Identity. I thought this would be science fiction but it wasn’t really. It’s about an organization that believes everyone has a unique soul that can be identified by their eyes. And after a person’s death souls comes back in a new person – without any memories. People can leave wealth and belongs to their future soul hosts. The story was good – a bit of a mystery – and I think it’d make a good movie. I found the dialogue to be rather awkward and it was 95% dialogue. I prefer a bit more narrative mixed in.
The Shattergrave Knights proved to be the fantasy book I was looking for. I’d have preferred more character development but I was in the mood for an easy read placed in some fantasy world that resembles the middle ages only very slightly with swords and magic and this book fit the bill. (It’s also only 99 cents on Amazon.)
Tried but didn’t make it …
The Briar King. It seemed like one of those epics where the author has the story they want to to tell and then makes up the people to tell it. The characters were well done but the book was about the epic tale. (And according to Amazon I bought this in 2009. Maybe it’s time to give up?)
I made a resolution to read a book a week in 2015. As long as you are making resolutions, you should make them fun, right?
In January I read a great nonfiction book about New Orleans’ neighborhoods and culture, a good historical fiction book that takes place during World War II and a bunch of easy reading military scifi.
The first book I finished this year was All the Light We Cannot See. My book group chose this book and it’s a good story. It takes place during World War II and is told from the view point of an orphan boy who ends up in the army on the Nazi side and a blind girl whose father is the master locksmith of the Louvre. The girls’ father is one of 4 people given a replica of a jewel or the real thing and told to hide it. The boy is part of a crew designed to find and take down radio transmissions. The story is well told; the characters are well developed and the book is true to history. I recommend it.
I also said I’d read one nonfiction book and blog about it. For January, that book was Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans. This is the true story of nine people’s lives in New Orleans from Hurricane Betsy to Hurricane Katrina. I really enjoyed the book – partially because I have met one of the main characters, partially because I’ve been to most of those neighborhoods and mostly because it’s a good book. I blogged about it on Can You Cross the Street.
Then I got my military science fiction fix:
- Against the Odds (The Serrano Legacy Book 7) by Elizabeth Moon. If you like Elizabeth Moon and you’ve read the rest of this series, then you should read this one. She does a good job of developing a universe of cultures and characters encountered with the issue of immortality. If you haven’t read any Elizabeth Moon books, you are probably better off starting with one of the first books in a series set in the same world (this one or this one) or my favorite Elizabeth Moon short story, Chameleons. You can find it in The New Space Opera 2.
- Rich Man’s War. This is the second book in a series and the opening premise is an interesting one. What if we outsourced all education to companies and young people started out with a debt that was inversely proportionate to how much they had learned? The book is good and the story and characters are consistent but the characters don’t have a lot of depth. I read it and will most likely read the next books in the series some day.
- Lines of Departure. This is the second in the series and after the first one I didn’t think I’d read any more of them. They were a bit too much about military life and way too many battle scenes, even for a military sci fi series. And not enough character development. However, I was intrigued enough – and missing the characters enough – that I read the second one. It was still good but still just too much fighting and military life. And I really hope this is not what happens to humanity. Infighting, squabbling and fighting aliens. Not much of a future.
I perused the following books:
Tried to read …
I also tried to listen to The End of Power, the first book that Mark Zuckerberg choose as part of his 2015 resolution. It was really hard to follow when listening to it in 10-15 minute chunks. I gave up on listening to it and I’m reading it now.
What did you read in January?
Until today, I always considered New Year’s Resolutions as something hard. Something you didn’t really want to do but knew you should. Like lose weight, eat better, get more exercise, … then I read Mark Zuckerberg’s resolution. He’s going to read a book a week in 2015. (And the first book he picked sold out on Amazon.) That’s brilliant! That sounds like fun.
So I decided I too am going to read a book a week in 2015. And because I’m still stuck in this mode where New Year’s Resolutions should be hard, I immediately decided that at least one book a month will be a nonfiction book and I’ll blog about it.
So then I decided I need another fun resolution … meet a friend once a week for a soda or a beer?
What’s your fun New Year’s Resolution? The one that you are actually looking forward to?
My sister sent me a message asking for some fantasy book recommendations for a tween girl. No science fiction; old school authors are ok.
That’s my favorite kind of question! What did I like to read around middle school age?
Here’s the list I sent. Makes me want to curl up for the rest of the day with a pile of books. What would you add?
- Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong trilogy. I wanted some firelizards in the worst way! It’s about a girl in a fishing village who loves music but music isn’t what her family values to keep them all fed. It takes place in the same world as Dragonriders of Pern but the main character is school aged girl. (There’s no Kindle edition which is tragic.)
- Marion Zimmer Bradley is probably my favorite pure fantasy author but I don’t know if it’s the best for tweens. The Darkover books were the ones I was thinking of.
- So You Want to Be a Wizard? by Diane Duane was one of my favorites. It felt like it could happen to you. (And it is on Kindle. Kindle Unlimited in fact.)
- My 14 year old boy really liked all of Rick Riordan’s books. They are set in present day with mythical legend that live among us.
- I really liked Robin McKinley, especially The Blue Sword. I just reread them recently. And looking her up, I discovered that she has a book I haven’t read! So I bought Shadows for my plane ride home tonight.
- And of course, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Except I think I was more of a teenager than a tweener when I enjoyed that.
What else would you add to the list?
Anything You Want is a book by Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby. Derek shares how he created a muli-million dollar company (supposedly he sold it for $22 million) as well as his philosophy around why you should start a business and how he ran a company. It sounds like he’s a pretty unique individual and some of his ideas are pretty thought provoking.
Derek insists you should focus your business on what adds value to the customer. When he started CD Baby, he was really just looking for a way to sell his music without a distributor. He ended up creating a website and setting up a merchant Visa account. (This was in 1997, pre Paypal and pre lots of web tools.) A friend asked him if he could sell his CD too. Before he knew it, he had a warehouse of CDs from independent musicians and an online business. His goal wasn’t to make money selling their CDs (although he did) — his goal was to enable musicians to reach an audience.
When thinking about your “business plan”, he recommended pushing yourself. Ask what you’d do if you only had $1,000. If you wanted ten times as many customers. If all your first assumptions were wrong. If you had to do it without a website. If you wanted to franchise it. He recommends examining your life that way too. Plan your life for the next couple of years. Then think, “Now you’re living in New York City, obsessed with success. Go!” Or “Now you’re a free spirit, backpacking around Thailand, Go!” And keep imagining …
He also has some really unique views on running a company. It’s hard to tell if his tactics worked really well or if he’s just not telling us about the daily trials; he very successfully ran a very large distribution business and he doesn’t talk much about the logistics. His uniqueness comes through in things like hiring friends of current employees without an interview process and putting the friend in charge of making sure they are trained and successful. He also worked hard to empower people. When he made a decision, he made sure to explain why so that someone else could make the decision next time. It’s also worth pointing out that he didn’t seem very interested in running a business and was very hands off. His idea of success was a business that ran itself (which seems like a great business goal!) and eventually he realized he wasn’t very interested in running it at all. He put the company in a charitable remainder trust and sold it. Now he lives off the trust and the remainder will go to music education when he dies.
The book Anything You Want is a really short read if you want to give it a try. It took me about an hour on the airplane to read and I enjoyed it.
Last month my book group read The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling. Although I wouldn’t call her my favorite author, I loved the Harry Potter series – I started reading the first one on an airplane ride home and actually sat at the airport to finish the book before I drove home. I was really curious what she’d be like writing in a different genre. I was particularly impressed that the book did well before anyone knew she wrote it.
I confirmed for myself that the genre matters to me. The Cuckoo’s Calling was a good mystery. It was full of details that kept you guessing until the very end but in the end I didn’t find the story fascinating. I actually found the descriptions of London, the city, the locales and the different types of societies much more entertaining than the plot. I’d say J.K. Rowling has both been looking at real estate and getting glimpses into other lives like the rich and famous and models.
I missed the book group discussion but heard that half the group loved the book and half hated it … that makes for some good discussion!
So what do you think, would you like your favorite author in any genre?
If you have an Amazon Prime membership, you can check out a book a month on your Kindle without paying anything extra. The problem is it’s really hard to search for which Kindle books are part of the program.
Here’s a link to an Amazon search result that will show you all the Prime eligible books:
Amazon Prime Kindle Books
You can also get to this page by going to Amazon, searching in books and checking the “Prime Eligible” box but half the time the box doesn’t show up for me and I can’t click it, so I just bookmarked the link.
Now I just wish you could check out more than one a month …
Disclaimer: my affiliate code is in the link above so I will get a referral fee if you buy a book using that link.