Non-Fiction

Everything that Remains

Everything that Remains

Summary:

Twenty-something, suit-clad, and upwardly mobile, Joshua Fields Millburn thought he had everything anyone could ever want. Until he didn't anymore.

Blindsided by the loss of his mother and his marriage in the same month, Millburn started questioning every aspect of the life he had built for himself. Then, he accidentally discovered a lifestyle known as minimalism...and everything started to change.

In the pursuit of looking for something more substantial than compulsory consumption and the broken American Dream, Millburn jettisoned most of his material possessions and walked away from his six-figure career.

“Everything That Remains” is the touching, surprising story of what happened when one young man decided to let go of everything and begin living more deliberately. Heartrending, uplifting, and deeply personal, this engrossing memoir is peppered with insightful (and often hilarious) interruptions by Ryan Nicodemus, Millburn's best friend of twenty years.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

While this book was good, if you’re familiar with “The Minimalists” and have read many of their essays online you’ll find that this book is repetitive content.  If you’re new to the minimalism and are not so sure about it, this will be a fantastic book to introduce you to the concepts.

I had read much of the web content followed by “Minimalism: Life a Meaningful Life” and found it much more helpful in my life because I was looking for ways to apply minimalist concepts.  I can’t say that I dislike this book, because when I read the essays online this was revolutionary to me, but having recently gone back I found myself and skipping ahead since I had remembered the content.  That being said, I am probably going to send this book to people in my life that are confused or have questions about the concepts!

Rating: 3 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone interested in minimalism or learning how to do more with less.

Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions

Our Iceburg is Melting

Summary:

This charming story about a penguin colony in Antarctica illustrates key truths about how deal with the issue of change: handle the challenge well and you can prosper greatly; handle it poorly and you put yourself at risk. The penguins are living happily on their iceberg as they have done for many years. Then one curious penguin discovers a potentially devastating problem threatening their home - and pretty much no one listens to him. The characters in this fable are like people we recognise, even ourselves. Their story is one of resistance to change and heroic action, confusion and insight, seemingly intractable obstacles and the most clever tactics for dealing with those obstacles. It is a story that is occuring in different forms around us today - but the penguins handle change a great deal better than most of us.

Based on John Kotter's pioneering work on how to make smart change happen faster and better, the lessons you can learn from this short and easy-to-read book will serve you well in your job, in your family, and in your community. And these lessons are becoming ever more important as the world around us changes faster and faster.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

For being a short read, I found this book tedious and felt like I was taking some idiot-proof training.  Frankly, while I understand the principles and good-intentions, the information presented in the fable is self-evident to anyone who has worked in the corporate world already.  Since it was highly recommended to me by a colleague I was a bit surprised.

Though there may be some pragmatic recommendations in the book, I’ll be shocked if I see anyone who uses them as a practical skill.  All that being said, if this book helps folks break down how to work with their colleagues during transformational change: power to them.

Rating: 2 stars!

Who should read it? Folks new to business who are looking for some background on corporate change, but otherwise I’d give it a skip

Master of Alaska

Master of Alaska

Summary:

The detail and research that author Roger Seiler used – from biographies to actual letters and reports by the Governor Baranov himself - creates a riveting story.

“Master of Alaska” - a compelling Historical Fiction about the first governor of Alaska sent to the colony by Russia in 1790 – George Washington was President at the time. “Master of Alaska” starts in October 1790 when Aleksandr Baranov left his family in Russia and sails across the North Pacific to Kodiak to become the chief manager for Tsarina Catherine the Great’s colony in the far Northwest of North America. Baranov is shipwrecked, saved and adopted by the Aleut natives. Later he is forced to marry Anooka the daughter of the tribal chief, despite still having a wife back in Russia to save his men from starvation. Only slated to serve five years, Baranov spends the next 28 years in Alaska, surviving natural disasters, a massacre of his people at Sitka, meddling competing Russian authorities, a British attempt to undermine his colony and an assassination attempt. Interestingly, Baranov’s native wife and teenage daughter play an intricate role and contribute much to his success and survival in Alaska. Baranov built an empire and sought peace with the warring Tlingit, and thanks largely to his efforts Alaska is part of the U.S. today.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Please note: I received a free copy of this book courtesy of Sage’s Blog Tours and I voluntarily chose to write a review

Review:

This was as a 3.5 star book with some fantastic history naturally weaved throughout.  The early information I had about for Alaska was very sketchy and it was fascinating to get an in depth timeline without reading simple dry facts.  I liked that the arc was told through the experiences and challenges of Baranov although some times the events jumped from one to another fairly quickly.  One thing that is for sure is that life in Alaska wasn’t for everyone!  I have always wanted to visit and this makes me even more determined to make it up there.

One thing that I found a little distracting throughout the book was the very matter-of-fact dialogue throughout.  I couldn’t tell if this was something due to the translation of letters, a choice by the author or the form that the individuals naturally took.  It didn’t take away from the overall story, but did keep me from being completely absorbed in the story.

Warning: Contains some violence and sexual content.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Fans of history and true adventure.

My Salinger Year

My Salinger Year

Summary:

At twenty-three, after leaving graduate school to pursue her dreams of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff moves to New York City and takes a job as assistant to the storied literary agent for J. D. Salinger. She spends her days in a plush, wood-paneled office, where Dictaphones and typewriters still reign and old-time agents doze at their desks after martini lunches. At night she goes home to the tiny, threadbare Williamsburg apartment she shares with her socialist boyfriend. Precariously balanced between glamour and poverty, surrounded by titanic personalities, and struggling to trust her own artistic instinct, Rakoff is tasked with answering Salinger’s voluminous fan mail. But as she reads the candid, heart-wrenching letters from his readers around the world, she finds herself unable to type out the agency’s decades-old form response. Instead, drawn inexorably into the emotional world of Salinger’s devotees, she abandons the template and begins writing back. Over the course of the year, she finds her own voice by acting as Salinger’s, on her own dangerous and liberating terms. 

Rakoff paints a vibrant portrait of a bright, hungry young woman navigating a heady and longed-for world, trying to square romantic aspirations with burgeoning self-awareness, the idea of a life with life itself. Charming and deeply moving, filled with electrifying glimpses of an American literary icon, “My Salinger Year” is the coming-of-age story of a talented writer. Above all, it is a testament to the universal power of books to shape our lives and awaken our true selves.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This was a coming-of-age memoir that had me of two minds.  I adored the experiences with the books, at “the Agency” and how Rakoff is trying to find her way in life. What I didn’t enjoy was her choices regarding her relationship and how she managed to just go along with everything in that perspective.

Don’t get me wrong, I know this is a memoir, not fiction – yet there seemed to be so little retrospective concern over the relationship that it made me sad.  For someone who seemed to see so clearly within the publishing industry, she wasn’t able to see clearly personally.

That being said, this book was charming and the nostalgia strikes you deeply as a reader.  I enjoyed the perspective and the overall enjoyment remembering what it was to live in New York in your early twenties.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone willing to visit the older publishing world and New York in the early 90’s.