Category Archives: Inspiration

The Art of Asking

theartofasking_imageSometimes there’s a book that I pick up because I like the author.  Sometimes there’s a book I pick up because I like the cover.  Sometimes there’s a book I pick up because I’ve heard things about it.

And then there’s Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking.  I looked at it first because the cover intrigued me.  And then I thought it sounded pretty good.  And then I thought, “Oh my goodness.  She’s married to Neil Gaiman.”

So if you couldn’t tell, I’m a fan of NG.  Like, I think he’s easily one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever heard of.  Other than, like, Jesus, Pope John Paul II, Mother Theresa, and my parents.  Duh.  But he’s right up there.

Thus, finding out that his wife (who must be equally awesome because, NG) wrote this cool looking book about a meaningful concept meant that I was going to read it.

And let me tell you, it’s worth reading.

Palmer’s book is one of those books that, if you are female or a worrier or bad at asking or sensitive or artistic or a human being, you should read.  Mainly because it’s deeply personal, full of experience, and full of beauty.  The inclusion of her lyrics and photographs adds to her understanding of art and artists because she’s been there.  I mean, if there’s anyone who can say “been there, done that,” it seems like she might be the one.

And this is something we should celebrate endlessly.  I might not be someone willing to sacrifice everything for my art (because, frankly, I don’t know what my art is yet), but I have the utmost respect for those who do.  Because there is a level of bravery that they possess to which I can only aspire.

I’m counting this as my “self improvement” book because it inspires me to do something I’m really bad at: asking.  I think our culture generally does encourage us to be strong individuals and do things all by ourselves, which Palmer addresses, and I believe she is right to say that we all should be asking.  For help, for clothes, for encouragement, for love, for attention, for everything we need as human beings.

Asking is one of the scariest things you can do.  People can say no.  People can laugh.  People can make you feel insignificant.  But you’ll never know if you never ask.

So my goal is that, now that I have read The Art of Asking, I’m going to try to ask more.  Because I am human, and I need help.  And if I need help, I need to accept that sometimes only another person can give me what I need.

Conclusion: read this book.  It’s relatively short, incredibly good, and something from which we can all learn.  All the love in the world to AP, who has truly inspired me.

Now available in paperback from your local independent bookstore.

P.S. This makes me 9/63 on my Reading Challenge.  Whoo!

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An Unexpected Update

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned – it’s been an awfully long time since my last post.  For those of you who were waiting with baited breath, I apologize that you’ve probably passed out by now.  For those of you who forgot this blog even existed, here’s my reminder.

Life has been too hectic to write down comprehensible reviews, but I have been reading and now I’m going to give a super fast rundown of the past several months.  (And please note that my goal is to resume fairly regular reviews now that it is SUMMER and I don’t have essays to write or articles to read!!!)

18773666A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre – As usual, Macintyre made me read through this entire book in one sitting.  It’s the gripping tale of Kim Philby, one of the Cambridge Five, and his role as a double agent during the Cold War.  I can’t even begin to tell you how good it is, mainly because I just want you to read it.  Absolutely brilliant tale, fascinating insight into the men Philby betrayed, and all wrapped up in incredible storytelling that only Macintyre could give us.  A Spy Among Friends is due out in the US in hardcover July 29th.

18667978The Devil’s Workshop by Alex Grecian – The third in Grecian’s series of the Murder Squad (following The Yard and The Black Country) is quite a bit bloodier than I anticipated but, to be fair, it is dealing with the return of the most notorious murderer of all time – Jack the Ripper. As a… I hesitate to say fan because that’s just sick… person interested in the Ripper, I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of gore Grecian details in this novel’s murders.  I’ve done the research, I know what the Ripper victims suffered, I don’t need a reminder.  That being said, it’s a compelling tale with some pretty interesting twists.  Plus, the last page leaves you really wanting more.  For those of you who enjoyed The Yard and The Black Country, and who have a strong stomach, I definitely recommend this one.  The Devil’s Workshop is available now in hardcover.

41WF-Zh5jOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_You Are Not Special and Other Encouragements by David McCullough, Jr. – So this book is basically an extension of McCullough’s commencement speech, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.  McCullough addresses students, parents, and human beings in general in a sweet and funny collection of essays about the world.  As a student (and a member of a teacher-heavy family), I appreciated his commentary on students’ experiences in school now and the importance of accepting that not everyone is special, but that’s okay.  It’s funny, it’s poignant, and it’s pretty much perfect.  I’d recommend this one to every single person, just so that you can start to really accept that you are not special, and that’s what makes you you.  Available now in hardcover.

18170549The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan – A posthumously published collection of essays and stories from a promising young woman, The Opposite of Loneliness was a pretty tough read for me, mainly because she was about my age when she was killed in a car accident.  But, thanks to family and friends, Keegan’s works are collected here and they remind us of how much potential she certainly had.  The writing is crisp and clever and, while the stories’ subject matter was not always to my liking (college life, relationships, drugs), I appreciated the style.  Keegan’s essays, however, were beautiful.  Her ability to analyze life with real emotion and connection was wonderful, and I only wish the world could have experienced more of her writing.  Currently available in hardcover.

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Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope and Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid – Here’s where I get excited: The Austen Project!  Basically, six famous contemporary authors are rewriting the Austen classics in modern times.  Now, before you get crazy and flip out and call me a treacherous heathen, how dare I blaspheme Jane’s name, blah blah blah, let me say this: it’s funny.  For Trollope’s offering, Marianne loves Taylor Swift and Elinor is studying to become an architect.  Just think about that for a moment, and realize how perfect that is.  In Northanger Abbey, there’s the overwhelming presence of Twilight vampires at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  These two books are fun, lively, and totally worth the read.  What I’m loving about the Project so far is that the treatment of the novels would, I think, make Jane proud.  To know that her works have become so popular that people want to translate them into modern pieces is pretty neat. (And for those of you who freak out about this and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – which was amazing – and all the other “updates” to Jane, let me point out that just about every single romantic comedy, BBC drama, and novel not based on Shakespeare is pretty much based on Austen.  Clueless, anyone?  So don’t think that this is a new concept – it’s not, and it’s been successful before and it’s doing well so far this time around.  And so endeth my rant.)

1618The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon – The nice way to put this one is that I’m so behind the times it’s not even funny.  I don’t know how I haven’t read this book until now – it’s sweet, it’s funny, and it’s beautifully written.  I’m sure 99% of the population has already experienced the brilliance of this one, but for that 1% who missed it (like I did), just read it.  I’m not even going to try to summarize or explain.  Just read it.

 

9791A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson – Another old one that I should have read long ago but now that I’ve finally gotten there, I’m so glad I did.  As always, Bryson brings his intelligence and humor to the subject of the Appalachian Trail as he and his friend Katz try to hike the ridiculously long thing.  It’s super informative, super fun, and made me laugh out loud while I read it under a tree on campus.  If you’ve missed this one (like Curious Incident), you’d better get on it.

 

2029177Sundays at Tiffany’s by James Patterson – This is the first Patterson I’ve ever read, and I was pleasantly surprised.  I mean, let’s be honest – this isn’t the novel that will survive the test of time, nor will I say that it’s my absolute favorite.  However, I would recommend it to a friend and I would probably read it again.  Basically, the little girl’s imaginary friend leaves when she turns nine and then he shows up again when she’s in her thirties and dating a real jerk.  It’s magical, it’s sweet, and, again, read it in one sitting.  Well done, Mr. Patterson.

 

12331767High-Rise by J. G. Ballard – So let me begin with a moment of honesty: I only wanted to read this because I saw that Tom Hiddleston was lined up to star in the adaptation of it.  Now, for further enticement, Jeremy Irons has been connected with it.  All the reviews I’ve read of it said it was brilliant, genius, totally worth it.  I say, meh.  Basically, there’s a high-rise.  And people live in it.  But there are three almost distinct levels – lower, middle, upper.  You see where he’s going here?  As tensions rise between floors, people start dividing up and warring with each other and everything is pretty predictable if you’ve read any dystopian/sci-fi/general fiction ever in your life.  I’m of the opinion that it could have been condensed down from about 200 pages to about 5-10.  That being said, I can understand how it will make a compelling film if it’s adapted well.  This will probably be one of the few times when I prefer movie to book – but we’ll just have to wait and see.

And so endeth the list of things I’ve been reading (and that’s kind of the best of the best list). I won’t promise to be better about updating, but I’ll try my hardest and let you know how it goes.  As always, if you’re looking for a new book, I recommend finding your nearest independent bookstore and simply asking one of the workers what they suggest – sometimes that’s how you find that one book that changes your life forever.

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