Posts tagged ‘Nonfiction’

June 12th, 2013

The Dip by Seth Godin; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: The Dip

Author: Seth Godin

Published: May 2007

Number of Pages: 96

Rating: 2/5

Synopsis:

The old saying is wrong—winners do quit, and quitters do win.

Every new project (or job, or hobby, or company) starts out exciting and fun. Then it gets harder and less fun, until it hits a low point—really hard, and not much fun at all.

And then you find yourself asking if the goal is even worth the hassle. Maybe you’re in a Dip—a temporary setback that will get better if you keep pushing. But maybe it’s really a Cul-de-Sac, which will never get better, no matter how hard you try.

According to bestselling author Seth Godin, what really sets superstars apart from everyone else is the ability to escape dead ends quickly, while staying focused and motivated when it really counts.

Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt—until they commit to beating the right Dip for the right reasons. In fact, winners seek out the Dip. They realize that the bigger the barrier, the bigger the reward for getting past it. If you can become number one in your niche, you’ll get more than your fair share of profits, glory, and long-term security.

Losers, on the other hand, fall into two basic traps. Either they fail to stick out the Dip—they get to the moment of truth and then give up—or they never even find the right Dip to conquer.

Whether you’re a graphic designer, a sales rep, an athlete, or an aspiring CEO, this fun little book will help you figure out if you’re in a Dip that’s worthy of your time, effort, and talents. If you are, The Dip will inspire you to hang tough. If not, it will help you find the courage to quit—so you can be number one at something else.

Seth Godin doesn’t claim to have all the answers. But he will teach you how to ask the right questions. [From Goodreads]

Quote:

No one knows more about the way you think than you do.

Official Review:

In The Dip, Seth Godin puts to rest the myth that winners never quit, insisting that winners quit better than anyone else.

This seemingly contradictory statement disguises a simple idea: Winners know which roads to take and which ones to not bother with. Or, in Godin’s terms, winners know which Dips to struggle through and which aren’t worth the trouble. The Dip is the struggle on the way to success, the conflict that must be overcome before one can be successful. The Dip may be stress, lack of confidence, or more tangible problems like too few funds. Whatever it is, it must be surpassed in order for one to become “the best in the world.”

Godin’s primary point is that Dips are tiring, but worthwhile if you chose to fight through the correct Dips. If you’re wasting time and energy working through a Dip that will only lead to average, quit now. Quit fast. Reserve that time and energy for a Dip on the way to something extraordinary – something at which you will be the best in the world.

My qualm with the book is its repetitiousness. It seems many books of this sort fall into this trap. The same hypothesis is repeated over and over again. Of course, this is probably an attempt to remind the reader what the point is, but I found that it started to feel childish. I wanted to tell Godin that my attention span was longer than he was giving me credit for. Naturally, this is a small and petty issue when I consider the fact that I do think his theory is intriguing, not to mention the fact that the book can easily be read in little over an hour.

Though not a primary facet of his argument, I found Godin’s discussion of what being the best in the world means fascinating. He argues that “best” is entirely subjective. If someone wants their carpet cleaned, they won’t look for the best lawyer in the world, they’ll look for the best carpet cleaner. It stands to reason, then, that there are countless opportunities to be “the best in the world” – you simply need to figure out which niche you will excel in.
This aspect of the book was particularly interesting to me because it’s so promising. It operates as motivation to read and follow the rest of Godin’s guidance. It assures us that all the fumbling and confusion that we’ll have to deal with as we strive toward greatness will be worth the reward, as long as we’re working toward the right goal. Since when do people not want to hear, “It will be all right in the end?” The fantastic thing about Godin, though, is that he means it. He’s sure of it. His certainty not only in his method, but in the reader, is encouraging. It’s also rather infectious.

Ultimately, The Dip is a little book with a short but paradigm-shifting message: Figure out what you don’t want and quit messing with it. Figure out what you do want and fight till you’ve got it.

June 8th, 2013

Plain and Simple by Sue Bender; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Plain and Simple

Author: Sue Bender

Published: October 1991

Number of Pages: 176

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

An urban Californian vividly describes her sojourn with the Amish that changed her outlook and values and healed her fragmented life–complemented with her evocative drawings of Amish life, artifacts, and designs. [From Goodreads]

Quote:

There are a few within the review. Honestly, there’s no quote here because I forgot to look for one, and I want to post this now! Haha.

Official Review:

Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish is, I’m afraid, the sort of book I would probably never pick up of my own accord. Thankfully, my mom convinced me to do so, and any book recommendation from her has great weight, considering she doesn’t read much. To my delight, Plain and Simple turned out to be one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read.

I think one of the reasons the book resonated with me was its applicableness to issues I’m dealing with in my life, but its message is one that anyone could benefit from. It’s full of the sort of anecdotes that will be lodged in your brain, ready to be accessed when a need arises. Bender’s struggle, sort of a mid-life crisis, really, is so relatable. She’s not going through a drastic, dramatic change, but she’s dealing with the confusion and muddled nature of everyday life, trying to figure out what her place is in her family and where she belongs in this world. The dilemma may sound mundane, but upon reading Bender’s story, I realized that these are the issues that we inevitably face, often over and over again. I also realized that I’ll be reading this book over and over again when I find demons of self-doubt have risen once again.

A qualm I have with many books of this nature – self-helpy books – is monotony. It seems they always repeat the same “epiphany” in every chapter. The fact that this book weaves narrative with self-reflection helps eliminate this issue, but Bender also shows the reader how her epiphany evolved over time. Sometimes, in fact, she found that what she thought was a wise conclusion was, in fact, not, and she must keep looking for answers. In this way, Plain and Simple becomes less of a self-helpy book and more of a journey, an adventure.

I also appreciated the insights into the life of the Amish. It was fascinating to learn that there is much variation between different towns and families. Bender relates her visits with various Amish families in such a raw, unpretentious way that I felt like I was discovering and learning alongside her. She never judged their way of life, forcing her perception of them on the reader, instead displaying all that she saw and allowing the reader to form an opinion of their own.

This unpretentiousness is another factor that I loved. So often, I feel like the author of a self-helpy book is preaching to me. Bender never does this. She never proposes that she’s found the key to success and eternal bliss. Instead, she concludes with, “This isn’t a story about miracles, instant transformations, or happy endings. My journey to the Amish did not deliver a big truth. I’m not radically different. No one stopped me on the street and said, ‘Sue, I don’t recognize you. What happened?’ … And I am not wise. Not knowing, and learning to be comfortable with not knowing, is a great discovery. Miracles come after a lot of hard work.”

This simplicity is what makes Plain and Simple plain and simple. The messages of this book are not going to go over your head or be too abstract to apply to your own life. There isn’t really just one message. This book is a buffet of ideas and food for thought, and you’re left to do whatever you’d like with it. I love this. I love that it means this book can be something different for anyone and that it can be something new every time its reread. Plain and Simple is whatever you need it to be.

May 23rd, 2011

On Writing by Stephen King; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: On Writing: A Memoir of Craft

Author: Stephen King

Published: July 1st, 2001

Number of Pages: 288

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told. [From Goodreads

Quote:

Some of this book – perhaps too much – has been about how I learned to do it. Much of it has been about how you can do it better. The rest of it – and perhaps the best of it 0 is a permission slip: you can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.

Drink and be filled up.

Review:

I love this book! (That’s my favorite way to begin a review!) Some of the only things in this world that I find more interesting than writing are people. I’m fascinated by them – their loves, hates, motives, what they say – it’s all mesmerizing. I love On Writing because it is a book about a writing and an individual.

I have never read a novel by Stephen King. The closest I’ve gotten is watching Stand By Me on edited television (and oh my gosh that scene with the leeches!). I must confess that I’ve always considered his books… silly pop fiction, but it’s evident after reading his memoir that the dude is brilliant. I can’t wait to read his books now (recommendations are welcome)!

On Writing begins with the man and proceeds to the writer. We start with Mr. King as a child and get to see how he develops into one of the most well-known men of the past century. There’s probably not a single person in America over the age of twelve who would not recognize the name Stephen King. So upon what did he build his fame? His love and appreciation for writing.

I love that he digs into the minute details of writing. The craft of it. He begins by listing the essentials in a writer’s “toolbox”. I was really hooked once he delved into the more delicate aspects, specifically theme, symbolism, and dialogue.

As every one of you knows, I’ve been struggling with the second draft of my book, The Lemonites. Whenever I sit down to work on it, I freeze up and suddenly can’t recall any of the millions of ideas I’ve had. One thing I’m very aware of is the lack of an overall arc. I need to tie the entire book together so that it has that flow and wholeness that a good book has. A key to this is determining the theme of the novel, and Mr. King did a fantastic job of explaining how he goes about this. I finally feel like I can wrap my head around the concept. Here’s a paragraph from the chapter focused on theme:

When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest. Not every book has to be loaded with symbolism, irony, or musical language (they call it prose for a reason, y’know), but it seems to me that every book – at least every one worth reading – is about something. You job during or just after the first draft is to decide what something or somethings yours is about. Your job in the second draft – one of them, anyway – is to make that something even more clear. This may necessitate some big changes and revisions. The benefits to you and your reader will be clearer focus and a more unified story. It hardly ever fails.

That’s what I’m looking for: a more unified story.

Theme is one of the dozens of things I’ve learned from On Writing. It’s such an enjoyable learning experience, too! There’s nothing better than learning and being entertained simultaneously. I know that I retain more information when the delivery of said information is riveting. Stephen King manages to pull you in with his almost brutally honest examination of life and writing, and the load you learn is simply a bonus (and a much-appreciated one at that).

I will never be as intrigued by a hobby, past-time, or job as I am by writing. I love it. It truly is the water of life to those of us who have discovered its value. Writing is fulfilling. It is a way of life – a mentality. Why not read a book that teaches about and glorifies it?