June discussion: Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins

First off, big ups to BookAtlas where I found this funky Penguin cover.  Check BookAtlas out if you get a chance; it’s pretty neat, they post the first/last lines of the books with some quotes.

Sorry that I’m running a bit late again.  The thing is . . . I took practically no notes at our discussion of Beautiful Ruins! It wasn’t that we didn’t have plenty to talk about either.  We had a great turn out and everybody definitely felt something for this novel.  Several of the steepers weren’t able to finish the book, in fact, Tara (who chose the book for us) admitted that this was her third attempt at reading the novel.

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The Last Lecture

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For the month of July, we decided to read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.  I’m sure you remember the big craze that this book caused a few years back.  It was talked about all over the place, on Oprah and every conceivable morning talk show.  We all were pretty pleased when it popped out of the teapot.  Melissa was psyched because she had recommended it and also loved it, having read it twice before.  Those of us who hadn’t read it had always meant to and the fact that it was pretty short was welcome for the busy summer months.
For the most part, we were disappointed.  Many of us had heard such amazing things, that this book would change our lives even, so we expected some earth-shattering realizations to come from Mr. Pausch’s tale.  During my reading of this book, I came to call it The Randy Pausch Show!  Most of us felt that Randy Pausch came across as not an entirely nice person who was awfully proud of himself for having been difficult.  He seemed thrilled to share stories of his arrogance (which I guess is the definition of arrogance anyway).  Of course, we figured it’s good to know that he remained true to himself and didn’t try to represent himself as some sort of saint.
Some of the things we as a group took away from the book’s lessons:
Some of Randy Pausch’s lessons were not-so-good.  For instance, he was asked how to be a success and tells the reader that for many years if you called his office at 10pm, he would answer the phone.  The Read It & Steepers agreed that this recommendation is not sound.  Someone even added, “Yeah, but you’re dead now.”  This sparked a very interesting conversation on work/life balance.  Here’s my input on that subject: There should never be any such thing as work/life balance.  Life your life.  Work is secondary.  Important to life?  Absolutely, but it shouldn’t be what your life is about.  Work to live, my friends.  Don’t live to work.  Where’s my book deal?
However, not all of the advice was bad.  Two things that stood out to us was Randy’s insistence that sincere apologies are vital to a satisfying life experience.  We agreed.  Especially in this age of “sorry not sorry” apologies, it is important to stand up and say something when you know you’ve done wrong.

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Lastly, we loved the part where Randy talked about reconnecting with your childhood whenever you can, in fact, keeping a bit of childishness about you doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  I loved that he said he kept a crayon in his pocket because smelling it will bring you back to your days of coloring.  I liked it so much that I gave each of our steepers a shiny new Crayola.  Mine is sitting on my computer at work.  I will admit that from time to time, I do sit down and smell it.  It brings me back to days on my parents’ front porch coloring in my Muppet Babies coloring book with my neighbor Jenn.  Good memories can get you through rough patches.
One more quote from our Read It & Steep conversation: I have written down in my notebook a sentence that now makes no sense to me, but makes me laugh, so I’ll share it.  I’ve been very remiss in keeping up with my blogging, so now when I look back on some of our conversations I’m almost confused, but then I see something like this and I remember that we have way too much fun at our meetings.  That’s saying something for a library sponsored group that doesn’t drink! Anyway, here’s what I have written in quotes in my notebook:
“It’s hard to attach a computer to a pigeon.”  True story.  Well, these days, it’s probably easy enough to attach a computer to a pigeon since we’ve got all these teensy microcomputers, but still, I had a funny image of a carrier pigeon trying to fly with a CPU attached to its leg.
I digress . . . back the book, one of our Steepers reveled that she is a breast cancer survivor and said that she had gone into the reading of this book hoping for some new revelation on how she should feel about her bought with illness.  She didn’t find what she was looking for, saying that she “needed more from the book” than it delivered.  I had a similar reaction to parts of it.  My father died from the big C when I was only a little older than Randy’s eldest child.  That experience certainly influenced my reading of the book and our discussion of grief and perseverance.  It’s easy to place our dead on a pedestal and when you’re young when you lose someone, it’s hard to know if memories are memories or stories from family, friends, and photos.  It’s sort of perverse that it’s satisfying to know that when Pausch’s children read this book, they will see the not-so-shiny parts of their dad.  They will know him more intimately than some people even know living parents.  Hopefully, being aware of and exposed to some of their dad’s flaws will help them understand and accept that we are all flawed and that’s okay.
We all appreciated that the purpose of the lecture and the book was for Randy’s children. That being said, as I mentioned before, most of us didn’t get too much out of this book.  Melissa made an excellent point when she said, “He didn’t care if you got anything from it.  It was for his kids.”
We were kind of middle-of-the-road on The Last Lecture so it gets 3 teacups.