Saturday, September 22, 2012

Play - Stuart Brown

Subtitle: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and invigorates the Soul

I have never been a fan of playing.  I didn't participate in many organized sports (there was that tennis phase) and I didn't like getting sweaty (ladies don't sweat, they glisten!).  After recognizing that all these years of work (which to be honest, I enjoy) is pretty solitary and while it can rack up piles of dough its just not FUN.  I want to learn how to play more.  Learn to goof off or be silly like a kid again (was I ever a silly kid?  I don't think so).

The author is the founder of the National Institute for Play and a medical doctor who has researched the topic of playing through conducting "play histories" with people, from the everyday Joe to mass murders and identifying their "play personalities".  His book addresses the "why" and "what" of play and goes on to discuss its impact throughout our lives and the lives of those around us.

He spends a chapter on parenting and play (I think I flunked that one) and points out the importance of playing with children to create the parent/child bond and the impact that imagination and fantasizing has on developing empathy, understanding and trust as well as coping skills.

He devotes a chapter to explaining how the opposite of play is not work arguing that work that is fulfilling and satisfying can be like play.  His chapter on playing together advocates spouses being playful together to relieve the serious responsibilities of adult life.

Leave it to me to read a BOOK to start figuring out how to play.

Published:  2009  Read: September 2012   Genre: Non-fiction, science, psychology

Saturday, September 15, 2012

In the Garden of the Beast - Erik Larson

This is the second book of non-fiction I've read by this author.  Both book clubs that I belong to had chosen it for this month so I heard many different reviews and opinions.  First, a synopsis.

This is a biography of William E. Dodd, the ambassador to Germany in the early 1930's during the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party.  The book is written from letters and journals of Dodd and his daughter, Martha.  Martha was a flirtatious party girl who had many affairs and dalliances with famous and infamous men and who fancied herself a writer (she did publish a book or two later in life).

The details of their daily lives reveal the unawareness of those living in those times to the evil that was Hitler and his group.  The U.S. government was focused on having Germany repay their debts from WWI and there was an attitude of isolationist.  The diplomatic culture of the time was an elite class  that shunned Dodd, a frugal college professor whose qualifications were that he spoke German and had lived there for a time.

I disliked his daughter Martha because I felt she dishonored her role as a diplomat's daughter.  The detail provided painted a vivid picture of Berlin and the members of the Nazi party who were part of the Dodd's acquaintances.

My learning from the story is that I should not judge but I must try and understand how the evil around us can masquerade as decent people.  I would recommend the book for an in-depth history lesson on the period in Germany.

Published: 2011  Read: September 2012  Genre: Non-fiction

Saturday, September 8, 2012

All He Ever Wanted - Anita Shreve

Loved this read!  The story of a fussy college professor who falls in love with a woman he rescues from a fire and it builds to an obsession despite being rebuffed.

Nicholas tells his story as he is traveling by train to his sister's funeral.  I recognized shortly that he had  limited self-awareness and never questioned the appropriateness of his passion until it had destroyed those he loved.  As he reveals the relationship with his wife and their life the sense of pending tragedy grows.  At times I wanted to shake him into reality and I ached for his wife's situation.

I finished the book in one long day, returning via air from vacation in Florida. Some quotes that I noted:

"A train of though is an out-of-control vehicle..."
"I cannot help but wonder, however, if we do not invent our own destiny, our own fate, to suit our circumstances."
"...I would advise young lovers to be as attentive to the first embrace with the beloved as one would be to a soothsayer."
"Without trust there can be no marriage..."

I recommend this one and anyone who already has read it, please share your thoughts.

Published: 2003  Read: September 2012  Genre: fiction