Reading for May and June:

  • Angela Duckworth, Grit.
  • James Clavell, Shogun.
  • Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.
  • J.K. Rowling, Very Good Lives.
  • Bill Burnett & Dave Evans, Designing Your Life.
  • Amy Morin, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.
  • Frank Herbert, Dune.

Several of these were on the best seller on sale rack at the Clarkson bookstore around the time of graduation in early May: Duckworth, Rowling, Burnett & Evans, and Morin.

Of these, Duckworth’s Grit is the only “don’t miss it”. There’s actually interesting research there. Rowling’s Very Good Lives is a 15 minute read of her Harvard Commencement speech in 2008. It’s clever. An autobiographical case study of what Duckworth is getting at.

Burnett & Evans might be useful if you’re at a crossroads and trying to figure out what to do with your life from here. It makes sense that would be on the college sale list around the time of graduation. There are a few useful ideas for figuring out what’s next and how to get a job. But if you’re generally ok with where your life is, save it for when things fall apart.

Morin’s 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do comes in as the “don’t bother” selection. Just read the table of contents and you have the book. The rest is the kind of pop psychology advice you’d get in a Magazine. Lots of bullet points that never get below the surface.

I’m a slow reader. At 1152 pages in paperback, Shogun took almost a month to plow through. I read this when I was a teenager, not too long after the TV series broadcast in 1980. It’s a fascinating read, but ends badly. After 1149 pages, the last 3 stop the plot and summarize where the story would have gone if the book were another 600 pages. I felt like, “James! I read 1149 pages just to come to this? WTF?” The best scene in the book is when the old gardener is executed and buried with honors for defying orders to take down and bury the rotting pheasant. I won’t say more, but it’s a vignette worthy of 2017.

Watts, The Book, also a re-read from my teenage years, was written in 1966. If you like Metaphysics with Eastern (Hindu) influences, you’ll probably enjoy it, and there are a few clever metaphors that make for good “now ponder this” moments.

Finally Herbert’s Dune. Yet another re-read from back in the day. It was hailed in it’s day as groundbreaking science fiction. And it probably was. I enjoyed the re-reading it. I kept wondering, though, if 21st century science fiction has gotten beyond a completely male-oriented point of view. Any suggestions about what counts as “ground breaking” science fiction in 2017 are welcome in the comments!