Harness the Power of the Invincible Mind: Spatial Strategy to Success and Happiness by Alex Neumann

I enjoyed reading Harness the Power of the Invincible Mind: Spatial Strategy to Success and Happiness by Alex Neumann for a variety of reasons. First, there were the CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) references throughout. Then, the parables were apt. Finally, the references to real life individuals who beat the odds were inspiring. 

If you are interested in becoming your best self, then this is a book that should be in your library. The author attacks several “givens” found in society that hinder us from reaching our full potential, such as commercialism, not saying no, self-limitation, and having a negative mindset. Each chapter has several parables illustrating a better course of action and at least one example of someone who succeeded where others failed. 

NOTE: The author had his editor fix these issues in the book that is now available on Amazon. 😉

That being said, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more attention to detail by the author. There were a handful of typos and some inaccurate information. For example, Helen Keller was not born blind and deaf. You don’t have to be naked to procreate. There aren’t nine planets anymore in our solar system. Sarah Breedlove was not born on a plantation in Pennsylvania. And the phrase “fake it til you get it” should be “fake it til you make it” and actually is more in line with what the author suggests (having an optimistic mindset which helps realize goals) than not.

Despite those oversights in the proofreading, I found Harness the Power of the Invincible Mind: Spatial Strategy to Success and Happiness by Alex Neumann to be both positive and practical.

I received an advanced reader copy from the author.

Einstein’s Last Message: Saving Our World by Changing How We Think by Dr. Rod O’Connor

This year has brought several baffling concepts to light for me. These include: Why does a racist con-man have 74,122,580 registered supporters? Why are children kept in cages for years and women and girls given forced hysterectomies? Why are governments around the world unable to agree to a course of action that would reduce the spread of COVID-19? Why have 1,508,906 died already from this virus when this isn’t human’s first experience with a plague? Why black and indigenous lives don’t matter to the vast majority? Why extreme weather, wildfires, and drought are not seen as evidence of climate change caused by humans? Why are we rushing to get things back to “normal” when “normal” is what brought us to this precipice in the first place?

Dr. Rod O’Connor had some answers for me in Einstein’s Last Message: Saving Our World by Changing How We Think. This meticulously researched book discusses the flaws in thinking that are preventing us from making lasting changes in order to avert the total world destruction we are on the verge of enacting. Not only that, it provides some key adjustments we can make in our thinking to literally save the world. Scientists have already told us exactly what actions we need to take to save our planet and ourselves. It’s up to us to prioritize these actions and change our thinking about our place in the world. (See also Our planet is on the brink. Here’s how we save it, Saving Life on Earth: A Plan to Halt the Global Extinction Crisis, and Why we’ll succeed in saving the planet from climate change)

Dr. O’Connor presents an overwhelming topic in manageable parts. He uses the metaphor of Russian nesting dolls that contain our thoughts and actions about the world, people, self, and right and wrong to explain how and why we are where we are in history. With personal anecdotes, scientific research findings, and examples from individuals throughout history, including Einstein), the author lays it all out for us. In addition, the appendix has a checklist for decisions about the material world, involving people, gaining happiness, and our individual sense of right and wrong to help everyone make better choices going forward. The second appendix gives suggestions on ways to improve ourselves through personal reflection. 

As you can see, there is an unbelievable amount of useful information between the covers. The book isn’t long but it does delve into deficiencies we all have. Once I began, I could not put it down. Unfortunately, some readers may not be ready to hear what Dr. O’Connor has to say and that’s a shame, because until we are of one mind, there will be no future for us or our children or grandchildren or great-children. But if you are up for it, I invite you to pick up a copy of Einstein’s Last Message: Saving Our World by Changing How We Think by Dr. Rod O’Connor. It’s a book everyone should read.

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller is the childhood memoir of a girl born in the UK who grew up in Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe in the 1970s and 1980s. The internal strife and racial conflict were almost a constant background noise to Bobo and her sister Vanessa. She describes Mum using an Uzi to kill a snake and hearing mine detonations that have killed either an African or baboon as if they were not so out of the ordinary things.

Poverty and alcoholism spawn tragic events which little Bobo internalizes. I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but there are some horrific episodes. It’s definitely not a feel-good type of book. Yet, you can’t help but laugh at some of the stories, especially the typical sisterly interactions of childhood.

And it seems that Africa has a way of invading your blood. After being forced to leave due to civil unrest, Bobo longs for her home and the descriptions in this memoir are saturated with that longing.

Honestly, after reading this emotionally powerful book, I have no desire to ever visit any country in Africa. The heat, dust, racial divide, and the LIONS make it a place I will happily avoid for the rest of my life. However, I loved reading about it through Bobo’s eyes. So if you enjoy being an armchair traveler like me, then Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller is a must-read!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

If you are looking for a quick and entertaining holiday read, then look no further than The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. The Herdman children make the traditional Holy Child reenactment one that no one will EVER forget. 

Every town has one of THOSE familes, a rowdy brood of trouble makers. The Herdmans are every teacher’s bane and every student’s worst nightmare. Setting fires, blackmail, bullying, are smoking in the girl’s bathroom are minor compared to what happens during the Christmas Pageant.

If Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys’s unbelievable antics during the Christmas pageant aren’t enough, then you can continue to enjoy rolling your eyes as you read The Best School Year Even and The Best Halloween Ever.

Children and adults will laugh out loud at the too-real descriptions of those Herdmans.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The day that Daniel’s father took him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books changed the course of history for more than one person. That was the day that Daniel Sempere lay to claim the last unburnt copy of The Shadow of the Wind written by an obscure author with the name of Julian Carax. 

Set in Barcelona immediately after the Francoist dictatorship, this novel of intrigue and suspense will carry you away with its precise descriptions and well-developed characters as Daniel sets out to unravel the mystery of Julian Carax, formerly from Spain who published poorly sold books in Spanish from Paris.

Along with eccentric book lover Gustavo Barcelo and beggar turned secret agent Fermin Romero de Torres, Daniel searches for clues and stumbles upon intersecting histories that include Don Federico the watchmaker, who every now and then dons a diva costume and performs at an underground variety show in drag, Clara, the lovely, blind daughter of Gustavo who steals Daniel’s heart and the notorious giggling Inspector Fumero. 

The Shadow of the Wind doesn’t hold back on romance either. From the tragic story of Daniel’s widowed father to the heedless entanglements of Daniel’s own love life, there are overlapping stories of unrequited love, forbidden love, and eternal love with catastrophic results. 

I must warn you that the complexity of the story and the formal Spanish tone and vocabulary choices mean this isn’t a light beach read even in translation. You may need to take a break every now and then to wrap your head around the mystery or ponder the clues. However, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (not the one by Julian Carax) was one of the best romantic mystery novels that I’ve read in quite some time. 

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

Did you ever wonder what sort of work went into creating the Oxford English Dictionary, complied a century before computers were invented? The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester is the chronicle of that Herculean task by two men one of whom was a patient at the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, the other attached to the London Philological Society. 

Each chapter begins with a definition taken from the dictionary itself that introduces a theme found therein. The intertwining stories of how these two men devoted themselves to creating such a comprehensive list of words in an attempt to define all the terms in the English language is quite an incredible tale. All in all, it took more than seventy years to complete the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary composed of more than half a million words. 

The fascinating biographies of Dr. James Murray and Dr. W. C. Minor, whose lives have both been lost to obscurity, will keep you turning the pages of this unique book. It isn’t necessarily an easy read, however. After all, there are all those words that go into the making of a dictionary. But if you enjoy little-known facts, word origins, and an interesting storyline, then The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester is a book you should pick up.

Sustainability for the Rest of Us: Your No-Bullshit Five-point Plan for Saving the Planet by John Pabon

I had a self-serving reason to pick Sustainability for the Rest of Us: Your No-Bullshit Five-point Plan for Saving the Planet by John Pabon up to read. I want to be sustainable. I want to save the planet. I’ve made efforts over time to reduce my carbon footprint, but it never seemed like enough. I hoped that the author would finally provide me with some additional clues on where my efforts could be better expended. 

In the beginning, I believed that I had made an error in judgment. This wasn’t the book for me, after all. Not only does Mr. Pabon declare that “this idea that you can be the change you want to see in this world is nonsense,” but he goes on to poke fun at the environmentally conscious, calling them “greenies.” Then he talks about how no one in their right mind would give up their smartphone and car and live off-grid. Hmm, well, since I don’t have a smartphone or car and do, in fact, live off-grid, perhaps I am not in my right mind. Or maybe I’m an anomaly. Or probably Mr. Pabon is making generalizations here.

Regardless, I thought I’d keep going despite being insulted to my face since the book promised so much. Fortunately, the next few chapters were well-researched and refrained from name-calling. Well, I guess that isn’t true since point number three was, “Don’t be a Dick.” Of course, I didn’t feel like I was doing the dicky things highlighted in that chapter, so it wasn’t offensive to me anyway.

Although you probably have figured it out already from the title, there isn’t a lot of pussy-footing around the topic of sustainability in this book. From declaring that China is now in the forefront of the green revolution to berating Prince Henry as being far from environmentally conscious when he takes his private jet to summits even if he isn’t wearing any shoes at the podium, it was interesting to see our that “heroes” have feet of clay after all.

Complicated environmental issues were broken down into easily digestible segments, and the down-to-earth commentary wasn’t as abrasive at it first seemed. I would suggest that the author learn when to use an apostrophe and when just to add an -s to nouns, but I’m an English teacher, so I notice that sort of repeated grammar error.

The section that appealed to me most was on how to be a pragmatic altruist. It’s true that the methods in the past are not effective in enacting real change. A pragmatic altruist will thus find a different way to participate in the climate revolution. I also found the afterward “Sustainability in the Time of Coronavirus” to be an interesting addition to the climate change discussion. 

All-in-all, Sustainability for the Rest of Us: Your No-Bullshit Five-point Plan for Saving the Planet by John Pabon provided quite a bit of food for thought about my future actions. If you’ve any interest in saving our planet, then I would recommend you pick up a copy of this book too.

I received an ARC from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

Intentionally Becoming Different: Coach yourself by Alexander Trost

If you are like me, you are always looking for ways to make your life better. I don’t mean career-wise, although that is important. I don’t mean improving relationships, even though that too is essential. I mean improving myself. If I can improve myself, all other aspects of my life will naturally follow. I believe that so much I even chose the word “improve” as my single focus for this year. 

Intentionally Becoming Different by Alexander Trost provided “provocative statements, transformational quotes, and guided exercises” to help me improve, well, me. As a lover of word origins, I enjoyed how the author illustrated his points with word syntax. For instance, did you know the world develop is the opposite of envelope. So developing refers to an unfolding. What an amazing visual for the process of self-development–an unfolding of self! 

Another imagery that appealed to me was the idea of our lives being a book. The chapters are our life goals. Our life mission is the title. I don’t know about you, but I want a well-written book as evidence of my life, not some dull or ridiculous storyline. In order to do that, I certainly would want to live an intentional life, wouldn’t you agree?

There were a few things that I thought could have been better explained by the author. He discusses the GROW model accredited to Sir John Whitmore in one chapter. I spent some time contemplating this model only to find out that it wasn’t the coaching method that the rest of the book focused on. Instead, the premise of the self-examination exercises is based on the Wheel of Life. The author says that the concept originates from the Buddist wheel of life. However, I’m not all that familiar with that and had a hard time understanding the connections.

Despite the poor understanding I had of the framework, the chapters were clear, the self-reflection questions were useful, and the application/mind shift activities were enlightening. There were explicit examples to help me formulate my own thoughts throughout. Furthermore, I learned quite a bit about the functioning of my own brain and the mechanical, emotional, and rational parts that make it up both through the informative text and the self-exploration questions. 

This isn’t a book you can read through and voila become the person you always dreamed you’d be. Once you have the tools the author provides, it is up to you to chisel away at your own life to discover the deeper meaning of it. Answers to the self-reflective questions will undoubtedly change as you develop (unfold) and you’ll need to reevaluate where you stand regularly. If you are ready for some hard self-examination and soul-searching, then Intentionally Becoming Different by Alexander Trost is the book for you.

I received an ARC of this book from Reedsy Discovery. You can read my review here.

Finding Happiness After COVID-19 by Pam and Peter Keevil

Self-quarantining has taken a lot out of me, as I’ve sure it’s done to you. The ups and downs of new cases, anti-maskers, death rates, and vaccine prognosis keep me from finding any sort of equilibrium on a daily basis. When I saw Finding Happiness After COVID-19 by Pam and Peter Keevil, I decided that it might be just what I needed. And, in the end, it certainly was. 

Many of the concepts in the book were familiar ones. I have been working through some CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) courses, after all, this year. However, it really helped to see how these actions and thoughts can be applied to the current pandemic situation, and more particularly, my own life right now. 

Happiness builds on itself. It is reflected in all aspects of our lives. And yet, sometimes, like right now, it’s hard to find even a glimmer of a silver lining in the situation. This book was exactly what I needed to refocus on reframing what I have now as being enough instead of focusing on what I can’t have just now. 

Since happiness is subjective, I can’t say which sections will resonate with you personally. However, I can say that you’ll have plenty of useful information with which to rethink your life as you work towards finding happiness after COVID-19. The concepts are clear. The examples are helpful. The self-assessment questions are enlightening.

I recommend Finding Happiness After COVID-19 by Pam and Peter Keevil to everyone struggling with the current global pandemic situation. Really, what have you got to lose?