Sunday, December 5, 2010

Book Review

THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho

This is a book about a boy from Spain who decides, after following his heart, to travel across the Sahara desert to the Pyramids in search of treasure.  Most people decide to quit their jobs and travel AFTER reading this book.  I didn't read it until midway through my adventure.  But it's very good.  It's a quick read...easily a one-dayer.  I read it in bed between ralphing my guts out in the Guatemalan Toilet Microphone .

Here are my favorite quotes from the book:

  • "During this time in spiritual exile, I learned many important things: that we only accept a truth after we have first wholeheartedly rejected it; that we mustn't run away from our own destiny; and that the hand of God is firm, but infinitely generous."
  • "The boy knew a lot of people in the city.  That was what made traveling appeal to him -- he always made new friends, and he didn't need to spend all of his time with them.  When someone sees the same people every day, as had happened with him at the seminary, they wind up becoming a part of that person's life.  And then they want the person to change.  If someone isn't what others want them to be, the others become angry.  Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own." 
  • "Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place."

BLINK by Malcolm Gladwell

This is a great book -- it's about our first impressions, and how they can be both dangerous and also pretty accurate.  He hooks you in the first chapter by talking about a statue that was unearthed and on loan to the Getty Museum.  They spent 14 months studying it in order to decide if they wanted to purhase it.  After a ton of scientists did test after lab test, they decided to spent $10 million on it.  Then they showed it to other curators and interested folk, several of whom identified it as a fake almost immediately.  Why were they able in a blink of an eye, able to identify it as a fake when other scientists felt it was for reals after 14 months of study?  Mostly it's a book filled with lots of similar scientific studies but they're infinitely fascinating.  Like, did you know that the vast majority of American CEO's are white men, over 6 feet tall?  We like our tall white men to lead us.  Did you know that 100% of people who take a split-second test will associate black with bad and white with good?  And in order to answer more correctly, you have to slow down and try to think harder?  Don't believe me?  Check out

Eye opening.  I guess I'm a racist.  And I knew what the test was trying to do before I ever took it. 

The problem I have with the book is that I was expecting it to tell me how to refine my first impressions and use them to my advantage, but it never did.


Really really good.  About her fight with ovarian cancer and also her career and marriage to Gene Wilder.  I liked this book, because I loved her.  Remember Jewess Jeans?  "they're skin tight they're outta sight.  Jewess Jeans...She shops the sales for designer clothes, she's got designer nails and a designer nose."  ??

Or how about:
"Playing the french horn happens to be my way of coping with the grim realities of prison life."

Anyways, heartBREAKing story.  She wasn't the very best writer, but it's a super good story.  She's so honest about the toll that cancer took on her marriage and how it affected her behavior towards her friends.  Honest about not wanting to die, and yet sometimes wanting to die.  Highly recommend. Come to think about it, I highly recommend throwing the "Best of Gilda Radner" from Saturday Night Live in your Netflix queue while you're at it.

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