I’m scattered and unfocused today, as I’ve been preoccupied by the looming specter of a large work event I’m in charge of this week that’s been eight months in the planning. My mind has been completely annexed by event-related topics like programs, flower arrangements, catering menus, and door prizes, not to mention the nagging fear that in managing all of the details, I have somehow Forgotten Something Major and as such, the whole thing is going to turn into an epic catastrophe. So today instead of my usual musings, I’m going to grace you with the most ADD book reviews ever. What follows will be stream-of-consciousness blathering on books I’ve read or have been reading. Some of them I haven’t even finished yet.
The Underachiever’s Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great, by Ray Bennett, MD
This unassuming little tome is one of my favorites. It’s short, it’s easy to read, and it contains bountiful founts of wisdom such as:
“Work twice as hard, burn out twice as fast. Going the extra mile only leads to exhaustion.”
“Despite everything you may have heard about striving for excellence, mediocrity is the key to happiness.”
“It’s a simple fact of life that your successes and failures really don’t matter to nearly everybody alive. And the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can take comfort from it and get on with underachievement.”
“The achievement lobby is powerful, and underachievement is, surprisingly, not as easy as it should be. Our world is so full of messages about being the best you can be that may not have even occurred to you to try for anything less.”
When I start to fret about how little I feel I have achieved in my life and how I’m not good enough, I just pull out “The Underachiever’s Manifesto” and read a few pages. It’s a great antidote to crippling perfectionism.
Patient Zero, by Jonathan Mayberry
This is an utterly absurd novel, overstuffed with every terrible, hackneyed zombie apocalypse/crack military special forces cliché ever invented, and I can’t stop reading it. It’s fantastic. There are secret underground bunkers, stiff-upper lip British military commanders, gruesome zombie battle scenes, and a female mad scientist who actually cackles when she achieves the pinnacle of success with her bioweapon plague…wait for it…Generation not Ten, not Eleven….but TWELVE!!! Bwahahahahaha! She shall now unleash it upon America, and the US will be destroyed in the name of Allah! I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s a nail-biter. Will a rag-tag band of crack military mavericks be able to contain the outbreak? It’s not looking great for American right now, but I’ll keep you posted.
High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed, by Michael Kodas
Continuing with my afore-mentioned obsession with mountaineering disasters, I downloaded this book to my Kindle shortly after finishing “Into Thin Air” by John Kraukarer. This one I’m not so sure about. It starts off wonderfully bitter and cranky, but then suddenly gets pedantic and dull, going into mind-numbing historical detail about people who appear to be only bit players in the writer’s life. With no context, I’m having a hard time understanding why I need a good tale interrupted by all of these needless details. Or maybe that’s my ADD speaking. I’m going to try to pick it up again and power through these sections, hoping it will gain momentum soon.
Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, by David Eagleman
I’ve mentioned this book before but it’s definitely worth mentioning more than once. This is shaping up to be one of my all-time favorite books. I’ll do my best to describe it, although it’s best experienced directly. It’s essentially a series of imaginative essays on the nature of God and the afterlife, rooted in philosophy, spirituality, and wild speculation. One of my favorite essays in the book posits that you when you die, you can’t move on to Heaven until your name is spoken for the last time. So after death, you wait in a large, hotel-like lobby, sometimes for years and years, for your name to be uttered on earth for the last time. Another describes God as microbe, not above us but within us, unaware that we exist. I’m not really doing it justice here. You just have to read it. It’s so amazing! Get the hardback. It’s one of those books you’ll want to keep around for a long time.