New post series alert!
One of my 2019 goals is to simply read. Well, precisely to read at least a chapter a day, a book a week, and at least the number of books in a month to match the number of weeks. One year, many moons ago, I read 52 books and that was hard. If I succeed, I will read at least 52 books this year, although my true goal is 60. SIXTY, y’all!
I used to be a voracious reader. Then life happened and that consistent habit was one of the first to fall off. But since January 1, there are only a handful of days that I have not read and, to date I have completed nine books. Note: There we ended February at week nine. Success so far!
I figure what better way to remain accountable to my 2019 reading challenge goal than to blog about it. So I’m going to start with February.
Eventually, I’ll go back and review my Check out the reviews of myJanuary reads.
Two months in and I am a reading machine. A combination of limited travel and interesting reads lead to completing six, yes SIX, books. I suspect the key to my success will be mixing it up each month. I read both fiction and non-fiction in February. Here’s my recap.
PERIOD founder and Harvard College student Nadya Okamoto offers a manifesto on menstruation and why we can no longer silence those who bleed—and how to engage in youth activism.
Throughout history, periods have been hidden from the public. They’re taboo. They’re embarrassing. They’re gross. And due to a crumbling or nonexistent national sex ed program, they are misunderstood. Because of these stigmas, a status quo has been established to exclude people who menstruate from the seat at the decision-making table, creating discriminations like the tampon tax, medicines that favor male biology, and more.
Power to the Period aims to explain what menstruation is, shed light on the stigmas and resulting biases, and create a strategy to end the silence and prompt conversation about periods. –Courtesy of Goodreads
I heard Nadya speak at a conference and was captivated with her honesty, wit, and unadulterated use of the word “fuck”.
At 16 during a tumultuous time in her life, Nadya founded the nonprofit known today as PERIOD, which is now the largest youth-led NGO in women’s health. Ever since, she has been on a mission and this book is an insight into her passion. While I overall enjoyed the book and learned a few things along the way despite having a period for the last 20+ years, I struggled, at times, with her writing style which I felt took away from her powerful message. Considering she is a 20-year Harvard student and debut author, I still applaud of her remaining true to her self, even in the writing on her first book.
Nadya discusses everything from getting her first period and the history of period products (as well as the period stigma in the US) to period poverty, period policy (hello, evil tampon tax!), and menstruation in the media (or really lack thereof). For younger readers, chapter one, The Bloody Truth, is a great primer on the menstrual cycle, an actual period, PMS and menstrual cramps, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and pelvic inflammatory disease. Despite this great overview, the author did not mention PCOS–polycystic ovarian syndrome which felt like a huge oversight.
Nadya closes the book with chapter nine, Take Action, covering both simple and significant ways to get involved. A big takeaway for me was how simple it can be to host a drive to collect and distribute period products to menstruators in need (she mentions in chapter five how few people donate period products to shelters, for example).
The other significant takeaway involves policy and legislation. Okamoto feels strongly that the way to change the perception and treatment of menstruation in the US is to elect more women into office, and elect more men who can discuss menstruation without ridicule, understand the importance of menstrual equity, and can acknowledge the importance of access to period products.
Nadya Okamoto, Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement
“A young girl should not have to tell her teacher, to then tell her counselor, to then be sent to the nurse’s office, to then be given a pad to then go back to the bathroom while a boy is already taking his exam in his classroom.” -Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, New York City Council
Despite the writing style, I am excited she is encouraging people to discuss periods without shame and in the public eye. Consider me a newly-minted #periodwarrior.
A heart-rending but uplifting story of the human spirit’s ability to prevail.
From the day he is five-years-old and dropped off at his foster home of the next eleven years, Stephen is mentally and physically tortured. No one in the system can help him. No one can tell him if he has a family. No one can tell him why, with obvious African-American features, he has the last name of Klakowicz.
Along the way, a single faint light comes only from a neighbor’s small acts of kindness and caring—and a box of books. From one of those books he learns that he has to fight in any way he can—for victory is in the battle. His victory is to excel in school.
Against all odds, the author succeeded. He attended college, graduated, became a successful corporate executive, and married a wonderful woman with whom he established a loving family of his own. Through it, he dug voraciously through records and files and found his history, his birth family—and the ultimate disappointment as some family members embrace him, but others reject him.
Readers won’t be the same after reading this powerful story. They will share in the hurts and despair but also in the triumph against daunting obstacles. They will share this story with their family, with their friends, with their neighbors. -Courtesy of Goodreads
Steve Pemberton, A Chance the World
“Like untold numbers of African American children, I had been consciously discarded by a man who seemed to define manhood by everything except being present for his son. That decision and its repercussions had blown across time, like tumbleweed in an arid desert. Immeasurable voids and endless questions are often created when a father deliberately abandons his child. Far too often, those empty spaces are filled by opportunists who see that vulnerability as something to exploit. In my case, it had been a cold and calculating foster family.”
One of the toughest books I have read in a long time A Chance in the World is about willpower, survival, redemption, and, at its core, faith. A product of our foster care system, this is the memoir of Steve Pemberton who defied all odds to graduate from Boston College and become a successful business leader. This novel should be required reading for every aspiring social worker, ER employee, teacher, and neighbor. Despite a system that failed him time and time again, as a young biracial boy, Steve learned early on that education would be his way out thanks to the boxes of secondhand books passed down to him by a neighbor and read in secret.
Steve did a tremendous job at describing in detail the abuse and pain he suffered at the hands of various foster families. At times, I had to take a break from reading because the descriptions were so raw and graphic. He really takes the reader on his very personal journey from childhood through his early adulthood, when he began his quest to find his birth family. While disappointing, it was interesting to read how some family members accepted him and others couldn’t simply because of his race. With his writing, I felt like I was in the restaurant at the pivotal moment in his novel where he has the first of several reunions.
Despite his circumstances, Steve is clearly grateful to those who counseled and supported him, and it’s nice he tells us at the end where and how he reconnected with many of those beacons of light.
An engaging public speaker, Steve recently spoke at an industry conference I attended. I literally walked away with goosebumps thinking this man is destined for more. What I didn’t know at the time was a story recalled in his memoir in which a mentor said “God is not finished with you yet.” God most certainly has more in store for Steve Pemberton.
“The 11th Habit” describes the extraordinary power of human habits to create a difficult-to-copy competitive advantage for companies. Employees who take care of themselves have the capacity and energy to be high-performance employees. In turn, they help leaders create high-performance companies and thriving workplace cultures. This book shows how to design a company that makes it easy and natural for employees to care for themselves and perform at the highest level. -Courtesy of Goodreads
The best professional self-help books for me are the ones that take theory and academic research and provide the reader with concrete, actionable takeaways. The books that I highlight, write in the margins, and dog-ear the pages with “a-has”. This book has all of that.
A practical toolkit for business leaders, the 11th Habit makes the powerful case that leaders who wish to design a high-performance company are really in the business of designing performance habits for their employees. Why? Because habits are your company culture. The authors argue that high-performing employees aren’t always the smartest, most talented, or most connected, but rather those employees who consistently practice a few high-performance habits to eventually compound into a big difference in results.
To improve employee performance, a leader has to focus on Work Habits and Pivotal Performance Habits. Work Habits are those habits that make up our job roles in essence, whereas Pivotal Habits are those habits that prepare us to perform in work and life, by ensuring we have the “energy, mental clarity, stamina, and freeman from health, financial, relationship or other concerns that can distract us from performing.” Pivotal habits are those focused on self-care.
The book then covers the four contexts that need to be designed in a way to make it easy to create new, positive habits, and the four forces that make it easier or harder to create or change habits. Those forces can be combined into a formula, the Habit Creation Formula, that predicts whether you can change your habits. The toolkit of the book covers the influence methods to increase the positive forces or decrease the negative forces of habit creation.
While the book focuses on the set of habits surrounding self-care, or what they call the 11th Habit, the book closes by providing an overview of the 10 habits of high performance that employees should practice and that helps employees, managers and leaders stand out.
People are the heart and soul of every organization. They make the place. By tapping into the power of praise and recognition, every leader can learn to “lift people up.” Discover how to get the most out of people and give them the most in return–a process the authors call “peopleship.”
Written with empathy and energy, the game-changing ideas and tips found here will motivate you to listen carefully, trust respectfully, and praise authentically starting now! -Courtesy of Goodreads
I really enjoyed my second professional development book of the month and how to tied in so nicely to the 11th Habit. Through research and real-world examples, The Power of Recognition, is another practical toolkit for leaders.
In section one, the authors and real-world power couple identified seven core beliefs of leadership and the concept of “peopleship” (a leadership approach focused on cultivating and motivating employees via six leadership tools that helps employees unleash their inner leader and build a high-performance culture from the ground up).
Section two focused on unleasing the leader within by identifying strengths of yourself and your team; expressing passion for your work; building your team’s confidence with specific and enthusiastic feedback; formalizing the “managed learning” process; encouraging creativity; establishing an emotional connection with others; using humor; and creating a personal leadership plan (PLD).
Section three demonstrates how to create a high-performance culture by giving everyone a say in establishing and changing the values and norms of the team by creating an Organizational Values Pledge, an Organizational Norms Pledge, and a Declaration of Culture.
Most people want to be part of something where they truly believe their impact can make a positive difference. They want to feel valued by peers and managers within an organization. When people feel and know that they are valued and make a significant impact on an organization, they routinely strive to not only perform at peak levels, but also improve their skills so they can make a greater difference in the future.Susan Smith Kuczmarski, EdD and Thomas Kuczmarski, Lifting People Up: The Power of Recognition
The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.
After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.
But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.
Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.
Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding. -Courtesy of Goodreads
I began the book with a very clear opinion of the topic (after all, we all have an opinion on everything). At the end, my opinion hadn’t changed but I do think I gained a stronger empathy for those doing this work in places where it’s not accepted. So while the content is timely, I found the writing to be rather disappointing and dull. I felt like there were numerous opportunities to further develop the characters, while still retaining the speed of the narrative.
The plot twist wasn’t that big a twist to me (and I figured it out long before it was revealed). And the ending was definitely lacking for me. I needed one more chapter, set at some point in the future, that gave the readers insight into what happened with some of the characters. Did Joy ever find joy? Did Janine change her stance? What happened with Izzy and Parker? All that said though, the book is an excellent suggestion for a book club. You will find yourself wanting to discuss the subject matter with others.
At last, the full story behind Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman’s epic romance, including stories, portraits, and the occasional puzzle, all telling the smoldering tale that has fascinated Hollywood for over a decade.
The year: 2000. The setting: Los Angeles. A gorgeous virtuoso of an actress had agreed to star in a random play, and a basement-dwelling scenic carpenter had said he would assay a supporting role in the selfsame pageant. At the first rehearsal, she surveyed her fellow cast members, as one does, determining if any of the men might qualify to provide her with a satisfying fling. Her gaze fell upon the carpenter, and like a bolt of lightning, the thought struck her: No dice. Moving on.
Yet, unbeknownst to our protagonists, Cupid had merely set down his bow and picked up a rocket launcher. Then fired a love rocket (not a euphemism). The players were Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, and the resulting romance, once it ignited, was . . . epic. Beyond epic. It resulted in a coupling that has endured to this day; a sizzling, perpetual tryst that has captivated the world with its kindness, athleticism, astonishingly low-brow humor, and true (fire emoji) passion.
How did they do it? They came from completely different families, endured a significant age difference, and were separated by the gulf of several social strata. Megan loved books and art history; Nick loved hammers. But much more than these seemingly unsurpassable obstacles were the values they held in common: respect, decency, the ability to mention genitalia in almost any context, and an abiding obsession with the songs of Tom Waits.
Eighteen years later, they’re still very much in love, and have finally decided to reveal the philosophical mountains they have conquered, the lessons they’ve learned, and the myriad jigsaw puzzles they’ve completed, in a book. Featuring anecdotes, hijinks, interviews, photos, and a veritable grab bag of tomfoolery, this is not only the intoxicating book that Mullally’s and Offerman’s fans have been waiting for, it might just hold the solution to the greatest threat facing our modern world: the single life.
My brother gifted this book to my husband, writing on the inside, “These two–like you and my sister–are ridiculous.” That pretty much sums up my marriage (in the most fun, positive, and endearing way possible) and this literal laugh out loud tome.
Told through a series of interviews interspersed with chapters written by the authors separately, Megan and Nick show the readers why and how they are still going strong 18 years later. Despite their vastly different upbringings, its clear their partnership has been built on a strong foundation of mutual respect, compromise, and humor.
I found so much of their love story to be relatable to my own love story. Like Megan and Nick, Nate and I declared our relationship status on the 4th of July to the background of fireworks and the rousing orchestral sounds of John Phillip Sousa. While their thing as a couple is puzzles and audiobooks, Nate and I are obsessed with board games and listening to music. And their pups are equally as cute as ours. But most importantly, it’s clear how deep the love and mutual respect is between the two of them, which was endearing and fun to read.