Friday, February 16, 2018

Mostly books

My last post may have been a bit misleading. I haven't just been sitting around worrying about my life being stagnant. Really. Aside from trying to figure out my future, I've been pretty busy. Several trips to visit family members, a couple of road trips, trying to work on my publications, doing freelance writing work, working on my mom's house--taking care of the lawn, repainting the downstairs, taking apart a deck, planting a flower garden, pulling out carpet, putting in a fence, building some raised garden boxes, planting a vegetable garden, deep cleaning a swimming pool, putting up some drywall, staining a huge cabinet--serving at church, volunteering in the community--life has been full, and good. Also, I've tried to read. As you'll see from the following list of some of the books I've read, I was on a bit of a Jeff Benedict kick for awhile--I really admire his straightforward writing style and his research. Sadly, my library record reflects a lot more books checked out than I have actually finished. Oh well--one day I'll actually read all the books I intend to. :) 

QB: My Life Behind the Spiral by Steve Young and Jeff Benedict. 
Really enjoyed this book. I’ve been interested in Steve Young as a person since I wrote to him on a writing assignment in the eighth grade and he wrote back—I was touched that he would take the time. I learned more about football in this book than I have ever known, but most especially, I was touched by the life experiences Steve shared, particularly that of his struggle with anxiety and an inferiority complex, his friends and family who have shaped and supported him, and his deep commitment to his faith and being a disciple of Jesus Christ (especially throughout his singlehood and all the temptations and pressures that came with his high profile). Highly recommend.

How to Build a Business Warren Buffett Would Buy by Jeff Benedict. 
This book documents the history of the creation and growth of RC Willey—the huge furniture and home furnishings retailer that was begun and owned by Bill Child until it was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway in 1995. I was given a signed copy in a class at BYU—I can’t remember when or which one—but it has sat on my shelf for years. I finally picked it up this summer. I really enjoyed it. It was an easy read, and I learned quite a bit about the big business acquisitions process. Also, was very impressed with the high level of service and integrity that one can maintain in business, when fully committed to it. Recommend.

The Mormon Way of Doing Business by Jeff Benedict. 
I really enjoy this book. Have read it a few times before. Always impressed by the examples of high-profile businessmen dedicated to their family, to God, and to integrity in their business practices. Highly recommend.

The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football by Jeff Benedict. 
To be fair, I didn’t actually finish this whole book. I read about 2/3rds of it though. It looks at several different US Universities with big football programs and goes through each step of the process of creating the University Football System. I found many things to be fairly interesting, especially when it came to BYU—my alma mater—but also found it very difficult to read some of the corrupt and ethically questionable practices that seem to be commonplace or common happenstance across the board. But then again, that was the point of the book. 😊

My Name Used to Be Muhammad: The True Story of a Muslim who Became a Christian by Jeff Benedict with Tito Momen. 
So interesting. I have a lot of Muslim friends, although none of them are from Nigeria—the homeland of Tito Momen, the man whose biography this is. The book documents Tito’s life growing up in a strict, very conservative Muslim community as a child, his move to Palestine (if I remember correctly) for University, and his faith journey away from Islam and toward Jesus Christ. Tito ended up being baptized as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was imprisoned for fifteen years in Egypt for leaving his faith. He was also disowned by his father and family. But I promise—the ending is great. This was a super book and I highly recommend it.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. 
Oh my. So interesting, and also so difficult to read. I spent a lot of time in deep thought during and after reading this book. Prior to reading it, the only things I knew about China and Chinese history were from The Good Earth and Disney’s Mulan. This book is a biography and autobiography in one. It is the story of three generations of Chinese women—a granddaughter writing about her grandmother’s life, her mother’s, and hers. Learning about the Chinese civil war, and Communism, Mao ZeDong, and the Cultural Revolution was terrifying. It is disturbing to think that people can be so blinded by misplaced loyalty to do so much wrong and enact so much pain on so many. I was shocked to learn that more than seventy million people died during the cultural revolution in China. SEVENTY MILLION PEOPLE. Seventy million souls. Seventy million children of God with thoughts and hopes and dreams and feelings. I thought a lot about loyalty to a “supreme leader,” and how dangerous it is for that supreme leader to be anyone but God. Highly recommend this book.

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. 
Also so hard to read. It’s the story of one man and his life in China before the civil war—his experiences going from being the poorest of poor people to a very rich man at the end of his life. At first, I really liked him. I could relate to his life struggles and the things he wanted. He found a wife and initially, loved her and appreciated his family. With the growth of his wealth, however, came pride that led him to make terrible decisions that ultimately took from him, in my opinion, any goodness he once had. Particularly sickening was learning about the treatment of women in China. I was reminded of the power of virtue and the inherent value and power incumbent in women. Where women are not valued as they ought to be, societies suffer. This is clear in this book.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. 
Story of Alex—a headstrong boy who goes to Alaska to live in the wilderness by himself. He dies there, and this book is the result of Jon Krakauer’s research and putting Alex’s story together after the fact. I really liked most of this book. I could relate to the sense of wanderlust and love for simple things—the sky, nature, simple food, traveling and really living (as opposed to sitting in a box or in front of a screen all day). Recommend.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. 
I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages. To be honest here, I still haven’t made it all the way through. I own the unabridged version, and this summer I finally read the first half—about the first 500 pages, up to when Jean Valjean becomes the mayor, is found by Javier, and escapes again to rescue Cosette and moves with her to Paris. This book is so beautiful. In fact, I feel it is the best fictional story ever, ever written. It teaches so much about forgiveness, mercy, and justice. The way Hugo writes it, it’s as if an older man has invited me into his parlor to sit by the fire and listen to a story for the evening. It’s written so intimately and so beautifully. The prose is fantastic. Two of my favorite parts were learning more about the priest (such a beautiful example of true charity), and about the struggle Valjean went through before he turned himself in to the police. So relatable. Highly recommend.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. 
I love this book. I read it every year. My favorite is sharing it with others by reading it aloud. This past Christmas, I wanted to share it with my little sisters, so I got one of them to read it to me as I drove us around in California on a sister’s trip we were on. They didn’t appreciate it very much, sadly, but I still love it. I also got to watch the new film about how Dickens wrote the book called “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” Really good. Such an inspired story. Could not recommend more highly.

A Girl and Five Brave Horses by Sonora Carver. 
Loved this. This is the story of Sonora Carver, the girl who used to dive horses from high towers into swimming pools at fairs and carnivals around the United States from the 1930s on. She was eventually blinded but continued to dive for many years after. I have always enjoyed the movie “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken,” which is loosely based on her life. The real story is vastly different, however, and vastly interesting. Included in it is a side history of carnivals and fairs in the United States, and an account of adjusting from being a sighted person to being blind.

I Got There: How I Overcame Racism, Poverty, and Abuse to Achieve the American Dream by JT McCormick. 
The autobiography of a man who went from living in the slums of Dayton, Ohio to being the CEO of a major corporation. I enjoyed this book and related to a lot of it. Recommend.

Navajos Wear Nikes: A Reservation Life by Jim Kristofic. 
So interesting. The autobiography of Jim Kristofic, a white kid from Pittsburgh who moved with his mom and little brother to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. He became fully integrated into the culture and community there and is able to explain things from the inside out. I really enjoyed reading this and related to some of it because of my experiences being immersed in cultures and communities that are not my own.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina. 
I always love a good medical book, that isn’t too technical or heavy on the terminology. This one was a neurological book about how the brain works. I found it easy to read and interesting. I particularly enjoyed reading about how to maximize the efficiency of my brain and also the inherent differences in male and female brains—it’s real! I have a great love for the human body as a creation of God and felt in even greater awe at His handiwork as I learned more about how the human mind functions.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah.
Really, really enjoyed this book. Living in New Zealand, there are a lot of South Africans, and I have read and learned little bits about Apartheid here and there for a few years. This book was awesome because it gives the not-so-frequently-talked-about Black side of Apartheid. I didn’t know who Trevor Noah was prior to reading this, but I did really enjoy his book. I liked that it was more of a history of South Africa during his lifetime than it was a play-by-play of becoming Trevor Noah.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. 
I’m not much of a fiction reader. This one had very important reviews though, so I took a chance. It was a well written story of a blind girl in France during WWII (plus several other major characters), but overall I didn’t enjoy it that much.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason. 
Essentially a money-management book. Probably the best ever written. Highly recommend.

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