8 Following


Currently reading

Financial Intelligence: A Manager's Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean
Karen Berman, John Case, Joe Knight
The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen
Edward Copeland, Juliet McMaster
Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader
Carmen Acevedo Butcher

The Will of God as a Way of Life: How to Make Every Decision with Peace and Confidence

The Will of God as a Way of Life: How to Make Every Decision with Peace and Confidence - Gerald Lawson Sittser, Eugene H. Peterson Jerry Sittser has a remarkable gift for taking complex theology and applying it to everyday life. Many people are good at telling you how to live a Christian life, but their theology may be weak. Sittser is a theologian, and he supports his points with numerous scripture references. In his book, The Will of God as a Way of Life: How to Make Every Decision with Peace and Confidence, the only thing not to like is the title. The subtitle makes it sound like a self-help book. While you will walk away with a new insight, this is no simple, "follow these three steps to better decisions" book.Instead, Sittser dives head on into the theological issues surrounding the will of God. God's sovereignty, our free will, calling, and the role of suffering in our lives, all get ample attention. But what grabs me the most is his opening conversation about God's will for our life. What do we mean we say "it is God's will?" And how about following God's will. What if we make the wrong decision and head down a different path? Sittser explores these questions, and provides an answer."As I struggled with the issue of discovering God's will, I came to a startling conclusion. The will of God concerns the present more than the future; it deals with our motives as well as our actions; it focuses on the little decisions we make every day even more than the big decision we make about the future. The only time we really have both to know and to do God's will is the present moment. We are to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. These are the basic responsibilities Jesus challenges us to pay attention to."In other words, that job we are deciding on, that relationship we are struggling with, that question about our direction in life, are missing the point. Following God's will is reflected in how we live now, not in what the future holds for us. "We can, in good conscience, choose from among any number of reasonable alternatives and continue to do the will of God."And just as how this no simple self-help book, Sittser encourages us to seek God's direction in scripture, but not as as how-to book. "The Bible does not tell us what to do in every situation. It establishes guidelines and principles, not a long list of rules. It sets the overall direction."I should also note his strong work in the area of suffering and God's will. I reviewed his book, A Grace Revealed, which explores this topic in depth. He also deals with it in A Grace Disguised. Sittser's entire family was in the car when it was hit by a drunk driver, and he lost his mother, his wife, and a daughter, in an instant. He understands suffering.He sees God's story in our lives as a story of redemption. Like reading a novel, the author knows the plot, but the characters are learning as they go. But here, the characters know the ending, and it is a good ending. "Sinfulness and tragedies and suffering and everything else never have the final word. God has the final word. The cross is irrefutable proof that God's hidden will, mysterious and unfathomable at times, is real and redemptive."Sittser never dismisses suffering, but he recognizes our limited viewpoint. It is a humble viewpoint, and thus better focused on living God's will in the present, confident in the future.

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes - Maria Konnikova Maria Konnikova's title to her book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, makes it sound like a self-help book. Instead, between the covers we find a exploration of how our brain works, with Sherlock Holmes as our recurring role model.I'm a long-time Holmes fan, and thinking like Holmes seems like an admirable goal. But as Konnikova shows, it is not an easy feat. Our brains have been trained to think like Watson -- to think like Holmes requires not only a change in thinking, but a great deal of practice to have any success.Holmes is well known for his power of observation. He and Watson can walk into room, but what they observe is completely different. The fact is, most of us are like Watson. But take heart! "Our brains aren't stupid....We don't notice everything because noticing everything...would make us crazy." Instead, Konnikova lays out how Holmes succeeds in observing more than most: he is selective, objective, inclusive, and engaged. "Many of these we can understand in theory, but Konnikova provides multiple examples (at times, a few too many) to show how our brain does not always work this way. We let our background biases alter what we see, we follow a line of thinking even when the evidence points elsewhere, and we are distracted by elements which do not matter. Only through conscious effort and training can we overcome many of these challenges. Holmes (and it is good to remember he is a fictional character) trained his brain early on to have the abilities it possesses.A trait not often applied to Holmes, which Konnikova sees as essential, is imagination. "It uses the building blocks of all of the observations that you've collected to create the material that can then serve as a solid base for future deduction." In other words, once you have the different elements, it takes imagination to create the picture. Holmes is too often portrayed as a human robot, when it is his ability to be imaginative that sets him apart. What Konnikova also focuses on is Holmes' willingness to sit and think. "A three-pipe problem," he might say. "If you get only one think out of this book, it should be this: the most powerful mind is the quiet mind. It is the mind that is present, reflective, mindful of its thoughts and its state. It doesn't often multitask, and when it does, it does so with a purpose." Brave words in a loud world, and Konnikova is no stuffy old professor. She is a doctoral candidate in psychology at Columbia University. A Harvard grad who learned her Holmesian lore by hearing her father read the stories to her in Russian.It is that knowledge and clear love of the canon that makes this book so interesting for the Holmes fan. While she can quote psychological studies at length, she also quotes Doyle often. The stories serve as ways to illuminate what we know about the brain, but her thinking provides new insight to the stories. One will return to Holmes with fresh eyes.

Magic Christian

The Magic Christian - Terry Southern Terry Southern is an American novelist, Academy-award nominated screenwriter, and even later did writing for Saturday Night Live. He is praised for his satire and humor, and "The Magic Christian" has no shortage of luminaries singing its praises.Not this reviewer. The novel revolves around Guy Grand, a billionaire who likes to spend his money to show how far people will go for money. He says everyone has a price, and he intends to find it. Would you eat a parking ticket for a few thousand dollars? Grand finds out, although whether or not that really says anything about the moral character of the individual is questionable. Would you swim in a cesspool of toxins for thousands? Again, he is trying to push the limits on how far one will go. This is an interesting concept, but the point is quickly made, and so even this short novel becomes repetitive. Grand sets up a prank, we see the event occur, and then it is done. In between we are part of his conversation with this two live-in aunts and a desperate, socialite. Then back to another prank. While this repetition is tiring, it becomes irksome because many of the pranks say nothing about our moral limits. At the end he opens grocery stores, sells everything at loss in one night, closes it, and does it again. What does that say about anything? The same works for "The Magic Christian" prank, which is the name of an ocean liner he buys and refurbishes as an incredibly high end travel liner. Those lucky enough to get a place, gradually find themselves on a boat with people intended to make them feel uncomfortable, nothing to eat but potatoes, and a host of other problems. To what point? This says nothing about people and their moral limits. It does say something about Grand. Grand himself is an interesting character. He sets up these elaborate plots for his own humor and often takes part in them, although unknown to others in the crowd. He clearly delights in making people uncomfortable. However, at times he is simply sadistic, which makes this his moral challenging of others questionable. Plus, he has no hesitation is using others, especially the disadvantaged, to meet his needs. He puts circus people on his liner and sends the bearded lady in to the dining room, naked. Funny? Well, to him perhaps, but only it only demeans her and embarrasses others -- there is no moral lesson for others here. So, could Southern be actually hoping to have Grand stand in as the satirical character? Is he the one we are supposed to see ourselves reflected in? If so, he fails to make that connection, and as such the book fails. As a short story, this could have some potential, but the repetition and the failure to hold to his own thesis creates an incomplete novel.

Tree of Codes

Tree of Codes - Jonathan Safran Foer, Visual Editions Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, Tree of Codes, is an unusual work. As opposed to creating a novel from scratch, Foer takes his “favorite book,” The Street of Crocodiles by the Polish-Jewish writer, Bruno Schulz, and cuts away that text to create a new novel. It is a unique idea and raises the philosophical questions of what makes a novel, what is authorship, and even what is morally acceptable in taking work from others. Foer gives no authorial credit to Schulz, presumably because he sees this as his own work. This may actually be deconstructionism taken to its logical extreme. In order to do this, Foer has worked with a publisher (Visual Editions) to present the novel with the full pages, but every page is die-cut to show only the words he has chosen. The result is a book with tree of codes insidemany pages, but few words. As a work of art, it is interesting to see. As a literary work of art, it is an interesting experiment. But does it work? As a novel, no. The text he has kept is clearly constrained by what is already in the Schulz’s novel, so he is trapped within that structure. He can re-imagine the words in different ways and with different uses, but he cannot escape the structure. As such, he must create a story which can be found within a limited text (if we think of all texts as limited by their scope). He does not succeed in creating a full story. I struggled with a way to summarize the book (best shot: son sees father’s demise at the hands of his mother), so I went in search of what others say. This was not a scientific survey, but a look at what a good Google search would bring up. Not surprisingly, almost everyone focuses on the physical safran-inside-tablebook or the idea behind the physical book, but not the narrative itself. Why? Because the narrative is not nearly as strong as the idea behind it. It can be better viewed as a work of poetry, but with lines like “Weeks passed like boats waiting to sail into the starless dawn, we were full of aimless endless darkness,” it even fails in that category. This is a book worth looking at, and because it is short, go ahead and read it. But it has been noticed not for what it contains, but how it was created. When the act of creation exceeds the creation, then it says little for the creation itself.

Firstborn (New American Library)

Firstborn (New American Library) - Louise Glück This is Gluck's first collection of poems published in 1968 (at age 24). A bit more uneven than latter efforts, but overall it still shows her excellent insight into everyday issues with her edgy writing style. "The Egg" is a moving poem about an abortion with lines such as""I heard my insidesRoll into a crib"She also has her simple phrases:"Now/the weather is such grease" which so simply describe a complex event.Great stuff as always.Reread in 2013: and liked it even better.

Underground Nest

Underground Nest - Kathleen Maher Kathleen Maher's novel centers around the dissolution of the proto-typical American family. Mom, dad, son, daughter. Dad is the breadwinner, a former Eagle Scout and Boy Scout supporter who teaches Political Science. The kids go through the normal growing pains, although the son does follow dad up the Boy Scout ladder. Mom stays home and lives a housewife existence rarely seen today. The daughter rebels -- at times.Not surprisingly, the "underground nest" of the title tells us that just beneath the surface, a nest of hornets await. Zach Severins is the dad, and beneath his perfect surface is an obsession with himself and what others think of him, a tendency to find sex outside of his marriage, and eventually a long-term relationship with a woman who moves in the top circles of Washington D.C.Eventually, the surface collapses and we watch as Zach's perfect life is exposed for the lie it is. To avoid giving away too much of the plot, suffice it say that everything unravels. The result is that Zach is forced to reexamine himself and given the chance to redeem his life. The novel ends before we see if a promising beginning is followed through, but I'm not convinced that two years down the road, he would not be in a similar situation.The story is interesting and Maher moves the plot along quickly and deftly. Where it suffers is in the characters, a group of somewhat two-dimensional people who must have more going on than what we see. As a result, the reader is often surprised at what is happening. After they separate, Zach and his wife, Beth, have an ongoing "angry sex" routine, but from we know of Beth, this seems out of character. Even the children seem to move in and out of anger faster than the normal teenager who finds out their dad has been having an affair.Still, the novel raises questions about how we live our lives, and takes the side of living the well-considered life. It does so within a scenario many of us will recognize, which makes the possibility of actually taking some away from it all the more likely.

A Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life

A Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life - Gerald Lawson Sittser Jerry Sittser understands pain. He understands loss. He understands grief. But more importantly, he understands that our life is a story of redemption, of connection to the person of Christ. While we cannot forget, nor should we forget, our painful times in life, we need to know that the God's story for our life is not over.This is no mere glib, theological chatter. Sittser's family was in a car hit by a drunk driver nearly 20 years ago. In an instant, his mother, his wife, and one of his daughters, was gone. Three generations of women gone all at once, and Sittsler suddenly finds himself the single father of two daughters and a son -- all young.Sittser wrote about the incident four years after it happened, in "A Grace Disguised." He now returns with more distance from the event. But what makes this work so powerful, is that Sittser is not writing a memoir, but using his story to tell the story of God's working out our redemption. "This book will not tell a sweet and simple story about tragedy leading to triumph. Still, I hope it will tell a redemptive story."And it does. Sittser is inspirational not in that he, twenty years later, he is "handling" the tragedy well. Instead, he inspirational in how he seems himself in the context of a larger story, and he trusts God's authorship. This is not a self-help book, it is not called, "Using God to Feel Better About How Bad Life Is." It is about redemption. "Redemption involves the story of how God reclaims and restores us into a living relationship with himself so that we can become the people that God has always intended us to be."Sittser organizes the book in way which focuses on redemption as a story. Chapters are about characters, "Scene and Setting," "Plot," "Author," and other story devices. The Bible itself is explored as a story, and in six of the most amazing pages I've ever read, he summarizes the entire Bible by relating it as a story. Sittser focuses on scripture for what he explores, and he quotes scripture (often at length) to show the story of redemption. So many books today, including Christian books, spend more time quoting other authors than returning to the source, which makes this book so strong, theologically speaking.This is not surprising. Sittser is a professor of Theology at Whitworth College (and, I was pleased to learn, a fellow alum from Hope College). He has a unique gift for be theologically grounded, but clearly able to write for the layperson. And his unfortunate credentials in suffering create an authentic voice.On a very personal note, this was a profoundly moving book for me. Myself a father of four, I am also the parent of a six-year-old who has been battling cancer for nearly three years. There is no longer much hope that this will be cured, and we have wrestled with this reality. I have written openly and honestly about this process since the outset, and many people have said, you should write a book. Well, Sittser has written the book I would want to write, and done it far better than I could ever do.I knew at the outset that his voice would be one I understand. "God has written and played the key role in the story of salvation, which promises to redeem our stories....This glorious story of redemption turns on the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and Savior of the world, who came into this world to make us new, which he accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection. It is all his doing, a gift of pure grace. But we must receive this gift and make it our own, like children growing into adults."That last line challenges us to not feel sorry for ourselves, but to accept God's grace and trust in his story. How many of us have wasted our lives, filling it with bitterness over real and imagined tragedies, instead of recognizing that God is not done writing our story. But we need to accept that gift, and accepting gifts requires humility. Some people are blessed with a natural humility, others learn it the hard way, but those who never see themselves in a larger context, who center their world around themselves instead of God -- well, there is the true tragedy in life. A stepping out of the story God is writing. Sittser shares the story of a woman who, after many years of struggling, decides to meet the man who murdered her brother. And she tells him as she leaves, God wants him to know that "It is not too late to become the man that God designed you to be." Our stories are not over.

Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus

Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus - John Ortberg The essential premise of John Ortberg's Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus, is that Christianity has had a great impact on society. Hardly earth shattering news. Somehow, Ortberg seems to think this legitimizes Jesus for the world, but, of course, it does not. A Christian will not point to the lived out faith as proof that Jesus was Christ, but instead focus on Jesus. Ortberg does show ways the influence of Christianity has spread, but he tends to focus on the all the good ways, instead of the evil. He gives passing mention to some errors, but if you want to focus on the role of Christianity in the world, you have to address the Inquisitions, Christian support for slavery, Christian countries warring, and countless examples of individual misuses of Christ's teachings.One thinks of Gandhi's reply to why he rejects Christ. "Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It is just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Which is one of the few quotes in the world which does not make it into this book. Ortberg strings quote after quote after quote together, quite often from four or five unrelated sources, on a single page. Sometimes they relate, sometimes they do not, but you want to hear more from Ortberg and less from everyone else. These are broken up by some very bad, classic "preacher" jokes which are often forced into the text.Clearly, I found this all annoying. What he does have to say of value is what you would pick up in any history of Christianity class or text. Now, let it be known that I'm in the minority here. This is book is very popular and has spawned many study groups. If it succeeds in getting people talking about their faith, there is something going right. And many may argue that I get Ortberg's goal wrong. An arguable point, so feel free to disagree in the comments.And just when it seems that all hope is lost for the book, I do find some saving grace (pun intended) as Ortberg turns his attention at the end to the three essential days in Christianity: Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. Here we get a glimpse of what Ortberg has to share if he quits quoting others and writes his own thoughts. His reflections on each of these days are simple, but strong. Especially interesting are his thoughts on the Saturday, when no hope existed. If you are looking for devotional reading for Easter Weekend, use these three chapters.As for the rest, spend time instead with a good history of Christianity. And never confuse Christians with Christianity -- we are stumbling lot seeking the perfection of Christ, but always falling short.

And the Soft Wind Blows

And the Soft Wind Blows - Lance Umenhofer This is an advanced copy, but it could use a bit of editing. The overall story is interesting, but the jumps in action or thinking are too fast. Creating more of a backstory would help.


Nox - Anne Carson Some books just do not work as books. So what is a writer to do when they want to express something which does not fit into the usual binding? It helps when you are Anne Carson, an established poet and classicist, and you are writing on an usual subject.Nox (Latin for "night") is an elegy, or as Carson says, and epitaph, for her estranged and now deceased brother, Michael. Battling drug use, Carson says he left the United States in the late 1970's in order not to go to jail. She would never see him again, and only spoke to him six times in over 20 years. During that time he traveled under false names, fell in love with a woman and was devastated when she died young, was married twice, and already had his ashes scattered before his sister found out he was dead.But this is no collection of stories about her brother; it is a scrapbook of pictures, fragments of letters, Carson's own thoughts, and other items. Instead of fitting it into the regular book format, "Nox" comes is an accordion style book which comes in book shaped box.So how does this book manage to succeed in tying together such a range of items? Catullus’ poem No. 101, an elegy written by the poet when he arrived at his brother's grave. Catullus was a first century, BC, Roman poet, who learned too late of his brother's death to be there in time for the burial. Carson provides the poem in Latin, and then gives the etymology of each word in the 63-word poem on the left hand side, while the items relating to her brother are on the right. Toward the end, you finally get the poem in English, although she says that translating the work does not work well as the meanings of some of the words are lost in other languages. Many the peoples many the oceans I crossed— I arrive at these poor, brother, burials so I could give you the last gift owed to death and talk (why?) with mute ash. Now that Fortune tore you from me, you oh poor (wrongly) brother (wrongly) taken from me, now still anyway this—what a distant mood of parents handed down as the sad gift for burials— accept soaked with tears of a brother and into forever, brother, farewell and farewell. Carson's own words and arrangement of her brother's show her poetic tendencies.A moving story of her brother always being on edge of others, is across the page from "sunt." Carson gives the definition of "to be (continue) among the living; (of things) to be in existence." Her story of her brother, one of the longest memories given, tells of a photograph she has of him (shown on the previous page) "about ten years old standing on the ground beneath a treehouse. Above him in the treehouse you can see three older boys gazing down. They have raised the ladder." She wonders if his future drug use was found in this desire to be where he was not welcome, where he is on the edge. "No one knew him."In the end, what we have is a uniquely personal and moving meditation on death. Of course, we know death by contrasting it with life, but Carson does not pretend that our lives are made up of a simple narrative history. Instead, small elements, diverse elements, create a picture of who we are. She could write a detailed biography of her brother, and we would know less about who he is than we get from her own creation. In great part, this is because we know him only through Carson. And we know other people only through ourselves. It is not possible to know a person as they do themselves; relationships are quite simply that seeking to know another, and be known, in ways which are unique to each relationship. Carson's brother's absence for 22 years is an essential element of how she knows him, and she does not try to bridge the gap. That is the beauty of this epitaph. It explores a relationship as it was, and does not seek for more than what exists. As a result, she is respectful of her brother and his life without her, while not forgetting what she remembers of him. What better tribute could be offered?

The Illusion of Separateness: A Novel

The Illusion of Separateness - Simon Van Booy Simon Van Booy likes to write about the interconnectedness of life. Small acts by one person can dramatically impact the life of another, and neither person may even be aware of the connection. But that does not make the connection any less important. Recognizing that we are connected to others, and that those connections are important, should make us more conscious of how we live our lives.In this most recent novel, “The Illusion of Separateness,” (slated for a June release) Van Booy goes directly after this theme, which he has raised in earlier works. This time we bounce back between World War II, 1968, and the present day, between France, and England, and the United States. We meet John, a recently married American pilot shot down over France who then forgets his past; Mr. Hugo, the man with a half-flattened face who chooses to forget his past; Amelisa, a blind woman who creates ways for the blind to experience museum displays, including one with the replica of a plane her grandfather John flew. There are more: Martin, an elderly caretaker at a home for the elderly, who is with the new resident, Mr. Hugo, when he dies. In classic van Booy style, the final chapter ties around to the first, and we find that these two have a connection neither could imagine.If the book is frustrating at all, it is in the circling of the truth as you wait for Van Booy to connect the stories. You know he will, but he demands patience from the reader as he explores everyone’s story. However, what we see in this circling is that lives exist without the connections being known. We could be the ones living those lives, never aware of how we are connected to others, but still moving froward because of those connections.“He realized this early on, and realized too that what people think are their lives are merely its conditions. The truth is closer than thought and lies buried in what we already know.”vanbooyThis is Van Booy’s second novel, and he also has two collections of short stories out (as well as several other projects). His short story background is clear in this novel, where many chapters could stand alone. As the novel unfolds, the connections begin the characters become clearer. But Van Booy avoids any Hollywood style, clunky unveiling of the truth. In fact, the reader is privy to connections the characters never make themselves.While this seems like a setup for a depressing novel, Van Booy is one of the most hopeful writers around. His other works have explored the theme of love, and he is not afraid to see love as the basis of a good life. Too often, writers focus on love as a setup for failure. But Van Booy appeals to the romantics in the world in that he believes in love.Van Booy also separates himself from other writers in that he takes children seriously. In one of his previous short stories we see the love of children as the strongest of bonds, and he has not lost that awe of children’s capacity to love and feel.Early in the novel, we meet young Sebastien, who has discovered the skeletal remains of what was John’s plane, shot down over France. He thinks about showing this to the young girl he loves, he thinks about the pilot and the photo left behind in the plane, he thinks about what this means in his young life. ”The teacher sometimes stops talking, and when Sebastien looks over, she is already looking at him, which means: Why are you looking through the window and not at me? But Sebastien is not looking through the window, but through the scrapbook of things that have pierced his heart.”This is a line which could shoot down most novels, but in Van Booy’s hands, these lines work. He drops them throughout the novel and they flow naturally from the characters themselves. For Van Booy, every life has a story, and every story is important. That alone makes him unique among novelists, and makes his work worth reading.

A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings

A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings - Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Raphael G. Warnock Martin Luther King, Jr is well known for so many reasons. A civil rights leader, great orator, great Christian, great pacifist. It is no surprise to find all those elements in "A Gift of Love: Sermons from 'Strength to Love' and Other Preachings." As sermons, they are rooted in the Christian faith. But his call for civil rights, his call for a non-violent struggle, are prominent throughout. King was a preacher of the moment, responding to the needs of his congregation and beyond through the lens of his faith. And his strong oration style can be heard even in reading the sermons, as he brings home his points with a cadence which cannot be missed.The weaknesses in the sermons are more a matter of their context rather than their thinking. Some of them slip toward self-help language, but they reflect the growing awareness of psychology in one's thinking. Some of the world political issues are now a moot point, and some of what he sought we have reached.But that our world has not reached the racial integration he sought is clear, and shameful, 50 years after some of these sermons were preached. What does come through in reading these sermons is King's faith. He was a Christian, and he interprets what he sees through those eyes. These sermons will not allow him to become a secular hero. The civil rights movement was an expression of his Christian faith. His pacifist viewpoint, which was strengthened by the example of Gandhi, was rooted in his Christian faith.I will not attempt a break down of each sermon. I read this over a long period and was more interested in their impact on my own faith than that of a book review. His sermon, "Antidotes for Fear," was given to me by a doctor treating my son, who has been battling cancer for over two years. He is not likely to survive another year, and King's words spoke to my condition. What stronger testament is there to one's power as a writer or thinker that 50 years later, they still reach people where needed.

What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine

What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine - Physician Danielle Ofri's latest book, "What Doctors Feel," is part of her ongoing attempt to bridge the patient/doctor gap, as seen in her earlier works. While this latest work focuses on the emotions doctor's go through, Ofri's point is that those emotions impact care. Learning more about what doctors feel can help, not only the medical profession, but patients as well. What becomes alarmingly clear is that little is done to help doctors deal with the range of emotions that run through them. As a result, doctors suffer burnout, patients are treated with more distance, and the medical profession as a whole suffers.As medicine becomes more high tech, there exists the possibility that the distance will grow. Ofri cautions us not to be fooled by such possibilities. "No matter how many high tech tools enter the picture, the doctor-patient interaction is still primarily a human one. And when humans connect, emotions by necessity weave an underlying network."Much of the issue is found in the training of the doctors. Ofri shares the work of the 19th century physician and teacher, Sir William Osler, who encouraged young doctors to create a distance between themselves and the patient. The idea centers around the ability to make more logical decisions when the mind is not clouded by emotion. Osler did not want the doctors to treat their patients as mere subjects, but he did not want them distracted from making clear medical decisions.That training remains, and Ofri uses stories to tell about the times when ignoring the complete care of the patient, in the interest of medical care, led to disasters. Conversely, she shares stories of when doctors have failed to keep that emotional distance, and as a result, better decisions were made. Nevertheless, she bemoans "the consistent and depressing observation that medical students seem to lose prodigious amounts of empathy as they progress along the medical training route."Not surprisingly, doctors hit the normal range of emotions. Grief, joy, sadness, guilt, shame, anger, and frustration are all part of the range any normal doctor, or person, will go through. What is different, is the intensity of the emotion. If I make an error in this book review, I may feel guilty, but I do not carry the weight of causing the death of someone due to that mistake. Doctors do.Where the books wanders at times is when Ofri focuses too much on lawsuits and medical errors. But her point in addressing those areas point out the feelings of guilt and shame that doctors experience. Our tendency to sue for every real or supposed error, contributes to our own problems in the medical world. "Unless we can somehow defuse the shame and loss of self-definition that accompany the admission of medical errors, the gut instinct to hide an error will always be the first lynx to pounce upon the heart."Ofri clearly wants us to address the emotional needs of doctors, for their sake and for the sake of patients. Doctors who feel safer making an emotional connection will provide better care for their patients. How we are to improve the system is not clear, but Ofri's intent seems to simply get the issue recognized. There have been inroads made, and she highlights the work of Herdley Paolini at Florida Hospital, where they have developed a program to address the emotional needs of all their staff. But, clearly, much work remains.While doctors and patients will benefit from reading Ofri's work, perhaps legislators and hospital administrators, those with the most power to change the situation, should read this book. Regardless, Ofri's point is clear. When a doctor and patient interact, they are really two humans interacting. Emotions will be part of the relationship. Perhaps we should pay more attention to what those emotions mean in the medical world.

HBR Guide to Finance Basics for Managers

HBR Guide to Finance Basics for Managers - Harvard Business Review While providing some good basics, the reading is jumpy and repetitive as it is simply a compilation of different HBR publications. In fact, two chapters (one right after the other) give contradictory reads on ROI thinking, which is hardly helpful for someone trying to learn the basics. Good to keep as a basic resource.

House Made of Dawn (Momaday)

House Made of Dawn - N. Scott Momaday N. Scott Momaday's first novel, "House Made of Dawn," is noted by some critics as sparking a renaissance in Native American literature. Published in 1969, the novel won the Pulitzer Prize, rave reviews, and a place in the canon of contemporary literature.So, it is with some hesitation that I admit to not enjoying the novel too much. There seems to be an attempt at being elusive, at showing only part of what is happening, in a way many post-modern novels do. I actually enjoy many novels without the normal narrative, or rising plot structure, but Momaday's books just fails to connect the pieces when needed.The novel centers around Abel, who returns to his reservation following his time in World War II. Not long after arriving at home, he murders a man. We pick up the story seven years later in Los Angeles, when Abel is let out of jail. At first, we get the story (or lack thereof) from Abel's mind, but then it switches to the Priest of the Sun, John Big Bluff Tosamah, who gives a long sermon. The sermon shares many stories of the Kiowa tribe, to which Momaday belongs. The tales are interesting and create a better understanding of the Kiowa tribe, but the connection of these to Abel's situation is not clear. The last major section switches to Abel's friend, Ben Benally's, viewpoint of Abel. It is not a pretty picture. He cannot understand the way other Native Americans have assimilated to white culture, and he begins to drink and leaves his job. Eventually, he just disappears.The narrative comes full circle, and is at its strongest, in the final pages of the novel. Abel disappears so he can return home to care for his dying grandfather, and there seems to be a return to his starting point as he reenters the traditions of his heritage.As noted before, the novel is seen as creating a publishing spark for writers such as Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, and Sherman Alexie. Their novels seem are clearer in their narratives, but perhaps Momaday's challenging storyline reflects the struggle of Native Americans in contemporary life. It hits many of the themes that will dominate other novels, such as assimilation, alcohol abuse, racism, loss of tradition, and a return to Native American roots. Because of its influence, it is worth reading.

Evil Water

Evil Water - Inger Wolf Danish writer Inger Wolf's "Evil Water" is a taut, suspenseful thriller with unexpected twists and several wrong turns. Just when you think you have it figured out, you, and quite often the police, are wrong. Wolf has published several books in Denmark, but "Evil Water" is her first English translation. Her debut novel, "Sort Sensommer," was sold in several countries and was named "Most Exciting Crime Novel Debut" by the Danish Crime Academy in 2006. Live "Evil Water," it features inspector Daniel Trokic, who is also the central character in several of her other novels. The story focuses on the disappearance to two women with similar colored hair. When their bodies are found packed into two separate suitcases and buried in a farmer's field, Trokic and his team try to find out who is responsible and why. Adding to the mystery is the letter "Y" which appears on them, and the rare, American flower growing out of their hair.The tension quickly builds when they realize they are looking for a serial killer with an unknown motive. The crime element almost takes a back seat to the horror element, but this is no supernatural horror. Wolf is delving into darkest corners of the human psyche, and creates a death ritual which will likely keep you awake at night (and away from your bathtub). As other victims appear, Trokic and the others race to find another person before she becomes a victim. And just when they close in on the killer, Wolf throws you for another curve.Wolf creates so many threads and offshoots, that at times she seems to forget about them. But then, they suddenly reappear and fit neatly into place. She avoids the obvious, artificial solutions and patiently keeps piecing elements together, only to show that when put together, another piece is missing.Trokic is a classic, hard-boiled detective, with an intense, quiet air about him. His character could use more depth, but since this is her fifth novel about him, perhaps the earlier novels introduce him more (but as of yet, these are not available in English). He has moved up in his career, but regrets needing to spend more time with budgets than investigations. And we see him balancing the need for a personal life with his on the case obsessive qualities.Of the other characters, police officer and computer expert Lisa Kornelius is one of most interesting. A woman in an all male domain, she refuses to be beaten by another computer expert's encryption techniques. And when she does break in, she also pushes the moral code for both personal and professional reasons. She questions whether what she does is illegal or immoral, and she has to balance that with whether what she learns could save a life. Her struggles with ethical dilemmas show a struggle few of us will face, but it is good to see a character asking questions for which there are not always answers.While the Danish names make take some getting used to, you are quickly transported along in the investigation. Wolf intersperses police chapters with those from the killer's and victim's points of view, but without revealing any of the mystery. As such, you have an extra step on the police, but the information is not likely to help you solve it any sooner.In true crime thriller fashion, Wolf keeps you guessing right to the end. And you will guess wrong. But that makes the book only more interesting.