“Better Than Before” by Gretchen Rubin

In stores now
In stores now

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit,”

states Will Durant in a summary of Aristotle’s thoughts

I read that quote earlier this year and it made me feel as if I’m lacking in some way. Often I spend my weekends doing nothing except stare at white walls, trying to invent creative ways to rouse myself to do something from my lengthy to-do list, much of which consists of ways to increase my knowledge of art and literature or improve my writing. Excellence, then, would not come my way soon if I continue in this way. So my interest was piqued when I saw an ARC giveaway for Gretchen Rubin’s recently published Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. I immediately sent a request, wondering if I would enjoy the book or cast it aside as a major bore. After all, how could a book on habits be entertaining?

I doubt entertainment is anyone’s foremost reason for reading this book, and it wasn’t mine, but I worried if I’d be able to stick with it to the end. I didn’t have much to maintain an interest in the book other than a drive to change my bad habits and my friends’ expressed enjoyment of Rubin’s bestseller The Happiness Project. I’ve never read anything by her prior to this book. Despite these meagre sources to drum up interest, I immediately began reading soon after receiving the book and barely put it down.

Quick summary:

At the heart of Better than Before is a quest for self-knowledge. That’s what latched my attention. Rubin reasons that we must first know ourselves — our wants, needs, and drives — before we can change. With that, she begins her book by stating that we’re driven by expectations. There are two types, she states, outer (deadlines and company goals) and inner (personal goals). We tackle these expectations in various ways but Rubin lists four ways we tend to approach them. She presents them as groups: upholders, who respond well to both outer and inner expectations; questioners, who resist outer expectations but meet inner expectations; obligers, who meet outer expectations but resist inner expectations; and rebels, who resist both types of expectations. Rubin confesses that she’s an upholder, which becomes more apparent the more I read. Likewise, I became convinced that I’m a rebel by the end of the book.

Continue reading ““Better Than Before” by Gretchen Rubin”

Book Haul: Dragons and an Assassination

It’s a semi-peaceful, boring Sunday. I’m inundated by work but thought to take a break to do something fun hence this post on books! I recently started doing posts called Wishes for My TBR Pile in which I share the top books I’ve discovered and added to my Goodreads “to be read” list. I frequently add books to my TBR list so “top” here refers to those I’m most likely to purchase and read.

While working, I realized that I’ve never shared whether I’ve actually gotten any of the books I wished for so I thought it would be a great idea to take a break and do a post on the ones I received. Here they are:

The World of Ice & Fire

The first TBR pile book I bought is The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones. It’s from my October TBR pile round-up. I’ve already started reading it, but am doing so at a leisurely pace. To me it is written like an history book, which makes sense (duh!) but the pacing bores me a bit so I allow myself to be easily interrupted while reading. But so far I enjoy the back story it provides on the Targaryens and how they came to be in Westeros. The artwork is great as well.

A Brief History of Seven Killings

Next I got an audiobook of Marlon James’ recent story on the attempted assassination of Bob Marley, A Brief History of Seven Killings: A Novel, from Goodreads. This one is from the October TBR pile round-up as well. I would have started it already if it was a novel. I have to work myself up to listen to an audiobook since I don’t retain much when I simply listen. My mind tends to drift. I’ll have to work out a routine for this one: either drawing while listening or purchasing the book and reading along while I listen.

Continue reading “Book Haul: Dragons and an Assassination”

10 of the Best Books about Literature

See more books about literature here.

Interesting Literature

10 great books for literature-lovers, from surveys of English literature to treasure-troves of trivia

Christopher Booker, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. A monumental, weighty tome that shows how all fictional narratives from folk tales to novels and films follow essentially seven basic plot forms, such as ‘overcoming the monster’ (Beowulf, Jaws). Riddled with typos, but if you can put up with them, this book is illuminating and entertaining.

Gary Dexter, Title Deeds: The Hidden Stories behind 50 Books. An engaging book full of fascinating information about some of the world’s classic books, and the stories behind how they came to be called what they’re called.

Gary Dexter, Why Not Catch-21? This is an earlier book on the same theme as Title Deeds and just as much fun.

B. Ifor Evans, A Short History of English Literature. Now sadly out of print, this delightful little Pelican paperback…

View original post 530 more words

A Legend Has Passed: Terry Pratchett (and other bookish news)

Terry Pratchett (April 1948 - March 2015)
Terry Pratchett (April 1948 – March 2015)

Terry Pratchett is an author I’ve often heard of but never got around to reading. His books are always recommended but for some unknown reason, I’ve never placed them on my TBR list until a few months ago. Though I’m unfamiliar with his work, I was still shocked when I read he had died.

Pratchett, a British author of comic fantasy novels, died on Thursday, March 12. He was 66. Along with his zany stories such as the Discworld series, which is set on a disc-shaped world that is balanced on the backs of four elephants that stand on a giant turtle’s shell, Pratchett is also noted for his satire, which is compassionate rather than biting. In 2008, it was revealed to the public that Pratchett suffered from a rare form of Alzheimer’s. Due to his diagnosis, Pratchett advocated for assisted suicide and began the formal process for it in 2011. His publisher claims that his death was not due to suicide.

May his soul rest in peace.

Continue reading “A Legend Has Passed: Terry Pratchett (and other bookish news)”

Wishes for My TBR Pile: 5 Books for Thoughts and Motivation

I began getting antsy about my Barnes & Noble coupons a few days ago since I hadn’t gotten any since the year began. But last Thursday I came home to a wonderful surprise—coupons for books! I was elated though my joy quickly soured some when I recalled that part of my Lent commitment is to not purchase any books (or shoes).

This might be an easy feat for some but for those like me who LOVE to purchase books (and shoes), it’s torture. I’ve been tempted many times since the beginning of Lent to purchase a book and barely resisted doing so. Especially since this is my birthday month, which makes it easy for me to punch loopholes into my commitment: “Obviously I should be able to purchase presents for myself despite Lent,” I’ve often thought followed by, “Why am I even doing this? I’m not even Catholic.” Luckily the coupons will expire after the Lent period so I’ll have ample time to purchase a few books. So in April when Lent is over, I’ll treat myself to one of these as a birthday gift:

Comma Queen

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris (April 6, 2015)

Mary Norris has spent more than three decades in the New Yorker’s copy department, maintaining its celebrated high standards. Now she brings her vast experience, good cheer, and finely sharpened pencils to help the rest of us in a boisterous language book as full of life as it is of practical advice.

Between You & Me features Norris’s laugh-out-loud descriptions of some of the most common and vexing problems in spelling, punctuation, and usage….and her clear explanations of how to handle them. Down-to-earth and always open-minded, she draws on examples from Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, and the Lord’s Prayer, as well as from The Honeymooners, The Simpsons, David Foster Wallace, and Gillian Flynn. 

I can’t recall where I first read about this book—it must have been in a Shelf Awareness newsletter—but I immediately added it to my TBR list. I enjoy reading books on writing and Norris’ book promises to be a thrill. Also, it comes out just in time for the end of Lent and my coupon’s expiration date.

Another reason why I’m getting this book is because I would like to work as a copy editor. I just began training as one and it has improved my writing, though I still make mistakes. I’ve found that it’s easier to edit the works of others than my own, though it helps if I return to what I’ve written after some time has passed to edit. But I’m usually too impatient to wait.

Related articles:

A short feature on Shelf Awareness

And an entertaining article by Norris in the New Yorker (If the book is like this, I will definitely enjoy it.)

Speaking of books on writing and grammar that aren’t a bore, see Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams.

Continue reading “Wishes for My TBR Pile: 5 Books for Thoughts and Motivation”

1 Unmotivated Student, 2 Exceptional Teachers

Daily Prompt: We Can Be Taught!

What makes a teacher great?

As part of the International Women’s Day celebration, I shall highlight the two teachers who influenced me the most while in school.

The first is a high-school teacher. I shall call her Ms. P. Ms. P was an English teacher who also taught a creative writing class. Though I didn’t enjoy her English classes much, I loved her creative writing classes though I spent most of it asleep. She was a quiet lady, who barely spoke above a whisper yet could control the rowdy high-school students. Usually when we were assigned to work in groups in the English classes, our noisy collaborations would mount to a din similar to that at a concert, yet she was able to quell us by simply standing in front of the room with a mild stare as if politely waiting for us to quieten. It was a bit eerie. I always wondered why this worked more effectively than the antics of other teachers—banging the table, scraping the chalkboard, or shouting “Shut up!” She was always composed and never “lost it,” even when students were beyond rude. I admired that—the power of quiet.

Continue reading “1 Unmotivated Student, 2 Exceptional Teachers”

In Search of Peace and Solitude in a Noisy World

Daily Prompt: Me Time

What’s your ideal Saturday morning? Are you doing those things this morning? Why not?

My ideal Saturday morning is quiet. So quiet you can hear a pin drop, the clock tick, and the water from the melting icicles on the window frames drip. I can hear the birds outside singing in the trees and hear the squirrels scampering over the snow on the porch. Every now and then the toot from someone’s car horn will waft towards me but it doesn’t disrupt the quiet.

I begin the day by lying in bed after waking, reveling in the quiet and solitude and warmth of my sheets. I’ll slowly rise as the sun climbs higher in the sky. Noon: I wash the sleep out my eyes and change into clothes suitable for the day. I make my way downstairs for breakfast and eat while admiring the handiwork of nature—the snow on the bare trees, the buds on the trees waiting for spring to bloom. After eating, I wash the dishes and pack them away then begin setting up for a day of creative work—whether writing or drawing or simply thinking. It’s a quiet day. An unhurried day. A day spent musing while writing, listening while drawing, sighing while thinking. It’s my perfect Saturday.

Continue reading “In Search of Peace and Solitude in a Noisy World”