I tend to read inspirational books that focus on developing your mind. Many of the books I review on this site will be focused on personal development. I don’t do typical book reviews for a couple of reasons. First you can get that information anywhere and I don’t think there is a lot of value going into excruciating detail about a book.
My book reviews focus on what this book taught me and my opinion of the value of the information conveyed. Hopefully this will get you excited about reading or listening to a book and understand what you might gain from reading or listening to it. Yes I said reading and listening. I review both written books and audio books. I’m a Audible.com subscriber and avid purchaser or books both written and in audio form.
More than anything else I want to share those books that really inspire me with you. I would love your take on the books reviewed here, so don’t be shy and feel free to comment.
I also have another blog that is focused on personal development, health, and philosophy. Visit JosephSacco.com
As I’ve mentioned before my book reviews are not meant to be a comprehensive dissertation about the book. I prefer to provide the simple premise and my own perspective about the writing.
The premise behind this book is that we have a tendency to talk ourselves out of pursuing good ideas because our primary focus is on protecting ourselves from things that take us out of our comfort zone. Mel Robbins talks about a hack that breaks this pattern of fear or procrastination by counting backwards from 5 to 1 and then taking action. This breaks the pattern of letting our mind talk ourselves out of doing something in response to the idea we have.
Most of this book is about having the courage to pursue your dreams and explaining all the ways to overcome sabotaging yourself. Let me say that for me the book was very inspirational, and may for you act as a trigger to start pursuing your dreams. She includes lots of quotes from readers on how they changed their life, and some pretty cool quotes on pages you can rip out and put on the wall in your home office for instance.
As much as I enjoyed the book, listening to her on a podcast or YouTube is equally enjoyable. Mel is an excellent public speaker. The YouTube video below is a good example of her excellent presentation skills:
It is an easy read that you could accomplish in a weekend, a little over 200 pages. I would certainly recommend it if you are considering making some changes in your life and need a little push in the right direction.
I recently started listening to the audio book A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. I’ve always loved Eckhart Tolle’s quotes, but have never read or listened to any of his work. This book from Audible.com is about 9 1/2 hours, which makes it great for my long daily commutes. This Audible version of Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose is actually narrated by Eckhart Tolle himself, which I really like because he is flat out brilliant.
At this time I’ve listened to about 4 hours or what amounts to several chapters in the book. While I never like to give away too much in these posts, as to not spoil it for the reader; I am really enjoying this audio book. Tolle spends a lot of time talking about how the ego has prevented us from being ourselves, from finding any sense of our true self. He also spends a lot of time discussing our material desires that are driven by ego or sense of a false self, and how we cling to roles that we so closely identify with as we feel they define ourselves by these roles.
This is really an incredible audio book because it makes you question everything you think you are and value. If you have questions about a world where we seek to divide groups of people, where material wealth is king, where we seek to feel superior to others, and live a life stroking our egos then you will really enjoy Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.
I read a lot, probably about 2 or 3 books a month, which for some of you might be pretty typical or maybe even less than others. I decided to pick up the book Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. The book is about 200 pages, and could be read in a weekend if one was so inclined. Now one of the things I want to get straight right from the start is that in writing a book review, I’m not going to spoil the read for you. My intent is only to describe what I thought of the book.
So this is a relatively small book but may be one of the best books I have ever read. Morrie was Mitch Albom’s professor when he was an undergraduate student. The book details the Tuesday meetings that Mitch had with Morrie during the last year of his life. During those meetings they talked about a number of life lessons and that is where the magic of this book unfolds. You will find yourself drawn into the meaning behind these conversations and for me it was a very emotional experience. I would intend to read a chapter and move on to do something else, but I often found myself reading three or four at a sitting.
If you are looking for a book that addresses the big questions in life then this is a must read. You will come away with a new perspective on what is really important in life. What really struck me is how emotional I became when I was reading this book. I was often brought to tears, not by the tragedy of Morrie’s illness, but by the powerful lessons that Morrie discussed with Mitch.
That’s it, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but for me this is one of the top 5 books I have ever read.
I wanted to share with you a book I’ve been reading called Buddhism A Concise Introduction written by Houston Smith and Philip Novak. I’ve read a number of books on Buddhism, but this is by far and away my favorite. The book provides many of the basics about Buddhism such as how the Buddha began his journey, some of his fundamental teachings like the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, and some other concepts including nirvana. I have read the first 6 chapters several times to help reinforce my knowledge and help center me from time to time.
The book is extremely well written, and goes into depth about what the Four Noble Truths really are and what it means to follow the Eightfold Path. After you have absorbed the first 6 chapters the authors begin a journey on how Buddhism split into different factions include Theravada, Mahayana, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism. Finally in the second section of the book the authors discuss how Buddhism came to America and the impact it had there.
If you are looking for a book to introduce you to Buddhism that thoroughly explains the concepts and types, this book is a great place to start. I like this book so much that I have taken a highlighter to it several times, so that I could focus on certain aspects of it. The authors are scholars who make no judgement about Buddhism, but instead provide insights and research that bring the life of the Buddha and his teachings to the reader in a way that is both easy to understand and yet very detailed. I have the hard copy version which is 239 pages, with a what looks like 12 pitch type, and is an excellent example of how you should print a book. The book is also available in soft cover and Kindle versions.
In my last post I mentioned that I was reading a fascinating book called the Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau. I mentioned the practice of zazen which is arguably a very prescriptive form of meditation. As my reading has progressed the author is covering lectures given by his master Yasuntani-roshi starting with 1 Theory and Practice of Zazen. It should be noted that even the Buddha Shakyamuni devoted himself exclusively to zazen for six years before attaining enlightenment. Now he was the Buddha so for the rest of us your time may vary, and yes for most of us could be considerably longer. However with that said there is no average time frame and one should not feel any sense of urgency as the journey is as important as the goal.
In this lecture Yasuntani-roshi goes further into some of the details around the practice of zazen; here are a few points made during the lecture:
Work on creating a base when sitting full lotus (see picture), half lotus, or quarter lotus sitting positions are preferred. However there are other sitting positions that will provide a good base such as the Burmese posture (see picture below) or traditional Japanese knelling posture (see picture below).
Notice the back must be erect and straight, the eyes open, and the hands will typically be held with the right hand underneath the thumbs touching.
Yasuntani-roshi recommends sitting no more than 30 – 40 minutes at a time, otherwise the mind will lose its sharpness. Beginners should start with 5 – 10 minutes until they become comfortable. I started out with about 10 minutes, and now can sit for 20 minutes or so after several weeks of gradually adding time. It was not something I did in any systematic fashion, instead it just naturally became easier to sit for longer periods of time as the frequency of sitting increased. The more you sit and meditate the more you look forward to it, and the easier it becomes to sit for longer periods of time.
As zazen is the key element to Zen Buddhism it is very exacting. It is worth studying to make sure you are approaching it correctly.