Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Few Good Books

One of my favorite quotes is:

"The more that you read, the more that you know,
The more that you know, the more places you'll go."

Dr. Seuss had it right all along. It's the reason I can't stop reading, can't stop learning. It's a fact in my life, that I love being challenged to learn new things. Actually, I crave it. Knowledge takes you to new places, discovering possibilities beyond current reason. Hence why I do things like teach myself French on the side (albeit quite difficult), study vocabulary books for fun, and read case study textbooks. My mother is the same way, as she's currently working on getting her third master's degree, this time in mathematics. (Read: genius.) Like her, I'm always pushing myself harder, expecting more than humanly possible. It stretches my mind to think creatively in how can I achieve all that I want in the given time period I have allotted in a day, month, year, lifetime...

Being the intensely competitive person I am (don't play me in Scrabble), this year I decided to impose a semi-daunting challenge to myself called: "52 Books." I had heard about it through fellow bloggers, and it sounded like the perfect fit for me. The goal is to read 52 books in a year, one per week. I told a few friends about it January, casually asking if they wanted to do it too. Not only did an outstanding number of people join the quest, but we've made it into a social media project through sharing book reviews via Twitter (join the conversation: #52books), as well as mini-blogging on tumblr, and just sending emails back and forth.

I read a couple books at a time typically, which possibly makes me take longer to complete; it keeps them all interesting for me. Thus far, I'm about fifty pages from completion of my sixth book and about 200 from finishing the seventh. Perhaps reading 500-600 page books at a time is making this more difficult to comply with the "one book a week" ideal. As long as by December 31, 2011, I've read 52 books, I will consider it a win.

This year, I've been all over the boards with what I've been reading, including:

1. "Game Change" by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
2. "Reading Jackie" by William M. Kuhn
3. "One Day" by David Nicholls
4. "Travel and Tourism Public Relations" by Dennis Deuschl
5. "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" by Robert Kiyosaki
6. "Anthropology of an American Girl" by Hilary Thayer Hamann (almost complete)
7. "Decision Points" by George W. Bush (halfway complete)

I will say there are a few trends though in my reading, focusing on politics and biographies. It's what interests me most, which has surprised me actually. It used to be fiction was my genre of choice, loving the ability to be transported to another world entirely. Perhaps now I'm too entwined with events and people in our world to want to be taken away from it.

Although technology is a big proponent for me in my career and personal interest, I've yet to give in to the kindle or an iPad. There's nothing like turning the page to next set of words waiting to be read and having bookcases filled with novels waiting to be opened again. Soon, though, I know I'll begin utilizing them. It took me a while to give up my handheld CD player too for the iPod, as the strap fit perfectly around my hand when I would go for runs. (Side note: my dad still uses his radio headset and discman when working out, one of the many reasons why I adore him for his unwillingness to let go of the things he loves.) Eventually I did give in and now can't imagine my life before my iPod with its ability to hold more songs than I can ever dream of listening to at a given time. Time changes everything. Unlike the discman, though, I hope books, like learning, never go out of style.

“Books open your mind, broaden your mind, and strengthen you as nothing else can.”

Monday, January 31, 2011

He Says It All

"You come by your style by learning what to leave out. At first you tend to overwrite—embellishment instead of insight. You either continue to write puerile bilge, or you change. In the process of simplifying oneself, one often discovers the thing called voice."

Billy Collins

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ryan O'Connell Is On Point

This post from Thought Catalog has whipped through the email chain circuit faster than the wind during last week's massive city blizzard. For the past few weeks it's been read by many, sent over and over, rehashed at cocktail parties, etc. It's too good to not re-post because at the end of the day, this is our lives in the city:

How to Live in New York City
December 20, 2010
By Ryan O'Connell

Move here when you’re 18 or 22, maybe even 24. Come from somewhere else-the north, south, west, Xanadu- and come to realize that everyone living in New York is a transplant. Even the ones who grew up on the Upper East Side end up moving into a place downtown, which, as you’ll soon discover, is like moving to a different city.

Discover the cruel and bizarre world of New York City real estate. End up spending an obscene amount of money on something called a broker’s fee, first and last month’s rent and a security deposit. Cry a little bit in the leasing office but remind yourself that you’re so happy to be here.

Picture hearing a man playing the saxophone outside your bedroom window. End up hearing a lot of sirens instead. Figure it’s okay because it’s New York and you’re still so happy to be here.

Go out to bars in the Lower East Side because the Internet told you so. Fall in love with a bar called, Max Fish, and always stay out till four in the morning. Eat a falafel and have someone pay for a cab back to your apartment. Watch the sun start to rise while going over the Williamsburg Bridge and feel like your life is becoming some kind of movie.

Eat bad pizza but trick yourself into believing it’s good because it’s made in New York. Do the same thing with bagels and sex.

Meet people who will be your best friends for three or four months. They’ll help you transition into city life and take you to weird bars in Murray Hill. It will be like the blind leading the blind but once you get a firm grasp on things, you can stop returning their phone calls.

Watch your life in New York go through phases. Spend a summer in Fort Greene with a lover and get to know the neighborhood and its rhythms. Once the fling ends, forget the blocks, parks and restaurants ever existed and don’t return unless you have to.

Encounter a lot of people crying in public. Watch an NYU student cry in Think Coffee, a business woman in midtown sob into her cellphone, an old man whimper on a stoop in Greenpoint. At first, it will feel very jarring but, like everything else, it will become normal. Have your first public cry in front of a Bank of America. Cry so hard and don’t care if people are watching you. You pay good money to be able to cry in public.

Work long hours at a thankless job. Always be one step away from financial destitution. Marvel at how expensive New York is, how when you walk out the door, $20.00 immediately gets deleted from your wallet. Understand that even though no one has any money, everyone is privileged to live in New York City.

Go home for the holidays and run into old friends from high school. When you tell them that you live in New York, watch their eyes widen. They’ll say, “Oh my god, New York? That’s so crazy. I’m so jealous!” Have a blasé attitude about it but deep down inside, know they have good reason to be jealous.

Go home and feel relieved to be away from the energy of the city, that punishing 4:00 a.m. last call. Spend the first two days eating and sleeping, getting back to normal. Spend the last two days feeling anxious and ready to get back to your real home. Realize this city has you by the balls and isn’t going to let you go.

Someday you might grow tired of it all though. You might start crying in public more often than you’d like, have a bad break-up and want to pack it all up.

Certain moments of living in the city will always stick out to you. Buying plums from a fruit vendor on 34th street and eating three of them on a long walk, the day you spent in bed with your best friend watching Tyra Banks, the amazing rooftop party you attended on a sweltering hot day in July. These memories might seem insignificant but they were all moments when you looked around the city and felt like you were a part of it all.

When you leave the city, you probably won’t come back. Eventually your life in New York will seem so far away and sometimes you’ll even wonder if it really happened. Don’t worry. It did.

Check the original posting out here.

Here's to another year... the best one yet.