Books in the Park

suggestions from the Barbara S. Ponce Public Library at Pinellas Park


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10% Happier, by Dan Harris

10 happier harrisIf you want to know how the author became 10% happier without reading the book, I can tell you in one word: meditation. Wait! I can feel you wanting to click away, but hear me out. If you are a skeptic who thinks meditation is a bunch of hooey, like I did, you might find this book especially insightful. The author, Dan Harris, is a prolific journalist for ABC and also an agnostic who doesn’t have a strong belief in a higher power, which makes him an interesting case study for the benefits of meditation. During Harris’ professional career he has done in-person interviews with three superstars of self-help: Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, and the Dalai Lama. Harris is candid about what these people are really like, but he’s even more candid about himself: what led him to discover meditation and how exactly it helped him.

Dan Harris’ journey began in 2004 when he had a panic attack on live TV. This moment represented rock-bottom of a downward spiral for a man whose profession requires nothing less than a flawless presentation. With the help of a therapist, Harris discovered that his “self-medicating” with cocaine and ecstasy, as well as the flulike symptoms and lethargy he’d been feeling since returning from reporting in Iraq, was all linked to depression. From there, Harris began a personal odyssey to reel in his emotions and silence the overly-critical voice in his head, eventually stumbling onto meditation for lasting results.

Like many personal journeys, Harris’ was full of ups and downs, dead ends and epiphanies. Even if you’re not interested in meditation, this book is a fascinating read nonetheless and very well-written. Harris talks openly about many of the most controversial events he’s reported on over the years from the Iraq War to disgraced pastor Ted Haggard, which makes this book a surprising page-turner. And if by the end Harris has convinced you to try meditating, there’s an appendix with everything you need to know to get started.

Check the PPLC Catalog for 10% Happier.


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It’s Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump by John O’Hurley

it's okay to miss the bed ohurley coverLife’s lessons learned via unusual circumstances. What might a person learn from everyday occurrences?  What are our goals? Where are we now? Within the pages of It’s Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump, O’Hurley recollects instances and insights gained from daily interactions. The interpretations range in complexity. Moments from the laughable to touching are deciphered throughout the publication.

O’Hurley examines common life “struggles” from attachment to detachment, from self assurance to doubt, and from consistency to change. Preparation meeting opportunity sparks the initiative to begin the process of change. All too often “we agree with the status quo rather than expand the energy it takes to evoke change.” Change is difficult for many of us. It is the “leap of faith” that can and does propel personal and professional progress.

O’Hurley’s premise throughout is introspection. A resonating and poignant question he asks: “At what point do our imaginations stop entertaining us and actually instruct us?”

The answer lies within…

Check the PPLC Catalog for It’s Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump.


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The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews

the traveler's gift coverDavid Ponder had come to the end of his rope and couldn’t even find the emotional strength to tie a knot and hang on.  A 46-year-old down-sized executive with a mountain of debt, no prospects, no insurance, and a sick daughter, Ponder takes a hopeless drive to nowhere.  Going way too fast, he hits an icy bridge and spins out of control, all the while screaming, “Why me?!?”  He wakes up, not in a hospital, but in an office in Potsdam, Germany in 1945.  He doesn’t know it yet, but his journey is just beginning.

The central theme of The Traveler’s Gift seems to be that great people rise to great challenges while being refined by great adversity, whereas ordinary people give up and check out.  Andy Andrews could have just written a motivational book with his “seven decisions for success,” thrown in some nice anecdotes, and left it at that.  Instead, he tells the story of David Ponder as he is given the gift of time travel so he can learn these lessons personally from observing the lives of great people.

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Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

quiet-final-jacketThe phrase “the power of introverts” seems like an oxymoron.  Yet, that is what Susan Cain proves in her book, Quiet.  She is an introvert herself and gives the following reason why she wrote the book: “Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to ‘pass’ as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and, ultimately, happiness.”  Being an introvert as well, I know this to be true.

The book is filled both scientific evidence and personal anecdotes. One example is the move to the “open office” space and its effect on the productivity and well-being of introverts.  The days of individual offices and even cubicles are going the way of the dinosaur.  The new trend is to have everyone work together in an open area with no walls or dividers so as to maximize the group dynamic.  That is all well and good for the two-thirds of the people who are extroverts, but introverts do their best work alone; they are worn out by dealing with people and energized by privacy. So one-third of the workforce has their productivity, job satisfaction, and ultimately, their well-being decreased because of a one-size-fits-all bias towards how people should work.

Cain makes the science interesting and her real-life illustrations drive the point home and put a human face on the topic.  Introverts will want to read this so they can better understand who they are and how they function best.  And extroverts should read this book because it will help them understand the people around them who are different.  Decision makers should read this book so they can begin to make positive changes to allow the introverts to become all they can be.  Try a little Quiet – society will be the better for it.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Quiet.


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The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer

TEDBook_PicoIyer_CoverArtPeople have all kinds of New Year’s Resolutions.  I wonder, though, how many people have ever made a resolution to do nothing. That’s right, nothing. Well, doing nothing is exactly what author Pico Iyer encourages us to consider in his book, The Art of Stillness. Stillness is exactly what it sounds like – being still and doing nothing physically. This does not mean that nothing is happening mentally, but rather that your body is not running higgledy-piggledy all over creation.

To be honest, isn’t that what our lives are like? Don’t we spend almost every waking minute doing this and that, running here and there, trying to do more and to get more? Where has that gotten us? People are more stressed out and less satisfied than ever before. According to Mr. Iyer, stillness is the answer. Actually taking the time to just sit and be still will bring more happiness, meaning, and fulfillment than running the rat race ever could.

This lost art is nothing new, as the author points out. Many traditions have practiced it for millennia. One example is the Jewish Sabbath. Throughout this short, engaging, and readable book, Pico Iver gives many examples of the benefits of stillness, both from his own life and the lives of others. So give this book a read and maybe you will come up with a new resolution to try out come January 1st.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Art of Stillness.


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Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown

adultingBeing a grown-up is hard.  For those of us in our twenties or thirties struggling with the responsibilities of adulthood, this book is a godsend. Brown starts with the basics: how to clean, what things you absolutely must have in your home, and balancing your work and social lives.  When asked on her blog what qualifies her to write this advice, she responded: “Nothing, really. I am known to overdraw my banking account in six or seven transactions of $2.18 apiece; I forget to buy cat food and give my cat tuna, which she does not like; my windowsills are never actually clean in the corners, and until very recently, my breakfast of choice was cigarettes and sugar-free Rockstar energy drink. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night, so sure that I am not an adult and never will be. ‘I’m a sham,’ I whisper quietly in the dark”.

If you’re someone like me who regularly runs out of toilet paper or throws away perfectly good dishes instead of cleaning them, you’ll want to read this book cover to cover. Brown is hilarious yet informative, citing advice from people like Emily Post and Ina Garten–so you know it’s legit. For those of you who feel totally confident in your adult powers, you should check this book out anyways, because I bet you’ll learn something.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Adulting.


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The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

hop6-1Nate Damm walked across the United States.  At 14, Laura Dekker was the youngest sailor ever who sailed solo around the globe.  A.J. Jacobs read through the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in one year. Phoebe Snetsinger set the world’s record for sighting more species of birds than any other human being.  Sasha Martin, in her Oklahoma home, cooked an authentic meal from every country in the world. And the list of accomplishments in this book goes on.

According to author Chris Guillebeau, all of these are examples of quests that have been undertaken by people who have found great personal fulfillment in the pursuit of those life-changing adventures.  Chris should know because he has achieved a quest of his own.  He has visited every country in the world – all 193 of them!

In this entertaining and engaging book, Guillebeau distinguishes between a true quest and a life calling or a weekend hobby.  A true quest, he says, has some definite characteristics.  Some of these are that quests have a quantifiable goal and a set starting and ending point.  His premise, though, is that it is not what you do as much as it is how and why you do it. Chris believes that, “you can have the life you want no matter who you are. There’s a quest waiting for you to find, claim, or create….Follow your passion.”

Guillebeau breaks the process of pursuing a quest into principles.  Some of these are:

“Adventure is for everyone.”

“Not everyone needs to believe in your dream, but you do.”

“Before beginning a quest, count the cost.”

“The effort is the reward.”

“Quests do not always tie up well.”

All throughout the book, Chris illustrates these points with dozens of exciting and inspirational stories and interviews with people who have embarked upon their own quests and have attempted to live out their dreams.  All of this makes for very interesting and, potentially, life-changing reading.

So if you have ever wondered if you were meant to do something special; if you have ever thought that there must be more to life than this; and if you have a burning passion to achieve something great, then this book is for you.  Pick up this book and discover that the pursuit of your special quest can lead to great happiness.  I’m glad I did and I think you will be, too!

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Happiness of Pursuit.