Tag Archives: books

Rebirth book cover

Do any happy people do this thing?

Yesterday I started reading Kamal Ravikant’s book, Rebirth: A Fable of Love, Forgiveness, and Following Your Heart. From the book summary:

After the death of his estranged father, Amit takes his parent’s ashes to the Ganges to fulfill a deathbed promise. Instead of returning home, he wanders, his pain and grief leaving him confused about his future. Almost broke, unsure about his direction in life, and running from memories, he is led by fate to the Camino de Santiago, an ancient 550-mile pilgrimage route across northern Spain.

On Day One of his pilgrimage, Amit makes the following observation:

At the restaurant last night, when drunken pilgrims started sharing their reasons for this walk, all seemed to be going through something. Do any happy people do this thing?

I was struck by that question, “Do any happy people do this thing?” It occurred to me that if we were always comfortable and happy, we would probably never change anything or try something new. Why would we? We’re content with what we have. But difficulties and challenges force us to look at our lives and consider ways in which we need to change. From this, we try new things and have new experiences. And sometimes those new experiences bring us into the best journeys of our lives.


2017 Reading Challenge

Tim Challies has issued the 2017 Christian Reading Challenge, “designed to help you read more and to broaden the scope of your reading.” In the challenge, Tim provides suggestions in a checklist format of different types of books to read.

The challenge offers four levels:

  • The Light Reader — read 13 books in a year, or 1 book every 4 weeks
  • The Avid Reader — read 26 books in a year, or 1 book every 2 weeks
  • The Committed Reader — read 52 books in a year, or 1 book every week
  • The Obsessed Reader — read 104 books in a year, or 2 books every week

Since I enjoy reading, and keeping track of which books I’ve read, I’ve decided to try this challenge in 2017.

I’ll be using Evernote, one of my favorite tools, to keep Tim’s list of recommendations, and to keep track of what I’ve read. You can view my progress at bit.ly/NTD-2017-Reading-Challenge.

You can also monitor the hashtag #vtReadingChallenge on social media to see what others are doing.

Will you join us?

open book

I Opened a Book

I opened a book and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.
I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in the bottomless ocean.
I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.
I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.

– Julia Donaldson

South of Normal

South of NormalI just finished a book by Norm Schriever, South of Normal: My year in paradise. I saw the book recommended somewhere, by someone, and I wish I could remember where and by whom, because I would go back and thank them. It’s a very entertaining book to read, with some good thoughts and insights from Norm.

The book is about Norm’s decision to make some changes in his late 30s in preparation for his 40th birthday. He wants to write a book and get into the best shape of his life, and to do this, he moves to Tamarindo, Costa Rica for a year. During that year, he writes what would become Pushups in the Prayer Room: Reflections from a Year Backpacking Around the World.

This second book, South of Normal, is about that year-long experience, the friends he already had when he went to Costa Rica, and the many new friends that he made along the way.

I won’t say much more about it here — I’ll just encourage you to get a copy and read it. I’ve already loaned my copy to my wife for her to read.

The Grieving Sisters

The Grieving Sisters

The Grieving Sisters

I just finished reading The Grieving Sisters, which is the third book in Timothy Keller‘s “The Encounters with Jesus Series.” Available in Kindle Edition for $1.99 from Amazon.com, it may be generous to describe it as an “e-book,” but perhaps more as an “e-pamphlet.” It’s not a very long book, and took me less than a day to finish.

But the length of the book is not a reflection of its quality. I enjoyed reading it, and appreciated some of the nuances of the Lazarus story that Keller highlighted, as well as his descriptions of and statements about Jesus.

Keller opens with this:

Who are we as human beings? What’s wrong with us? What’s wrong with the whole world? What, if anything, can put us right? Unless you have some working answers to those questions you really cannot decide what things are worth spending your life on.

Keller then proceeds to answer that question, using the Lazarus story and Jesus’ encounter with Mary and Martha to explain why Jesus is the answer to our problems.

He [Jesus] is the Lion and the Lamb. Despite his high claims, he is never pompous; you never see him standing on his own dignity. Despite being absolutely approachable to the weakest and broken, he is completely fearless before the corrupt and powerful. He has tenderness without weakness. Strength without harshness. Humility without the slightest lack of confidence. Unhesitating authority with a complete lack of self-absorption. Holiness and unending convictions without the lack of approachability. Power without insensitivity.

To quote my pastor’s current sermon series, Jesus is better.

The witnesses said about Jesus, “see how he loved Lazarus”; but really we must behold how he loves us. He became human, mortal, vulnerable, killable—all out of love for us.


How to Win at the Sport of Business

How to Win at the Sport of Business

How to Win at the Sport of Business

I just finished Mark Cuban‘s e-book, How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It. It’s a relatively short book that is really an aggregation and curation of some of his more popular blog posts. While it’s not a Peter Drucker book on executive practices, it’s a helpful, honest book from someone who has made a lot of mistakes but also done many things right and found business success.

I think this book would be especially helpful for college students or young adults who are early in their career. Mark provides some incredibly useful and practical advice and perspective.

Going to college should be about experiencing as much academically as you possibly can, but more importantly, it should be about learning how to learn and recognizing that learning is a lifelong endeavor. School isn’t the end of the learning process, it’s purely a training ground and beginning.

I liked this thought about effort:

In sports, the only thing a player can truly control is effort. The same applies to business. The only thing any entrepreneur, salesperson or anyone in any position can control is their effort.

And finally, perspective on what’s important:

As someone who has been incredibly blessed, let me just tell you that the things at the top of my list are not numbers or dollars. They are my family and the things I had fun doing.

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War



I just finished reading Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, written by Karl Marlantes. I’m not a veteran, but I would describe this as an honest, gritty, profanity-laden, accurate description of the Vietnam War. Marlantes, who is a veteran, has a knack for bringing out the little-known details of a soldier’s experience, providing a new look as to what it must have been like to be a U.S. Marine in Vietnam.

Marlantes is an interesting writer who seems to naturally embed wisdom and insights into his writing.

“Look. Everyone wants a medal. That’s no sin. When I first got here, I wanted one, too. It’s just that after you’ve been out here long enough to see what they cost, they don’t seem so f—ing shiny.”

Sometimes I found myself highlighting just one pithy statement in the middle of some intense dialogue:

The only thing that hurts about a rebuke is the truth.

At other times, a statement made in context of the military makes complete sense when applied to many other areas of life, including business.

“Intelligence, Lieutenant,” Simpson went on, “is built up by the fastidious collection of minutiae. You understand that, don’t you? It isn’t the result of spectacular finds. It’s the result of hard work, constant attention to detail—to minutiae. Mi-nu-tiae.”

But what surprised me most about the book were Marlantes’ honest observations and analyses of racial tensions during that time. I found myself highlighting those sections the most.

“Not being prejudiced is the best any of us can do right now. It’s too late about being racist.”

“We won’t be free of racism until my black skin sends the same signals as Hawke’s red mustache.”

“All you got to do is start treating us like everyone else. It’s as simple as that. We don’t need nothing special… We’re people. Just treat us like people. We’re no dumber than you and we’re no smarter.”

The content of this book isn’t for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. I made a connection with the characters of the book, who are no doubt based on real people from Marlantes’ actual experiences in Vietnam. I think Marlantes gave us a real view into a short period of his life, and I’m grateful that he did. I was just sorry to see the book end.

Little Princes

Little Princes

Little Princes

I just finished reading the book, Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, by Conor Grennan. I picked up a copy of the book based on the recommendation of Claire Diaz-Ortiz in her 2012 reading list. The book didn’t disappoint.

Conor was a young man who had worked for non-profit organizations in Europe after graduating from college. After several years of working, Conor wanted to take time off and travel the world, but to keep the trip from sounding too privileged, he volunteered to spend three months at an orphanage in Nepal. Little did he know how that time as a volunteer would change his life.

The book is based on Conor’s journal entries from those years, and he’s a very engaging writer. Once I picked up the book to read it, I had difficulty setting it down. I not only got to know Conor, but also his co-workers, and most importantly, the children. I got a glimpse into their daily lives and challenges, and it broke my heart. It was especially moving to learn that very few of these children were actual orphans; instead, their parents had sent them away to escape the damages of the Nepalese civil war between the monarchy and the communists. And this became Conor’s challenge — to find these children’s parents and see if he could reunite them, or at least reopen the channels of communication.

I won’t say much more here, but it’s been one of my favorite books so far. If you enjoy reading, I highly recommend that you get a copy.