Sunday, December 29, 2013

Josh Hanagarne Revitalizes my “BE Strong” Project

When I selected Josh Hanagarne’s book The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family for the December Savvy Reader Book Club I thought it would be the perfect read to close out my Be Strong reading challenge.  To my surprise instead of wrapping up my project this book inspired me to revitalize it.  Josh’s story helped me realize procuring inner-strength is not something that can be accomplished in one year. It is a life-long project.

Josh who began experiencing symptoms of Tourette's syndrome at the age of six describes Tourette’s syndrome as follows:
In any language, the movement disorder comes down to two things: those with the disorder either move involuntarily, makes noises involuntarily, or both.
He writes:
The worst part of Tourette’s wasn’t the bodily harm or even my inability to go outside sometimes. It wasn’t that I was being driven toward increasing isolation. It was the uncertainty. It felt like driving at night, with headlights coming toward me, and every car seemed to be in my lane. I no longer had a destination. I only knew that everything coming toward me had the potential to wreck me, to derail any plan I could make.
To say Josh's journey towards controlling his Tourette's symptoms was difficult would be an understatement. He tried numerous methods from visiting questionable doctors, to ingesting drugs - Klonopin/Clonezepam, Tetrabenazine, Zyprexa, Risperol, Haldol, Clonidine, even a nicotine patch—none of which helped for more than a few days and most had side effects. After his involuntary outbursts turned to screams, he receives botulism toxin injections that paralyze his vocal chords. These injections reduce his speech to a whisper.

As Josh’s symptoms continue to worsen, they cause increasing turmoil in his life. He leaves his Mormon mission early; he is in and out of jobs as well as college. Eventually he ends up refusing to leave his parent’s couch suffering from a debilitating depression. Thinking his son has zero confidence his father convinces him to try weight training.

Eventually Josh’s strength training leads him to Adam Glass, a strongman and former Air Force tech sergeant. Adam describes a good trainer as someone who gets results and shows clients how to figure something out for themselves. Josh writes:
Working with Adam was the first time someone actually asked me to think about what was actually happening to me. My doctors they never asked how I felt. They treated symptoms.
After coming home from spending a week with Adam, Josh has a breakthrough epiphany - his breathing is the key to controlling his Tourette’s symptoms. He practices taking a lung-filling breath that does not result in a tic. These breaths turned into seconds, seconds into days, days into weeks and weeks.

Unfortunately, Josh’s life does not remain symptom free. While under stress after witnessing early signs of Tourette’s in his son Max, they return with a vengeance. Josh has to begin the process of taming them all over again.  

As I mentioned in my book selection postThe World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family is about much more than Tourette’s, but for me, Josh's battle with Tourette’s is what resonated the most. His trainer Adam says it best:
I don’t know how you do it? Having control of my body is one of the only things that keeps me this sane, and I’m pretty wrecked.
This book has inspired me to improve upon my own inner-strength project. To dig deeper, seek out mentors and trainers that ask the right questions so I too can strengthen my inner core.

Bottom Line:
Despite enjoying The World’s Strongest Librarian and feeling it is a worthwhile read for a strength project it is not a perfect book. Even though - I think - I grasped the gist of the chapter covering the week Josh spent working with Adam it was a cumbersome read that did not improve with a re-reading. I particularly enjoyed learning about his family life, his take on reading, libraries and his experiences working in them. In addition, the section covering the difficulties he and his wife experienced conceiving a child are heartbreaking. Overall though, I am left with a feeling that something is missing.

Have you read this book? If so what were your thoughts?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Savvy Reader Book Gift List

As I was contemplating what to buy friends and family this holiday season I realized many of my favorite reads of 2013 would make excellent gifts. Here is my hypothetical gift list:

For my friend and colleague Kate:

Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. This is the best career book I‘ve read in years and one that I wish I’d read earlier in my career. I recommend this book for any woman who is looking to re-charge her career.

As a companion read I would include:

Debora L. Spar’s Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection.Spar is the president of Barnard College and has written a book about how our culture has evolved in the last 50-years. She details how women struggled to gain power, but instead ended up caught in an endless quest for perfection. I found myself nodding in agreement as Spar describes how women today try to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother and the perfect career person. 

For my sister who is the mother of three children under the age of eight:

Crystal Ponti's The Mother of All Meltdowns: Real Stories of Moms' Finest (Worst, Completely Awful) Moments. When I saw the look on my sister’s face as her 4-year old kept insisting he wasn’t wearing pants or shoes on our outing I realized perhaps motherhood is much harder than I realized. After reading the melt-down moments the authors share in this book I hope my sister learns she is not alone and that there is no such thing as a perfect mom or child. Please see Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection from above.

For my niece who will be moving to Santa Monica by herself next year:

Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence. This book explores how fear is a gift that can be used to keep us safe and explains how we can spot even subtle signs of danger—before it’s too late. Gavin teaches us how to listen to and trust our intuition. I recommend this book to anyone who will be living on their own for the first time.

For the niece who is graduating from college this December and has nothing constructive to do until grad school begins next fall:

Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. It could be a coincidence, but after reading this book I snapped out of the funk I had been in for almost a year. I recommend this book - a compilation of Strayed’s Dear Sugar advice columns - to any young adult approaching their quarter-life crises.

For my non-fiction loving friend who read and enjoyed Robert K. Massie's Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman after learning of it from this blog post:

George Parker's The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. I am currently reading this book and am amazed by how comprehensive it is. Packer follows the lives of several Americans over the past three decades. In doing so he describes how America which was once a super power is beginning to become undone. I recommend this book for anyone who likes to read about current events or who is interested in the increasing disparity between the rich and poor.
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What was your favorite reads of the year? Would you give them as gifts?

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Savvy Reader Book Club Selection for December

The Savvy Reader Book Club is an online nonfiction book club created for the serious reader. At the beginning of each month I select one or two books; then host discussion posts covering the books throughout the month.  

Since December will most likely be a busy month, I’ve decided to choose just one book this month. The Savvy Reader Book Club selection for December is:

The title of this book is deceiving. Josh may work as a librarian, but this book is about much more than libraries.  As a young boy playing the role of a “tree” in a school play Josh begins twitching uncontrollably. It turns out he has Tourette Syndrome. Eventually he learns to control his tics by lifting weights. This book is a memoir that includes Josh's thoughts and experiences with Tourette’s, faith, strength the power of family, reading and yes occasionally libraries. 

Since I too have been on a strength challenge – attempting to become a stronger person in my 50th year – this book should be the perfect read to close out my Be Strong Reading Challenge. Be Strong was a reading challenge I created for myself to read books covering topics related to inner strength such as confidence, communication skills, working with difficult people, self-knowledge, willpower, etc.

On another note, as a follow-up to last month’s book club selection Seth Godin's Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, I would like to highlight additional books recommended by readers:

Catherine Gacad is currently reading Randi Zuckerberg's book Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives:
Randi Zuckerberg is the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Her book which is part memoir, part how-to manual addresses issues of privacy, online presence, networking, etiquette, and the future of social change. Hmm… this book sounds like a possible future Savvy Reader book club selection.

Mel of brokeGirlrich likes leadership/business books a lot. She loves the One Minute Manager books, especially The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkeyfor delegating. She also loves "personality" books like Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger's book The Art of SpeedReading People: How to Size People Up and Speak Their Language and David Keirsey's Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence which are both Briggs-Meyers related books. I am already a fan of Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger. Their book Do What You Are was instrumental in helping me discover my Myers-Briggs personality type.  I am adding all of these books to my reading list.

Raina Kropp of San Diego HR Mom recommends an alternative book to Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. She likes Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan. According to Amazon:
In Tribal Leadership, Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright show corporate leaders how to first assess their company’s tribal culture and then raise their companies’ tribes to unprecedented heights of success. In a rigorous eight-year study of approximately 24,000 people in over two dozen corporations, Logan, King, and Fischer-Wright discovered a common theme: the success of a company depends on its tribes, the strength of its tribes is determined by the tribal culture, and a thriving corporate culture can be established by an effective tribal leader. Tribal Leadership will show leaders how to employ their companies’ tribes to maximize productivity and profit: the author’s research, backed up with interviews ranging from Brian France (CEO of NASCAR) to “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams, shows that over three quarters of the organizations they’ve studied have tribal cultures that are adequate at best.
This book would have made an excellent companion read to Tribes.

Have you read any of these books? If so, what were your thoughts? Do you have any recommendations for future Savvy Reader Book Club selections?

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