Sunday, July 10, 2011

Books: Pema Chodron, Neil Strauss

It would be hard to find two more diverse books than one by a Buddhist nun and one by a pop culture journalist, but that is where my meanderings have taken me on the book front.

The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron: As someone who deals with anxiety disorder, I'm always on the lookout for authors who have fresh perspectives on how to quiet the mind and ease the life of fear, and shifts from euphoria to deep depression. Chodron is a Buddhist monk, and her teachings are grounded in that philosophy, but she's far from doctrinaire, and many of her teachings can be applied to regular everyday secular agnostic life. Her suggestions like living in the present moment and being able to return to a calm center are ideas that appeal to me quite a bit. She also advocates compassion and empathy for all people of the world and staying away from "isms" that can create division and anger amongst people. The book was well written and presented in short chapters of digestible material. She does tend to repeat herself on occasion as if to try to hammer home a particularly important point, and those sections can be skimmable. There are groaning shelves in Libraries and bookstores filled with self-help books, but this one seemed to have some practical ideas that will help me deal with my condition and also help others working through anxiety or depression issues. The Places That Scare You - amazon.com

Everyone Loves You When You're Dead by Neil Strauss: This large book compiles interviews Strauss has done with musicians and other famous people over the past twenty years. While it was the music interviews that initially drew me to the book, all of the interviews were actually quite interesting, whether with pop icons or obscure unknown musicians. Strauss is an excellent interviewer, asking provocative and probing questions and his work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times and elsewhere. It's interesting to hear the inside story behind musicians like Trent Reznor or Marilyn Manson, musicians I have heard of but never listened to as they talk about what drives them to make music and art. Perhaps it is my innate snobbishness, but I found them to be much more articulate that I expected. From pop stars to aging rock legends to movie and TV actors and actresses, Strauss covers a lot of ground, but he never comes across as empty or vapid, but thoughtful and probing no matter whom he in speaking to. Definitely recommended to music and pop culture fans. Everyone Loves You When You're Dead - amazon.com

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