Saturday, April 01, 2006

Self Help Makes Me Proud

Among other things, I've been reading a self-help book called Finding Your Own North Star: Reclaiming the Life You Were Meant to Live. The author, Martha Beck, is the same woman who wrote Leaving the Saints and Expecting Adam, both of which were very interesting and really engaging. They also wreaked a little havok on whatever passes as my spirituality. So I'm reading about how to find what my Essential Self really wants to do in life.

Seemed like a good idea. I have a good job, but I wouldn't call it a calling. I don't know that I have a calling, though I think it might just be to hang out with Mike, have a bunch of fun friends, and rear some cool kids. The book does not seem to help me; it's really meant for tense workaholics who can't listen to their inner child and stop to smell the roses. The idea is that you'll be more successful and happy doing something you love, even if it's not the world's definition of "success." By that definition of success, I'm doing pretty well. Mostly (according to these quizzes) I'm a pretty happy person.

Also still reading Postville, which is interesting but too long and too personal. His research is really interesting and he recounts a lot of great experiences and meeting interesting people. But he doesn't really clarify "the connection" he seems to want to draw between the Iowans in this tiny town and the Hasidic Jews who have moved in and opened a successful kosher butchery. It's really more about the author's relationship with his Jewish heritage. And even that is mostly a lament about how he's not really Jewish enough if he lives in Iowa.

And I'm almost done with Self Made Man, as well. I think one of the flaws of the book is that a lot of her observations are snide observations of an elite liberal-arts educated New Yorker hanging out with people who take their bowling league seriously, or people who sell coupon booklets door-to-door. She learns more about being working class than she does about being male, through most of the book, and even then, there's a lot more pity than you'd see from someone who really learned something. But she sort of redeems herself by having a nervous breakdown after the whole experiment. And there are some really interesting observations about dating--I think that chapter was by far the strongest, at least in part because she was interacting with other New Yorkers (or at least urbanites) in that chapter.

Upcoming: Girl Meets God (after which a hiatus on religious books, but someone I know from a message board wants someone to argue with about it, so I offered to give it a shot), Mission to America (okay, after THAT a religion hiatus, but at least it's a novel), and, after Easter, a couple of Harry Potters. Stay tuned!

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