Nostalgia and Memory

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And then there’s the fuzzy memory aspect of nostalgia. Things often look better when you can’t see them clearly, and time is the softest focus of all. Or is it? The aging mind may not be what we think it is, according to memory specialist, Douwe Draaisma. Wait, what were we talking about again?


The Nostalgia Factory by Douwe Draaisma. Amazon for $9.99.
You cannot call to mind the name of a man you have known for 30 years. You walk into a room and forget what you came for. What is the name of that famous film you’ve watched so many times? These are common experiences, and as we grow older we tend to worry about these lapses. Is our memory failing? Is it dementia?

Douwe Draaisma, a renowned memory specialist, here focuses on memory in later life. Writing with eloquence and humor, he explains neurological phenomena without becoming lost in specialist terminology. His book is reminiscent of Oliver Sacks’s work, and not coincidentally this volume includes a long interview with Sacks, who speaks of his own memory changes as he entered his sixties. Draaisma moves smoothly from anecdote to research and back, weaving stories and science into a compelling description of the terrain of memory. He brings to light the “reminiscence effect,” just one of the unexpected pleasures of an aging memory.

The author writes reassuringly about forgetfulness and satisfyingly dismantles the stubborn myth that mental gymnastics can improve memory. He presents a convincing case in favor of the aging mind and urges us to value the nostalgia that survives as recollection, appreciate the intangible nature of past events, and take pleasure in the consolation of razor-sharp reminiscing.

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Getting Nostalgic Over N

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The word “nostalgia” should always be written in pink, because it, itself, implies a rose-colored glass-tinged world. Nothing embraces this idea more than the way we talk about and think about the concept of family. There’s an idea–particularly in the U.S.–that there was a time that was a golden age for “true families.” You know, the “Leave it to Beaver” kind.  Well, family’s always been a complicated, multifaceted creature.


The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie Coontz. Amazon for $10.85. The Way We Never Were examines two centuries of American family life and shatters a series of myths and half-truths that burden modern families. Placing current family dilemmas in the context of far-reaching economic, political, and demographic changes, Coontz sheds new light on such contemporary concerns as parenting, privacy, love, the division of labor along gender lines, the black family, feminism, and sexual practice.

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The Gifts of G

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G was tricky, given that it’s great letter gorged with possibility. So many words, too good to gloss over. So I’m going with “gifts,” and I discovered something kind of of funny and too good to share.

There are a gaggles of books called “The Gift.” Some have subtitles like the one below, some are simply “The Gift.” Gobs of variety under one title. So that will be the title of both books in the book posts today. The genres? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see the other one.

 


The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World (Vintage) by Lewis Hyde. Amazon for $9.15. Discusses the argument that a work of art is essentially a gift and not a commodity. “The best book I know of for talented but unacknowledged creators. . . . A masterpiece.” —Margaret Atwood

“No one who is invested in any kind of art . . . can read The Gift and remain unchanged.” —David Foster Wallace

“Few books are such life-changers as The Gift: epiphany, in sculpted prose.” —Jonathan Lethem

“A manifesto of sorts for anyone who makes art [and] cares for it.” —Zadie Smith

“This long-awaited new edition of Lewis Hyde’s groundbreaking and influential study of creativity is a cause for across-the-board celebration.” —Geoff Dyer

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Culture Again this Afternoon

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Culture, culture, culture! The more you look, the more there is to see. Or should that be C? Anyway, here’s another handful of cultural books that caught my eye, and there seem to be hundreds more to discover. Today is a great day to explore something a little different, or gain a new understand of something familiar.


The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures

 


Before Atlantis: 20 Million Years of Human and Pre-Human Cultures

 

 


X vs. Y: A Culture War, a Love Story

 

 


Smart People Should Build Things: How to Restore Our Culture of Achievement, Build a Path for Entrepreneurs, and Create New Jobs in America

 

 

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Cultural Explosion Commences C

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I’m a sociologist at heart, it’s what I studied in college, and it’s never left me. I am a student of people, and today, C is for “culture.” But I discovered something, looking for my morning book: there are too many amazing-looking books on culture to pick only two for the day. So I’m going a little crazy–also a C word–and posting a bunch, sans descriptions, covers and titles only. And you’ll see what I mean.


The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture & Style

 

 


Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture

 


Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls

 

 


American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America

 

 

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Boredom is Better than You Believe

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I admit that title was slightly tortured, but it will have to do. It’s a B we all deal with, at some time or another, and the work of artists and writers throughout the centuries can reflect it. More so, creative work may even be shaped by it. See? Being bored isn’t all bad. Hmm. That would have made a better title.


Boredom: A Lively History by Peter Toohey. Amazon for $11.99. In the first book to argue for the benefits of boredom, Peter Toohey dispels the myth that it’s simply a childish emotion or an existential malaise like Jean-Paul Sartre’s nausea. He shows how boredom is, in fact, one of our most common and constructive emotions and is an essential part of the human experience.

This informative and entertaining investigation of boredom—what it is and what it isn’t, its uses and its dangers—spans more than 3,000 years of history and takes readers through fascinating neurological and psychological theories of emotion, as well as recent scientific investigations, to illustrate its role in our lives. There are Australian aboriginals and bored Romans, Jeffrey Archer and caged cockatoos, Camus and the early Christians, Dürer and Degas. Toohey also explores the important role that boredom plays in popular and highbrow culture and how over the centuries it has proven to be a stimulus for art and literature.

Toohey shows that boredom is a universal emotion experienced by humans throughout history and he explains its place, and value, in today’s world. Boredom: A Lively History is vital reading for anyone interested in what goes on when supposedly nothing happens.

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Superheroism Is Not About the Tights

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I admit it. I’m picked this one mostly for the title. It’s a fantastic title. Fitting with the “challenges” theme of the day, it’s all about taking control of your fear and taking control of the direction of your life. (Hmm. “Challenges” starts with a C. Maybe I should have saved all this for Thursday. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll think of something).


It’s Not About the Tights: An Owners Manual on Bravery by Chris Brogan. Amazon for $4.95. You are the superhero you’ve been waiting for.

For whatever reason, we tend to think that “someone” is going to make us better, that we’re broken, that we’re missing the key ingredients to succeed. We feel envy and we’re certain that we’re the only failures this world has ever seen. It’s a tough row to hoe.

Plenty of people have written books that talk about being positive. Others have written up plans that tell you what you’re missing. In this case, all I promise you is a cape.

I’ll teach you about Confidence, Acceptance, Permission, and Execution, and how Practice in all those areas will guide you to find those missing success points in your life.

My name’s Chris Brogan. I’m a New York Times bestselling author of four books (mostly about marketing and digital business), and I’m the president and CEO of a company that sells courses, workshops and speeches on business and personal improvement called Human Business Works.

This book is based on the experiences I’ve had with overcoming my own challenges, plus the wisdom of some other smart cookies. Plus, I’m blessed with hundreds of people who have participated in my online course, Brave New Year. Consider this book an invite into that community, should you decide you’d like to go further.

It’s not about the tights. It’s about you.

Cover Art by Josh Fisher

Ban Blind Alleys by Outlining Your Novel

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Personally, I’m a pantser, meaning I (generally) write by the seat of my pants, allowing the story to take shape by itself. But my way is not the only way. Many writers swear by outlining, giving themselves a road map to get from blinking cursor on a terrifyingly blank screen to final words. While I love the thrill of writing without a net–at least, that’s what I tell myself–it never hurts to have more tools in your writing took kit.


Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland. Amazon for $2.99. et outlines help you write a better book!

Writers often look upon outlines with fear and trembling. But when properly understood and correctly wielded, the outline is one of the most powerful weapons in a writer’s arsenal. Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success will:

Help you choose the right type of outline for you

Guide you in brainstorming plot ideas

Aid you in discovering your characters

Show you how to structure your scenes

Explain how to format your finished outline

Instruct you in how to use your outline

Reveal the benefits:
Ensures cohesion and balance

Prevents dead-end ideas

Provides foreshadowing

Offers assurance and motivation

Dispel misconceptions:

Requires formal formatting

Limits creativity

Robs the joy of discovery

Takes too much time

The Extraordinary Promise of a Pencil

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Time to spread a little kindness, and even do some good with the purchase of an ebook. Adam Braun shares his story of creating change with very little, and shares how you can do the same. The proceeds from this book go to Pencils of Promise, Braun’s nonprofit organization.

 

The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change by Adam Braun. Amazon for $11.04. The riveting story of how a young man turned $25 into more than 200 schools around the world and the guiding steps anyone can take to lead a successful and significant life.

Adam Braun began working summers at hedge funds when he was just sixteen years old, sprinting down the path to a successful Wall Street career. But while traveling he met a young boy begging on the streets of India, who after being asked what he wanted most in the world, simply answered, “A pencil.” This small request led to a staggering series of events that took Braun backpacking through dozens of countries before eventually leaving one of the world’s most prestigious jobs to found Pencils of Promise, the organization he started with just $25 that has since built more than 200 schools around the world.

The Promise of a Pencil chronicles Braun’s journey to find his calling, as each chapter explains one clear step that every person can take to turn your biggest ambitions into reality, even if you start with as little as $25. His story takes readers behind the scenes with business moguls and village chiefs, world-famous celebrities and hometown heroes. Driven by compelling stories and shareable insights, this is a vivid and inspiring book that will give you the tools to make your own life a story worth telling.

*All proceeds from this book will support Pencils of Promise.

At Amazon, the Book Buys You

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OK, that’s not entirely accurate. Or remotely accurate, but I couldn’t resist the joke.

Normally, about now I’d be telling you about a book you can buy from Amazon, but today I figured I’d flip that. I don’t know if you know, but Amazon will buy your books as well. It’s like a big, natural circle of reading. Amazon pays for shipping, so it won’t cost you anything. Current best-sellers are probably your best bet, but at least that takes some of the guilt out of buying a full-priced new book.

And it’s not just for books, either. You can trade in movies, video games and other things, and get an Amazon gift card in exchange. When I logged in, it even told me what some things I’d bought from Amazon were worth, which is nice to know, not that I’m parting with my Zumba World Party, which is the most fun game ever, but I digress.

So you can use books to feed your reading habit. It’s beautiful, in a way.

Anyway, thus concludes this public service announcement.