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