Thursday, June 7, 2012

50BC2012 #2: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Man's Search for MeaningMan's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My only regret is that I didn't read this book earlier in life. The seemingly clinical detachment with which Frankl writes clears the way for the meaning of his words. it is the lessons he draws from his experiences that are so valuable, not the recollections of the experiences themselves. He recounts harrowing and heartbreaking stories from his personal experience during the Holocaust, but to hold it up as an example of suffering that everyone at least intellectually understands, if not viscerally. The concept of "unconditional meaningfulness" and it's connection to Frankl's Logotherapy is a powerful one. William Winslade's afterword in this edition is a wonderfully concise and informative biography of Frankl, and helps to summarize some of ideas espoused in the first part of the book. Frankl's search for a "tragic optimism" underscores the journeys of so many, and I do think that this is one of the most important books of the twentieth century, and likely beyond, as I think the search for meaning will always be part of what it is to be human.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

50BC2012 #1: A Whole New Mind--Daniel Pink

It isn't that I haven't read any books since 2011 (my last post). I have. That said, two full-time teaching jobs and one consulting/independent contractor job have pretty much consumed my life, so if I read, I don't have time to blog. My cooking blog and musicology blog have both suffered this fate--and I promise that I have cooked dinner occasionally and I've certainly had lots of interaction with musicology. I think I'm destined to be a "summer-only" blogger for awhile, but remain hopeful that my schedule will improve with each academic year. So, with this post I inaugurate Summer Blogging 2012 and this year's 50 Book Challenge (better May than never!) I will post some books that I read between January and May, but we'll start with the most recent.

 A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the FutureA Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have a healthy suspicion of hype, and this book fell into that category as everyone I know seemed all a-buzz about it with commentary that bordered on hagiography. That said, when something hits the mainstream conversation in academia, I feel obligated to check it out. I was pleasantly surprised. As is so often the case, the title, "Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future" is a bit misleading. Pink doesn't advocate for right-brain over left as much as he calls us to recognize its value and how it helps foster a creative economy.

On a personal level, the book actually made me think more about my left-brain, as that is the part that isn't immediately obvious in my profession. I liked Pink's writing style--it is accessible, but not patronizing. At the end of each section he lists very helpful resources and "portfolio" activities to help stimulate the right-brain. I definitely advocate Pink's vision--a society that honors art, passion, and laughter as much as technology and science. I don't sense that who "rules the future" is so much his point as it is to use underdeveloped skills such as metaphor and visual design to "go beyond the self" and embrace the totality of the future.