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10/5/2010 1:53:58 PM
Topic:
Sept Book: Authentic Happiness, by Martin Seligman

Caryl Cockshott
Caryl Cockshott
Posts: 5
Though I confess to having fallen behind in my reading, I'm just about to begin the "Your Signature Strengths" chapter 9 and am really looking forward to it. This is, I feel, a very valuable book in that it does allow you to chart your progress from a set point and to focus on actually building happiness and purpose in your life. I like the idea of the January Resolution. I'm so glad to see that psychology has progressed since I took my Psych I class in University, and is finally focusing on the positive. I believe that it was William Blake who said something to the effect of: "The eye altering, alters all". It can absolutely be the case that you haven't changed from one day to the next but your perceptions may have. I realized the power of catastrophizing when a girlfriend (now deceased) would try to fight her own such thoughts in her then young life. Also very powerful to hear a psychologist (the author) recognize his own low set-point for happiness and that he can self-nurture the traits that he already possesses. Contentment, gratification and meaning are achievable for everyone with the aid of Seligman's questionnaires and advice.

I missed a really informative TV series recently which was entitled "The Nature of Things" as broadcast on CBC TV by Dr. David Suzuki. The topic related to neuroplasticity of the brain and basically re-programming the thought processes of individuals suffering from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and perhaps two other mental health issues. They were stating that this work could replace medications and be very effective. I hope to catch it online, if I can. It seems that progress is not very far away from treating mental health issues more scientifically and less pharmacologically. Thank goodness for all of this wonderful research.
10/2/2010 5:33:00 AM
Topic:
October Book, Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon

Bonnie Hovel
Bonnie Hovel
Posts: 9
It's time to start reading the October book.
9/23/2010 7:02:41 AM
Topic:
Sept Book: Authentic Happiness, by Martin Seligman

Bonnie Hovel
Bonnie Hovel
Posts: 9
Has anyone read this yet? I read it several months ago and it has caused me to take a closer look at my life, my activities and priorities. I loved getting my results of the online assessments available on the author's website, especially the Authentic Happiness Inventory Questionnaire – here’s a link: http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/questionnaires.aspx (no charge for using the website but it does require registration). The report describes your three to five top strengths, and I was surprised to see among mine – an appreciation and love of beauty. It had not occurred to me that this trait does not belong to everyone. To me, it confirms the theory that we sometimes downplay the importance of that which comes naturally to us. This book helped me reaffirm a direction for my life based on my own strengths and the things that are meaningful to me.
edited by bonnieh on 9/23/2010
8/14/2010 1:27:10 PM
Topic:
August Book: The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore

Caryl Cockshott
Caryl Cockshott
Posts: 5
Yes, really when you think about the courage it takes to be a parent and try to make the right choices for your children in terms of what neighborhood they grow up in, what schools they attend, the parental influence (do I stay with a no-good man or raise the kids singly or with the help of grandparents?, etc.) I think of what a monumental job it can be to be a parent. What really clicked in was the fact that if your child does begin down the "wrong" path, it's absolutely critical to DO something to try to correct that. In the "successful" Wes' case, that became shipping him off to military school where he met other challenges and came to know himself. I'm not trying to be simplistic about that, either. Wes could have rejected all of the influences, there, too and chosen to continue on the path of drugs and self-destruction. I just think that the mother was courageous enough to intervene before it was too late.

The one thing I was slightly disappointed about was the lost opportunity to hear from Tony's Wes in his own voice instead of having his story more or less "presented" or interpreted for the reader through Wes' portrayal. I thought that the story would have been even more powerful had we had excerpts from letters or conversations which the two men shared over the years. Not that the story of each one's life wasn't powerful but an even more personal side for the other Wes would have been excellent.

So much of what Wes brings to the fore in terms of saving young men in similiar circumstances is still, unfortunately, an ongoing struggle for all youth today. From what I have read in the media, the Baltimore of today sounds very much the same as was described in the novel. The author has done a great job of putting a spotlight on the issues of making a difference, of providing information, tools and support for young people such that they may make positive decisions for themselves. I will remember Samuel Beckett's call to action: "Try Again, Fail Again. Fail better." Failing doesn't make us a failure but not trying to do better or be better afterward (learning from our missteps) is the true essence of failure.
8/10/2010 7:37:20 PM
Topic:
August Book: The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore

Bonnie Hovel
Bonnie Hovel
Posts: 9
I finished the book last week and found the story to be both tragic and inspiring. It provides a history of two families from the same neighborhood and the very different ways they responded to some critical events. Both boys grew up without fathers in their lives and both their mothers had to struggle to provide for them. The differences were mostly based on whether there was a stable home environment and whether interventions were made when needed to keep the kids off the streets and out of the drug trade. I haven't read a better description of the temptations of drugs and peer pressure affecting kids who up in such neighborhoods. I believe the author did an excellent job of interviewing the other Wes Moore to the point of developing a relationship of trust where he could really learn about his life. I am also impressed with the honesty of his own self-reflection. I enjoyed looking through the pages at the back of the book describing organizations in the U.S. that exist to help young people in many different ways. I would not be surprised to see the author become a politician at some point and I think he'd have my vote.
7/17/2010 12:53:12 PM
Topic:
South of Broad by Pat Conroy (1st book chosen)

Bonnie Hovel
Bonnie Hovel
Posts: 9
Very good question, Caryl. With a little help from David, who has read Ulysses, and Wikipedia, and from reading South of Broad, here's what I think: Perhaps this is another way for Conroy to stress Leo's mother's conflicted character. On the one hand, she's a nun in her early life and later leaves the convent to become a wife and mother. Yet, she doesn't engage as well with her individual family members as she does with the priest. Also, she is a High School Principal, so has chosen a role where she is in charge of many people, including Leo and his friends. She's a bit of an enigma in that she is very religious and holds herself above the fray. But when you look at Joyce's Ulysses (the book was the subject of her dissertation and lifelong studies - and as Caryl pointed out, she named her sons for the main characters) you find it was, to put it mildly, an earthy novel. From Wikipedia: "Since publication, the book attracted controversy and scrutiny, ranging from early obscenity trials to protracted textual "Joyce Wars." There was so much controversy over its obscenity that a case was eventually brought to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declared in 1933 that it was "not pornographic and therefore not obscene." Leo's mother worshiped the book and at the same time held everyone in her life up to high moral standards. On the other hand, she completely missed the fact that her older son Steve was abused by the priest - and she also didn't realize the sad truth that this led to Steve's suicide.
edited by bonnieh on 7/17/2010
edited by bonnieh on 7/17/2010
7/17/2010 12:15:47 PM
Topic:
South of Broad by Pat Conroy (1st book chosen)

Caryl Cockshott
Caryl Cockshott
Posts: 5
I have never read Joyce's Ulysses which figures in the narrative several times throughout the book and for the fact that Leo's mother names both of her sons after these main characters and is a James Joyce scholar. Can anyone explain to me the significance of these things within the context of this novel? Thanks! -Caryl
7/16/2010 7:02:48 AM
Topic:
August Book: The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore

Bonnie Hovel
Bonnie Hovel
Posts: 9
I heard an interview on NPR of the author and was intrigued with his story, so was glad to see Caryl suggest it for our book group. The author is a Rhodes Scholar and decorated combat veteran. The other Wes Moore referenced in the book title is serving a life sentence in prison. When the author heard about the other man with the same name, he began a study to learn what made their lives so different even though they grew up in the same neighborhood and had the same name.
edited by bonnieh on 7/24/2010
7/16/2010 6:56:27 AM
Topic:
Book Suggestions

Bonnie Hovel
Bonnie Hovel
Posts: 9
Here's a list of the books we'll be reading over the next few months:
July 2010 (still time to comment on this book) South of Broad, by Pat Conroy
August 2010: The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore
September 2010: Authentic Happiness, by Martin Seligman
October 2010: Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon
7/6/2010 1:08:51 PM
Topic:
South of Broad by Pat Conroy (1st book chosen)

Bonnie Hovel
Bonnie Hovel
Posts: 9
Caryl and Maureen, I appreciate your insightful comments! Through your analyses, I'm learning more about the book after the fact, which I believe is one of the reasons to have a book group. I, too, was affected by the portrayal of the role of religion in this novel and how differently people incorporate it into their lives (or do not), and think that the extreme belief system of Leo's mother probably did contribute to the lack of protection of their oldest son. I also agree with Maureen's comment that Leo's father could have done a better job by standing up to his wife. It was interesting to see their different parenting styles and contemplate how "specialized" they were in their approaches. The father was so much more approachable; however, the mother did initiate reaching out to several of the friends Leo kept throughout his life. But her message was mixed..."don't become friends". As with most teenagers, Leo didn't obey that command.

I also loved Conroy's portrayal of Charleston as a character in the book. I've never been there but would like to visit someday.
7/6/2010 12:15:27 PM
Topic:
South of Broad by Pat Conroy (1st book chosen)

mkrinsley
mkrinsley
Posts: 2
AS ALWAYS I ENJOYED THE POETIC CADENCE OF PAT CONROY'S NOVELS. HIS ROMANTIC SOUTHERN RHYTHMIC VOICE DELIVERS A TALE WHILE HE SPINS A STORY OF PAIN, LOVE AND THE BONDING OF A COMMUNITY OF FRIENDS WHO FACE SO MANY OF LIFE'S CHALLENGES. I THINK THE PAPER ROUTE AND THE CHARACTERS YOU MEET ALONG IT BEGIN TO PAINT A PICTURE OF CHARLESTON WHERE YOU CAN ALMOST SMELL THE CUT GRASS. THE POETIC PROSE IS LUSH WHILE CONROY CREATES A FAST PACED STORY WHILE CARVING INTENSE CHARACTERS AND RELATIONSHIPS. THE STORY STARTS WITH THE SHATTERING DEATH OF A BROTHER AND ENDS WITH THE GROUP OF FRIENDS EXPERIENCING FIRST HAND THE HORRIBLE AND DEVASTATING EFFECT OF AIDS IN THE 1980'S.

LEO BEGINS BY SAYING "NOTHING HAPPENS BY ACCIDENT." OF COURSE THIS IS NOT A NOVEL ASSERTION BUT SOMEHOW WHEN HE WRITES HIS TALE IT MAKES ME QUESTION HOW MUCH WE CAN AFFECT FATE. LEO HAS A RESILIENCE I HOPE I WOULD HAVE BUT I DON'T KNOW... AT FIRST HE IS NEEDY AND HOPING FOR FRIENDS EVEN AT THE EXPENSE OF BEING USED. LATER HE IS THE THREAD THAT HELPS MOVE THE GROUP THROUGH HORRORS TO REDEMPTION . LEO'S MOTHER'S BLIND FAITH AND INFLEXIBILITY REMINDS ME OF MY CATHOLIC SCHOOL EXPERIENCE AND WHY I MOVED AWAY FROM THAT COMMUNITY. I WONDER IF SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN SO BLINDED TO HER SON'S ABUSE IF SHE HAD NOT BEEN SO IMMERSED IN HER ORGANIZED RELIGION IN WHICH SHE THOUGHT A PERSON OF POWER IN THE CHURCH COULD DO NO WRONG. IT POSED SOME OF THE QUESTIONS "PROOF" DID. LEO'S FATHER WAS LOVING BUT IT BUGGED ME THAT HE NEVER CHALLENGED HIS WIFE. IF HE HAD, HE COULD HAVE BEEN A MUCH BETTER FATHER.

MY FAVORITE PART ABOUT THE BOOK WAS CONROY'S PORTRAIT OF CHARLESTON (I HAVE BEEN THERE TWICE), THE STRONG BOND HE DEPICTS AMONG THE FRIENDS AND HIS ABILITY TO GET ME TO CARE ABOUT EACH OF THEM. THIS BOOK WAS A VERY POSITIVE READ. I HOPE HE DOES NOT TAKE SO LONG TO WRITE HIS NEXT ONE.
edited by mkrinsley on 7/6/2010
edited by mkrinsley on 7/6/2010
7/4/2010 10:30:29 AM
Topic:
South of Broad by Pat Conroy (1st book chosen)

Caryl Cockshott
Caryl Cockshott
Posts: 5
admin wrote:
Please add your comments about this book during the month of July.


I felt exactly the same way about Toad, Bonnie. The words that came out of his mouth to handle the sometimes very difficult situations which arose like dealing with the racial tensions seemed too easily delivered "on the spur". I did really enjoy the characters which were drawn here so masterfully by Patrick Conroy and their particular shared life journeys. True to life, though, was the role religion played for some of the characters: very strong for his parents and his family as a young Toad, waning for him after the tragic death of his brother. I can relate to that just in terms of having grown up Catholic but making my own decision to put organized religion behind me at the age of 13 as part of my own maturation.

I felt that the novel broke away from simply a "Big Chill" weekend kind of exploration of friendships and, for that, I was glad. Much more substance to his treatment of friendships, trust, respect, racial tolerance or intolerance, and class differences. So often I felt as though I was the one reacting to all of the events and feelings. So true how we can find redemption in the form of a paper route, religion, or friendships and family. All in all, a gripping read and very enjoyable.

Can't wait for the next selection! -Caryl
7/2/2010 11:07:22 AM
Topic:
South of Broad by Pat Conroy (1st book chosen)

Bonnie Hovel
Bonnie Hovel
Posts: 9
I finished the book this week. It was masterfully written in my opinion. The only negative criticism I have is that the main character, "Toad", although he had problems early in life, was such a saint throughout the book he was almost not a believable character. In spite of this, perhaps because of it, I wanted him for a friend. This is the type of book I really appreciate - very well written, characters I cared about, events that kept me going and I truly didn't want to put the book down! Thanks to Maureen for this book suggestion.

Here's a link to some questions about the book http://www.readinggroupguides.com/guides_s/south_of_broad1.asp If you'd like, choose one and post your question and how you would answer it here. Alternately, make any comment you wish.
5/29/2010 10:49:54 AM
Topic:
Book Suggestions

Caryl Cockshott
Caryl Cockshott
Posts: 5
The Martin Seligman book sounds like a very good choice, Bonnie.

I would add a current book which I have not read: The Other Wes Moore, subtitled: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore which has received so much attention and fascinates me about the very different paths that people can be lead down depending on the choices they make or fail to make. Truly life-revealing.
-CC
5/22/2010 7:45:58 AM
Topic:
Book Suggestions

mkrinsley
mkrinsley
Posts: 2
Here are my suggestions:
The Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
South of Broad by Pat Conroy
Will add more titles soon...
M
5/20/2010 3:11:44 PM
Topic:
Book Suggestions

Bonnie Hovel
Bonnie Hovel
Posts: 9
Here are my suggestions:
Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman, Ph.D. (I read this one and talked about it with some of you in Tortola) For a summary of this book, go to my business website blog http://blog.groupwyse.com/
The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell (I haven't read this yet but have heard good things about it)
edited by bonnieh on 5/21/2010

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