I love books! For me, like a great movie, they get me excited – move and inspire me. I want to share a couple of books I’ve read in the past few weeks and for 2 very different reasons. One is non-fiction and the other fiction…though funny enough they have an unintended connection.
I’m actually a big fan of leadership and self-help books as I am on the constant road of personal discovery. A friend gave me the Happiness Project to read during my recovery. It was a good choice. I wouldn’t say it is the best self help book I have read, however I really enjoyed her personal perspective and her process of finding new ways to bring more joy into her life. There are a lot useful guides and ideas and a ton of pertinent quotes…which gets me every time! I also really enjoy that the author has a blog. Her followers offer an additional perspective on Rubin’s personal journey. What I found most interesting is how she and the book have inspired others to create their own Happiness Projects, god knows we can all be a little happier. In fact she’s inspired me to start (or add to) my own project (more on that next week). I am addicted to ideas and people who can inspire others to make their lives better.
I actually have a personal tie to this one, a friend wrote it! It is her debit novel and I can objectively say it’s awesome! Making this all very exciting for me. The book is written in diary form and Ms. Lai’s unique voice is so clearly expressed; from witty sarcasm to the unique brand of self reflection in her main character Marty. The novel draws the reader in immediately on a clear ride of self reflection, family, cultural dynamic and personal growth.
Being a lover of self help books myself I can relate to Marty’s addiction to them. In each step in Marty’s journey as she faces a challenge, Ms. Lai includes the advice Marty has taken from the many books she has read. I love how she includes the title and location where it was bought and the cost (“Dreams Unwoven, Strand, $14″) . It adds to Marty’s quirky personality.
What I truly enjoy about this book is that it about a real person with all too real experiences. She is funny, quirky, confused and flawed. There is something so relatable about Marty. I personally found her relationship with her mother, a key plot driver, both frustrating an moving. The relationship between a mother and daughter is incredibly complex, especially when a parent’s life circumstance contains so many multifarious components; age, career, family, status, culture. We as children don’t and often can’t see why our parents are the way they are, only how it relates to us. It is difficult to take a step back. They are the parents and we are simply in search of love, support and understanding (the way we have been taught it is supposed to be by our all too lofty American standards) and it is too painful to look past being hurt to want understand that often it is our mother/parent who is struggling. They are doing the best they know how.
It is amazing how fully culture shapes who we are. In Not A Self Help Book, Mama is truly shaped by her Taiwanese culture, while Marty is American and living in the world with those ideals. However she must adapt to a belief system that is or at least seems foreign. I myself, though not to the extent, related deeply to Marty’s struggle. My mom and I come from South Boston (home of Whitey Bulger, The Departed (based on Whitey Bulger), Good Will Hunting and memoir All Souls by Michael Patrick MacDonald- another GREAT book by the way!), which at least in the past bread a culture of privacy, anger and distance. One was taught that you do not speak about one’s business, if you do you are branded a traitor. It somehow deems your own life and experiences insignificant when your memories and experience are not yours to share. As family its all interconnected, often there is not one without the other especially when that person is a huge part of your life. Ms. Lai successfully shares the complicated, confusing and desperate need to both separate and connect to the key human in our lives. She does it with humor, witty sarcasm and true compassion. When I started the book I found it difficult to find anything redeeming about Mama and by the end I had honest compassion and wanted to know and understand her as I have begun to do with my own mother.
To anyone looking for a great quick and fulfilling read, the perfect vacation book this summer, do not hesitate to pick up Not A Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu by YiShun Lai which is, by the way #3 on the Small Press Distribution List! I think that speaks for itself. You’ll not only be supporting a great independent publisher, Shade Mountain Press…you won’t be sorry!
To purchase the book simply Click Here