Sunday, March 15, 2009

Books: Two from the "Inspiration" section

If you agree with the notion that wisdom is earned and not found, the typical self-help books out there aren't of very much use to you. On the other hand, the experience of someone else might indeed provide some new perspective on a challenge in your life. Here's two from the inspiration section of the bookstore that take this approach:

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch was a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon. After he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he gave a famous "last lecture" that became very popular on YouTube. This book is sort of a distillation of the concepts of that presentation, along with some inside info about what was going on in Dr. Pausch's mind when he was creating the last lecture.

It's not a long book - you can read it in an evening. But within its pages you can sense a man making a summary of his entire life - his relationship with his family, his career, and most importantly, his dreams. This kind of memento mori could have been depressing or even overly sentimental, but the wide range of dreams that Dr. Pausch was able to achieve in his 47 years manages to keep things upbeat.

When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It! by Yogi Berra

Another book chock full of stories and life experience - this time from a famous baseball player and one of the all-time great Yankee stars, Yogi Berra. Yogi's known for his twisty, contradictory sayings, and many of the chapter headings in the book are malapropisms that sometimes approach Zen-like levels of obfuscation ("If the world were perfect, it wouldn't be").

Most of the book covers the relationships that Berra had with other people in baseball: umps, general managers, other players. There are some hair-raising stories that emerge from a life lived in the spotlight. On the whole, though, Berra has a pretty matter-of-fact view; he relates the battles he's fought with a mellow approach. The moral of the story here, I guess, is that time heals all wounds.


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