Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Summer Books, Some Are Life Changers
by Luke Frazier, host of NEOtropolis
So the Times’ Book Review did its biblio-duty this week and published the “Summer Reading” issue. Never mind that it strikes me that if we’re talking about what books to take to the beach cottage for lazy afternoons by the seashore then maybe I don’t get to participate. Do I qualify if I’m lounging on the stained cushions of my hand-me-down outdoor couch gazing at the $13.99 plastic baby pool, filled with hose water, set up for our dog — a husky mix with a frozen tundra-suitable fur coat? I say yes, gentle reader. And pass the off-brand soda.
I do enjoy paging through these kinds of guides pining for new books and feeling pretty smart as I sagaciously consider the essays and reviews about the latest nonfiction tomes on the Palace of Versailles, Fred and Adele Astaire and United States-Middle East relations ... because I probably will never read those books (nor Island Practice, the memoir of some potentially geezer-ish Nantucket doctor). But I can enjoy the reviews, and I think that counts as summer reading too. What I really hope for, though, is to stumble upon a title that I’ll be sufficiently intrigued by to pick up and read — and discover it is a quietly majestic and powerfully realized work of creative magnitude. That (gulp) it might even change my life.
Books can change lives, and my life is no exception. It’s about the right book at the right moment in time that answers a yearning or fills a gnawing hole or provides a bridge to the next part of your life. If you’re lucky, you’ve had a book (maybe even several) fall into your eyes at critical junctures. Then you’ll understand when I say that once you’re reading such a book you’re simultaneously shaking your head at how perfect it is that you are reading it.
One of my life-changing books is The Power of Story by Jim Loehr. What’s weird is that I’ve never really resonated with self-help books, especially ones that have such hyperbolic subtitles as, “Change your story, change your destiny in business and in life.” Ouch. Me of the great literature mindset and love of the highly stylized and crafted fiction of Don DeLillo, Denis Johnson and Aleksander Hemon. A book with that subtitle deserves a special mocking … but there I was reading it. And finding myself blasted into a new mindset about my life and career.
I came across it in a discount bin, I don’t remember where. But I was between jobs at the time (just having been fired) and bumming big-time. No money and no gratitude. So I pick it up and read, “We fail to recognize that everything we say is a story — nothing more and nothing less” (emphasis in original). And that little sentence clued me in that the narration in our head about who we are, how we fit in, what we are capable of, etc., is all a story. And, if we choose to, we get to tell the story of our own lives and live it authentically — in all its good/bad glory.
The rest of the book flowered on about claiming your true purpose, living according to a personal mission, paying attention to your inner voice, etc. Things found in lots of different self-help books. Only this time, and this book, changed my life. A book about the power of stories.
On NEOtropolis we try to tell stories about how life is changed in Northeast Ohio by technology and global forces. And at least one viewer has told us that a specific story she saw motivated her to pursue a new career, potentially changing her life. So here’s a wish for you this summer: May you find a book (or catch a NEOtropolis segment) that gives you a chance to change your story for the better, and enjoy the summer while you’re at it.