Monday, September 28, 2009

Nonfiction Books For Grownups

These are books which have stood the test of time for me. They are books which I wish I had had when I first started to set up housekeeping for myself, when I moved away from home at eighteen years old. Actually, no, I wish I had started reading them when I was twelve, because by eighteen I would (hopefully) have been able to absorb the necessary lessons, and have some idea of what I was trying to do when I started in. Although, come to think of it, one of these books wasn't even written until I was in my mid-twenties (but it late is WAY better than never, in books as well as Bachelor's degrees).

As I wrote this post, I realized that the common thread among these books is that they make me feel like doing things that I know I should do, but which seem so boring and/or awful that I never quite find the time to get to them. For this reason, I consider the first two to be sort of like oatmeal pancakes of the nonfiction book world: difficult to get people to try, but most people are glad to come back for more once they've had a sample. The third has such an intriguing title that most people will read it with a little less "selling" on my part.

Organizing From the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern-- Ms. Morgenstern has a pretty good handle on the reasons why people have a hard time keeping their stuff organized, and she spends the first little chunk of the book helping you figure out where, exactly, your difficulty might lie. Examples might be that you grew up feeling a lack of abundance and can't stand to give/throw anything away (no reference to present company), or that you are simply living in a space that is too small for your stuff (REALLY no reference to present company). She then goes on to explain that organizing is a teachable skill, and proceeds to teach it.

She has a seven-step process for getting your stuff organized; the most valuable thing I got from this is that you sort first, THEN purge, so that you have a clear picture of what you're doing when you purge. She tells you to keep the parts of your current system that are working, even if they seem illogical. (Logic, in its perfect Platonic Form, does not live at your house. Or, if He or She does, then you can tell Logic to lay off so that you can actually organize, whether it makes Logical sense or not. The person it has to make sense for is the person who has to use the system.) The last part of the book is devoted to various spaces in your house and ideas on how to organize them.

I liked this book so much that not only have I read it several times, I have actually bought the thing, thus giving up some of my precious, hard-won space for it.

There is also a set of videos she did for PBS, which so far is available at all libraries I have ever checked at (two of 'em, but still, two for two isn't bad, right?).

You Don't Have to be Rich, by Joan Chatsky

I didn't actually get the premise of this book (meaning, the question she set out to answer in writing it) the first time that I read it, but the book itself was so great that I read it a second time. Which premise is: Joan Chatsky wanted to know about the relationship of money to happiness. Rather than pontificating about her own ideas (she is, after all, a professional and nationally known financial consultant) she actually went out and did research about how money and happiness go together (or not).

Most interesting/useful for me: we get most happiness from things we experience, rather than things we own; and there are ten financial habits which, when a family has at least seven of them, make a $25,000 a year difference in the financial happiness of the family. The three habits that come to mind off the top of my head are that you keep track of your cash; you pay your bills as they come in rather than all at once; and you keep a budget. And, yes, the answer to her original question is that you don't have to be rich to be financially happy, but it's a lot more interesting ans slightly more complicated than just that. And, again, she has research to back her up. Short of prophetic insight, I trust research a heck of a lot more than most other ways of getting to knowledge, so I really like this book. I also own it, because not only does it make me feel like keeping a budget, it just plain cheers me up to read it.

How to Hug a Porcupine: Dealing With Toxic and Difficult to Love Personalities, by John Lund

Disclaimer: John Lund was my very first Institute teacher that I had, my freshman year of college. He taught Isaiah. I loved that class. And I loved Brother Lund, who was both funny and kind and never once acted like I was too young to participate in a serious discussion about what Isaiah might mean. (But really, I mostly listened. The stories he told were quite wonderful.)

The basic premise of this book (according to me) is that you really aren't crazy: there really do exist people who are emotionally toxic to be around, and Dr. Lund gives you extremely practical tools for dealing with these people. What makes this OK (and not an excuse for a blame-fest) is his very matter-of-fact way of pointing out that toxicity rubs off easily, so a major part of dealing with toxic people has to do with becoming non-toxic yourself. Of course he's not dead on about how to deal with every single problem, but I do find that, similar to how You Don't Have to Be Rich makes me feel happy and excited about taking control of my financial life, How To Hug a Porcupine helps me feel happy and excited about becoming a more emotionally healthy, firm-yet-kind-boundaries kind of woman. I also LOVE For All Eternity, which Dr. Lund also wrote; I think that it may actually be better, but I haven't sat down and done a direct comparison.

I don't own this one yet. I would, indeed, like to. (Just letting you, the approximately half of my reading audience who might think about getting me a Christmas present (because you are close blood relatives), know.)


N said...


N said...

E.M. hear could you post a fiction books for kids plese?