Sunday, June 22, 2008

random reads

With tons of books stuck in a tilting mountain form, I thought it best to rifle through some and finish them off before they take their revenge and cave on me...while in my sleep. O_o

Sadly, instead of going to the good stuff, I picked up a lot of *pause* social and cultural books. Let me make it very clear that the books were not bad. It contained great information and was rather entertaining in their own right. At the same time, the level in which they are written (no matter the mass of information and knowledge injected), much of the writings had given me a hint of unease (and not because of the contents alone).

You're Too Kind by Richard Stengel.

An enjoyable and often satirically written book on the history of flattery. There is a LOT of information, thus hard for me to fully describe and explain without going into essay mode. Although it did make me laugh(the writing itself-really wonderful), think, and frown- the most important thing I gained from this book is to realize how bad I am at flattery, because I do not believe in it. This book, although humorous, painted a very sad picture of human culture. The future of increasingly self-serving people using glistening words to gain ground rather than true hard work and knowledge is bound to cause some trouble for others. Is not our current political problems globally a clear enough warning?
While reading this book, if often made me think of Sense and Sensibility (what? did you honestly think I wouldn't link romance, no matter how small, to this post somehow *wink*). People do prefer sweet and false lies to truthful honesty. Flatter has become so fluid, it is sometimes hard to discern an individuals true intentions-where doubt may mistakenly be placed upon friends.
One thing was very clear, I do not like flattery. I doubt it when people speak of me kindly...especially for the purpose of it getting back within my hearing range. I would rather someone be cruel and truthful, giving me time to comes to terms with my own mistakes and shortcomings, instead of a plastic facade with the easy of hiding the very sharp knife in which to stab me when my back is turned.
It made me doubt and it is not a good thing. At the same time, even if I choose to believe in people and in the kindness of those around, the books makes me realize how I should not maintain a naive mentality. Understanding there will be fake people out there does help more than waking up one day with a knife in my back (yet again) and then blaming myself.
If nothing else, the book did make me laugh at the absurdity of flattery (which, I believe, was a little of the intention).
So, conclusion: good book, worth reading, but can be a bit depressing. Maybe find it in the local library.

The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker.
This book, highly recommended by a lot of people, had contents much more disturbing than I would like and more because of the language than the actual events described.
The writer himself is very eloquent and very well versed in the experiences. He, sincerely cares and even has a disclaimer of writing this book with male audience in mind. In the same instance, about three chapters in, it finally hit me with the force of a hurricane upon a tiny beetle (yes, I am the beetle in this case) of why I was constantly uncomfortable while reading a book that was to help recognize and help prevent violence. I, as an individual of no expertise other than that of a me reading, felt victimized. Or more precisely, violence being blamed on the victim. Let me very clearly say this, it is not the intention of the writer to do so. In actuality, I know, very clearly and sincerely, Mr. Becker wanted to help readers become aware of their surrounds and help stop the chances of violence before it could ever happen. The goal is to trusting your instincts (which I feel, really sums up the book; there are more, but those are not my focal point).
Yet, as engaging as the writing, this teaching of how people can and should recognize the premise to violence (although not wrong) is written in a way that throw a little too much responsibility at the feet of a victim. It is true, we are often able to feel this bit of prickling at the back of our necks, signaling how uncomfortable we are about someone, some place, or some situation. But saying, you knew it and chose to ignore it...well, that is a double-edged statement.
In truth, it could be me reading too much into the subtle aspects of the book that are not meant to be there at all. Yet, the feeling of blame is there (which I feel is completely unintentional and he would probably sue me for slander if it isn't for the wonderful First Amendment and the fact he does not seem like a kind of person to do such a thing).

I do recommend this book, it has much to offer, but I would suggest readers to keep in mind the book takes some rather complex situations and somewhat simplified it. A good read, but borrow before buy is best.

A little background on myself and why I feel rather strongly about the second book(highlight if you have time and are bored enough to read ^_~); I majored and graduated from college with an undergraduate in Women's Studies. Rather than go into a lengthy and boring explanation of that major (because truthfully, I do not quite know how to explain it myself), I can only say I went into the major because of an incredible professor; without much thought except to grow as an individual, and came out very openly critical of the study itself (it's mostly out of love that I am so harsh on this major because I do love it very much, being in the major is also part of the reason why I found the first book depressing). During my years of education, I had to study and learning, watch and read, as well as speak and discuss issues that were discussed in this book. I am no expert, but if I am be so bold as to say, being female often makes fear and violence (mostly intermingled) more a fact of life rather than a distant event. As such, I get rather riled up about anything that even hints at blaming someone whom was unable to control an event that occurred and have thus caused pain.
In the meantime, I did start on a very special and absorbing book where I'm taking my time to make it last. So...don't kill me Katiebabs. I'm reading it ^_~.

Edit: So, I came back and realized I've been focusing more on the 'problems' I had with the books, rather than equal limelight. So~~~

You're Too Kind- The writing was very funny. The author, Mr. Stengel had an interesting way of presenting information where it's actually fun to read. Entertaining, yet informative. My favorite kind of books. Going through history and how flatter is still a very vital and present part of our lives, he paints a very different view in terms of religion, culture, and of people in general. For me, I was able to gain the knowledge of what to look for should someone be trying to flatter me. At the same time, as an individual who loves learning, the sheer amount of information provided had me checking out history books and wanting to learn more.
A side note, if you're easily offended about certain personal views, you may want to read with a bit of caution because the book is not shy about pointing out possible meanings. Reading with a light-hearted and satirical mentality would be best. I really enjoyed that aspect, in which nothing is off limits-even if I did get a little taken back at some aspects. Still, I like keeping the book around and flipping through it every now and then. Not for too long or too often, because I would start thinking too much and then depress myself.

The Gift of Fear- As the writer statee, all the evidence he provided in the book were based on real experiences, events, and statistics. That sheds a rather bleak, but important light on the problems with violence in this century. Mr. Becker often brought up possible solutions, which I found to be a great addition to books about social issues. Not shy about pointing out the absurdity as well as genuine importance about different aspects in terms of fear and violence, the book attempts to be truthful. To some extent, it succeeded to bring it to the readers attentions. At other times, it becomes a bit obscure and overshadowed by the storytelling of the individual experiences. Not a bad thing, but the desciptions and explanations are not for everyone. I enjoyed the book, but probably will not pick up this book again unless I need specific information or details.


  1. The Gift of Fear sounds like something I would love to read. Humans are the only animal that second guess their innate sixth sense. If an animal is threatened, they run (unless they're a lion or something, lol). If a human feels kinda funny about a situation, sadly they often times brush it off and then the worst happens.

    Women are the worst when it comes to ignoring things and I'm not sure, but I think it might be b/c of our want not to offend someone or hurt someone's feelings or whatever. I don't have this problem and I probably come off as a bitch sometimes, but if some stranger (usually male) tries to talk to me or stop me for whatever reason, I ignore them and find a better place to be. If I'm jogging and someone tries to ask me for directions I ignore them and run faster not b/c I'm trying to be rude, but b/c I don't trust strangers, period. If I'm parked next to a van, I get in the passenger side and I also have a concealed weapons permit.

    Okay, you probably think I'm a nut by now, but I'm one of those weirdo's who always tries to be aware of her surroundings b/c the world is a shitty place. Don't get me wrong, I'm an optimistic person by nature, but I was raised a realist. Sometimes I wish I could turn off my awareness of how evil people really are, but I can't.

  2. Katie- It is a really interesting book. I don't know why people constantly doubt themselves either. In the book, it also mentioned how women's "intuition" is seen as bad, whereas a man's "gut" instinct is good. So, socialization. If we're constantly told that all things feminine or female are lesser than that of men, women are thus taught to ignore themselves. Makes me so mad! And people still tell me gender inequality doesn't exist.

    You're so not nuts! I'm like that too (to a lesser extent). I had to seriously go against the social expectations (and the ingrained ideology) of having to be nice all the time. Like, no attitude, no lip, no nothing, or else I'm seen as a bad person, bad woman. Blah blah blah. Nowadays, I smile sweetly and tell them to shove it. Ha! ^_~