Monthly Archives: January 2017

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

Review (Amazon): For more than sixty years the rock-solid, time-tested advice in this book has carried thousands of now famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives.

Now this previously revised and updated bestseller is available in trade paperback for the first time to help you achieve your maximum potential throughout the next century! Learn:

* Three fundamental techniques in handling people

* The six ways to make people like you

* The twelve ways to win people to you way of thinking

* The nine ways to change people without arousing resentment

My Review (Spoilers!):

Executive Summary: useful

One of my work development goals for 2016 was to read this book. Every other week, my manager and I discussed the couple chapters that we had read. So it took me a year to read but it was definitely worth reading.

The book is divided into four parts:

Part One – Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

Part Two – Six Ways to Make People Like You

Part Three – How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

Part Four – Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

It’s a short book and the chapters are short with typically a few real world (albeit sometimes 1930s real world) examples. I don’t think there was anything earth shattering in the book, but it’s often the simplest of things that make the most difference, for instance the book begins giving an example about how Al Capone thought he was a public benefactor, using the example to show that everyone regards themselves well and criticizing them (showing them they aren’t as great as they think) isn’t going to make an iota of difference to them. It’s just going to piss them off. And really this is the underlying principle. Remember people’s names. Listen to their conversation (people love to talk about themselves). Give praise. All pretty obvious and straightforward things, but still things that people need to work on. (I’m rotten with names, and I always mean to make an effort at them but I always forget right in the moment that I’m supposed to be making a better effort.)

I would say that the book is one that you should read multiple times but not just read. Really work to test out some of the techniques in your daily interactions. (My boss used a lot of the techniques on his toddler with quite good results according to him.) The book could perhaps more aptly and modernly be named “How to get shit done while still being nice.”

Verdict: 4 stars

There’s a reason this book is still in print nearly a hundred years later. It’s easy to read, simple to comprehend and is full of valuable techniques. I wouldn’t say that it changed my life but it definitely makes me more mindful of my communication to others.

 

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Those Who Save Us – Jenna Blum

Review (Amazon): For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy’s sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.

Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother’s life.

Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.

My Review (spoilers!):

Executive Summary: decent

I’ve expressed my general apathy toward WW2 (German-focused) books on here before. Yet somehow I keep reading them (because I foolishly take recommendations of them from people who love them). This one really is not bad, however it was my 3rd WW2 for 2016 (technically I finished it in ’17 but it was started in ’16 so I’m counting it). It wasn’t as great as The Nightingale, but it wasn’t as rotten as The Book Thief, so I guess that makes it solidly decent.

The book follows two intertwined stories–One of Anna and eventually her daughter Trudy in 1940s Germany, and another story in the present (late 1990s) of the mother and daughter in Minnesota. Despite that literary device being a bit overused in my opinion, the author did a good job with it and was able to freshen it up a bit with the modern story.

Trudy is a professor of German history. When her colleague and only friend tells Trudy about her upcoming project to interview Jews who lived through WW2, Trudy has a revelation that she wants to do the same with German nationals. She wants first person stories about how people who lived through such atrocities could turn a blind eye to what was going on around them. She also secretly has a desire to learn about her own past since her mother has closed off everything about that time.

Anna grew up in Weimar in Germany (not the town in Texas that has really good fried chicken). Her mother died and she took over the job of taking care of her father who early became a Nazi. He was a social climber and wanted to find Anna a good pure husband. Unbeknownst to him, she had other plans. Anna falls for the town doctor, a Jew, and eventually hides him in their home. Anna’s father is away much of the time and she visits Max in the secret closet. Her father inevitably finds out and turns Max into the Gestapo. Anna at this point is pregnant and retreats to a sympathetic Mathilde, the town baker.

Mathilde keeps her hidden until Trudy is born and begins teaching her the craft–not just baking, but also smuggling food to prisoners at the nearby work yard where she collects and returns with their messages.  Mathilde keeps this up until she is eventually killed, presumably caught in the act, and Anna takes over. However, this is not to last either. A German officer, the Oberstrumfuhrer, takes interest in her. Anna makes the decision to encourage these advances to both protect her daughter and also feed them. She keeps up work at the bakery until there is no more ingredients left from which to make bread (although she is only feeding the Nazi soldiers at this point and is not taking any to the prisoners). The Oberstrumfuhrer is a man of some depth. While he is a horrible man in many ways, he does seem to generally like Anna and Trudy, bringing them chocolates and taking them on trips. Anna struggles with her decisions daily, but she doesn’t see another option. When finally the American arrival is inevitable, the Oberstrumfuhrer leaves and heads for Argentina, leaving Anna and Trudy in Weimar.

The Americans arrive, and one drunken soldier breaks into the bakery and tries to rape Anna. He is stopped by a superior officer, a Jack Schlemmer. He and Anna marry and they move to Minnesota with Trudy. Anna never really fits in with the locals in the small town, and she has so much emotional baggage from her time in Germany that she and Jack have a very broken relationship until he dies and Anna is put into a home which she is eventually kicked out of when she comes to live with Trudy.

Trudy continues doing interviews. In one, she is bamboozled by a Jew who has called her for an interview only to berate her entire project denouncing all Germans for what they have done. However, Trudy is drawn to this man and feels a connection to him. She tells him that she is the daughter of an Oberstrumfuhrer as she has seen the picture of him, Anna and her in her mother’s cigarette case. He tells her that his brother was shot in the head point blank by a Nazi soldier just to make a point. They date for a while, Trudy falling in love with him, but it is not to work. Her mother secretly watches the interviews and Trudy has caught her watching the one of Rainer, but her mother will not agree to be interviewed and spills no information.

Another interviewee who reaches out to Trudy is a man named Felix who grew up just outside Weimar. Trudy acknowledges her birthplace and begins to listen more intently to his tale. He tells of how he was a bit of a scumbag–out to make money on the war. He bought people’s valuables in exchange for papers and ways out of Germany. Eventually he was caught and imprisoned. He tells Trudy about the bakery angels who would leave presents in the hollow tree and take their messages. He tells Trudy about a man named Max who was also in the camp and had a secret daughter with one of the bakery angels. At this point, Trudy, in shock, asks her camera man to stop the tape and asks Felix if he will come meet her mother. He agrees and while they are waiting for the camera man to pack up, Trudy asks what became of Max. Felix responds that Oberstrumfuhrer von Stuern hanged him and kicked away the chair.

When they get to Trudy’s, Anna still does not give away anything. She says she cannot remember ever seeing a murder at the prison while she was delivering food, although Felix later assures Trudy that it was indeed Anna who he saw there. He has lunch with Anna and when Trudy returns him to his place, he tells her that he would like to visit Anna again, and Trudy agrees that she thinks her mother would enjoy it. The book ends with Trudy in silent reflection.

Verdict: 3.5 Stars

All in all, I thought it was a pretty good book. I enjoyed the premise of Trudy being a child in the war who grew up to be a professor of German history. I found the characters to be very well rounded and well developed and they felt very real, even the ones the readers didn’t know well. The only real downside is that…it’s hard to be very original on a German WW2 novel.

 

 

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2017 Book Club List

Another year, another book club list! This year, I decided to choose historical fiction as my category (as I always like to choose a different category each year), and the three books I chose to offer up for consideration were:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan which is the one that was chosen by book club member vote.

The others that were chosen for all genres are as follows:

January (Literary Fiction) – The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

February (Suspense/Thriller) – The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

March (Memoir) – Hillbilly Ellegy by J.D. Vance

April (Classic) – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

May (Mystery) – And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

June (Book into Movie) – Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

July (Historical Fiction) – The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan as referenced above!

August (Non-Fiction) – The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

September (Young Adult) – The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

October (Best Seller) – TBD

November – TBD

December – Book Swap!

 

If you ever want to go back to see our many previous book club lists, they can be located right here!

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2016 in Review

So this year was a little weak for me. I’ve been involved heavily in an animal rescue which has taken up a good portion of my free time. I only read 16 books in 2016, or an average of 1.3 per month. The books I read encompassed 5583 pages, or 15.3 pages per day.

On the positive side though, there were a few bright lights. I read a career book for work which is a yearly goal of mine. I also read a book that was written by a woman of color which was another goal of mine. In fact for 2017, all 3 of my book club choices were books written by non-white women. Lastly, I knocked off a few books off of my To Read list! For 2017, I intend to read another career-oriented book for work as well as a technical book related to my job.

My genres were fairly well-balanced over the year. I did not have any books that I would have specifically considered fantasy, but I would consider that Midnight Robber was a fantasy/sci-fi but I technically considered it sci-fi.

2016-genres

Next, I want to see whether I am reading books that I like. I separated all of the books compared to just the book club books. The book club books comprised of all the 2.5 ratings–the lowest rating for the year. Otherwise, there was a pretty decent spread for both book club and non-book club books. Last year, I had one 4.5 rating with significantly more 4 star ratings so that’s a bit of disappointment that I didn’t get more higher-rated books this year.

2016-all-books

2016-book-club

I also keep track of how much money I spend on books. This year the good majority of my books came from the library, mostly by ebooks. I borrowed one book as well as was given one by my mom for my birthday. I only purchased one–the one for work so that I could write in it for my bi-weekly discussions.

2016-method

Here is to a much more bookish 2017! I’m already reading and hope you are too!

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