Tag Archives: Lindsay

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier

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“If you deal with other human beings, this book will help you,” says author Michael Bungay Stanier.

On the surface, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever is straight forward, concise, and an extremely helpful guide on how to build new habits in a work environment to improve staff productivity and to become a better manager. On a deeper level this book could easily be applied to any one in any area of their life. Stanier makes it very clear, if you’re interested in living a better life, you have to know how habits are formed. This is because habits represent who we are as people, ”we are what we repeatedly do.” Showing up early or late is a sign of who we are and what we make a priority. Cleaning up after ourselves or leaving a mess everywhere points to the type of qualities we have and chose to showcase for the world to judge. Small habits make up every part of who we are and they are extremely hard to change permanently, that is often why making changes fail. Diets, exercise, quitting a bad habit like smoking or picking up a good habit such as eating more vegetables all take a tremendous amount of work and time to make a habit.

Stanier takes baby steps to convince his readers that change is possible and incredibly beneficially to those who put in the time and effort. The book highlights research that shows,

“leaders and managers who regularly take part in coaching make a markedly positive increase in company profitability and moral. Yet, many managers and supervisors do not take part in coaching. Managers know coaching is good for us but often have become advice giving maniacs trying to come up with solutions before they even know the problem.”

This fundamental habit of giving advice and talking too much is what this book is designed to break from its readers. The need for managers to be in control, have all the answers, and know the next step is not being “coach like.” Being “coach like” for Stanier is simply asking more questions and rushing to action a little bit slower.

In The Coaching Habit, Stanier wants managers to make a mindset shift, to go from having a few good questions to really being curious about what is beneath the surface in any situation. By spending a bit less time giving advice and talking, and more time asking questions, waiting for feedback we can drastically change the environment and the attitude of our team. This book asks managers to really look at where a staff person is and to help them find answers or solutions themselves.

The book discusses a study which showed ten percent of employees report that coaching had a negative impact on their enthusiasm for their job. This means that currently, a large amount of coaching de-motivates people from trying their hardest and performing their best. Stanier says that this is often because companies are providing “coaching training” but not practical tools that managers can implement. Managers who try to implement anything they’ve learning in traditional coaching training are setting themselves up to fail as most recommends scheduling coaching to occur monthly or having a “coaching meeting.” How dreadful to look at your calendar each month and count down the days to when you are forced into your manager’s office for a talk on how you are failing at your job and what you can improve. No, a typical scenario like this, one which occurs regularly across corporate culture, puts both the manager and the employee on edge. Stanier describes these types of interactions as leading to lasting negative connotations and the relief felt by both employee and manager when they are “delighted the ordeal is over for the month.”

We’ve likely all been on one side of this situation or the other and know how hostile coaching in this manner feels. Instead, Stanier would like his readers to look at coaching as an ongoing cycle. He wants us to understand that coaching isn’t about the occasional event; it’s about understanding that every interaction can be a bit more coach like. Whether it’s bumping into each other in the hall, having a quick chat in an elevator, stripping back some of the formality of coaching will help take the anxiety away from the situation and make the conversation more effective. Stanier makes a great comparison of thinking of coaching as drip irrigation, not a flash flood. Flash floods can be devastating and hardly ever produce the desired outcomes. Drip irrigation on the other hand provides steady and consistent water to help grow crops.

I originally picked up this book because of the positive changes I felt it could help me make at work. After reading it however I strongly feel that many of the steps Stanier has asked readers to implement can be applied in a wider context. Since the book lays out a foundation of how to make small habit changes in all areas of our life, really just about anything you wanted to change or improve could be accomplished with these same steps. I found the book incredibly helpful and encouraging. Often, when we fail at building a new habit it’s because we have fallen prey to the gimmick of “change your life in 30 days” sales pitches when in reality a habit is an ongoing process which could take months or years to feel comfortable.

Both the book and audio version are short and very easy to digest. Stanier wanted to make a practical tool for the busy, tired, and over worked person who could quickly get through the information and start to implement his strategies. In a final thought by the author, he states that coaching is the least utilized leadership skills even though a range of great impacts including engagement and moral. He hopes to have supplied readers with useful practical tools to help them develop this underused skill and become a better person throughout their life.

Formats Available: Book

Reviewed by Lindsay, St. Matthews Branch

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

When I first heard that comedian Aziz Ansari, best known for roles in spunky TV shows such as Parks and Recreation as well as his own Netflix series, Master of None, had written a book I assumed it was another comedian biography much like Tina Fey’s Bossypants.  I’ve recently been listening to many comedians’ biographies and had heard a lot of people talking about this book, all giving great reviews.  What I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t really a biography at all.  Instead Modern Romance is an interesting look at the dating/marriage culture of today and the impact technology has played in shifting trends.  Ansari has written a laugh out loud worthy, well-researched social commentary on why singles of today are finding it difficult to settle down and stay married.

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As part of the 30 something’s crowd I hear a lot about online dating.  Once looked down upon only a few years ago, now it seems like everyone is trying it!  Newly divorced, perpetually single, etc. are wading into the world of online dating with little social judgment.  But as Ansari asks in his book, is this good?  What implications does all this access to so many single (or at least ready to mingle) strangers have on the tradition American dream of finding a partner, settling down, and raising a family?

According to research done for Modern Romance, technology does play a large role in dating these days.  But the cultural shift is deeper than just the ability to swipe right or left for new mates.  Ansari found during his interviews that most marriages only a couple of decades ago most likely happened between people who grew up around each other.  With little ability to travel, especially world travel as we have today, most couples lived within a very short distance of one another.  Roles were also very different for marriages in that time period.  Men and women had very narrow views of their roles within a marriage.  If the man found a job and provided for the family, he was a good husband.  If the woman cooked, kept a clean house, and took care of any children, she was a good wife.  In today’s culture genders no longer need to limit themselves to these narrow guidelines.  Women can have a job, men could stay at home, and overall it means that the immediacy of needing to find a partner has greatly reduced.

I found this book overall fascinating and hilarious.  I really enjoy the sarcastic humor of Ansari and found the information provided within the book extremely insightful.  As someone who has witnessed firsthand many of the frustrations discussed within the book it was helpful to find words to these experiences.  The nature of texting and instant gratification has taken a toll on patience and expectations.  Today’s singles must navigate a dating environment that mostly takes place through screens and very rarely actually involves face to face or even phone call communication.  On top of that we now have the ability to travel thousands of miles, a seemingly endless supply of options through online dating apps and websites, and a progressive society open to letting genders have more choices towards career and marriage.

After listening to Ansari’s book it made me realize how special today’s choice of marriage is.  The book’s final message is that couples today have the unique ability to choose something that is no longer economically or socially necessary.  Women don’t need to escape their parents’ house by getting married and men don’t need a wife to do all the cooking and cleaning.  Getting married today likely means you have found a life partner with whom you truly and deeply love which is a gift many generations ago were not given.

Formats Available: Book, Audiobook, eBook

Reviewed by Lindsay, St. Matthews Branch

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

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Seven year old Lavinia doesn’t remember her past or even her name as she is taken in by the Captain and Master of Tall Oaks plantation, on whose boat she was found.  Her parents died unable to survive the voyage from Ireland to America where they were to serve the Captain as indentured servants.  The Captain, having sold off Lavinia’s brother, takes her to serve in his kitchens.

At first Lavinia is unable to eat or speak but soon, comforted and loved by the slaves in the big house she opens up and regains health.  Dory, Belle, Papa, Mama Mae all nurture and become Lavinia’s surrogate family, not letting color stand in the way of love.

Over time, Lavinia learns all of the secrets to the plantation.  She discovers that the head mistress fights a terrible addiction to opium and that Belle, the light-skinned kitchen slave, is the Captain’s daughter.  Lavinia also learns of the tense relationship between Rankin the overseer, Mr. Waters the tutor, and the Captain who is frequently absent.

She and the slaves are apprehensive every time the Captain is gone – which is frequently.  They fear abuse at the hands of the tutor and overseer.  Soon after several beatings and abuses are doled out to the slaves (as well as the Captain’s own son), life on the plantation is thrown into chaos.  The tense line between races is broken, leaving Lavinia unsure where she fits in as a white servant who thinks of her fellow kitchen slaves as family.

This book is an interesting look at gender, family, and slavery in 1790s and early 1800s.  The Captain is described as sympathetic to his slaves’ conditions but leaves much or their care ultimately to two men who are as pro-slavery as they come.  The Captain claimed to have loved Belle yet keeps her working in his kitchens and bought her mother at an auction.

While the issues of slavery and servitude might not be fully developed, treatment of women is very clear within the book.  Female characters are powerless in the man’s world – being left for long periods of time, raped, imprisoned, and bonded.  Even the Captain’s own daughter must beg her father for her papers to be free.

Lines and characters are not clear, perhaps to represent the true nature of the time period where people might have known it was wrong but did very little to change or stop it from continuing.  So also is the interesting shadow with which indentured servitude was cast.  Lavinia is white yet lives in the kitchens with the other slaves.  The Captain dismisses that living and being raised with slaves would hurt any chance Lavinia had at a future, despite other characters asserting she’d never be able to find a husband or a future being raised this way.

The narrator of the audiobook has a lovely Irish accent and overall the book raises many interesting and important questions.  It feels like the author, Kathleen Grissom, teeters back and forth on where her characters stand on the issue of slavery but perhaps that is only to make her readers aware of the failure of society during this time to fully answer such questions themselves.  The plot is a bit convoluted but The Kitchen House is overall worth a listen or read.

Formats Available: Book, Audiobook

Reviewed by Lindsay, St. Matthews Branch

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

furiouslyhappyI love listening to comedic biographical audiobooks, better yet are comedic audiobooks read by the author themselves.  I think it adds a more genuine quality to the listening experience because only authors truly know how they meant something to be interpreted.  On an especially bleak day this fall I needed something uplifting and turned to Jenny Lawson’s newest book Furiously Happy.  Jenny Lawson’s first title, Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, chronicles the bizarre things that seem to always happen to Lawson.  From digging up a dead pet in her backyard so vultures won’t get it, to buying lots of taxidermied animals through the internet, Lawson has a lot of weird things happen to her.  You’ll find the same love of taxidermy and strange happenings in her second book, but Lawson gets bit more personal this time about her mental health struggles.

The title of her second book comes from a blog post on one of her especially dark days.  She is in the midst of a depression so dark she wasn’t seeing anyway out of it and instead of giving in and falling further into the black hole she makes a choice, be happy.  Be so furiously happy that there is no room for darkness.  Within hours of the blog post attached to #FuriouslyHappy thousands of messages poured in relating to Lawson’s experience and offering support.

The fame of her blog and the success of her first book put the spotlight on how many people suffer with anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders that are often misunderstood or diminished by those unfamiliar with the symptoms.  Lawson delivers a slightly uncomfortable look at what dealing with these disorders does to your body, your family, and your friends.  She is brave and honest about her attempts to hurt herself, the days when she isn’t able to leave her bed, and how much she hates and loves being successful.  She approaches these setbacks not with defeat but with the knowledge that tomorrow is a new and hopefully better day.

Her awkwardness is relatable as I’m sure everyone has had a moment where they’ve said something they regret or made a fool of themselves and can’t hide.  Perhaps we haven’t all pulled a taxidermied raccoon claw from our bags during a huge press conference for a newly published book; but the metaphor is there.  We’ve all done embarrassing things because we are all human.  Getting up, moving forward, and trying to make better tomorrows is the overall message in this hilarious book where almost anything could come out of Jenny Lawson’s mouth.  Really, she says some ridiculous things.

Formats Available: Book, eBook

(Note: LFPL does not have this title in Audiobook format at the moment)

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

This historical fiction novel by Kenneth Oppel takes place in Canada in the late 1880’s.  The country is young and exploring its boundaries.  The last spike has been driven into two great railway systems, creating a coast to coast system.  Now travelers can journey across the country at record speeds but no train exists that is big enough or strong enough to make the full trip until The Boundless arrives.

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The Boundless was a dream of railway manager Mr. Vanhorn.  It pulls over seven miles of train cars including a circus, a gym, a pool, three classes of passengers cars, and much more.  Sadly, it also pulls Mr. Vanhorn’s funeral car as he did not live long enough to see his dream built.  Surrounded by a current of electricity, Mr. Vanhorn’s car will travel the rails forever as part of the Boundless.  But there are many people who would like to get their hands on the treasure that travels along inside the funeral car next to Vanhorn’s body.

Only two people know where the key is to unlock the funeral car, the guard hired to protect it, and James Everett.  Once a poor employee of Mr. Vanhorn, James saved Mr. Vanhorn’s life three years previous and, in gratitude, James was left everything Mr. Vanhorn owned.  James alone knows what and how to get in that car- knowledge that soon endangers his son, William.

William is shy and unsure of himself but full of excitement to be traveling on The Boundless’ maiden trek across the country with his father.  That is until he witnesses the murder of the funeral car guard and quickly becomes the prey himself.  Will, stuck an unplanned adventure, he must out run and outsmart those trying to use him to get to the riches inside the train car.

No one is who they seem and even those trying to help Will stay safe and the speeding train has ulterior motives.  Can anyone be trusted?  Is everyone using him to get inside the funeral car?

The Boundless tells a wonderful story of a young boy trying to find faith in himself and discover who he truly is.  This is a grand adventure full of mysterious creatures and strange magical happenings that no reader should miss.

There is also a book trailer which you can view by clicking here.

Formats Available: Book, eBook, Audiobook

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Middle school is hard. Add the facts that your twin brother now has a girlfriend and ignores you, your mom is your assistant school principal and knows everything, and oh yeah your dad died of heart disease and you’ll understand why middle school is especially tough for Josh.

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Written in verse, The Crossover by Kwame Alexander explores the world of two 14 year old twins who excel at basketball just like their father but find themselves going in opposite directions. They have new emotions and feelings they can’t quite express or understand and aggression they can’t quite control. Full of highs and lows that normal students go through, this book expresses clearly what it feels like to grow up, having the comfort of people near you always to suddenly feeling alone. I often find that books written in verse are especially powerful in the succinct ways words are phrased, this book was exactly that.

The Crossover is part of this year’s Kentucky Bluegrass Award nominations. I highly recommend this title to any upper elementary or middle school student. The KBA book award is a reader choice award. This list of nominations can be found at http://kba.nku.edu/ and is open to any Kentucky student in grades K-12.

Formats Available: Book, eBook, Audiobook

 Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

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Sophie Kinsella, best known for her Shopaholic series for adults, takes a stab at teen fiction with Finding Audrey, the story of a 14 year old who suffers from a severe social anxiety disorder.  Throughout the book the reader is aware that Audrey wasn’t always the socially avoidant person she has become, something happened at school the previous year that has made her unable to even look another person in the eyes.  She wears dark glasses, doesn’t leave the house, and the very thought of many social situations leaves her in bed for days.

The reader joins Audrey at an important moment in her life; she is stuck with what is left of her after ‘”an incident” involving several other classmates.  Audrey is slowly progressing towards feeling better with the help of her chaotic and hilarious family and Dr. Sarah.  Then Linus enters Audrey’s life.  A friend of her brother’s, Linus is able to help Audrey talk through her feels and offers support in a way she felt safe and comfortable.  As her personal health improves a sweet romance blooms between Linus and Audrey that makes you feel all warm inside.

This is a great summer read, newly published, and sure to make you feel great.  It’s warm and gooey with hilarious family moments.  Laptops of chucked from windows, video game tournaments are lost, and at the heart of it all a serious message of teenage bullying and learning to overcome fears.  We never learn exactly what happened to Audrey – though we get small glimpses.  I think the not knowing makes the title more accessible to readers who might come to the book with a variety of issues in their own life.

There have been many teen books on the market that specifically detail the type of trauma their character has endured and while I find those helpful I think the flexibility of ambiguity.  It also ensures the book remains overall upbeat and light – we get the PSA without feeling low at the end.  I laughed so many times with this book, I hope you will too.  Enjoy!

Formats Available: Book (Regular Print)

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by Dr. David D Burns

feelingoodWinter months can seem to drag on forever.  With all the gray gloom it’s easy to start feeling glum.  It’s rare I recommend a self-help book — or even read one myself — but if you find this winter is taking its toll on you, try Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by Dr. David D. Burns.  Dr. Burns has been studying cognitive therapy and mood fluctuation for decades.  When Feeling Good first hit the shelves in 1980, no one knew much about cognitive therapy or how successful it could be as a means to treat depression and low self-confidence.  Now, many years and revised editions later, Feeling Good has sold millions of copies and is recommended by mental health professionals over and over.

Don’t let the topic scare you, this book is a wonderful reminder for us on how to be kind to ourselves whether you need a little winter pick-me-up, or are suffering with long term negative thoughts.  In studies, the ideas Dr. Burns discusses in Feeling Good are proven to work better than many other methods currently used to help improve mood and confidence.  Feeling anxious with life?  Work?  School?  Life?  These are all things which can bring people down and make them feel unsure.  The main focus of Dr. Burns research is that all thoughts create feelings.  Further, if we are able to turn initial negative thoughts around – and look at things more objectively – then our feelings will be more positive.  Sounds simple but for many of us it’s not.

Don’t let the winter months get you down, if you need a break from the cold but can’t afford a trip to warmer climates, try Feeling Good By Dr. Burns instead – and maybe mentally you can find your beach oasis.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Feeling Good  is discussed in Marbles by Ellen Forney which is one of March’s suggested reading titles for the Graphic Novel Discussion Group at the Main. Library.  The topic is Graphic Medicine: Narratives of Illness & Caregiving.  The meeting starts at 6:00 PM on Monday, March 9, 2015.

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone

When you’re scared of taking risks everyday life obstacles can seem overwhelming.  That was what life was like for Emily.  She didn’t like being the center of attention or going to parties or really anything involving people.  She liked cross county because she loved running with her thoughts and being alone.  That was before Sloane moved to town.  Sloane was brave and vibrant and exhilarating- everything Emily was too afraid to be.  Emily loved to be known as “Sloane’s friend” even to people who had known Emily her whole life but had just met Sloane.  It didn’t bother Emily that Sloane got all the guys, all the attention, and all the glory.  Emily liked being boring.  But then Sloane vanishes without a trace.

Emily shows up like always to Sloane’s house and finds no one is there.  Just as quickly as she had come into Emily’s life two years earlier Sloane was gone.  The only sign that Sloane had existed at all was a cryptic letter which shows up at Emily’s house a week after Sloane disappears.  It isn’t a ransom note or an explanation of what happened, it’s a list.  A list of several things Emily feels quite sure she will never be brave enough to do such as pick apples at night, kiss a stranger, and go skinny dipping!

As the days tick by and Emily’s perfectly planned summer is ruined by loss and confusion she makes a decision that completing the list might bring her closer to finding the truth of what happened to her best friend.  Emily starts the list thinking it will help her find Sloane but in an endearing, coming of age and self-acceptance story, what Emily really find’s is herself.  It is easy to live in someone else’s shadow if it means never having to take risks.  But what is a life worth having if you’re not living it?

Since You’ve Been Gone is a wonderful novel full of rich social themes – friendship, self-identity, self-discovery, and self-acceptance.  While marketed toward teens this novel is an important reminder to us at any age about being kind to ourselves and others.  Emily is afraid to be vulnerable to others but it keeps her closed off to a life full of possibilities.  She finds braveness in a friend who appears to be the epitome of everything Emily wishes she was – but we all know appearances are often misleading.  So does Emily complete the list?  Does she find Sloane and learn why her best friend disappeared over night?  It’s well worth the read if you’d like to find out.

Formats Available: Book (Regular Print)

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline

“If you find what you like, buy it in several colors.” — Elizabeth L. Cline

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In 2009, author Elizabeth Cline found herself in a clothing crisis.  Following that advice, she purchased several cheap pairs of shoes from a powerhouse national discounter, the same pair of shoes in many different colors.  But only a few weeks later the pairs that hadn’t been worn to pieces were collecting dust in her closet now out dated and replaced by the next trend.  The author of Over-Dressed decided to take a hard look at what consumer shopping habits are, where are clothes come from, and the impact these changes have on a global economy.

The largest change has been the inclusion of foreign manufacturers.  Once New York and LA employed hundreds of garment workers; the United States boasted quality skills and material and created beautiful garments that aged well.  Some companies still employee domestic workers, but nothing like the heyday of American made fashion.  Cheaper labor overseas means companies can save large amounts of money, savings which encourage less investment domestically.

With costs lowering for garments, consumer’s mentalities towards clothing began to change.  We once had to labor for our clothing.  A single suit or dress would take an entire week’s wages.  Those that couldn’t afford to spend a week’s wages made their own clothing.  Consumers knew mending skills, sewing skills, how to use patterns, how to recycle material.  In an entire generation all of those skills are gone.  Ms. Cline discusses growing up with a mother and grandmother who sewed, hemmed, and patched, but she knew none of that.  She is not alone.  Clothing prices have dropped so low that most consumers would rather buy a new shirt than fix a detached button.

Not fixing clothing could also be attributed to not only cost, but construction of the clothing most people wear these days.  Ms. Cline examined all of the top brands and found that in the race for cheaper clothing the overall quality has dropped dramatically.  At one point the author discusses how just ten years ago doll clothing was better made than anything people wear today.  Consumers today have been taught not to care about construction, simply what is in trend.  Trends are so cheap to produce that even if a garment falls apart after a few wears, we can just go buy something new.  This is exactly what fast fashion stores want from consumers.

Fast fashion stores are the big clothing retailers that have revolving product…which all seems to look the same — twenty of the same dresses but in different bright colors; the same shirt in five different patterns — these are the staples of fast fashion stores.  Fast fashion retailers are those that when you begin to look over the racks and racks and racks of cheaply made clothing, you understand exactly how right Ms. Cline is — we are all walking around in the same clothing cheaply made junk.

The garment industry is now a global problem.  Consumers domestically hardly realize how many jobs have been shipped overseas and what that impact has on them locally.  Consumers likely don’t think about the treatment foreign workers receive while producing their cheap garments.  All they know is that they paid a steal for their new clothes.  Nor do they probably realize that with each new piece of clothing they buy because their old ones are not quality enough to last, millions of tons of garbage pile up in landfills.  All of that cheap fashion has to go somewhere.

This seems like a gloomy place to leave consumers (and readers!).  Many of which can’t afford the higher cost of quality, responsibly made clothing while continuing the habits society has created.  Ms. Cline offers simple changes to impact any wardrobe while also being more responsible shoppers.  Look at the material your clothing is made from.  Where is the garment you’re about to purchase made?  If a button falls off- can you learn to replace it?  Mend a seam?  Hem a pant?  Would you look through your closet and downsize?  Do you need five blue tank tops?  Seven dress shirts that all look the same?  If something doesn’t fit just the way you want, learn to take it in, let it out, shorten, and tighten.

Ms. Cline is compelling and down to Earth.  Your wardrobe and wallet will likely thank you for reading Over-Dressed.

 Formats Available: Book (Regular Print)

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch