The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age
By Maggie Jackson

Is our planet Earth plummeting into another Dark Age, a mire of disintegration and self-destruction, lifeless and loveless, where not a spark of defiance fires the human soul, where no children laugh, no birds sing, and no swift shoes are flung at lamely-ducking presidents?

One expects this sensational warning in modern films. But when alarms are sounded from beyond Hollywood — from some our best and most sincere minds — it is time to face the problem and closely pay attention. Jane Jacobs (Dark Age Ahead), Jared Diamond (Collapse), Martin Rees (Our Final Hour), Charlene Spretnak (The Resurgence of the Real), and Albert Gore (An Inconvenient Truth) have all written non-fiction works warning us about unpleasant things in our possible or probable future. Distracted, by Maggie Jackson, is an important contribution to this growing genre. With clarity and compassion, Jackson explores the dangers of our hi-tech lifestyle, describing how and why our world is darkening, and providing some illuminating hints about what we might do to reverse the dangerous trends.

A much-quoted bumper-sticker in our town (popular in the pre-Obama era) reminds us:

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

Attention is the key, says Jackson: a lack of attention (distraction) is the essence of our problems, and our hope for the future depends on cultivating “a renaissance of attention.” Jackson explains psychologist Michael Posner’s a definition that divides attention into three “networks”: orienting, alerting, and the executive.

chaplin-gearsJackson travels around the U.S.A. to observe people and to talk with researchers connected to her theme. All the while, she quotes many useful literary sources, old and new, including the greatly misunderstood play by Capek (R.U.R.); the eerily prescient science fiction story by E. M. Forster (The Machine Stops); and Mary Shelley’s saga of a dysfunctional monster (Frankenstein). I have been studying this notion (ABC: Attention, Being fully in the present, Concentration) for years, and I thought that I could not be surprised with information new to me. Happily, I was very wrong. Jackson introduced me to the French science fiction author, Albert Robida (1848 to 1926). Robida wrote a short story about the future (the year 1965); interviewed about his predictions, he said (and he is talking about us):

“Their every day will be caught in the wheels of a mechanized society to the point where I wonder how they will find the time to enjoy the most simple pleasures we had at our disposal: silence, calm, solitude. Having never known them, they shall not be able to miss them. As for me, I do — and I pity them.”

Robida wondered then, and — more than a century later — I am wondering now. But for pity there is no time. Quickly we must turn down the noise, simplify our lives, learn the art of attention, and cultivate our minds.

Posted in Uncategorized

Developing Resilience

9780203874417_p0_v1_s260x420Developing Resilience:
A Cognitive-Behavioural Approach
by Michael Neenan
ISBN: 978-0415480680

A Self-Help Book so Comprehensive That it Could Double as a Textbook …

… or perhaps “A Textbook so Succinctly Written That it Could Double as a Self-Help Book” ? My point is that “Developing Resilience” is both relatively brief (at 183 pages, not including references and index), and comprehensive in covering both theory and practical applications.

Inherent to human life on earth are inevitable losses and setbacks. By my reckoning, maybe five major adverse events by age 50 for each of us, typically setbacks such as (1) major illness or injury, (2) career or education, (3) relationships and marriage, (4) money and finances, and/or (5) crises of personal meaning or goals. So how and where do we find the strength and renewal to pick ourselves up and go on, hopefully even growing stronger and wiser in the process? The answer lies in the somewhat elusive faculty of “resilience”, and Michael Neenan, an expert cognitive-behavioral therapist, speaks with great insight and experience defining and illustrating this complex and multifarious human capability.

In Neenan’s system, attitudes that promote adaptation, growth, and overcoming adversity are those that are: (1) somewhat flexible rather than rigid and automatic, (2) mostly realistic rather than unrealistic (especially those that are unrealistically fearful or negative), (3) beliefs and attitudes that are helpful and useful, rather than defeatist and nihilistic, and (4) the kinds of beliefs that you would recommend teaching to others that you care about (i.e., beliefs that you know in your heart would make people better off if they – like you – were to adopt them). At the heart of becoming more resilient, therefore, is examining our own attitudes and trying to bring them into conformity with the above principles of flexible, optimistic, realistic, and teachable to those we love. There is some example or case history to illustrate these principles from Neenan’s professional caseload or personal life on almost every page of the book.

A few other aspects of this book I appreciated included an emphasis on “ordinary resilience” or “routine resilience”, in contrast to “extraordinary resilience”. The latter refers to the amazing (and indeed inspiring) tales of those who heroically overcome incredible tragedy and loss to live epic lives that inspire and awe the rest of us. However, Neenan posits that “routine resilience” is much more common and necessary – i.e., being resilient in the face of life’s more mundane stresses and setbacks such as stress at work, problems in relationships, or life’s other, ubiquitous challenges. Thus all of us can and should learn how to be more resilient in our everyday lives.

In the face of grappling with such an abstract and complex concept as resilience, the book is refreshingly pragmatic and includes separate chapters on “Resilience in the workplace”, “Resilience in relationships”, and “Resilience in dealing with difficult people.” There is also a chapter that directly addresses the most common attitudes that undermine resilience – attitudes such as “I’ll never get over it”, “Why Me”, “It Shouldn’t Have Happened to Me”, “I’m a Pessimist by Nature” and other, similarly rigid, negative, unrealistically fatalistic yet perfectly common beliefs.

I would recommend this book as both a self-help guide for the lay person, and a succinct primer textbook for the professional therapist or counselor alike.

Posted in Psychology/Psychiatry

April 23 is World Book and Copyright Day

wbcdayApril 23 is World Book and Copyright Day. Celebrated every year, the event is sponsored and organized by UNESCO.

World Book and Copyright Day is an occasion to celebrate the contribution of books and authors to our global culture and the connection between copyright and books.

For more information about this day, visit:

World Book and Copyright Day (2013) page at UNESCO:


April 23 is also a notable day for lovers of literature and poetry. Literary births on April 23 include William Shakespeare in 1564 (day not certain); William Caslon in 1693 (English typeface maker); and Vladimir Naboklov (1899).

Literary deaths on April 23 include William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes (both in the year 1616); William Wordsworth; Henry Vaughan and Rupert Brooke. Ian MacMillian, in an article in the Guardian, wryly comments on these many poetic deaths, but inaccurately states that Shakespeare died in 1606. Nevertheless, MacMillian’s article is still worth reading.

Posted in Uncategorized

Driven To Distraction

driven-distraction300wDriven to Distraction:
Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood
by Edward M. Hallowell
ISBN: 978-0684801285

Even 18 Years After Publication, This Book Remains One of the Best ADHD Resources Around

There are hundreds of books about ADHD around; this book was first published in 1994 but almost all that has been written since then about child and adult ADHD will be found here. The many aspects of ADHD topics discussed include:

—How the primary, cognitive symptoms of ADHD (distractibility, impulsiveness, hyperactivity) are complicated by secondary, emotional symptoms (anxiety, depression, low self-esteem);

—The extraordinary gifts typically associated with the ADHD person (creativity, energy, humor, compassion);

—The principles of treating ADHD including (1) insight & education, (2) structure (Day Planners, checklists, routines, etc.), (3) coaching & psychotherapy, & (4) medication.

I’ve read many other books about ADHD before finally reading “Driven to Distraction”, and I was rather amazed to see that nearly all the concepts promulgated by later authors are already discussed with originality, clarity, and detail by Hallowell and Ratey (another book I would recommend is Ari Tuckman’s “More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults with ADHD”). In sum, I feel this book is a great place to start in learning about ADHD.

Posted in Psychology/Psychiatry


Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection
by John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick

Ashley Montagu, who died in November ten years ago, explained to his students and lecture audiences an insight that has proven to be not only very true, but very wise. Montagu said that the inspirations of creative individuals — poets, authors, artists, philosophers — are eventually confirmed by science. For example, when a poet such as Edmond Rostand makes his hero, Cyrano de Bergerac, shout:

I need to fight whole armies all alone;
I have ten hearts; I have a hundred arms;
I feel too strong to war with mortals —

This extraordinary courage that love inspires is glimpsed by the poet; years later the scientist can tell us that strong emotions, such as love, produce powerful physiological changes in the human body and brain.

That is the first theme of the book Loneliness: loneliness, like sleep shortages, impacts not only our emotions, but our physical health and well-being. More than 60 million Americans suffer seriously from this epidemic condition. In addition to a thorough and well-documented diagnosis, the book provides solutions that are within the reach of almost everyone.

I never imagined that a book about loneliness could be so entertaining: almost like the good cheer of the famous foot-stomping folk song, “The Ship Titanic”. These pages contain many bursts of humor, and many memorable passages. It will be a long time before I forget the astounding saga of Phineas Gage; even longer before I forget the book’s description about how a female chimp (page 211) ingeniously made peace between two belligerent males.

The book proposes that there are three keys to happiness: Social connections; Household income; and Age. Surprisingly — and this may be the most controversial of the book’s claims, — “people get happier as they grow older.”

Maximizing genuine relationships, while minimizing conflicts, is a strategy for personal and professional success. What is the cure for loneliness? … Develop strong social connections.

From the book (page 223):

As I’ve suggested through dozens of examples, when we feel isolated we also feel embattled, which leads to less robust health, less enjoyment in life, and less of an ability to collaborate to find winning solutions. When we feel satisfied with our social connections, we feel safe. When we feel safe, we can think more creatively. We also anticipate and more often experience positive emotions, which, aside from their long-term physiological benefits, provide immediate and persistent psychological uplift. That boost in mood affects our subsequent behavior toward others, which, in turn, affects how others behave toward us — which, once again, encourages creative collaboration. Cause and effect cycle back and forth, and the positives continue to ripple outward in a widening circle.

This roadmap to a long and healthy life is corroborated in a book about longevity, The Blue Zones; and also in a number of my own books about child maintenance, where I have called this process, the Positive Affirmation Cycle.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Society is poison but solitude is fatal.” Loneliness does not address Emerson’s concerns, echoed in works by Erich Fromm (Escape from Freedom), and Philip Slater (The Pursuit of Loneliness). What shall we do when the society around us is destructive or “inauthentic”, and we are confronted with two unpleasant choices: join the masses in their folly, or remain alone?

Nevertheless, the book Loneliness by Cacioppo and Patrick, is filled with such a superabundance of subtle humor, excellent scholarship, and practical advice, it stands alone as one of the most valuable books in print about its all-important theme.

For more information, visit the book’s companion website: Science of Loneliness.

Story Links

On December 1, 2009, many major publications released in-depth articles about the theme of loneliness. Here are more resources about this theme.

Time Magazine

U.S. News

NY Times

Washington Post

Posted in Uncategorized

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

edward-tulane300The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
written by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
ISBN: 978-0763625894

Revelations About Love

This simple children’s book is an adventure story, a peripatetic travelogue, a story of loss and redemption, an epic tale that spans continents and generations. Plot, characters, and setting have all been thoroughly explicated by other reviews, so I’ll comment only on what Kate DiCamillo reveals about the nature of that inscrutable force in the universe called “love.” As a health care professional, I have looked at love as a force in people’s lives for decades, yet as literature, “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” revealed more truths about love than many a scholarly text; we see through Edward’s long journey that:

—Love is transformative, it changes the eyes through which you view the world.
—To feel love is to also feel worry, longing, and other unpleasant feelings that one would spare oneself if one did not love.
—Love gives intense meaning to a vast expanse of indifferent universe.
—Love is cumulative – it bears the imprint of everyone before who’s ever touched your heart.
—Love is not the same as good luck, good fortune, and does not guarantee happiness in life.
—Love, the act of loving or being loved, is at least partially out of our conscious control.
—Love doesn’t immunize a person against life’s losses and indignities.
—Love connects us to life and deepens our character.
—Love supplies reasons to go on when other reasons fall short.
—Perhaps above all, love is redemptive, transformative, and enduring.

No wonder so many grown-up reviewers, who’ve experienced life’s inevitable losses and vicissitudes, have here written that they were moved to tears after finishing this book. As Khalil Gibran wrote a century ago, “[If you choose not to love], you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.”

Posted in Books for Children, Love

The Shallows

shallowscover200x303The Shallows:
What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

by Nicholas Carr
Published by W.W. Norton

It takes great courage, as well as insight, to stand up against prevailing practices, to shout or whisper to the fad-following crowd that the way we are living is unhealthy for us. More than 50 years ago, Aldous Huxley, interviewed by a cigarette-smoking Mike Wallace, warned:

“We must not be caught by surprise by advances in technology.”

Other eloquent warnings about technology’s dangerous side effects have come to us from the works of Lewis Mumford, Erich Fromm, Neil Postman, Sven Birkerts, Mark Slouka, Theodore Roszak, and Bill Joy. A famous debate about this issue, “What Are We Doing Online”, (from a 1995 edition of Harper’s Magazine), thoughtfully explores the Internet’s benefits and harms.

The latest voice speaking against the sacred cow of our technologies comes from Nicholas Carr, in his extraordinary book The Shallows. Carr is not a Luddite; he uses technology capably, and acknowledges his appreciation of the Net. Carr, however, is concerned that there are losses along with the gains. Thanks to the Internet — the most sophisticated and useful tool for communications ever invented — we are losing our ability to concentrate and to think deeply. Carr cites indisputable evidence to show that the passive activity of using the Internet for short, skimming searches and shallow reading, is creating measurable changes in the structure and development of our brains.

Musing on the classic passage by Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose calm reflections were interrupted by the strident noise from a passing locomotive, Carr writes:

“The problem today is that we’re losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we’re in perpetual locomotion.”

Like Neil Postman in Technopoly, Carr shapes his book not to point to solutions, but to illuminate the problems — and he has done this work expertly. Despite his confessions that his powers of attention have been diminished by the Net, Carr’s book is always thoughtful, and often captivating and profound. He cites Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey, where HAL the computer shows more feelings than the human characters. Carr’s concerns, that begin with the loss of our powers of attention and concentration, conclude with worries that too much Internet and too little reflection may lead to a loss of our humanness.

We need computers, we need the Internet, we need quick access to the latest information — but we need it in the right amounts. All told, The Shallows is a superb starting point for the kinds of face-to-face discussions that might help us to break our collective addiction to screens, and to renew our interest in the slower, more personal, and more profound realms of our inner lives.

Story Links

Get a sample of Carr’s book by reading his essay in the Atlantic:
Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Carr’s Blog Rough Type … http://www.roughtype.com/

What Are We Doing Online?
Ironically, this fascinating and deservedly-famous debate (which first appeared in Harper’s Magazine in 1995) is not easily findable online — the link from Kevin Kelly’s website is now broken.

Aldous Huxley interviewed by Mike Wallace in the early 1960s:

Posted in Technology Humanized

The Unthinkable

unthinkable300wThe Unthinkable:
Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — and Why
by Amanda Ripley
ISBN: 978-0307352903

“The Unthinkable” might just be “Indispensable” when a disaster strikes

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I long wondered if we were investing too much money and effort in technology and too little effort in training and educating people to mentally and psychologically adapt to disasters of all sorts including both natural disasters and terrorist threats. This book brilliantly addresses this question through a series of in-depth, individual survival stories supplemented by summaries of findings by brain scientists and social psychologists.

The survivor stories are numerous and quite detailed. They include stories of a World Trade Center 9/11 survivor, a US Ambassador held hostage in a violent embassy takeover in Bogota, a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting spree, as well stories of plane crash survivors, maritime catastrophes, and Hurricane Katrina flood victims. I read survivor stories on a regular basis for personal and professional reasons, yet I found the narratives in this book intensely vivid and gripping, and learned new things from many of them. In fact, some of the stories sent chills down my spine or nearly moved me to tears. Amanda Ripley, identified as a senior Time correspondent, is a great story-teller and her journalistic genre – with its up close and in the moment style – serves well to bring dynamic intensity to the survivor narratives. Parenthetically, I had to wonder if the title “The Unthinkable” was an intentional pun on the ironic moniker applied to the Titanic, “The Unsinkable.”

The research is also impressive and above all, always engaging and readable. Ripley’s thesis is that individuals go through three mental stages in sequence when disaster strikes, she labels the stages: Denial, Deliberation, and Decision. She discusses each stage in detail and how to move most quickly and effectively into the Decision stage. She also includes outstanding chapters on panic, on the “freeze” response, and on heroes – what is heroism, who becomes a hero, and why. Her investigation of resilience and how to become more resilient is also a very thoughtful and worthwhile exploration of this important but nebulous and poorly understood psychological construct.

I would recommend this book as a very inspiring and worthwhile read for audiences at almost any level of experience or expertise; it compares very favorably to numerous other books I have read on the topic of response to mass disasters and terrorist acts. There are many surprises along way, as her stories illustrate that courage, endurance, resilience and even heroism come from ordinary people of vastly differing age, education, ethnic, and other demographic backgrounds, suggesting that we can all improve at helping ourselves and others survive catastrophe by learning from others who’ve been through hell and back.

Posted in Psychology/Psychiatry

Ebooks Save Millions of Trees: 10 Ideas for Sustainable Publishing

book-old-002f420x663Is print publishing an environmental catastrophe?

This article, about sustainable publishing, provides an overview of the environmental benefits of ebooks, and offers ideas and resources for reducing print publishing’s environmental impact.

Ebooks save trees. That is one of the many environmental benefits of digital publishing and reading. A larger list of the environmental benefits of reading ebooks includes:

  • saving trees;
  • reducing paper consumption;
  • saving energy used in book production;
  • eliminating packaging materials, and all the energy and cash costs associated with those materials;
  • saving fuel used for transporting paper books: from the printing company to the warehouse, and then from the warehouse to the customer;
  • eliminating the pollution caused by producing and shipping books;
  • reducing the energy, cash costs, and pollution required to dispose of books;
  • saving money. These days, money is a “scarce green resource.” If the 2 billion books sold in the USA last year had been sold as ebooks — at five dollars less per book — we might have saved about 10 billion dollars.

Environmental Benefits of Free Ebooks

In just over three years (the 37 months from July 4, 2006 to August 4, 2009) more than 200 million free ebooks were downloaded from two websites: Project Gutenberg (PG), and the World Public Library’s annual event, the World eBook Fair (WEF).

Had these 200 million books been made made of paper, how many trees would have been saved?

Let’s do some math. In the USA in one year, 2 billion books are produced. To get the paper for these books requires consuming 32 million trees. We can estimate that one tree yields enough paper for 62.5 books. (Of course, these numbers vary depending on which expert you choose to believe.)

The 200 million free ebooks downloaded from Project Gutenberg and the WEF saved three million and two hundred thousand (3,200,000) trees.

This number (200 million free ebooks downloaded) is from two free ebook sources only; there are many other sources of free ebooks, including Google Books, the Internet Archive, Feedbooks, Manybooks, Scribd, and many more.

Paper and Newspapers

Every year, the world produces more than 300 million tons of paper. Books are not the only source of paper consumption.

How many trees are used to produce on week’s worth of paper for the Sunday edition of the New York Times newspaper?

One Sunday issue of the New York Times consumes 75,000 trees.

One year of Sunday newspapers , produced by the New York Times, is responsible for the destruction and consumption of more than 3,900,000 trees.

The newspaper industry in the USA, each year, consumes 95 million trees.

And is the U.S. recycling all its paper? … Hardly. According the website Rainforestmaker.org, 40 percent of our garbage is paper and paper products.

The Impact of Published Books

There’s an old story about a man who was trying to save money for his company. Instead of taking the bus to work, every day he walked. After a year, he told his boss that he had saved the company more than one thousand dollars.
The boss replied: “You are fired!”
“What?” said the loyal employee. “I didn’t take the bus for a year and I saved the company more than a thousand bucks!”
“That’s right!” said the boss. “But if you would have not taken a taxi cab to work for a year, you would have saved us thousands more!”

Similarly, we of course cannot assume that every free ebook downloaded means that the person downloading the ebook would have bought a paper copy. In this section we focus on paper books that have been actually sold.

(Note: At this time we are not examining the environmental impact of dedicated ebook reading devices. Most people now are reading ebooks on their desktop or laptop computers, or on iPhones, iPod Touches, or mobile devices that they already own.)


How many trees are used to make books published in the USA?

The blog Eco-libris tells us that the book publishing industry in the USA uses 16 million tons of paper every year. They estimate that about 20 trees yield one ton of paper. Therefore, the USA book publishing industry consumes 32 million trees per year.

In addition to the paper for the books, there are many other cash and environmental costs of book production, described in the beginning of this article.

According the website of the Green Press Initiative (more about the GPI, below),
“The U.S. book and newspaper industries combined require the harvest of 125 million trees each year and emit over 40 million metric tons of CO2 annually; equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions of 7.3 million cars.”

Ten Steps For Sustainable Publishing

I love paper books, and I am not calling for a boycott. Instead, let us find a more thoughtful approach to paper book and periodical publishing, an approach that might be called “sustainable publishing.”

There are many ways that publishers can make book publishing more environmentally friendly. Readers should be aware of these options, and support publishers who are practicing them.

1. Offer a Cost-effective and Environmentally-Friendly Option: Ebooks

Print publishers can offer ebook versions of their paper books — in universal formats such as PDF and EPUB — at a lower price than the paper editions.
This is not only a sound environmental practice, it is a forward-thinking business strategy for the future. O’Reilly Media CEO Tim O’Reilly recently wrote:
“We are no longer a print publisher that happens to sell digital books too. We’re a digital publisher that also sells print books. All publishing is now digital publishing, and all writing is writing for the Web. Books must behave like the web they’re now a part of.”

Book buyers do not need any special devices to read ebooks. Ebooks can be read on your personal computer, or on your Smartphone or iPhone, or iPod Touch.
Multi-purpose ebook reading devices are coming in the future, devices that would do more than just read ebooks. For a glimpse into that possible future, take a look at this French video, with English subtitles.

Note: the first 60 seconds of this video are blank: it gets better after that.


2. Buy and Sell Books Using Print on Demand.

Instead of printing thousands of books at once from a printer (a book printing company), a publisher or an author can use a Print-On-Demand (P.O.D.) company, such as Lulu or Lightning Source. P.O.D. is a method for printing and binding books (using a digital printing machine) as they are ordered, one book at a time. For most books, the quality of P.O.D. now equals the quality of books printed from an offset press. P.O.D. not only reduces the risks of unsold books, it saves energy and costs regarding shipping and transportation of the books sold. The P.O.D. books are not shipped to a warehouse, they are shipped directly from “the factory” to the customer.
This will become an even more viable option when P.O.D. technology advances, so that we see a steep fall in the price per printed book.

3. Use 100% Recycled Paper In Your Paper Books.

Book buyers: Tell your publisher and bookstore owner that you would prefer to buy books printed on 100% recycled paper.

Publishers: Ask your printing company about their options for recycled paper. For more information about recycled paper, a great place to begin is the Green Peace Book Campaign

4. Join the Green Press Initiative.

The Green Press Initiative (GPI) is an invaluable resource for everyone in the book industry. Individuals and businesses may join for a reasonable yearly fee.

According to their website:
“Green Press Initiative (GPI) is a non-profit program which takes a collaborative approach towards working with publishers, printers, paper manufacturers and others in the book and newspaper industries to minimize social and environmental impacts, including impacts on endangered forests, impacts on climate change, and impacts on communities where paper fiber is sourced.”

GPI members not only use recycled paper, they use paper that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC paper is made from trees that are not grown in endangered forests.

Currently, more than 180 book publishers have joined GPI — these are many of the large publishers, comprising 42% of the market share of in the U.S. book publishing industry.

5. Support Your Local Book Exchange or Library Book Sale

At the town dump in Greenwich, Connecticut, there is a shed where dump patrons can donate books, or take them home. It is a free bookstore.

Another way to reuse unwanted paper books is to donate them to your local library book sale.

6. Ensure that your unsold books are reused or recycled, not banished to a landfill.

It is difficult to find information about the fate of America’s unsold books. That makes me suspect the worst: there are a lot of them, and they are not being recycled.

In the Netherlands, every year, more than a million paper books are shredded, and transformed into toilet paper.

The book Thirteen Moons was published in October 2006. It was written by Charles Frazier, whose first novel, Cold Mountain, enjoyed a stunning success. A bidding war for Thirteen Moons had resulted in a cash advance for the author of more than 8 million dollars. From the initial print run of 750,000 books, about 368,000 books were sold. The publishers lost 5.5 million dollars.

Who knows the fate of the remaining books?

7. Support the unofficial standard Ebook Format: Unencrypted EPUB

Ebooks were never meant to be hidden like the lost city of Atlantis, buried like the treasures of Monte Cristo, or guarded like the gold in Fort Knox.

Unfortunately, many ebooks are sold in proprietary formats that prevent sharing. Even the new format, EPUB, that is quickly becoming the industry standard format, may be unfriendly for sharing, if the EPUB is encrypted with DRM.
Before buying an ebook, check with the publisher or ebook seller about your rights to reuse the work.

8. Support Your Local Library

Sometimes it’s better to borrow than to buy.

9. For each paper book bought or sold, plant a tree.

Book buyers and publishers should consider planting one tree for every book bought or sold.

To plant your own trees, get advice from the Arbor Day Foundation; or Trees Forever.

The United Nations will be happy to plant some trees for you, through their excellent project:

Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign

From the website:

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a major worldwide tree planting campaign. Under the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, people, communities, business and industry, civil society organizations and governments are encouraged to enter tree planting pledges online with the objective of planting at least one billion trees worldwide each year. In a call to further individual and collective action, UNEP has set a new goal of planting 7 billion trees by the end of 2009. The campaign strongly encourages the planting of indigenous trees and trees that are appropriate to the local environment.

10. For each *ebook* sold, plant a tree.

Why not plant a tree for every ebook sold?
And plant a tree for every free ebook downloaded?

Learn More About Sustainable Publishing and Sustainable Living

For sources of this article, and for more information about green living and sustainable publishing, see our page of resources. (Which will be linked here, and coming soon!)

Page of Resources: Coming Soon.

The image of chopped tree trunks (which we have remixed onto the book) comes to us courtesy of the photographer Wagner T. Cassimiro.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wagnertc/ / CC BY 2.0

— Michael Pastore, a long-time advocate for the sustainable society, is a novelist, poet, and a non-fiction author who lives in Ithaca, New York. His book is 50 Benefits of Ebooks: A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Digital Reading Revolution will be updated for 2013. Pastore is the Editorial Director of BookLovers Review, and Zorba Press.

Posted in Ebooks, Green and Sustainable Living

In Sheep’s Clothing

sheeeps-300wIn Sheep’s Clothing:
Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People
by George K. Simon
ISBN: 978-1935166306

Warning: Do NOT attempt to deal with, live with, or relate with another person unless you have read this book first!

Yes, it really is that good. I would no more send a soldier into battle without training in how to use his rifle, than I would send people into offices, bedrooms, or boardrooms without arming themselves with the knowledge this book provides.

The book is divided into three parts: the first part describes a type of manipulative personality that the author labels “covert-aggressive.” These people look and act normal from a distance, but over time in a relationship or an office setting they will lie to you, cheat you, drain you, and exploit you through tactics that are more subtle than an outright psychopath, such as “guilt-tripping”, playing the victim role, changing the topic of discussion, counter-attacking, “brandishing anger”, or feigning innocence. The middle part of the book is a series of case histories of manipulative people as intimidating bosses, exploitative marital partners, narcissistic parents, controlling children, or even power-hungry clergymen. These case histories are painless reads and help to enlighten the reader about how not to fall into traps or how to climb out after you’ve fallen in.

The third part of the book focuses explicitly on tactics you can use to spot manipulative types early on and defend yourself against them. For example, dealing with manipulative people begins with the following principles (p.136): (1) be free of naive and potentially harmful misconceptions about human nature and behavior, (2) know how to correctly assess the character of others, (3) have high self awareness, especially about aspects of your own personality that increase your vulnerability to manipulation, (4) recognize, label, and counter the tactics of manipulation, and (5) avoid fighting losing battles. Each of these principles is explained in detail.

I found this book, written by a clinical psychologist, far superior to another, popular book about “dealing with people you can’t stand”. The latter book, like many management- and workplace-oriented books, takes a sort of mamby-pamby position that everyone’s good at heart, and different people merely have annoying interpersonal styles that we have to learn to live with. Simon takes a much more sobering position, namely, that there really are people out there with negative, toxic agendas, and you, as a decent, trusting soul, must learn how to defend yourself against them while preserving what is good and true within yourself.

I recommend this book most highly, along with two others, for dealing with the toxic people in your life. The other two books are “Victory over verbal abuse” by Patricia Evans, and “Stop walking on eggshells”, by Mason and Kreger. Everyone deserves to find love and respect and dignity in life and we all need to arm ourselves against those who would exploit, denigrate, or manipulate us for selfish and banal purposes.

Posted in Psychology/Psychiatry

The Rabbi’s Cat 2

sfarRC2-389x500The Rabbi’s Cat 2
Story and drawings by Joann Sfar
Translated by Alexis Siegel
Pantheon Books
Hardcover, 130 pages
ISBN: 978-0-375-42507-3

In the first volume of The Rabbi’s Cat, Joann Sfar introduced us to the rabbi, his delightful daughter Zlabya, and a talking cat who loves her. In this second book in the series, we re-encounter the original players (although we see less of Zlabya) and meet exotic new ones. The rabbi’s storytelling cousin yearns for everlasting fame. A Russian painter searches for a prejudice-free utopia. The painter falls in love with a voluptuous waitress who accompanies him on the dangerous quest.

The stories, tales within tales, are always interesting; the colorful and expertly-drawn art is enchanting. Yet that could be said of many of the fine graphic novels published in this blossoming genre. What distinguishes this book, and the first volume of The Rabbi’s Cat, is the characters — who are many-dimensional — and the dialogue, which is rich with insights and memorable lines.

I was surprised to see this extraordinary book for sale on the bargain websites; and astounded that (unlike the first volume) a paperback edition never came to print.

sfarpanel379x301Because here we have “literature”, a modern classic, written for everyone and for all ages, earthy and entertaining and instructive, like the classic novels we so admire, by Dickens and Burnett and Twain. This book, and works like it, could help to renew the art of reading.

What good is all our fancy ebook reading devices, and our advanced technologies, and Frankln’s ingenious gift — the public libraries — what good is all this opportunity if we ignore it? … All the world’s radiant wisdom instantaneously at our fingertips, is available to us, free or almost free, as long as we renew our love of reading, and cultivate the ability to discern the genuine novels from the ordinary ones.

Posted in Uncategorized

Dumb Money

dumb-money300wDumb Money:
How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation
by Daniel Gross
ISBN: 978-1439159873

We should have listened to Shakespeare: “Neither a Borrower Nor a Lender Be.”

This book is a really great starting place to begin to understand the financial cataclysm of 2008 that was so large that there don’t even exist adjectives to span its enormity – words like “colossal”, “monumental”, “humongous”, all seem too small or ordinary for this extraordinary financial castasrophe. Everyone should try to understand an event of this magnitude and for those like myself who are not finance professionals, this short (101 pages of surprisingly readable text) is a great place to start. Gross informs us at the outset that he set out to try to understand why “it suddenly became acceptable for the United States to start guzzling debt the way fraternity boys pound beers on spring break” and he mostly succeeds.

It’s all here: the steady loss of our manufacturing base to China, the rise of “cheap money” (loans at temptingly low interest rates), “securitization” (the packaging of high and low risk mortgage debt into “mortgage-backed securities”), Enron and Worldcom, the epidemic of sub-prime, risky home loans, the wanton use of debt as “leverage” to finance more and more absurd take-overs, soaring government debt levels fueled by the low cost of borrowing, and the addictive need for constantly rising values in all asset classes to prevent total collapse of over-leveraged hedge funds, private equity groups, and investment banks. Large investment banks inexplicably thought they could carry 30 dollars in debt for every dollar of capital. Sub-prime lenders offered no-down-payment home loans to borrowers with undocumentable income. Government regulators obligingly eased requirements for reserves in order to keep the party going.

Faced with stagnating wages, average workers borrowed their way into affluence through refinancing mortgages and running up credit card balances until they could not longer safely get off the treadmill. Hungry for profits, the rest of the world joined in the frenzy and got burned as well. Gross gives the sense that the lethal overdose of borrowing was a juggernaut that no one individual or institution could control. In his somewhat underwhelming concluding chapter, Gross seems to think that the world financial crisis of 2008 is neither the first nor the last of an inevitable series of bubbles that inhere in free markets. He anticlimactically recommends we be “smarter” and more restrained in our investment choices.

I learned many interesting specifics about the financial crisis of 2008, and overall, that it really was what most of us suspected it was: a lethal admixture of greed, narcissism, diabolical ingenuity, and lemming-like, imitative behavior on a grand scale. This is a great, painless introduction to a disturbing, complicated, important tale of capitalism gone wild.

Posted in Money
About BookLovers Review
BookLovers Review (BLR) highlights the innovative books and films, present and past, that enrich our lives. We focus on literary fiction, non-fiction about personal and cultural transformation, the classics, and —"the best words in the best order" — poetry.
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