Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More Books and More Thoughts

I finished That Used to be Us last evening. Again, I think it's a book for all of us Americans, of every age bracket, to read and take to heart--and mind.

Blessings upon the public libraries! Even in this age of much bemoaned cuts in funds and services, and of many people thinking that electronics are wiping out the printed word, every time I step into a library in any part of the city, I'm heart-warmed by the site of how many patrons are there.

While reading That Used to be Us, I did my usual practice of scribbling down in a nearby notepad any concepts or references that I might want to use, or pass along to readers. If you were to peruse any of the books I've kept from my student years, you would see virtually all of them full of highlighted passages, and also copious comments of my own in the margins. This practice has carried on to this day in my professional reference books. Books shouldn't be just skimmed, or just read; they should be consumed like nourishing brain-food.

So, from my recent reading, here's what I put on my library hold queue:

Reset: How this Crisis can Restore Our Values and Renew America, by Kurt Anderson.

The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity by Richard Florida.

See a new interest trend here? That's the marvelous thing about good writing. It can spark new thoughts, or feed those already germinating in one's psyche. Along with being a conduit of ideas, it can open a floodgate, start movements, and get people encouraged and motivated. I'm optimistic about our country's future, amid all the challenges, and I want to know others' proposals of change and growth.

Oh, and for lighter interests -- I put an audiobook about classical music appreciation on hold as well, along with one about critical thinking. As much as I'm an avid listener of KUSC and KDB, I think knowing more from a "non-musician's" standpoint sure couldn't hurt. The critical thinking book is the same as one I've seen in a "Great Courses" catalog I get from time to time. Free at the library beats a $199.00 purchase, you think? I took a critical reasoning course at CSUN back in about 1986, but the academic in me feels the need for a refresher course.

Going back to That Used to be Us for a moment, the authors directed readers to a website for "food for thought" -- www.factcheck.org. I've bookmarked it, and hope that it will be one of the "reality checks" I can use to be a more informed citizen and voter in 2012.

At the risk of getting too partisan here (for I embrace all my readers and their points of view), the book has also inspired me to examine my views of the party system. Some of my family are Independents, and, as I get older, I find myself more inclined to be, as the late comedian Steve Allen put it, "a die-hard middle-of-the-roader." I haven't come to any conclusions yet, but I hope that, at least, open-mindedness is something I can continue to carry with me as I age.

One more thing about authors Friedman and Mandelbaum that inspired me was their concept of "creative creators and creative servers". The main thesis of the book was the desperate need in the new American economy for people who can really innovate and/or provide uncommon service. As a baby-boomer, and a professional, I'm now mulling over just how many ways I might reinvent myself, and my work, to do my bit for the country. I think we older folks still have lots to contribute in terms of our life experiences, and I want to get as much mileage out of mine as I can.

Yes, some ideas on some local and national issues have already come to me. Stay tuned.

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