Reading: Mary Poppins, White Noise, 4 Hour Workweek, Highly Effective Detective

Finished reading:

Mary Poppins Comes Back and Mary Poppins Opens the Door by P.L. Travers – I finished off my Mary Poppins book this week. Each book is a collection of short chapters, and reading the books all in a row reveal a distinctive pattern to the books. The first chapter is about Mary Poppins entering or re-entering the Banks family’s life in an unusual way. The last chapter is about Mary Poppins leaving in an equally unusual way. The other chapters, with a few exceptions, fit certain storylines: Jane and Michael meet one of Mary Poppins’ relatives; Jane and Michael find out what Mary Poppins does on her day out or evening out; Jane, Michael, and the whole town end up flying in one manner or another; one of the children is naughty, gets in some kind of magical trouble, and Mary Poppins comes to the rescue; an unusual visitor causes a whole lot of hullabaloo amongst the town inhabitants (who just don’t understand) and Mary Poppins sets things to rights. I use the term “magical” loosely; there aren’t incantations or spells, but lots of imaginative fun!

The 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss – I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while but my library didn’t have a copy; then, Mike Rohde gave me a tip to request a review copy from the publisher, which arrived last week!

Ferriss is a pretty unusual character. He runs a product-based business on four hours of his time a week, makes tens of thousands of dollars each month, and uses the rest of his time to pursue his passions — learning new skills and traveling all over the world. How did he do this? By breaking the “rule” that you must work 9-5, by knocking out distractions, by outsourcing, and by creating an “income machine” that requires minimal management on his part. The 4 Hour Workweek draws from his own experience as well as others who have walked the same path of Definition (dreaming big and defining what you really want), Elimination (restricting the time spent on email, getting rid of interruptions, going on an information diet), Automation (creating a business that doesn’t require you to be there), and Liberation (separating your work from a specific location. While learning about the various aspects of Tim’s DEAL, you’ll also get a crash course in outsourcing, testing and developing a product, developing a business model that is pretty automated, and planning a vacation for your “mini-retirement.” There are tons of links and resources for each of these topics as well as an extensive recommended reading list in the back.

I don’t think I’m doing this book justice, so I’ll point you to Dave Seah’s excellent review (and recommend reading through the interesting comments, as well), and leave you with some of my initial personal application-type thoughts:

  • I don’t think I have the courage right now to attempt what Tim Ferriss has done.
  • Nonetheless, there are some awesome principles that I can apply to help streamline my current processes and help me make the best use of the time I have. I’ll be writing about these in detail in the next few days/weeks.
  • The foundational step in this whole thing is to define your dream and quantify it by cost, because that gives you a specific number to shoot for. And, Ferriss says, it’s best to dream BIG and to limit your timeline to 6 or 12 months. I think I tend to limit myself to practical “dreams” out of fear of failure. Luckily, he poses some guiding questions to help break out of your self-imposed limits and think about specific things you want to have, be, and do, so this is something I want to work through in the next few weeks as well.
  • Let me finally say that I don’t think Tim Ferriss is saying that we should all try to be like him; he acknowledges that not everyone wants to travel! This book is more for people who don’t want to be tied to jobs they hate, who want to live life to the full, and are willing to break societal expectations about work to do that. I think this book is also for anyone who wants to minimize the time they waste in order to spend more time on things that are important to them.

That’s all for now, but stay tuned for more detailed posts later as I explore some of the ideas from the book!

White Noise by Don DeLillo – Hmmm… why did I add this book to my “to read” list? Maybe Orson Scott Card recommended it in his blog? I don’t remember. Anyway, since then, I’ve learned that this is one of the hallmark books of postmodern literature, so I hoped that I could feel very smart while reading it. Unfortunately I’ve always been terrible at reading “literature” and understanding themes and things like that. But one of the obvious themes in the story of Jack Gladney and how his life changes when a “toxic airborne event” comes to town is thinking about mortality and facing one’s fear of death. The book jacket also helpfully informed me that the “white noise” is the constant bombardment of television, radio, sirens, and other waves that “both bewitch us and instill fear.” I thought it was cool how DeLillo artfully inserts “random” sentences about a phrase heard on the radio, a sentence spoken on the television, even about a piece of lint that was stuck on the TV screen; it really spoke volumes about how fractured and unfocused their lives were because of the white noise.

I think I appreciated the book a lot more when I was done with it; the process of reading it was not especially enjoyable as I had to keep backing up to re-read things I had simply skimmed over. I’m happy to have read a hallmark piece of literature but one time was good enough for me!

The Highly Effective Detective by Richard Yancey – I tend to like mysteries and pulled this one off the new book shelf because the title sounded interesting. This book follows Teddy Ruzak, who finally quits his job and follows his dream of becoming a detective after getting a bit of money from his mother’s passing. Teddy is overweight, a bit naive, and self-deprecating, but a very warm and likeable character. His first case is to hunt down the drive of a black SUV who mowed down a family of baby goslings. With his attractive but unfortunately unavailable secretary pushing him into action, Teddy seems to fumble around quite a bit, but ends up stumbling into multiple murders, and, of course, saving the day at the end while keeping his integrity intact. The book reads a bit slow at parts, but overall I’m looking forward to future books in this series and finding other books by the same author.

With a bookmark:

(Books I just started reading, or books I’ve been “reading” for ages. Most recent first.)

  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Body, Soul, and Baby by Tracy Gaudet
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway
  • The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

In the library book box: (This is pretty much my “reading stash.” If I don’t have anything in my library book box, I pull something off from the bookshelf that I’ve read before, or borrow something new from our housemates.)

  • Buying Your First Home by Ilona Bray, Alayna Schroeder, and Marcia Stewart
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3 Comments

  1. Posted October 16, 2007 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations on having a much smaller cache of books than me. I guess that would not be hard. I must have 20+ books on that shelf. I’ve declared a moratorium on new books for the time being.

    I am reading “Twilight Watch” right now.

  2. Posted October 17, 2007 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Thanks for reviewing “The Four Hour Workweek”. The title has come across my path several times and I keep saying, “someday I should read that”.

    “I think I tend to limit myself to practical “dreams” out of fear of failure.”

    That’s me to a T. I’ve wanted to do my own business and be self employed for as long as I can remember, but have been so caught up in the belief-system of it not being practical/safe. That I must have at least (random number) 50K in the bank before I could do it.

    I’m taking October to focus on putting my dreams back out as a priority in my life and start pursuing them :)

  3. Posted October 17, 2007 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    ClickerTrainer – Unfortunately I have a huge ever-growing written list of books I “want to read someday,” but as I’m too cheap to actually commit to buying them (I only like buying books I actually WANT to own) and our library doesn’t seem to carry most of them, I may not ever get through my list.

    Diana – Awesome! Maybe this can be your “year of dreams.”


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