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Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.

-Albert Einstein

Title: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Author: Twyla Tharp

Synopsis: Master choreographer, Twyla Tharp, interweaves stories about what makes her creative life tick with advice and exercises to help others develop their own creative habit.

Why I read it: Because Caitlin Kelley wrote that it was one of her favorite books ever, which instantly made it a must-read.  She described it as, “Kick-ass and inspiring in equal measure.”


You might like this if you liked: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
(Steven Pressfield)

Highlights: You don’t have to be a dancer to appreciate this book – she gives lots of examples from other creative walks of life, including the business world.  That said, her descriptions of how she choreographs and teaches dance were fascinating.  My favorite chapter was the one on failure. She used one of her own productions as a case study on failure and what to do about it. The rigor and brutal self-assessment/honesty with which she handled the topic were impressive.

Fun coincidence: One of Tharp’s methods to harness and organize creativity is by starting with a physical box because as she puts it, “before you can think out of the box you have to start with a box.” She devotes an entire chapter to the box and what she puts in it and why.  In an entirely unrelated conversation, a friend recently invited me to craft an intention box with her – same idea as what I was learning from Tharp, but different verbiage. Crafty boxing fun will be had this week.


The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Synopsis:  A cynical writer searches for the world’s happiest place

You might like this if you liked:  Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert)

Recommended to: Grumpy people

What I loved about it:  This was my first Weiner book, so I wasn’t sure whether I would like it or not.  Truth be told, he seems like a bit of an ass, but he had me at the first mention of a PET scan. I’m one of those people who enjoy reading books peppered with sound-bites of science, culture, history, and philosophy.  Like right here on page 41, in a chapter on Switzerland, he manages to work Einstein AND Bertrand Russell into a passage. Later on page 183, he combines Iceland, Aristotle, and Nietzsche. Gosh—it just makes me feel all heady and smart in the same way that sprinkling wheat germ in pancake batter makes me feel healthy, even if I do wind up drenching it all with butter and syrup.

So yes, I will be reading him again.  Plus, I now have added two new places to my bucket list: Bhutan and Moldova.

What was unexpected:  Weiner was a little mean to the Moldovans. 

Best Quotes: There were so many fabulous descriptions of places and people, so I will give you a few:

In Bangkok, the sacred and the profane exist side by side, like a divorced couple who, for financial reasons, decide to continue living together.

Watching Brits shed their inhibitions is like watching elephants mate. You know it happens, it must, but it’s noisy, awkward as hell, and you can’t help but wonder: Is this something I really need to see?

India does not disappoint. It captivates, infuriates, and occasionally, contaminates.  It never disappoints.

Qataris have no culture.  Frankly, I can’t blame them.  If you spent a few thousand years scraping by in the desert, fending off the solid heat, not to mention various invading tribes, you wouldn’t have time for culture either.

 

Three Weeks with My Brother

Synopsis: Nicholas takes a trip around the world with his brother and the two reminisce about their family.

You might like this if you liked: Message in a Bottle, The Rescue, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember (Nicholas Sparks)

Recommended to: Fans of Nicholas Sparks, people trying to make sense of loss

What I loved about it:  In his fictional work, Nicholas Sparks writes sweet stories of love, family, and loss.  His memoir moved along the same themes and provided insight into why he tells the stories he tells.  The speech-language pathologist in me was also particularly interested in the intense work Sparks described doing with his son, Ryan, to help him learn to communicate.

What was unexpected: This book is not so much about the places traveled in real time as it is the places traveled in the past.  That said, Sparks does deliver enough descriptions of places they visited that I added a few destinations to my bucket list (e.g., Machu Picchu, Peru and Phnom Pehn, Cambodia).

Best Quote:

Standing next to Micah, I realized that there were times when we talked not because we needed to communicate anything important, but simply because we each drew comfort from the other’s voice.

Over the years I’ve found myself repeatedly standing in line at Hobby Lobby (or “Handy Dandy” as Mom refers to it), with my arms full of yarn, Styrofoam heads, and cinnamon Scripture Mints. As I wait, I entertain myself by scoping out what’s in other people’s baskets and imagining what they plan to do with the stuff. When I’ve exhausted those possibilities I scan the odd assortment of merchandise surrounding the checkout line. This inevitably leads to me finding David Green, founder and CEO of the company, staring at me from the cover of his book, More than a Hobby.  By the time I start wondering what’s in his book and whether I should buy it, I’m usually checked out and on my way to do something crafty.

Last week when I found David Green staring out at me from his cover on a library bookshelf, I grabbed him up and checked him out because I really was interested in learning How a $600 Start-up Became America’s Home and Craft Superstore. Green is a likeable guy – the black sheep merchant from a family of ministers.  In his book he details how he developed the idea of Hobby Lobby and how he runs the largest, privately owned arts and crafts retail business in the world.

Don’t expect to find discussions of theory or business buzzwords in his book.  Green is a practical guy who tells stories from the trenches, so to speak.  Chapter 4 “90% Off??” was the most interesting to me because it described some of the nuances and complexities involved in doing business in the global economy.

I enjoyed the book and the take-home message:  You can run a successful business and still maintain your faith, integrity and family.

I’m deviating from my norm here.  Although I review a lot of books, I’m not usually inspired to write anything about  movies.  In fact I don’t think I’ve ever written a movie review. Last weekend though I saw Tree of Life starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain and I can’t stop thinking about it.  Tree of Life is a work of art with a beautiful message.  The cinematography reminded me of documentaries I’ve seen on I-Max at the Pink Palace. The story – and there is one, but you have to work a bit to piece it together – unfurls through astronomical and biological images, scriptural quotes, fabulous music, and impressionistic, disjointed scenes of the life of a family who has lost a son. It’s beautiful. It’s one you’ll want to see on the big screen. 

I haven’t seen Terrance Malick’s other films (Badlands, The Thin Red Line, Days of Heaven) but now I’m curious about his other works.  I’ll have to check them out.

Have you seen Tree of Life or any of these other movies yet? Any you’d recommend?

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