Book Review of Carol Dweck’s Mindset

You’ve no doubt heard about this book, that promises that sudweckmindsetccess is all about our Mindset.

Dweck’s research looks at parenting, coaching, teaching, the workplace and interpersonal relationships and how a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, can lead to a range of improved outcomes.

This is interesting reading – forcing you to observe and perhaps recognise some of the less helpful patterns of thought in yourself and those around you.

The fixed mindset does a couple of things – it makes excuses for why things are not your fault.  It promises you nothing will ever change.  It laments a lack of perfection and will never encourage you to try harder or at least, try things differently. It’s an easy way to move through life – but not one hat promotes growth.

The growth mindset is all about learning.  It values challenge and looks at errors as an opportunity to do better. Sometimes that ‘better’ is ‘even better’ – even champions need a growth mindset to really reach their potential.

As  teacher, it has made me rethink how I frame learning and feedback to my students.  On a personal level, it promotes a much more positive approach to all areas of my life, which will no doubt be useful with the areas that I feel need a bit of work.

Definitely worth a read, for whatever reason it inspires you.


Book Review of Julie Bucktin’s Debut – Marlena

Two friends juMarlena_new.inddst don’t know that disaster is waiting for them around the corner.

While we all try on new identities in our youth as a way of trying to manage the enormous possibilities of who
we are and what we will become – sometimes we make damaging choices that never leave us.

When studious Cat finds herself in Silver Lake, a tiny town in rural Michigan, she could not be further away from her New York private school.  Just as the loss of the life she imaged begins to hit her… a new best friend stands ready and waiting.  Marlena.
Marlena is daring and exciting – but also troubled.  She introduces Cat to a fast-paced life of drinking, soft drugs, boys and skipping school.  And while we see Cat’s downward spiral, even more alarming is the reader’s realisation that what is happening to Marlena is even more profound.

Marlena was a book that was difficult to put down. It’s a novel about friendship and youth and that feeling of indestructibility that sadly we must learn just isn’t real.  This is an impressive debut novel that read flawlessly.

Book Review of History of Wolves

Emily Fridlund’s debut novel, History of Wolves is pretty impressive.  30183201-_uy200_

Although many would argue this is a “coming of age” story, I’d argue it is a pretty original one.

Yes, we have a young and naive girl looking to make connection. Isolated even from her cultish parents, she spends much of her spare time in the rugged northern Minnesota landscape.She stumbles onto a young mother and son and insinuates her way into their lives.  Patra, the mother is lonely too.  And then the husband arrives… and the sense of impending doom increases.

The novel flashes back and forward to indicate that something life-changing is about to occur – but what will it be?  Fridlund controls this well.  And on top of that, she weaves in a second minor storyline that sheds further light on her main character.

Slow and rewarding – but you won’t be bored.  Fridlund’s craft is excellent.  I can imagine her developing into someone really worthy of our attention – and even this first novel is absolutely worth your time.

Delighted Book Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

untitledI’m way behind on this delightful little foray back into the world of Harry Potter, which has been out for months now.

Despite the playscript format – which admittedly I am reasonably used to reading otherwise may have impacted upon my enjoyment – The Cursed Child feels very true to the voice and spirit of the Harry Potter novels and the world in which it is set.  It is the chapter we needed to have – how on Earth do you grow up as a son of the most famous wizard who ever lived?

For Albus Severus Potter – the only Potter ever sorted into Slytherin – it has not been easy.  He doesn’t feel that he fits into his father’s legacy.  Instead, he is best friends with a Malfoy – who also feels the burden of his father’s previous actions.

When Albus decides to take action to be his own man and correct what he thinks are some of his father’s wrongs, he very nearly brings the wizarding world that we know and love to its knees.

It was delightful to visit our old friends again – seeing how successful Hermione has become and how haunted Harry still is by his past. Only the portrayal of Ron is somewhat disappointing, emphasizing only parts of his character and minimising his contribution to the original seven novels.

The new characters are wonderful too – and I could not have felt more at home in reading this play than if Rowling had done all the work herself.  I devoured this.

Book Review of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

life-changing-tidying-upIt’s hard to not be curious about Marie Kondo’s now famous book about how to tidy and what the benefits of tidying are.

Again, I suppose this was a bit of a speed read – the type of book where you can really enjoy some sections that are of relevance to you, and others that are not.

I like the idea of being less cluttered and less attached to unnecessary material items.  Kondo asks us to completely de-clutter, keeping only those things necessary to life and that “spark joy”.  She also talks a lot about how this can improve our lives – making us less stressed and more at peace. There is a lot to be said for that.  And as I look around my decidedly un-Kondoed lounge room writing this, I could certainly imagine how that would be true.

There are many practical tips for the correct way to de-clutter, to pack away items and to resist the urge for expensive storage solutions.  But there is also a lot of discussion about gratitude and showing gratitude for your belongings and how being tidy does this.  As a person who recently began a gratitude journal (New Year’s Resolution and all that), some of this resonated.  It is hard to appreciate things when we have too many.  Or we are too tired, stressed and cluttered to do so.  But Kondo seems to spend a lot of time sorting each day.  She also discussed the energy and purpose of items and how we need to respect them – which may or may not resonate with everyone.

I’d encourage you to pick and choose – but some good food for thought here in an increasingly materialistic world.

Book Review of The Princess Diarist

IMG_9947.JPGPurchased on the day of her passing, Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist did not fulfil on the promise of my expectations.

Marketed as a memoir of making Star Wars, The Princess Diarist is in fact mainly a study of Fisher’s never discussed affair with Harrison Ford (then married) whilst making the original film.  There is some discussion of how she got the role, and the difficulties of dealing with a sudden rise to fame.  But these lack depth.  The relationship with Ford is the centre of the text, and even this lacks real self-awareness.

There are three voices – all Fisher’s – in the memoir.  The first is her telling the story.  Although occasionally witty and always self-deprecating, I can’t say I am a fan of Fisher’s writing style, no matter how big a fan I am of Fisher herself.

Then, we have extracts of the journals that she kept at the time.  These are the most clever writings, experimental and playful, but the voice is very adolescent – the young girl caught up in a desperate affair with an older man who seems to care little for her in reality.  We’ve all been there, but it is painful to read.

The third voice is explanatory – going over the journals and attempting to explain away her descriptions of Ford and their relationship.  This is contradictory – all of a sudden it was a harmless rite of passage and no-one’s feelings were hurt.  I found this confusing – it’s as if Fisher herself has not quite come to terms with the relationship itself.  And while this is often true in life – and we don’t always understand the reasons how and why people come into our lives – it’s difficult to base a memoir on it without having reached some kind of conclusion.

I wanted more from this – perhaps I expected something more in line with Cary Elwes’ highly entertaining memoir of making The Princess Bride which I read last year.  I felt I missed out on the fun here.

Book Review of The Third Space

unknownI’ll admit this was more of a skim read, but this is a worthwhile book to take a look at. Adam Fraser offers us a way to better understand how to perform the various roles we have to play in life – parent, colleague, boss, coach and so on –   more easily and with more aplomb.

He suggests we use this by utilising the Third Space. This is the time in between performing one role and transitioning into another.

The Third Space is a clear space to reflect on one role, and plan for the next, Some people just relax and engage in self-talk. Some do a physical activity or a daily routine. Sometimes it helps to spend time with a particular person.

The initial benefits of this are obvious in terms of work/life balance, and transitioning into home in a more effective way. But it`s also worked for high profile sporting stars – such as tennis players, who need to re-focus in between each point, regardless if the last play was successful or not. It’s the same for high profile CEOs – especially ones that have to give feedback or work with people.

It’s all about considering the intention you have for the new space you are entering, and then being purposeful about your thoughts, emotions and behaviours to get that result.

Fraser touches on a whole lot of other elements of popular psychology too, including learned optimism. Definitely worth a look.