Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Reading Challenge Week 21 - A Personal Growth Book

Now, Hannah Braimes (who created this reading challenge - we just stole it), probably thought people would find a book with a title like "Unleash Your Inner Life Coach: 10 Ways to Become a More Successful You" or "How to Declutter Your World with Meaningful Mantras" when she wrote this particular challenge on the list.

But a) we don't have as many of those books as a public library might have, b) we like to think outside the box, and c) we have our own needs to deal with. So some of the books we've chosen for our "personal growth" may be not quite what you might have in mind when you think about a "Personal Growth Book".

After all, personal growth is all about growing as a person, so there's a wide scope to play with.


Scott read Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke.

I first heard of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke when I was a teenager (back in the 90s) because there was an emo band named after him (Rainer Maria). I admit that I did not read his poetry nor listen to much of that band – but I knew they both existed. Skip to 2018 and a friend of mine recommended a book by Rilke: not of poetry but a book of letters.

Letters to a Young Poet (830 RIL 2B LET) is a unique book. The letters from Rilke are addressed to a young military cadet (Franz Xaver Kappus) who discovered that Rilke had studied at the same military academy he was going through. The cadet wrote poetry himself and began a correspondence with Rilke to find out if his poems were any good and to see if he should pursue a literary or military life. The ten letters were written over about six years at the beginning of the 1900s (European mail did not travel fast - there was no send button to click).

Rilke’s letters express ideas that you might find in a self-help book. He advises the young poet to search himself for the reasons he wishes to write, to be motivated by the process and the joy of writing rather than looking to outside opinion. Rilke suggests avoiding literary criticism, he recommends time alone, suggests books to read, and advises on love, sex, and personal growth. Interestingly, Rilke was only in his mid-twenties himself when the correspondence began.

Poets born in the 19th century are not your typical self-help authors (Henry David Thoreau might be another) but then this is not really a self-help book. The slightly older poet offers some nice, simple advice for the young cadet, a lot of which still holds a century later. It’s not a long book (it would have fit into Week 17) but it’s a very pleasant book to read.


Sharon Bryan read High-powered Plyometrics, by James Radcliffe and Robert C. Farentinos.

Okay, I know this isn't exactly what anyone was thinking when we said "personal growth book", but this book changed my life. I'm not exaggerating; I went from "What the dickens is plyometrics?" to "My word! This plyometrics stuff is jolly good, and shall take a prominent role in my fitness training from this day forth!" within the time it took me to read this book. I first read the first edition a few years back, but the second edition hasn't changed much.

It's immanently practical. There are some chapters that talk about the physiological point of plyometrics and what you need to know before jumping off a box (all written in a way that is technical without being gibberish), and then it goes into sections outlining specific plyometric exercises and drills for the upper body, core and lower body.

This is followed by a section with suitable drills for athletes engaged in particular sports, making it the coach's friend. What is particularly good about this section is that it has both American and Australian sports, such as Baseball and Cricket, "American football" and "Aussie football". It's a rare find in a book like this.

I've used many of the drills from this book as part of my exercise routine over the years, and I like to think they're helping me with the "stronger, higher, faster, better" stuff that everyone aims for when they try to exercise. My biggest issue is the fact that I fall out of the habit of exercising. There is a section in the book for developing a year-round programme, but I think I'll need a different kind of "personal growth" book to help me shake my laziness.


Samantha Baxter read The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, by Mark Manson.

I must admit, I chose this book because the title made be giggle (I’m a teenager at heart). Also it was similar to a saying an ex of mine had when I stressed about things that don’t matter.

According to the blurb “For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. ‘F**k positivity,’ Mark Manson says. ‘Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it.’”

So while this is a self-help book, it contains many lessons I have learnt one way or another through various and sundry life experiences and self-reflection.

But sometimes it is good to have the message drummed home, you don’t have to be perfect, just be you, you only have so much energy devote it to things that matter etc.

The tag line reads “A counterintuitive approach to living a good life”, and while entertaining the book doesn’t really say anything other philosophies (Buddhism springs to mind) don’t already say - Manson just says it with more profanity.

Like many self-help books it can get a little preachy, but mostly it is an entertaining way to help re-train your brain, and remind yourself that nobody’s perfect.

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