What’s on my nightstand?
Posted by Trevor on 17 September 2012 | 5 Comments
You learn a lot about a person from the books they read, and that is one thing people are almost always happy to share. I can also predict it in reverse. I can reliably guess what a person reads within minutes of meeting them.
My nightstand typically has a mix of books that fire up your imagination and I will usually have four or five books on the go at the same time. Some people find that odd, but we don’t just watch one genre on one TV channel. We tend to watch a variety of programming in the same sitting, and I like to vary my reading material.
In Three Simple Steps I talk about the implications of what we expose our minds to. The media and the chronic complainers around us are obvious areas where a little better selection makes a big difference. But I don’t talk about the impact of our reading matter. Every word we allow into our minds causes us to create images and thoughts that have the same propensity of any deliberate thought or word to become our reality. It is worth thinking about that next time you reach for your favorite crime novel!
Modern fiction in general isn’t one of my favorite categories, because I rarely learn anything new, and they don’t often make me really think differently. Once we commit to being successful finding time to expand our awareness and rewire our brains to a more productive way of thinking is not easy. If you carve reading time out of your busy schedule and instead choose to expose your brain to a modern murder mystery, what benefit is that to your new life? Entertaining? Yes. A welcome break from your quicksand situation? Yes. But have you exposed your brain to anything that can help you rewire those neurons in a beneficial way? If you are really serious about changing your circumstances, then you need to also be selective about what you read (or listen to if you are into audio books).
If I do find time to relax with a modern novel, perhaps on a vacation, or a rainy weekend in Seattle… of which there are many… I am a fan of modern Swedish writers. Unfortunately, Stieg Larsson is no longer with us, but Camilla Lackberg (The Stonecutter) is in my opinion a worthy substitute. At least I get to learn about another culture and another country’s history.
The rest of the time I like to feed my brain material that will enhance new thinking pathways. Real-life heroes are a good source of inspiration. Learning about people who find a way out of seemingly impossible situations can help put your own challenges into perspective. I learned the Three Simple Steps simply by reading the autobiographies of self-made men and women. I used to read a lot of biographies in the library as a kid. Now the Internet is like a rabbit hole that takes you deeper and deeper into a person’s life. Where a biography is a story given to you by the author, the Internet shows you a person from a variety of angles. This intrigues me because you can’t rely on a single source as fact, but if you go from link to link to link, eventually a clearer picture emerges. Online research is like a jigsaw puzzle, with 50 pieces of information from which you can assemble a general picture of a person’s life and mind, and from it what steps they took that made them succeed where others did not. It’s a great hobby and sometimes quicker to get the point than by reading a book cover to cover.
I am a fan of historical fiction because it teaches me that most people, ancestral lines, and cultures repeat patterns of behavior through time. If nothing in that behavior changes, the outcome is always predictable. I find it fascinating how regimes repeat the same behaviors and how through time people have battled with the similar injustices. C.J. Sansom is one of my favorites. He writes brilliant detective novels that take place in the Tudor period. Historical fiction can be such a good read, but there aren’t too many brilliant authors in this genre. It attracts academics under the impression that writing about the food eaten and clothes worn makes for a good story. As in life it is characters that make stories, individuals who swim against the common opinion of the time that make things happen.
Recently I read In the Garden of Beasts. It isn’t really fiction, but it’s a fantastic read. The story is drawn from the actual correspondence between the White House and the American Ambassador to Berlin, leading up to the Second World War. The Ambassador was Roosevelt’s fourth choice for the post. He takes the position, because it’s the last chance for his family to be together before they all fly the nest. The whole family went over in a bubble in 1936, believing that none of the stories coming out of Germany were true. They were very pro-German because of their ancestry, and they had their whole world shattered by what they observed around them. It is an insight into what happens when people believe everything that they are being told by their particular propaganda machine.
I also enjoy books that challenge the common beliefs our society encourages. A couple of months ago I enjoyed the different historical perspective given about the life and tribulations of Christopher Columbus in a novel entitled The Columbus Affair by Steve Berry. As well as a good thriller, it opened my eyes to an alternative interpretation of history.
As I have mentioned in another blog one of my favorite authors is Paulo Coelho and I usually read his books more than once because they cause my neural pathways to do something new. His books contain many of the tips to being a more effective personal creator and I don’t always get the message first time around. In fact, it is about time I re-read his latest, The Aleph. I will add it to my nightstand right now.
What are you reading?