Reference Point Book Review

Author: Michael Hurd
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The follow-up and direct sequel to his first book, Enter the Witness, Hurd delivers mind bending realities in Reference Point.

At its heart, this book is about an awakening in all of us. It’s an invitation to lift the veil of reality for what we see and peer into the heart of what the universe really wants to show us.

Hands down, it’s a stunning description of a spiritual journey.

The realm of describing a spiritual journey belonged to the mystics, who did their best to describe something that cannot be explained. It’s like trying to tell someone what it’s like to love another person. The best you can deliver is metaphors.

It’s for this reason, the study of mysticism is relegated to those who are willing to decipher the language. As someone who has spent many years deep in that study, I can assure you it’s not an easy task.

Hurd has done a tremendous job at describing it in a way that is accessible and summarizes the last fifteen years of my studies.

I found myself highlighting and taking notes, page after page. He packed so much into this without once feeling like it’s too heavy. Everything about it just flowed.

You actually feel yourself moving with the text towards what he calls, The Revealing. You are following along, but at the same time, you are also feeling summoned. It just grips you.

While you could dive right into this book without having read his first one, they do build on each other… but wow… do they ever build into something that will have you deep in thought.

Ditch That Homework Book Review

Authors: Matt Miller, Alice Keeler
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A colleague of mine recommended this book with the promise it would completely change the way I think about the classroom.

I picked it up with some skepticism. My personal stance has always been that great teachers cannot be replicated and are great for different reasons.

I’m happy to say this book really got me thinking about how I approach work in the classroom.

It starts with centering on the needs of students, all of whom are different, and demonstrates… with real-world examples… how much more effective a teacher can be by leveraging the right tools.

Any book that gets me to make notes, highlight passages and put it down to think is an instant five-star for me. This book had me doing that on several occasions.

While many pages were bookmarked, here are a few choice highlights:

“Just because students make poor choices doesn’t mean we should remove that responsibility altogether.”

“As teachers, we tend to want class to run smoothly. We like things to be neat and tidy. Students are still learning how to live life, and the way they think and operate creates a hot mess in our classrooms. Instead of avoiding those messes, we’ve got to pull on our rubber boots and wade through the mess with them. Yes, it requires time and patience, but it’s also how we can help them learn to make better decisions in the future.”

I love the fact the authors don’t just offer a tool or method and say, “This is all you need.” Instead, they look at the realities of the modern classroom and offer steps to get to a better place.

This book will get a teacher to re-think what their idea of useful work for students is… regardless of whether they assign it for homework or not.

The End of All Things Book Review

Author: John Scalzi
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I picked up this book thinking it would be a stand-alone novel within a universe Scalzi had created and to which I already read the main introductory material (Old Man’s War).

Yes, Scalzi did write every novel as a stand alone… except this one… which is actually the second part in a two novel arc.

Well done me for not even doing the slightest bit of research on that one.

Thankfully, while it would have been nice to know what happened before, I still found I could get into it quite easily.

First things out of the way, if you haven’t read anything by John Scalzi before, he is the most accessible and fun science-fiction writer today. I don’t say that lightly because I read a lot of science fiction.

You can just tell that he has a lot of fun while writing and it shows on every page.

John, if you actually find writing to be the most mind-bending wreck of an activity that causes you to pull the hairs from your cat, it doesn’t show.

Without giving too much away because, again — I didn’t read the first book in this two novel arc — it’s a story told in four novellas about fractured political organizations trying to patch together chaos across the universe of alien factions.

It starts with a scary form of torture of what it would be like to be nothing more than a brain in a box and keeps you gripped from there.

While there is a lot happening, the novel still moves at a quick enough pace that you never feel bogged down reading it. The characters also have more than enough personality that you never get lost in the dialogue, which is much appreciated. There’s nothing worse than having to constantly ask, “Who said that?”

As a first book in the Scalzi library, I wouldn’t recommend this one. However, if you’ve read Old Man’s War and The Human Division (the book before this one), you’ll enjoy it.

The One-Minute Workout Book Review

Author: Dr. Martin Gibala
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On my way to picking up others book in the library, I came across this one in the Express section. It was carefully placed on the shelf to catch my eye as I walked by — its light blue and white colour beckoning me to pick it up.

“7 days to finish this Vito… that’s a cake-walk for you,” it said.

Intrigued, I picked it up and looked to see who the author was making this bold claim. As an academic at heart, I’m always skeptical of radical claims and people who throw around the phrase “based on science.”

Lo and behold, it’s an actual professor (and chair of kinesiology) at a Canadian University! Not just any University, but McMaster, which is starting to make a stand in the crowded world of Ontario campuses.

As a graduate of Queen’s University, the running joke is you can always tell when a McMaster student changed a light bulb because they’ll loudly proclaim they did it just as well as any Queen’s student.

He’s also speaking about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), something I was vaguely familiar with after making a bet years ago with friends that I could finish the Insanity Beachbody program (which is kind of like a reverse HIIT – but on a stupid hard scale).

It was brutal, but the results were amazing and I actually liked it as I stuck with it. In fact, outside of my early martial arts training, it was one of the very few programs I stuck with

After reading Gibala’s work, I understood why.

This book boils down to is the following claim:

You can get the same, if not better, results from your workouts in a fraction of the time.

The secret, which Dr. Gibala has been researching for many years, is interval training. You go hard for small bursts of time, followed by cool-down sessions. When your body is about to give up and force you to the floor… the workout is done.

He gives you 12 different types of workouts to achieve this effect — all of which can be done in less than 30 minutes. A few of them last even less than five minutes.

The One-Minute claim from the book title refers to one of the suggested workouts where your sprints last only a minute, but they’re spaced out with periods of rest.

In case you were looking of an actual one-minute workout… not going to happen. However, even a minute sprint throughout the day still has its health benefits.

The book starts with the (actual) science behind his findings before moving on to the practical applications. If you’re not a person who is interested in why your body would respond so well to this type of training regiment, you can skip to the last part of the book.

What I appreciated most is he demonstrates how HIIT is for everyone from the beginner to the high-endurance athlete, showing this method is not just a flash in the pain type of discovery that only works in theory.

If you’re looking to up your exercise game, this book might be for you.

For the person looking to get rid of the excuse they don’t have enough time… or the proper equipment… or any other excuse that could be getting in the way of doing some actual exercise, this book will be helpful.

As for me, my worldview has been completely rocked.

I knew there was a reason I loved Insanity so much. Now I have several programs I can stick with for the long-term.

Everybody Lies Book Review

Author: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
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What happens when a book tries too hard to be the next Freakonomics mixed with Gladwell-esque posturings?

You get someone who has found some interesting trends in big data and repeats itself over and over again.

Big data is exciting because it’s the ultimate survey… except people actually tell the truth and they don’t know they’re taking it. It’s the answer social science is looking for when it comes to a sample of people.

Instead of sample sizes ranging from hundreds or thousands, we get hundreds of millions to billions (assuming people across the globe are online and using the same sites we use in North America).

Seth, a former data engineer at Google, analyzed trends from three major sources for his data: Google searches, Facebook and a major pornography website.

His results were interesting, covering topics such as baseball, racism, abortion and abuse… but falls back on covering the same topics repeatedly. I’m not sure whether this was to meet a word requirement from his publisher, or he really wanted to let us know that he was one of the few people to breach the subject.

Where the book shines is in part three where he talks about the potential of big data analysis, its limitations and its danger for us.

I do hope he continues his work because it opens up some incredible possibilities.

However, if you’re going to pick up this book, stick with it until part three. It might drag for you, but it’s worth a look.

Saving Our Sons Book Review

Author: Michael Gurian
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My interest in this book stemmed from an interview with the author on the Art of Manliness podcast.

While I hadn’t read any of his previous works, I was agreeing with what Gurian was speaking about:

There’s something wrong with the boys of our society.

As someone who was in a support position in a high school, I noticed that for every girl struggling with school, there were at least 5 boys.

The stories were similar: unmotivated, doesn’t care, parents are struggling with him at home and (some) spend all night playing video games.

What’s going on here?

This is the question Gurian is trying to answer using the latest brain scans in neuroscience and the latest findings in scientific research in genetics and epigenetics.

As a clinical practitioner and founder of the Gurian Institute, he is on the front lines with this every day.

However, before he can even get to what’s happening with boys and how we can help them, he does address the elephant in the room…

The Dominant Gender Paradigm.

The DGP (as it’s then referred) is the framework that men are privileged and we won’t entertain any other notion until there’s equity for women.

Gurian stresses the importance of empowering women for true equity, but it can only come if we properly mature our males in a way that is natural to them.

I found myself putting this book down and ruminating with my own thoughts several times.

There were many points I agreed with, based on my own observations in working with young people, and some I would challenge (mainly his solutions).

Overall, an eye-opening read and one that will challenge you.

The Danish Way of Parenting Book Review

Authors: Jessica Alexander, Iben Sandahl
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My wife pulled borrowed this from the library and while I’m always skeptical of books about parenting, especially since they rely on anecdotal evidence rather than actual study, I made a casual glance of it.

Then, I read it straight through.

Denmark has always consistently ranked #1 as the country with the highest levels of happiness. Yes, trying to measure such a subjective emotion has its faults, but the country always comes out on top.

Why?

If you had to put me on the spot, I think that’s what this book is about, rather than an actual parenting style. It’s more of how to be a decent person and pass that along to your kids.

While there are tips and strategies to use with young ones, the crux of it is still in the behaviour of the parents themselves. They break it down into the acronym parent, which overwhelmingly plays into my confirmation bias.

P – Play… which I wrote an article on Lifehack about here and was the main subject of my Master’s thesis.

A – Authenticity… wrote a few posts about that on this site herehere and here.

R – Reframing… take a moment before exploding on a situation and consider a new way to look at it. Here’s an example.

E – Empathy… you know, taking a look at the whole person and trying to understand their emotions and responding appropriately.

N – No Ultimatums… give respect, get respect and keep the bigger picture in mind.

T – Togetherness… spending quality time with your family in a cozy area, without screens — can you imagine?

The strength of this book is that it was originally self-published, which means there was no pressure from the authors to pad the chapters in order to hit a page count. It’s straight to the point and can easily be read in an afternoon.

If you’re not going to pick it up for parenting advice, it would still be good to read on what you could be doing in your own life.

Warnings Book Review

Authors: Richard A. Clarke, R.P. Eddy
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The full title of this book, Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes, is a reference to Cassandra, the princess of Troy. She was cursed by the god Apollo to be able to see the future… but unable to persuade anyone of it.

This book is an examination on two fronts: who were the Cassandras of some of our great catastrophes that could have been prevented and then moves into an examination of today’s potential Cassandras.

Between these two sections is a chapter on what they’ve coined, “The Cassandra Coefficient.” It’s a formula they came up with based on previous Cassandras to apply to people today on whether they’re an actual Cassandra or just a raving lunatic. They never flat out tell you, “Yes, this person is a Cassandra.”

Instead, they leave it up to you to decide.

I rather enjoyed part one because it was fascinating to hear about the people who were absolutely correct and largely ignored. It kind of pisses you off in a way. The catastrophes ranged from the Challenger spaceship blowing up to the Fukushima meltdown, the cause of the Gulf War and the 2008 economic crisis.

What I appreciated most is how quickly those chapters moved. There was no need to belabour the point — they happened and we didn’t prevent them. Here’s who called it. Next.

Part two is where my interest peaked and waned.

I was very much interested in the upcoming crises experts are predicting and definitely wanted to hear what they had to say . My only issue is where the first half moved quickly, this part dragged on a little too much for me.

I get each one of those chapters could be an entire book in themselves (and in some cases, they are), but it ruined the flow as a narrative.

That aside, it’s definitely worth picking up and reading to help you get a handle on what’s happening today… and for our future.

Man’s Search for Meaning Book Review

Author: Viktor Frankl
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This is a quick read, but there’s a reason there are over twelve million copies of it in print worldwide. A reader survey for the Library of Congress put this book in one of the top ten books that can change your life.

First published in 1946, Frankl gives an account of what it was like to be a prisoner in Auschwitz. Through the devastation and disturbing account of what went on, we manage to hear the voice of a man coming out of the other end who chooses to move forward with purpose.

In the shadow of his experience, he synthesizes a new school of thought known as logotherapy, which holds our true purpose in life is to find meaning. In everything we do, in order to find fulfillment in life, we should always be pursuing something that gives us meaning.

His words resonate even stronger for us today. A few quotes:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.”

“So live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”

“I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”

I would have to agree with the reader survey: truly a top ten book for life.

Black Privilege Book Review

Author: Charlamagne Tha God
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Not going to lie — this is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

From page one, you can see the honesty bleed off the page. Every sentence, every story and every word of advice comes across so incredibly authentic, it overpowers any other inspirational verbiage others only attempt to sound real about.

As someone who has gone from the bottom and worked his way to where is now: syndicated radio DJ in New York, podcaster and having his own show on MTV…

Charlemagne knows what he’s talking about.

The language is raw and he makes no apologies about it. In fact, he points it out at the beginning of the book and it just works.

Throughout the stories of his life, he drops NUMEROUS gems that any young person needs to hear. Here are a few (of the many) I highlighted:

“When someone offers to help you, tell them exactly what you want. Don’t beat around the bush. If you’re not crystal clear about what your ask is, chances are you won’t get anything.”

“We’re taught the only accurate sign that we’re moving forward towards success is making money. We get caught up sweating the results instead of embracing the process. Even though embracing the process is the only way you’re ever going to get what you want out of life.”

“Being active on social media can amplify the work you’re doing, but it is not work unto itself.”

If you’re only going to read one book this year and you’re looking for something motivational, this is the one.