Quite Something

Archive for the ‘Recommended Books’ Category

An adventure into positivity

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Habits of thinking need not be forever. One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last twenty years is that individuals can choose the way they think.

— Dr. Martin Seligman

Last week I started reading Dr. Martin Seligman’s book Learned Optimism:How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. He is one of the originators of a field called Positive Psychology. It looks at the factors which contribute to happiness and positive mental health, as opposed to those which contribute to mental illness. Seligman likes to joke that, prior to this type of study, the field of psychology was half-baked, exploring only the darker side of our nature.

January seemed to be a good month to start this type of reading, given the degree of depression that is prevalent post-holiday, mid-winter. Statistically, January 24th is the most depressing day of the year. Coincidentally, it was the day I picked up Learned Optimism. Intrigued by Seligman’s other titles, I also bought Authentic Happiness, and his latest book, Flourish.

Although each of us has a natural set-point when it comes to our own level of happiness, according to Marci Shimoff in Happy For No Reason, Seligman’s studies show that, for most of us, depression is largely caused by how we think, rather than by genetics, hormones, or the difficulties we’ve experienced. The good news is that we can learn to change how we think about our circumstances, and especially about our traumas and setbacks.

The topic of happiness is gaining popularity as we learn the degree to which we are in control of our moods, despite our circumstances. I’m fascinated by this stuff, and thought I’d blog about my takeaways from each of Seligman’s books. You’re invited to go on the journey with me.

Who’s in?

My writing buddy

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

If you’ve read many of my previous posts, you know that, in addition to psychology, I’m very interested in the WWII era. My parents were married in 1942, just five months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Last fall, I wrote a freelance article about a place called Solomons Island in southern Maryland, which is where the amphibious training took place before the actual landing in Normandy on D-Day. My sister lives on Solomons, and when I learned about its WWII connection, I decided to pitch a short article about it to Military Officer magazine. It was published in October of 2011.

My Uncle Dick was in the infantry in WWII, and wrote a book about his experiences called Normandy to the Bulge. Before he died, I helped him re-publish it on Lulu. If you truly want to understand the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation, this is a good book to read. Even if you don’t like combat books, you’ll appreciate Normandy because it’s not gory. Based on his wartime diary, it covers more of the everyday experiences and the friendships that developed out of the hardships they endured.

In 2007, my mom and I self-published her WWII memoir, All on Account of You. It’s interesting to read these brother and sister books from the same time period. My dad was stationed on the homefront, in Key West, FL, during the war. Together the memoirs give you the whole picture of the time period.

Also, not long before he passed away, my uncle wrote a short book, Painting the Milkweeds, about their experiences growing up in the 1920s and 1930s. With the three books together, you can follow the evolution of one American family and their experiences in the first part of the twentieth century.

My uncle died several years ago, but when I re-read the stories, I can still hear his rich Irish storytelling voice relating them to us. We shared a love of writing and I miss his weekly letters of encouragement. I know he’d be proud that his books are still selling, and that I’m still writing.

Books for Memorial Day

Monday, May 26th, 2008

I’m back from vacation and will post an entry about our adventures in a day or two, but today on Memorial Day I wanted to recommend two WWII books to you. Both are excellent, and will give you a very clear picture of what day-to-day life was like for those who served during WWII.

The first is my uncle’s book, Normandy to the Bulge, which I wrote about in a previous post. My uncle was a Pfc. in the army, in the 26th Infantry Division. He and his buddies fought across Europe, enduring mud and rain and a constant lack of food. He was trapped in a foxhole for 17 days, and later helped to liberate several concentration camps. He kept a diary of his experiences, always intending to write a book about them. He finally wrote and published it, 51 years later.

The second book I discovered by accident while searching to see if there were many other WWII books with letters in them, similar to All on Account of You. It is called At War and At Home, edited by Bob and Gale McClung, and contains the correspondence of an entire family: three brothers (one of whom was Bob McClung) who served in three different branches during WWII, their parents, and their little sister. I posted a review of it on Goodreads.com. Sadly, Bob passed away shortly before the book was released, but Gale and I have become online friends.

Last night I watched the National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C. on PBS and was moved by it. It’s good to see that we’re finally paying attention to those who haved served and are serving to keep our country safe, and it’s important that we keep telling their stories. God bless all of them.

Happy Memorial Day.