This post is something of an exception to a lot of rules. For one thing, I don’t give a lot of five star reviews, because there’s almost always something that could make a book just a little bit better. Yet I’ve given a five star review here. For another thing, I’m going to acknowledge my status as a real person, which as you may have noticed, I tend not to do. As I mentioned in this early post, I’m not very good at presenting myself as I am to the world at large.
Though my writing is almost exclusively science fiction and fantasy, I do like to read in a wide variety of genres and fields. In this case, I was gifted a copy of this book by my best friend, who seemed a little surprised that I’d never heard of it before, since it’s apparently somewhat famous. Of course, since I live under a space rock, there are all sorts of things that are apparently common knowledge of which I’m totally oblivious. Did you know that spending your free time writing hundred-thousand word novels isn’t normal?
Anyhow, I devoured this book. It’s a quick read: the chapters are often only a page or two, the writing is colloquial, and there are even pictures. So for all of you who tell me that you’ll only read my books if I write picture books, you could consider reading this. Unlike a lot of the “developmental” books that I read, this one wasn’t preachy, and despite the somewhat morbid impetus for the writing, the book is by no means depressing; if anything, it’s encouraging. It’s not so much about how to live your life, as it is about a way of thinking about life.
In many cases, its advice was advice I’ve heard before in other formats and other books. The idea of looking at things in a positive light, being grateful for the little things, being conscious of your perceptions, controlling your perspective, not complaining, taking initiative to solve problems: they’re things I’ve heard plenty of times before, but this presentation was different. It did a better job of acknowledging the reality that is the difficulty of actually acting upon the advice, and of presenting it in terms of anecdotes instead of moral grandstanding. Humans, fortunately for authors, respond well to anecdotes, even thought they tend to be unreliable.
I promise that I’m not just rating this book well because it was a gift from my best friend, who may or may not at some point read this post. It really was an insightful piece, and one of those books that helps you to take on a different perspective. To me, one of the biggest reasons to read is to learn how to see the world from different perspectives, and this book was the essence of that ideal. The message, to me, wasn’t so much one of morals or principles or ways of living so much as it was one of attitude. A friend of mine always says “there are no problems, only solutions.” As an engineer, I must always answer that there can’t be solutions without problems to solve, but the sentiment is sound. And I think it expresses exactly what The Last Lecture is all about.