10 January 2011

A Little Holiday Reading

During the holidays I had the great opportunity to be lazy. It was lovely! Scott gave me my first ever Snuggie for Christmas. My mother in law (who is embarressed that we don't wear a snuggie like a coat, and instead wear it as advertised) gave me Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, for my birthday. My BFF gave me The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan, also for my birthday. With my laziness-hours appointed and two crisp books just asking to be read, I gladly laid down for the task.

I started by reading Outliers. If you've read a Malcolm Gladwell book before you know how persuasive he can be when presenting facts with stories. His first books revolve around business concepts, and the way he presents findings makes it sound like he's discovered the magical marketing factor of the universe. His writing is very entertaining and even educational, but his concepts are often difficult to apply in real world business. That said, he's still one of my favorite authors, and Outliers didn't let me down.

In Outliers, Gladwell describes what make people successful. Many of us, myself included, look at successful people like Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey and say "They are geniuses. I could never be like them." Okay, maybe I'm not that dramatic. I think very highly of my potential. But I'm trying to make a point - It's easy to say that someone is a natural genius and that's why they are rich and famous today. Well, Gladwell says, that's not true. Really, being smart is one factor, but what makes a person successful is actually a series of opportunities based on family heritage, the year or even the month you were born, and overcoming adversities.

Fun and really interesting read! I spent most of my holidays just sharing tidbits of the book with family members. For example, did you know that in Chinese "24" is said, "two tens - four". All the numbers are simple like math blocks (except said in the Chinese language :)). Makes it a little easier then for Chinese students to solve, two tens -four+three tens - eight, as apposed to twenty-four plus thirty-eight. Gladwell says that this is one major reason why Asians are better at math.

What can we take from the book? Well, if you live in Canada and want your unborn son to be a pro hockey player, then you better do some birth planning for a January 2 delivery and give him skates as soon as he can stand.

With opportunities equal success in mind, I read The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. This is a true story of a woman in the 1950s/1960s who took advantage of her prose skills and the economic boom of contests to raise her family. I couldn't believe how witty this mother of TEN was and how she found time to enter these writing contests. However, contesting (and winning) was a necessary practice for her as her acoholic husband drank away each monthly paycheck. Reading this woman's history after reading Outliers made me realize the amazing opportunities this woman had, to be raised by a newspaper woman, to be born in a time where contests of this type were common, and to be in the circumstances she was to feel it necessary to submit her writing. She was definitely a most successful contester.

The book also made me think of my own mother, who loves to write poems and make up jingles for work parties and such. Though my mom is not a die hard contester, she did once write up an essay for the Alaska Education Something-Or-Other under mine and Matt's names. I even remember the title, "School Daze." I also remember getting a phone call, maybe a month after she read it to us on her computer. I didn't realize her intentions for the essay at the time. Holding the receiver, I was informed that my essay had won first prize. I was so confused! I think I said thank you and then told my Mom the phone was for her.

The book also reminded me of the time when I picked all of my neighbor's tulips and brought them to my mom as a present. My neighbor fuming! But in my mind, I wondered why anyone would plant flowers if they didn't want them to be picked and put in a vase?!

Anyway, the book brought back memories, made me laugh out loud, and tear-up. I'd say that's a pretty good rating. I'm sharing both books with family! Thank you Martie and Maura for the fun holiday reads!