Where do I start with this beautiful book. When Breath becomes Air is written by Paul Kalanithi who was a recently qualified neurosurgeon suffering from stage IV metastatic lung cancer. Paul died in March 2015 and he is survived by his wife Lucy and their daughter Elizabeth Arcadia.
This autobiographical book is split into three parts, before and after diagnosis and after he has passed away. Paul talks about his life growing up first in new York but then moving to Arizona and how he developed a love for literature from his mother who gave him very advance books to read at a early age. This love for literature lead him to study literature at Stanford University. Paul had always had an interest in what made life meaningful. Not satisfied in the answers that literature gave him, he wanted to learn from a medical point of view. This lead to a Masters in History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University before he took a place at Yale Medical School.
Throughout Medical School, it was clear that Paul was a high achiever, after Medical School Paul took up residency in neuroscience. Neuroscience is known as been the most demanding physically and mentally, the book details his operations in detail. One particular moment Paul remembers was after an operation he performed he walked out and was eating a cookie cream sandwich and he saw the patient’s relatives being given life changing news. ‘I was making more moral slides than strides’, he noted.
The second part details his his life after the cancer diagnosis. Paul grapples with suddenly becoming the patient. He details one time that a Junior Doctor wouldn’t give him the medication he requested. The Doctor that was looking after him tells him that if he wants to stop thinking like a Doctor and just be a patient he just needs to say. Paul also grapples with whether him and Lucy should have a child. Indeed they do via IVF.
Paul details the missed opportunities, he misses his graduation for completing his residency as he was throwing up very violently. Paul misses out on two very good job offers, one because he cannot bear to move across the country and leave Lucy alone bringing up their daughter and looking after him.
The thread throughout the book is the interest at what makes life meaningful. I feel that Paul does not answer this because the answer is different for everyone.
When Tanya Barad contacted me regarding her debut book How to Make a Decision asking me to review it, I was intrigued. My family could tell you growing up I was horrendous at making decisions. I could not make one and when I did I would change my mind all the time. It was getting to the point where I was seriously down as I could not trust myself to make the right decision. I have gotten a lot better now that I am older but I love a good self help book (read my review on The Defining Decade) so I decided to give it a shot.
Aim of How to Make a Decision
The aim of the book is to help you understand the theory and the science behind making a decision and how to apply this. Chapters 1-3 deal with the science of making a decision whilst chapters 4-17 is about how to come to a decision. Chapter 18 deals with helping someone make a decision and chapter 19 explores if you feel you have or have made the wrong decision. At the end of each chapter there is a section called Decision Time which allows you to apply what you have read with help worksheets. Worksheets include deciding if you are an audio, visual or kinaesthetic learner, seeing which bias’ you feel come naturally to you, allowing to think which environment to you make your decisions and the Johari Window to name a few.
What I learnt
- There are two popular decision making techniques called Gofer and the aptly named Decide.
- You can strengthen your decision making by planning for all possible scenarios.
- Split the negatives out to fully understand why they are negatives and how to turn the into positives or reduce the severity of the negativity.
- Talking through your decisions before making a decision is ideal.
The book contained a mixture of her own personal experiences and you can tell it was very well researched. My only criticism is that in one of the sentences it was talking about flipping a coin to make a decision and saying that is good in scenarios which have two answers and a lot of moral importance, and the example she used was deciding to have an abortion. That to me is poor taste. Other than that and a few spelling mistakes this it is a very good book to read if you struggle to make a decision.
How to Make a Decision is out now.
Hello, hello! Today I am going to be chatting about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. This Young Adult book I found on my sister’s shelf when I went home for the weekend and the images inside was what intrigued me to have a read. I had heard of the film of the same name directed by Tim Burton, but we all know books are better!
The book is about Jacob who has grown up hearing his stories about his Grandad in World War Two and living in a children’s home on an island. Years later when Jacob is at High School and working at a pharmacy store from which his parents own the overall company and he presumes he will one day inherit. He paints himself as quiet a loner as he mentions he only has one friend. His Grandad is older and relies on him and Jacob gets disillusioned with his stories. One day Jacob gets a phone call from his Grandad, going to check on him he finds his Grandad dying. His Grandad says to Jacob “… find the bird in the loop on the other side of the old man’s grave on September 3, 1940, and tell them what happened.” what is further odd is the fact that Jacob spots a monster. Seeing this monster scares Jacob and he ends up in therapy due to this. The therapist suggests visiting the island where his Grandad’s children’s home was for closure.
Jacob arrives on the island where it is freezing and wet with not a lot to do, he goes off to find the home and that is where the adventures begin…
The book although takes a little while to get going is really good. The plot gets confusing when Jacob gets to Wales and you understand what the loops are and Jacob as a character can be quite unlikeable (I really hate the fact that he doesn’t care about his summer job, when so many teens would love a job and the fact that he will take over the company one day). I thought I wasn’t going to like it at first as it is aimed for children (although it is one of those books that you can easily get away reading as an adult on the train without people looking at you weird). The story makes the characters come to life by adding in the images (most times a character was described, there would be an photo of the character).
If you enjoy fantasy or Young Adult books or want something a bit different to read, it is worth giving this a go.
Liane Moriarty, you may have heard her name but not sure where. Liane is the writer of Big Little Lies, the hit programme on Sky Atlantic starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley. Today’s book I am reviewing however, The Husband’s Secret, is a good romance novel but I wouldn’t say as on par with Big Little Lies.
The Husband’s Secret centres around three characters – Cecilia, Tess and Rachel. Cecilia is the wife of John-Paul Fitzpatrick – a successful business man from a successful family and herself is the typical ‘perfect mom’ a successful Tupperware seller (how middle class suburbia is that!?) with the perfect house. Tess is one third of TWF – a marketing agency in Melbourne she co-owns with Will her husband and Felicity her cousin. Rachel the final character works at the Primary School and is still consumed with grief over the murder of her daughter Janie, over twenty years ago. Sounds simple enough but this is where it gets complicated, Tess finds out that Will is having an affair with Felicity so decides to take herself and her son to Sydney where she was brought up.
Rachel at the school is convinced that the new PE teacher at the Primary School, Connor, is her daughter’s murderer. For not other reason than he just seems to be a bit werid. Tess who enrols Liam at the school falls for Connor and decides to have a bit of fun with him. So where does Cecilia fit in? Well Cecilia’s kids go to the same school. Cecilia one day opens up a letter she found from John- Paul address to her and only to be opened when he has died. Cecilia opens it anyway and find’s a confession of Janey’s murder.
That was the first half the book, the second half deals with Cecilia coping with John-Paul’s confession, Rachel becoming more and more convinced that Connor is the murderer and Tess trying to deal with her emotions over Will now Connor has appeared in her life. A horrid accident happens as well, but I will let you read the book to find out about that!
I had to admit the book took a while to get going and it felt that I was reading three separate stories at first. But it gets so good, especially seeing how Cecilia copes with John-Paul’s confession. The book is set in Australia and I can imagine the book is describes Australian middle class utopia perfectly. Overall as long as you get through the first half and not get bored,
As mental health is quite rightly getting the air time it deserves, Bryony Gordon a journalist with The Telegraph and mental health campaigner tells us her story with Mad Girl with candid honesty about mental illness from when she was thirteen the day after going to a Smash Hits Polls Winner Party to the present day and how she has deals with alopecia, bulimia and drug dependency.
I feel that so many people will be able to relate to Bryony’s experiences from dropping out of university to not understanding why she is feeling the way she is when nothing has happened at home. I remember clearly when Bryony talked about the first time she went to the Doctor to get help and the Doctor telling her to book another appointment when it gets worse, her Mum and Bryony get into the car talk about it and go back in that day and book an appointment. Her astonishing accounts of OCD, (I remember reading that she brought her iron into work as she couldn’t convince herself that it was switched off), are really interesting. Bryony goes into great depth about her OCD and recalls some experiences that I could imagine other suffers wouldn’t want people (especially in a book that anyone could read!) to know.
Mad Girl isn’t preachy and Bryony doesn’t write in a way which she wants sympathy from the reader, it is just true honesty. From the back of this Bryony hosts a podcast called Mad World with The Telegraph and also created Mental Health Mates which a regular meet-up in parks for those with mental health issues.
According to Mind every year 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem. This means where ever you are in the workplace or classroom it is very likely that there will be someone you know has a mental health problem. If you want to understand more about mental health issues Mad Girl is a great starter.