Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Confessions of a Sociopath

Title: Confessions of a Sociopath
Author: M. E. Thomas
Year: 2013

My Rating:  2/5 Stars

Synopsis: Thomas gives an honest and at times uncomfortable insight into her world as a sociopath which whilst interesting, became rather repetitive midway through the book.

This book was a complete impulse purchase as I got sucked in by a bogof offer at the airport.  I'd been reading a few books on psychology by this point and had a basic understanding of the personality traits of sociopaths and I thought this book might help to deepen my understanding and confirm my suspicions on a couple of potentially sociopathic work colleagues.

As a self confessed 30 something female sociopath, Thomas is everything you would expect her to be... charming, manipulative, intelligent, heartless and generally lacking any kind of moral compass in life.  The opening paragraphs portraying perfectly her complete lack of empathy as she sets the scene of a woman returning home on a beautiful day to find a baby opossum paddling frantically in the pool trying desperately to find a way out but unable to lift itself over the side.  She rushes for the net and then proceeds to try and drown the poor thing, after several unsuccessful attempts she then decides to leave it and let nature take its course - this is apparently how a TV show of Thomas's life would start?!  As a self confessed 30 something animal loving softy this was uncomfortable reading  and instantly switched me off from the idea that there is a benefit to having socipathic characters in society, which I think is one of Thomas's objectives.

I do feel a bit bad giving it 2 out of 5 as it was in places an entertaining read, I just found it became boring and self indulgent.  Perhaps if you are a sociopath, you might enjoy it more as you can relate to Thomas but for anyone else I would suggest there are too many other good books out there and this one might just be best left on the shelf.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Get Some Headspace

Title: Get Some Headspace
Author: Andy Puddicombe
Year: 2013

My Rating:  5/5 Stars

Synopsis: Andy Puddicombe is on a mission to demystify the world of meditation and spread the word about the powerful positive effects it can have of your mind.  As a previous cynic of anything 'spiritual' I am now totally converted and would encourage anyone and everyone to read this book!!

I am completely in awe of Andy Puddicombe!  In his early twenties he decided to trade in his life as a sports science student to head off into the depths of Asia to become a Buddhist monk.  Throughout the book Andy shares a number of stories and anecdotes from the numerous monasteries he lived in which give a really interesting insight into the life of a monk which overwhelmingly constituted meditating.

Now if you are like me six months ago, you would be switching off at the first mention of the M word, thinking its something for hippies sat in meadows with long hair and psychedelic tie dye t-shirts.  Well, I was completely wrong, meditation is a serious business which is scientifically proven to improve brain function and structure.

Andy articulates it well when he compares the mind to a computer hard drive, central to everything we ever do.  As Andy describes, our entire existence is experienced through our mind, yet, unlike our bodies which we are obsessed with keeping fit and healthy, the mind gets totally taken for granted perhaps because we can't see it.  However, advancements in brain mapping and MRI technology means scientists are now able to prove that in the same way doing bicep curls will make your arm muscles thicker and stronger, training the mind with meditation can make the area of the brain associated with happiness and well being thicker and stronger - well when you put it like that Andy how do I get started??

Well, by the time you have finished reading this book you will have all the information you need to start incorporating 10 minute meditation sessions into your life.  You will learn how to approach each session, the practise itself and the different ways you can integrate meditation into your life whether that be eating, walking, running etc.  And if that isn't enough Andy also has a website www.headspace.com where you can download an app to talk you through the ten minute sessions each day.  I found this worked better for me as you don't have to think about timing or what comes next as its all explained to you in a a very calm and soothing voice.

Speaking as someone that seems to have a pretty active mind that has a habit of running away with itself, meditation hasn't come easy.  The first attempt I found myself feeling really breathless, the next few I couldn't stop my mind from thinking, but over time it has started to get easier and I've started to enjoy a nice feeling of serenity when I finish each session.

I'm new to this book reviewing malarkey and struggling to convey my sentiment in words so if the above hasn't convinced you that this book is worth your time, please take 10 minutes to watch Andy's Ted talk as no one articulates this subject better than him...


Title: Revolution
Author: Russell Brand
Year: 2014

My Rating:  4/5 Stars

Synopsis: Interesting, informative and enjoyable read with a very distinctive Brand tone of voice.

I have become a pretty avid viewer of Russell’s Trews show this year so when I heard about the book I was keen to give it a read.  As my synopsis would suggest all in all I found this to be an enjoyable and entertaining read after which I definitely felt more informed on the current ways of the world and how our money orientated system is having a negative impact on society – although at this point I should probably call out that this is a subject I am pretty new to.

There were some stand out facts that have stuck with me, such as the 85 richest people in the world have the same wealth as 3.5 billion of the population, (that’s half of the world), and that this ‘fun bus’ (as Russell calls it) of the super rich are getting richer by the day, partly due to the huge power they wield over governments to pass legislation in the interest of their big corporations.  In essence no major surprise there but that ratio of 85:3,500,000,000 is pretty staggering!!

Another really interesting fact is that every president of the United States of America belonged to the party that had the most funding during the campaign trail.  So basically he with the most money, and therefore most heavily backed by those on the fun bus, becomes president for which he uses his new found power to return the favour to his big business friends.

I must say at this point, I have seen a number of Revolution reviews that throw some of Russell’s facts into question and whilst I’m not yet knowledgeable enough to know whether there is truth in this or not, through a combination of the Trews and this book, Russell has opened my eyes to some of the sobering realities of our capitalist society and absolutely inspired me to know, learn and read more to understand the truth and how we can improve things for the future.

How, is another area where Russell seems to have come under a bit of fire for not having laid out enough tangible, actionable solutions to the problems he has identified.  I feel the need to defend Russell here as whilst he is clearly an intelligent guy (I had to consult a dictionary on more instances than I care to admit whilst reading this book), I think it’s a bit much to expect one man to devise a new global economic system single handedly.  Plus as Russell recognises on several occasions power and decision making shouldn’t be placed in the hands of individuals or a chosen few it should be the work of the collective so I think the how is one for us all to figure out.

In summary, I would definitely recommend this book, with perhaps just a few exceptions... Firstly, I would suggest any Russell Brand haters steer clear as I think you’ll struggle to get passed his flowery language, long winded rants and at times very random analogies - for me its one of the joys of the book but I can see this not being to everyone's taste.
Secondly I can imagine the sterner aficionados of the world of politics might not appreciate Brands comedic style and finally any relations of George Saxe-Coburg-Gotha might want to avoid chapter 10 – Ich Bin Ein Monarch.

Other than that get yourself a copy and give it a go as you might just learn something!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey

Title: The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey
Author: Ken Blanchard
Year: 2011

My Rating:  5/5 Stars

Synopsis: An absolute MUST READ for any managers out there into the potential pitfalls of delegation.

To be completed