Novel Reactions: Rebel Cities

David Harvey’s Rebel Cities challenges the capitalist norm in which owners of capital are the only ones thriving in cities and poses that we can find a socially just solution to allow the majority to reclaim the cities.

This book made me think: yes, that’s true; our cities are flawed.

Rebel Cities doesn’t dictate the one solution to solve the issue—to be frank, there isn’t any one yet—but Harvey gives us a comprehensive background on the issue and provides us with some alternatives.

For a book of ~160 pages (paperback edition), it was quite a heavy read. There were times I’ve had to look up concepts mentioned in the text to make sure I was on the same page as Harvey. I think this was largely due to the target audience being people with economics or policy backgrounds. Nevertheless, the content wasn’t that hard to follow, so and it wasn’t at all intimidating to read my way through this book.

This is one of my favorite nonfiction reads. It has made me curious enough about social and political issues that I will likely read up on related topics to this. I would recommend this to anyone interested in social justice.

Novel Reactions: Flow

Mihaly Csikszentihalyi’s Flow is all about having optimal experience, leading to a state of “flow.” When you’re in a state of flow, you’re more productive, more creative, and more content. If this is the case, it sounds like flow would lead one to (or, might be the expression of) self-actualization (see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs), given that we’re talking about optimal experience here.

So… the concept is interesting. However, the truth of the matter is that I did not enjoy reading the book. Yes, the book is rated highly on Goodreads, and I actually read Flow based on a colleague’s recommendation, but I only finished the book as a personal challenge. If I were more well-versed with this topic, I would probably recommend that people skip this and read another book instead.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case, so thank you for introducing me to the concepts of flow and optimal experience, and if anyone else is interested in the topic, go ahead and read Flow. (May your reading experience be more optimal than mine.) I’ll let you know if I find a better alternative.

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Novel Reactions: There are No Grown-ups

An accidental nonfiction read, Pamela Druckerman’s There are No Grown-ups talks about coming to terms with aging. From the first few sentences of the book, you already know it’s going to be an entertaining read, but I had some issues with it.

The first part reads as if she’s just using the book to informally talk about her research, and there’s barely any personal insight. And then it pivots into all personal insight and barely any research. For a memoir, I would have preferred more personal insight with sprinkles of research throughout the book. I’m reading to get to know the writer because, if I dedicated some time to research, I could probably do it myself.

At the end of the day, it was a short and fun read. I like the idea that everyone is still figuring it out, even at 40 years old. Pamela Druckerman is a great narrator, and I feel like it would be fun to chat with her over coffee.

we are never meeting irl

Some people have a knack for making legitimately bad situations sound funny. Think: Chandler Bing who uses his sense of humor as a defense mechanism through the weird and unpleasant moments of life.

I was reading We are Never Meeting in Real Life on a long haul flight and thought it would be a light read throughout. The tone was rambly and self-deprecating—sounded like how I would if I were to write a book.  OK, so I was entertained.

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And then I hopped off the plane, found my way back to work, and tried to finish the next half of the book after a long day at the office, and I realized that the essays were actually about many unfortunate situations, so slightly depressing, and while the tone sounded funny, it wasn’t comical funny. It was I-can’t-believe-this-is-how-life-is funny.

Among everything, it was the love essay that got to me. The one about the detached med school guy she was unhealthily obsessing over. Ouch. IDK, I didn’t feel like that was funny to read about. I was cringing, actually. When the dating game (yes, it’s such a game!) is so ridiculously skewed to the advantage of undeserving men, well, it’s not funny to hear about a fellow female making a fool of herself.

So, ya. Good try though.

Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change

There are just some books that you want to love. For me, this is one of them. I tried really hard to enjoy reading Tao Lin’s Trip, but the writing style didn’t suit my taste. That’s not to say that this was terrible; the concept is fascinating, but it was very hard to get through the book, even the chapter on his psilocybin trip.

At the end of the day, as someone dabbling in different genres, I have #noragrets reading this book. It’s jam-packed with information, and it was good exposure to a different writing style. However, if you do decide to read this book, beware: the epilogue is more than 50 pages long.

It can’t have been too bad, though, because I did go into a rabbit hole researching some of the substances mentioned in the book. In fact, that might have been the most interesting part about my experience with Trip. As I clicked through related articles, I eventually ended up reading on anxiety, which kind of hit close to home.

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So I guess I gained more perspective and a broader worldview. I think that if a book challenges your ideals and you are able to respond by not dismissing it immediately and instead by trying to learn more about it, reading that book was not a total waste of time.