I’m always trying to figure it out: how to be a better, wiser person in the world. Today’s post features three relevant books that will appeal to different audiences: the earnest, the irreverent, and serious Star Wars fans. If you want to read all three, I’m not sure what that says about you. Let’s get together and talk about our multiple personality disorder.
First, for the earnest among us: if you’re trying to be a better, wiser person in the world, you may want to know about Krista Tippett’s Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. You might have heard Tippett on NPR, as she hosts a weekly show and podcast called “On Being.” In Becoming Wise, she has written up her collected wisdom from multiple years of interviews. I picked it up because I heard Krista interviewed and she sounded absolutely lovely – kind and wise herself. Like very good company.
The book feels perhaps a little different. My hackles went up in the second paragraph:
I’ve come to understand the cumulative dialogue of my work as a kind of cartography of wisdom about our emerging world. This book is a map in words to important territory we all are on now together. It’s a collection of pointers that treat the margins as seriously as the noisy center. For change has always happened in the margins, across human history, and it’s happening there now. Seismic shifts in common life, as in geophysical reality, begin in spaces and cracks.
I can be one of the most earnest humans on the planet, and this just gives me the shivers. The rest of the Introduction continues in the same vein.
If you can get past the Intro, Tippett organizes her thoughts into chapters on Words, Flesh, Love, Faith, and Hope. In each, she relates specific conversations she’s had over the years and distills common threads of wisdom. The bottom line on this book: if you’re a fan of Tippett’s interviews, you may love it! You’re already hooked on her voice, and I can understand why. If this is your first introduction to her, consider yourself forewarned.
* * *For the irreverent among us: if you’re trying to be a better, wiser person in the world, you may want to know about Jen Sincero’s book, You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. Sincero’s introduction is very funny and very charming – almost irresistible! A sampling:
I felt like I was going through the motions of living my lukewarm life with the occasional flare-ups of awesomeness here and there….I’m assuming if you’re reading this that there are some areas of your life that aren’t looking so good either… This isn’t necessarily about making millions of dollars or helping solve the world’s problems or getting your own TV show, unless that’s your thing. Your calling could simply be to take care of your family or to grow the perfect tulip.
This is about getting mighty clear about what makes you happy and what makes you feel the most alive, and then creating it instead of pretending you can’t have it. Or that you don’t deserve it. Or that you’re a greedy egomaniacal fathead for wanting more than you already have. Or listening to what Dad and Aunt Mary think you should be doing.
It’s about having the cojones to show up as the brightest, happiest, badasssiest version of yourself, whatever that looks like to you.
The good news is that in order to do this, all you need to do is make one simple shift:
You need to go from wanting to change your life to deciding to change your life.
This is a fantastic place to start! She had me from page 1.
The hard thing about such a terrific start is that it’s hard to live up to the promise. Both the strength and the weakness of this book are evident in that wonderful start: it isn’t anything you don’t already know. But sometimes it’s pretty great to be reminded by someone who is funny and a little rude. The book encourages you to “Love the One You Is,” advises you to “Loosen Your Bone, Wilma,” and notes that “Your Brain is Your Bitch.” An especially helpful reminder is to “Lead With Your Crotch.” Kidding! You get the drift. You can tell already whether this book is for you.
I will warn you that one chapter goes off the rails completely. Sincero asks that you get on board with her concept of “Source Energy,” which allegedly fills the universe. Further, “All energy vibrates at a certain frequency. Which means you’re vibrating at a certain frequency, and everything you desire, and don’t desire, is also vibrating at a certain frequency. Vibration attracts like vibration.” Oh dear. Where was your editor, Jen? The book would have been so much better without Chapter 2.
* * *
For the Star Wars fans among us: if you’re trying to be a better, wiser person in the world, you may want to know about Cass Sunstein’s book The World According to Star Wars. Cass Sunstein is a well-known legal scholar. I don’t have any opinion about him, barely remembering my legal education, so I approached the book with fresh eyes and as a somewhat serious Star Wars fan. (Really I’m more of a Trekkie.) I’m about a third of the way into it, and it’s a pleasure! A nerdy pleasure. According to the book jacket: “In rich detail, Sunstein tells the story of the films’ wildly unanticipated success and explores why some things succeed while others fail. Ultimately, Sunstein argues, Star Wars is about freedom of choice and our never-ending ability to make the right decision when the chips are down.” Wisdom there is in that.