Book of the Month: Being Mortal

When we pick our Book of the Month, we don’t just pick a book. We pick a topic, a world, an idea. These have so far been far-ranging matters, from hypothetical science to the Italian coast, busking in Boston to satire in Seattle.

This month’s topic might be the most important we’ve chosen yet: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.

Because let’s face it: not only are we all going to die someday, but we’re all going to experience the loss of our loved ones, if we haven’t already.

In Being Mortal, doctor and writer Atul Gawande discusses end-of-life care. He takes us through the history of gerontology, assisted living, and provides countless sets of data and anecdotes. Through it all, Gawande says that the medical community as well as patients’ families treat patients as subjects rather than as human beings. It’s rare that we consult the patient on what they really want. But Gawande says that we need to ask people what is important to them, what parts of their lifestyles are they determined to keep.

He gives insight into what the end of life means for different people, and arms listeners with questions to ask, decisions to make, and conversations to start.

But he doesn’t give clear answers. It’s different for everyone. Each individual case is just that—individual. While listening, I couldn’t help but think of my two grandfathers. One, an Indiana farmboy lived a healthy lifestyle but suffered the last years of his life. The other, a white-collar worker with a little too much interest in fun, faced complications at the age of 90, and died relatively peacefully a few months later. I don’t think it gets much more individual than that.

Like me, everyone will bring their own experiences, their own family histories to this book, homing in on the things that we’ve faced in our own lives.

It’s not always comfortable to think about these things. Nobody wants to say to their aging grandmother, “So, you probably have, what? Five good years left? What do you want that to look like?” This book prompts us to ask those questions (though hopefully a little more tactfully).

As for me, I’ve talked to my wife, Dianne, and told her that I believe in quality over quantity of life. I don’t think it’s doing justice to a person to prolong their life if it makes them miserable. But again, it’s individual.

One thing’s for sure. This book is as thought provoking as it is necessary.


Being Mortal is our September Book of the Month. Get it now for $17.95.

Indie Picks: July 2015

From the moment you enter Village Books in Bellingham, WA, you feel their love of books. They very carefully curate their selections, and understand the wants and needs of their community. They are such booklovers, that when co-owner Chuck Robinson recently set off on an epic cross-country bicycle journey, he specially rigged his helmet to listen to audiobooks. Unfortunately, his homemade system couldn’t beat out the roar of the wind whipping by, but he reports that he’s looking forward to listening to his selection of books from Libro.fm on his drive back. We’re excited to follow his journey, and even more excited that indie stores like Village Books are not just surviving, they are thriving.

So what better choice than Village Books to give us advice on what books to listen to this month? Here’s what booksellers Hayden, Hana, and Claire recommend.


village-books-cover
Village Books

Bellingham, WA

Warm-Bodies

Warm Bodies

By Isaac Marion

This is my favorite book! Marion has crafted a blatantly hopeful examination of what it is to be human and how we connect with one another using the most gruesome setting and narrator. Our undead hero R is dissatisfied with his existence as a zombie until he makes the unusual decision to save Julie and the two form an unlikely bond. Through this bond R explores love, family, friendship, the struggle to survive, and all the little things that makes life worth living. A funny, poetic, and powerful testament to storytelling.

Hayden


Bossypants

Bossypants

By Tina Fey

Tina Fey is just the sort of woman you want to run off into the sunset with (and by that I mean sit on the couch in sweatpants, eating cheese puffs, and watching Friends reruns with). Her hilarity coupled with her honestly about growing up, being successful, and trying to be an adult makes for a humorous page turner you’ll want to read again.

Hayden


An-Object-of-Beauty

An Object of Beauty

By Steve Martin

One of the things that I love about reading Steve Martin’s books is that in my head, as I’m reading, I hear his voice telling the story. The other, is how incredibly smart the writing is. This one tackles the world of high art, complete with color reproductions throughout. It’s a great story, very imaginative and smoothly written. How could it not be? It’s Steve Martin, after all.

Claire


Glory-OBriens-History-of-the-Future

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future

By A. S. King

What if you could see snippets of the future? If you started piecing together horrific events that have yet to happen? Events like women’s rights being obliterated, or another civil war. All of this Glory sees when she makes eye contact with someone. She sees their descendents, and puts together a horrific history of the future. But is the future fixed? Or does she even have a place in it at all?

Hana


Bloomability

Bloomability

By Sharon Creech

Oh my goodness, I think every preteen should read at least one book by Sharon Creech. She has a wonderful way of portraying growing up and how hard it can be simply to figure out who you are, let alone how to be comfortable with that knowledge. Her book Bloomability is particularly close to my heart. It explores the importance of travel, of seeing and experiencing beyond your own borders, and taking advantage of all the “bloomabilities” (or possibilities, if you will) life offers you, no matter how disguised they may be. Another Creech favorite of mine is titled Ruby Holler.

Hana


Do you have a favorite local indie bookstore? Let us know in the comments.

What I Know for Sure

For decades, people of all backgrounds have turned to Oprah for inspiration, comfort, and advice. She has reigned supreme in all forms of media, effortlessly classic amidst changing times. Here, Oprah has gathered her favorite entries from her “What I Know for Sure” column of O, The Oprah Magazine. The essays are divided into themes ranging from joy to awe, clarity to power, and much, much more.

AudioFile magazine says, “Oprah Winfrey’s distinctive voice adds sincerity and intimacy to her accounts of ‘ah-ha’ moments in her personal and professional lives. . . . Her narration adds authenticity to the underlying teachings on the importance of spirit and love.”

What I Know for Sure2

What I Know for Sure


Have a favorite Oprah moment? Let us know in the comments. Sign up for our newsletter for the latest updates on Oprah and similar authors.

9 Things That Bernadette Has Right About Seattle

Bernadette Fox, the central character in Maria Semple’s hilarious Where’d You Go, Bernadette, sulks in her house, becoming more and more reclusive, rather than facing reality. Bernadette’s hate for her adopted city is so great, that she hires an online personal assistant so she doesn’t have to leave her house.

And this city she hates? Seattle. And Seattle happens to be my city too. I went to the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), and have lived in and around Seattle my whole life. Now, you might think that I’d rush to defend my fair town, but you know what? There’s a lot that Bernadette’ got right about old Sea-Town.


Greetings from sunny Seattle, where women are ‘gals,’ people are ‘folks,’ a little bit is a ‘skosh,’ if you’re tired you’re ‘logy,’ if something is slightly off it’s ‘hinky,’ you can’t sit Indian-style but you can sit ‘crisscross applesauce,’ when the sun comes out it’s never called ‘sun’ but always ‘sunshine,’ boyfriends and girlfriends are ‘partners,’ nobody swears but someone occasionally might ‘drop the f-bomb,’ you’re allowed to cough but only into your elbow, and any request, reasonable or unreasonable, is met with ‘no worries.’ Have I mentioned how much I hate it here?”

I don’t know about skosh or logy, but teachers really do instruct kids to sit “crisscross applesauce” and my wife and I tell our daughters to cough into their elbows. I don’t want them sneezing into their palms and spreading their germs everywhere! It’s just common sense.


. . . this dreary upper lefthand corner or the Lower Forty-eight.”

I prefer “Lower Alaska” myself. Unlike the East Coast, in which major cities are a short train ride away, the closest big cities to Seattle are Vancouver, B.C. and Portland, OR—a three- or four-hour car ride away. Try driving down to San Francisco and it’ll take a good 12 hours. But I kind of like this. It means that it takes a special kind of person to commit to living here. We Seattleites tell people the weather here is terrible in order to dissuade them from moving (though this doesn’t seem to be working).


Everything else is Craftsman. Turn-of-the-century Craftsman, beautifully restored Craftsman, reinterpretation of Craftsman, needs-some-love Craftsman, modern take on Craftsman. Its like a hypnotist put everyone from Seattle into a collective trance. You are getting sleepy, when you wake up you will want to live only in a Craftsman house, the year won’t matter to you, all that will matter is that the walls will be thick, the windows tiny, the rooms dark, the ceilings low, and it will be poorly situated on the lot.”

Head to Queen Anne, where Bernadette lives, or anywhere north of Lake Union, and it’s true that you’ll see row after row of craftsman bungalows, mostly built in the 1920s (one of our team members admits hers was built in 1926). But Bernadette hasn’t left her house in years, let alone her neighborhood. If she had, she might notice that there’s actually a lot of other cool architecture going on. So I guess you can say I “kinda” agree on this one.


Why does every beggar have a pit bull?”

Bernadette rants about the number of homeless people who own dogs in Seattle. It might seem like something made up as a metaphor for the state of something or other, but no. It’s 100% true. I used to work in downtown Seattle right by Westlake Center, and I have seen countless homeless people with dogs. Seattle is crazy about dogs. We have dog sitters, dog walkers, dog bakeries, and dog shampoo specialists. About once a year someone tries to ban pit bulls from the city, but that will never happen. The dog lovers (who are pretty much everyone) will never stand for it.


I’ve created logos, websites, and other design work for a lot of private schools in and around Seattle. The way Semple satirizes their grading system and mentality, trying to encourage children rather than challenge them, is spot-on. And at the end of that long slog towards high-school graduation? Ivy league. Only the best for our unique little snowflakes! (Though UW is a pretty good choice, if I do say so myself).


Take five-way intersections. The first time Bernadette commented on the abundance of of five-way intersections in Seattle, it seemed perfectly relevant. I hadn’t noticed it myself, but indeed there were many intersections with an extra street jutting out, and which required you to wait through an extra traffic light cycle.”

Not only are five-way intersections (of which Seattle has many) annoying, but if you’re easily distracted like me, they’re dangerous. Once when I was about 18-years old, I got into an accident on one near the University of Washington campus. I decline to say just what distracted me, but you can probably guess (hint: it rhymes with whirls).


Blessing, and help yourself to some chard.”

Rain for nine months out of the year, and drier than Tucson the other three, PNW gardeners face a challenge. But measly problems such as weather or latitude don’t seem to stop anyone. What grows particularly well—in abundance, in fact—are leafy greens. So much so that nobody knows what to do with all of it, and they have to push it off on others. But hey, at least its organic. And to a true Seattleite, that’s all that matters.


I needed to talk to Bernadette about her blackberry bushes, which are growing down her hill, under my fence, and invading my garden. I was forced to hire a specialist who said Bernadette’s blackberries are going to destroy the foundation of my house.”

Added to the extreme weather patterns, gardeners face another challenge: blackberries. These beasts are prickly, fast-growing, tangled webs of destruction. Like zombies, they are next to impossible to kill, and they just come back. If you’re into urban foraging, they’re pretty tasty come September though!


People are born here, they grow up here, they go to the University of Washington, they work here. Nobody has any desire to leave. You ask them ‘What is it again that you love so much about Seattle?’ and they answer, ‘We have everything. The mountains and the water.’ This is their explanation, the mountains and the water.”

Bernadette gets sick of people saying that Seattle doesn’t need anything more than what it already has: mountains and water. But it’s true! Seattle is perfect because it is beautiful. Once again, it takes a special kind of person to live here.

Honestly, these were just a few of the things that Bernadette gets right. The list could go on and on, including Subarus, gray hair, Microsoft acronyms, bicycles, parking downtown, the coconut pie from Lola, Dale Chihuly, the Seattle Freeze, North Face, Cliff Mass, and more. But I’ll leave you to discover those gems on your own. I’m off to go spend some time outdoors. Because that’s what we do here.


Find more to love and hate about Seattle in Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Why Smart Parents and Teachers Turn to Audiobooks

Audiobooks are great for busy people. But they’re more than just a way to squeeze in a few more books. They can also be a helpful tool for students. While in New York a few weeks ago, I met the folks over at Sound Learning where I learned that audiobooks can help improve literacy, test scores, pronunciation, comprehension, and more.

This is good news since I have two little girls who are just entering elementary school, and love listening to audiobooks.

Check out the stats from Sound Learning:

infographic


Want to get your kids hooked on audiobooks this summer? Check out our selection of children’s and young adult books.

Favorites from XKCD

The internet is super big—cat videos (awesome), fantasy football (a time-suck), gardening (my wife’s favorite)—you name it, you can find it. For me, there’s xkcd, which is sort of a big mixing pot of Lord of the Rings, science, and adults who want to turn their apartments into giant ball pits (minus the stale urine smell).

Randall Munroe worked for NASA before starting xkcd. Legend has it that he was going through his old math and sketching notebooks one day when he rediscovered some of his old comics. He put them online and grew it into a full-time job (if we could all be so lucky). Wanting to go more in-depth, he started the “What If?” column on xkcd, where he took more space to answer reader questions on everything from how much force could Yoda output (19.2kW) to what would happen if you had a mole of moles (things get bleak). Last year, Munroe collected the best of this column, plus some new content, in What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.

What If is a fantastic book, but I have to admit that I’m drawn (pun intended) to the short and sweet xkcd comics. Here are some of my favorites.


Compiling

 

compiling

xkcd.com/303


Tech Support Cheat Sheet

 

tech_support_cheat_sheet

xkcd.com/627


Grownups

 

grownups

xkcd.com/150


Correlation

 

correlation

xkcd.com/552


Conditional Risk

 

conditional_risk

xkcd.com/795


Forgot Algebra

 

forgot_algebra

xkcd.com/1050


Duty Calls

 

duty_calls

xkcd.com/386


Wikipedian Protester

 

wikipedian_protester

xkcd.com/285


Ballmer Peak

 

ballmer_peak

xkcd.com/323


Love these comics? Be sure to check out the equally hilarious and informative What If?