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:


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

Making the Choice: Mindset Works Director Gives Advice for a Growth-Minded Life

Dr. Carol Dweck didn’t limit sharing her research to Mindset.

With Dr. Lisa Sorich Blackwell, she founded Mindset Works, an organization that helps schools and teachers to implement growth-minded tools. We chatted with Emily Diehl, Director of Professional Learning and Curriculum Design at Mindset Works, about her best tips and tricks in adapting a growth Mindset. Emily is a former teacher and parent herself, who brought her years of experience as well as Dr. Dweck’s research to our conversation.

[Judy T. Oldfield] Can you tell me what Mindset Works is all about and what the goals of the organization are?

[Emily Diehl] We translate educational research into products and services for schools, for students, for teachers, and for districts. Specifically, the research that we apply has to do with motivation and learning, and what drives people to be motivated, and how you can teach people [what] we call “non-cognitive” skills, so how can you teach people and cultivate them to become motivated, deep learners, high achievers, and meet their potential.

[JO] What do you tell people who have read Mindset, seen Dr. Dweck’s TED talk, or attended one of your sessions and say, “I really feel that I want to make a change in my life?”

[ED] My friend Jen Maichin (she’s one of our educator consultants) and I . . . had this goofy thing that rhymed: “You’ve got to hear the voice and make the choice.” She still says this to her students all the time. We [say] this in talks a lot. It’s very, very normal at first when you meet a challenge to have this little voice in your head that’s wondering, “Can I do this? Do I want to? How hard is this going to be? Will people judge me?” There all these things in your head. You hear that fixed-mindset voice, questioning if you can do it, and then you don’t make a growth-mindset choice. So, we tell them to embrace this challenge. Say, “I’m going to look for strategies. I’m going to be inspired by other successful people, I’m going to say things to myself when I make normal mistakes like ‘look what you learned from that.’” We tell them to look to switch to a growth-mindset choice.

[JO] So then, it is all very cognitive?

You know, it really is. The ironic thing about how they’ve labelled it “non-cognitive” is that is a very cognitive thing and just for a lack of better term, “non-cognitive” is what we’ve landed on. But it’s all in your head. That’s why we sometimes use the word belief. Your beliefs affect your success. But the neuroscience is backing all of this up. It’s not just the psychology of your beliefs; your brain literally does grow. The dendrins grow. You remap your neural connections. You physically get smarter, in a real sense.

[ED] What about adults working with young people? Do you have any good tips for daily interactions? For coaches, teachers, parents, working with young people?

Initially we would say, if you want to do one thing tomorrow, try this idea out, and see if it has an effect on the children in front of you. The first thing you can change is your feedback to kids. You want to use the kind of feedback that helps people to learn from their mistakes. Don’t say “Oh no, try not to make a mistake again.” Say “Well, that’s great. These are really hard challenges. These are opportunities to learn; let’s talk about what you learned from this.” You want to use the kind of feedback that isn’t always concentrating on saying “Wow, good job, you’re so smart, you’re so fast, you’re so brilliant.”

It takes more effort to engage and to pay attention to whatever process the other person is going through and to give feedback that is specific to whatever they are doing. That’s our first foray into all of this: learning how you interact with the kids. Are you accidentally promoting a fixed mindset, that things should be easy, that we don’t do hard things so that way we don’t make any mistakes? Or are you encouraging a growth mindset, where you really push people to try the hard thing?

[JO] Would you give that same advice to someone who manages people at work? Adults working with adults?

[ED] Absolutely. Carol did an interview with Harvard Business Review. I really recommend it. It’s called “The Right Mindset for Success” and she talks about this scenario a lot. The reality of the work place is that you don’t want to make a lot of high-risk mistakes because it’s bad for business, but she talks about how we want employees who are willing to take responsible risks and learn.

[JO] Let’s go back to talking about kids. Do you think we overreward kids for participation by giving them trophies for showing up, giving an A for effort? We’re praising kids for participation but not for hard work.

[ED] Absolutely. I have that problem with my own children. I signed them up for a swim team, and starting out my children were a little older than other kids were when they started, who were far better swimmers than my children. I told my children “You aren’t going to win any races this whole year. You won’t win anything. Those kids have been swimming for five years, and this is your first year. You’re not going to win. But we’re doing this. We’re going to learn how to swim and it’ll be fun.” And everyone thought I was this mean mom, right? Well, we go to the first swim meet, and guess what they do? They give my kids ribbons even though they didn’t win anything! My kids started laughing. They were like, “Ha ha Mom, look! You said we wouldn’t get anything and we did.” I was really disappointed. I would have rather they wouldn’t have gotten the ribbon, because they didn’t earn one. Unless the ribbon had said “participant” or if they had been given a ribbon later for improving their time.

[JO] Or even a certificate of completion for going to every single practice.

[ED] Yeah, because, again, we were extremely diligent and they progressed a lot, but they didn’t deserve a ribbon like all the kids who had actually won a race that day.

[JO] Did your kids keep up swimming?

[ED] Yes. They’re still swimming and they’re doing better. They’re still being outswum by the kids who are five years ahead of them in experience but they really understand that. They know that if they had started swimming sooner, they’d be better and that if they keep swimming, eventually it’s all going to even out if they just work hard and practice.

[JO] My nephew is also a swimmer. I don’t live by my nieces and nephews, but ever since reading Mindset, every time I see their parents posting things about what they’re doing on Facebook, I’ve been really trying hard praise effort in my comments, like “It looks like those practices really paid off.” But I notice that in their comments, other people are praising what they perceive to be natural ability, intelligence, or creativity. Do you think that there is a societal condition where we praise natural ability, natural intelligence?

[ED] I think both messages are very strong in our society. It’s very mixed, and so we bring up children in a very confused way. In certain things people are taking those growth-minded messages—“You can do anything,” “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” “keep practicing.”

[JW] It seems like we really encourage children, especially in areas like athletics or the arts up through college and then when people become an adult they say, “Now it’s time to put that away.”

[ED] Exactly. Or all of a sudden you are surrounded by other, high-achieving people.

During early stages it’s easier to learn something sometimes. When you’re young you grow a lot. When you get older, it gets harder and you’re going, “Oh, I’m not as good as I thought I was.” Because you never learned to work hard for it.

[JO] Do you find people who are resistant to the idea of this growth and fixed mindset or are resistant to the idea of changing their mindset?

[ED] We do, but it’s rarer. Their argument is usually not that they don’t buy into the growth mindset—most people are excited to hear about it. Sometimes when parents have older children who they desperately want to really succeed feel like “I can’t let my kid fail. They have to get all A’s.” So I can’t talk to them about just trying the hard thing and how we all make mistakes sometimes. They feel like they have to choose the thing they’ll get an A in because they have to go to Harvard. When you have children yourself and you’ve raised them in a fix-minded world then these messages are difficult to hear. But I wouldn’t say that people don’t want to hear it or that they’re against learning about it.

What’s your favorite tip from Mindset? Let us know in the comments. Haven’t read it yet? Get Mindset here.

Our Top 7 Pieces of Advice from Mindset

There are interesting insight, facts, and pieces of advice in every minute of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck. It was tough to narrow them down to my favorites, but the following quotes are some of the pieces of advice that stayed with me long after I finished listening to Mindset.

1. On challenging kids

So what should we say when children complete a task—say, math problems—quickly and perfectly? Should we deny them the praise they have earned? Yes. When this happens, I say, ‘Whoops. I guess that was too easy. I apologize for wasting your time. Let’s do something you can really learn from!’”

2. On our innate desire to learn

What on earth would make someone a nonlearner? Everyone is born with an intense drive to learn. Infants stretch their skills daily. Not just ordinary skills, but the most difficult tasks of a lifetime, like learning to walk and talk. They never decide it’s too hard or not worth the effort. Babies don’t worry about making mistakes or humiliating themselves. They walk, they fall, they get up.”

3. On confidence

Question: Are people with the fixed mindset simply lacking in confidence? No. People with the fixed mindset have just as much confidence as people with the growth mindset—before anything happens, that is. But as you can imagine, their confidence is more fragile since setbacks and even effort can undermine it.”

4. On sending messages to children or subordinates

Every word and action can send a message. It tells children—or students, or athletes—how to think about themselves. It can be a fixed-mindset message that says: You have permanent traits and I’m judging them. Or it can be a growth-mindset message that says: You are a developing person and I am interested in your development.

5. On idolization

We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary. Why not? To me that is so much more amazing.”

6. On praise

After seven experiments with hundreds of children, we had some of the clearest findings I’ve ever seen: Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance. How can that be? Don’t children love to be praised? Yes, children love praise. And they especially love to be praised for their intelligence and talent. It really does give them a boost, a special glow—but only for the moment. The minute they hit a snag, their confidence goes out the window and their motivation hits rock bottom. If success means they’re smart, then failure means they’re dumb. That’s the fixed mindset.”

7. On stretching yourself

Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

 What’s your favorite piece of advice from Mindset? Leave it in the comments below. Haven’t read it yet? Check out our Mindset page.

Book of the Month: Mindset

At Libro.fm we believe in the power of online communities.

We’ve all seen people, separated by geography, come together to do amazing things on Twitter, blogs, and forums. With this in mind, we’re selecting a Book of the Month each month.

Every month, we’ll focus on a particular book and generate discussion on our blog and social media around it. Think of it like an online book club that lasts all month long. We’ll pick books from all walks of life and all genres, mixing up fiction with nonfiction, and all of the subcategories therein. 

First up, we’ve selected Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck, a book that I’m very excited to discuss. I’m also especially excited that we will offer Mindset at 60% off the retail price, throughout April.

Mindset is the sort of book that I’ve been hearing about for years, one that I’ve always meant to pick up. When my friend and colleague Tracy Cutchlow wrote about Mindset for The Huffington Post, the post went viral, racking up more than 212,000 likes on Facebook. As the publisher of John Medina’s Brain Rules for Baby, I received more feedback about Mindset than any other topic. Po Bronson, author of NurtureShock, wrote about it for New York Magazine. It’s the most read article in the history of the magazine. Clearly there is something to this book and Dr. Dweck’s research.

Dweck believes that people possess two types of mindsets: fixed or growth. Those with a fixed mindset believe that talent is innate, that people are either good or something or not, and if they are not, they have failed. People with a growth mindset, however, believe that steady dedication will see results. These people love a challenge because it is just that—challenging. They do not believe in inherent intelligence or skill. Not only are people with a growth mindset happier and more satisfied than those with a fixed mindset, but they are better at achieving their goals too.

And yet, Mindset hasn’t acquired that household name that some other psychology books have.

Going into Mindset, I had it in my head that this was a parenting book. After all, Dweck’s fabulous TED Talk is mostly geared towards parents and teachers. In it, she speaks about disadvantaged kids and whole schools who were able to shoot to the top of their studies when these same kids were encouraged and “praised wisely”—that is to say that they were praised for their work, not their intelligence.

I don’t have kids myself, but thought maybe there were some ideas in Mindset I could extract for my own purposes.

I quickly discovered that while, yes, this is a parenting book (there are several great ideas in here for parents), it is so much more than that. Dweck covers coaches, teachers, athletes, CEOs, musicians, artists, and, in the end, every ordinary person who reads her book. Take the following audio clip, for example. Dweck examines confidence and uses the real-life examples of athletes to demonstrate her points.

Over the course of Mindset Dweck illustrates how to respond to others in order to encourage a growth mindset, as well as how to think about things in one’s own life.

Even if you are already in a growth mindset, you can still learn something from Mindset. But if you are in a growth mindset, I don’t have to tell you that. You know that there is always something to be improved upon; there is always room to grow.


Visit our Mindset page for more great information about this book. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, where we’ll be discussing this book all month long.

7 Books for a Stimulating Book Club Discussion

I was recently talking to some friends who are in wine clubs (read: book clubs) about the books that make the best book club picks. People’s tastes in books are all different, but that’s OK; each person’s pick doesn’t have cater to everyone. Rather, the best selections generate a lively debate, either because their controversy provokes discussion, their topic sheds light on a part of the world or lifestyle unknown to us, or their prose is layered with meaning and everyone’s individual views enrich the conversation.

Here are a few books that everyone agreed created a lively atmosphere in any book club and go well with a malbec. Not every book was universally loved, but each had something to offer.

I Am Malala

by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Not even the bullet of a Taliban member’s gun could stop Malala Yousafzai from completing her education. Determined to fulfill her dreams, and with the encouragement of her parents, she fought for the right to go to school in the Swat Valley, Pakistan. She has since become the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it makes a great book club pick: So often we watch the news, and see faceless violence, statistics, and fear. This book demonstrates the complexity of life in a war-torn country.

A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson, and Kris Shepard

Twelve of Dr. King’s most famous, most moving, most thought-provoking speeches are gathered here, and bonus material includes commentaries by theologians and leaders. While the book is great, the audio edition includes the original recordings, and narration from the likes of Rosa Parks, Yolanda King, Ambassador George McGovern, and Senator Edward Kennedy.

Why it makes a great book club pick: King’s speeches, like his work, don’t just cover racial inequality, but social and economic inequality too. Everyone will leave with difficult thoughts, but it’s hard not to feel hopeful after listening to Dr. King.

And for fun, watch Dr. King tell a joke on The Tonight Show.

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

by David Foster Wallace

At moments licentious, at others tender hearted, and often both, the bulk of these short stories revolve around DFW’s imaginings of men’s relationships with and ideas about women. These meticulously crafted stories are like a trip through the labyrinth of David Foster Wallace’s brain. If you aren’t familiar with him, take a minute to read one of my favorite DFW pieces on Roger Federer in The New York Times: Federer as Religious Experience.

Why it makes a great book club pick: Much shorter and more digestible than Infinite Jest, this collection still oozes postmodernist longing while managing to be uproariously funny.

Have a Nice Guilt Trip

by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

Dozens of pithy stories make up this fourth collection by mother-and-daughter team Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella. Tackling everything from jury duty, to dog-grooming, to the benefits of central air, nothing is too ridiculous, too taboo, or too mundane for these ladies.

Why it makes a great book club book: Laugh-out-loud funny, everyone will have a different favorite. The best jokes and anecdotes will be flying all night.

Killing Lincoln

by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Bill O’Reilly’s presence on our cultural map. Here we meet him on neutral ground, discussing the assassination of President Lincoln. More like a fast-paced thriller than historical treatise, this book captures the imagination.

Why it makes a good book club pick: No doubt about it, this book is riveting. The conversation might stop there, but it also might go deeper, into the responsibility an author has to fact-check every small detail versus the author’s commitment to entertain, or whether or not the author has a broader agenda outside the narrative.

The Heretic’s Daughter

by Kathleen Kent

Kathleen Kent, a tenth-generation-descendant of the figures in this story, recounts the horrors of the Salem witch trials. This sweeping family saga, told through the eyes of a ten-year-old girl, brings new life to an oft-told American tale.

Why it makes a good book club pick: With prose that’s gritty yet luscious, it’s easy to mark this one as the best book-club books you’ll read this year. But the dynamic characters and attention to detail are what will really hold the conversation.

The Betrayers

by David Bezmogis

Part high literature, part political thriller, The Betrayers covers one pivotal day in the life of Israeli politician Baruch Kotler. When he fails to back down over the policies regarding the West Bank, his political enemies expose his affair, forcing him to flee to Yalta, where he runs into the man who sent him to the Gulag 40 years ago.

Why it makes a good book club pick: Baruch Kotler’s staunch principles are the stuff book club discussions feast upon. Everyone will be asking “Do you think he should have?” and “Why wouldn’t they?” and “Were you surprised when?”

Have a favorite book from your book club? Leave a suggestion or link to your review in the comments below.