Book Recommendations

Here are a few book recs from me, Niki. In order to post your own recommendation, please do the following:

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Second Wave Positive Psychology: Embracing the Dark Side of Life (2016) by Itai Ivtzan, Tim Lomas, Kate Hefferon, and Piers Worth, Routledge. Here’s a revolutionary textbook! First, it recognizes that “Positive Psychology” must incorporate the “dark side,” aka challenges, doubts, pressures, and death itself to be authentic. Second, it incorporates Eastern perspectives as well as those of the West, making global discussions possible. Third, the historical foundation for current research is explained, thereby enhancing our comprehension of both. Fourth, it’s fun: with an amazing variety of boxed inserts, including questionnaires, we become active participants in its topics. Paired with M2M stories, you’ll discover the theoretical background for interviewees’ perspectives and appreciate their importance.

America’s National Parks: 100 Years of Preserving Our Land and Heritage (2016) TIME Inc., sold only by Amazon. Want to escape for an hour, a day, or a vacation? If so, this your book: gorgeous photographs and informative essays printed on high quality matte paper take you to majestic settings and places of historical significance. Featured are our favorite parks along with those more distant and lesser-known. Heritage sites run the gamut from battlefields to scientific labs to famous buildings and birth places. With one-fourth of M2M stories citing the joy of camping and road trips, why not, yourself, enjoy by visiting one of these parks or places?

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006) by Carol S. Dweck, Ballantine. Reading M2M stories, you discover several participants who bare current challenges, in addition to discussing those of the past. A few realize new strategies and efforts are needed, others appear stuck in their dilemmas. Applying Dweck’s dual theory of learning, as outlined in this book, these responses could be viewed as examples of either a “growth mindset,” that we can change our lives by making a concrete, creative plan, or a “fixed mindset,” that our abilities, and thus our successes, are predetermined. A recent best seller, Grit by Angela Duckworth, restates and builds on Dweck’s theory, thrusting it into the limelight once again. Consider: are all areas of our lives malleable through a “growth mindset,” including those of the distressed participants?

Man’s Search for Meaning (2006) By Viktor E. Frankl, Beacon Press. Frankl’s description of his harrowing World War II experience has been ranked as one of the U.S.’s 10 most influential books. A prominent, Viennese psychiatrist before the war, Frankl became a Nazi prisoner at several concentration camps, including Auschwitz. He lost his entire family, including his dearly loved, pregnant wife, and all his possessions. Each day he faced hard labor, hunger, and degradation by guards and their prisoner cohorts. Yet, this hell-on-earth became a place of enlightenment. Frankl realized he was free to choose his “attitude” towards these conditions, ultimately finding a positive “meaning” to his life in a death camp. While an extreme case, versions of Frankl’s struggle for dignity and sanity visit many of us, as several M2M participants recount. And like Frankl, nearly all participants share a sense of “meaning” to their lives.

Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children (2016) by Angela J. Hanscom, New Harbinger Publications. If you’re a product of urban or suburban, indoor living, this book will open new vistas. Children not only love to play outdoors, they profit in many ways, from sensory development to social skills to a creative mindset. Written in a simple style, Hanscom provides practical ways of encouraging play, with many ideas applicable to parks and playgrounds. M2M participants shout their support: the vast majority describe episodes of outdoor play as among their happiest memories.

The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World (2015), by Katie Hurley, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin. This parenting book advocates that we first respect a child’s unique strengths and personality. It then insists that parents have fun with their children, while meeting children’s social and emotional needs. Actual scenarios depict a variety of parent-child activities; unstructured child play also gets top billing. M2M participant memories of family-fun times and free play drive home these same points, while also focusing on happiness.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope (2009) and Young Readers Edition (2015), by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer, Harper Collins and Dial Books. This Publishers Weekly “Best Book of the Year” tells a true story. William, an African teen, is forced to drop out of school when a drought devastates his father’s farm and causes a famine. Despite debilitating hunger, he visits his village library, where he finds U.S.-donated textbooks that explain the science behind electricity. Translating word by word, he proceeds to forage a junk-yard for scraps and old bicycle parts to build a windmill that will pump water to his father’s fields and generate electricity for his village. William’s conversion of a dire catastrophe into a life-affirming achievement may reveal a greater triumph, however. It testifies to the power of the human spirit, inspiring and amazing us, as do several, similarly themed M2M stories.

Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect (2013) by Matthew D. Lieberman, Crown. Reading M2M stories, we realize that most participants’ happy and sad memories relate to other people, often family members. Social neuroscientific research cited in this book explains why: our brains handle social and non-social thinking through different systems, with the social system dominating. Our need for human connections matters even more than physical needs such as food and shelter. Thanks in large part to this social wiring, people progress.

Cultural Chemistry (2016) by Patti McCarthy. Perhaps you’ve traveled abroad or have become acquainted with foreign residents. If so, you’ve probably found that fundamental emotions are shared across cultures, while habits and inclinations differ. This book illumines the latter in various life aspects through stories, humor, and up-to-the-moment factoids. Key concepts are interspersed, as well, enabling us to grasp new developments as the cultural landscape changes. If you wish, relate them now to M2M stories featuring non-North American settings.

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (2012) by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Random House. People naturally seek to control, but Taleb suggests that, when extreme, control begets “black swans” (unforeseen catastrophes) because it is based on past data. Life is inherently variable, constantly generating new challenges. Better to exercise a modicum of control, stay alert to setbacks, suffer, introspect, and react. Or overreact, thereby gaining new strengths or levels of proficiency, termed “post-traumatic growth” – a process described in many M2M stories.

Hang-Ups: Paintings by Jonathan Winters (1988) by Jonathan Winters, MW Books. If you’re a Winters fan, as I am, this book will bring smiles, laughs, and outright guffaws. Given his quirky sense of humor, Winters uses artistic satire to make fun of life’s hang-ups. Yes, we’re often laughing at ourselves, but as several M2M participants suggest, why not? Laughing feels great!

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