Harry Potter – known to his friends as HP

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Title: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Date Completed: 7/21/2011

Author(s): J.K. Rowling

Copyright: 1997, Scholastic

# pages: 309

Genre: Fiction

ISBN: 0-590-35342-x

I must tell you up front that I’m a huge Potter geek.  Yes, I was waiting at midnight when the new books were released.   No, I wasn’t dressed up.  I was originally very anti-HP.  We were in Scotland in 2000 and everywhere you went you heard that J.K. Rowling had had coffee here, J.K. Rowling had lived there.  I was rolling my eyes the whole time.

Then, I got home and my mom had read it and told me I had to.  So, finally I broke down and read it just to find out what all the hype was about.  Within an hour, I was hooked.

I don’t have to write a summary of the book.  You can find about a million on line if you don’t already know what the book is about.  What I will tell you is this – if you haven’t read it, you should.  If for no other reason than this is a book that has coaxed thousands (if not millions) of kids into reading and you should find out why.

After seeing the final movie on release day, I had the overwhelming urge to re-read the series.  So, I picked up book 1 and was immediately taken into the world of magic.  We all know that the book is always better than the movie.  What caught me by surprise is how much the movie has influenced me into thinking it is the story of Harry Potter.  There were so many things that I had forgotten.  Don’t let the movies (which, I think are excellent, by the way) be your substitute for sitting down and reading the book.  You’ll be glad you did.


The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

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Title: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams

Date Completed: 7/18/2011

Author(s): Robin Sharma

Copyright: 1991, HarperCollins

# pages: 198

Genre: Self Help

ISBN: 978-0-06-251567-4

NOTE:  I read this book in April 2010, so this is a repost of the review I did then.  This is a book that has to be re-read about once a year, so I just picked it back up and learned from it all over again.

I subscribe to a magazine called Success, and last month’s issue had an article about Robin Sharma.  They mentioned this book, and I was at the library that afternoon checking it out.  I have to admit, I was intrigued by the title.  I also liked the fact that his first copies of the book were printed and bound at Kinkos.  He wrote the book and didn’t base his success on whether or not he got published.

As you may know, I’m a self-help junkie.  I love this stuff, I freely admit.  I’m put a ton of it to practice in my life, and I really believe in it.  This is the kind of book that is good for the casual self-help reader because it delivers the message through a story rather than in a more textbook-type style.

Through the story of a successful lawyer whose life is out of balance, we learn the 7 virtues of enlightened living.  I like stories like this because you get into the story and forget that you are learning something.  And, ultimately, it is easier to remember what you learned because it isn’t a list of 7 virtues that you are trying to memorize.  It is a story with a plot line that includes the 7 virtues.  If you remember the story, you remember the virtues.


I’ll share my favorite virtue with you.  It is called ‘practice kaisen.’  Kaisen is the Japanese word for constant and never-ending improvement.  He talks about doing things that you fear in order to broaden your horizons.  He isn’t telling you to jump out of planes.  But, if you do things you fear, you gain courage.  When you gain courage, you start to see that  you can do the things you feel will make you happy, but you’re too scared to try.  For me, starting Building a Bookshelf is right up there.  I’ve always wanted to contribute in some way.  Last year, when I decided to grab the bull by the horns, I was scared.  But, I did it anyway.  I don’t know all of the answers when it comes to starting a charity, but I have the courage to give it a try and see where it leads.

After I finished the book, I returned it to the library and drove straight to the bookstore and bought myself a copy.  This is one that will be read and re-read so that I can remind myself that I am living an abundant life.

The title alone will make you want to read it!

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Title: Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace

Author: Gordon MacKenzie

Copyright: 1996, Penguin

ISBN: 0-670-87983-5

Pages: 224

Date completed: 7/8/11

Every organization, whether a giant corporation or a non-profit creates policies and procedures to make everything operate more efficiently.  But, if you’ve ever been a part of an organization, you are probably familiar with the red-tape that seems to thrive in these environments.  “You need a new mouse for your computer?  Ok.  Just fill out this 3-page form and send it to your manager for approval.  Once you get that approval, you’ll need to fill out this form to submit the approved 3-page form.  From there, it will go through the procurement department where it will be evaluated and either approved or denied.  If approved, then you can expect about a two week delivery period.  If it is denied, you will need to get someone who is a VP or above to submit an exception form.”

Or, you could run over to Walmart during your lunch break and spend the $10 to get it today.

The cultures created by a world of policies and procedures is the giant hairball.  We’ve all been part of a giant hairball at some point in our lives.  If you can’t think of one, think of our education system.  If you went to school, you were part of a giant hairball.

MacKenzie’s book is about the ways that you can step outside of the hairball and march to your own beat.  Be creative.  There is more than one corporate-policy-dictated way of skinning a cat.  Use creativity to solve problems that you encounter.  Not creative enough to come up with creative solutions?  No problem.  Pick up Orbiting the Giant Hairball and let Gordon MacKenzie inspire that creativity you’ve been suppressing for so long.

Mayfair Witches

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Title: Taltos

Author: Anne Rice

Copyright: 1994, Alfred Knopf

ISBN: 0-679-42573

Pages: 467

Date completed: 6/21/11

Genre: Fiction

 It has been a while since I’ve read Anne Rice, so when someone donated this book to us, I temporarily borrowed it to read.  Taltos is about the Mayfair Witches.  Kind of.  I guess it is really about the Taltos and the Mayfair Witches.  The Taltos is a race of beings who live on earth and have a life span of more than 1,000 years.  They aren’t like vampires.  Killing isn’t their primary purpose in life.  They are much more like humans. They will kill if they have to, but they’d rather live in harmony with the others on the planet.  Also, Taltos are not fond of witches.  They don’t trust them and will do what it takes to stay away from them. 

 I didn’t realize that this is the second book in the series until after I had finished it.  It didn’t seem to matter – everything in the story made sense to me without knowing the background of the first book.  But, I give you warning in case you want to read Lasher, the first book in the series, first. 

 The way this book is written, it keeps you turning the pages.  There are several very interesting characters that you want to know more about.  Besides the seven-feet tall Taltos and the Mayfair Witches, there is a man of about three feet tall who is gruff and troll-like.  He and the Taltos are best friends.  There is also a secret society of humans who protect the history of all of these non-humans.  Any good book about non-humans has to have a secret society.  I always wonder how people in a secret society make a living.  But, I digress.

 In Taltos, our main character believes that he is the last living Taltos on earth and has given up on ever finding another of his kind.  But, when he finds out that the Mayfair Witches may be able to point him toward another Taltos, he has to overcome centuries of mistrust and work with them.

A Monkey and a Donkey

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Title: Beatrice and Virgil

Author: Yann Martel

Copyright: 2010, Random House

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8154-4

Pages: 197

Date completed: 6/13/11

I generally do not gravitate toward fiction, and even less toward literature.  The difference, in my mind is that fiction is a non-true story that you read for enjoyment, whereas literature is a non-true story that you read for enjoyment, but it demands more of you.  In music terms, fiction is Bon Jovi; literature is Tchaikovsky.  Beatrice and Virgil is literature.

I’ve never read anything quite like this book.  It is a fiction story of prose with a play contained inside.  It is a truly disturbing story in the very best sense of the word.  From page to page, I never knew what to expect, and that is what kept me from putting it down.  I usually think of literature as ‘not an easy read,’ but this book was very easy to read.  A disturbing story that is very easy to read.  Seems not possible, yet Martel has accomplished it. 

I always have a hard time writing a review of fiction because I don’t want to give too much of the plot away.  So, I will do my best to intrigue you enough to read it without telling you the entire story.  Henry, the main character is a successful author who has taken a sabbatical from writing and moved to a new city where he promptly gets a job as a waiter in the local café.  Life is going along nicely, when he receives a letter from a fan of his book who has written a play.  As it turns out, the fan lives in the same city as Henry, so he stops by to see him in person.  The fan is a taxidermist by day who has written a play of Virgil (a monkey) and Beatrice (a donkey).  He asks Henry for help finishing the play.  Although he is a little weird, Henry agrees to help him, and an unusual relationship is formed.  And, here is the plot twist: this is a book about the Holocaust. 

Intrigued?  Pick up Beatrice and Virgil and read for yourself!