Category Archives: Inspirational

Books from the New York Times Best Seller’s List January 2014

  How Lucky You Can Be by Buster Olney

Where can you find a good book when you are looking for one?  The library has hundreds of books, but which one should you choose?  One option is to read reviews (like this one) or to wander through book lists, like the New York Times.  This will give you a good idea of what books are being read and enjoyed by others.  Our club decided to pick books from some of these lists.

​The book How Lucky You Can Be was written by Buster Olney, an ESPN announcer.  It is subtitled “The Story of Coach Don Meyer.”  Coach Meyer is the most famous coach that you never heard of… but other basketball coaches around the country know about him.  He devoted himself not only to his teams but also to teaching the art of coaching to anyone interested in the game he loved.  This is much more than a sports story.  It is the story of a dedicated man who at times neglected his family to achieve greatness in his field, passing the legendary Bobby Knight in career wins with over 903 victories, the most by any coach in history at that time.  It took a tragedy for him to express the love he had for his family — wife, children, and his players.

​ Don Meyer had been a college player at Northern Colorado and a head coach for years at David Lipscomb College and Northern State University.  His success was tremendous, but this story really begins on a lonely stretch of two-land road in South Dakota.  While leading a caravan of cars, taking his players on a team-building retreat, Meyer fell asleep at the wheel.  His car veered into an oncoming tractor-trailer truck.  The Coach was crushed, and it was feared that he would die from his injuries.  At the hospital, doctors prepared his wife because they were certain he would not make it through the surgery.  After five hours, Meyer survived but lost part of a leg, his spleen, and had numerous other injuries.  Meyer said that the accident was the best thing that could have happened to him.  He equated it with an angel providing him with a message.  The doctors found that Meyer had terminal cancer.

​ The story describes how this driven coach, who did not want to give up coaching basketball, rose to face the greatest challenge of his life.  He reassessed his life and his relationships.  His three adult children describe the changes that he under went.  Meyer now expressed himself, particularly his emotional self.  He did not hold back telling his children, his wife, or his players how much he loved them.  This tragedy actually has made their family even closer.  This is the story of a man who’s belief in God, his religion, his family, and his team— both coaches and players– gave him the strength to come back to coaching and to fight the lose of a leg and the cancer.  This would be the toughest battle of his life.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly, not only for basketball fans, as an inspirational story of a man fighting to overcome tremendous odds.  (5 of 5)

Other books from book lists rated by different club members:

Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos

Part love story, part meditation on finding spiritual peace in the midst of crisis.  It is a beautifully written, tender and passionate story of a man trying to put his life in perspective.  (4 of 5)

  Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss

A funny, informative nonfiction book with excellent examples of misused punctuation. (5 of 5)

  The Hundred Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson

The story spans the 20th century with a character similar to Forest Gump.  (4 of 5)

 The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Multiple story lines and strong women tell the story of World War II.  (5 of 5)

    Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Thought provoking historic novel about women being held back by authoritive men.  (4 of 5)

     Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Published in 1932, a thought  provoking novel anticipates developments that have profoundly changed society.  (4.5 of 5)

 The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

This tale shows how we do get second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during the season of miracles.  (5 of 5)

 God is not Mad at You by Joyce Meyer

A book that explains the relationship between God and man.  (5 of 5)

     Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews

‘Tis the season to be jolly – a funny novel with a heroine who rounds up stray animals of all sorts as well as a killer.  Duck the Halls! (5 of 5)

    Nighttime is My Time by Mary Higgins Clark

A riveting novel of psychological suspense that depicts the mind of a killer. (4 of 5)

The Club Members rating these books:

Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, Linda Troll, Patti Tullis and Rae Ann Weaver


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Filed under Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Crime, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Historical, History, Humor, Inspirational, Inspirational, Murder, Mystery, Personal Insights, Religion, Sports, Sports/Entertainment

Tuesdays with Morrie

By Mitch Albom

Published by Doubleday

Copyright © 1997

For years I have been hearing female library patrons tell me how good “Tuesdays with Morrie” is. I resisted the urge to read it; I told myself that if that many women liked the book then it had to be a “Women’s” book. I just knew it would bore me to death. This book was published in 1997. It is now 2012, 15 years later, and I’m still hearing how good the book is. So, after all these years of ignoring people I finally broke down and read the book…

Morrie Schwartz was a child of Russian immigrants who ended up becoming a professor of sociology at Brandeis University near Boston, MA. One of his favorite pupils was Mitch Albom, who after losing contact with him for nearly 20 years decides to visit him when he finds out that Morrie is dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Mitch and Morrie renew their friendship, and in turn their student/teacher relationship. Eventually Mitch decides to visit Morrie every Tuesday as they did in college, to discuss life, death, and everything that comes in between. Through this final “class” with his mentor, Mitch is able to evaluate his own life and the direction that it took, and Morrie got to enjoy his passion in life which was to enjoy the company of others and to help them as much as he could.

Anyone who reads the first page of this book knows that the ending for Morrie Schwartz is not a good one. He is going to die. Some people when faced with the inevitability of a terminal disease just give up or get bitter, others, like Morrie, decide to live and love as long as they can. While this book tells the story of Morrie’s road to death, death is not what Morrie’s focus is. The intent of Morrie’s last class is to teach Mitch (and by extension others) how to live. He said: “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” In this small book Albom presents Morrie’s unconquerable spirit. Even in the face of certain death he has a zest for life. He squeezes every last drop purpose and feeling out of his life that he could.

“Tuesdays with Morrie” is not a “Women’s” book; it is a book for people. It is a book bent for reflection. As I read this Mitch’s narrative I found myself wanting to be Morrie. No, not the Morrie he was only weeks away from certain death, but the Morrie who had lived his life in such a way that he did not fear it. I wanted to be the Morrie who had a happy life; the one who loved to read, talk, teach, swim, walk, and even dance.

Then of course, I wished that I was Mitch. To have such a profound and loving individual to teach me and call me his friend would be so uplifting. I am actually happy to say that I do have friends like this. Maybe not as well educated and profound as Morrie, but mentors none the less, who take a positive view of life; people who love me and who motivate me to be a better person.

Whether you have such a mentor or not, read this book. There are so many lessons in it that I know, or have heard before, but sometimes we need a good quick reminder. “Tuesdays with Morrie” is just such a reminder.

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Inspirational, Tragic Events

Amish Grace

The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

Amish Grace by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher

We initially thought that this book was going to center around the tragic schoolhouse killings of Amish girls near Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  After reading the book, we realized that the authors wrote a book about the concept of forgiveness, using the murders as an illustration of Amish beliefs.  Amish Grace examines the idea of forgiveness from a theological, sociological, psychological and even an historical perspective.  They rely on experts to explain why the Amish quickly forgave both the man who gunned down 10 young girls in a country schoolhouse and the killer’s family.   Shortly after the crime was committed, the families of the slain girls visited the murderer’s wife and children.  They consoled them and treated them as victims.  This became the main news story.

The authors delve into the nature of forgiveness and pardon.  Although many of the Amish feel that it is their duty to forgive offenders, they may not be as quick to pardon them.  To pardon someone means to release that person from punishment for the wrongdoing.  The book examines the church’s use of excommunication and shunning, along with the Amish view of technology and why it is not appropriate in their society.  It was interesting to hear that it is easier for the Amish to forgive someone, especially an outsider, for a transgression than to forgive a member of their own group for a much more minor offense.

In some ways the book’s discussion of forgiveness and grace seemed somewhat redundant, repeating key points again and again.  Nevertheless, the authors explained these concepts by using this sad story to illustrate that the Amish are people who really try to live their faith.  We recommend the book to people who want to learn more about forgiveness and the Amish, including the history of the people and their religion.

Key Ideas from different club members:

Very thought provoking; repetitive; too much on forgiveness; fine for a theology class or church group; it provokes discussion.

The Club Members rating this book:

Linda Bowman, Pat Kuna, Bill Simmons, Lynn Simmons, Helen Skalski, Linda Troll, and Mona Herrell

Club’s Average Rating:   3.4 of 5       

Rating Range: 2 to 5

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Culture, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Inspirational, Religion, Tragic Events

The Eighty-Dollar Champion

By Elizabeth Letts

Published by Ballantine Books

Copyright © 2011

Harry De Leyer was a young Dutch immigrant. He had lived through WWII and the German occupation of his home in Holland. After the war he decided to marry and seek his fortune in America. After years of hard work he was slowly inching towards his dreams as a horse owner and trainer. With a growing family however he could not afford the fine mounts that would make wonderful show horses, but he would continue to scrape the bottom of the barrels at horse auctions looking for horses that were within his price range.

One winter day Harry was attempting to make his way from New York to Pennsylvania to attend a horse auction, but unforeseen occurrences caught up with him and he showed up too late for the auction. The only horses left had just been loaded on to the slaughter house truck. Harry asked the driver if he could look at the horses. He didn’t see anything extremely impressive, but one horse in particular stuck out to Harry for his calmness in the face of adversity and for a spark in the old gray horse’s eyes. So, Harry took him from the slaughter house to his home back in New York.

The Eighty-Dollar Champion tells the story of Harry De Leyer and his improbable star jumping horse named Snowman, who he saved from that truck. Elizabeth Letts recounts for us how this horse became a jumper, and to what heights of fame and glory he attained. It was inconceivable that a poor hard working immigrant and a horse of indeterminate lineage could break the barriers of the moneyed Aristocrats and their high priced thoroughbred mounts in show horse competitions, and yet this is just what Harry and Snowman did to become the people’s champion.

Elizabeth Letts has penned an inspirational true story of perseverance, faith, and loyalty. And while it is disappointing and sad to see how time and change catch up with all of us, it is equally uplifting to see what heights man and animal can be lifted.

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, History, Inspirational, Nature/Animals, Sports/Entertainment

The Walk

The Walk

Richard Paul Evans

Published by Simon & Schuster

Copyright ©2010

Alan Christofferson had it all; he had a job he loved and a wife he loved, not to mention the large house and expensive cars. Then the unthinkable happens; I won’t spoil that for you other than to say that he loses it all. This is when Alan’s journey “The Walk” really begins.

After losing everything Alan wants to get as far away as he can. He lives in Seattle, Washington, so he decides that he will walk all the way To Key West, Florida. As he begins his journey he mulls over everything that has happened to him, and he can’t help but be bitter. As he travels Alan begins to meet people who impart little bits of wisdom that will help him more than he knows.

This book was enjoyable to read, but I have mixed emotions on it. The main character is very easy to root for because he is a genuinely honest and nice person who has horrible things happen to him. Richard does a really good job of writing the worst time that a person can have, and then pulling something good out of it. However there are a couple things that bother me about the story. No out of shape man is going to walk 20 and 30 miles a day, especially over the type of terrain that Washington has from east to west. I know this is fiction, but it needs to be closer to realistic. Second, I just don’t agree with some of the bits of theology represented in the story. However those with the ability to look over the mileage he walks, and those who agree with or can ignore the theology will really enjoy this inspirational book.

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Inspirational, Romance, Uncategorized

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

By Tony Hsieh

Published by Business Plus

Copyright © 2010

When I picked this book up I wanted to know: “How can I start a business and make money like this guy?” Now please don’t misconstrue, this book is not a how to start a business snd make tons of money type of book. That is just what I was hoping to discern from reading it.

This book is actually a half biographical/half philosophical book on the making of Zappos. Zappos is a web store now owned (but not operated) by Amazon. They started out by specializing in footwear, but they have spread into other apparel and accessories.

“Delivering Happiness” begins by chronicling Tony Hsieh’s forays into building his own businesses. From a young age he was always trying to figure out how to make money. But money wasn’t the be all and end all of the process for him it was also about the passion and the joy that he got from starting an adventure and seeing it through to completion.

This chronicle continues through his funding and joining Zappos when it was still in it’s infancy (of course at 10 years old this company is still a child) when it was still trying and failing to turn a profit. You see hints of it with his earlier company, but especially when delving into the operations of Zappos Tony begins develop his/Zappos philosophy on how to run a business that makes the owners, employees, and customers happy. (And having bought a pair of winter boots from Zappos less than a year ago, I’d say they do a good job of keeping their customers happy.) Their focus on customer service is great. Also, while their focus on fitting into company culture makes them one of the top companies to work for; it does come off, as Tony alludes to at one point, as a bit cultish.

Whether you will enjoy this book depends on who you are and what you want to get from it. If you have a lot of money then this book might motivate you to start your own business doing something you’re passionate about, maybe mail-order-meat or something. If you already have a mail-order-meat business then you might pick up some things that might make your business better. If you are like me and have neither this book won’t help you a whole lot.

To tell you the truth there were bits and pieces of this book that I found interesting, but overall it is a book about a boy who had nearly every advantage and made it big. Whoopdeedoo! It is really nothing personal though. Tony Hsieh seems like a nice guy and his business model is inspirational, but his story as a privileged Harvard grad millionaire isn’t.

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Business, Inspirational

A Funny thing… Michael J. Fox

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future

By Michael J. Fox

Published by Hyperion

Copyright © 2010

Michael J. Fox is the Famous actor from the 80’s and 90’s television series “Family Ties” and “Spin City”, as well as the ever popular “Back to the Future” Trilogy. He is also well known for bringing Parkinson’s disease to the forefront, due to his early onset of Parkinson’s. This book is not about being a movie star or having a disease though. It is about the education experience.

If you were asked to be a guest speaker at a graduation ceremony what would you say? Well this book tells us what Michael J. Fox would say. Fox is an interesting person to have speak at a graduation. He didn’t graduate from high school (he earned his GED in his 30’s) and he didn’t go to college, however he does hold many honorary degrees from various colleges. In this book he discusses his lack of formal education, and describes his informal education at H.K.U. (Hard Knocks University).

Having decided to be an actor as a teenager he quit school and moved to L.A. to pursue his dream. Along the way he learned things that he ignored while he was in high school like economics, comparative literature, physics, political science, and geography. While he encourages higher education, he points out that where you really learn is in everyday life – where you have to apply book knowledge.

Many people would describe Michael J. Fox as an optimist, but he describes himself as a realist. He learned early on that in life there are always “Absolutes” – things you can’t change. They are what they are – e.g. 2+2=4. Some of his challenges in life are like that. He has Parkinson’s. That puts certain limitations on his abilities that he can’t change. So instead of fuming about what he can’t do, he educates himself and try’s to enjoy his life within his limitations.

This is not an in depth study of how we learn and it isn’t a movie star trying to sell us something. It is a brief inspirational read to remind us to never stop learning and to roll with the punches. If a speech like this was presented to me at my graduation by a guest speaker I think I just might listen and enjoy it.

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Inspirational