Category Archives: Personal Insights

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

The Happiness Project (Must Read)

The Happiness Project

By Gretchen Rubin

Published by Harper

Copyright © 2009


“The Happiness Project” is Gretchen Rubin’s ode to happiness. Have you considered your happiness today?


I don’t usually read self-help books. Actually, I loathe them.  I hate it when people who have never been where you are, try to tell you how to get where you should be, even when they can’t get there themselves. I know that there are many people who feel the same way I do. That being said, I want everyone to know that Gretchen Rubin’s book “The Happiness Project” is not a self-help book.


Gretchen, a former Supreme Court Clerk turned writer, has taken the time to study the subject of human happiness. This book isn’t a recitation of facts, statistics, and hard and fast rules for happiness.  Gretchen has presented us with a view into her life which includes how and why she implemented certain findings from her happiness research.


As I began to read this book I was instantly struck with the thought “what can a woman with a stable Midwestern upbringing, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice O’Connor, who followed her dream and became a writer, who along with her husband probably pulls down a six figure income, and who professes to have had a pretty good life teach me about being happy?” While my life isn’t terrible, from the sounds of it, I would bet that I have probably experience more suffering and want than she. In addition, I’m not currently impoverished, but I am what might be considered sub-lower middle-class. My wife and I together have never pulled down anything resembling six figures unless you count the numbers after the decimals.


Gretchen confronts this. She recognizes that she has had a good life. She isn’t really trying to tell people how to live or how to be happy. She also informs her readers several times that this book is not for the depressed. Depression is a serious issue that should be handled by qualified professionals. Gretchen’s goal was, basically, to find out if a generally happy person could maximize her happiness, and to determine if it is useful to give consideration to one’s own happiness. While she encourages others to start their own happiness project she flatly admits that each person’s happiness project will not be the same. We all lead different lives and have different family situations, and we all have different joys, pains, likes, and dislikes.


Did this book make me want to start a happiness project of my own? No. I am a relatively happy person already with little time or energy left to try to plan a way to spend a year making myself happier. I know it sounds snarky, but it is what it is. That being said there were quite a few thoughts in “The Happiness Project” that were useful and could be incorporated into my daily life without much fuss.


I have actually reflected and applied some of her useful already. They were commandment #9 “Lighten Up” and splendid truth #3 “The days are long, but the years are short.”


The day after finishing the book I had a great opportunity to apply these thoughts. I was making breakfast for my 2 year old son who was out in the living room watching “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot about That.” When I went out to get him for breakfast I found a little surprise. He had snuck out and grabbed a box of tissues and proceeded to pull out every tissue from the box leaving them in a large pile that spilled from a chair to the surrounding floor. My normal inclination would be to speak and act in an exasperated manner, but I didn’t. I stopped and realized how funny it was and just laughed. Then I ran to get the camera so that I could take pictures. I had lightened up because I took the time to realize that the situation was funny, and sooner than I would like my son will be all grown up and I would reminisce on that very scene.


So needless to say, I resolved simply to make a list of the main points I appreciated from her book and to post them in a spot where I would look at them frequently. I guess some might call this a happiness project; if so it is the low-effort happiness reminder project.


So, while I might be slightly envious of the life Gretchen Rubin leads, I can’t take away the fact that “The Happiness Project” is thought provoking and fun read. I believe that anyone who reads this book can find at least one useful thought to take away that will actually make them just a little happier for at least one moment.


Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Memoir, Personal Insights