Book of the Month for April 2017: The Book of Joy

29496453Title: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World
Authors: His Holiness, The 14th Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams.
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 368

One of my goals for Lent was to read one nonfiction book dealing with self-improvement. I chose this one after a patron requested our library purchase it and then it was a deal of the day. I couldn’t pass it up. I’m glad I didn’t as it is my…

Book of the Month for April 2017

This is a new feature where on the last Sunday of each month, I will review the best book I read for that month. Likewise, I am doing two similar features at the end of each month: Movie of the Month and Album of the Month, with reviews of the best movie we watched that month and the best album I listened to that month. Earlier this week, I wrote about our Movie of the Month for this past month, and my intent was to write about my Album of the Month on Friday. However, since I didn’t do that, I will announce my Album of the Month sometime later this week.

Before reading this book, I had read one other book by the Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, which was in answer to a series of questions from Howard C. Cutler, an American psychiatrist. Like that one, this book is in answer to a series of questions to the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu from Douglas Abrams, another American writer – over a week’s meeting. However, unlike The Art of Happiness, I didn’t find Abrams to be quite as intrusive into the conversation as Cutler was. Abrams did inject himself into the conversation, but I think it seemed more natural than when Cutler did it in the previous book.

Photo from Christopher Michel, Flickr

I think also what helped was the inclusion of scientific research on joy and comments from the Dalai Lama’s translator Jinpa, or Thupta Jinpa Langri, the Dalai Lama’s principal translator since 1985. The only issue I have with Abrams’ inclusion of Jinpa is that Abrams doesn’t identify who Jinpa is, only introducing him from time to time with “Jinpa explained” or “Jinpa said,” which was a bit frustrating for those of us not familiar with his relationship with the Dalai Lama.

After setting up the impetus of the pair’s meeting, which was the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday, the trio, or really quartet, of writers get to the heart of the book: the nature of true joy, obstacles to that, and then the eight pillars of joy. Those eight are: perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. The main section of the book ends with a birthday party for the Dalai Lama at the Tibetan Children’s Village with more than a thousand children, several hundred teachers, staff, and guests from the Tibetan Community and a brief final session before  Tutu leaves. The Tibetan Children’s Village is in Dharamsala, India, where the Dalai Lama and his followers fled in 1959 from their native Tibet.

However, that truly isn’t the end of the book as the trio collect a series of “Joy Practices” or meditation exercises. The bulk of the exercises can be found in two categories: “Overcoming the Obstacles to Joy” and “Cultivating the Eight Pillars of Joy.” They are bookended with practices that Tibetan monks do at the beginning and end of each day.  For me, this appendix is what puts this book “over the top” for me as it just doesn’t tell you about joy, but also how to practice joy in your own life.

So what book that you read this past month would you choose as your Book of the Month?

Return here tomorrow for Library Checkout, a meme created by Shannon from the blog River City Reading and now continued by Charleen from It’s a Portable Magic every month.

Movie of the Month for April 2017: Lion

200136Title: Lion
Year: 2016
Director: Garth Davis
Starring: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham

When I mentioned earlier this month that my wife Kim and I had seen this movie, all I said at that point was “Just see it.” However, now that I’m selecting this as my first Movie of the Month for April, I guess I should say something a little more about it so here’s a little more than “Just see it.”

The movie is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley, an Indian orphan adopted by an Australian couple, who 20 years after leaving his native India, decides to seek out his family in India, using Google Earth. Through a series of flashbacks, we see how Saroo got lost and then eventually was adopted. Without giving any spoilers, this one is a tearjerker, but overall, it is a good cry as Saroo seeks and (slight spoiler alert) finds his childhood home. What makes this one transcend beyond a movie of the week on Lifetime and become nominated for six Oscars are the performances of the actors, especially Patel, the cinematography, and the story which could be cliché if told by others but as told by screenwriter Luke Davies based on Brierley’s book never does.

So what movie that you saw this past month would you select as your Movie of the Month?

Each month, I will select a Movie of the Month, an Album of the Month, and a Book of the Month. This Friday, I will share my pick for Album of the Month, then on Sunday, my pick for Book of the Month. Check back on both days to see what they are.

Still trying to find my groove here

Yep, I’m still trying to find my groove here on this new blog, just started last month. However, this coming week and next month, I have a few things scheduled that ought to help me (and you) find a groove with which we both can work.

  1. At the end of each month, I will write a Movie of the Month, Album of the Month, and Book of the Month post. For this month, the schedule will be Wednesday, April 26, for the movie post; Friday, April 28, the album post; and  Sunday, April 30, the book post.
  2. In May, my wife Kim and I will be doing a series on our favorite Netflix and Amazon Prime TV shows every Wednesday, alternating among mine, hers, and ours.

I’m thinking that should help, at least to start. From there, I might add other features, but the basic schedule will be this: What I’m Reading posts on Sunday with The Sunday Salon posts; What We’reWatching posts, Wednesdays; and What I’m Listening To posts, Fridays.

Since this past week, I didn’t write a post on Wednesday or Friday, I’ll just let you know what we’ve been watching and what I’ve been listening to here along with what I’ve been reading.

105439Reading: I picked up a copy of Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction by Eric Foner from Overdrive at the Free Library of Philadelphia. I’ve had an interest in that time period ever since having a class in college about the Civil War, in which we used another book by Foner. It always has stuck in my mind and so I thought why not revisit Reconstruction with Foner, one of its most prominent historians. I’m also waiting to see a few other ebooks from FLP to become available, and when they do, I’ll decide which one I’ll choose for my next fiction read.

Watching:  Kim and I are just getting to Season 13 of NCIS on Netflix, but not trying to gobble it up too quickly before Season 14 comes out on Netflix, hopefully later this summer, along with the latest season of Criminal Minds that I’m eagerly anticipating. We also did start Season 3 of Bosch, but unlike the first two seasons, this one isn’t grabbing me as quickly. We will continue to watch, but we’re not in a rush.

Listening to: Wolfgang Voigt’s latest GAS album, Narkopop

So what are you reading, watching, or listening to this past week that my readers and I should take note of?

Holy Saturday: Joy, Lion, and DAMN. 

Today is Holy Saturday, the end of the day in the Christian tradition when the Easter Vigil is held in many churches, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. Like that, but not really, I am arising again here on the blog after a five-day absence and not the three days Jesus laid in the grave and descended into Hell (referred to as the Harrowing of Hell). Nope, the analogy continues to break down as I didn’t die and didn’t have a harrowing week. So yeah, like that, but not really, sooooooo…

29496453…anyway, I’m back and I am in the midst of celebrating a four-day weekend that started Friday and ends Monday. On Friday, I continued reading The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas C. Abrams and probably will be continuing to read that today. Tomorrow, my wife and I are going to my parents’ for Easter, and on Monday, we have nothing planned. I probably will look for my next book via Overdrive from the Free Library of Philadelphia, but beyond that, nothing on the radar.

Since I didn’t write posts on what we’re watching and what I’m listening to, I will recap that here this week.

What we’re watching

…or what we have watched. This past week, Kim and I watched two movies, the first of which we can’t recommend enough:

Just see it.

The second one, well, we can’t recommend, period. I won’t put up the trailer, but will put the Honest Trailer from Screen Junkies instead:

We really, really wanted to like it, but we just couldn’t and not because of the new all-female crew of the Ghostbusters.  We like these actresses, or at least some of them, but they were completely wasted with this script. Bottom line: ugh!!!!! (The fifth exclamation point is for Chris Hemsworth, sadly.)

What I’m listening to


So what’s good that you have been reading, watching, and/or listening to? 

Nero Wolfe, the Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu

29496453It sounds like the start of a joke, but it’s just what I’ve been reading. As I mentioned last week, I am trying a new course with my reading, that is, reading a fiction and a nonfiction book instead of having several books out of the library at one time and potentially not reading any of them. My first books were, and are, Fer-de-lance, the first mystery featuring detective Nero Wolfe, by Rex Stout and The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams.

I should clarify that I plan on alternating between fiction and nonfiction books, so to that end, I started with Fer-de-lance and will be reading The Book of Joy, beginning it later today. I read many of the Nero Wolfe novels years ago and I’m glad I’m delving back into them as I enjoyed this first one.

MV5BMTUwNTM4NzIzNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjQ5MTkzMQ@@._V1_UY268_CR2,0,182,268_AL_Earlier this week on the blog:

  1. What we’re watching: The Royle Family 
  2. What I’m listening to: Pure Comedy and Arca

This coming week, I’ll be adding in a new category, What I’m doing otherwise, as I’ll be looking back at how I did on the goals for my Lenten journey.

So far, I don’t have a lot of views on the posts with the categories of what we’re watching and what we’re listening to, but that’s OK. I still want to keep a diary for myself on those topics and maybe someday others will stop in and read those posts. Of course, you’re welcome to stop by today too (and leave a comment if you do).

How was your week? Read anything good? Watch anything interesting? Listen to anything that you couldn’t hear enough of?

Pure Comedy & Arca

Pure ComedyEach Friday I feature new music that is catching my ear. Sometimes it is from this week; sometimes it is not, but it’s always within the last few months. This week, I am highlighting the new albums by two artists who prefer to use pseudonyms/personas: Father John Misty, the comic and tragic mask worn by Josh Tillman, and Arca, the namesake of Venezuelan producer Alejandro Ghersi.

I first discovered Josh Tillman with his second album, I Love You, Honeybear, which was one of my favorite albums of 2015. I won’t say that I immediately loved the album, but it grew on me, mainly because of songs “Bored in the USA,” “Holy Shit,” and the surprisingly endearing “I Went To The Store One Day”.  On this new one, Pure Comedy, released today from what I’m reading and hearing his cynicism is on full display. I’m listening to it now in my headphones and am maybe halfway through it. I’m enjoying it thus far.

Arca_-_ArcaI stumbled across Arca after he helped produce four songs on Kanye West’s Yeezus, which was one of my favorite albums of 2013, and then Arca released his solo album, Xen, in 2014. Since then, he also was producer on Björk’s 2015 album Vulnicura (yes, another favorite album) and also released one other album, Mutant, in 2015. So like Tillman, this is his third album. On this one, he introduces his own voice to what up until now has been mostly instrumental music. I haven’t listened to this one much yet, but am looking forward to listening to it more today along with Tillman’s new album.

I’ll leave you with a performance from Tillman on SNL last month:

What new music is catching your ear recently?



The Royle Family

Last week I shared The Returned, the French version, in what Kim and I have been watching. This week, I share another show we’ve been enjoying from across the pond: The Royle Family, a British comedy from the early 2000s.

MV5BMTUwNTM4NzIzNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjQ5MTkzMQ@@._V1_UY268_CR2,0,182,268_AL_I think Kim mentioned this show a few months ago as a friend on Facebook asked her if she had ever seen it. At the time, it wasn’t available on Netflix. However, this month, it became available on Netflix so we decided to give it a try and so far, at the end of Season 1, we are glad we did. Like several British shows, it takes a few episodes for the show to hit its stride and when it doesn’t, it doesn’t let up on the poignancy of relationships among the family members and especially between the daughter Denise and her boyfriend Dave. The two actors, the late Caroline Aherne (who passed away last year) and Craig Cash, who portrayed them also were writers for the show, which makes it all the better.

The show, at least in its first season, all that we have seen so far, takes place mostly in the living room of the family and the conversations they have in between watching TV programmes. The first couple shows you might think so this is it? But then it delves into what’s beneath the surface, which isn’t all happy happy joy joy, but is all real real real real or based on real real real real, and in those moments the show shines.

I couldn’t find any good clips from the first season on Youtube that really capture how good the show is, but I did find this clip from Season 3 that gives you a taste of the humor:

What have you been watching lately that you’d recommend?

A new course of action with my reading

After abandoning two more books,

  1. My Family and Other Animals, The Corfu Trilogy Book 1, by Gerald Durrell
  2. My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith by Benyamin Cohen,

arrow-1314517_960_720I have decided on a new course of action with my reading. From now on, I’m planning on reading one fiction, one nonfiction at a time, and putting others on wishlist in Overdrive.

To that end, I’ve let go of two others I’ve had out,

  1. Hell Before Breakfast: America’s First War Correspondents Making History and Headlines, from the Battlefields of the Civil War to the Far Reaches of the Ottoman Empire by Robert H. Patton
  2. The Moving Target, the first Lew Archer, by Ross Macdonald,

and I’ve removed the holds on eight other books. Some I might put on the wishlist. Others, I might not.

77604I’m left with focusing on one fiction, Fer-De-Lance, the first Nero Wolfe, by Rex Stout, and one nonfiction, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams. I think this way I can focus on the actual reading and not the talking about, and writing about, theoretical reading.

March 2017 in review

Reading: Finished five books to bring total for 2017 to 17. Check this post to see what the five books were, and which was my favorite for the month.

Watching: The Returned. See short review here.

Listening: The big album this past month was Drake’s More Life, which while better than his last one, wasn’t what really caught my ears. Instead, my ears  were toward toward three female twenty-something musicians, 28-year-old Welsh singer and producer Kelly Lee Owens on her eponymous debut, 24-year-old Cameroon-born New Yorker Lætitia Tamko’s Vagabon project Infinite Worlds, and 22-year-old Oakland multi-instrumentalist Melina Duterte’s Jay Som project Everybody Works.

Here are all three albums via a playlist in Spotify:


So how was your March? Favorite read, TV show/movie watched, album listened to?

The Returned – The French version

Don’t let the subtitles scare you away.

Instead, let the show creep you out again and again.

MV5BMTA0MTI4NTI3MTNeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDM0MTQ1NjIx._V1_UY268_CR87,0,182,268_AL_My wife and I just finished watching Season 1 of this gloriously suspenseful show and we loved it. I started watching it first, but then my wife was pulled into it too. She mentioned that a coworker had watched both the original French version and the American remake, which was canceled, and that the coworker enjoyed both of them, although the French one a little more, she said, partially because the American one ended before the storyline was finished.

The story is simple: People in a French village return from the dead years after they’ve died. Each episode focuses on a different person. Unlike The Walking Dead, this doesn’t feature gory, bloody scenes, but delves how a town, its families, its people deal with their deceased loved one being resurrected. It does have the gory, bloody scenes, but often they aren’t shown on camera — imagine Quentin Tarantino’s “Massacre at Two Pines” in Kill Bill 2. What grabs you isn’t the gore, but the unrelenting suspense — and the creepiness that surrounds the show, from the intro music via Mogwai that insinuates itself throughout the show to the scenes like where the one zombie, Victor, suddenly appears behind a woman at a bus stop as if out of nowhere.

I won’t say anymore lest I give away spoilers, not that there is much to give away because even after the end of Season 1, there are still a lot of questions left unanswered. Just go watch it. The show is available on Netflix.

What have you been watching lately that you’d recommend we or my readers should check out next?

My Library Checkout – March 2017

librarycheckout2 Have you been using your library over the past month? What did you read? What didn’t you read? What are you waiting on? The linky goes up the last Monday of every month, and will stay open through the 15th, so click the button at left to go to Charleen’s post for this month to add your Library Checkout post to the Linky there.


  1. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding The Church by Rachel Held Evans.
  2. Gone, Baby, Gone, the fourth Kenzie & Gennaro, by Dennis Lehane
  3. Prayers for Rain, the fifth Kenzie & Gennaro, by Dennis Lehane
  4. Moonlight Mile, the sixth Kenzie & Gennaro, by Dennis Lehane
  5. The Dain Curse, the second Continental Op, by Dashiell Hammett.

The best of the five was the book by Evans.

Returned Unread:

  • Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist
  • Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily P. Freeman
  • Hurry Up and Meditate: Your Starter Kit for Inner Peace and Better Health by David Michie
  • Surprised by Hope Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N. T. Wright
  • Hardwiring Happiness:The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence
    by Rick Hanson
  • Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person
    by Shonda Rhimes
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
    by Mark Manson
  • A Killing in China Basin, DI Ben Raveneau Series, Book 1, by Kirk Russell
  • Death Along the Spirit Road, the first Manny To mystery, by C. M. Wendelboe.

I had a bunch of these picked out for Lenten reading, but those didn’t work, for one reason or another, mainly because I couldn’t relate to the author.

Checked Out:

  1. My Family and Other Animals, The Corfu Trilogy Book 1, by Gerald Durrell
  2. My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith by Benyamin Cohen
  3. Hell Before Breakfast: America’s First War Correspondents Making History and Headlines, from the Battlefields of the Civil War to the Far Reaches of the Ottoman Empire by Robert H. Patton
  4. The Moving Target, the first Lew Archer, by Ross Macdonald
  5. Fer-de-Lance, the first Nero Wolfe, by Rex Stout.

I’m reading the Durrell right now and enjoying it so far.

On Hold:

  • IQ by Joe Ide
  • Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama
  • Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  • Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott
  • Crocodile on the Sandbank, the first Amelia Peabody, by Elizabeth Peters
  • The Deep Blue Good-by, the first Travis McGee, by John D. MacDonald.

I guess I really, really want to not give a f*ck, but still do, I think.

What did you check out from the library this past month, put on hold? Click on the button above to go to Charleen’s post to add your own post, or comment there — and here, if you’d like.