Review - "Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America" by Chris Arnade



Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America by Chris Arnade is a powerful and insightful exploration of the class divide in America. 
  
Arnade believes that in the US, there is front-row America and back-row America. Front-row Americans have credentials and advantages and upward mobility. They often stigmatize and ridicule the people in the back row. Back-row Americans hang out at McDonald’s and at churches — two places they find acceptance and community. And they sense it when their worldview and their religion are belittled.
  
Arnade traveled to cities and towns across America where back-row Americans live: the Bronx, New York; Selma, Alabama; Bakersfield, California; areas in Maine, Nevada, and elsewhere. He interviewed them and photographed them. (The dozens of photos in the book have an endearing quality that humanizes these people who’ve been left behind.)
  
It is worth noting that many front-row Americans happen to be like Arnade — politically progressive. Progressives often think they know what is best for the underclass, but they are oblivious that their advice comes across as shallow and condescending to back-row Americans.
     
The back-row Americans you encounter in this book will change the way you see working-class and lower-class Americans. Click here to buy from Amazon.

"Letters to Philip" by Charlie Shedd


Letters to Philip: On How To Treat a Woman was one of several books I read while preparing the father of the bride speech I gave at my youngest daughter’s wedding. This 128-page bookfirst published in 1968is truly an oldie-but-goodie. Pastor/counselor Charlie W. Shedd offers tons of wisdom and insight on building a great marriage. Many of the points, though, are dated and quaint. A valuable book but unfortunately I doubt many people under 50 would find it useful.  

I finally read "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" by Leo Tolstoy - wow!



The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy is a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of living your life according to the dictates of society. Ivan Ilyich grew up climbing the social ladder, structuring his life according to what was considered proper by the upper echelon of society. He married his wife because he thought it was time for him to get married — but she was demanding and their relationship was unpleasant. His children and his friends were self-absorbed. Outwardly Ivan Ilyich seems to have led a successful life, achieving promotions and a nice house. But on his deathbed facing a terminal illness, he comes to the overpowering realization that his obsession with propriety and decorum had left his life meaningless and unsatisfying. It’s the kind of intense book that you think about for days after you finish it. A masterful work. (The length — just 60-plus pages — is a bonus.) Check the price at Amazon here.

I finished reading "Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From the Best in the World" by Tim Ferriss


Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by four-time #1 best-selling author Tim Ferriss is fascinating look at how some of the world’s most successful people approach the challenges of life. Ferriss reached out to more than 100 top performers in the world (including writers, athletes, business owners, spiritual leaders, actors, entrepreneurs, investors, and more). Ferriss asked them to answer some version of the same basic 11 questions (some of them answered all of the questions, some answered a couple of them, and some crafted unique responses).
    
I found myself focusing on the responses to 3 of the questions: what failure set you up for success later on?; what advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the "real world" and what advice should they ignore?; and, what are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
   
As far as the best advice for young people about to enter the real world, I really liked what TED curator Chris Anderson had to say. Anderson said "pursue your passion" is terrible advice for students about to enter the working world (page 409). What people in their 20s really need, Anderson says, is to work on personal discipline, learning and growth; the passion will develop in due time. Amen to that! Lots more good tips like that in Tribe of Mentors — plus plenty of mundane advice as well.
   
Tribe of Mentors is a handy, valuable compilation of useful advice from high achievers across many different walks of life. Truly intriguing to get a glimpse at how some of these high achievers approach challenges, and sometimes you might find tips that you can use. Click here to check the price at Amazon