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"The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity" (Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan, 1992) - I'm only a little ways through Chapter 1 so far, but I can tell this could be a transformative book. I've been having troubles with doing the work in my writing, and these have been growing for a long time. "The Artist's Way" is about unblocking the creative process, and while the "spiritual" part in the title might be offputting for some people, the author explains why that part is there but in a way that most people can probably work with. For me, I can only go through at most a half-chapter at a time before setting it down for the day, which is usually a sign that I'm being challenged and am starting to fight it and gettting defensive. When I sense that, I just set it aside and let my subconscious process the ideas for a while, then come back to it again. Thanks to Liralen for the suggestion to try this book.

"Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" (Peggy Noonan, 1994) - This is a reread for me, I think I first read it a few years after it came out. Noonan came to prominence as a speechwriter for the Reagan White House; this book deals mainly with the period around the '92 election when G.H.W. Bush was running for reelection against Bill Clinton. Its interesting from a retrospective stance, in that the author makes a fair number of observations as to why Bush's campaign was headed towards failure, what kind of president Clinton would be, and so on, but it is told largely in stories and talks between other people and herself rather than as bare prose, which makes it much easier to read. To me, there's also a lot of wisdom in what Noonan writes here, and some of that may have to do with our sharing similar backgrounds of coming from traditionally Catholic households, going through the standard Catholic education system (albeit 20 years apart), and so on. While she was living in New York City at the time, she was also spending a lot of her time commuting down to DC, and her observations about the life here are also interesting to me after having lived in the general DC area for the past 8 years now. Noonan was also in the midst of a spiritual reconsideration during the period she writes about, which I also find easily relatable: doing the math, she was age 43 when the book came out, and I'm age 44 now, so its not surprising I'm finding myself nodding and drawing a number of parallels to many things she mentions that I wasn't doing to nearly the same extent when I read it in my 20s. I hope some of her later works have a similar personal/observational touch to them, but I haven't had a chance to explore them yet.

"Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision" (Roberta Wohlstetter, 1962) - I'm only just into Chapter 1 in this one as well, but I already have a sense of "the scales falling from my eyes." This book is universally regarded as the definitive analysis of the intelligence failures that led to the attack on Pearl Harbor. In some ways its unbelievable, yet at the same time entirely believable, that the work of pulling together all the different sources of material to put together a coherent picture of 'who knew what, when did they know it, and how did it all fit together?' was done not by the Navy, but by an analyst at the RAND corporation. As a study of military history, its interesting; as a study of human nature, its deeply fascinating. There was an immensely complex lattice of 'this person knew this piece of information, but because they were in position A reporting from country B with perspective C, this other person in position X in country Y with perspective Z who could have acted on it wasn't disposed to think it that important.' And so catastrophes happen.


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May 2017

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