Category Archives: Memoir

Chris Hadfield – Book Signing: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

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After reading An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (click for review), I was very excited to join my friend Shalom to meet the retired astronaut and get our books signed.  The book (which I now feel a need to reread) is inspiring!  He shares his boyhood goal of walking on the moon and describes his hard work and persistence that helped him become Commander of the Space Station.

It was a long wait for the book signing as Chris got stuck in traffic related to the mudslide on the 403.  He was the passenger and tweeted his progress.  He even had a live chat with the couple across from us and their children were awestruck that they were speaking to an astronaut.  The individuals in the line up were excited, children were dressed in space suits and people were very patient.  Costco handed out chocolates and water to help with the wait.

Finally, Chris arrived at Costco to hundreds of waiting fans.  He was gracious and not only apologized to the crowd but reassured everyone that he would stay and make sure that everyone had their books signed.  The store closed, the lights dimmed and still books were signed.  Chris shook our hands and apologized to everyone individually for the delays.  It was an honour to meet him and I am very happy to have a signed copy of his book!

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Filed under Canadian, Leadership, Meet the Author, Memoir

59. My Salinger Year (Joanna Rakoff)

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On the recommendation of a friend, I read this story without realizing that it was actually a memoir.  It was not until I started to write my blog post that I discovered that the main characters name was also the name of the author.  That being said, I truly enjoyed the book.  I think that I would have read it with a different perspective if I had known it was a true story AND if I had read more Salinger books.

The book was set in seasons, which I liked.  As the seasons’ changed, Joanna grew.  She slowly took on more responsibility in her position working as an assistant at The Agency, she grew up in her relationship with her parents  and she learned lessons in her relationships with her friends and boyfriend while she quietly wrote poetry and read manuscripts.

The agency represented J.D. Salinger, or Jerry, as they called him.  Joanna developed a “phone relationship” with him as she forwarded his calls and had quick chats with him when her boss was not available.  She came to understand the impact that his writing had on others as she read fan letters which were never shared with him, at his request.  She made the mistake of venturing away from the form letter responses that had been advised adding her own commentary and some of the letters seemed to haunt her years later.

“but, again, he leaves it to the reader to decide whether or not this is so.  In literature, as in life, sometimes there are no right answers.”

The novel ended with a section describing her life following her Salinger year.  This gave the reader some closure and the memoir essentially ended with the death of J.D. Salinger (which happened in January 2010).  The author shared that she rereads some of his books annually and reflects on her Salinger year.  Although I have a pile of books on my bedside table, I am inspired to read Franny and Zooey in the near future and perhaps, reread The Catcher in the Rye.

“And, thus, with each passing year – each rereading – his stories, his characters, have changed and deepened;”

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Filed under Autobiography, Memoir

10. An Astronaut’s Guide to the Universe (Chris Hadfield)

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“I wasn’t destined to become an astronaut.  I had to turn myself into one.”

 Chris Hadfield’s book:  An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth was inspiring and his leadership lessons are blended into the stories Hadfield shares about following his dream to become an astronaut.  The lessons are skillfully woven into the text and are valuable to all leaders whether you are a parent, a volunteer, a teacher, a health professional or a chief executive officer.  The lessons are applicable in all settings – in your home, at a swimming pool, the hockey arena, in the boardroom and, of course, even in space, a place that most of us will never visit but will admire from Earth.

The value of hard work, dedication and planning are described as essential skills to meeting goals.  He had a dream and worked towards that dream knowing that it may not be a possibility.  He joined the military, became a test pilot, earned a Masters of Business Administration and prepared for being an astronaut while knowing the chances of becoming an astronaut were slim.  He enjoyed himself along the way and valued his accomplishment and the success that he had.

It is hard to imagine applying for a job with over 5000 other applicants.  Through preparation, education and hard work his dream became a reality.  He described himself as “square astronaut, round hole.  It’s the story of my life, really:  trying to figure out how to get where I want to go when just getting out the door seems impossible.”

“There’s really just one thing I can control:  my attitude during the journey, which is what keeps me feeling steady and stable, and what keeps me headed in the right direction”.

A key theme throughout the book was the support of others.  His wife Helene, stood beside him, encouraged him and supported him to be live his dream by picking up the household tasks, caring for their three children and experiencing life in other parts of the world.  He balanced both his dreams and day-to day life and he commented: “while achieving both things may not take a village, it sure does take a team.”

“Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts.  It’s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter.  It is about laying the groundwork for other’s success, and then standing back and letting them shine”

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Filed under Book Club Pick, Canadian, Leadership, Memoir