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review 2018-01-21 14:28
A guide to dusting your heart and clearing out your soul. Simple and beautiful.
A Buddhist Monk's Guide to a Clean House and Mind - Shoukei Matsumoto

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Sometimes I read the title and the description of a book in one of my favourite genres and it is intriguing enough or it has something that makes me want to read it. But sometimes I see a book that is completely different to what I normally read but still, it seems to call me and this is one of those books.

As I am about to move (houses and countries), I thought a book about cleaning (not only our houses but also our minds) might be an asset. And, oh boy, was I right!

This book does what it says on the tin. I can’t guarantee you that you’ll end up cleaning more if you read it, but I’d be surprised if it doesn’t make you think about the process.

I don’t know how accurate a translation of the original this is, but I loved the simple style of writing. Although the sentences are not elaborate or complex, and the ideas it contains seem extremely simple, they are beautiful in their simplicity and unassuming. This is not a book of advice that will quote analytics, statistics, and numbers of followers. It just explains what life for Zen monks living at a temple is like, and explains their philosophy.

I am not very house-proud and I can’t claim to spend a lot of time cleaning (and even less thinking about cleaning), but there are some chores that I do enjoy, and some whose mechanics can free my mind and make me forget the things around me. Although this is not what the book is about (it is a way of life and it is very specific and ordered), I think most of us will identify with some of the thoughts behind it.

The book highlights the importance of respecting nature, our bodies, our possessions (and we don’t need many), all life, and each other. It is a short book and it is also a relaxing read that will make you look at things differently and give you some pause. And, as I said, you don’t need to be big on cleaning to enjoy it.

I thought I’d share some examples of passages I highlighted from the book, so you can get an idea of what to expect:

I hope you enjoy applying the cleaning techniques introduced here in your home. There’s nothing complicated about them. All you need is a will to sweep the dust off our heart.

‘Zengosaidan’ is a Zen expression meaning that we must put all our efforts into each day so we have no regrets, and that we must not grieve for the past or worry about the future.

It goes without saying that dust will accumulate in a home that is never cleaned. Just as you have finished raking the leaves, more are sure to fall. It is the same with your mind. Right when you think you have cleaned out all the cobwebs, more begin to form. Adherence to the past and misgivings about the future will fill your head, wresting your mind from the present. This is why we monks pour ourselves heart and soul into polishing floors. Cleaning is training for staying in the now. Therein lies the reason for being particular about cleanliness.

I hate ironing. I must say that after reading this I know what I’ll think about when I have to iron something from now on:

How to Iron. When ironing, visualize yourself ironing out the wrinkles in your heart.

By letting go of everything, you can open up a universe of unlimited possibilities.

 A lovely book, a deep book, and a simple book. I kept thinking of friends and relatives who might enjoy/benefit from it (and I don’ t mean because of the state their houses are in!). And I am sure many of you would enjoy it too. Just try it and see.

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review 2018-01-18 01:44
Yaaaaay!
Special Libraries: A Survival Guide - Toby Pearlstein,James M Matarazzo

 

I have like 90% of my reading for one class done.   Not gonna worry about the rest for now.   Onto my seven hundred page monster for my next class - and by that I mean the class that comes next chronologically in the week. 

 

Monday/online only with a face-to-face next Monday?   Done.

 

Programming is Tuesday in the morning and then archives Tuesday afternoon.   I'm going to sleep in a half hour but should have more of starting out with Python done by then.   I'm also going to turn some skeins into balls while I do this. 

 

Onto the actual book.   

 

Boring.   So dry.   

 

And yet, the actual ways that special libraries work is fascinating.   Sometimes there's no way to go 'hey, statistics, and holy cheeseballs we need more statistics stat' without being dry - or 'hey, lol, so many less special libraries now so good luck getting those jobs!!!!1!!!' without being a bit alarmist.   

 

Necessary work, but comparing it to the archives reading on how James Joyce estate liked suing the shit out of everyone, or how Pinochet was a complete bastard and archives helped, or how the US government was a complete bastard about surveillance and Puerto Rico and how archives helped, or how Iraq's archival material was stolen, and hey, can they have that shit back so it can help them?   It was just a matter of taking a deep breath, going, 'hey, guess what, you need to know this,' and forcing myself to finish.   Yes, forcing myself, and this is a four star.   Because as boring as this might have been, it was eye opening, necessary, and incredibly well written.   Could this have been, say, funnier?   Sure.   It could have, but it would have undercut a lot of the importance.   And the authors did go for humor, when it proved their point, when it was necessary, and when it didn't undercut their point.  

 

I honestly can't see anyone writing this and balancing the needs and doing it better.   So knocking off one star, because I didn't connect with the material as much as I'd hoped, and giving it four stars for being the necessary book it had to be. 

 

And hey, I'm almost 100% sure that I'm not supposed to be on a special libraries track based on this book - but that's not a dig at special libraries or librarians.   They do essential work.  I'm just not suited to a corporate library, which says more about the fact that they have needs, I have a certain personality and, hey, their needs and my personality have conflicts.   Other people have different personalities - not better, or worse, just different - that would make them go 'oh, hells yes, this is for me'.  

 

But I'm also almost 100% sure that I will get vital knowledge from this class, based on this book, and I'm going to put that to good use when I end up where I need to be!

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text 2018-01-17 23:38
Reading progress update: I've read 150 out of 167 pages.
Special Libraries: A Survival Guide - Toby Pearlstein,James M Matarazzo

I want to read and knit, and it's haaaaard to do that on the super comfortable chair I'm on. I'm also watching the news, and I can't do this dry and that depressing combined :/

 

So I'm going to start some online reading for this class: so much easier knitting and reading on the computer.  I also have very little left to do and I have to drive someone to work tomorrow and wait for them at a DD for an hour or so.   Sooooo... I'll finish up there with a donut, because I got a couple DD GCs in a gift swap.   I'll finish this book and continue with the Python book...

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text 2018-01-17 21:48
Reading progress update: I've read 137 out of 167 pages.
Special Libraries: A Survival Guide - Toby Pearlstein,James M Matarazzo

This tracks.   About 25 pages, and then I cry uncle and need to read something else...

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text 2018-01-17 18:53
Reading progress update: I've read 100 out of 167 pages.
Special Libraries: A Survival Guide - Toby Pearlstein,James M Matarazzo

Yeah, I need a break.   This is important reading, and it's very well written, it's just also the driest of my reading, by necessity, so I'm going to finish tonight or tomorrow.   I want to get some other reading done while I knit some more scarves. 

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