Navy SEALs and stoics have been a common theme here in my book reviews and today we add a third – hillbillies. Okay, perhaps not specifically hillbillies but over the next few months I’m diving deeper into studying poverty and it’s impact on our nation for both white and black communities. As a man who grew up in poverty, this is an issue extremely important to me. I hope you’ll take the time to read some of the books I’m recommending, especially Hillbilly Elegy, to get a deeper understanding of what your poor neighbors are going through.
Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance
“People like me and Brian don’t lose contact with our parents because we don’t care. We lose contact with them to survive. We never stop loving and we never lose hope that our loved ones will change. Rather we are forced either by wisdom or the law to take the path of self preservation.”
WOW! Just WOW! I feel like I just read my own biography. I don’t know how to review this book because every single chapter, every story, triggered a memory. This book hit me harder than anything I’ve ever read. I found myself staring into nothingness in deep thought. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep. I even found tears falling down my face twice.
Maybe one day I’ll give this book a proper review but I fear it may require a book of my own.
You need to read this book to understand so much of our culture and to truly understand America. Take these stories out of Appalachia and put them in any poor neighborhood and the circumstances are the same. This book is a masterpiece.
Fearless, Eric Blehm
Too many fall down and refuse to get back up. Too many self sabotage and instead of learning from their mistakes they get caught up in the endless cycle – screw up, apologize, promise to do better, screw up, rinse and repeat.
Too many think it’s too late. They’ve become something else and there is no going back. There isn’t even going forward. There is only going deeper. Such is the story of many addicts. You know them. I was raised by them. Perhaps you are them.
This a story of redemption proving that addiction can be broken and that the downward spiral does not have to continue. It’s not easy. Relapse will likely happen. Struggle will definitely happen, every day. But you can do it. You can even become an American hero. Navy SEAL Adam Brown proves it.
Adam Brown was a great kid, student and athlete. Unfortunately after high school he fell in with the wrong crowd, specifically with a garbage girlfriend. He started using drugs and eventually became an all out crackhead. He lost everything including his family, his health and nearly his life. He hit rock bottom and after trying repeatedly to break the cycle he leaned on God. Then he joined the Navy to give himself structure. He set a goal of become a Navy SEAL. He became one of the baddest sons of bitches this country has produced. He had four fingers blown off. He even lost his dominant eye. Still he trained, learned how to reshoot and proved himself enough to go back into active duty with his unit.
I wish I could tell you that this story has a happy ending, but it does not. Adam Brown was killed in Afghanistan protecting his SEAL brothers. He left behind a wife and two children.
Adam Brown is a true American hero. You need to know his story. Read this book.
How to Be a Stoic, Massimo Pigliucci
“Admit not sleep into your tender eyelids till you have reckoned up each deed of the day. How have I erred, what done or left undone? So start, and so review your acts, and then. For vile deeds chide yourself, for good be glad.”
How To Be A Stoic is a great introduction to Stoicism but after spending much of 2020 reading Aurelius, Seneca and Epictetus, I found this to be very repetitive. However, if you have no interest in reading those ancient texts yet still want to digest the philosophy, I very much suggest you read this book.
I’ll give you just a few of Pigliucci’s Stoicism lessons:
1. Understand that virtue is the highest good, and everything else is indifferent.
2. Apply reason to social life.
3. Understand the dichotomy of control – what is and is not under our control. Only worry about what is within our control.
In other words, live the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
4. Examine your impressions and understand that most things are not inherently good or bad. It’s your impression of what is good or bad. This will help you avoid rash emotional reactions.
5. Remind yourself of the impermanence of things. We are mortal. Your spouse will die. Your kids will die. Remembering this fact will make you more enjoy every second with them.
6. Speak little and well.
7. Choose your company well.
8. Respond to insults with humor.
There are many more lessons here but I won’t list them all. That’s cheating. Go read.
If you’re looking for an introduction to Stoicism or just a quick summary instead of reading the classics, pick up this book. If you’re well studied on Stoicism already you can go ahead and skip this one.