The Inkblots by Damion Searls – Book Review

Drink, oh eyes, all your lashes can hold / Of the golden abundance of the world.

An important man in psychological history loved dearly these lines by Gottfried Keller.

If you were a psychology major, like myself, you’ve heard the names Freud, Jung, Milgram, Skinner, and perhaps even Rorschach. You may even have staunch opinions on their theories. No one ever told me, however, what they thought of each other and their work. I never was told that B. F. Skinner was a total snob about the Rorschach inkblots, nor about the strange feud surrounding Freud and Jung, as they pushed aside a smart man you’ve never heard of.

If you are a regular citizen of the world, like myself, you’ve heard of The Nuremburg Trials, Andy Warhol, and Ray Bradbury. No one ever told me, however, how each of these were deeply connected to the inkblots in some way.

 

The Inkblots, by Damion Searls, is no boring account of a stuffy psychologist. In fact, the decidedly not stuffy Hermann Rorschach dies halfway through this thorough non-fictional account. I reacted to his death like I would a character in a novel. It hurt. But Searls didn’t end there.

 

At first, I took a little while to get into reading The Inkblots consistently. (Sleeping on the train home almost always feels like the right choice, at the time.) But every time I did force myself to read, I was completely absorbed. This book, with as much information as a textbook, if not more, was anything but dry. Searls categorizes himself as a word person, and this shows in his writing in the best way.

 

By the halfway point, I was happy to cuddle back up with this thick book when I could. It made me miss being a psychology student. The familiar faces I “knew” in college of Jung, Freud, Rorschach, and Skinner came back into my life. More importantly, I have a newfound respect for Hermann Rorschach – no longer a weirdo with some pictures, in my mind.

 

Searls paints a portrait of the inkblots through history, from the events that led to their conception, all the way through the author’s own experience taking the Rorschach test today. In narrating the history, he takes the reader on an emotional journey. I found myself rooting for the original integrity of the inkblots as Rorschach intended them.

Finally, I was struck by the sheer impact of one man’s (short) life’s work.

From war crimes, to treating patients, bitter controversy, to pop culture, the inkblots have been used and abused by humanity. To know the story of the man, and the roller coaster of his legacy, opens our eyes to the deep human ability to change the world, in all it’s ‘overabundance.’ I think that’s what Rorschach would have wanted his biography to teach us, after all.
Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

My 35 Book Journey in 2016 – Answers to your Questions & Stats

My Goodreads goal for 2016 was to read 30 books. But because I am such a nerd, I actually read 35.

Just as last year, beating this goal was a joy. I read many great books, learned a lot, and it felt great to brag to people about the number of books I’ve read. I may be a nerd, but I do love to flaunt it.

First, let’s take a look at some fun stats:

i-am-an-open-bookha-haQ&A

I had my friends on Facebook ask me questions about my Goodreads challenge. Here are the questions and answers. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Swift Kick’s new intern Dee asked me a bunch of awesome questions. So we will start with hers:
 
Which books were most meaningful for you to read?
I would have to say that The Gospel of John and I Love a Cop. 
The Gospel since it was a big step spiritually for me to read a little of a book of the Bible every night until I read the whole thing. I highly recommend reading isolated books at a time if the whole Bible seems overwhelming.
I Love a Cop was incredibly meaningful because it was a fantastic handbook on how to be married to a police officer without going nuts. Since I am about to do  just that in 2017, this book really eased my fears by giving me clear steps to take for the issues that only police families face. I covered this book in notes and highlights, and then handed it to Kieran so he could learn about our future marriage as well, through my eyes.

Which books challenged you (or your thoughts/ideas/current mindset/etc) the most? (This question was echoed by Kristen as well.)
I think Superbetter did this! It’s all about viewing your life, and biggest challenge, with a ‘gameful’ mindset. This book came at a time during which I was getting over the deepest depression of my life, and, coupled with the Superbetter app, helped me take some control back of my happiness. I still use some of the language from this approach today.

At the same time, Superbetter also affirmed some of the things I knew about thinking positively, while framing them in the science-backed psychology mindset that I am so comfortable with.

Which authors would you love to have dinner with?
I actually HAVE had dinner with one of the authors. Katie Cotugno, author of Fireworks, is married to my fiance’s brother. Bet you didn’t see that coming, did ya?

 

The next questions are from a few of my other friends. 

Elisa: How did last year’s book list affect this year’s choices?
I don’t know that it did too much, to be honest. I will say that my discovery of Ready Player One lead me to read that author’s new book Armada, and also more books of the science-fiction realm.

 

Last year’s list probably also helped me be more adventurous with looking for books to read, instead of just going with what I know. On the other hand, doing a book club with my company put a lot of books on this list I never, ever would have read on my own. (For example, The Untethered Soul, The Five Agreements, Deep Survival, Quiet, You Might Be a Zombie.)

 

Sarath: What book do you think you would need/like to reread to understand more fully? Or to take more out of?
I thing that the one book of poetry I read, 99 Poems by Dana Gioia, is a prime example for this. You can always re-read poetry to get a better understanding. I tend to read quickly, so to read it more slowly would certainly give me an even greater appreciation for the collection. Of course, the same should be said for The Gospel of John, since the Bible is meant to be understood more deeply with each reading.

 

K’yla: Did you ever feel it was a chore? Or more of a goal? Like did it ever feel burdensome or overwhelming to have a stack of books to read?
Hm, good question. No, I never did. I tend to fly through books so quickly that I knew I was going to surpass my goal back in October. Since I don’t have a predetermined list at the beginning of the year, each new book choice is full of possibilities. I would say the reading challenge is one of those goals that are more to make me feel great than challenge me, since I will always be reading and hitting that number.

 

I wonder what number of  books will be my downfall…? ;)

 

Alright, that’s my wrap up about my wonderful 35 book journey! I will say, I think I had altogether better book choices in 2015, because how can you beat Ready Player One and The Martian?

Wishing you a book-filled holiday season and New Year!

PS – Read my official review of The Never-Open Desert Diner here!

The Never-Open Desert Diner – Book Review

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A red sun was balanced on the horizon when I arrived at the Well-Known Desert Diner. Sunrise shadows were draped around its corners. A full white moon was still visible in the dawn sky.

Those opening lines truly set the tone of The Never-Open Desert Diner, by James Anderson. My guess is that Mr. Anderson decided to write a story about the desert on Route 117 first, the plot second. And I mean that as a compliment. Like the desert setting of the novel, Anderson spins a tale that is at once peaceful and uncomfortable. Reading it was a journey that felt like home, but a home you were slightly nervous to go back to.

Let’s go through the book review checklist, shall we?

Beautiful prose? Check.

Satisfying dialogue? Check.

Characters? Compelling and real.

The story starts out slowly, with only an immediate hint that there might be a mystery afoot. For a while, you don’t remember that mystery. But like the prevalent desert flash floods throughout the novel, everything important happens at once. And then it’s over and you are forced to think about what you’re left with how.

The Never-Open Desert Diner makes you feel two things at once, always. Joyous, and sad. Calm, and nervous. I put down the book after the last sentence and wished I could run to my fiance’s house and hold him tight.

In other words, this book did exactly what it was supposed to do, and did it well. 

When I finally climbed into bed after finishing the novel, I looked at the clock on my cable box. It was 1:17am. I smiled knowing that I now knew the story of 117. 

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

 

How To Find Cheap and Gorgeous Old Books for your Wedding Centerpieces

I may not have the dress or the guest list finalized, but my wedding will at least have centerpieces! Oops.

old books wedding centerpiece
-swoon-

That’s right, I had the brilliant idea (thanks Pinterest)  to incorporate old books in my wedding centerpieces, along with flowers and pearls. In about a month’s time, I was able to gather 40+ books. It was shockingly easy and inexpensive. So I thought I’d share the wealth of knowledge with you!

Step 1: Tell everyone, and their mother.

Tell your friends, your mom, your bae’s mom. Your brother and sister. Your neighbor. You will have an army of people bringing you old books and then you will have a surplus to choose from. Everyone wants to be involved in the wedding planning, and this is an easy way to get them to help out.

Step 2: Sign up for estatesales.net

You can set up alerts for sales in your area that list what you’re looking for, in this case, old books. The site will send you an email every time one of these sales is coming up so you can plan to drop by!

Step 3: Hit up your local library sales.

Often, they will have deals that if you fill up a bag, you can pay $10 for all the books inside. Or, hardcovers can be $1-$2 each. Seriously, the majority of my books came from these sales. It’s crazy how little they are giving these books away for!

Step 4: Be spontaneous!

I got my first few books at an estate sale that was on the lawn at the historical society in my town. I saw the sale while I was driving by, stopped the car, and started hunting. I found the most gorgeous books, and the lady sold them to me for $5 each! (And those were the most expensive books of all the ones I bought.) That’s when I knew my centerpieces were going to come together. Because when you’re holding a gorgeous copy of Pride and Prejudice, things just work out.

Now I just have to figure out where to keep these books for the next 300 or so days…

old books wedding centerpiece
(A small sampling of my stash.)

Which of my Favorite Books Should You Read Next? – Quiz

What do outer space, dystopian societies, Jane Austen, and Native American culture have in common?

Welcome to my bookshelf. Actually this barely representative of my incredibly packed book collection, which is begging to be given double the space. But, I digress.

I was struck recently by how so many of my favorite books have an orange cover, which is conveniently my favorite color. These books, with the exception of my Italian copy of Pride and Prejudice, stay displayed at the front of my bookshelf at all times. They make me happy.

I’d like to walk you through why each of these books hold a space in my heart.

Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech

I found this book randomly in my middle school library. Since then, I have read it more than once. I never read books more than once. But I loved this book, because it was mine. I had found it. Sharon Creech is a wonderful author. Pieces of this story, images from it, will always stay with me.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

I picked up this book sophomore year of high school, as my choice for a reading project. I hated it the whole way through. And then I finished it and it was the best book I had ever read. The characters are fantastic, the time period is to live for, and Elizabeth Bennett is a #bosslady. I then read this novel again in college for a class. The outcome was a paper outlining why Lydia Bennett, an annoying and wayward little sister, actually moves the story forward entirely. I am sure I got an A on it.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

I downloaded an ebook version of this book on a whim, and was thrown into an adventure I had never expected. It was a pretty dark time in my life, and this novel was exactly the enthralling escapism I needed for my commutes. Seriously, I may have spent my train rides crying if I didn’t have Ready Player One. It reminded me of books I had read as a middle schooler. The kind that immerse you in a story- the kind you rush through homework to get back to. I became immediately obsessed with the fact that there are people who write for adults that actually know how to weave a story.

The Martian, by Andy Weir

Unlike most bookworms, I don’t really get too emotionally invested in fiction. I rarely am “wrecked” by a novel, or desperate over characters. This book, this fantastic, spell-binding read, had me literally on the edge of my seat during my commute. I was barely holding myself together as I read the last few pages, begging Andy Weir not to hurt this main character that I felt I knew. Seriously, few books have gotten me like that since then. Even the fact that it had a lot of scientific jargon didn’t hinder my emotional response. You go, Mr. Weir. You go.

So that’s why I am passionate about these four titles. Now, it’s your turn to pick one of them up. Use this quiz to help you decide.

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