What I Read November

What I Read Last Month :: November

November was HECTIC between the packing and moving prep, a few days of work travel, girls’ trips to London and Lisbon and studying for a Pilates certification test therefore the time to read was a bit sparse.  In order to prepare for the exam, I decided that any time that I had up until then needed to be focused on reviewing anatomy, the history of Pilates, specific exercises, contraindications and modifications. Thankfully I passed so I consider that time well-spent as was soaking up as much time with friends in Cork while we had the chance. However, I am definitely looking forward to a bit more time to indulge in books during the voyage back to the US aboard the Queen Mary 2 and also very excited about those I have ordered to meet me at my in laws in Providence!  Here’s what I read last month:  

Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Wolfe

After spending so much time on the technical intricacies of Pilates, I needed something which was purely for fun and started with this renowned classic.  I had never read it before and picked up at the airport during an extra long layover/delayed flight and although it was not necessarily lighthearted or even what I had expected, it is definitely a masterpiece.  Since I didn’t know anything about the plot or the writing technique and style, I was pleasantly surprised by the parallel lives of the characters and especially enjoyed my postprocessing time, reflecting on the many previously seemingly unrelated details which became increasingly clear as the story reached its climax.

The Wisdom of the Enneagram
Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

And then it was back to the Personality Project!  After reading Personality Types last month, I was excited to learn a bit more about the Enneagram since it is such a popular framework and still somewhat hazy to me. This book was much more digestible in format and content and if someone were interested in learning about the theory, I would definitely encourage them to start with this one.  The many different permutations of the types were discussed in detail as well as some of the basic patterns that lead to the development of each and signs and signals of regression to less healthy levels.  I still am not completely sold on the model’s utility since it seems to me that there are a lot of people who might fall between a few of the categories rather than on the scale of a particular one. However, it was an interesting read.

The Marshmallow Test
Walter Mischel

The actual Marshmallow Test, one of the most well known psychological studies of all time, was designed by Dr. Walter Mischel to study self-control and the ability to delay gratification. Amazingly, when given the choice between one marshmallow (actually they used other treats like candies and cookies too since not all children like marshmallows) NOW or two if they waited until the moderator returned at some unspecified time (20 minutes) there were drastic differences amongst 4 and 5-year old children.  And even more importantly, longitudinal research on those children that were able to exert self command showed that they were far more likely to go onto have higher college admissions test scores, lower body mass indexes, better social and cognitive functioning, improved self-worth, lower propensity for addiction, and even distinctively different brain scan results. I am fascinated by willpower in general and Mischel is certainly a leading authority on the topic.  In this book he delves further into the detail and subsequent work he has done in the area to present his conclusion that self-control is an ability or skill, not a stable trait, which can be learned and honed with practice.  He outlines the reasons and ways that people experience lapses in their ability to demonstrate self-control and specific ways that one can prevent them through techniques like self-distancing and if-then implementation plans (one very useful strategy I have learned through the Whole30). Especially in light of my recent studies on stable/consistent personality traits, I found this book a good counterargument for the malleability of seemingly consistent qualities like conscientiousness in light of situational influences.

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