The Alchemist – Quick Book Review (HarperOne, 2014)

This book is written as a fable and filled with many tremendous life lessons and instructions. It is a spiritual book but not a Christian book as it combines middle eastern philosophy, religion, Bible, and ‘wonders’ to teach valuable lessons. The book is an easy and fast read but I enjoy reading it once a year or so since it reminds me of a few great points that often life causes us to miss.

A young shepherd boy travels from his homeland in search of his life’s treasure and calling.  His journey causes him to encounter the Biblical king Melchizedek after meeting with a gypsy woman.  Melchizedek requires one tenth of what he has and the gypsy requires one tenth of what he will find when he discovers his treasure.  Melchizedek states that he (Santiago – shepherd) cannot promise what he doesn’t have but can give what he has in his possession.

The book centers around two central points with one major lesson –

  1. Transform the power of our dreams into reality
  2. Listen to your heart
  3. Often your treasure is closer than you believe and in your ‘back yard’

Santiago encounters many people and learns tremendous life lessons as he is in search of his ‘treasure’.  However, what he learns is as valuable as to what he is able to teach others along the travel. 

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own [life].”

“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world and normally doesn’t know it.” – The Butterfly effect [my thought]

“It is said that all people who are happy have God within them.”

Paraphrase – Those who fail to pursue their life’s calling will always fail to enjoy the journey of life.

This is a great gift for the high school or college graduate.

“Never stop dreaming.”

“Give yourself freedom to try out new things
Don’t be so set in your ways that you can’t grow.”

“Usually, the threat of death makes people a lot more aware of their lives.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Audio Version

The Last Lecture (Hyperion, 2008)

Although this book was released in 2008, I didn’t read it until this year.  I watched Randy’s talk via YouTube and like most who watched it was moved beyond words.  I included it below in the event you didn’t have the pleasure to watch it.  There are thousands of reviews online and over 2300 positive reviews on Amazon.  Therefore, I will save adding a book review and state, take the time and read the book but more important, take notes and apply the life lessons learned from the book.  Write in the book, write in the front cover, buy a copy for a friend or family member as a gift.  One day they will thank you!  If you listen to the audio version too, there is an interview at the end of the book that is worth the listen.

The book entitled “The Last Lecture” goes beyond the talk Randy gave at Carnegie Mellon University and dived into something that many of us ponder.  How can we leave behind not only a legacy for our family but teach them items that we want them to learn because of our experiences in life?  You can search “The Last Lecture” and find thousands of sites it quotes, summaries from each chapter, and life lessons.

Not only did I take away life lessons from a man who as he stated, packed as many years as possible into the years he lived and always lived in an upbeat manner.  But I was challenged to continue and put my thoughts, life lessons, and more into a ‘notebook’ for my family.  A goal I have is to complete it in parts and make it available for my grandchildren to read for when they are older.  I believe that too often our family never learns tremendous life lessons from parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.  In this day of information, I think it is our duty to not only leave this information for our families, but it will help them NOT repeat our mistakes, and learn from our life lessons.


“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.” – Sam Levenson

“Smart people learn from their mistakes but real sharp ones, learn from the mistakes of others.” Brandon Mull”


“Time is all you have and you may find one day that you have less than you think.”
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture


The Last Lecture challenges us to ‘act’ –

He stated that because he knew the end was near, he dedicated the time to write his “Last Lecture” indicating that proverbial truth that 1. we never know if we will make it until the next day and 2. time is of the essence.  I believe that most of us have something important to leave to the next generation and it is our responsibility to do so before we leave this world.  Some will do it via books, videos, lectures, speeches, memoirs, blogs, sitting individually with people, and more.  Whatever method you select, start today.


The Last Lecture

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.”
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

“I’ve never understood pity and self-pity as an emotion. We have a finite amount of time. Whether short or long, it doesn’t matter. Life is to be lived.”
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

The Great Escape (Fawcett, 1986)

The Great Escape – A story of tenacity, drive, teamwork, and leadership!


I watched the movie many times and remember initially watching it as a kid in the ‘sixties’.  With a long driving trip planned, I decided to give the book when it came up as a daily deal (Thank you!).  The book filled in many of the details of the movie and painted a different picture than I remember.  I might be wrong but the ‘great escape’ in the movie wasn’t in the winter but was in the spring.  As usual, it seems the Hollywood version of the story created a more ‘entertaining’ version than the book. If you are looking for an entertaining book then this isn’t the book for you.  It is more along the line of a PBS and/or documentary account without all of the flamboyancy that Hollywood adds to true life.


The perseverance of the men is an inspiration and just as important is how there were officers from many countries who not only worked together but according to the book, watched out for each other.  (Maybe this book should be recommended reading in history.)


The book is told by an ‘eye’ witness as one of the men who worked on the escape giving intricate detail and in some cases the detail overshadows the characters.


This book tells a first-hand picture of WWII German prison camps and covers the many attempts leading up to the ‘famed’ attempt and the horrific aftermath when the soldiers were caught.  The point I found just as interesting is the ‘after the war’ when those that partook in the needless execution of the escapees were tried for war crimes.


It took time for me to ‘get used to the narrator’.  His accent is much different than I listen to which caused some initial confusion with the names.


Final thoughts – I found it interesting how the prisoners named the guards e.g. “rubber neck” and how leaders rose up and kept the hundreds of men working together.


As mentioned, this should be mandatory reading for high school history and taught as a basis for leadership principles based on a common goal.



Not from the book but a great teamwork quote:

Individually we are one drop but together, we are an ocean. This is a quote that states what the men did in not only their attempts to escape but their drive to disrupt the German leadership.  This fact was stated multiple times in the book – disrupt the Germans.


“One Of The Great True Stories Of The War, And One Of The Greatest Escape Narratives Of All Time.”

The San Francisco Chronicle

From the Inside Flap

With only their bare hands and the crudest of homemade tools, they sank shafts, built underground railroads, forged passports, drew maps, faked weapons, and tailored German uniforms and civilian clothes.

They developed a fantastic security system to protect themselves from the German “ferrets” who prowled the compounds with nerve-racking tenacity and suspicion.

It was a split-second operation as delicate and as deadly as a time bomb. It demanded the concentrated devotion and vigilance of more than six hundred men — every single one of them, every minute, every hour, every day, and every night for more than a year.

About the Author

Paul Brickhill was directly involved with the escape from Stalag Luft III, although he was one of the prisoners left behind. This and his other famous book Reach for the Sky are his best known works. This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

The Miracle Morning | Book Review (Hal Elrod, 2012)

The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)

I will jump to the end, “I highly recommend this book but more important, implement its practices into your life!”  However, if you are a person who likes to read and not implement the truths learned from the book, then I recommend reading a novel instead. Take notes, write in the book or if you purchase the Kindle version, highlight it then export to Evernote or OneNote.

“Mediocrity has nothing to do with how you compare to other people; it’s simply a result of not making the commitment to continuously learn, grow, and improve yourself.”
Hal Elrod, The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life

“Hal Elrod is a genius and his book The Miracle Morning has been magical in my life. What Hal has done is taken the ‘best practices’—developed over centuries of human consciousness development—and condensed the ‘best of the best; into a daily morning ritual. A ritual that is now part of my day.” —ROBERT KIYOSAKI, #1 bestselling author of Rich Dad Poor Dad

This book is filled with little nuggets that are easily missed but I will summarize one that I implemented long before this book dating back thirty years ago and Zig Ziglar discussing the importance of rising early with a plan.  The key to a successful day is to outline what you will do the first 60 minutes of your morning.  In this book, Hal outlines the principles used by many of the influential and successful people in the world.

These are the six items outlined in the book and his suggestion is to dedicate ten minutes to each item to start your day:

  1. Meditation
  2. Affirmations
  3. Visualization
  4. Journaling
  5. Reading
  6. Exercise

Combine them, mix, them, modify them but spend the first sixty minutes each day ‘focused’ on building you.  Start with prayer then thank the Lord for the day He gave you adding ten minutes of knowing He will supply your need.  Combine this with another ten minutes of Bible reading and ten more of journaling about what you read and/or are thankful for but the key part is to do something ‘powerful’ with the first sixty minutes of your day.  Finish with a powerful ten minutes of exercise and your day is ready to rock.

This is a book that is easily read and never implemented.  However, I suggest not only reading the book but listening to it as an audio and taking notes.  If you know me, I am a big fan of journaling and writing your thoughts on paper.  Build a plan to try this for at least 30 days but the key is to ‘implement’ the practices in the book.

A few notable quotes of others about the book:

  • “Every once in a while, you read a book that changes the way you look at life. But it is so rare to find a book that changes the way you live your life. The Miracle Morning does both, and faster than you ever thought possible. I highly recommend Hal Elrod’s latest book.” -TIM SANDERS, NY Times bestselling author of The Likability Factor
  • “To read The Miracle Morning is to give yourself the gift of waking up each day to your full potential. It’s time to stop putting off creating the life you want, and deserve to live. Read this book and find out how.” -DR. IVAN MISNER, NY Times bestselling author and Founder of BNI(r)
  • “How The Miracle Morning Has Changed My Life and Business” – Greg Hickman
    • Greg has a great outline how he adapted the six items for his morning

Is there anything new in the book?  No, however, Hal does an amazing job organizing it in a manner that isn’t boring and he filled the books with stories and life applications from his life and others.  Please keep in mind that he implemented these items to overcome serious challenges in his life such as, being hit head on by a drunk driver and was dead for six minutes then was told he had permanent brain damage and may never walk again (he became an ultra-marathoner).

We are less than fifteen days from a new year when many people and companies set new goals and challenges for their lives and businesses.  This is a great book to start the year with but again, it is a must implement to help you with your goals for the year.

Do you want to lose weight?  Set a measurable goal and use the techniques from this book to keep track of your progress.  Please keep something in mind as you go through this book, ‘it is a guide’, not a rule book.  Maybe you want to set aside 120 minutes because you want to read for thirty minutes combined with twenty minutes of journaling, then do it!  The important item is to set a plan for your morning.  Maybe you want 3-5 minutes for a quick exercise to start the day and will finish with a full workout later in the day, that is fine, but the intent is to ‘get blood flowing’ and to wake up your body.

Do you want to spend more time praying and reading your Bible?  This is a great outline to get you started every morning.

Hal suggests starting the day by brushing your teeth and drinking water and brushing your teeth before anything else is tremendous.  It seems to wake me up and get me started without issues.  In fact, when I don’t do this and begin my ‘routine’, I want to stop and brush my teeth.  It might seem odd, but this trick works.

One other point – the key is to have a plan!  Goals must be measurable based on the SMARTER system.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound
  • Ethical
  • Recorded

The Miracle Morning helps you stay on the path to meet your goals and put legs to your dreams.

“Strive to make everyday the best day of your life, because there is no good reason not to.”

“Strive to make everyday the best day of your life, because there is no good reason not to.”


  • “At first, I thought Hal had lost his mind-why on earth would anyone get up so early on a regular basis?!?! I was skeptical… until I tried it. When I implemented Hal’s strategies I noticed an immediate difference in my personal and professional life. The Miracle Morning(tm) will show you how to take control of your life, regardless of your past. I highly recommend it.”
    • -JOSH SHIPP, TV show host, author, and Teen Behavior Expert

Forks over Knives DVD

Buy it, watch it, share it, follow the principles and steps outlined in it!

Short and simple review –

When people ask me what movie and/or book they should read to learn about following a plant based lifestyle, I always recommend Forks over Knives first.  Since the movie came out they released a cookbook, books, smartphone app, and more to help you in your journey as you follow a plant based life style.  If you take the time, you can search the internet, your local bookstore, or library and you will find thousands of resources concerning a plant based diet.  From my experience, you will not find a better resource than Forks over knives if you are interested in learning more about a vegetarian diet.  The video discusses what many call the “diseases of affluence”.  The diseases that occur from injesting too many processed and/or animal based foods. As you watch the video, you will see the personal jouney of Dr T. Colin Cambell and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn and their commitment to helping the viewer improve their health and reverse the effects of poor eating habits.  “Their research led them to a startling conclusion: degenerative diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even several forms of cancer, could almost always be prevented – and in many cases reversed – by adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet.”

If you are struggling with excess weight and/or the diseases of affluence, please take the time and watch this video then follow its principles.

Many will list as a New Year’s resolution to improve their overall health and/or lose weight.  This is a great first step!

Watch it today on Amazon. 



Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus ‘Notch’ Persson and the Game that Changed Everything (Audible Studios, 2014)

Book Review –

Do you have children/grandchildren that play Minecraft and would like to know more about the game and its creator? Then this is a book for you!

I listened to this book about the creation of Minecraft and its author, Markus “Notch’ Persson because two of my grandkids play this game and it provided good information about the game and what led up to its popularity. It isn’t a ‘technical’ book explaining how to play it, but it did make mention of a few items such as different servers and ‘creative mode’ where zombies and other creatures are not present in the game. The game can be played on different servers which could be servers you do not want your children/grandchildren playing on. I found interesting that creative mode is a very popular mode because the players can build without worrying about creatures attacking. Another ‘technical’ point are all of the ‘movies/videos’ posted on-line by players and from observation, some of the players use foul language while they describe how to build in Minecraft. I learned there is more to the game than it appears when watching my grandson plays the game. In fact, I was impressed some educators were using it for their students.

Furthermore, the book explains briefly the mobile versions and how they differ from the online/computer version and the ‘ownership’ by Microsoft and Sony/Erricson.

The story was interesting and put together well highlighting some of Markus Persson’s youth and his obsession with coding and playing games. Markus did what he could to take care of his sister when needed, but it appears he didn’t enable her when hand-outs would have ruined her chance of addiction recovery.

I am glad the creator of the game didn’t become like many others who become mega rich and turn into a wreck and indicated that unlike other megamillionaires, he realized that what he produced and how he made money provided minimal value for society.

“In 2010, computer games were sold to the tune of $46.7 billion. That’s more than double the total amount of music sold, $16.4 billion. If you believe the industry’s own statistics, the consumer demographics are a far cry from the usual picture of gamers as mainly young men and boys. Four out of ten players in the United States are women. Three out of ten are over fifty years old, and only one out of ten is a boy under seventeen years old. Today, gaming is one of the world’s largest, most appreciated, and most demographically widespread forms of entertainment.”

Daniel Goldberg, Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus “Notch” Persson and the Game that Changed Everything

The audio version is an easy listen and not too long compared to similar books.

A few quick take-aways.  1. There are different versions 2. Different ‘servers’ present a different scenario for playing 3. Education version for schools 4. Mobile versions are not the same as the online/computer version 5. Creative mode enables the child to play in a world and create without zombies, skeletons, and monsters.

  • Listening Length: 5 hours and 7 minutes

Whole (BenBella Books, 2013)

This is a must read book for everyone!

Over the past 30+ years I read countless books on nutrition and “health”.  Unfortunately, many of them never fully ‘clicked’ with me to the point where I agreed 100% with the author’s teaching.  Too often what they stated didn’t resonate with my philosophy of the nourishing the whole body.  Yes, I experimented with different methods toward optimum health but looking back to when I was 16 (41 years ago), there is one thing that always clicked.  “Feed the whole body!”  “Don’t cheat, its your body!” If one part is out of balance, then eventually the entire body will suffer.   Most of the books on the market are driving the reader toward a ‘diet’ versus a lifestyle change (which I promote).  A diet is short lived because they attack one item (weight).  Yes, some diets attack other aspects of life such as diabetes, heart issues, etc.  However, too often they recommend ‘cheating’ or doing a binge day.  That always rubbed me wrong.  I am after ultimate health!  In Dr Campbell’s book “Whole”, he addresses the fact that all calories are not created  equal and the fact that the American population is off track and fails to understand the basics of proper nutrition toward health.

Additionally, he illustrates the contempt that some have when dealing with a health based diet and more important a “Plant Based Diet”.  If you read the China Study and enjoyed or didn’t enjoy the book, then “Whole” is a must read for you.  However, if you felt overwhelmed by the China Study and never finished it or started it, then read “Whole”.  The China Study is the evidence for a plant based diet and “Whole” focuses on why most don’t adapt it and why it is challenging convincing folks to adopt it.

He addresses the fact that there is more to the food we eat than one part.  For example, an apple has more than vitamin C in it!  He is attempting to change the way we think about food!

“Everything in food works together to create health or disease. The more we think that a single chemical characterizes a whole food, the more we stray into idiocy.”
― T. Colin Campbell, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health

“It’s never too late to start eating well. A good diet can reverse many of those conditions as well. In short: change the way you eat and you can transform your health for the better.”
― T. Colin Campbell, Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition

The book is available as a Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback, and audio.

It is a great book to listen to on your drive to/from work, at the gym, while walking your dog, or when others are watching TV – :D.  Feed your mind and body with nutrients!

“I don’t care if you eat worms and cardboard; if you eat 35% fewer calories, you will lose weight and your cholesterol levels will improve50 in the short run, but that is not to say that worms and cardboard form a healthy diet.”
― T. Colin Campbell, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health



”America’s premier nutritionist, T. Colin Campbell, with courage and conviction, articulates how the self-serving reductionist paradigm permeates science, medicine, media, big pharma and philanthropic groups blocking the public from the nutritional truth for optimal health.” –Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr., MD, author of the bestselling Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease

The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge | Tony Dungy (Tyndale Momentum, September 16, 2011)

I am not a sports fan but I am a fan of men and woman who excel in their roles utilizing their God given talents and resources.  I do not remember the first time I was made aware of Tony Dungy as a football coach but over time when the team he coached was playing I wanted to watch. {I enjoyed watching P. Manning too}.  There was something about Tony Dungy that intrigued me.  I wasn’t sure what it was about him, the soft spoken nature, the fact he didn’t act like a madman on the sidelines, or?  {Later I learned after reading one of his books it is Christ in Him, the hope of Glory.}

When I heard that he and his wife were visiting our church for a book signing I knew I not only wanted to meet him but introduce my grandson to him.  Since I had the distinct honor of photographing the event and was commissioned to get a few ‘backstage’ pictures, I seized the opportunity and took my grandson back with me.  Why?  I wanted my grandson to meet a man who achieved many great items but more important didn’t become mean, arrogant, or any of the other negative attributes that seize some people who rise to the top in their field.

We were given the honor of having our picture taken with him and Tony quickly signed a copy of “The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge” for my grandson.  I was moved with compassion and everytime I think about the situation, tears of joy well up inside me.  Why?  Because I hope that this brief time has a positive impact on my grandson and when he reads the devotional, it will remind him that being a leader or football hero doesn’t mean being a jerk or disrespectful.


You will be most effective for Christ when you realize that life is not about you, but all about Him.  Is there something you need to change to reflect  that?

{Quote from The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge – October 27 | Incredible Impact, Small Ego}

Tony Dungy at Victory Family Church

Tony & Lauren Dungy at Victory Family Church

 The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge | I recommend this book for many reasons:

  • It is an easy read with anecdotes that even the non-sports minded person will enjoy and take something away from it
  • Tony tells of struggles he encountered and by God’s grace and mercy he made it through
  • Challenges facing sports and participants
  • It is not too deep for those new to the faith or for those who enjoy reading about challenges and successes in every day life

I enjoy books and study about God and the Bible {remember I have a doctorate in Theology} but too often I find some devotionals seem to forget that life hits hard and illustrations and stories by others {who seem to have a bigger shield around them than we do} help in our day to day walk in life.

If you are looking for a great gift for Dad or a Graduate, this is one book I highly recommend.  Tony doesn’t water down life and ensures that God gets the glory.

You can purchase this book in many formats including kindle, paperback, and audio from the link below.  {If you give books to the library like us, this is one book every library should have on their shelves.}


Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health (Rodale Books, August 30, 2011)

I knelt down and placed my hands on the floor positioning my body for a set of push-ups and instantly felt pain shoot through my wrist up into my arm.  What did I do?  I attempted to massage my wrist but any amount of pressure sent sharp, knife like pain into my wrist.  I thought, maybe I pushed too hard and decided to give my wrist a break and not do any push-ups for a few days.  This didn’t help and thus my journey into a gluten free diet.

I enjoy doing pushups to strengthen my upper body. Not hundreds but sets of push-ups to give me a great rush of energy and keep the blood flowing to my mind. When I get tired and feel like I cannot sit at my desk any longer, I get up and do 10-20 push-ups. I enjoy doing this activity on the hour but too often I get busy and time slips by without a push-up rush.


In early 2012, any ‘standard’ push-up sent sharp pain into my wrist and one was more than I could handle. If I did a knuckle push up, then I was fine but I wanted to know why I couldn’t do the tried and true standard push-up.


Searching the INTERNET gave me many options including wearing a wrist brace (I tried multiple items with no success) but nothing seemed to help until one day while listening to Dan Miller’s 48 days to the work you love podcast I heard him mention a book entitled Wheat Belly and how he adopted some of the items in the book and found success in some health related issues in his life. This caused me to not only buy the book but research gluten and its related side effects.


Little did I know that my beloved ‘wheat’ and associated grain items like barley were targeted for removal out of my diet. As in everything I seem to do in life, I went ‘cold turkey’. Yes, I tossed out anything associated to gluten from my diet without hesitation and began to document my progress in my personal journal. Wow! Immediately, I noticed a change in my body and more important within a few weeks, the constant pain in my wrist subsided and the ability to do push-ups without wrist pain returned. Yes, I could drop and give you 20 without pain in my wrist. (However, since it was months since I did push-ups daily, the drop and give you 20 needed building up.)


Not only did I purchase the written version of the Wheat Belly but the audio (to burn it into my brain). The anecdotes and associated research in the book are tremendous but there are times when the technical side of the book caused me to desire studying my eyelids (sleeping). I went through the book twice gleaning tremendous information and an insight to the wheat industry.

Too often we associate gluten related issues to Celiac Disease but there are many people who struggle with gluten intolerance and its associated issues. If you struggle with your weight, have pains in your body, glucose intolerance, or many other health related issues, then you owe it to yourself and loved ones to read Wheat Belly.


William Davis has many recipes in the book and companion book. However, many contain items I cannot recommend including dairy and similar products.


“Aside from some extra fiber, eating two slices of whole wheat bread is really little different, and often worse, than drinking a can of sugar-sweetened soda or eating a sugary candy bar.”  ― William DavisWheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back To Health

I highly recommend this book for everyone and suggest both the written and audio version for a different insight into the study.