‘The Seed Collectors’ Review

Scarlett Thomas’s latest release, “The Seed Collectors,” is no fairytale, although the title evokes images of Jack and the Beanstalk, with magical seeds whose fruits raise you to the heavens. No, the characters in this novel live high above the rest of the world, safe from worries and the need for money or material things (oh, what a utopia).

The seed collectors are the Gardener family, a clan of botanists with fitting names. We enter the story as Oleander, the matriarch of the family, dies. Oleander leaves behind the Namaste House, a yoga retreat, as well as her collection of magical seedpods which hold the secret to enlightenment.

Several years ago, many family members disappeared on their quest to find the seed collection, leaving behind a group of relatives who are failing to flower. The group comes to grips with their matriarch’s inheritance through several events – first the funeral, then the birthday of a child and a trip to a few Scottish islands.

Thomas is truly gifted when it comes to writing internal monologues. Throughout the story, we’re immersed in each character’s mental landscape and vivid imagery – from walking palms to an electric toothbrush gone mad. But we also see themes of insatiable hunger and desire, a key lesson in the tale.

One thing that really struck me about this book is my utter dislike for nearly every character. Each is selfish, prejudiced and downright mean. The heir to the Namaste House, Fleur, is the only likeable character.

Thomas makes it quite clear that worldly pleasures are misguided. The only true pleasure can be found in the mystical seeds. But here’s the thing about these seeds: they enlighten you, then kill you – in one swift move. They remove you not only from this world, but also from the death cycle and rebirth.

Just like enlightenment in Buddhism, reaching this state of nirvana leads you to return to nothingness – no self, no rebirth.

“The Seed Collectors” plays heavily on Buddhist and Hindu themes, insinuating that the world is merely an illusion and that we see what we want to see.

But we also see that none of the characters in the book are able to be happy. We hear hints of interesting events and people, but that’s about the end of it. Foreshadowed events are simply left offstage. Characters are peppered throughout the tale, but given no real introduction until later in the story.

The author steers the reader towards an aggressive view against the world, and many of the storylines leave readers with more questions than answers.

The Seed Collectors” was an interesting read, but it left me feeling a bit empty and unsatisfied. I’m led to believe that characters in the book are unable to find happiness because they have not found the seeds of enlightenment, which will kill you as soon as they enlighten you anyway.

Ultimately, fantastical imagery and wonderfully written internal monologues isn’t enough to offset the frustration of the unanswered questions and dissatisfaction in the tale’s end.

Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating

Everyone has a frog, and eating that frog is the best thing you can do to stop procrastinating. And if you’re wondering, we’re not talking about a real life frog – yuck. Eat That Frog is a book by the influential and motivational author Brian Tracy.

21 Chapters of Actionable Fun

Yes: fun. Procrastination is a time-killer, and Tracy has a way of making getting over that frog fun and exciting. Every chapter presents a new idea, tip and technique that will help you overcome that inner laziness that keeps you on the couch at night instead of in the gym.

And let’s face it, we procrastinate in everything that we do.

Eat That Frog is the name of the book, but it is also one of the main concepts that is taught within the book. The name comes from a Mark Twain quote that explains if you eat a frog in the morning, you won’t have a worse event during the day.

Confusing at first, the idea is to overcome your bigger challenge first thing in the morning.

A challenge or frog can be anything:

  • A difficult client
  • Exercising
  • Signing divorce papers

Your frog can be anything that keeps you from making the most out of your day. Brian Tracy explains that everyone has a frog that keeps them stuck in limbo not doing what will make them most productive.

Now, I also want to make a quick note that Eat That Frog is also on audio, so you can listen to it in the car, doctor’s office or when you’re cooking.

A best-seller on Amazon, the book has helped 1.5 million people learn how to get more done in less time. What’s most fascinating about Eat That Frog is that Tracy knows how to make it relatable to the reader.

You must be selective in your choices, and this trait allows you to learn and understand what is causing you to lose focus, get side tracked or simply not make the most of your time.

And if there are two frogs, the rule of thumb is to eat the ugliest frog first. You know, those tasks that keep you up at night and find a way to eat at your soul. The tasks that have a way of manifesting into an entire entity that forces you to avoid and stop taking actions you know will better you in the long run.

Brian Tracy has a way with words. When reading Eat That Frog, you’ll overflow with anger because every word written relates to something everyone does in their life: procrastinates. Time management and overcoming these “roadblocks” of life are what Brain Tracy aims to teach in the most actionable manner possible.

Revolutionary isn’t the best way to describe Eat That Frog, but the way it’s explained is revolutionary.

Eat That Frog is a clear winner in my book, and it has helped everyone from new moms to teachers, university professors and CEOs get motivated to do more in less time.


Stig of the Dump Book Review

Classics show us how a book from the 1960s can still be relatable a half century later. Stig of the Dump is an old classic, and the book’s entire premises follows two boys that were complete opposites of each other becoming friends.

Barney, a main character who doesn’t seem to pay attention to other people’s advice, seemingly finds the notion of not going down the chalk pit too tempting to resist.

After all, everyone is telling him to avoid the pit, but no one is truly elaborating on the matter. This is something, even as an adult, most people can relate to in life. There is something so tempting about an action you’re told not to do.

For Barney, this action is going down the chalk pit (the edge of the quarry).

On his way down, Barney finds something of interest. Looking around, he is shocked to find that there is a dilapidated house, more of a hut really. And like any young boy would do – or girl for that matter – Barney decides to visit the house.

And to his surprise, Stig is there.

Stig is the main character opposite Barney, and he isn’t quite an ordinary boy. No, Stig is different. Stig is a caveman.

Where most humans would run the other way in horror or turn the caveman into a science experiment, Barney befriends him. And Barney is the one who calls Stig, Stig for the first time. After all, Stig grunts, and the two make gestures to communicate.

Differences aside, the friendship prevails into a loving story where the two main characters prevail where others would falter.

A series of adventures begin that will change both characters’ lives forever. Oh, and a little bit on Stig before we go deeper. Stig, being a caveman, is short and hairy with black eyes that are said to sparkle. He also wears animal furs.

On the outside, the book is a mere children’s book, but there are a lot of lessons that really make Stig of the Dump a classic learning experience. The characters overcome many obstacles even adults face in life:

  • Lying
  • Inventions
  • Learning right from wrong
  • Language barriers
  • Bullying
  • Stealing
  • Adventure
  • Recycling

And these are just a few of the neat things that can be pulled out of the book. Stig, as creative as he is, has many creations that he made from junk. After all, Stig lives in a dump, so he has a lot of waste to work with.

Instead of saying “hey Stig you’re a little hairy, why not use a beard trimmer,” Barney really starts to become deep friends with Stig.

And everyone seems to think that Stig is just imaginary. Barney has fun with Stig: he helps him decorate his home, hunts with him, and even learns from him, too. Interestingly, only when he is at his grandparent’s home does he visit Stig.

Whether you’re an adult or a child, the book will bring you on a whirlwind adventure with a writing style that captures the imagination in a way that is best described as effortless.

Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? Ajahn Brahm Shares Inspiring Tales for Life’s Difficulties

Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? The title of Ajahn Brahm’s most famous book isn’t something you’d expect a Buddhist monk to say, but like all Buddhists, Brahm understands that life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. Poignant and humorous, this collection of inspiring tales will leave you feeling hopeful and ready to embrace life’s many truckloads of dung.

Published in 2005, this book contains 108 stories divided into thematic categories, such as: fear and pain, perfection and guilt, love and commitment, creating happiness, anger and forgiveness, wisdom and inner silence, suffering and letting go, the mind and reality, values and the spiritual life.

Some tales will make you laugh out loud, while others offer a more subtle level of inspiration. Brahm shares each of his tales in his usual off-the-wall fashion, with funny (sometimes corny) quips, but nuggets of deep, powerful wisdom can be found at the heart of each story.

So, Who Ordered the Truckload of Dung?

The premise of this collection of stories is that life doesn’t always give you what you want, and you will go through hard times. It’s what you do with those hard times that really counts.

Ajahn Brahm uses the mango tree metaphor to explain this deep, complex wisdom.

You wake up one morning to find that someone, you don’t know who, delivered a truckload of dung to your house. What do you do with that dung? Do you bring it inside your house? No. You bury the dung under the mango tree in your backyard. The dung fertilizes the tree, helping it grow delicious mangoes that you can share with friends.

Simply put, Brahm is saying that it’s important to take all of life’s difficulties, and use them to better your life; to grow as a person. It’s impossible to be “kindful” and compassionate if you never experience any heartache, difficulties or pain in your life. And when you can use those negative experiences to grow and learn, you can share your wisdom, your compassion with others.

Letting Go and Being Mindful

Throughout the book, the theme of letting go and being mindful is largely present. Brahm tells the story of when the abbot of a monastery closed down construction of a new hall in time for the Rains Retreat, a quiet time for the monastery.

A visitor came and asked the abbot when the hall would be finished. The abbott replied that the hall was finished. Taken aback by his response, the visitor pointed out all of unfinished hall’s flaws – it had no roof, no windows and construction materials were scattered about.

The abbott’s response: “What’s done is finished.”

If you don’t take this attitude towards life, your work will never be complete. When it’s time to take a break or go on a retreat, remind yourself that the task is finished – even if others would disagree.

Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? is an enjoyable read that people of all faiths can appreciate. It share tales of wisdom and humor to help you take a different perspective on the difficulties of life.

Siddhartha Review

First published in 1921, Siddhartha is a book that you can read quickly over the weekend – it’s just 160 pages long.

An amazing, life-changing read is the best way to describe Siddhartha.

And for me, I love the book, while others aren’t so quick to find the same passion that I hold in it. With this said, this is a classic that really puts a new perspective on life.

Siddhartha leaves his home with his best friend in search of spiritual enlightenment. Hearing of Buddha, he and his friend set out to meet the Buddha and become one of his followers to gain enlightenment.

The son of a Brahman, Siddhartha rejects what is considered the ascetic life and decides that life alongside the Buddha is not for him; a path that many people seem to follow in life. There are times when we’re more spiritual than others, but the majority of our lives is consumed by following out ambitious.

Siddhartha leaves his friend and the Buddha behind. He goes to a city to become a merchant. Starting at the bottom of the pile, Siddhartha learns the life of a courtesan and becomes wealthy along the way, gaining fortune before leaving that life behind him, too.

When reading Siddhartha for the first time, it’s difficult to grasp its deep concepts.

The author comes from a different time and culture, and looking back on the book, I can’t help but think that Siddhartha is as much a story of the author’s life as it is anything else.

Siddhartha is about life. Period. The search for understanding, wealth and love fall into Siddhartha’s life like no other. He is also persuaded by a beautiful woman to let her teach him how to become the best lover in the city. And for him, this is a task that he carries on happily before he leaves town for good.

On his travels, he meets a ferryman that he befriends, and the two become connected.

“Wisdom can’t be taught, but it can be learned”

is a quote that resonates with me as a reader. When you read Siddhartha, it’s easy to overlook the nuggets of wisdom that shine through. But as circumstances in life have a way of doing, you’ll slowly start thinking back to this book and wondering how you didn’t understand many of the teachings within.

Life is a trial. Even as an adult, I am not sure I am doing anything in life properly.

Siddhartha learns life lessons right in front of your eyes. While he may leave the side of the Buddha, the story of Siddhartha follows the path of the Buddha in many ways. Questions will linger in your mind as you read the book.

Will Siddhartha meet his friend again? Will Siddhartha go seek out the wisdom of the Buddha?

These are questions I will not answer for you. A short read, you can find out what happens to Siddhartha and what his journey-filled life has waiting for him at the end. You will walk away filled with a newfound wisdom that you don’t even realize you had thanks to Siddhartha.