The Other Side: A Memoir by Lacy M. Johnson

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The Stacks received this book directly from the author in exchange for an honest review. For more information click here

I picked up this book, The Other Side, so I could read the semi-prequel of The Reckonings. I wanted to get a sense of Lacy M. Johnson before I read her newest book. It wasn’t quiet accidental, but it was certainly not planned. This book turned out to be one of the best surprises of my year.

Here is more about The Other Side

Lacy Johnson bangs on the glass doors of a sleepy local police station in the middle of the night. Her feet are bare; her body is bruised and bloody; U-bolts dangle from her wrists. She has escaped, but not unscathed. The Other Side is the haunting account of a first passionate and then abusive relationship; the events leading to Johnson’s kidnapping, rape, and imprisonment; her dramatic escape; and her hard-fought struggle to recover. At once thrilling, terrifying, harrowing, and hopeful, The Other Side offers more than just a true crime record. In language both stark and poetic, Johnson weaves together a richly personal narrative with police and FBI reports, psychological records, and neurological experiments, delivering a raw and unforgettable story of trauma and transformation.


So what do you make of a book about a violent rape and kidnapping? Aside from that it is terrible and horrible and a total nightmare? What do you do with this traumatic story? If you’re Lacy M. Johnson, you turn it into a powerful reflection on relationships, memory, body, self, motherhood, growth, vengeance. You turn it into art. That sounds corny. The Other Side is not. It is a dynamic book that leans into to the complexity and contradictions of trauma.

Lacy M. Johnson is the kind of writer that makes words make sense. Her use of language moved me as a reader, it felt specific, and like every word was in place, without feeling overworked or tedious. Johnson writes freely and with purpose. The book is poetic in one moment and clinical in the next. There is a quiet balance to this book.

If I learned anything from this book, it is that memory and truth are often at odds with each other. Not in a linear way. In a way that involves layers of memory and truth mixing with one another and turning muddy. That some memories are strong and wrong, and others are faint and almost unknowable. That the brain fills in the gaps and creates a narrative. The story. The story as we have come to know it. Our truth. What Johnson points out, and doesn’t want us to forget, is that this truth, this story, is just one version. That we all have our own story, and the people around us have their own. That these versions, these truths, all exist in the world at once. That none of this is real or true, not completely. That is terrifying and comforting at once. The Other Side is a memoir that grapples with these types of ideas, The Other Side is an outstanding book.

The Other Side is triggering (rape, emotional abuse, physical abuse). You should be fully aware before you pick it up. That being said, this book handles the trauma with dignity. It is not sensational. Johnson is unique in her experiences and never once attempts to turn her journey into anything universal. It is this specificity that keeps The Other Side from feeling common or precious. That is extremely clear from the first pages of this book. It holds true through the end, and even into the notes section (of which I read every word, I simply didn’t want this book to end) where Johnson mixes science and poetry.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the fluidity of language, the self reflection, the pain and the calm. I know it could be an extremely tough read for many people. If you can, read this book, it is worth reading. It is worth thinking about. It is worth your time.

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Tin House Books; 1 edition (July 15, 2014)
  • 5/5 stars
  • Buy on The Other Side Amazon

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The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

IMG_5774We read The Power of Habit for the Stacks Book Club, and you can listen to author Ross Asdourian and I talk about it right here.

If you’re not familiar with this book, here is a little background.

In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

This is one of those books that makes you look at your life in a whole new way. I couldn’t help but think, how can I change my habits to become a better me. Thats not to say this book is really a “self-help” book, but more of a look at human behavior. It excites you into action (or maybe just the thought of action).

Duhigg uses examples from scientific experiments and everyday lives to illustrate his points. There is a variety of case studies and antidotal stories to keep the book engaging and diverse. The examples are broken down and used to drive his points home. I found some of the examples to be really effective, and some others to lack staying power.

One of the places I found the book to be particularly strong was Duhigg’s examination of social and political movements. How members of society can use habits to effect change. He talks about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery bus boycotts as examples of the power of habit in community. He highlights how the use of strategic and aggressive habits can sway people into action. These ideas made me think of the work that the Black Lives Matter movement is doing, and the activism we’re seeing from the Parkland survivors & Everytown. This book gave me a little hope as I look at the world and the many challenges we face.

While this book was thought provoking and engaging, it wasn’t anything special to me. It falls in line with other pop-pyschology books (think Predictably Irrational or Freakonomics). I appreciated what Duhigg had to say, but I’m not sure this book will stick with me in the long term. It was a great read and is a really good and interesting book. I think if you’re into pop-psychology and human behavior this is a great book for you. If you’re kick-starting your own transformation, this book might inspire you in your journey.

Don’t forget to listen to Ross and I discuss The Power of Habit further on the podcast.

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (January 7, 2014)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy The Power of Habit on Amazon

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.

Ep. 14 The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg — The Stacks Book Club (Ross Asdourian)

cropped-TheStacks_logo_final.jpgThis week, author Ross Asdourian is back to discuss our The Stacks Book Club book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. We talk about how habits work, the habits we want to change, and we look at two current political movements as habit formers in the community.  While we do discuss many examples from the book in this episode, we don’t really spoil anything, as this is a non-fiction book without any plot twists or turns. So feel free to enjoy it, even if you’ve yet to read the book.

Everything we talk about this week is in the show notes below.CF8B9138-A479-4F97-96D3-77E7F70F1EDF

Connect with The Stacks: Instagram|Facebook|Twitter|Goodreads|Traci’s Instagram|iTunes|The Stacks Website|Patreon

Connect with Ross: Instagram|Broken Bananah Website|Broken Bananah Facebook

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page. We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of this show. If you prefer to do a one time contribution go to paypal.me/thestackspod.

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The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here

 

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

4387B5FD-4304-4C6C-AE33-3F41ACB0136CA few years ago, I fell in love with reading books about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and one of the most respected journalists of that subject is Sebastian Junger. He helped to create the film Restrepo which I love, and write the book War which is really good. When I saw that he wrote another book about the struggles that face our veterans when they return home, I couldn’t resist it.

If you’re not familiar with Tribehere is a little more about this book.

Decades before the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin lamented that English settlers were constantly fleeing over to the Indians-but Indians almost never did the same. Tribal society has been exerting an almost gravitational pull on Westerners for hundreds of years, and the reason lies deep in our evolutionary past as a communal species. The most recent example of that attraction is combat veterans who come home to find themselves missing the incredibly intimate bonds of platoon life. The loss of closeness that comes at the end of deployment may explain the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by military veterans today.

Combining history, psychology, and anthropology, TRIBE explores what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty, belonging, and the eternal human quest for meaning. It explains the irony that-for many veterans as well as civilians-war feels better than peace, adversity can turn out to be a blessing, and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations. TRIBE explains why we are stronger when we come together, and how that can be achieved even in today’s divided world.

I thought this book would be about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I thought it would be stories of individual soldiers and their journeys through PTSD and how they did or didn’t find community. That is not what this book is at all. It is more of an essay on how we need to rethink our social obligations to one another. How important having a “tribe” is. And that these tribes, weather they be neighborhood or nation, help to keep humans mentally healthy.

Junger weaves in a lot of context of the power of tribe through discussing American Indian tribes (as well as other cultures more generally) and how they treat one another. How they work and live together, what things are needed to succeed, and what transgressions can not be tolerated. It is all interesting and gave me a lot to think about. He compares these tribes with American society, where they differ, and how these differences can be devastating on human survival. The book is less about the military than I thought it would be, and that was a welcome surprise. Junger is drawing larger conclusions about American society as a whole, and then connects those overreaching ideas with the military.

For the most part the book is thought provoking and well done. I loved hearing alternative theories about PTSD and more. He makes great points and really shifted my thinking about mental health. I did listen to Tribe on audiobook, and I think that Junger’s tone negatively colored my understanding of the book. Junger can be condescending. He presents his theories as fact and doesn’t leave room for any push back. He can be a little harsh. The book is short, he doesn’t give much credence to any alternative opinions.

I think this book is interesting, I know that I look at society, soldiers, and how we can do better as a people, differently thanks to Junger. I think if you’re interested in sociology and human behavior this book would make a great fit.

  • Harcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve; 1 edition (May 24, 2016)
  • 3/5 stars
  • Buy Tribe on Amazon
  • Listen to Tribe on Audible (for free 30-day trial and audiobook download click here)

To contribute to The Stacks, join The Stacks Pack, and get exclusive perks, check out our Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/thestacks). We are beyond grateful for anything you’re able to give to support the production of The Stacks.

The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.