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Nick’s Picks

Nick’s Picks began in December of 2010 as a column contribution to the community blog of the greater Uptown, Chicago neighborhood which currently has over 3,000 readers.  While employed with Borders at 4718 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL I read somewhere in the neighborhood of 235 – 240 books during a period of about three years.  After finishing a book I wrote a brief review as part of the company’s staff picks program.  Realizing the potential of this program I became a key player in providing for growth within our district.  Eventually, my personal collection of recommendations evolved into “Nick’s Picks,” and will continue as an outreach endeavor for continuing self-education past the classroom, areas of expertise, and on into an age of ever growing wisdom.  These are the 11 original posts:

originally posted on Uptown Update, TUESDAY, MARCH 22, 2011

Nick’s Picks

posted at 2:48 PM 2 comments
Continuing our regular feature of book recommendations from Uptown Borders’ sales manager, Nick Taylor: 

Energy Work: The Secret of Healing and Spiritual Development
by Robert Bruce

Writers within the realm of metaphysics are often subject to dismissive comments from skeptics and non-believers alike. Such a position disallows for the benefits of energy practice. Certainly, as within any industry, there are those who simply seek to profit from the commercialization of hope, positive thoughts and the message of optimism. Yet, this truth does not invalidate the reality behind the exercises presented in this book.

An understanding of basic principles concerning quantum physics, a base level of physical intelligence and knowledge of the emerging sciences of both epigenetics and signal transduction brings new light to these often dubbed “new age” concepts.

Consider this simple technique, right now:

While seated I want you to focus your attention on your left knee. By this I don’t mean look down at your knee with your eyes. First rub your knee slowly in circular motion for about 10 seconds. Next, take an overview of how your knee feels. Be aware of the blood moving around under your skin, the density of the bone, the air surrounding the outside and the connection on all three levels. Now move your focus to your left big toe, wiggle it a little and draw all of your focus to this one area of your body. Did you notice a slight hum about these areas of focus or a slight increase in temperature?

This change, or “hum,” is due to a heightened level of concentrated awareness. Now, consider the quantum realm and that how in order to obtain any observable evidence regarding subatomic particles and their behavior, we must deal with the uncertainty principle. In this lies our understanding that the mere act of observation changes the behavior of that which is receiving our focus. Given the above example, one can rely upon relative intelligence to understand that our focusing on these isolated areas actually does cause biological effect effect on a cellular level which results in increased circulation, alleviation of tension and or reducing associated pains.

Bruce Lipton discuses related information in detail with his book The Biology of Belief and makes great argument for the influence of surrounding environments on biological makeup and the human potential to rise above our genetic heritage. His writings center on the aforementioned emerging sciences of epigenetics and signal transduction.

Just as a dancer or martial artist through practice develops their physical body awareness and physical body intelligence, anyone who so chooses can experience an increase in subtle body awareness or astral body intelligence. Everyone’s skill level evolves differently and is influenced by their own inhibitors.

Energy is not a uncommon subject. It is discussed in many forms of treatment including Reiki, acupuncture, quantum healing, etc. Here Robert Bruce offers an illustrated instruction to those seeking self-healing or additional forms of alternative medicine revolving around “Tactile Imaging Techniques.” As for my own experience, one day of engaging in his proposed practice resolved my fatigue better than any triple shot of mocha expresso ever has or ever will.

As I purchased the last copy of Energy Work in Uptown, here are links to both Borders andAmazon‘s websites.

– Nicholas Taylor, Sales Manager, Uptown Borders

originally posted on Uptown Update, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 9, 2011

Nick’s Picks

posted at 10:33 PM 7 comments
Continuing our regular feature of book recommendations from Uptown Borders’ sales manager, Nick Taylor: 

by John Hersey

On this Wednesday let us remember a city laid to ash. Decimating dates of history are always a topic of reflection for the advancement of our species, in hopes that we may learn to never again engage in such lamentable, ineffable tragedy. And while words can never hope to fully capture the essence of horror, terror and inhumanity expressed in total war, this piece of journalistic gold strives to do just that with the stories of six survivors from a date every American should be able to recognize, August 6, 1945.
Among our witnesses are a clerk, a physician, a tailor’s widow, a German priest, a surgeon and a pastor to a Methodist church. Each life is introduced, gives their astounding account of survival and, in this edition, is followed forty years later.

Vivid, stark scenes of destruction reach every eye glancing upon these pages: a young woman lain in a state of shared silence beside two dying bodies for three days… a man’s legacy destroyed, pinning him over halfway submerged in water… a wounded doctor trudges amongst a seemingly unending soundscape of ailing victims. Over 100,000 people died.

Those to outlast the blast and the burns were left forever changed and marked, many to slow deaths. Deemed “hibakusha,” meaning “exposion-affected persons,” they lingered, cursed with haunting truths, truths as visible as the outer keloid scars and inner poisons of radiation, onward into tales of hatred, resilience and forever transformation. One such hatred, Miss Sasaki questions Father Kleinsorge as to the validity of God’s allowance only to later transformitively celebrate her 25th anniversary living as a nun. One such near-death resilience, Dr. Sasaki, post-surgery and lacking a lung, remains resolute. “He did not give up cigarettes” (Hiroshima, pg 106). One such life, Kiyoshi Tanimoto, bears the unfathomable experience of being confronted with copilot of the flying massacre Enola Gay, Robert Lewis. “Tanimoto sat there with a face of wood” (Hiroshima, pg 145).

Perhaps this book, this date, and this story is familiar; maybe it was assigned literature during your elementary or latter education. Yet, if you are like me and was subject to a school setting lacking challenging curriculum or encouragement for independent learning, you may have missed it. Don’t forget everything from which we have to learn; history is abundant source material with which we can find our greater futures.

As no one could ever say enough about this book to do it justice, I will simply close with one of the more recent facts. The last official survivor, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, died in January of 2010 at age 93 from stomach cancer. Let these stories of the sacred dead survive.

– Nicholas Taylor, Sales Manager, Uptown Borders

originally posted on Uptown Update, Saturday, February 26, 2011

Nick’s Picks posted at 6:10 PM 1 comments

Continuing our regular feature of book recommendations from Uptown Borders’ sales manager, Nick Taylor:

The Monster of Florence
by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi

“Truth is stranger than fiction” is an old saying that comes to mind when recounting one of my most memorable non-fiction reads. As an old favorite in my bookstore career, I’ve pitched this book dozens of times. If I’ve hand-sold it to you, you are probably familiar with a rant that goes a little like this:

“You would really like The Monster of Florence. If you have ever read anything about Hannibal Lecter from Thomas Harris or seen any of the films, specificallyHannibal, that film actually used this case study in helping develop some of the more graphic parts. It simply accounts for the most horrific, documented scenes I’ve ever read.

“The book is divided into two parts, the first being the history of the murders and the second being the more modern day where the author finds himself, along with Spezi, as a suspect pursued by the authorities.”

If quotes from life leave you disinclined, I must throw in again a reference to the substantial number of books I’ve devoured during my stay at the bookstore in Uptown (around 230 books since 10/21/2007) while marking this as a definite non-fiction favorite.

Through the pages you will witness Spezi recall devastating memories of the fourteen murders, bite down on your lip while tearing through the next gored image, and remain stymied by the killer at large in this, The Monster of Florence, A True Story.

– Nicholas Taylor, Sales Manager, Uptown Borders

originally posted on Uptown Update, Saturday, February 22, 2011

Nick’s Picks

posted at 9:17 AM 2 comments

Continuing our regular feature of book recommendations from Uptown Borders’ sales manager, Nick Taylor: 

The Magicians
by Lev Grossman

Closing store sells send in swarms of bargain hunters under the spell of attraction cast by the machine, and if you happen to be one flocking to the Borders Uptown closing sell-out, here is a pick for you to grab before it flies off the shelf.

This story combines elements from the Harry Potter and Narnia series with a realist urban environment geared towards an adult audience. Divided into four high-gear parts, the text races along Quentin Coldwater’s life as this child genius finds himself elected to the magical student body of Brakebills, graduating into present day Manhattan while in and out of alternate realms of imaginative delight. Worlds within worlds play as pieces for his hand-in-hand journey with an unforgettable powerhouse heroine as he and Alice vacillate from the real world through the childhood novel land of Fillory and on into the Neitherlands. Having read this years ago, the image that remains seared in my thoughts entails the haunting love scene between these daunting characters during their fox metamorphosis.

The Magicians is an adventurous vehicle filled with sensationalist scenes of magical education, animal transformations, powerful attacks of grave sacrifice and climactic battles driven through pages of poignant prose.

With Time in mind, this selection is written by Lev Grossman, author of Time magazine’s most recent cover article, 2045 The Year Man Becomes Immortal. Come pick up your books before they all vanish into other hands as fast as magic.

– Nicholas Taylor, Sales Manager, Uptown Borders

originally posted on Uptown Update, MONDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2011

Nick’s Picks

posted at 3:39 AM 0 comments
Continuing our regular feature of book recommendations from Uptown Borders’ sales manager, Nick Taylor:

The Hidden Reality
by Brian Greene

Maelstroms of thought surround, permeate and compose the entirety of Brian Greene’s newest physics journey.

A journey including infinite space containing finite possibilities and in turn near infinite variations of these limited arrangements which ultimately comprise the inflationary cosmos can only begin with Chapter 1.  Throughout the body one will be bombarded by interpretations of many multiverses inclusive of the inflationary, braneworld, cyclical and holographic principles.  One will review familiar evidence including the Davisson and Germer’s “double-slit” experiment and the data of waves and undulation therein and fascinating concepts such as the Copenhagen interpretation (whereby the very act of observations impacts the outcome) and be reintroduced to string theory.

For those unfamiliar, “string theory’s claim to fame is its ability to resolve the central dilemmaof twentieth-century theoretical physics: the raging hostility between general relativity and quantum mechanics.” (H.R. pg 92).  Relating these tiny microscopic vibrating strings to a great macrocosm entailing multiples universes hires the image of Calabi-Yau shapes, their seemingly interminable variations and the knowledge of duality wherein lies the subtle differences amongst string theory Type I, Type IIa, Type IIb, Heterotic-0 and Heterotic-E and their gathering forms producing M-Theory.

New jarring terms aside, the beauty of this book lies within the writer’s ability to relate this vast amount of knowledge in highly relatable everyday terms and situations.  Readers will relate with universal pictures made of Swiss cheese, lottery examples for probability and the simple act of walking a dog.  Also, taking into account not every reader is a physics instructor, the book’s structure allows for conducive flow from section to section with occasional embedded suggestions to skip ahead while offering the more knowledgeable audience 29 pages of additional notes.

While we strive to reach an ultimate answer to our reality, where we fit and how we got here, the needed ground work is laid.  Brian Greene lays a fantastic foundation for our future while embracing and including contrarian concerns.  His book closes with the 11th chapter entitled, “The Limits of Inquiry.”

Any encountering the author’s previous works The Fabric of the Cosmos and or The Elegant Universe will appreciate reference to earlier sections to expand upon present comprehension or thusly be inspired to read both.  In addition to these two, my recommended supplemental readings are Cosmology:  A Very Short Introduction by Peter Coles and (for a different perspective) The Alchemy of Nine Dimensions: the 2011/2012 Prophecies and Nine Dimensions of Consciousness by Barbara Hand Clow and Gerry Clow.

During this undertaking, prepare to absorb more information than one sitting or one week of sittings could ever allow and be careful not to overload your neurological boundaries or you might just collapse into a black hole (or create a white hole [a term I was baffled to see]) and unknowingly become part of the Hidden Reality, Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos.

– Nicholas Taylor, Sales Manager, Uptown Borders

originally posted on Uptown Update, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2011

Nick’s Picks

posted at 11:54 PM 5 comments

Continuing our regular feature of book recommendations from Uptown Borders’ sales manager, Nick Taylor:

The Lost Gate
by Orson Scott Card

Finding a way out of the house yesterday would have been a simple task for a master of space-time distortion; unfortunately for the many drowthers (non-magical folk) of Uptown, this is not the case. While many doors were closed yesterday, including the Borders in Uptown, it provided ample opportunity for one to open a book, or in this case a gate, The Lost Gate by multi-award winning writer and author of Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card.  (Click on the book title for a YouTube video.)

Danny North, once believed to be a drekka (mage with no innate abilities) of a magical family, discovers he’s been in engaged in unconscious practice with his powers for some time, for he is a feared and forbidden gatemage and only he can create the historic opening between the worlds of Westil and Mittlegard (Earth). While most of the book follows his path of self-education, eluding pursuers, and managing true-to-life emotional entanglements with the opposite sex, a divergent line lends to a pleasant parallelism in the world of Iceway and in the mind of a memoryless character, Wad.

Fast-paced links of these bifurcating story lines provide for any reader’s need for pugnacious page turning and result in a cliff-hanger ending of series worthy proportions.

Any readers catching my other articles may note this is my first fiction pick and as such, I wanted a read that I could suggest to teenagers and adults alike, for the wonderful element of fiction rests with the escapist’s journey through interpretation and all the imaginative conversations which lie therein as potential talk across the barriers of generations. Leap across time and space by opening the gate, The Lost Gate , and for those interested in how such an idea manifests in reality, look for my next review as a return to the realm of non-fiction with renowned physics writer Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality, Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos.

– Nicholas Taylor, Sales Manager, Uptown Borders

originally posted on Uptown Update, TUESDAY, JANUARY 25, 2011

Nick’s Picks

posted at 11:10 AM 2 comments

Continuing our regular feature of book recommendations from Uptown Borders’ sales manager, Nick Taylor:

The Blame Game
by Neil E. Farber, M.D., Ph.D.

At times it’s lovely how timely things work out. Anyone who caught glimpse of the last edition of The Economist might recall the headline, “America’s Blame Game.” If only I could have submitted this review in time to be timely; alas, it’s not my fault!

We’ve all experienced the same thing in many different aspects amongst a variety of topics and venues. No one is a stranger to searching for an outside source of fault. The boss blames employees, employees blame the boss, families blame one another, people blame the government, many sometimes blame nature or possibly their genes, and some blame God or some other unseen force. Imagine all the blame being thrown around after Sunday’s Bears game. While playing the game involves many strategies and targets, some subtle and some not so much, it also entails the company of many stress factors, none of which are welcome guests.

Responsibility is a sure word that comes to mind while reading this book. Consider how much energy is spent every day of every year by individuals, citizens, large businesses and world leaders searching for the scapegoat, the stooges, and the right amount sweetly secured spin. Now consider this energy going towards actually discovering and acknowledging root causes and appropriately addressing the issue to resolve the matter at hand. While one level of output may help you climb that ladder more quickly, which has more obvious long-term benefits regarding mental health, physical well-being and emotional intelligence?

As this article may not have found you with alacrity I apologize; maybe it was my fault after all. Don’t shirk a potential change. Pick up a copy and put down the game, The Blame Game.

– Nicholas Taylor, Sales Manager, Borders in Uptown

originally posted on Uptown Update, SUNDAY, JANUARY 9, 2011

Nick’s Picks

posted at 3:16 PM 2 comments

Continuing our regular feature of book recommendations from Uptown Borders’ sales manager, Nick Taylor:

Notes From the Edge Times
by Daniel Pinchbeck

Conversations on LSD and psychedelics can often contain the names of Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs and other greats of the beat generation, but no modern writer of the subject commands the English language better than Daniel Pinchbeck.

No matter the substance, be it iboga, ayahuasca, or the endogenous DMT, few writers hold as articulate accounts of altered states of being and even fewer stand as a shamanic figure sought after with questions regarding the end of our time.

In his latest book, Notes From the Edge Times, Pinchbeck touches on various topics including the use of psychedelics in therapy, the second sexual revolution, the current financial system, and the misdirected intentions of the positive thinkers, all the while offering counsel to those seeking a higher sense of purpose, an ultimate awakening to their individual responsibilities for ongoing social change. Pinchbeck’s collection of columns, articles and short essays explain the time window surrounding 2012 and our awareness thereof as a catalytic opportunity to redefine the nature of our existence and co-define our holistic presence.

Daniel Pinchbeck is author of Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey Into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism and 2012 The Return of Quetzalcoatl.

– Nicholas Taylor, Sales Manager, Borders in Uptown

originally posted on Uptown Update, TUESDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2010

Nick’s Picks

posted at 1:05 PM 3 comments

Continuing our regular feature of book recommendations from Uptown Borders’ sales manager, Nick Taylor:

You Better Not Cry

“Claus and Effect” can either leave you in the spirit of Christmas this year or have you saying “Bah-Humbug,” as some of my friends put it. Maybe the pace of this blasted holiday season leaves us too dizzy to remember what it was once like as a child. Memoirs are meant for reminiscence and few find my heart and my funny bone better than Augusten Burroughs.

As a child he mistakenly calls Santa “Jesus,” and manages to devour a good portion of one life-size wax figure only to wake up as a hung-over adult next to a real life-size figure of Santaesque proportions. Throughout the abundant reasons for hilarity gems of advice sparkle; Shirley from the streets warns against the booze and their threat against dreams while awakening the young man not to “discount” her words because of her homeless raiment.

If you enjoy reading the words of David Sedaris or need to hear some blatant honesty about another dysfunctional stretch of life pick up a copy of this book and get ready to laugh till you cry with You Better Not Cry.

– Nicholas Taylor, Sales Manager, Borders in Uptown

Originally posted on UptownUpdate, Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nick’s Picks

posted at 12:11 PM 0 comments

Continuing our new regular feature of book recommendations from Uptown Borders’ sales manager, Nick Taylor:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Elements of a black history with experimentation, a book of biology and a biography of the woman few have heard named elsewhere comprise the true story of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

Primarily composed of three parts spanning from Henrietta’s life, past her death, and reaching onward to her immortality, Skloot passionately follows the story of the young Southern, Virginian tobacco farm family through all the darkness that accompanies Henrietta’s case of cervical cancer; from this emerges the first HeLa cells and subsequently critical details for creating the polio vaccine, fighting cancer, viruses, the effects of the atom bomb and all the questions regarding the “illegal, immoral, and deplorable.”

Often, in reading a good book I find some personal level of resonance but few have compared with this week’s selection. In the last three years I have read over 200 books, predominately non-fiction, and this pick easily found itself in the top 5.
If you once found yourself reliving a dark past, confounded by human ability to sacrifice in the name of scientific discovery, or winding along your own journey towards the truth behind a name then such will prove one of your connections to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

originally posted on Uptown Update, SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2010

Introducing “Nick’s Picks”

posted at 12:14 PM 2 comments
Curling up with a good book may be just the thing to to chase the chills away. Uptown Update is happy to bring you a new weekly feature, from Nicholas Taylor, sales manager of Uptown Borders. He’ll do a book review weekly (just as he does with his in-store weekly recommendations), and what better time to start than now, when the weather outside can be frightful?

Sometimes you just gotta laugh so you won’t cry and if The Onion makes you laugh till you cry then I recommend you sit on the toilet with this book for $h*t$ and giggles.

Jon Stewart’s Earth (the book) A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race is an excellent choice of hilarity. Over 240 pages means one can easily find over 240 reasons to chuckle and snort or insert your laugh of choice. Due to its nice size (not to mention contents), it makes an excellent wrapped package to exchange. “Buy two,” copies and share the funny (available at your local Borders).
Crossing from commerce to culture while spanning through society and science and complete with a two page spread featuring half a Larry King, Earth plays hysterical notes across our great globe.

Say something to Nick.

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