2013-02-07 / Columns

Off the Bookshelf

By Maralee Kalianoff


Few people love Self-Help books. Especially in mid-January when you have already desecrated every resolution you made for the New You in the New Year. My state of acceptance was ebbing when, after a particularly long and stressful week, I received a book in the mail with a request for a review—“Oola—Find Balance in an Unbalanced World,” promising to enlighten me in “The 7 Areas you Need to BALANCE and GROW to LIVE the LIFE OF YOUR DREAMS.” I read those words and groaned audibly. The only thing I liked about the book was its fashion-forward black cover with splashes of lime green accents.

Ahhhh, but you can’t judge a book by its cover, or even its intimidating title. “Oola,” written by Napoleon native Dave Braun and Troy Amdahl, is undoubtedly the only self-help book I have ever enjoyed. So much so that, 20 pages into it, I totally forgot it was a self-help book. Sandwiched in between the humor and great stories are words to live by (that selfhelp stuff randomly exists in the book; you just enjoy the rest of it so much it isn’t annoying).

My personal favorite: “It is not always about you. Embrace this and it will protect you from pain and open you to growth. There is always someone bigger, faster, stronger and better-looking. Attach to something larger than yourself; compare your growth not to others, but only your previous self. As you continue to balance your life, you will experience failures along your journey, so you will be humbled. Respond with gratitude, learn, grow, and keep pushing.”

When Dave writes about gratitude, he shares a very personal time in his life. His sister’s son Jared Jacob, a strong, athletic 16-year-old, is diagnosed with cancer. His strength and determination in battling his cancer started a “JJ Strong” movement; his Caring Bridge site had over 200,000 visits, and everyone was wearing JJ Strong t-shirts and wristbands. Before he died, Jared told his mom he was grateful that he got cancer instead of his sister or brothers, his friends or the rest of the members of his family. He was grateful God chose him for this. Because of Jared, Dave remains grateful for everything in his life. He continues to wear the JJ Strong wristband every day as a reminder to always stay strong, “JJ Strong,” for his purpose in life.

The chapters in “Oola” are short and to the point; one specific point per chapter. Dave and Troy share their life experiences, some serious and many LOL funny; all are entertaining and, if you are motivated towards self-help, inspirational.

Dave Braun had his “oola life” and lost it. Three years ago, after hitting rock bottom, he decided he wanted his oola back. A determined and, judging strictly from his writing, likeable young guy, he is now well on his way to finding it again. Dave, raised on a farm near Napoleon with four sisters, offers an insightful, refreshing look at growing up in rural North Dakota, a fact he mentions a lot and of which he seems quite proud.

In the book, Dave is referred to as the “oola-seeker.” His long-time friend and mentor, his go-to-guy as he claws his way up from the bottom, is Troy, known as the “oolaguru.” Troy has always been driven toward the oola-life and, once attaining it, works hard to maintain it and has never lost it. Troy has no “dimmer switch”; he throws himself 100 percent into everything he chooses to do.

I loved this book. It was the perfect book to start off the New Year (a couple weeks late). Inspiring and entertaining, don’t anticipate a self-help manual; just help yourself to a totally enjoyable book.

(Editor’s Note: The book is for sale in Linton at the Emmons County Record, J&L Insurance and Ritz Gallery, Gifts and Coffee Shop.)

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If a book you are looking for is not available at the Harry L. Petrie Library, Librarian Carla Frison will be happy to obtain it from the North Dakota State Library for you. If you return the book to the State Library in Bismarck within the allotted time, there is no charge. The staff can return it by mail but will have to charge you for postage.

Hours for the library in Linton are Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed on Tuesdays, 2-5 p.m. on Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and 2-5 p.m. on Friday. Friends of the Library meets every first Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Library. Everyone is welcome.

To contact Maralee, e-mail her: bonus73@hotmail.com and put Off the Bookshelf in the subject line.

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