Bucket Book Reviews

This is a book written by two old, white, bearded men. The “old” is relative of course, depending on how advanced in years you are yourself, but at well over 70 they are no spring chickens.
They admit this. Indeed, they are unapologetic about belonging to this least trendy of demographic groups and their book is illuminated by a self-confidence and optimism almost shocking in people who by rights should be moaning about the size of their pensions and the state of the National Health Services (British and French respectively). Instead they have chosen to write a self-help book –“about living fully while emptying the bucket completely before you kick it.
This is book written by men born and brought up within 20 miles of each other in northern Ohio, both of whom now live in Europe, and who have spent their lives travelling and working all over the world. One of the authors, Walt Hopkins, is an organizational coach and business consultant, the other, George Simons, a well-respected intercultural specialist.
Despite their now being residents of Scotland and France, this is a very American book. We British in particular have a sort of resistance, grounded in shyness or fear, which results in acute discomfort when it comes to tackling life’s big questions like – What is happiness? How can we lead fulfilling lives? How should we live as we get closer to dying? Because of this we may joke about the questions , or react with cynicism to attempts to answer them. These American writers tackle these questions head on and give their answers with a confidence and pragmatism that I can only admire.
It may be that this book is a flowering of seeds sown in the US in the 1960’s, in their youth, when the words peace, love and understanding weren’t an ironic slogan but a revolutionary message and a statement of intent shared by many young people of the time. But overlying the interest in mind and spirit and the belief in a better tomorrow which shine through this book are the lessons the authors learned later in their long, busy, lives.
The Bucket Book was written by two intelligent, thoughtful, well-educated men. In describing the seven ways to empty your life of irrelevancies and fill it with meaning the advice is sensible, the tone business-like and down-to-earth. But in many places the book is also idiosyncratic and personal – and it’s the anecdotes you remember. Like the times at airport security when George is regularly asked to remove his braces. He complies of course, but has learned that if he expands his stomach at the same time his trousers will fall round his ankles and cause great consternation among the security personnel. So naturally he does it whenever he can.
In the introduction the authors make no bones about the book being written, “by older guys for other older guys.” Despite not being a guy (and indeed being an over-the-hill doll) I didn’t feel excluded at all, because women get older too and we also try to make sense of the past and need to decide how to shape our futures. This is a book for people who can see the bucket looming in the distance, but want to empty it of every last drop before giving it the final kick.

-Gwyneth Olofsson, Amazon reviews

Nothing, they say, focuses the mind like the prospect of death.
That once-in-a-lifetime event may not be imminent for you…or for me. Or it may be, whether we know it or not. But one thing is certain: it is inevitable. Slow or sudden, whether peacefully or by force, come it will.
This book is a how-to manual for living – living up to our potential before that final day. It takes its rise in the realization that we are all mortal; in light of that, what are our priorities – our “bucket list” – in whatever time we have?
Walt Hopkins and George Simons, the authors, are men and senior citizens. Out of their considerable thought and broad professional and personal experience they pay special attention to other senior men but in the process help persons outside that category also. They pack their pages with practical advice for anyone who wants to organize, simplify, streamline, reduce the burden, cut the clutter. Speaking for myself as a senior man, I am benefitting from the techniques they set out; I only wish I had known – and heeded — such wise counsel years ago!
These guys are skilled in the arts of communicating. Whether your personal tastes run to classical literature, popular culture, contemporary cross-cultural interfacing, laugh-out-loud word play, lofty logic worthy of a doctoral dissertation or earthy, street-level language, you’ll find material here to meet your fancy. I predict you’ll have enough fun reading and pondering the book and putting its recommendations into practice that you’ll forget you’re really learning! In the process you’ll lighten your load, help your heirs and maybe even gain a new grasp on what’s really important to you.
Do not assume, however, that this little volume will offer everything you need to know and do before your date to die. As human beings we are multi-layered; we have social, familial, financial, spiritual and political concerns to deal with. In addition to a bucket list we may struggle with a worry list: climate change, still-rampant racism, the refugee crisis, poverty, homelessness, what-have-you. We cannot escape questions about health and diet and exercise. We crave a clear sense of who we are: how can we live with integrity in a conflicted world; how do we leave a legacy that expresses the best of who we claim to be or aim to be? Such questions are touched on only glancingly or recognized in the closing chapters. Far from being a negative comment, this is a confirmation that the authors have focused on their task: they have delivered a helpful statement on how to “Lighten” your life before you kick the bucket… had they broadened their scope they might have changed the verb “lighten” to something like “enhance” or “strengthen” or “deepen.” The book practises truth in titling. If we’re served seafood as advertised¸ forget criticizing it for not being beefsteak! This book serves up exactly what it promises. I profited from it, and fully expect you can too.

 January 28, 2016

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