It’s important to feel I’m running my work instead of letting it run me; so I’ve forced myself to get into the habit of daily meditation for 30 minutes in the mornings, even on days when I’m itching to get on with things. Meditation isn’t a productivity tool, but the productivity benefits of stopping and putting things in perspective every day are huge.

A cleareyed Malcolm Gladwell discusses the American penchant for reducing all activity to a moral lesson that can be imparted through the powerful cocktail of stage presence and rear-screen projection. Drawing a line from Benjamin Franklin to the homilies printed on Celestial Seasonings tea boxes, Mr. Gladwell says that even knotty concepts from fields like quantum physics and philology can be made attractive to large groups of people if the concepts are rendered as anecdotes involving a cabdriver, a small child or an obscure Flemish botanist. “Start with a personal anecdote,” Mr. Gladwell suggests, “and then extrapolate to the 18th-century cocoa trade in Malta.”

It is so hard to change behavior and to face oneself honestly. This author has my total admiration. I used to work with a woman who had a brain injury and dealt with it by reciting to herself the very true mantra “everyone has SOME deficit,” which is very true. And this author has made me twist that to “everyone has SOME addiction.”

Plato could have warned me. In “The Republic,” he advises “temperance” in physical training, likening it to learning music and poetry. Keep it “simple and flexible,” as in all things, don’t overdo. Follow this course, and you will remain “independent of medicine in all but extreme cases.”

Hospital managers at Gloucestershire NHS Trust (in 2001) and the catering staff at Flintshire County Council (in 2009) renamed the pudding Spotted Richard on menus because of the use of the word dick in the original name, a common dysphemism for male genitalia in the English language. Gloucestershire NHS Trust restored the original name in 2002. Flintshire County Council reversed their renaming after a few weeks.

n an excerpted interview published in The News & Observer in 1994, Betts talked about her book and explained that it was an exploration of how God can allow the innocent to suffer.

“I always am interested in whether or not you can deal with what I think of as the big questions at the level of ordinary working people. It seems to me that that’s essential in fiction in America,” she said. “If you really want to ask the questions that Job asked, why shouldn’t you ask them of a highway patrolman, a beautician, a shoe salesman at Belk’s …?”