Book Review: How to Escape from Prison, by Dr Paul Wood

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_how_to_escape_from_prisonPaul Wood was convicted of murder and imprisoned at age eighteen spending the next eleven years in Mt Crawford, Paremoremo, and Rimutaka prisons.

He has recorded these years in a recently released book How to Escape From Prison, a harrowing read of a young man’s journey with drug addiction and violence before his escape from his “mental prison’ enabled him to complete a degree while still in prison.

A mental prison Wood explains is a ‘set of distorted or misguided beliefs that condition our view of ourselves and the choices available to us, that prevent us from seeing clearly what we might achieve if we chose to live freely.’

Growing up in Wellington, Wood progressed from fighting with his brothers and dropping out of school, as well as becoming caught up in the drug scene before killing his drug dealer with a baseball bat, three days after the death of his mother.

How to Escape from Prison records Paul’s life behind bars and the people he meet inside who encouraged his road to redemption and the completion of a masters degree in psychology. He commenced further study for a doctorate while in prison completing this on his release and graduating on 2011.

The writing style is simple and easy to follow although the graphic detailing of the drug taking and prison life is at times overwhelming and I felt enormous relief as Paul Woods found his pathway to freedom through study. He said, “Once I discovered reading, I began to read voraciously”, and throughout the book he has included many quotations from books which assisted in his rehabilitation. His Five Steps to Freedom outlined in part two of the book include good advice and strategies to help people escape their mental prisons, and he has also shared “a list of things that assist in the development and exercise of self-control” which he calls “Willpower 101”.

Paul Wood lives in Wellington and is a motivational speaker and leadership and personal development specialist. He contributes regularly to the media and works with charities that focus on helping young men avoid prison or reintegrate on release. How to Escape from Prison is an inspiring read and valuable resource for anyone needing help to fulfil their potential and turn their dreams into reality.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

How To Escape from Prison
by Dr Paul Wood
Published by HarperCollins
ISBN‎: ‎9781775541196

Book Review: Adventurer at Heart, by Nathan Fa’avae

cv_adventurer_at_heartAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

OK, I’ll admit it. Before reading this book, I had no idea who Fa’avae was. Not a clue. But then, his world is still something of an unknown quantity to many of us. Adventure racing (also called expedition racing) is a multi-disciplinary team sport involving orientation skills, usually over an unmarked wilderness course. Races go can be anywhere from two hours up to two weeks in length. and also involve a range of principle disciplines like trekking, mountain biking, and paddling. Some could even include climbing, abseiling, horse riding or skiing. Premier events, including the World Championships, of which Fa’avae was a three year champion, involve mixed gender teams of four racers over a number of days. Teams can rest up, but there’s no suspension of the clock, making it a grueling sport of mental and physical endurance and skill.

At the height of his career Fa’avae was certainly a heavyweight in the world of adventure racing. From loser to top adventure racer Fa’avae’s story is a humble yet proud account. Growing up as probably the only Pacific Island juvenile delinquent in Nelson he was, in his own words, a ‘little sh*t’ – petty crime, wagging school, the whole shebang! But, as the book reveals, things changed and after many failures, Fa’avae grew to take on many challenges. He has qualified for the Olympics, been an Outward Bound instructor and won three World Championships plus a stack of other titles.

This is the perfect book for anyone who wants a bit of armchair action. It’s a simple personal account, but a warm telling of his life to date (Fa’avae is only in his mid 40’s), highlighting a competitive career that began with his first attempt in 1991, as an 18-year-old, at competing at the Speights Coast to Coast Longest Day event and concluding with his swansong − captaining Team Seagate to another victory in the Iron Bound Challenge adventure race in Malaysia. That event was in October 2015. So the ink on this book is still pretty damp.

Don’t rule this book out as yet another sports hero story either. It’s not just about the wins or the endurance, although running a team in a six day event over mountains, rivers and tropical forests with virtually no sleep is pretty intense. No. The most enduring irony is that one of the world’s most respected adventure racers also suffers from a condition that’s completely at odds with the demands of the sport. Halfway through his career, Fa’avae was diagnosed with an atrial flutter − which is basically an abnormal heart rhythm, he tells us. The drama builds when he casually adds that corrective surgery in 2001 didn’t quite go to plan and unexpectedly escalates to atrial fibrillation (that’s the ‘code red stuff, folks). Subsequent procedures in 2005 should have corrected all that and Fa’avae went on to lead the Seagate team to their first Adventure Racing World Championship title in France.

Fa’avae actually began this book about 5 years ago when he first considered giving it away, or at least winding down, and was planning to make a go of the after dinner circuit. He actually shelved the idea after making an initial attempt before eventually picking it up again. It was only the untimely death of his mother that made him rethink the writing gig. He reckons it’s best to get it all down, you never know what’s around the corner. And what an adventure!

As well as telling his story, Fa’avae tells us some of the skills needed to inspire young adults, especially those who went to the Outward Bound courses, and the joys of fatherhood. Fa’avae’s book ticks the box as a damn good inspirational read, and he is a great role model for Pacific Island young men (and all young men in general). I hope he comes to my town one day, as I’d love to hear him speak. I’m googling Adventure Racing now – does it play on Sky Sport?!

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

Nathan Fa’avae: Adventurer at Heart 
by Nathan Fa’avae
Published by Potton & Burton
ISBN 9781927213629

Book Review: Very Good Lives, by JK Rowling

cv_very_good_livesAvailable in bookstores nationwide.

In 2008, JK Rowling, at the height of her fame, was asked to deliver the commencement speech for the graduating class at Harvard University. A daunting prospect for anyone, which Rowling candidly admits gave her ‘weeks of fear and nausea’. She is human after all.

She chose her subject matter based on what she wish she had been told when she graduated at the age of 21, and comes up with two things – the fringe benefits of failure, and the importance of imagination – two subjects she is well qualified to speak on, not because she went to university and learnt these things but because she has actually lived them. At the age of 21 of course, being a Harvard graduate, the concept of failure is laughable. But as all of us older, life experienced souls know, failure can happen to anyone, at any time. As for imagination, the very act of taking time to listen and to learn other people’s stories prods the imagination centre of the brain, as in our empathy, we can experience to some degree what we are being told. JK Rowling’s time in her early twenties working at Amnesty International taught her this.

This little book is the speech she gave to the graduates of Harvard in 2008. It is very inspirational, very personal, beautifully worded and crafted. For the Harvard graduates who heard this speech, time has probably dulled its effect somewhat, although I would like to think that something of it stayed with them. But for us, the reader, this little book of her speech, with simple but powerful illustrations is something we can go back to time and time again for a reread, a kick in the pants, or a quiet space and few minutes to shed a wee tear.

Reviewed by Felicity Murray

Very Good Lives
by JK Rowling
Published by Sphere
ISBN 9781408706787