One of my favorite quotes from Vera Koo’s latest book, “Wisdom and Things: Essays From An Unlikely Champion,” is this one: “My exterior does not show what I am made of.” Vera’s quote continues, “Who you are is not just based on how you look or your upbringing. It is determined by your willpower, your work ethic and your persistence.” After nearly two years of a world-wide pandemic-related disruption in our normal lives, this kind of grit, resilience and hopefulness is more important than ever. Now is the perfect time to be encouraged, refreshed and inspired by wisdom … and things.


Within the pages of Vera Koo’s collection of essays, she reminds us that although we must dig deep within our hidden strengths and “Seize the moment, and don’t hold back,” community is also important. Her essay titled, “Why you should surround yourself with inspiring people” is an unvarnished look at Vera’s insecurities, and how she has gained strength from her mentors and other accomplished women. Vera confesses that she is much more comfortable being the student, rather than the teacher. However, because Vera pushed through her initial unease with being in the role of a firearms instructor, in front of cameras on an online NRA television show no-less, she was able to empower other women to learn from her background in the shooting sports. 

Vera makes a powerful statement in her essay, “Don’t miss your ‘some day’.” Too many of us put off living out our dreams because we believe that “some day” life will allow us that freedom. The reality is that permission will never come. Waiting will only result in more waiting. Looking back at the unexpected turn that so many of our lives took during the global lockdowns brings into sharp focus the wisdom of Vera’s words. Through her example and her essay, we are encouraged that “If you believe you can do something, you usually can!”


Borrowing from an old Chinese fable, Vera makes one of her most impactful assertions. The essay is titled “Embrace your true self and don’t hide your tail.” I would not want to rob you of the discovery hidden in this essay by giving away too much, but make a point to jump ahead to page 107. Among the many personal and family photos that Vera has shared in this book, you will find the evolution from a young child, to a traditional Chinese wife and mother, to a confident champion competitive shooter. Vera is a voice we can trust when she encourages us that, “If you try to please everyone and be something you are not, you are just wasting your time.” 

Every page of Vera Koo’s “Wisdom and Things” offers a moment to pause, reflect and smile. Each essay is relatable and motivational. Whether this book is a gift to yourself or to someone else who needs a day-brightener, you will find yourself, like I did, turning down the corners of pages and placing sticky notes on the portions that especially inspire, uplift, and bring a knowing nod of agreement. The final pages hold a future-oriented essay titled “Always on the lookout for adventure,” which I can only hope is a promise that we will have future books by Vera to read and from which to gain inspiration, wisdom and things.

This review was originally published at “Women’s Outdoor News.” Be sure to also read Cheryl Todd’s review of Vera Koo’s first book, “The Most Unlikely Champion.”


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