Sunday, December 30, 2012

Summer of nonfiction

Wow, it's been a long time since I posted any book reviews here.  Luckily, I spent my whole summer recovering from long bike races.  And reading.  I did a lot of reading.  Somewhat surprisingly since I love me a good novel, most of it has been nonfiction (full disclosure: except for rereading the Twilight series for the fourth time and, um, the Fifty Shades of Grey series).  Here's a brief recap:


The Blood Sugar Solution - I bought this one because my brother has been losing weight and I saw it at his house when I was there in May.  Basically, the premise is that the types of foods we eat are the cause of the majority of physical ailments today, and by changing what and how we eat, we can make huge improvements in our health.  The first part of the book goes over different systems food affects, and there are patient case studies to illustrate the point of how well Dr. Hyman's "solution" works.  Each section has a quiz that will help you determine if your system is affected and if you need the Blood Sugar Solution.

To be honest, I read the first few chapters and then started skimming.  While the quizzes might be a good diagnostic, to me it seemed like basically anyone would qualify for needing the blood sugar solution.  To summarize: grain is bad, sugar is bad, processed foods are bad, dairy is bad. Get rid of most of the food you have in your house.  The back of the book does have some recipes, and I'm going to try some of those, but like most "how to eat" books, for me it falls short.  Maybe because I couldn't stick with it all the way...

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

In Wild, Strayed writes about her solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.  Even a week or so after reading the book, it has stuck with me.  Having had my kids super early, I never had the opportunity to go off and adventure as a young adult with no responsibilities.  That said, I don't know if 19 year old me would have had the confidence to take off and hike 1000ish miles on her own.  39 year old me, yeah, she'd do it...but I'd rather do it with friends.  Who's in?

Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer

On of my very favorite book is is Krakauer's Into Thin Air, so I couldn't resist picking this up on the Target book rack.  There are some definite parallels between the two "Wild" books.  Similar to Cheryl Strayed, Christopher McCandless took off into the...well, a young adult.  His story lacks her happy ending, but it was a fascinating read.  Both of them were somewhat estranged from their families, Strayed as her family kind of disintegrated after her mother's death, and McCandless in response to some things he learned about his family's past. 

Even before McCandless pulled away from his family, however, he was very strong-willed and independent, setting off on solo trips that I can't imagine letting my teenage kids do.  Of course, there didn't seem to be a lot of "letting" with him, either.  He did; he didn't ask permission.  As a parent, his story is in some ways one of the scarier things I've read.  You can't protect your kids from everything, but you especially can't protect them from themselves.  Very interesting, very sad story.

Nothing Daunted, by Dorothy Wickenden

I absolutely loved this story about two society girls who, unsatisfied with the options around them in Auburn, NY, took positions teaching school in rural Colorado in the early 1900s.  Written by the granddaughter of one of the women, the story fleshes out the numerous letters the women left behind from their year in Colorado.  These two ladies truly had the adventure spirit.   

A new school was built primarily to further education in the area but also to bring marriagable prospects into the male-dominated population, and Dorothy and Rosamond were the first teachers hired.  As a teacher, it added an additional level of fun for me as I read about their struggles to maintain discipline and create lesson plans.  Though both girls were college graduates, neither had any teaching experience...or really much practical experience at all, having lived in houses with maids, cooks, and other servants.  Still, despite growing up in very privileged families, Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood thrived on the Colorado frontier. 

The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs

I've read and reviewed this book before, but since I'm currently rereading it I'll mention it here again (boy, you know your blog is getting stale when you're reduced to re-reviewing books you've already blogged about!).  I love this book.  It's funny, it's weird, it's interesting.  Basically, Jacobs, and agnostic of Jewish heritage, spends a year trying to live by the letter of the Bible, both the big rules and the obscure. While he is doing this with the express purpose of writing a book about it, he goes full in, from letting his beard grow (he'd totally fit in with the Virtus crowd!) refusing to touch his wife when she's Biblically "unclean" (she's both a saint and hilarious, such as the scene where she sits on every seat in the house so that he can't use any of the chairs)... to "stoning" attempting to "be fruitful and multiply" (with more success than he'd imagined). 

Having been raised with religion, it's interesting to view the Bible through the eyes of someone who doesn't believe (and I'd be willing to bet he knows the Bible better than the majority of people who are fervent believers), and it was fascinating to watch the transformation in his relationship with religion as he went through the year.  Really a neat book; whether you have a religious background or not, you'll learn something new, you'll be sure to laugh, and you'll be glad you're not married to Mr. Jacobs! :)

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