Reading: Back to Bujold, Plenty, more baby

Finished reading:

The Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, and The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold – Without any library books, I turned to one of my favorite authors. These three books are set in the same “world.” The Curse of Chalion follows Cazaril, who becomes the tutor of a royal princess but finds himself caught up in physical, spiritual, and magical danger as he tries to break a curse that is on the royal family. The book is heavily “theological” in the sense that themes of free will, predestination, and supernatural interaction between humans and the five gods are explored through this fantasy. Paladin of Souls is a sequel, this time following Ista (the mother of the princess) on a spiritual pilgrimage that also ends up being very fantastically magical and spiritual. The Hallowed Hunt is set in a different country in the same world with completely different characters; Ingrey, sent to investigate the murder of a prince and to bring the murderess, Ijada, back for trial, also finds himself in the middle of something supernatural.

I love, love, love Bujold’s books for their depth and layers. Unlike the Vorkosigan books which have plenty of comedy thrown in, these three books are more somber in tone, but have the same wonderful “real” characterization and layer upon layer of plot that I love in all of her books. I enjoyed reading these again.

Plenty by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon – Remember how I’m a sucker for food books? I’m also a sucker for books about extreme life experiments (reference Not Buying It and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). In this book, Alisa and James go on a year-long experiment to see if they can live on food that has been produced within 100 miles of their Vancouver-area apartment (and thus become the unwitting creators of the “100 mile diet”). Their ground rules include relaxing their diet when invited to friends’ houses or when traveling, but as the book progresses, they find that their experiment is becoming a lifestyle, and that their meals are more filling and taste better.

I’d categorize this along with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but it’s more of a memoir and less of an informative “sell” the way Kingsolver’s book was.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg – This was in a short stack of books my friend handed over to me and came highly recommended. I mostly skimmed this book to get an overall idea of her approach and to see what things Steve and I could discuss. Tracy’s philosophy is in between the attachment parenting folks (pick up and soothe your baby at every cry or else you’re inflicting emotional damage on them, sleep with your baby, etc.) and the strict schedule parenting folks (make the baby fit into your life, live by the clock). She advocates having a basic routine of eat (feeding the baby), activity (time for the baby to stare at stuff, get changed, get a bath, etc.), sleep (putting the baby to sleep in their own bed), and you (time for you to take care of yourself) but encourages you to be flexible about when these things happen depending on the baby’s development.

Her main underlying philosophy is to respect the baby by treating it as a person — some specific examples are calling the baby by its name instead of referring to it as “the baby” and talking “with” the baby as you perform tasks like changing its diaper. Tracy also encourages that you really try to listen to your baby before reacting so that you get to understand the different types of cries and body language, which I also think is helpful advice. She gets quite specific in her book both with examples of how you can implement her suggestions and with plenty of real-life stories, all in a very British conversational tone with lots of “luvs” and “ducky” which makes the book fun to read.

Not having a real baby to try to practice these things on, I can’t tell you yet if her philosophy will work for us, but it’s definitely a good thing to talk to Steve and other parents about in the meantime!

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott – This memoir is in journal form, covering Anne’s first year as a single mother raising her son, Samuel. Anne is both religious and irreverent (I don’t recommend this book to nephews and nieces because of profanity) and always brutally honest about her feelings, thoughts, and reactions as she struggles to take care of her often colicky baby. There are some priceless quotes:

…I just can’t get over how much babies cry. I really had no idea what I was getting into. To tell you the truth, I thought it would be more like getting a cat…

…He falls asleep and I feel I could die of love when I watch him, and think to myself that he is what angels look like. Then I doze off, too, and it’s like heaven, but sometimes only twenty minutes later he wakes up and begins to make his gritchy rodent noises, scanning the room wildly. I look blearily over at him in the bassinet, and think, with great hostility, Oh, God, he’s raising his loathsome reptilian head again…

With a bookmark:

(Books I just started reading, or books I’ve been “reading” for ages. Most recent first.)

  • Sacred Attitudes by Erica Ross-Krieger
  • Body, Soul, and Baby by Tracy Gaudet
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway
  • The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
  • A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

In the library book box:

  • The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.
  • So That’s What They’re For! by Janet Tamero
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2 Comments

  1. gilda
    Posted November 13, 2007 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    A like the quotes from Operating Instructions… reminds me of when we used to call Elizabeth “The Beast”. It’s funny though, I can’t remember when the nickname just phased itself out. We never call her that now, even when she’s going “crazy”.

    Btw, how do you decide/find the library books that you do? I’m always there and can’t seem to find new books that I like and then see you writing summaries of all these great books? (Of course, which I then don’t remember to write down and can’t remember the titles of so that I can find them when I’m at the library. Oh, bother.)

  2. Posted November 14, 2007 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gilda — I usually browse the “new books” shelf, particularly the non-fiction. Otherwise, I jot down books that sound interesting based on other people’s blogs or references from books I’ve read that I like, then look them up in the catalog and place holds if available. Unfortunately I have a HUGE list of books I want to read that are unavailable. :(


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  1. [...] Kingsolver’s year-long experiment and Alisa and James’ 100-mile diet experiment (in Plenty) can be inspiring, it can also be discouraging in the sense that you see how hard it is to limit [...]

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