Reading: Catching up

I’ve been such an inconsistent blogger recently that I’ve really fallen behind in my book summaries!

Finished reading: 

If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg – I like John Ortberg. This “Christian living” book looks at the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water and breaks it down, applying it to life, risk-taking, and being proactive. John’s style is friendly, conversational, and real.

Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz – This book is the most “artsy” pregnancy-and-birth preparation book I’ve come across. There are lots of suggestions for using art as a way to explore your feelings and expectations about pregnancy and birth. Steve and I had fun a couple times doing “birth art” together. Like other birth books, this one also covers all the basics of what to expect, how to prepare for labor and delivery, etc., etc. I thought this book had the best “relaxation practice” exercises out of the other books I’ve read, although I have yet to practice consistently!

What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway – I didn’t read every word in this book, but basically skimmed as needed. Good reference; each chapter has plenty of FAQs that address common “symptoms” and questions that women have during each month of their pregnancy.

Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Vischer – Phil Vischer is the creator of Veggie Tales, and this book his his memoir detailing his life story, including the creation and astounding success of Veggie Tales and its subsequent spectacular failure (Phil’s company went bankrupt and Veggie Tales was sold). I wouldn’t expect anything less from the creator of Veggie Tales, but Phil is hilarious, and describes his conservative evangelical Christian upbringing, childhood quirks, and adventures as a startup and groundbreaking computer animator with wit and humor. Some parts of this book were very poignant and thought-provoking for me, personally, as Phil explores questions about why God might let a “good dream” die.

How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates – Picked this one randomly from the “new books” shelf and I’m glad I did! Michael Gates, born into a rich and privileged family, was 55 when he was let go from the big advertising company he had worked at for 25 years; shortly afterwards, his wife divorced him because he had an affair and his mistress got pregnant. His freelance consulting was going downhill and he was sipping a latte that he couldn’t really afford when he randomly got offered a job with Starbucks. This turned his life around as Michael began to learn about respecting other people, taking pride in his work, and accepting and relating with people of different backgrounds and ethnicities.

The friendly tone of his book often made me forget the “privileged” life he had led when younger — graduated from Yale, partied with New York upper-class, and rubbed shoulders with people like Hemingway (!), so the little name-dropping anecdotes about his younger years were a little startling.

Michael faces and admits his poorer choices honestly, without excuse, and gratitude and grace echo throughout his book. Reading this almost made me want to work at Starbucks.

A Slice of Organic Life edited by Sheherazade Goldsmith – A big photo-heavy book with lots of different suggestions for how you can make more environmentally-friendly choices. Each suggestion is just a few pages with plenty of gorgeous photography, ranging from growing lettuces in a small container to owning a cow. The tips are organized by chapters according to how much space you have — from small spaces (such as apartments) to large rural-area spaces. No matter what kind of environment you live in, this book helps you to make the world a better place.

Simplify Your Space by Marcia Ramsland – I picked this one up randomly as well from the “new book” section. Marcia takes you through different sections of the house and provides tips and step-by-steps for decluttering. The goal, it seems, is to get your house to look like a model home with clear surfaces and Less Stuff. She also has lots of practical suggestions for developing habits and systems to maintain your New Clean Home and how to get your family on board.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan – “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” So goes the “eater’s manifesto” according to Michael Pollan. Yet Michael doesn’t flesh that out until the last half of the book; the first half explorse the western food culture and “nutritionism” and how science, industry, and media try to reduce foods to simple combinations of “good” components (vitamins, omega-3 fats, antioxidants) and “bad” components (at any point in the last few years, these may have included cholesterol, saturated fats, and now trans fats). We, as consumers, blindly follow the labels and recommendations, but to the detriment of our health — simply pumping vitamins into a slice of fortified white bread really isn’t going to do much for us, for example. Even more sobering, all of the “low fat is good!” messages that we’ve been bombarded with have led us to heavily processed foods and eating less vegetables, and our increasing rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer may be the result… but as recent research has shown, a low-fat diet may not really have any correlation with reduced heart disease or cancer! If anything, the first half of this book exposes the futility of nutrition science and our arrogance in believing that what we put together in a factory can be just as good — or better — than what nature provides.

The second half of the book unpacks and defines “eat food,” “not too much,” and “mostly plants.” It’s encouraging that we do live in an age where we have the option to opt-out of the western diet without opting out of civilization altogether. Michael self-admittedly doesn’t try to dictate a specific “diet” to follow, but gives general principles such as “don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize” (yogurt in a tube? colored blue? are you sure that’s not toothpaste?), “avoid food with ingredients that are unpronounceable, unfamiliar, more than 5 in number, or contain high-fructose corn syrup,” and “eat leaves.”

Another excellent book, which inspired me to wash off the veggies in my fridge and cook them up!

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

  • Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
  • The Best of Ogden Nash edited by Linell Nash Smith
  • Sacred Attitudes by Erica Ross-Krieger
  • Body, Soul, and Baby by Tracy Gaudet
  • 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

3 thoughts on “Reading: Catching up

  1. I really enjoyed Michael Pollan’s book too. It was such a relief to read a book on food that didn’t turn eating into a complex mathematical algorithm.

    Maybe Bringhurst qualifies as a reference book – which means you don’t really have to finish reading it! There’s a ton of material in it to digest.

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