On My Bookshelf

Point One: I suppose I should start by admitting I’ve already led you astray – none of these books actually find a home on my bookshelves. Why, you might ask? I’m cheap. That will likely emerge as a common theme if you stick around here any length of time. I’m happy to be (generally)  frugal, and one easy way to further my goal of stretching every dollar is to avoid the hefty price tag associated with buying books (see below for my exception).
Point Two: I LOVE to read. I had a voracious appetite for books as a child (likely fueled by watching my father inhale books…seriously, the man is a machine). This has waned over the last decade, mostly due to my need to read so much scholastic material. My enthusiasm for recreational reading was, not surprisingly, quashed after consuming tomes on Human Physiology and slogging through fourth-year Biometrics texts (yes, they were worse than they sound). Sure there were a smattering of English literature books in university, but even those required me to think critically, take notes, and churn out a term paper at the end. After my textbook-heavy undergrad, I simply moved right along to an intense journal-article-saturated Masters, and then a few months later…you guessed it (or maybe you didn’t)…I had a baby. So reading has, unfortunately, been a low priority for me. But that’s changed these past few months, as I’m making time for one of my favourite hobbies.

Point Three: I’m a bit of an illegitimate reader. I skim (also learned from my father). I also quickly forget material after I’ve read it – retaining two or three central details, but subtle nuances are gone for good. These were great skills in university (well, the skimming bit, not the forgetting, although thankfully that generally only happened AFTER final exams), but now it means that while I enjoy a book while reading it, I am liable to forget most specifics quite quickly. I counter this with my recent initiative to take notes (although not generally on novels) while reading. This is something I utilized extensively in university and it gives me great satisfaction to be able to flip through pages of notes on a book.

I thought I’d highlight a few books I’ve read in the last few months. Forgive the self-help/child-rearing tendencies of many books, but that’s just my stage of life:

1. One Thousand Gifts // 2. The Happiness Project // 3. Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours // 4. Still Alice // 5. Bringing up Bebe // 6. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott // 7. Radical //  8. The Fish That Ate the Whale: America’s Banana King
1. One Thousand Gifts – Ann Voskamp. I actually already discussed the book back here; this is one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Her writing style – haunting and poetic – is wonderfully unique. She challenges the modern take on happiness, and counters with a call to “joy” – a state which is never dependent on circumstances, but rather on a commitment to gratitude to God for all the gifts He so graciously gives. I list a few of my favourite quotes in my previous post, but this is certainly a book best enjoyed with a pencil in hand. And despite my frugality – this book is on my Christmas list. I will admit, her writing style might not be so enthusiastically received by others, but I urge you to give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised!

2. The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin. I really enjoyed this book. It was a light read, but peppered with fantastic quotes (my favourite being “The days are long, but the years are short”). The author decided to tackle and improve personal “happiness” by focusing on specific (and topical – like marriage, family, money) resolutions each month. She provides some excellent – and concrete – steps to promote “happiness,” many in the form of streamlining one’s life. The main shortcoming of the book, in my mind, is the worldly take on “spirituality.” Happiness is, this book argues, something that can be achieved by human willpower alone – a conscious decision, which often involves some form of belief in a spiritual realm, though specifics are left to the reader. Ironically, Ann Voskamp argues believers can find joy (very different from happiness) in all situations because they know a good God is in control. Overall, though, this was an excellent read, and I plan to read her new book Happier at Home. Furthermore, I’m also enjoying her unique portrayal of Winston Churchill in this book.

3. Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours – Kevin Leman. This was a really good book. The main suggestion is implementation of reality discipline (ie: logical consequences for actions). I will admit being surprised with the overt Biblical framework around which this book was arranged – his premise: parents are in authority but God is the boss! He also stresses the importance of letting children fail, highlighting that everyone’s Christian life begins with failure – we come to saving grace not out of victory, but out of admitting defeat in our own ability. Another idea I found helpful was the suggestion to praise/criticize the action, not the child – don’t tell a child they’re a good girl/boy for cleaning their room, because this suggests if they didn’t clean their room they would be a bad boy/girl; something like “Thanks for your hard work, I appreciate it” would be more appropriate. Lots more good suggestions in the book.

4. Still Alice – Lisa Genova. This was a recommendation from one of my closest friends (who is coming to visit tomorrow – YAY!). It is a heart wrenching account of dementia – written from the perspective of a 50’s-something Harvard professor who has been diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s. Very well written, and a unique portrayal of the disease since the reader can, at times, be lead astray by the forgetfulness by the narrator which distorts reality.

5. Bringing up Bebe – Pamela Druckerman. This book has been circulating all the talk shows and news networks in North America. For good reason I suppose – families, and society in general, are struggling with the ramifications of modern parenting. Bringing up Bebe contrasts North American ideals with the far-from-perfect, but perhaps closer-to-ideal style of French parenting. I found it an amusing read, in part because none of the information was new to me. The style of parenting the author recommends directly aligns with the (sometimes controversial) Babywise-style parenting that I’ve been implementing all along (and runs counter to the attachment-style parenting of this book…which I’ve also read).

6. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott – Kelly O’Connor McNees. Easy read, nothing special. It is a fictional account of what “might” have happened to Lousia May Alcott (writer of the famous Little Women) during one particular summer for which there is little to no official documentation of her activities. No obvious complaints, but I did find it a bit slow and…it just didn’t engage me.

7. Radial: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream – David Platt. Another well-known book, and for just that reason I had steered away from ordering it. I have actually only finished the first few chapters, but so far it is engaging and convicting. He challenges modern believers to focus on what truly matters – salvation and reaching the lost. He criticizes: easy-believism (“We’re settling for Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves, when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves”), intellectual acceptance (“The gospel does not prompt you to mere reflection; the gospel require a response) and devotional-style preaching (“People are spiritually dead and only words from God can bring them to spiritual life.”). Having only touched the surface of the book, I certainly can’t speak to it’s entire content, but I am impressed by his unabashed view of the problems facing the modern church, and appreciate his Biblical response.

8. The Fish that Ate the Whale: America’s Banana King – Rich Cohen. This was a fascinating biography of Sam the Banana Man, who brought banana’s to the masses. Rich Cohen chronicles the savvy business tactics, ruthless and deadly rivalries, and ultimate rise and fall of one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs. Though well written, I will admit my interest was waning by the end. I think a more business-centric reader than myself would have been riveted by all the details, but it was a bit weighty for me. Excellent book, though.

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2 thoughts on “On My Bookshelf

  1. I haven’t read any of these (I have SO MANY unread books sitting on my “shelf” [virtual]) but Bringing Up Bebe has been one that I’ve wanted to read.

    Kevin Leman is hit or miss for me.

    • I really enjoyed Bringing Up Bebe. It was a relatively quick read…but the principles were pretty timeless. Somethings were quite cultural (a lot of the daycare things she mentioned just aren’t applicable here in Canada), but on the whole I can see why it has been so popular!

      This is the only Kevin Leman book I’ve read. His writing style wasn’t my favourite, but his concrete examples were pretty helpful.

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