Book Reviews: September/October 2015

It’s November! Can you believe it?  I can and I can’t. I love this time of year, but I also know it’s a crazy quick slide right into the holidays and 2016, and there is inevitable chaos that goes with that.  Hoping that I can find a way to stay focused on goals while still enjoying all the lovely things about the season.

I’ve read 28 books so far this year! I am such a happier person when I’m making the time to read.  I think I already linked, but I loved this post from Fast Company about how busy people find time to read.  It really is all about your priorities. And I love that they commend those who are reading multiple books at once.  I’ve always gotten flack for that, but it turns out that’s one thing that helps me read more!

So here are the 5 books I read in September and October.  If you want to read reviews of other books I read this year, here are Jan/Feb, March/Apr, May/June & July/Aug.

Her: A Novel By Harriet Lane - I can see why the reviews on this one are so divisive. People hate the ending...but I have to agree with the reviewers who also liked the nuance of this psychological thriller. Honestly I don't think I'd even call it a thriller because it's so subtle. And it is all the better for that. I too had a bit of a "wait, wtf??" moment at the end of the book also, but I think the open ended-ness adds to it's realness and charm.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear By Elizabeth Gilbert - I don't give 5 stars on Goodreads lightly on books. But this one deserved it. I have read many a creative books over the years and especially in college getting my degree in creative writing, but I really loved this one. It's a cheerleading book for creativity and very readable because of how she breaks up the sections. I love her anecdotes and her basic premise that everyone can be creative, how it ebbs and flows and to stop worrying about creativity paying your bills. I like her more esoteric ideas about ideas finding people to carry them out, and her forgotten story that was written by another author gave me chills.

Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters By Carla Naumburg - I enjoyed this book. I thought it had a lot of similarities to Buddhism for Mothers, Momma Zen and Mindful Parenting, but it did so in a less esoteric manner. As meditation and mindfulness has been a big goal for me this year, I appreciate all the reminders I can get. Here's two of my favorite quotes:

"Soothing is about getting in the rain with our kids and letting them know that we’ll hang out with them until the storm passes."

"When we become aware, over and over again, of the voices in our head telling us that we need to use what little free time we have in the most productive way possible, we can let them go. We can tune into what we want and what we need, and make the choice to take care of ourselves just a little bit"  I am so guilty of this and often need a reminder to sometimes just ‘be.’

What Alice Forgot By Liane Moriarty - Liane Moriarty is quickly becoming one of my favorite fiction authors. She's consistent. I know that may sound boring, but it's something I really appreciate in novels. I know that I consistently will get a good story and good writing. It seems I can pick up any one of her books and whip through it. This book was lovely, and being a big fan of "what if" type stories the whole plot line of "what if you lost your 10 years of your memory - what would your 10 year younger self think of your life now" was an enjoyable one.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood By Jennifer Senior - I liked this book a lot. It's not a typical parenting book, but an interesting look at how parenting affects the parents, not how parenting affects the kids. 

So many great things in here, but I liked these in particular:

"Joy is connection" It's not about our solitary pleasures that bring us joy in the long haul, it's our sense of connection and bondedness

"Joy is attachment"

"Joy is about being warm, not hot"

"We don't care for kids because we love them, we love them because we care for them" 

I loved what she talked about with the experiencing self versus the remembering self and how we enshrine our memories differently than they were actually experienced. This is true of birth, and parenting. 

Great stuff, definitely recommend to parents to read!

On the docket to finish out the year:  Redefining Girly, our book club pick for November, Bird By Bird which I started a while back and need to get back to. The Good Gut, currently checked out from the library and fascinating. Finishing up Woman Code still & just started Between The World and Me on audiobook. Will compete with my podcast consumption, but it’s a short one. :)  That’s 5…not sure if I’ll have time for anything else, besides reading Clare ALL the Christmas books.

Please send me your recommendations for 2016 though! And follow me on Goodreads.

Happy reading, friends!



Book Reviews: July/August 2015

In an effort to not have a huge long list of books at the end of the year I've been doing book reviews every 2 months on the blog. You can also check out Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/June. Looks like summer was 5 books.  A little less than May and June. Mostly parenting books this go around. Hoping to include more fiction in the Fall.  Have I mentioned before how much I love Goodreads? I'd never be able to keep track if it weren't for that.  

Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way by Mayim Bialik - I had read some articles recently that Mayim wrote about breastfeeding, so I decided to check this book out. I really enjoyed it. I think mainly because I liked how Mayim has a PhD in neuroscience and backed up her parenting choices with this knowledge. Considering we already parent with the majority of the attachment parenting tendencies in mind, it was major reinforcement for why we do things the way we do. More than "attachment parenting" it's really about INTUITIVE parenting. Doing what makes sense to you and not going against your instincts because perhaps society parents a little bit different than you do. I love what she says about the need for night-time parenting, the benefits of co-sleeping, babywearing and breastfeeding, natural birth, etc. Check, check and check, all stuff that we agree with, do and will continue. I'm also a big proponent of the Waldorf style education tenants and I appreciated her section on why we don't need to pressure our kids (and babies!) and she noted some resources on gentle discipline that I want to check out as well. Her discussion on sharing and why she doesn't force her kids to share really made sense to me also. I don't see us trying the elimination communication method, and we do vaccinate, but seeing as those two things made of just a tiny fraction of the book and didn't at all feel preachy to me, it was all good. All in all, great book, quick read. I enjoy reading parenting books that are more in this memoir style than in a 'how-to' type read. Makes them more relatable.
Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic By Mary Sheedy Kurcinka - I finished this two months ago and I already feel like I need to read it again. This book was so excellent and I feel it will be one I re-read many times. Clare is the epitome of the spirited child and I found myself highlighting half the book as I read. Definitely recommend to anyone else raising a spirited kiddo.
Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion By Sam Harris - I'm not really sure how I felt about this book. There were definitely some interesting parts of it. But sometimes his talk of consciousness got a bit too esoteric for me. It seems like his philosophy is that he doesn't like religions, except Buddhism is okay, but only some of it, and oh btw you should take psychedelic drugs. I did like the end where he said you can still have everything that religious dogma holds dear without having to follow one of those specific dogmas. Nothing says you can't have/do charity, community and believe in the contemplative life if you aren't of a specific religion. All in all, interesting read, but a bit scattered at times.
Dark Places By Gillian Flynn - I forgot just how dark Dark Places was since it had been a few years since I read it. I wanted to re-read it before the movie came out. It’s the second of Gillian Flynn’s three novels. About a young girl who’s family is murdered. I definitely look at it differently as a mom now.
Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason By Alfie Kohn - What a refreshing perspective. I 100% agree with his take on punishments. We have been against physical punishment from day 1, but seeing how he explains time-outs and other conventional punishment discipline techniques as "love withdrawls" and how damaging that can be really makes sense to me too. I think when it comes to praise, his logic definitely makes you consider the reasons behind why you are praising - ie are you doing it to get a certain outcome or are you just geniunely excited about something your child did. This is definitely something we will take into account as Clare gets older. We've tried to replace 'good job' with 'you did it!' a lot already. This approach is tough and very much not the mainstream of parenting. But it just all intuitively makes sense to me. I agree with my friend Mary that I would've liked more practical tips on top of the theories. Chris is reading it now and he's brought up parts of it that can relate to our own relationship and interactions also.

Did you read anything great this summer?

Book Reviews May/June 2015

Woo Hoo, I read a lot in May and June.  While our vacation helped that for sure, I've also been so good about making reading a priority and that makes me happy. 2 audio books, 6 regular books, 8 total for these two months, bringing my total books for the year to 18 already!

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Buddhism for Mothers By Sarah Napthali - I really, really enjoyed this book. It was full of such practical, peaceful parenting advice. I literally felt calmer every time I would pick up the book. Buddhism has always attracted me and her combination of explaining Buddhism tenets wound into motherhood was just lovely. I am very much looking forward to reading her second book. Meditation and mindfulness has made a huge impact in my life over the last few years and this was a great supplement to that. There are so many passages I liked, but particularly this one at the end: "Buddhism treats you like an adult. It's not a religion. You don't need to believe anything unless it fits with your own personal experience. You use your judgement, inspired by wisdom and compassion rather than follow a set of sacred thou-shalts. Spiritual progress is your responsibility. You set the pace." Impermanence. All is impermanent. Both the good and the bad. So much of this is true in motherhood and in life.
After Birth By Elisa Albert - Wow. This was such a good book. Albert's visceral, intense writing gave such an accurate, honest portrayal of how hard motherhood can be a times. The main character very clearly struggled with postpartum depression during her son's first year, and I think it's really refreshing to have someone be honest about the hard parts. Some of her descriptions were so spot on, I kept taking pictures of the library book and texting them to Chris while I was reading it.
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives By Gretchen Rubin - I really enjoyed this book. It gave me new insight into my habit formation and what works for my particular type of person. It also made me realize why it's different for others who fall into the other 3 types. I am an upholder, like the author, which is more rare. I am also a lark and a moderator (do better early morning and am more apt to moderate something than to completely eliminate it.) I think I am typically a marathoner when it comes to habits and goals, but occasionally I do well with the quick spurts. Worth the read. And I’ve also enjoyed listening to her podcast, Happier, recently.
Toddlers Are A**holes: It's Not Your Fault By Bunmi Laditan – I thought I was going to like this a lot more than I actually did. There were a lot of things she wrote about that were hilarious and that I could totally relate to. But there was a healthy dose of mom shaming that I wasn't down with. Luckily it was a super fast read that I finished in the span of a couple days.
Station Eleven By Emily St. John Mandel - Excellent novel. So different than anything else I’ve read. I loved the storyline of rebuilding after a horrible flu wipes out most of the world. Characters felt so real and well drawn. And I liked their subtle connections between characters. One of the best novels I’ve read this year.
The Whole-Brain Child By Daniel J Siegel - There were some helpful things in this book, and some that I needed to think about for myself more than for my daughter right now because she's so young. It did seem a bit repetitive. The concepts could have probably been dispelled into a rather long blog post.
Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life By Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung- I enjoyed many of the principles here, but it got a bit repetitive toward the end. Definitely made me think about food from a more mindful perspective.
French Kids Eat Everything By Karen Le Billon - I really liked this book. The French have such a lovely approach to food. Pleasure, not calorie counting. Variety, no snacking, and no "bad foods." I so wish our American food culture mirrored how the French see things. Kids there get 2 HOUR hot lunches where everyone eats the same thing and learns a ton about food from a very young age. While a lot of it is stuff that doesn't necessarily translate in American culture and I don't at all agree with the French view on breastfeeding (neither does the author!) I definitely picked up tips that we can use with our kids I'm looking forward to reading her other book "Getting to Yum" next.

Have you read anything great lately?  I'm currently finishing up Beyond the Sling, Waking Up: Sprituality Without Religion, Raising Your Spirited Child and just started re-reading Dark Places again before the movie comes out. So look for those reviews coming up next in the July/Aug installment!

*Disclaimer: this, and most, book review posts contain amazon affiliate links, meaning if you buy a book based on my recommendation, we will get a teeny tiny commission to go towards Clare (and I’s) string cheese habit.  Thanks for your support!