Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Best of the Bunch: August 2017

Today I'm sharing the best book I read in August.

This was another month where I had no 5-star or 4.5-star books, but I had a ton of 4-star books — almost everything I read:

Faithful Place by Tana French

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Doestoyevsky

The Hollow by Agatha Christie

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Runaway Alice by Frances Salomon Murphy

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Labors of Hercules by Agatha Christie

The books are all so different that it's difficult to pick just one best one. Maybe it's just that it's freshest in my memory, but I think the one I enjoyed reading the most was...

You have to be prepared for a large suspension of disbelief that Poirot would, after deciding to replicate the Labors of Hercules for his last twelve cases, run across (in order) twelve cases that so perfectly matched the Twelve Labors. But I found it fun to see how Christie adapted and modernized each of the different Labors to match some modern-day crime. None of the stories are, in and of themselves, masterpieces, but as a collection this was a nice departure from the usual Poirot mysteries.

What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Top Ten Hidden Nonfiction Gems

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week is all about hidden gems! I decided to focus on nonfiction because I feel like there's so much good nonfiction out there, and it only rarely reaches blockbuster status where everyone's talking about it. This isn't counting memoir or self-help or other niches like that, but books that are there to teach you in depth about one specific topic, which is something I love!

1. American Hookup by Lisa Wade
All about the culture of sex on college campuses — who's having it, and why, and how it's different from past generations, and what the impact is on students.

2. The Hidden Brain by Shankar Vendantam
Now a fantastic podcast by the same name hosted by the book's author, this dives into a bunch of different areas where your brain functions differently than you might expect.

3. The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King
Native Americans have been robbed and betrayed by the U.S. Government and depicted in damaging and stereotypical ways in the media — but that's all the past, right? Not so much.

4. Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink
Why do you eat what you eat when you eat it? Probably for many more reasons than you realize.

5. Marriage, a History by Stephanie Coontz
Coontz provides a detailed overview of what marriage has meant to people and how it has functioned over the past centuries.

6. Sister Citizen by Melissa V. Harris-Perry
There are certain distinct ways that black women are portrayed and discussed in popular culture, and these have definite consequences for black women see themselves and how others see them.

7. Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog
The way we think about our relationship with animals is actually quite odd and contradictory. I read this over five years ago and I still think about some of the things I learned in this book.

8. Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt
If drivers who feel safer drive more dangerously, how do we make our roads and cars safer without leading to more accidents? Vanderbilt looks at the fascinating intersection of driving and science.

9. The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley
Are we doing disaster preparation all wrong? Ripley looks out how we expect people to behave during disasters vs. how they actually behave, and what this means for how we should change our preparation infrastructure.

10. The Working Poor by David K. Shipler
Shipler shows just how complex the issue of poverty is, and how badly some policymakers (on both sides of the aisle) misunderstand what actually goes on in the life of a person trying to raise a family on a low-paying job.

What are some of your favorite unknown nonfiction reads?

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Ten Book Recommendations for New Parents

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

I missed the great revival of Top Ten Tuesday last week because I was linking up with Quick Lit, but I didn't want to pass up this first topic, so I'm getting to it a week late. I've been wanting to compile my recommendations for new parents in one place, and it seemed especially appropriate since many of the TTT hosts took a break due to new babies!

These ten books are divided up into sections based on when I think they're most helpful to read. Even if you've missed the window, I think they're still worth a read!

Before Birth

1. Baby Meets World by Nicholas Day
This overview of the history and science of child-rearing will show you that there are very few "wrong" ways to raise a child, so you don't need to panic about fundamentally damaging your child as long as you're doing your best.

2. The Science of Mom by Alice Callahan
This is a readable, scientifically grounded overview of the most controversial areas of parenting, from vaccinations to breastfeeding to co-sleeping. It'll make you feel more confident about sifting through the wide range of unsolicited advice you're inevitably going to receive.

The First 6 Months

3. Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
I'm glad my best friend pointed me to this method for introducing solids. It's cheaper, easier, and more developmentally appropriate than feeding your kid sugary purees.

4. The Happy Sleeper by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright
I wish I'd read this book in my son's first six months, but unfortunately I was lulled into thinking he was an easy sleeper when he didn't have any problems his first two years. Then suddenly he developed a knack for pulling out every stalling technique in the book and pushing all our buttons, and we had no toolbox for dealing with it. Learn from my mistake and start developing your toolbox early!

Around 18 Months

5. Einstein Never Used Flashcards by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff
Right around the time you might start feeling the pressure to break out the flashcards, this book provides a nice reminder of all the ways in which kids learn through play, and gives you fun milestones to look for that you might not otherwise notice.

6. Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki
This potty training method came highly recommended and worked wonders for us. You have to be committed to the process, but it's so worth it. Read it when your kid's around 18 months and you can start looking for the first signs of readiness to start training.

2 Years and Up

7. Dear Mister Rogers, Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood? by Fred Rogers
This isn't a parenting book per se, but I learned a lot in seeing how Mister Rogers responded to the wide variety of letters he received over the years and reading some of his commentary on those responses. He provides a nice model of how to answer your kids' questions with honesty and empathy.

8. Liberated Parents, Liberated Children by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
This is a classic parenting book that led to the even-more-classic follow-up, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. It provides a way to approach parenting that's both constructive and kind.

9. How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King
This recent publication co-authored by Adele Faber's daughter takes the techniques from Faber and Mazlish's classic books and focuses them on kids ages 2-7. Through example scenarios and concrete suggestions, they provide a toolbox of ways to deal with the challenges of parenting.

10. Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon
I need to reread this book, which provides a framework for identifying which communication methods are most appropriate for different situations with children. Along with the How to Talk... books, this gives parents a wide range of effective tools for parenting.

What parenting books would you recommend?

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

It's been a light month for reading! Crime and Punishment took up a lot of my audiobook hours, and I'm slowly working my way through Infinite Jest on Kindle.

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline: I like Kline's writing, but unfortunately too much is known historically about the book's main character, and the answer to "Who was the woman in the painting Christina's World?" turns out to be pretty boring. I also cringed hard at the way she depicted Christina's attitude toward her disability.

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie: This was a solid Poirot mystery. There weren't any of the jaw-dropping plot twists that characterize Christie's very best, but neither did it have the secret identities or logical leaps that make some of her books too complicated or unbelievable. I enjoyed it.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss: While at times it was a bit too quirky for my taste, this book did have a lot of great elements — sweet misfit characters, mysteries, and multiple unexpected plot twists. It's about losing the chance for the happy ending you wanted and finding a different one instead. I'm glad my book club recommended this one.

Faithful Place by Tana French: I wasn't as on the edge of my seat with this one as with the first two, but the characters also pissed me off way less, so it was a wash. I'm still enjoying this series and plan to pick the next book eventually.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: I liked this better than The Brothers Karamazov; the characters were more complex and the book felt less didactic and moralistic. Dostoyevsky did a nice job of conjuring up the main character's feelings with pacing and language. It wasn't perfect, but I liked it, and the audiobook was excellent.

The Hollow by Agatha Christie: This was a nice change of pace from the typical Hercule Poirot novel. We spend more time with the various characters than on the murder investigation, and the clues are sparse and all dead ends. It's worth the read just for the character of Lucy Angkatell.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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