Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Jane Austen Education

As I have previously written, I am greatly appreciative of the works of Jane Austen.  So when reading reviews of A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz I was intrigued.  I read it this weekend and could not put it down.  In a light, humorous, and self-effacing manner, Deresiewicz describes himself at the age of 26 embarking on a grad school program in literature.  Required to take a class on 19th century British Literature, he is appalled at the fact that he will be required to read a novel by Jane Austen, Emma.  His perception of Austen's novels were that they were light, fluffy stories about women and romance, more like "chick-lit," not serious "Literature."

By the end of the novel, Deresiewicz realizes that Austen is indeed a genius.  Her stories are in fact about so much more than the small-town gossip he had originally thought, and teach us about friendship, goodness, and the importance of everyday life.  Of Austen, writing Emma he says, "She understood that what fills our days should fill our hearts, and what fills our hearts should fill our novels."

Deresiewicz examines each novel, and explains what they taught him about his own life.  Honest about his own shortcomings, he is able to apply the lesson of the novels to help him see how he can change, moving from a sarcastic know-it-all to a good friend, and ultimately husband.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading his insights from the novels, and while I maybe don't get the same things from Austen that he did, I love hearing how others have been influenced by her work, and it was enjoyable seeing an old friend in a new light.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Wheat Belly

When I was in high school, back in the 70s, I wrote a speech on the efforts to end world hunger.  I cited the efforts of Norman Bourlaug, an agronomist who was working on creating a new strain of wheat that would be drought resistant, enabling it to be planted in areas of the world that were unable to grow other varieties of wheat, effectively solving hunger problems.  Bourlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work, and became one of my heroes.

Now, according to William Davis MD, Bourlaug is also responsible for the nation's obesity epidemic.  In his soon-to-be published book, Wheat Belly, Davis maintains that the strain of wheat grown today contains so many genetic mutations due to hybridization that it bears little resemblance to the wheat of our grandparents' times.  Today's wheat, according to Davis, is responsible for many physical problems, including diabetes, obesity, celiac disease, and heart problems.  In addition, the chemical components of wheat are addictive and stimulate the appetite.  

The only solution to these problems is to completely eliminate wheat from one's diet.  Davis claims that his patients who have done this have reversed the effects of a lifetime of wheat consumption.  Davis provides a great deal of scientific explanation and includes references to the research on this topic.  Davis also discusses the current gluten-free food industry, and sees problems with its replacing wheat with corn, rice, and tapioca starch, stating that these foods can create as many problems as wheat.

Wheat Belly concludes with advice from Davis on how to replace wheat in your diet.  He advocates the consumption of meat, cheese,eggs and nuts, as well as natural artificial sweeteners, such as stevia or Splenda.  He also feels that without wheat's appetite stimulant, one will not feel as hungry without it.  The book concludes with recipes for such items as "Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge,"  and "Classic Cheesecake with Wheatless Crust."  I read the book as an advanced copy in epub format on my nook, and the recipes did not show up in a form conducive for actually trying them, but if I get a chance I'll try to translate them and maybe try one.

I'm not exactly sure if I totally agree with Davis, but his book is loaded with scientific research, and there may be something to what he says.  The only way to really find out is to try it, which I think I will probably have to do.  There were sections of the book that reminded me of David Kessler's The End of Overeating, which helped me lose 25 pounds, so I think I'll probably give it a go.  I'll let you know what happens.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Disappointing Year

Well, this morning I added the book I finished last night to my reading list, and totaled them up.  I knew that I had not read quite as much this year as in the past, but I'm still disappointed with the number.  The major thing I need to focus on for the next year is reading more Juvenile/Young Adult books.  As a Youth Services Librarian I really need to get more intentional about reading books related to my job, and while part of my job also includes facilitating the Adult Book Discussion group, I need to put that on the back burner, with most of the Adult Fiction I read related to that.

So, here is my list for this year, such as it is:
Books Read in 2010
Adult Books:
1. Curse of the Spellmans - Lisa Lutz
2. The End of Overeating - David A. Kessler
3. Noah’s Compass - Anne Tyler
4. Revenge of the Spellmans - Lisa Lutz
5. One Step Behind - Henning Mankell
6. Death of a Valentine - M.C. Beaton
7. Live a Little! - Susan M. Love, Alice D. Dumar
8. Founding Mothers: The Women who Raised our Nation - Cokie Roberts
9. The Simpsons - John Ortved
10. The Leisure Seeker- Michael Zaderian
11. Outliers- Malcolm Gladwell (audio book)
12. Jesus: A Biography from a Believer - Paul Johnson
13. The Wildwater Walking Club - Claire Cook
14. Making Toast - Roger Rosenblatt
15. The Spellmans Strike Again - Lisa Lutz
16. What the Dog Saw - Malcolm Gladwell (audiobook)
17. Dream When You’re Feeling Blue - Elizabeth Berg (audiobook)
18. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress- Rhoda Janzen (audiobook)
19. The Highly Effective Detective - Richard Yancey
20. The Other Family - Jacqueline Carey
21. Mrs. Adams in Winter- Michael O’Brien
22. The Other Family - Joanna Trollope
23. The Gilded Age - Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner
24. The Three Weissmanns of Westport - Cathleen Schine
25. The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag - Alan Bradley
26. Game Change - Heilbroner
27. Bright-Sighted- Barbara Ehrenreich
28. The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
29. A Blunt Instrument - Georgette Heyer
30. Leisureville - Andrew Blechman
31. The Rise of Silas Lapham - William Dean Howells
32. The Irresistible Henry House - Grunwald
33. The Facebook Effect - Kilpatrick
34. How Did You Get this Number? - Sloane Crosley
35. I’ll Mature When I’m Dead - Dave Barry
36. Cut, Paste, Kill - Marshall Karp
37. Murder at Mansfield Park - Lynn Shepherd
38. Talking about Detective Fiction - P.D. James
39. Still Life - Louise Penny
40. The Double Comfort Safari Club - Alexander McCall Smith
41. Envious Casca - Georgette Heyer
42. A Reliable Wife - Robert Goolrick

Juvenile/Young Adult Books:
43. Along for the Ride - Sarah Dessen
44. The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity - Mac Barnett
45. Also Known as Harper - Ann Haywood Leal
46. Lawn Boy - Gary Paulsen
47. My Rotten Life - David Lubar
48. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate - Jacqueline Kelly
49. Keepers of the School: We the Children - Andrew Clements
50. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (audiobook)
51. Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer - John Grisham
52. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins (audiobook)
53. The Real Real - Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
54. Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
55. When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead
56. Little Blog on the Prairie - Cathleen Davitt Bell
57. Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
58. Be a Genie in Six Easy Steps - Linda Chapman
59. Nature Girl - Jane Kelley
60. The Clock without a Face - Barnett, Teplin, Horowitz
61. The Sisters Club - Megan McDonald (audiobook)
62. Lucy B. Parker: Girl vs. Superstar - Robin Palmer
63. As Simple as it Seems - Sarah Weeks
64. They Called Themselves the KKK - Susan Campbell Bartoletti
65. Withering Tights - Louise Rennison
66. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key - Jack Gantos
67. The Wide-Awake Princess - E.D. Baker
68. My Life as a Book - Janet Tashjian
69. Lost on a Mountain in Maine - Donn Fendler

Books re-read for Book Discussions:
70. That Old Cape Magic - Richard Russo
71. The Pursuit of Alice Thrift - Elinor Lipman
72. The Wednesday Sisters - Meg Clayton
73. The Memory of Running - Ron McLarty
74. No Talking - Andrew Clements (juvenile)
75. The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri
76. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows

As far as the adult books go, the only one that really made an impression on me was The End of Overeating by David Kessler.  Kessler is a former head of the FDA, and in this book writes about the way that the food industry processes food to build different taste sensations into each bite.  This affects our brain chemistry and in many cases results in overeating and obesity.  Reading that book gave me the impetus to really think about what I eat, resulting in a 30 lb. weight loss.  Another book, not listed, but one that really helped me this year is Eat This, Not That, by David Zinczenko.  I keep it in the car so when we go out I can check it out and make my decision ahead of time.

Hands down, though, the best books I read this year were the trilogy by Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay.  This dystopic Young Adult series is gripping, thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining.  I'm not a fantasy person, and I resisted reading this for a long time, but I'm so glad I did.
So that's it for now.  I've already started reading a book to add to my list for 2011.  It's an adult book, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, and it's for our Adult Book Discussion next week.  I'm also almost finished with an excellent new biography of Catherine of Aragon by Giles Tremlett.  We've been watching "The Tudors," the Showtime series, and I realized I needed to enhance my knowledge of the people involved.  It's a well-written, readable biography.

Oh, if you're curious about any of the Juvenile books I read this year, I've started writing reviews here: www.cindyschilling.wordpress.com