Nonfiction

Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson

For those who do not have first-hand experience of it, this book offers an opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes and try to understand the onslaught of racism many people experience daily. Using personal examples from his life, Dyson annotates events and points out the building frustration, the sparks of emotion and the cultural patterns lurking beneath seemingly normal interactions. This is even more powerful realizing this is a highly educated African American professor at an Ivy League school who has regularly feared for his life, with reason, in circumstances the majority would consider routine or mundane. This is an important contribution to race relations, well worth reading. Back to Book Reviews  

The Faithful Executioner by Joel Harrington

Frantz Schmidt was a complex man. He spent his life in quest of honor, holding fast to his religious convictions, but earning a living as a career killer. His father was an executioner, and in 1554 that meant he would inherit that profession. Executioners dealt out justice for towns that looked down on them. They weren’t allowed to hold citizenship, enter churches, or live within the city walls. Frantz kept a journal for 45 years, chronicling the 394 executions he performed and the personal anguish they wrought. With great psychological fortitude he respected his duty to the violent job he despised. This book is a fascinating account of a man trying to reconcile the hopes he had for his life with the dishonorable curse he was born into. Back to Book Reviews

The Healing Kitchen

If you're avoiding eggs, nuts and seeds, and/or nightshades, this is a fantastic book. I've just started avoiding eggs and I also avoid gluten, soy, and dairy. Also, I avoid sugar most of the time. So, it's nice to find these autoimmune paleo cookbooks which have plenty of recipes I do not have to make any modifications to even though they go a bit further in restriction than I do. So far I've enjoyed the oven-baked pancakes (make them all the time), "cheesy" broccoli soup, sweet and savory shepherd's pie, beef pot pie, garlic sauce, and cilantro chimichurri. They include tons of different weekly meal plans based on time, if you have kids to please, etc. I found the plan for busy cooks really helpful for my weekly planning. Definitely a book I'll need to own (I have the library's copy right now). Four out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

This book was difficult and emotional for me to read, but it was completely worth it. I think some of the concepts she presents might be a little abstract for some, but the majority of what she said (I listened to the audiobook) really hit home for me. Brown talks about her research, but, largely, it was the focus on probing our emotions and writing what she calls your "sh*tty first draft" (for kids: "stormy first draft") that I realized I absolutely have to do and have absolutely no desire to do. She's right when she says this process of building emotional resilience (aka "rising strong") is hard work. It means you have to face the stories you're making up about yourself: the way you're altering reality to reflect the narrative that is easiest for you to construct. The narrative that typically involves a hefty dose of shame (e.g. I'm not enough) and a distortion of the truth. She also emphasizes something that is hard for me to accept, but that she thinks is essential to acceptance and "rising strong": most of the people around you are trying their best. I'm still wrestling with that one, but she makes a strong case for why accepting this is so crucial to building the kind of emotional strength she's talking about. Needless to say, I'm going to be thinking about this book for a very long time. And, I hope I have the strength to not only probe my emotional narratives, but to try to change them. Also, Brene Brown (the author) narrates the audiobook and she's just perfect. Five out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews

Goop Clean Beauty by the Editors of Goop

There is some great information in here and then other information that is either nonsense or just didn't land with me. The chapter on cosmetics was really strong in terms of providing a straightforward and concise breakdown of ingredients to avoid in beauty products; however, there's a lot of emphasis on the Goop line of beauty products, so it's definitely also a vehicle to market those products. I looked into the prices of the Goop line and it's something like $100 for a bottle of face moisturizer, so it's beauty for rich ladies as far as I'm concerned. At the same time, they recommended other brands and it didn't necessarily feel like they were shoving their products in your face. This chapter does give you the knowledge and know-how to identify safe products meaning you can use what you learn to find cheaper, natural products. The chapter on nutrition and food had misinformation and seemed like a cursory, shallow intro to the concept of digestive health; for example, it discussed alkaline v acidic diets despite that being an erroneous concept. It has a list of foods to avoid, but then no information about why they are to be avoided. Many of the editors preach colonics, which I've been told you really should not do on a regular basis (every GI ever has told me this is a bad idea). Another thing I just don't get is why they all love Tracy Anderson's exercise so much. I've tried her videos and the movements are odd and make me feel like I'm going to pull something accidentally. I don't feel very challenged by her workouts. The last chapter were the editors demoing hair and makeup

Citizen by Claudia Rankine

Lyrical and profound, these observations explore the interactions between African-American culture and American racism. Using multiple formats Rankine critiques topics as wide ranging as Serena Williams’ reception as a superstar in the world of tennis to the author’s own personal daily interactions. She carefully builds a case that exposes the steady current of microaggressions against which African-Americans constantly struggle. Back to Book Reviews  

Stiff by Mary Roach

I listened to the audiobook and it was fascinating. She got me interested in topics I hadn't ever considered and I'm completely sold on donating my body to science now. The ethics involved in using cadavers for research was eye opening. The attempts at head transplants and the research done on heads after decapitation was so nuts and so riveting. This book got me thinking about the wild world of medical research and how much I'd probably enjoy a book about that as long as it had Roach's humor in it. That was definitely the highlight of Stiff; Roach's humor throughout kept things light and engaging despite a somewhat gruesome topic. Four out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

The 21-Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo

I love this book because it includes so many easy to make, sugar-less, paleo recipes. I've actually never tried her diet plan; I just feel better when I eat low sugar. Recipes I've tried and enjoyed include: veggie pancakes (I make these all the time), pumpkin pancakes, all of her chicken recipes, greek and asian style meatballs (I make these all the time with either turkey, lamb, or pork), ginger-garlic beef & broccoli, lemon & garlic noodles with olives, applesauce, and not-sweet cinnamon cookies (love'em). A lot of it is pretty basic, but that's what makes it so accessible and I often use her recipes as jumping off points embellishing them or changing them based on ingredients I have on hand. I've been holding the library's copy hostage for way too long and need to buck up and buy my own copy. There's a handful of editing mistakes that sometimes makes for slightly muddled directions, but that's my only complaint. Her taste profiles are solid. Four out of five stars. Back to Book Reviews  

Severed by Frances Larson

I'm not afraid to admit my love for the peculiar things in life. Maybe more accurately, the peculiar things in death, and there was much for me to love about this book. You'd imagine it is rather atypical to misplace one's head after the final curtain call - but you'd be wrong. Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found, chronicles the bodiless journeys of all types of heads: shrunken heads, dissected heads, trophy heads, deposed heads, and many more! This book so fully satisfies the need to know more about humanity's morbid fascination with our most distinctive attribute, our head - on a historical level, a comical level, and a slight unnerving level! Back to Book Reviews Save

The Index Card by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack

When Harold Pollack's personal finance index card hit Reddit a few years back the simplicity was widely applauded and the image spread like wildfire. In this book Pollack has teamed up with journalist Helaine Olen to present a more polished and in-depth look at how to reach financial peace without engaging a single supposed expert of the financial services industry machine. 10 rules are presented with funny anecdotes from both Pollack and Olen. This is a quick read, but for the growing movement of people interested in financial independence, early retirement, or those still suspicious of the money industry in our post-recession world this is a must read and reference title. It even includes a copy of the updated index card, perfect for copying and tailoring to your life. Back to Book Reviews