The Week In Books, No. 8

I checked out “Better Off” by Eric Brende because it was mentioned in “Crunchy Cons,” which I reviewed a few weeks ago. “Better Off” is the chronicle of how Brende, then a MIT grad student studying the costs and benefits of technology, undertook an 18 month experiment with his new wife to leave Boston and go live in a sort-of-Amish community without electricity, gas, etc. First of all, the book is well-written and the stories are great. You’ll love it even if you have absolutely zero interest in the simple life. Furthermore, at every turn Brende is describing his thought processes on the philosophy of technology, and I found his measured and thoughtful approach to be insightful and piercing. As you know, I would love to be a homesteader (most of the time), so I envied the Brendes this experience, but even more I relished the suggestions for new ways to think about the impact technology makes on our lives – both for good and bad. Brende concludes that technology is not inherently evil or anything, but that in our day and age, technologies that are supposed to be making our lives easier are more often than not making them harder when you really consider the expenditure of resources, your stress and lack of true leisure, etc etc. “Better Off” is a fabulous book – add it to your list.

My aunt Catherine recommended “Digging to America” by Anne Tyler and I thought it was a great novel. The book tells the story of two families – one seemingly all-American and the other Americans originally from Iran – who happen to adopt baby Korean girls off of the same airplane flight. After that chance meeting, the two families get together frequently, although at first the babies are all they have in common. It’s immediately obvious that the Iranian family defines themselves by their other-ness (although it’s interesting how even the second generation adults who have never been to Iran, or the family members who have been in the US for 40 years, take such care to define differences between themselves and their neighbors), but as the story unfolds you see that the supposedly totally American family is subtly characterized by not belonging either. The point being, they are ALL Americans, in spite of what they think, and that EVERYONE struggles with feeling like an outsider in various ways. The question is, do you let your self-identification as an outsider define you to the point that you haughtily close yourself off to other people?

As a side note, if you happen to read this book, which I think you should: the Binky Party takes place on the same weekend that Josh and I got married (the book is set in the Baltimore area, just north of DC). So as you start feeling all sorry for Bitsy and how her little party got ruined and whatnot, just remember that SOME people were trying to get MARRIED in all that hurricane drama. Someday, I’m sure I’ll get over it. 🙂

Shepherding a Child’s Heart” gives a slightly different twist in the stack of reformed childrearing literature. As with several other really good parenting books I’ve read, “Shepherding” is thoroughly Biblically based. The focus of the book is on how to go beyond the immediately visible results of good training (ie, well-behaved kids), to really touch your child’s heart. The first part of the book had a great practical section on how various discipline methods that seem to work actually can drive your child’s heart away from God, and then how you can use Scriptural principles to avoid those pitfalls. The second part of the book was also practical and useful, as it broke down by chapter each stage of development, and highlighted the particular challenges that you face with different age groups and what those stages can best focus on. All in all, this was a good book, especially if you read it together with a couple of other good parenting books, and I’m considering buying my own copy at some point.

I read the “Guide to Childbirth” when I was pregnant with Hannah, but now I’m going back and re-reading things to get ready for Jack’s arrival. This book has two sections – the first is a series of birth stories, and the second is information about various techniques for natural childbirth and ways that common complications can be solved (it’s really crazy how many people get “necessary” c-sections for conditions that could be pretty easily solved by changing positions or something – I figure the best way to avoid needless interventions is to educate myself). The birth stories skew a little to the hippy-dippy at times, and the information section is not as comprehensive as Henci Goer’s “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth” but it’s still a good book to read, if you’re interested in this topic.

Based on something I read online somewhere, I thought “How To Be A Lady” was going to be good. It wasn’t. Basically, this is not enough of an etiquette book to be helpful (that is, if you really need these suggestions, you need WAY more detail to help you get over your total lack of class and good manners), but it’s also not really funny even though it tries hard to be witty and cute. I only finished the book because I was absolutely out of books and my holds haven’t come in at the library yet.

Also Completed:
Numbers

Currently Reading:
Deuteronomy, Psalms, Luke, 1 Corinthians
“Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder (to Hannah)
“Training Hearts, Teaching Minds” by Starr Meade (as a family)

And I really really hope my holds come in soon at the library or I don’t know what I shall do, probably resort to reading Kleenex boxes and the telephone book.

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