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Showing posts from 2016

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt was recommended reading for a class I took on morality. After watching his Ted Talk, I was intrigued, so I decided to read the book. I hoped for insight to help me communicate better with those with whom I disagree about politics and religion... This book didn't provide that kind of guidance. Haidt's research is interesting. His conclusions less so. His writing is approachable, and he explains both his research and his conclusions well. However, I found his redefining of terms to better fit his research disheartening because it felt disconnected from reality. I found The Righteous Mind reminiscent of religious apologists only applied to politics. The vast majority of the book hones in on politics leaving little room for a discussion on religion. Honestly, I found The Righteous Mind frustrating and insulting while it re-enforced my disdain for labels even when it tried to achieve the oppo…

No Retreat: Poems on the Way to Waking Up by Shambhavi Sarasvati

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Shambhavi Sarasvati writes about her journey in the poems of No Retreat: Poems on the Way to Waking Up. Many of her poems investigate the intricacies of life and relationships with self and others. Sarasvati's poems contain a spiritual element but often feel grounded in the world Sarasvati inhabits. She explores her need and desire for a spiritual awakening in a way that is both endearing and frustrating. No Retreat: Poems on the Way to Waking Up offers the readers a glimpse into Sarasvati's process and invites the reader to join her not only in her journey but in embracing the reader's own journey.


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr transported me into World War II in a way I didn't expect by showing me the war through the experiences of two characters as they were pulled into circumstances beyond their control by their abilities and their inabilities. Doerr creates a fictional world based on a real world event that pushes the reader to cheer when they don't want to and jeer when they don't want to because his characters are so easy to identify with. He humanizes people and shows how easily people can be manipulated to do things they find unimaginable and the all too real effects from committing acts that go against one's conscience. Doerr writes in a way that makes it easy to suspend one's disbelief in areas where the story takes on fantastical airs. His characters are so real, I hurt with them, laughed with them, and wished with them even as I grew frustrated with them, admonished them, and pushed them to make different decisions. All through All …

The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs are Smarter Than You Think by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods

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The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs are Smarter Than You Think by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods explores the evolution of dogs as well as how they came to be such an integral part of the human experience. Hare tells the story of how he became intrigued with dog intelligence as part of studying human evolution. He explains the research his observation led to as well as the discoveries his research garnered. The Genius of Dogs shows us that dogs are both smarter and less smart than we think they are depending on the circumstances. Many dog owners have made these observations about their own dogs, but Hare and his colleagues have done, and continue to do, the research to prove or disprove various common beliefs surrounding dogs and their place in our society. Hare traces the evolution of the dog from the wolf to the various breeds that now exist. The Genius of Dogs offers a glimpse not only into dog behavior and intelligence but into their relationship with human beings told in Hare and Wood'…

Caul & Response by UpFromSumDirt (Ron Davis)

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Caul & Response by UpFromSumDirt (Ron Davis) is an intense collection of poetry and poetic artwork that is raw and unapologetic as it tackles societal issues, inequality, and stereotypes. Davis is a master at turning a phrase and depicting an image that forces the reader to question conventional beliefs, attitudes, and histories. He reminds us that history is often written to support the narrative of those in power in order to maintain their power structure. This small collection of poetry and artwork has a powerful impact. Caul & Response is both a call to the present and a response to history to push the reader toward working for a better future.

While I currently can't find a link to purchase this book, contact Wild Fig Books & Coffee if you're interested in finding a copy.

Rita Dove Collected Poems 1974-2004

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Rita Dove Collected Poems 1974-2004 is a treasure trove of Dove's work published between 1974 and 2004. The poems are a journey through Dove's life as well as the world. There are moments that transport the reader into the past to explore how the present came to be and leave the reader conjecturing what the future might bring. Dove's words remind the reader how interconnected the world in which we live is as well as how our differences have the power to either unite us or divide us. Dove explores love, family, politics, culture, history, and self-discovery among other topics in this diverse and yet cohesive collection of poems. I took my time reading these poems often taking a day or so to reflect on what I'd read. Dove's poetry is inspiring and honest in a way that made me think about life, writing, and my place in the world.


How Not to Die by Michael Greger, M.D. with Gene Stone

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How Not to Die by Michael Greger, M.D. with Gene Stone might not actually offer immortality, but it does offer a way to live a longer, healthier, more active life. Greger presents the science behind why a plant-based diet promotes health as well as how the science is often manipulated by those with a vested interest in selling unhealthy products to consumers. He manages to inject the same sense of humor into his writing that viewers of his videos on nutritionfacts.org will immediately recognize. How Not to Die is a primer for understanding the effects of food on the body and why certain foods make us feel better while others make us feel worse. Greger delves into the research behind the diseases we associate with aging and why those diseases are diet related. He then goes on to discuss how changing one's diet changes one's health. He explains the science and how conclusive the studies are in an easy to digest manner. In the second half of How Not to Die, Greger discusses his &…

Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil by Paul Bloom

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Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil by Paul Bloom was recommended reading for a class on morality that I took a few months ago. The idea of studying babies to see how they react to determine just how much of morality is hardwired in us fascinated me. I read the book with intense interest, particularly the studies. I couldn't help but wonder if the researchers were reading into the babies' reactions to get the results they wanted, at least at times. Bloom writes an interesting and engaging book, but the skeptic in me kept showing up when he described how the studies were conducted. Just Babies is a fascinating read that feels like a starting point and left me with questions rather than answers, but maybe that was the point. Bloom explores many aspects of morality, moral philosophy, and moral psychology in conjunction with the studies conducted on babies. Just Babies struck me as more a book about whether or not babies differentiate between harmfulness and kindness than ab…

some of tim's stories by S.E. Hinton

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I'm a long-time S. E. Hinton fan. I loved her early works, so I'm always eager to read her new releases. I say this because there is a possibility that influences how I read her work. Nothing she writes compares to the four YA adults she's most famous for, but some of tim's stories felt somewhat reminiscent of those early works. The stories are written in a way that links one to the other but also feels rather contained within themselves. All the way through it's an interesting and intriguing read that feels, like those early works, like a slice of life that demonstrates how interconnected life truly is and how the ripple effect sometimes doesn't show up right away but is always at work.

I found the interviews that make up nearly half the book just as interesting as some of tim's stories because they delved into S. E. Hinton's thought process and writing and thoughts on life and writing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them because they, in some ways, helpe…

A Different Kind of Daughter: The Girl Who Hid from the Taliban in Plain Sight by Maria Toorpakai with Katharine Holstein

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I never expected A Different Kind of Daughter: The Girl Who Hid from the Taliban in Plain Sight by Maria Toorpakai with Katharine Holstein to give me a greater insight into who I am at my core, but it did. I expected it to shine light on a culture I've never experienced instead it reminded me just how alike human beings are no matter where they live. Toorpakai doesn't shy away from the uncomfortable parts of her story. She goes into vivid detail about her journey to become her best self. She talks about breaking with the societal norms and expectations and her family's struggle to fight against the inequality in Pakistan. Her salvation didn't come from education but rather from first weight lifting and then squash. For someone like me who values education, this part of the story was hard for me to read. Her inability to sit in a classroom challenged my beliefs while gently coercing me to feel compassion for her circumstances. Her desire to live as a boy in a society wh…

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway

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I read Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway because a friend recommended it. I started reading with a sense of skepticism, but found the presentation of facts, history, and science compelling. Merchants of Doubt used facts and science to illustrate how people have twisted science for corporate greed, political agendas, and personal greed. Oreskes & Conway showed the documentation to back up their claims. They made the excellent point that science itself isn't biased; however, people with agendas are. Oreskes & Conway not only discuss the science, but how and why it was manipulated in a clear, easy to comprehend manner that is at once fascinating, enraging, enlightening, and frightening. They emphasize time and again the reality that facts and science don't change just because people choose not to believe them. Read Merchants of Doubt if you want to better …

Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Awakening by John Elder Robison

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When I started reading Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Awakening by John Elder Robison, I hoped to gain insight into Asperger's and what it's like to live with Asperger's. Robison writes a memoir that is at times shockingly honest in that he doesn't present himself as a very sympathetic character. I cringed at some of his interactions with others imagining what it must have felt like for those people. Switched On details Robison's journey to decide to participate in an experimental brain therapy called transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS. He wrote about how this experiment awakened him to not only emotions of the moment but of memories and the emotions attached to those memories. When he describes his reaction to a song after one of his early treatments, I felt like he was describing a hallucination. I found it hard to wrap my head around his experience, and I'm a highly emotional person. He also explored how the therapy opened his eyes…

Stories from Generation Z by Tammy Ruggles

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Stories from Generation Z by Tammy Ruggles explores teenage angst in this collection of heart-wrenching short stories. A thread of hope flows through even the most painful moments of these stories that address issues including abuse, self-harm, and suicide. Ruggles manages to write about real life issues in a way that immerses the reader in her characters' emotional journeys. Stories from Generation Z reminds the reader how easy it is to dismiss the pain of others, particularly young adults, as something that will pass, especially when dealing with our own issues. Ruggles paints a picture of a world where young adults struggles are never dismissed as growing pains while she offers hope they can be overcome.

Self Massage of 23 Essential Acupressure Points for Health and Wellness - The Secret to an Optimal Mind and Body by Selene Yangtze

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Self-Massage of 23 Essential Acupressure Points for Health and Wellness - The Secret to an Optimal Mind and Body by Selene Yangtze describes the process of self-massage using acupressure points in a way that makes it feel accessible and worth trying. Yangtze starts with a brief explanation of acupressure followed by some general instructions for how to best perform a self massage using acupressure points. Self-Massage of 23 Essential Acupressure Points for Health and Wellness illustrates and describes pressure points and what functions of the body those points should support and balance. I read this book while on a plane and didn't really try applying more than two or three of these pressure points though I did remember various times in my life when I've instinctively pressed on such pressure points to relieve stress or irritation. Yangtze's clear and concise writing and illustrations demonstrate how easy it would be to try self-massage using acupressure points to relieve …

The Face in the Mirror by Audrey Austin

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The Face in the Mirror by Audrey Austin is a story of find one's inner strength to change one's circumstances. Sometimes looking into the mirror shows you who you were, who you are, and even a glimpse of who you can be. Randy faces all three not only in the mirror but in the face of his brother, Jimmy. Randy is faced with a decision... Who does he want to see when he looks in the mirror? Austin offers an easy to read, quickly paced short story that has the reader cheering for Randy to make the right decision. 


Imprints in the Sand: Raja's Insights by Raja Williams

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Imprints in the Sand: Raja's Insights by Raja Williams opens a crack in the facade of what we often call life revealing that life can be so much more. Williams explores the intimacies of self and relationships as well as the place one holds in the world in this collection of poetry. There are moments that rang true enough for me to wonder if Williams had been looking into the mirror of my own struggle to find my place in the world while other moments left me contemplating the vast differences of life experiences that happen in our world. The lyricism of Imprints in the Sand explores the simplicity and the complexity of life with equal wonder.



Loving Kindness Meditation: How to create more joy, hope and love in your life by Fredrik Andersson

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I decided to read Loving Kindness Meditation: How to create more joy, hope and love in your life by Fredrik Andersson after taking a Positive Psychology Class where the instructor talked about the benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation. While the class provided quite a bit of information, I wanted another point of view. Loving Kindness discusses the benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation as well as techniques for practicing Loving-Kindness Meditation. Andersson writes about Loving-Kindness Meditation in an easy to understand way that makes the practice feel approachable. I found the book more supportive of what I'd already learned than eye-opening yet someone with less knowledge of Loving-Kindness Meditation might find it more informative.

Three O'Clock Seance by Joanne Pence

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Three O'Clock Séance by Joanne Pence,the third book in the Rebecca Mayfield series, crashes Richie Amalfi into Rebecca Mayfield's life again with a mystery surrounding a psychic whose clients are dying in suspicious numbers and circumstances. At first it appears it might just be coincidence, but that soon appears to be wishful thinking on Mayfield's part. The more time Rebecca and Richie spend together, the more the reader roots for her to accept and confess her feelings for Richie while she continues to fight them and Richie continues to woo her in his own confusing way. Once again, I loved every scene with Mayfield's little dog, Spike, especially the clear affection for Richie that Spike's not a bit shy about showing unlike his owner and much to Rebecca's irritation. Pence writes a fun, fast moving, intriguing mystery woven with bits of humor that had me struggling to not laugh out loud while reading it during a late night flight.

Creeling the Bridegroom by Neil S. Plakcy

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Creeling the Bridegroom by Neil S. Plakcy is an engaging love story that encompasses the universality of love, identity, and life's changes. Plakcy highlights the many times in life people make decisions that seem right in the moment and later remind us what we've left behind as his characters face familiar life choices. Rarely does real life provide the opportunity to rectify those decisions in a way that moves forward, but Plakcy creates a story that gives hope that love truly does live on even when life separates people.

Suicide Letters by Tammy Ruggles

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Suicide Letters by Tammy Ruggles is a collection of stories told in the form of suicide letters. The letters grip the angst of teenage life, remind us how powerful bullying can be, and delve into the pain that teenagers and adults alike hide from one another. At the heart of these stories is the hopelessness that accompanies suicidal ideology and the hope that can come from communication, compassion, and understanding. Ruggles brings the conversation of suicidal thoughts to the forefront in a way that made me grimace as I remembered times in my life when I thought I couldn't handle the pain any longer and that the world would be a better place without me in it. Those moments of connection reminds us that if we bring the conversation out of the whispers we can make a difference in people's lives. Ruggles demonstrates quite effectively the fact that suicidal thoughts and feelings aren't a sign of weakness or giving up, but of needing compassion and understanding. Maybe, just…

Holler by Crystal Wilkinson

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Holler is first and foremost a story of family. It's about the kind of family that you find in the hollers of Kentucky. People who grow up with a kind of kinship that binds them against outsiders even when it's not necessarily in their best interests. Holler is a multi-layered story that feels simple in the read but hits on myriad and complex emotions throughout. In this short story, Wilkinson deftly immerses the reader in interactions that point out preconceptions about country people, city people, skin color, police officers, and even individuals leading to deeper understanding about how much misunderstanding, hurt, and violence could be avoided with a bit more communication and fewer assumptions.

Willy, The Mighty Oak

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Willy, The Mighty Oak: A Short Story by Jaicy Ramsay is the sweet story of an oak tree's life and connection to a family. There's a beauty to the story that nudges one to think about what progress sometimes costs us. In this fable, the oak communicates with a small boy and comforts him after his grandfather dies. In the oak tree, Ramsay demonstrates the strength, understanding, and wisdom of a grandfather as well as the acceptance that many things are beyond one's control.

Note: I read this book as a Kindle book, and it no longer seems to be available via Amazon or elsewhere on the web.

Sequah: An Indian Girl Named Sara by E. Wayne Courtney

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Sequah: An Indian Girl Name Sara by E. Wayne Courtney is a story told in poetic verse. The story grips the reader while leading to the occasional squirm and wince. Courtney explores the life of Sequah as the story was told to the family. The story feels as if it mourns a lost history and connection even as it celebrates the very existence of that history. There's a cord that runs through the verses that feels like a reminder that all beings on this Earth are connected.


Higher Authority by Stephen White

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Higher Authority by Stephen White is part of his Alan Gregory series, but it focuses on Gregory's fiancée, Lauren Crowder, more than on Gregory. White weaves together religion and politics into a quilt no one wants to curl up in. With murder and threats of violence lurking around every corner, relationships from the familial to the friendly to the romantic find themselves in jeopardy upping the stakes for the characters. Higher Authority pits morality against politics and religion as it weaves an intriguing story that at times leaves the reader slightly adrift only to pull one back into its murky depths.

Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran by Shirin Ebadi

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I decided to read Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran by Shirin Ebadi for three reasons. One, I'm always looking to better understand cultures from around the world. Two, I think human rights are worth fighting for. Three, I admire people who are willing to put their whole lives on the line to fight for the rights of not only themselves but others. I started to read Ebadi's story unsure what to expect. The story was filled with moments of hope and moments of utter despair that took me on an emotional roller coaster. I laughed at times and fought back tears at others. I felt outrage and fear and joy. Ebadi tells her life story through the lens of her fight for human rights without denying what her fight for the rights of not only herself but others cost her, personally and professionally. At times, she downplayed her losses in comparison to other people's, but even then her story made me think. Sometimes, we use words so carelessly, but for people living u…

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

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I've struggled a bit to write this review because I have mixed feelings about The Better Angels of our Nature by Steven Pinker.

I started reading The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined with the attitude that Pinker needed to first convince me violence had declined before getting into explaining why. To be perfectly honest, given the world we currently live in, it's hard to imagine that violence has declined.

While I finished the book convinced that violence has declined, I felt like the explanations for why seemed more hypothetical than proven. Pinker explored violence quite thoroughly beginning his book at the beginning of human existence and moving to modern times in the almost 700 pages of The Better Angels of Our Nature. He explored historical myths as well as historical documents to arrive at his conclusions. He used archaeological finds to disprove mythical battles. He described how the development of etiquette and the creation of government helped quel…

The Matter is Life by J. California Cooper

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The Matter is Life by J. California Cooper took me by surprise. I felt off-center as I began to read. Cooper uses language and grammar to give her characters voice and individuality. She writes stories that delve into the dirty aspects of life with an intense and uncomfortable honesty. Cooper writes life without dressing it up in frills and lace. Cooper addresses myriad topics from religion to drug use to family dynamics in this book of short stories. She delves into the way humans interact with one another as well as with themselves. She lets life's tatters and tears show. She creates raw and gritty characters in stories that feel all too real. The Matter is Life pushes the reader to think about why life matters and how to better embrace the what matters in life.

Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America by Tamara Draut

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Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America by Tamara Draut provokes thought, anger, disbelief, and hope all in a few short pages. Draut investigates and illuminates the struggle of the working class in America as well as the importance of the jobs so often pushed to the side and misunderstood by the very people who are working class as well as those who are middle and upper class. She demonstrates how little we truly understand our own economy, taxes, and, sadly, way of life. I felt sharp pangs as I thought about times when I didn't stop to appreciate service I received or worse yet complained about service that was adequate but not top-notch. We so often assume we know things we don't know based on our own circumstances, but Sleeping Giant delves into all those areas where we make ourselves willfully blind so we don't have to face the reality of our choices and the reality of other people's lives. As I read about the deplorable conditions corpora…

No Asylum by Nicholas Karavatos

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No Asylum by Nicholas Karavatos plays with words and phrases to convey the simple and the complex. Sometimes the poems feel like a journey and other times they feel like a destination. There's an attitude within the pages that conveys deep thought and strong opinions. At times I felt like Karavatos's poems spoke to me and other times like they were speaking a different language, but they were always thought provoking. No Asylum is unapologetic in its composition and its take on life.

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Crank by Ellen Hopkins

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I have to confess Crank by Ellen Hopkins sat in my to-be-read pile for quite a long time, several years, in fact. I'm not sure why. There was something about the book that intimidated me before I ever opened it. Maybe I resisted the idea of a book about drug addiction written in a series of poems. Once I started it though, I was drawn in, seduced, addicted... I wanted more. I read more than I intended at each sitting. I wanted to know more. I felt a connection to the characters in the story. I felt the allure and the self-disgust. I cried at the consequences the addiction brought to those involved. I cheered in the hopeful moments and bemoaned the lost moments. Hopkins pushes buttons with effective character building and story telling that feels at once voyeuristic, enlightening, poetic, real, and addictive

Life Without a Recipe: A Memoir of Food and Family by Diana Abu-Jaber

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Diana Abu-Jaber tosses in a bit of this, a pinch of that, and a smidgen of the other to create a thoroughly engaging meal in Life Without a Recipe: A Memoir of Food and Family. Abu-Jaber pulls together American life and the influence of her father's Jordanian roots in a book that spoke to me in unexpected ways. Her descriptions of being in the kitchen with her grandmother made me long to be in the kitchen with mine just one more time. Fond memories from my own life stirred as she described her experience with her grandmother and then with her father sprinkled with her journey toward and into motherhood. When she describes obstacles encountered as she ventured out from her family's belief systems, I nodded and smiled. Abu-Jaber tapped the moment we all share when our opinions, experiences, and choices veer away from the recipe we've been assigned to create a life much more delicious. She explores love and loss and desire and need along side insecurity and confidence and se…

The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-term Health by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell

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The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-term Health by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell offers insight into the effect the food we eat has on our health. I first learned about this book while watching the documentary, Forks Over Knives. I decided I needed to read it even though I started eating a whole-food plant based diet several years ago. Campbell and Campbell explore Dr. T. Colin Campbell's research through the years with a clarity that offers little room for argument. The China Study explains, true to its name, a long term study done on a group of healthy people living in China who eat a mostly plant-based diet where certain diseases are extremely rare. The Campbells demonstrate through an examination of eating habits and health tests how people from Asian countries develop the same health problems as Americans when they adopt a typical American diet. They also discuss the process with which our dietary guidelines are written and how t…

Black Box Poems by Frank X. Walker

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Black Box Poems by Frank X. Walker transported me to a place I both recognized and didn't recognize while expanding my understanding of the human condition. Family dynamics combined with life experience create a glimpse into country life and city life as well as juxtaposition of the simplicity of living complex lives and the complexity of living simple lives. Walker writes with a clarity that uses symbolism and bluntness in perfect harmony to drive home a point or to provoke thought. I'm always entranced by poetry that reminds me that we all share at least some commonalities in a world that works so hard to convince us all that to allow our differences to divide us rather than complement our efforts at living better lives. Reading Black Box Poems felt like taking a trip home and going into a strange land all at once.


Murder on Nob Hill by Shirley Tallman

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Murder on Nob Hill by Shirley Tallman explores class, inequality, greed, and hypocrisy in Victorian San Francisco. When Sarah Woolson convinces a law firm that thinks women shouldn't be practicing law to hire her, she lands in the middle of a murder case her superiors are determined to push aside assuming the worst about the main suspects in the case. As Sarah, in an attempt to best represent her client, uncovers secrets her upper class society would rather not disclosed, she finds herself not only battling for her right to practice law but her life. Tallman creates characters that at once inspire and infuriate in a story that reminds the reader disclosed secrets are often blamed for destroying lives when, in fact, it is the action of doing things one feels the need to hide that destroys lives. Murder on Nob Hill examines the dangers of inequality fueled by greed and self-righteousness.


A Floating Woman Poems by Leonard Orr

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A Floating Woman Poems by Leonard Orr floats into the consciousness and takes up residence. I felt drawn to the poems and their lyricism. The romance of forbidden love and the despair of lost love woven into Orr's poems allows for an emotional journey that feels at once voyeuristic and universal. As I savored these poems over a few weeks, I looked forward each day to that day's poems to be read and after reading them hesitantly put the book aside to await the next day's reading. At times, Orr's poems feel symbolic of a larger message about the world and our place in it with a reverence for the interconnection we all share that shows how our actions affect one another even when we pretend they don't. A Floating Woman speaks to being inside all of us that longs to float into freedom...


Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by Bell Hooks

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Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by Bell Hooks approaches feminism from a perspective of inclusiveness as indicated by the title. Hooks explores the idea that everyone benefits from the pursuit of equal rights for women. Interspersed in her essays is the idea that feminist leaders are sometimes guilty of playing into the patriarchy's hands by pitting those who should be joining together against one another. She explores the use of racism and classism, sometimes unconscious, as instrumental in keeping feminism from making the strides it could make. Hooks points out that when equality comes to our society everyone benefits in a stronger community filled with productive citizens working together for the betterment of all. She goes on to explore how the upper and even middle classes use inequality to exploit others for their own benefit often while not even seeing how the very lives they live are built on the services of other people. Hooks explores inequality and its re…

All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani

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I was excited to read All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani based on reading some of her earlier work. That said, I'm always a little hesitant to read work that assigns fictional possibilities for the events in real people's lives, so I felt a little uncertain about reading All the Stars in the Heavens. It's nice to imagine what might have been the circumstances of a situation, but fantasy never changes reality. Trigiani's writing immersed me and allowed me to suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy the story in spite of the moments when I felt uncomfortable with the portrayals of real people. All the Stars in the Heavens inspired me to research the historical people the characters were based on because at the end of the day All the Stars in the Heavens felt both too real and too much like a fantasy all at once. All the Stars in the Heavens is a well written, fictional account of a historical event that also manages to examine the mores of a period of time shi…

Prodigal by Linda Gregerson

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Prodigal New and Selected Poems: 1976-2014 by Linda Gregerson pushes the reader to think through use of creative and provocative language. Many poems that feel simple on the surface hold an underlying complexity. The poems reminded me that often speaking in seemingly straightforward language can push readers to think beyond the words presented. There's a reverence and an irreverence woven through the poems in ways that connect the unconnected demonstrating just how connected the world truly is. Prodigal lives up to its name in that it examines how reckless and wasteful human beings can truly be but also demonstrates there is hope to find our way again.

The Inflectionist Review: Anthology of Poetry

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The Inflectionist Review: Anthology of Poetry celebrates words in a way that immerses the reader into the minds and souls of the myriad poets within its pages. The poetry offers a journey through life, nature, and human nature in a way that both nurtures and provokes thought. While some poems spoke to me more loudly and more clearly than others I enjoyed the book tremendously. The art included portrays a fluidity that invites the reader to rest and float through the pages of images on the way to the next journey of poetry without ever losing its poetic feel. The Inflectionist Review: Anthology of Poetry presents poetry that manages to be bold, inspiring, and comforting all at once.


Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

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Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde pushed me to think about equality from yet another angle. It's easy to think about equality from the point of view of one's own benefit, but when one expands out to think about equality from the point of view of people with myriad experiences, the struggle isn't quite as easily defined as once thought. Sister Outsider explores myriad attitudes toward people facing inequality and explores how a one size fits all feminism isn't going to fix the problems of inequality. She explores division and judgment and conflicting attitudes mirroring racial issues, class issues, and ingrained belief systems. The essays and speeches included in Sister Outsider drive home the point that we need to listen to one another and find ways to work together instead of assuming one group's work will benefit everyone or that other people's equality can wait until later. Lorde spoke from her experience to provoke thought and perhaps an understanding that cou…

Farewell the Dragon by Lee Barckmann

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Farewell the Dragon by Lee Barckmann drops the reader in China in October of 1987 among a host of characters from around the world all with different agendas, beliefs, and motivations. As they come together, clash, find common ground, suspect one another, and betray each other, they create a drama that had me struggling to differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys. Barckmann doesn't shy away from the edges when it comes to painting his main character, or any of his characters, as flawed. Even as the story unfolds around the murder of two foreigners, there's an element that nothing is what it seems on the surface. Many of the characters seem incredibly uncertain of their feelings for one another ratcheting up the drama, the betrayal, the suspense. Both secrets and honesty were used as weapons throughout Farewell the Dragon. Farewell the Dragon brings relationships, sex, international intrigue, religion, politics, and a society in flux to create an examination of huma…

Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose by Melanne Verveer and Kim. K. Azzarelli

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I found much to like in Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose by Melanne Verveer and Kim. K. Azzarelli; however, there were times when it felt like it tried too hard to convince me to support certain companies. I liked the study of women's rights, the push for equality, and the progress that's been made. Fast Forward pushed me to think about how I can better use my life and my writing not just for the betterment of women but for all people. Verveer and Azzarelli kept a positive attitude about the fight for equal rights without dismissing the struggle still to be fought. Their work for equality interlinks with the stories of many powerful women, corporations, and foundations, and at times the overlap shines a light on the discrepancies between furthering equality and recognizing that not everyone around the world has the same issues. At other times,Verveer and Azzarelli seek to address those discrepancies with stories about the help foundations and corporations …

All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness by Sheila Hamilton

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All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness by Sheila Hamilton is open and raw in a way that forced me to remind myself that I don't actually know her as I read. I cheered for her and her daughter, Sophie, but also for David, her husband suffering from mental illness. I winced when she was brutally honest about missing signs, mistaking the symptoms, and dismissing both as just his personality. I nodded as she demonstrated how charismatic David was in the beginning and how alluring, even intoxicating, that was. I blinked back a tear when she told her daughter when David's body had finally been found even though I knew before I even started reading that he died. Hamilton's examination of way mental illness is handled by the medical profession, the legal community, and even by family members left me gasping. There are so many glitches in the system where one little mistake, one little misstep, one little denial can be deadly. Hamilton writes an engaging …