Saturday, December 31, 2016

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

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 opposite. Haidt tries to put an intellectual face on something that is most often driven by emotion, at least in this presentation of his research. His extensive discussion of what he calls the foundations of morality had me grinding my teeth and clenching my jaw as he made sweeping comments that just don't relate to me, most of the people I know or what I see in today's political discourse. While he claims to be trying to help the two sides understand one another, The Righteous Mind comes across as biased toward one side, though I won't say which side, because I think that would be a spoiler. It's hard for me to recommend this book yet I'm glad I read it because it did make me think.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

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

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.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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 Light We Cannot See is the tapestry of the effects of war that are visited upon peoples and places for generation upon generation.  All the Light We Cannot See reveals its many layers through the characters interactions and the threat looming in the distance but always drawing nearer.


Friday, December 23, 2016

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

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's easy to read, immersive, and entertaining style of writing.


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Monday, December 19, 2016

Caul & Response by UpFromSumDirt (Ron Davis)

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. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rita Dove Collected Poems 1974-2004

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.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

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

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 "daily dozen" and how and why he incorporates them into his daily regimen. Throughout How Not to Die, Greger tells the story of how he came to be so interested in the effect food has on the body. How Not to Die is a fascinating, informative read I wish everyone would read, so we can all take control of the aspects of our health we can control.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

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

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 about the origins of good and evil.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

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

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, helped me reconnect with my own purpose for writing and to remind me how important books can be to not only the writers but to the readers and even to society as a whole.