Tag Archives: books

what I read | may 2015

Ninety percent of the books I read come from recommendations on blogs I follow. In the spirit of paying it forward, I thought I’d start sharing my reads as well in a monthly round-up. 

My goal for April was to read four books, though really what I wanted was to stop wasting all my nursing time refreshing Facebook over and over. Seven books later, I’m going to call the month a success. It’s unusual for me the last few years to have read so many fiction books. I think it’s the summer weather. Even if I can’t be at the beach, light reads are perfect this time of year.

IMG_9075_edited-1Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby by Tracy Hogg. As with most parenting books, I took what I wanted and left what didn’t jive with my own parenting philosophies. Paige and I had started to develop a routine right at the time I read this book and Hogg’s sleep-eat-play philosophy helped me fine tune things for us. I found the advice around setting a routine more useful than the advice around sleep as it wasn’t split out by age and I didn’t feel comfortable with some of her suggestions for my two month old.

Good Night, Sleep Tight: The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake Up Happy by Kim West. This book (and advice from my SIL, Brittany) is the reason I’m awake to write this blog post. We went from bedtime taking nearly two hours and sleep stretches of only ninety minutes or two hours max to twenty minute bedtime and four to five hour stretches of blessed sleep. No tears have been shed, everyone is getting more sleep, and we all wake up smiling. I love that the book is broken out by age and that the techniques we’ve used to help Paige sleep better seem completely appropriate for her. I bought a copy of this book and plan to continue with the techniques as she grows.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Sometimes you just want a sweet young adult love story to get lost in for a bit and high school love, complete with cringe worthy moments, annoying parents, and popular kids is perfect for that. If I had to pick one beach read for this summer it would definitely be Eleanor & Park.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. This is a sweet tribute to the time the author spent reading with his mom after her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. I loved all the book suggestions, but really loved the story of a mother and son making the best of what time they have left with each other.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. By the time books show up in my library queue I’ve usually forgotten what they are about. This book, while a relatively easy fiction read, delves into some heavy topics without making them feel weighty. At the same time it’s a sweet love story and has you thinking about how we treat the disabled in our community. High recommend and would put it in my new made up category of “beach read with good social commentary”.

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty. This is a great summer beach read. It’s my second Moriarty book and while I enjoyed What Alice Forgot more, this one is entertaining as well. Its the story of thirty something triplets and their age and current life status is something I could really identify with right now.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. This book has been on my Goodreads ‘want to read’ list for years. It came up in The End of Your Life Book Club and I added it to my library holds and finally managed to read it. It won the Pulitzer Prize so it’s obviously a good book, but is it terrible if I admit I’m at a place where I’m enjoying beach reads a bit more?

I’m currently reading Beautiful Ruins and have a few more books by Liane Moriarty on deck for our vacation. I doubt I’ll read as much in June given that I want to spend some time ‘working’ around nutrition, but I still plan to spend my nursing time with my nose in a book instead of the internet. 

what I read | march & april 2015

Ninety percent of the books I read come from recommendations on blogs I follow. In the spirit of paying it forward, I thought I’d start sharing my reads as well in a monthly round-up. 

I didn’t read a ton in March but towards the end of the month I realized that I have a lot of “free time” while nursing Paige that I was wasting by scrolling through Facebook thirty seven times each day. I added several books to my library queue and started using this time to get back into reading. As a bonus, I walk to the Green Lake Library to drop off and pick up books. Extra steps and free reading!

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The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten. I believe I heard about this while reading Gail Simmons book as she worked for Steingarten back in the day. He is the food critic for Vogue magazine and the book is a collection of food related essays. I really enjoyed some of them but by the end I was reading just to finish the book. Also, it includes thoughts on nutrition from the late 90s (when it was published) that annoyed me to no end.

The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decisions for Your Child by Robert W. Sears. I almost didn’t include this on the list because the last thing I have any interest in doing is having a vaccine debate. I read this book because it explains the various diseases that we vaccinate against (I really had no idea what some of them were), how vaccines are manufactured, and how they work. If you’re curious about any of those topics it might be a good book for you to read. I’m sure there are plenty out there, this is just the one I selected.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. A fun fiction read about a man with Aspergers and his quest for love. I loved the character development and was so impressed that a former IT consultant wrote the novel. Maybe there’s hope for a second career in writing for me? I heard there is a sequel but I feel like there’s no way it could be as good and quirky, so I might just skip it. But I highly recommend this one.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. My favorite book of the month. It was recommended to me last year by a friend from school (hi Nan!) and I should have jumped on it earlier. It happens to be in my favorite (made up) genre – books written about real life events that weave in other plot lines relevant to the time of the story (The Devil in the White City is my favorite example of this). The one also happens to take place locally for me, which is always fun to read. It’s the story of the UW crew team who won gold at the 1936 Berlin (Hitler’s) Olympics.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I’ve seen Moriarty come up over and over in the blogosphere but had never read any of her books. Now I know what all the fuss is about, this book was really entertaining. It was a relatively quick, fiction read, but it was well written and kept my attention. I looked forward to nursing sessions so that I could jump back into the story. I’ve added several more of her books to my library queue. Quick synopsis: Alice suffers an accident and loses memory of the last decade of her life (during which she had three children and a decade’s worth of life experiences).

Next up is a collection of books on baby sleep. If we’ve talked in real life in the last few weeks I’m sure I’ve mentioned more than a few times that my kid has decided to stop sleeping at night. While all experts (my sister, the pediatrician, the lactation consultant, etc.) have told me it’s just a phase, I’m convinced that if I read enough books I’ll find the answer. Wish me luck!

what I read | february 2015

Ninety percent of the books I read come from recommendations on blogs I regularly read. In the spirit of paying it forward, I thought I’d start sharing my reads as well in a monthly round-up. 

I wrote this post right before going to the hospital to have Paige. Since I wasn’t expecting to deliver then it never got posted. I doubt I’ll ever read this many books in a single month again, but maternity leave and a late arriving baby lead to an above average amount of reading time. February was all about the memoirs.

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Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I liked but I didn’t love. I found it to be just a little on the boring side. To be fair, I have already read Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, and Rachel Dratch’s memoirs. Being the fourth female comedian / television actress memoir on a list probably has more to do with why I thought it was boring than the book itself. I’d heard most of the stories already in the other books (college theater, spending your twenties dirt poor in Chicago, making it big in NYC around thirty, etc). I do appreciate that she didn’t exploit her divorce to sell books (though I’d totally be lying to say I was a little disappointed there weren’t more details). I really enjoyed the chapter on Parks & Rec. I’m not a big SNL watcher, but I did watch most of Parks & Rec and getting a behind the scenes view into the cast was entertaining.

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The Keeper: A Life of Saving Goals and Achieving Them by Tim Howard. Here’s the thing: If you’re not into soccer, you’re probably not going to enjoy this. It’s written about as well as you’d expect a book written by an athlete with a helper author to be written. As a relative newcomer to world of soccer, I loved hearing his story as it paralleled the rise of soccer in the US. Tidbits from the past few World Cups and the USMNT in general were really interesting. Unlike a lot of memories, I found him to be endearingly honest. It may have not been the most well written book, but you could feel the love he felt for his mother, wife, and children come through in his story.

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie. Once a month I get an email from Amazon with four new books from which I can choose one or two to download for free on my Kindle (I think this is a Prime perk?). The books are never great and they are almost always fiction (not my favorite), but because they are on the Kindle app on my iPhone they are convenient. I wouldn’t really recommend this book unless you’re looking for a book about death and infidelity. I didn’t really find any of the characters redeeming enough to connect with, which always leaves a fiction book lacking in my opinion.

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In the last month of pregnancy I spent most nights awake from 3am – 5am on the couch in our office. I sometimes succeeded at reading rather than mindlessly surfing the internet.

Talking With My Mouth Full by Gail Simmons. Greg and I are enjoying watching Top Chef from the first season (we have each only watched the Seattle season previously) and when I came across Gail Simmons’ memoir I immediately added it to my library queue. Loved the inside scoop on Top Chef as well as reading about how she has cultivated her career in a field that didn’t really exist until recently. It was a quick read and, unlike a lot of memoirs, because she is a journalist it was well written. There are some spoilers from the first few seasons, but we’re probably the only people currently watching a reality show that aired in 2008.

Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstratch. From the author of the blog with the same name, this book is half memoir, half recipe book. Lately I’ve been listening to the America’s Test Kitchen podcast and I’m pretty sure that’s where I heard about it and how it ended up in my library queue. (Most books take some time from when I request them to when I get an email that they are waiting for me and by then I’ve usually forgotten about them.) It’s another quick read and focuses on her family’s decision to make family dinner a priority. Having eaten dinner as a family nearly every night while growing up, I related to Jenny’s drive to make this happen. I hope we can incorporate family dinner into our life as our kids grow. Obviously it won’t be every night with Greg’s current work situation, but we can make it a priority as often as possible. I’ve been known to tell him he can only count it as a non-travel night if we eat dinner together. I took pictures of a handful of the recipes and look forward to trying them when I am back in a regular cooking rhythm. (If you’re a pasta eater, you’d probably really enjoy most of the recipes in the book.)

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The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. I’ve saved this book on my Goodreads Want to Read list for years and finally got around to it. I was definitely missing out. It takes an amazing writer to eloquently and beautifully write about the year in her life after which she lost her husband and almost lost her only child. I love books that make me think and this one definitely made me consider my own views on grief – why we grieve, how we grieve, how grief is different by culture.

I also finally finished The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, which I talked about in my pregnancy reads post.

what I read | pregnancy edition

I’m finishing up the last book on my pregnancy reading list and thought I’d share which books made the list and a few thoughts on each.

IMG_8835_edited-1Quick disclaimer: I didn’t read very many books. Up until six months, I was working full time and finishing my NTP certification. There wasn’t much extra time in my day for reading non-school books. But even more, I had little desire to read most of what is out there. I’m not into ranting, but I will say that I hate the way we view pregnancy and birth in the US. End rant. I chose to read books that support a non-pathological view of pregnancy and birth and that do not engage in expectant mother fear mongering. There are still more books that meet this criteria than I could or needed to get through in three months, so I picked a few and didn’t worry about the rest.

Great With Child by Beth Ann Fennelly. This memoir is not what most people would categorize as a pregnancy book, but I loved it. It came highly recommended from one of my favorite blogs and it was a breath of fresh air to read in between the more “technical” pregnancy and birth books. The collection of letters from mentor to mentee are beautifully written and captured both the highs and lows of pregnancy as well as motherhood.

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. Happiest Baby came highly recommend from several sets of parents whose parenting style we admire. Greg and I both read this book, and while it is highly repetitive (seriously, it could be twenty pages long instead of two hundred), we learned a lot. As Martian isn’t here yet I can’t comment on whether or not the techniques we learned will work for us, but having a common ground to start from on that first long night is what we were hoping to get (and got) from this book.

Real Food for Mothers and Babies by Nina Planck. Obviously this book was right up my ally. I’m not sure that I learned new information given that I was going through a nutrition program at the same time, but for someone curious about nutrition during pre-conception, pregnancy, birth, and early months of baby this is a great read. I love that the pregnancy section broke down mom and baby’s nutrient needs by trimester. I used this as a guide for taking in more nutrient appropriate foods at specific times.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. If I had to pick one book to recommend, this would be it. I learned so much about what my body is capable of and what should be considered normal during pregnancy and birth that I feel empowered going into labor and bringing this baby into the world. I feel silly writing that sentence, but it’s true. I wouldn’t say that I feared labor and birth before, but now I am accepting of them. Again, I haven’t done it yet so the jury is out on if what I learned will be useful or not. However, just being in the mind frame that I am about the process is win enough for me.

Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Penny Simkin. After researching several pregnancy books, I decided to go with this one and ordered it from Amazon. Then we went to my first midwife appointment and they gave us a copy. And then we started our birth class series where they gave us a third copy (which I declined). Clearly it was the book I was meant to read. I highly recommend this book if you want a less conventional, less pathological (but not not-science based) book on what to expect during pregnancy and birth. In terms of labor and birth, this book (and our class) helped ensure that I will be a good advocate for myself and the baby. I understand the physiology behind labor and birth now as well as the risks and side effects of each potential intervention. Combined with what I learned in Ina May’s Guide, I am confident with my plans for birth but also know that if we have to deviate I’m armed with the knowledge that I need to make decisions.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger of La Leche League. I’m about halfway through the book and so far enjoying it. I’m glad I’m reading it now to get the information in my head, but I’m pretty sure it will be more heavily used as a reference in the first few weeks of baby’s life and as we come up on different milestones over time.

I’m collecting a list of parenting books I’d like to read, but I have no plans to start them anytime soon. Next up on the list is simply surviving the first six weeks with baby, which I’m not sure will involve all that much reading. But if it does, I have a few non-baby related books on my iPad ready to go.

january books

I finished my two books for January early, mostly because I cheated and finished two books I had started last year.

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For fun I read the third book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, Voyager. I have no idea how I stumbled on the first boo of the series back in 2012. They are not like anything I ever read, but I love them. Each book is close to 1000 pages so it’s taken me two years to read through three. To sum up the series I would call them romance meets time travel meets adventure with tons of history lessons thrown in the mix. If you enjoy series and stories you can really get into for a long time (I think there are about eight books so far), I would highly recommend. The time travel is not science fiction-y at all.

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Even though I unintentionally learn a ton about history with the Outlander books, I would not count them as my “learn” books. This month I finished Beautiful Babies. I started it in the fall but needed to put it down for a while. I wouldn’t say the author is super well written, but I found the information fascinating. I’m a little obsessed with traditional cultures’ food right now and combined with the fertility/pregnancy specifics I just found the book really fascinating. I’m more interested now in understanding why or why not I’d want to eat a certain food, not just because a Paleo blog told me I should. I read Kristen’s blog, Food Renegade, as well. Highly recommend if you have any interest in “challenging politically correct nutrition”.

Up next is Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. I haven’t settled on a fun book for February yet. At some point in the last year I’ve really lost my interest in fiction but I’m sure I’ll come across something interesting.

five on friday

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1. I’m doing One Little Word (OLW) this year and actually taking the class with Ali Edwards as well. My word is “cheer”. I’m excited to write more about it as I dive into it deeper. The quote above is my favorite quote ever, was my high school yearbook quote, and I couldn’t agree with it more.

2. I couldn’t handle not having a 2014 reading goal. So I created one. Last year I read 26/30 books. Not bad considering I added new hobbies throughout the year. This year my goal is to read one “fun” book and one “learn” book each month.

3. Out of need to use round steak last week, I made this recipe for Paleo Swiss Steak on a whim. Holy cow (ha!), it was good. Since I buy my meat in bulk I have no idea what cuts are cheaper, but according to the recipe round steak is affordable. It was easy to throw together and smelled great as it cooked through the afternoon.

4. I’m loving Barre3. Low impact but I still feel like I get a great workout and without the stress CrossFit was putting on my body. It’s been only five classes but I’m already noticing improved posture. If I still love it at the end of my trial month I’ll definitely share more.

5. My birthday is Sunday and I asked for a weekend with no plans so we can do laundry and get the house in order. Hello, mid thirties. I’m also getting a steak dinner date with my hubby.

 

Book Report

As usual, I made a book goal for myself this year. For the last few years it’s been 30; in 2011 I read exactly 30 and in 2012 I did 32. I decided to step it up this year and shoot for 36. It might happen, I finished my twelfth just a few days into May so I’m pretty close to on track. If you consider I have five or six book half read, I’m maybe even ahead of the game.

As a book-loving data head, I track all my books on Goodreads. It’s also great for tracking books you want to read and don’t want to forget about. I went back and looked at the first third of the year for the books I rated as four or five star. I won’t bother passing on the ones I didn’t think were at least above average.

1) Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. Fascinating look into life in a women’s prison. A bit of a victim mentality from the author (when she very knowingly committed some serious crimes), but the peak into a world I know nothing about was captivating, depressing, and fascinating. Quick read and a memoir by a good writer, which doesn’t always happen.

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2) Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. I guess I have a theme going this year – another memoir recounting a less than ideal time in the author’s life. Again, she is a good writer which makes all the difference in a memoir. I’ve always been intrigued by the Pacific Crest Trail so while I didn’t find Cheryl all that likable, I found the story quite interesting. 12262741

3) Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. I have loved Ian McEwan for a long time, even before Atonement (which I actually found pretty boring). I read this on a weekend trip to New York, quick read but excellent writing and story. London + the sixties + an intelligence agency. 135620494) Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I have no idea how this book found it’s way into my library queue, but I loved it. Great Gatsby-esque fun love story set in twenties New York.

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5) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Easy to read modern suspense and well written. Keeps you guessing. I’m not a huge suspense or mystery reader, but somehow Gillian Flynn manages to make her books one part chick lit, three parts suspense and I fall for it.

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Anyone have any good book suggestions?