2013 Book Thoughts –> “An Everlasting Meal” by Tamar Adler

This book was a gift, and as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I almost always read books that are recommended to me, because I am intrigued by the thought that I came to mind while someone was reading. All the more so with a gift!

The subtitle of “An Everlasting Meal” is “Cooking with Economy and Grace”. I love all things cooking, and I love reading, but I never would’ve picked up this book on my own, although I’m not sure why. An excerpt from the description on the back of the book says, “In this meditation on cooking and eating, Tamar Adler weaves philosophy and instruction into approachable lessons on feeding ourselves well[.]” I can’t think of a better way to describe the content of the book! Knowing that the woman who gave it to me knows me well enough to gauge what I’d enjoy, and knowing the content matter was interesting to me, I’m not surprised that I liked it, but I was very surprised by how much it hooked me! While reading it, I snuck in a chapter here and there when I could, and stayed up for an extra chapter (or two!) more than one night. Adler is an excellent writer and her thoughts on cooking and eating are practical and elegant. Her tastes are far more sophisticated than our family’s (I could probably describe our family’s tastes as pretty thoroughly Americanized: in the familiar-American-meals sense, not in a most-everything-processed sense), so my interest and excitement during and after reading has given me courage to try many new and unfamiliar things. More than I’d like were unsuccessful, but some were well received, and there was still lots in the book that has been happily incorporated into our Americanized kitchen!

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2013 Book Thoughts –> “Idol Lies” by Dee Brestin

This book, in content, reminded me very much of Timothy Keller’s “Counterfeit Gods”. This is not surprising, because she talks in the book about how Timothy Keller’s sermons were especially influential, as “they got to the heart of the problem.” She even says (although I don’t remember if she said it in the book or the accompanying videos) that when she met Keller, she told him that she’d listened to a sermon of his every night for 7 years. When he responded, “Do I have that many?”, she said, “Yes, but you’re running out, so you better get to work.”

Portions of the book are written in narrative style, using examples in her and others’ lives. The whole book doesn’t follow one story, rather she takes us along on shorter stories when trying to illustrate certain points. Her narrative style is similar to Ann Voskamp, although not quite as beautiful and poetic.

“Counterfeit Lies” is on my must-read-again list, but I think this one may actually replace it. Or maybe I’ll switch off? Brestin’s book does seem to be marketed to women specifically. Although I would say that anyone, regardless of gender, could glean much from it, this book does seem to tailor Keller’s heart-idol teaching to women. And since I am obviously a woman, I think her adaptation (if I may call it that) was even more helpful than Keller’s book.

I’ll invite you to read my thoughts on “Counterfeit Gods” for some thoughts on content rather than repeating them. And I’ll end by saying I’d easily recommend this one!

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2013 Book Thoughts –> “Instructing a Child’s Heart” by Tedd & Margy Tripp

A different book on parenting by Tedd Tripp, “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”, is my absolute favorite parenting book. So when I discovered he had written another, I was probably going to read it no matter what the content. However, the title was especially interesting to me because of my role as teacher in my children’s lives. In “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”, Tripp lays out a beautiful picture of practical, gospel-centered parenting. So I heard “Instructing a Child’s Heart”, and thought I’d found a primer on gospel-centered teaching! (Now, I’m not trying to overuse the catch-phrase “gospel-centered”, or claim that something has to be laced with Bible verses in order to be useful, because that’s far from the truth! However, God has lots to say about lots of things, and there is a way to do things in accordance with Truth, and in conflict with it. So I hope I don’t sound like I’m in the market for a more “gospel-centered” arithmetic curriculum. I was simply excited to hear Tripp’s thoughts on education, knowing his deep love of the gospel.)

Now, if any of you have read my other blog plots, you may be aware of my tendency to read the title of a book and jump to conclusions about its content. This is far from the first time I’ve done it. The book is not about education in an academic sense at all. What it is about is instructing our children in the ways of God. So although my guess at its contents was off, it was a fantastic book. Just as practical, helpful, encouraging, and -yes- gospel-centered as “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”.

I found it to be helpful for myself as well. There are things we are meant to learn as a child that, if not fully learned, will leave a hole in our maturity. I am benefitting greatly from absorbing his teachings on authority, the church, sufficiency in Christ, and other truths.

I’d definitely recommend this one.

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2013 Book Thoughts –> “Deeper Walk” by Marcus Warner

Warner asserts in this book that there are many things that work together in order to accomplish a deeper walk with God, and the basic format of the book is to spend a chapter covering an aspect of deepening your walk. Examples of the chapters include: The Power of Perspective, Sovereign Lordship, Listening to God, Watching the Enemy, etc.

There was a lot in the book I liked very much, and the part on forgiveness was very helpful. I’ve read, listened, and talked with others a lot about forgiveness, and I’m always surprised at how much the teaching and opinions vary: what forgiveness actually is, whether it involves emotions or not, what it should feel like if it does involve emotions, whether or not it’s a choice. Whether or not this book has it all right on forgiveness, I’m not sure, but certainly what it had to offer was helpful. Perhaps I just came across it at a time when I was ready to work on some unforgiveness in my heart. Or maybe it was the book itself that brought me to the place of being ready to work more…?

There are a lot of varying opinions on another topic addressed often throughout the book: how, and how much, we personally hear from God. When I read the book, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with all the ways of hearing from God that the author describes. The primary way that Warner recommends healing an emotional wound is through listening prayer, where we ask God to give us his perspective on the situation. We ask God to speak to us through words or pictures. My being uncomfortable with something certainly doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it, as almost everything unfamiliar is uncomfortable at first, so I’ve tried to find out more about this. I found that this issue is even more polarized than I originally thought. As far as I understand what I’ve read and discussed so far, on one end are those who believe God doesn’t speak to us at all outside the Bible, and on the other are those that believe that a personal relationship with God precisely means that we have two-way conversation with him throughout our lives, and that he directs us by these means in addition to the Bible. After all I’ve tried to find out since reading this book, I am no less uncomfortable or unsure. Perhaps more so. I am falling somewhere in the middle, although I’m aware that completely sounds like a cop-out. I believe this is just another instance of believers working out their salvation with fear and trembling. (There are those who disagree with this, and would assert that certain views on certain theology indicate whether someone is or is not saved.)

Another theory in the book is the theory that any overreaction to a situation indicates that we have a “button”. When our button is pushed, we overreact to the situation. Warner says that all buttons find their source in a wound. So healing the wound cures the overreaction. It was an intriguing theory, and I can easily accept that it is true in many cases, but I’m not sure I’m sold out on this always being true. Sometime when I overreact in a situation, I think it’s because I’m being selfish and I want what I want. And sometimes it’s hormones. Do I have undiscovered wounds causing these reactions, and I’m simply mistaking the cause as simple selfishness, fatigue, or hormones? Maybe…

Although there are things in the book I’m not totally in agreement with, there’s much in this book that is not dependent on any certain view on any of these issues, and is great, thought-provoking teaching on deepening your walk with God.

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2013 Reading with the Kids

Following is a list of books we read with the kids in 2013 and before.

It didn’t occur to me to keep track of these until several months ago, when we’d obviously been reading for years, so I feel very confident that I’ve missed some. However, I love the thought of keeping the list to look back on, so here’s everything I can remember up until now. I’d love to write a little something about each book and create some links, but I just don’t have the time right now. I may come back to this. For now, I’ve put an asterisk next to the books that both the children and I would recommend. Some that aren’t starred the children didn’t enjoy very much, and some I didn’t care for. If anyone who happens upon this list is curious why I did or didn’t recommend any of the books, or needs more info on any if the books (I don’t even have authors on all of them, I know!), feel free to ask! Talking about books is *high* on my list of things I enjoy doing!

*Swiss Family Robinson, Children’s Adaptation (2X)

*The Wright Brothers landmark book (2X)

The Wheel on the School

*The Little House series

The Boxcar Children #1-17 (There are many more than 17. That’s just where we stopped. I’d recommend the first several only. Maybe the first 4-5. Not beyond that.)

*Paddington Bear

*Winnie the Pooh

*Stuart Little

*Charlotte’s Web (2X)

*The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (I can’t not recommend this book, but I read it to them way too young. I think J was 3.)

*Stone Fox (2X)

Imagination Station 1: Voyage of the Vikings

Imagination Station 2: Attack at the Arena

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle

*The Littles

The Borrowers

*The House at Pooh Corner

*Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

*Wind in the Willows

Treasure Island, Children’s Adaptation

*My Side of the Mountain

*A collection of Beatrix Potter books

*Cricket in Times Square

*Cheaper by the Dozen

*Daniel Boone by Augusta Stevenson

* The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

*Trumpet of the Swans

*Paddington Abroad

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2013 Book Thoughts –> “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg

Since the moment I heard of this book, I’ve been anxious to read it. Much for the same reasons as I was interested in “Moonwalking with Einstein”: the idea of habit study, much like memory study, was interesting in itself, and interesting for its bearing on education, which is one of my primary roles. The study of habit was of particular interest to me considering the emphasis Charlotte Mason places on it, as Charlotte Mason influences our homeschool heavily. I read it with very high expectations, having enjoyed “Moonwalking with Einstein” as much as I did.

Part of the book was interesting, but much of it wasn’t. I think Duhigg really over-relies on his anecdotes, which are very, very long. Some of them are interesting enough (some are not), but in my opinion, they didn’t seem to be able to hold the weight he was trying to place on them of proving his point. Several times it seems he is really stretching, particularly in trying to categorize peer pressure as a habit. The other issue I had was that in his notes, he records several responses from subjects in his anecdotes to fact-checking questions, and very often they disagree with what he has said. Sometimes it doesn’t change the central point, but often it does.

I also think it’s worth noting that there are some subjects that will be more strongly affected when attempting to divorce the subject from God than others. For example, if two authors are writing about trigonometry, and one is an atheist and one is a Christian, the text will not likely differ much as a result of their differing beliefs. However, when you take a subject like habits– our behavior, our power to change, what is and is not our responsibility– those subjects are going to be very heavily affected by one’s worldview. While the author didn’t seem to be pushing any particular worldview or critical of any particular worldview, it’s clear that his differs significantly from a Christian worldview. It can be hard sometimes for what he’s teaching to be helpful, when he’s attempting to present it on its own apart from the creator and sustainer of the universe. Some of what he teaches seems to be true, but only part of the story. And when part of a story is presented as the whole story, it can be quite untrue. The author states in the prologue, “Each chapter revolves around a central argument: Habits can be changed, if we understand how they work.” If this were entirely true, we surely wouldn’t need a savior. At least not in daily life. To be sure, many habits do not fit into the category of morality (nail biting, for instance). But to leave out the spiritual battle that heavily affects our thoughts, temptations, fruit of the spirit, and the like just makes for a very incomplete story for someone with a Christian worldview. (However, very interesting to me is his assertion in the book that habits can never be broken or removed; they can only be replaced. It calls to mind the theory that idols cannot be removed, only replaced [by worshipping the true God instead of the idol].)

That said, his general explanation of how to change a habit was interesting and may prove useful. I’ll skip summarizing it here because, like the memory techniques, I’m sure it can be easily googled if you’re interested. Unlike “Moonwalking with Einstein”, however, I’d recommend googling it over reading the book if you do find yourself interested.

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2013 Book Thoughts –> “Moonwalking with Einstein” by Joshua Foer

This book was so completely fascinating. I enjoyed it very much and learned a lot from it. I am not usually a bestseller reader. Not that I have anything against them, just that I am not usually drawn to them. The subtitle of the book, “The Art and Science of Remembering Everything”, is helpful, because we don’t find out why the book is titled “Moonwalking with Einstein” until near the end of the book. In fact, I called the book “Moonlighting with Einstein” several times by mistake before understanding why the book was titled as it is. I was picturing him learning this new information on the side of whatever his real job was (“moonlighting”), from someone very smart (you know, an “Einstein”). This turned out to be almost entirely incorrect.

The book is told as a narrative, a year of the author’s life, and Foer weaves all the data-type information into the story. It is very well written, in my opinion. The story keeps it from sounding like a lecture or a textbook, and does a good job of hooking the reader in to see what happens next as much as to learn more about memory.

I’ll not summarize the memory techniques, as I’m sure than can be easily googled, and because I recommend learning them through reading the book just because its a fun experience, but I will say a few things.

When Foer introduces his first technique, he presents a list of items, asks the reader to read the list, then to close the book and remember as many as possible. The list is as follows:

Pickled garlic
Cottage cheese
Salmon (peat-smoked if poss.)
Six bottles of white wine
Socks (X3)
Three hula hoops (spare?)
Snorkel
Dry ice machine
E-mail Sophia
Skin-toned cat suit
Find Paul Newman film–Somebody up there likes me
Elk Sausages??
Megaphone and director’s chair
Harness and ropes
Barometer

Go ahead. Try it now. Look away from the computer and try. It will make this more fun.

I don’t remember how many I could retain when I first tried, but I know it was sadly few. Then he walks us through the exercise he was first introduced though, encouraging the reader to play along; which I was a good sport and did, then asks the reader to close the book and try again. I remembered every item, in order. The next day, telling my husband about it, I remembered every item, in order, without opening the book. Then I wrote a list of things my kids understood (pillows, Daddy, mushrooms, umbrella, etc) ten items long and tried the exercise on them. The 5-year-old remembered 9 of the 10, in order, and the 6-year-old remembered all 10, in order. Here is the list again from above, as I tried to write it from memory just now, over a month since trying to memorize it. I’ve listed the real item first, the same as above, then asterisks, then my attempt from today to remember:

Pickled garlic ** Pickled onions
Cottage cheese ** Cottage cheese
Salmon (peat-smoked if poss.) ** Peat-smoked salmon
Six bottles of white wine ** 4 bottles of white wine
Socks (X3) ** 3 pairs of socks
Three hula hoops (spare?) ** Hula hoops
Snorkel ** Mask and snorkel
Dry ice machine ** ?? (I know there’s something here…)
E-mail Sophia ** Email Sophia
Skin-toned cat suit ** Skin-toned cat suit
Find Paul Newman film– Somebody up there likes me** Paul Newman film
Elk Sausages?? ** Elk sausages
Megaphone and director’s chair ** Director’s chair and megaphone
Harness and ropes ** Climbing rope and harness
Barometer ** Barometer

Surely had I reviewed the list even once a week I still would have it entirely correct. Totally fascinating to me.

There were other techniques in the books I tried with success as well. All of it includes visualizing images. The author states that we remember pictures more so than words or numbers (I’m oversimplifying).

Something interesting I found was that if I was visualizing something similar to something else I had visualized, they were easily confused. For example, I used my new tricks to remember where we had left off in our audiobook. Our family is listening to Pinocchio, and for some odd reason (that is actually very inconvenient), my phone does not save where we stop in the book. So when I go back I have to scan to where we left off. Which means I have to remember where we left off. I would normally need to write this down, but with confidence in my new skills, I pictured Pinocchio himself throwing up this two wooden arms and the jumping up and throwing out all 4 limbs into a big X. It worked perfectly. Days later, I had no trouble remembering we left off at 00:24. However, after doing this 2 or 3 times, I couldn’t remember which image of Pinocchio was most recent. He had done so much limb throwing and shaping himself into numbers and such, that I could no longer use those images to remember. I now need to write it down again. I’m sure I could find another way to make it visual if I tried, it’s just very interesting to me that this will work in a more straightforward way for some things than with others.

I have also had great success using techniques from the book for remembering people’s names, but I have found it to be very funny that I need to look at a person for several seconds while figuring out a way to connect their name to an image. Hopefully I have been pulling this off in a way that is not creepy… but sometimes I wonder.

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