Friday, July 19, 2019

Good to Go

Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn From the Strange Science of Recoveryby Christie Aschwanden, 302 pages

Aschwanden is a science writer for FiveThiryEight. She is a former high level athlete and stays active with running, cycling and cross country skiing.

Aschwanden investigates whether recovery products and services work. Unfortunately, when you examine the evidence, most of it indicates that the products and services don't provide a benefit or it is inconclusive. A lot of the studies aren't rigorous enough.

Even if they are presented with the lack of proof, those that use these products are unlikely to stop using them because of the perceived benefit. The placebo effect is certainly a confounding factor.

Based on all the information Aschwanden provided there are four things that I took away from this book. Good nutrition is important and can be obtained from a balance diet. You don't need drinks or supplements. The proper amount of sleep is vital to recovery. Overtraining is detrimental to recovery. Lastly, exercising too much while you are sick can have long lasting consequences.

I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to athletes, people who exercise a lot or those interested in science.

Sounds like Titanic

Sounds like Titanic: a memoir by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman, 250 pages

Summary from Goodreads: "A young woman leaves Appalachia for life as a classical musician—or so she thinks.
When aspiring violinist Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman lands a job with a professional ensemble in New York City, she imagines she has achieved her lifelong dream. But the ensemble proves to be a sham. When the group “performs,” the microphones are never on. Instead, the music blares from a CD. The mastermind behind this scheme is a peculiar and mysterious figure known as The Composer, who is gaslighting his audiences with music that sounds suspiciously like the Titanic movie soundtrack. On tour with his chaotic ensemble, Hindman spirals into crises of identity and disillusionment as she “plays” for audiences genuinely moved by the performance, unable to differentiate real from fake."

The summary is pretty good but I have a problem with one part of it and the memoir is more complicated than what is in the summary. I don't agree that the Composer was gaslighting his audiences. I think he was sincerely trying to entertain and help people. 

By the time Hindman joined the ensemble and went on the tour that is at the center of the book she already knew that she wasn't the greatest violin player and had changed her major to Middle East studies. She wanted to become a journalist after 9/11 but found it hard to get a job. She stuck with the ensemble as a way to make ends meet. She also deals with mental illness. 

Overall, I would characterize the book as a young woman trying to find her way in the world. I appreciated her perspective on 9/11 and the aftermath. I would recommend this book to those people that like biographies and memoirs.

Drop Shot

Drop Shot by Harlan Coben, 310 pages

This is the second book in the Myron Bolitar series. Up and coming tennis star Duane Richwood is Myron's featured client in this book.

While Myron is watching one of Duane's matches at the US Open when he hears a gunshot. He goes to investigate and discovers that Valerie Simpson has been killed. She was a star professional tennis player but had a breakdown. She had recently had meetings with Myron and may have been trying to make a comeback.

Duane is somehow connected with Valerie but Myron doesn't know how and Duane starts acting strange. As Myron tries to figure out who killed her events from six years are dredged up and might be connected.

I listened to this as an audiobook and the narration was as excellent as the first book. I would recommend this book to people who like humorous mysteries. The humor is dry and there are some hard boiled parts as well.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Deal Breaker

Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben, 339 pages

Myron Bolitar is a sports agent with a complicated back story. It is explored as book goes along but also leaves room for character development further in the series. Myron was a star basketball player whose career was ended by injury before he could make his NBA debut. He is also a lawyer who worked for the FBI in some capacity. Finally, he is a smartass and the story is told with wit.

His biggest client is a rookie NFL quarterback. Just as he is about to sign his contract things get complicated. There are signs that his girlfriend who is missing and presumed dead may still be alive. Bolitar is determined to find her if she is alive. 

I listened to this as an audiobook. I thought the narrator, Jonathan Marosz, did an excellent job. I thought his deadpan conveyed the humor well and was serious when needed.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Monastic Life at Cluny

Image result for Monastic Life at Cluny joan evansMonastic Life at Cluny 910-1157 by Joan Evans, 130 pages

As Rome fell and the medieval world rose, Christian monasticism flourished.  As time passed, however, the same monasteries that served as fortresses of the faith fell into decadence and dissolution.  The Carolingian reform established the Rule of St Benedict throughout Western Europe, but the corruption was great and the workers few.  In 910 William of Aquitaine gifted a portion of his hunting preserve to the reforming abbot of Baume, St Berno, on which the monastery of Cluny was founded.  Adhering to strict interpretation of the Rule, dedicated to the celebration of the liturgy, and directly subject to the Pope, under a series of saintly abbots Cluny became the center of the 10th century monastic reform that ushered in the High Middle Ages.  

The Cluniacs were eventually overshadowed by the rise of the Cistercians, an eclipse which was perpetuated by posterity.  Joan Evans' short book does nothing to reverse this, indeed, it is barely interested with Cluny's role in the broader reform movement.  Instead, Monastic Life at Cluny is a more modest description of the history of the particular monastery of Cluny and the daily life of the monks.  It is no less valuable for that - it was through this life and for the sake of this life that the world-historical work of reform was carried out.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Lock Every Door

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager    386 pages

Apartment sitting at The Batholomew sounds like a dream job, not only because Jules is broke and getting desperate. It's a beautiful apartment and the setting for her all-time favorite book. There are some strict rules that come with the job, like: No visitors. No disturbing the other residents. No spending a night away from the apartment. However, Jules doesn't think any of these will be a problem. And when she meets Ingrid, a fellow apartment-sitter, Jules thinks this might be the best job ever.

Until Ingrid goes missing. The night before, Jules thought she heard a scream and when she knocked on Ingrid's door, it was clear that Ingrid was terrified about something.  Now, Jules is determined to find out what happened to Ingrid and unravel the mystery of why The Bartholomew has such a sinister reputation.

This book has a great start, where Jules wakes up in a hospital, apparently having run right into traffic. As you go backwards and to when she gets the job as the apartment sitter, you start to think Jules is just being paranoid. And nosy. However, you can't shake the feeling that something really is wrong. What I did not see coming was the one reveal about 3/4 of the way through --- and no spoilers here.  I think if I went back and re-read, I might see some clues, though.  Definitely an entertaining, fast-moving read.

What My Mother and I Don't Talk About Fifteen Writers Break the Silence

What My Mother and I Don't Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence edited by Michele Filgate 288 pages

"Fifteen brilliant writers explore what we don’t talk to our mothers about, and how it affects us, for better or for worse. As an undergraduate, Michele Filgate started writing an essay about being abused by her stepfather. It took her more than a decade to realize what she was actually trying to write: how this affected her relationship with her mother. When it was finally published, the essay went viral, shared on social media by Anne Lamott, Rebecca Solnit, and many others. The outpouring of responses gave Filgate an idea, and the resulting anthology offers a candid look at our relationships with our mothers.

While some of the writers in this book are estranged from their mothers, others are extremely close. Leslie Jamison writes about trying to discover who her seemingly perfect mother was before ever becoming a mom. In Cathi Hanauer’s hilarious piece, she finally gets a chance to have a conversation with her mother that isn’t interrupted by her domineering (but lovable) father. AndrĂ© Aciman writes about what it was like to have a deaf mother. Melissa Febos uses mythology as a lens to look at her close-knit relationship with her psychotherapist mother. And Julianna Baggott talks about having a mom who tells her everything."   summary from Goodreads

I thought this was an interesting book. As with many collections of essays, I liked some more than others. However as a collection, the book is powerful. The mother-daughter relationship has been written about, by so many people, so much --- but this book also includes essays by sons, so that was refreshing.

Outspoken Why Women's Voices Get Silenced and How to Set Them Free

Outspoken: Why Women's Voices Get Silenced and How to Set Them Free by Veronica Reuckert 256 pages

Studies show that women's voices aren't being heard - at home, in public, or at work. Or, in the movies, either. When women speak up, they are seen as loud and pushy. Too much. If they're quiet, they're dismissed as too meek. And, no matter what, they are interrupted far often more than their male counterparts. In this book, the author, an award-winning former host at Wisconsin Public Radio, a trained opera singer and communications coach, takes women through the steps of recognizing the value of their own voice. She shows how women can communicate in meetings and around the dinner table and how to use their voices and be heard.

This book is entertaining and informative. The author clearly knows her material, and what I found interesting was her focus on the physical aspect of speaking, almost more than the psychological aspects. As a trained singer, she knows what is physically involved in speaking clearly and how suppressing the natural voice can actually cause physical pain.  So, if you are a woman understanding how to make your voice heard and get some steps on feeling more comfortable with your own voice, you might find this book very helpful.  What the author doesn't address as much is why women are viewed this way in our society, where they are seen as being better if they speak softly, or speak less.  But there's a lot to unpack there.

Animal Dreams

Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver    342 pages

Codi Noline has returned home to Grace, Arizona to a job she's not she she wants and to confront a father who she isn't close to, but is worried about. Staying with her best friend, Codi meets Loyd Peregrina (well, she meets him again --- they dated a few times in high school) and comes face to face with her own past. Grappling with her past, her growing relationship with Loyd, and the battle to save Grace from an impending environmental catastrophe, Codi has plenty to deal with. Usually, she'd rely on her sister, Hallie, to get her through the tough times. However, Hallie has gone to Nicaragua, braving dangerous conditions to help farmers. Doing her best to stay, all Codi wants to do is run away.

I read this book about once every year, just to revisit it. I like the characters and their development, and how Kingsolver tells the story with some flashbacks, so you get an enhanced perspective on the story. I also enjoy how thoughtful the story is. Codi is struggling to reconcile her own past, now that she's in the town she grew up in, so there's conflict there. At the same time, there are the very realistic dangers of the environmental disaster that Grace is trying to avoid, as well as the danger that Codi's sister faces in Nicaragua. Loyd isn't here to save Codi but instead, makes her reconsider some of her past and how she sees her future. Each time I read this book it's a combination of revisiting somewhere familiar and also discovering things I hadn't noticed or remembered previously.

Collective Courage

Collective Courage: a history of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice  by Jessica, 311 pages.

Nembhard reviews Black economic cooperation in farming, land, housing, grocery stores and; these and burial societies. These shared labor and economies have been overlooked by historians but have been crucial in the traditions, stories and experience of many black communities. Collective economic organizing has contributed to the survival and prosperity of African Americans but have often been met with local resistance, even death threats and lynchings -- as in the case of the murdered owners of the Memphis grocery cooperative, and the accompanying death threat to Ida. B. Wells who reported on the lynchings, was threatened and then fled the city to save her life. Black collectivity has been a courageous threat to the U.S. capitalistic economy that has otherwise used black labor and servitude to bolster profits. African Americans have also significantly contributed to visioning, theorizing and thinking about cooperative economies. Collective Courage is an important book not only for history but also because these collective practices and contemporary adaptations may eventually help to replace, the present exploitative economic system.

-- CraigSL

Whiskey in a Teacup

Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits by Reese Witherspoon                 Audio Book: 2 hours, 50 mins        Hardback Book: 304 pages

Sweet book by Reese Witherspoon in which she talks about growing up in the South, how many ways a Southern woman can say, “Bless Your Heart” and the meaning of each,  how macaroni and cheese and cornbread are considered vegetables on restaurant menus in the south – carbohydrates are a food group – get used to it and how her grandmother told her to never wear sweat pants on an airplane – because it a privilege to get to ride in one so dress appropriately.   So many great Southernisms, Bettyisms (Reese’s mother) and Dortheaisms (her Grandmother).   She gives the reader tips on everything from shortcuts to entertaining, recipes and even how to hot roller your hair.   You will be like Pavlov’s dog salivating over the recipes she shares.  Omgosh!    Good eatin’!    She tells her stories in that bright and cheerful Reese Witherspoon way and you just know she is smiling that beautiful smile of hers because you are just thinking about and picturing what she is saying.   Fun read.   I totally recommend this book to everyone and get her Grandma’s recipes!   

 - Shirley J