Saturday, March 31, 2012

Books Like Whoa: Books of the Planes (Volume 3)

How to Ravish a Rake by Vicky Dreiling (young Indian woman eating chocolates)

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie (super pale mother in biking outfit who looked like she'd just come from REI)

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (a number of businessmen and women - seems to be the hot book for professionals on the go)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Meat Shakes, and Other Lent Withdrawal Symptoms

We are rounding the corner on Easter and I am definitely starting to go a little crazy from meat withdrawal at this point. As some of you know, I give up meat & sweets most years, which I've found to be a helpful practice for keeping my head in the game during the Lent season. It helps me to be mindful of the season that I'm in and what I am supposed to be preparing for.

But this year, since I'm on the road so much, and the only restaurants in our immediate hotel area are steakhouses, this has amounted to torture. At least 2 nights every week, I have to say no to this:

And get a bland pasta or salad instead. It has surprised me at just how ill equipped these restaurants seem to be to deal with someone who does not eat meat. I know, I know, steak is in the name. But really - do they never get a stray veggie-eater in there? They always give me a blank look and mumble, "Well, we've probably got some penne and some tomato sauce somewhere in the back pantry..." I do eat a little fish, but you can only have some banal tilapia or fatty crab cakes so many times.

Full time vegetarians, I feel your pain. If ever I open a steakhouse (I'm thinking I'll call it "Franks the Steak"), I will include at least 3 meal options for you that do not include pasta or tomato sauce.

Besides being subjected to meat torture a few times a week, this Lent is moving along quietly. I can't believe that next weekend is Easter- something that is inciting both anticipation and dread in me. Anticipation because Easter is my favorite holiday. Dread because it's the last one we'll have in the church building.

I am also aware that this Lent season has been a reminder to me that I'm in autopilot more than anything else. I see my apathy and inertia in starker relief. Not totally motivated to anything about it right now, but it's an important data point when I map out my current state of affairs.

Anyways, rambling. Lent, you are almost over. Easter, you are almost here. And thank goodness, I am ready for your annual shot of hope. He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Books Like Whoa: Books of the Planes (Volume 2)

For this week's edition, we have quite a melange...

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain (Bearded business guy in first class who looked like he would send a steak back if the color was even a modicum off)

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (20 something chick with intimidatingly cool bangs and cute stripey leggings)

The Hunger Games (Me and about 3 other people, with whom I exchanged knowingly looks of enjoyment)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Books Like Whoa: Books of the Planes (Volume 1)

These days, I spend an awful lot of time in and around airplanes. I fly between Chicago and DC every week at the same times. I actually am spending less time commuting now than I was in DC (yes, you should feel bad for those who are still stuck on 66 every day), but nevertheless, this shakes out to about 8 hours in travel weekly.

As I'm want to do in any public location, I usually scope out what other people are reading. Turns out, people are crazy and weird, if I'm judging by the random sample of tomes at O'Hare and DCA. So, inspired by Cover Spy, I'm going to start a new feature where I'll report back on what bizarre (or sometimes, just widely popular) titles my fellow travelers are enjoying. I'll start with my favorites from the last month:

Yesterday I Cried by Iyanla Vanzant (Middle aged man, glasses, suit, not crying)

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Birdwatching (Flight attendant in her mid-30s, uniform, brown hair)

Unknown book written in Greek (Female seatmate on flight to Knoxville, reading on iPad)

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Mom reading aloud to her little boy during takeoff, sparkly bookmark, green biking shirt and black stretch shorts) - this wasn't crazy or odd, just sweet

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Books Like Whoa: Changes That Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud (Jesus Corner - Favorites Edition)

Now for the worse titled and covered book that I've ever loved...

Changes That Heal
by Dr. Henry Cloud

Procured from Borders, back when there was such a thing. Tear.

Format: Trade paperback with an absolutely awful and embarrassing cover. I have many times been tempted to cover with a paper bag like I did in high school 

Why I gave it a try: This is a Cru 101 book... both small group leaders I had in college forced me to read it, for which I am grateful

Summary: Dr. Henry Cloud is a therapist who wrote this self-help type book to address the 4 most common areas of difficulties that his patience encounter in becoming independent, healthy, and mature adults: Boundaries (separating your sense of self from others), Bonding (forming healthy relationships), Adulthood (viewing yourself as a peer with other adults), and Good/Bad Split (being able to identify and accept good, bad, and the in-between). 

Thoughts: First of all, I have found myself referencing this book countless times when I've been discipling girls or generally just talking to people about life. It provides a great framework for talking about what's going on at the heart of an issue (that, and the seven core emotions, Miss Beth).

Second, it is very practically and Biblically-minded in it's description of and prescription for these areas.  A lot of these kinds of books are very "look inside yourself and be your own empowerment" or "suck it up and deal with your own problems." This book has a balanced viewpoint that acknowledges that there are reasons that we act the way that we do, but also calls you to accountability to move beyond destructive patterns to a more Godly and enjoyable way of dealing with life.

But before we go further, I can't lie to to you: as a read, this is rough going. The prose is about as dry and dense as it gets, so this isn't a beach read or even a bedtime read. This is something you are reading for the information, not the enjoyment.

Yet even without the simpler pleasures of reading, the information in here is so good that it's well worth the effort. All of my friends who have read this refer to it in our conversations to this day - "You're thinking of yourself as one up, one down from your boss" or "You need to have better boundaries about where you want to spend your holidays."

On a personal level, I've found that this book has become a key to the way I triage any emotional stuff I'm wrestling with. I try to be still and identify what I'm feeling, say, anxious. Then I ask myself, "What are you anxious about?" If the answer is something like "I'm worried that I'm going to fail," I then say, "Okay, why are you worried that you're going to fail?" Usually the answer is something to the effect of "I don't want to disappoint XYZ" or "People will judge me if I don't succeed." That triggers me realizing that I'm not having good boundaries. I'm evaluating myself based on other people's expectations or problems rather than my own and God's, and so when I feel those feelings emerging, I can calm down and tell myself, "You are doing the best you can. You are not responsible for pleasing someone else's ideas about what you should be or do. Here's where you are or are not meeting your true responsibility to that person, and here's how you can communicate your boundary in this area." At which point, I feel more confident telling my boss that I have no additional bandwidth to take on new responsibilities right now or explaining to a friend why I'm not comfortable doing XYZ with them.

This is where the balance of Cloud's framework is key. He's not suggesting that you just brush off what other people are thinking or doing in this kind of situation. Rather, he's advocating that in this case you set a clear boundary (I am going to fulfill my actual obligations to this person and not allow their perceived judgments to cause anxiety) but also that you not set up barriers to bonding (communicating a boundary with love and respect, understanding what the needs of others are and to what degree you have a reasonable responsibility to them). Add to this a call to recognize that most people's motives and character are neither all good nor all bad and his appealing to you to see people realistically, and you have a lot more room for grace with yourself and other people. Finally, he advocates seeing yourself as an adult peer, which means that you treat yourself and other with concordant amount of respect and responsibility.

Basically, this is a really insightful book that will spark introspection for yourself and help you better understand where people are coming from. Definitely has a Christian POV, but I suspect that much of Cloud's practical advice transcends the specificity of the Biblical truths he's referencing (think "do unto others  as you would have them do unto you").


7 - I will have to seriously reevaluate any friendship or romantic interest that does not like this book: a favorite 

What makes a book about psychology or life more than just another self-help book? 

Barnes & Noble
Indie Bound

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Books Like Whoa: Historical Fiction Favorites

Inspired by the lovely folks at The Broke and The Bookish, I offer my favorite historical fictions. This tends to be a well loved category for me, it was difficult to pick my favorites, but here's an attempt (interesting how many of these are YA):

  1. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro: This is tied for my favorite fiction book ever, so I definitely couldn't leave this perfect gem of a novel off the list. 1930's repressed English butler? Yes please! Plus, the movie is the oh-so-rare wonderful movie adaptation from a wonderful source book.
  2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows: Another favorite, I put this down and immediately thought, damn. I wish I'd written this. I defy you to find many other books that achieve the level of humor, grief, and hope into the same kind of magical, page turning candy
  3. The Last Silk Dress by Ann Rinaldi: Ms. Rinaldi is the James Michener of the YA set and this is the one that hooked me into the rest of her work. Time Enough for Drums is a particular favorite.
  4. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Pope: Historical fiction + fantasy + YA? With beautiful writing to boot? Yes please!
  5. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova: I was late to the party on this historical mystery, but it is a really satisfying read. Some people resent the denouement, which is fair, but the other 98% is page turning fun and well written
  6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: The depiction of pre-craziness Afghanistan is rendered with beauty and thoughtfulness
  7. The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Revert: Not sure if this 100% counts as historical fiction, but as so much of the action is tied to the past, I'm going to call it fair game. This quirky read is a literary (read: cogently written) alternative to Dan Brown
  8. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry: This middle grade weeper hit me deep and locked me forever into a fascination with the truth and horror of the Holocaust (I'm reading The Book Thief right now, which I think will prove to be a favorite in a similar vein)
  9. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl: Not a perfect book, and about 20% too long, but an interesting take on 19th century Boston that has an intriguing mystery as it's premise
  10. Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland: Interconnected short stories are my kryponite, and these are quiet but gripping all the way through. The stories track the history of a single painting from the last owner to when it was painted
What about you? What are your favorite historical novels? Anthony wants to know...