By: Esther Powell
Posted on: Tue, June 30 2015 - 3:02 pm
March 25, 2016
My daughter said, "Mom, I think this should be required reading."
So of course I read it.
She's right. The book, The Brain's Way of Healing by Norman Doidge, is REQUIRED READING!
This book, which is so full of miracle stories about the healing of paralysis, bad eyesight, and other dysfunction, also holds out a helping hand to victims of degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's. It doesn't offer a cure for everything but offers the very real hope of the amelioration of many disabling symptoms of such diseases including loss of balance and tremors.
It is all about the plasticity of the brain and its ability to recover and or compensate for injury, including ways to deal with pain.
The book doesn't promise easy cures, necessarily. Some of the treatments require hours of exercises or other treatments every day over months or years. An amazing number of people, however, have been helped in days or weeks.
Is your curiosity piqued? Do you know someone with a physical or developmental problem that could use a better chance for healing?
If so, this book is definitely one you will want.
I almost never buy books but I am buying this one. It is a book I would like to know the way some people know their bible. (Plus, of course, it has a bibliography which is helpful for the further pursuit of knowledge about the brain and its ever-changing abilities.) REQUIRED READING!
January 26, 2016
The latest on my required reading list is Infectious Madness by Harriet A. Washington.
Think you know the difference between physical and mental disease? This book will most likely challenge what you thought you knew. It will make you wonder what other completely unrelated subjects we think we know about.
The last chapter dwells on the incredible inequality between the treatment U.S. (and other developed countries) offer their citizens and what is obtainable south of the equator.
Other chapters discuss the possibility of exposure as a fetus to microbes that might cause "mental" illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and the correlation between prevalence of disease and racial strife and genocide.
One thing, though, really bothered me. Washington said Typhoid Mary was unjustly persecuted, but in a way it wasn't unjust. If she had not persisted in cooking professionally (without gloves, in those days and infecting whole families) as she was ordered to, she would not have been sequestered.
Intrigued? I hope so. Like I said, required reading!
Lately I've also read The Girl on the Train but to tell the truth didn't like it much.
January 17, 2016
All the Things We Never Knew by Sheila Hamilton is combination of searing (auto)biography of her and her family and information pamphlet. (e.g. her husband suffered from bipolar disorder, but did you know antidepressants can sometimes exacerbate this condition? She discusses this in a little information note at the end of the relevant chapter.)
The big message I got out of her experiences and information? Address potential mental illness while the sufferer is still very young. The younger the better!
Don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying this. The book is rich in bitter experience and helpful at the same time.
January 8, 2016
Neil Strauss, famed author of the best-selling book The Game which I have not read but which teaches guys how to get a date (and, I gather, much more) has come out with a new book tricked out to look like a Bible and entitled The Truth.
Autobiographical, it tells his psychological journey to (well, to what I certainly am not about to tell you and ruin all the suspense!) maybe I should say into himself.
I will say snarkily that it is a good thing that he undertook this trip, because his double standard exceeded all understanding, especially his own, and it is furthermore just not one anyone could take without considerable financial resources garnered by, say, writing a best-seller about how to get women into bed.
But why should I beat him up? He does plenty of that for himself in this (to quote a friend of mine writing about an email from moi) "long and lurid" accounting of his history.
Worthwhile? Oh, I think so. I learned a lot about the extreme disfunctionality of some families (and I thought mine were bad) that I wish I had known when I was a young kinda innocent going out into the big wide world. And, to be fair, some amazing insights.
But it sure is long. Good thing it has one of those attached ribbons like on a Bible to hold your place while you - well, never mind. Maybe you, like me, will merely doze off occasionally.
Children of Monsters is an interesting book about the children of dictators and their varying responses to their life situation. The thing that surprised me most, I think, is how many of them had jobs even while their father had absolute power, unlike the old monarchs that claimed to have their authority from God. If you read it I think you'll find lots of other surprises. Jay Nordlinger incubated this book for years.
December 15, 2015
The Genius of Opposites by Jennifer Kahnweiler is designed to help people in work settings, but the ideas apply to purely personal relationships as well. As a relatively extroverted daughter of an exceedingly introverted mother who truly seemed to despise extroverts, I could wish it had been written seventy years ago. As it is, my introverted partner and I have learned much of this on our own - but there's always room for improvement!
Besides, one of Kahnweiler's strongest admonitions applies to so many other situations than just personality types: "Accept the alien!"
Fail Fail Again Fail Better is a quote from Samuel Beckett and the title of a book by an American woman who looks disturbingly familiar but whom I can't place without a name. (Just looked her up on Wikipedia and still don't recognize her - must be I'm just recognizing everyone these days!) Anyway, her name is now Pema Chodron (decorated with umlauts) and she is a Tibetan Buddhist nun.
It's a short little volume with illustrations of which I do not understand the significance, but it contains worthy advice. Encouraging words - I'm all for them!
What? I never wrote about our book club read, All the Pretty Horses? Cormac McCarthy has written beautifully in this hard story. Pick a place/time to read without too many interruptions because once you get into it you won't want to put it down.
Just finished Zola's novel Money which is a masterpiece. I will probably never finish his novels about the Rougon family, but if they are all as amazing as the first four I've read (not in chronological order of publication but in the order suggested by the author himself) they will continue to inform and amaze me for the rest of my life.
I pretty much read them in the middle of the night - when I can deal with their intensity.
November 14, 2015
Driving Hungry by Layne Mosler is a wonderful memoir of her years in Buenos Aires, Argentina (highlighted by her tango adventures) and Berlin, Germany which some residents seem to feel, ironically enough, offers more freedom than any other city in the world.
Food and taxi drivers are the subjects that hold this narrative together thematically, and Mosler makes surprising life moves that require courage far beyond what the reader expects from one so anxious on the dance floor.
I think this writer does damn well in the way of living art!
To understand more about what I might mean by that you'll just have to read the book. It's worth the armchair effort!
November 2, 2015
I really have enjoyed Alexander McCall Smith's African no. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series so I tried his Sunday Philosophy Club.
I actually made it to page 141, when I encountered a sentence which says, essentially, that no one in society cares for anyone any more and blah blah blah.
You know, we see a bunch of portrayals of this in the arts and media, but I just don't think it is true in real life as commonly experienced. Hell, if nobody cared we'd probably have more peace.
Being given that kind of rhetoric turned me right off. I found myself all of a sudden not caring at all about the completely fictional characters in this book, so the author's complaint became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Ha, ha, so sorry! I can't cant.
October 30, 2015
You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day is a book I stumbled upon in the non-fiction section of the library (sorry about the italics, I can't get rid of them right now) and chose for the title.
I can relate to that. I knew when I started writing my blahg that I might be a toad trillium of the Internet world, but hey! I have a voice!
Well, Felicia Day has earned herself a VOICE on the Net by dint of a gaming addiction, lots of wit, and a support group that helped her ditch the former and use the latter to create a new art form, basically. (If you want to get scholarly and refine that description, go ahead. I'm sure you are correct.)
At first she put me off a little, enough to make me think "oh,no it isn't only educated and worldly white males whose literary endeavors I must avoid" but I quickly got over that feeling. Felicia may be self-obsessed, but she's not arrogantly egocentric - at least not in print.
By offering up her story to people like me who have never heard of her Felicia Day has given me a gateway into one big continent of the Web world - all the while entertaining and encouraging. Very few of us are willing to work so hard as she to make a success of what we do, and it's good for the more envy-prone among us to realize what it takes.
Even if you are obsessed with the details of your own life's work, you'll probably be delighted by this glimpse into Felicia's. (Even if, like me, you have to look up GIF and understand precious little of what Wikipedia has to say on the subject when you do.)
October 13, 2015
Joan Hess authored Pride v. Prejudice and I am kind of embarrassed to admit I read it through. I refuse to cop to enjoying it, though. Sometimes mildly amusing, but I did not learn a single thing.
Lawrence Weill's Incarnate is definitely a book that should not be judged by its cover, which makes it seem to be about the living dead. To the contrary, the novel, which is based on his own life experience (though highly embroidered) is all too real.
Weill delivers his story in a straightforward narrative voice that, in a way, makes the truth seem even more shocking for the simplicity of it. My major discontent is in the lack of details regarding the aftermath of the m - but no, I don't want to ruin it for you. I'll only say this to my kids: Hey, kids. If you think I was crazy, read this! It flows.
The Russian Bride by Ed Kovacs is a learning experience, I'll give it that. I even learned a thing or two that I'm glad to have learned. But did I really want to learn about all the amazingly gruesome horrible ways there are to kill people offered by this tale of greed and international corruption? No.
I realize, however, that for some of you this response will be a recommendation. For you, go for it.
September 29, 2015
Now I'm not going to pretend that reading Drinking Water by James Salzman is more fun than reading really good fiction. A lot of the material early in the book was ho-hum for me. Once I got through the let's-get-the-required-background-stuff-out-of-the-way part, though, it was pretty interesting and a lot informative.
If you can't learn anything from this book you are probably already an expert on global water and have probably snubbed it already, but you are not that person, are you?
One word of warning: do not try to read this book without at least one beverage at hand - preferably H2O from the tap (we filter ours through Pur) or maybe from a pond through a LifeStraw! Don't know what that is?
Better read the book!
September 27, 2015
Snow in August by Pete Hamill. Actually I hated this book. Was it intended for very young readers? Why did we read it for an adult book club? And is that kind of stuff really healthy for young minds? I didn't get to hear any answers to those questions because I was out of town for the meeting. Dang. And honestly? I don't want to spend time researching it myself. As far as I'm concerned, the book is pernicious.
A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen - another book club book. A rather interesting memoir, really, written by a young man who for decades was his own worst enemy, sounds like. He and his cat are lucky they found each other.
Having said that, I sigh. I wish this group were more interested in non-fiction of an informative nature. There is so much relatively easy-to-read stuff being published these days.
Do we have to keep stuffing our minds with the remedial, fantastic and phantasmagorical?
Speaking of fiction, nights I have been reading Emile Zola novels about the Rougon family in recommended order. They are, I guess, at least partly historical fiction. They were considered pernicious in their day and I must confess I can understand why!
Having said so, though, I am really glad I am treating myself to them now - they are heady, sensual, worldly - actually the most sensual stuff I ever read. Ha, ha - no wonder Sartre got nauseated.
I wish I had read some Zola when I was younger. His "fictional" world would have made me more aware of the nature of the human beast than some of the "biographies" I read in my youth.
Okay, okay, I know I haven't been reporting on much non-fiction lately. Why don't I practice what I preach?
Why, indeed. I blame it on the departure of the light from the Northern Hemisphere.
September 25, 2015
Wow, what a wild child Chelsea Handler is! Funny, readable and shocking. When I refer to my horizontal movements in life I am referring to my mostly low-level employment history.
In My Horizontal Life Chelsea is definitely talking about something else.
September 6, 2015
In the past, I read mostly fiction. Lately I've started having a lot of trouble. staying interested in some of the novels I've begun.
Mindsharing: the Art of Crowdsourcing Everything by Lior Zoref reads like a reasonably fast-paced novel and is full of encouragement, good tips, and faith in the wisdom of crowds. He is a true believer with reason, sounds like - he consulted his crowd for inspiration and feedback with this book.
Did you know that a large enough pool of diverse people will usually come up with more accurate and better responses to questions than a panel of experts? Zoref tells stories about his own and others' experiences with getting a little (a lot!) of help from folks online.
He says the whole book project was crowdsourced and he gives his list of collaborators eight pages out of twelve pages of the acknowledgements. That's eight pages of nothing but names of those who helped.
It's inspiring - and probably way better than your last book club novel.
September 2, 2015
I've been reading Zola on my Kindle and, having embarked upon the project of reading his novels about the Rougons in order (not of writing but of historical chronology) I am in danger of having a reading project that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
So far I have found them sometimes cynical, sometimes intensely romantic and lyrical, sometimes possible forerunner to Sartre's feelings of the oppression of the material world in Nausea.
I think I didn't read Zola in my youth because he had too much shadow of disreputable degeneration over him, but how I got the idea I don't know. It certainly does seem justified!
Am I glad I staved off Zola's particular opportunities for losing my innocence for so long?
I don't know. Yes and no.
August 31, 2015
We got a new neighbor who loved the fact that I'm a reader and told me her husband, Robert Gray, had written a book about the civil war called The Elephant. That was an intriguing title for a book the major characters of which hailed from Madison, IN, so I obtained it from the State Library in Indianapolis and dug in.
I say dug in because I am not appreciative of war stories and this author spared us not at all when it came to the horrors of war. Indiana's population was not spared, either. We may not have experienced much in the way of the enemy's presence within our borders but we lost a huge number of men.
Gray describes such abuses as faulty rifles and cannons which our men were given as standard issue, changes in how the dead were dealt with, and many aspects of the recruitment process then that I had no clue about.
Such details might sound boring, but I assure you they are not, and the author did a lot of research so he could include stories that were actual facts; they just didn't happen to Indiana's Fifth Regiment, which never existed.
There was a little love and romance in the book, but precious little. A hard time was had by all!
I'm glad I read The Elephant. It's fun to read a novel set in the town where you live. Now I definitely know a good deal more about the Western War than I ever knew about the war in the East.
I guess I'll have to go to another writer for that. This is, I believe, Robert Gray's only book.
August 30, 2015
Having read in the Atlantic Monthly that in the reviewer's opinion Alice Adams is Booth Tarkington's only really great work and having enjoyed The Magnificent Ambersons, of course I had to read the former, which might have cost me a dollar on Kindle. (You can also probably get it free. I may have.)
I loved it. Sure, Alice's behavior bothered me as much as George Amberson's but there was so much beauty in the language of the ending I cried. Well, almost, anyway.
The only time I really cried was later in the same day after watching the movie which was a travesty. A travesty! When I tried to read the ending to my partner so he could enjoy it and understand my upset, I couldn't read smoothly - couldn't get the words out.
I was willing to endure the softening of Alice's misdemeanors and even the straightening out of her mother's termagent character, but the ending! The whole point of the ending was lost!
I had been looking forward to how the film makers would handle the final scene and the answer is - they didn't. Booth Tarkington might as well not have bothered to write the boo.k.
But it is a good book. It's a great book. It may be from a different time, but it's human frailties and missteps are still possible today. The book still has that universal appeal.
It deserves to be high on especially but not only a young person's reading list.
August 24, 2015
In my Rumilluminations I have claimed to be the Queen of Introspection. With this book Jane Alison has proven herself the Goddess of Introspection or at least Empress. I first read about The Sisters Antipodes years ago and wanted to read it, but forgot the author's name and the title (!) I never will forget it again.
It is a memoir with one of the strangest family histories I have ever read and fully answers the questions burning in my mind ever since hearing about it. Harrowingly honest and haunting (sorry, sorry the alliteration is unintentional or automatic) but Alison's prose is so poetic it is inspirational. So sorry if I can't live up to the beauty of her work.
I could find a good deal in common with her and suspect others will as well, although my interest in nature pales beside her (and her stepsister Jenny's) passion for memorizing the animal kingdom, my liking for Ovid amateur as well.
My temporary loss of my father at age three and my realization only in the last two decades of its consequences helps me believe in the possibility of the younger two of four siblings being much more damaged by the family upheavals than the elder.
In ways Alison is much more respectful of other people's right not to tell their stories than I would be (after all, it's her story, too!) She also barely mentions one aspect of her stepmother's behavior that I find most horrifying, as if it doesn't shock her. Her whole tale informs me that, sophisticated as she is, she must have suffered more abuse than she realizes.
Jane Alison is a great writer. She should have gotten more attention for this work than she has as far as I can tell received, and I look forward with delight (and fear and trembling) to reading her novels.
August 5, 2015
Red Flags by Wendy L. Patrick has seen, as a defense attorney and as a prosecutor, the havoc that can be produced by wearing rose-colored glasses when evaluating potential friends, lovers and spouses. As usual, the best cure for problems is preventing them in the first place.
This book tells us how. Is she overly cynical? I don't think so. She ends on a positive note.
July 31, 2015
Decades ago my then-husband, a civil engineer, was reading Ivan Illich. Maybe that is where he got the concept of household economy, which was unpaid labor that saved the household money, so in a sense earned it. ("A penny saved is a penny earned.")
I just finished a book published this year titled the same as one of Illich's, Shadow Work,�which was published way back in 1981.
This year's Shadow Work�written by Craig Lambert, though, is not about sewing, making bread, doing laundry or chauffeuring. This new shadow work is imposed upon us by corporations, who now require us to do much of the work formerly done by their employees.
"Unfair!" Many people might exclaim - those who like the new order. "We like bussing our own tables and pumping our own gas and self-checkout."
Well, not me. I don't know if it is because I experienced early exposure to the meaning of unpaid work, but I am super-sensitive to it when others try to dump their work onto me as corporations have been doing for years now.
Evidently many of my pet peeves are also Craig Lambert's. Especially offensive are the attempts to redefine or distort the meanings of common words to change our perceptions of the kind of services (or lack thereof) a company is offering.
I've been bewitching and whining about what Lambert calls shadow work for years. It's very nice to know that I am not the only one bothered by it, but this author offers more warnings than solutions. His analysis of the effects of all this additional work on society and us as individuals is sobering, but what to do?
As with most problems, the first step to resolution is awareness. Read it and be warned!
July 28, 2015
In the last month or two I have read The Magnificent Ambersons�by Booth Tarkington�and a couple of memoirs. I was surprised by the environmental consciousness Tarkington displayed eve while his characters were so old-fashioned. I was startled that it turned out to be such a page-turner all the while I was decrying its sentimentality.
Cybill Shepherd's Cybill Disobedience surprised me, too. Such a wild child! I had no idea. She opened my eyes to some interesting facets of the movie business, including an explanation of why some older black-and-whites have such a shimmering magical quality.
July 27, 2015
After seeing the movie The Blue Room my partner and I differed in our verdicts, so I read the original novella by Georges Simenon again, along with The Accomplices.
While I adore Simenon's Maigret crime-solving series and the author uses the same deadpan, level reportorial style in his after-the-fact psychological descriptions of criminal perpetrators, I confess I am less fond of the latter works.
The verdict on�The Blue Room? Well, of course I can't ruin it for you by giving my opinion!
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I haven't been writing much about what little I've been reading. Part of the reason was that I was reading multiple novels by the same authors (Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad, Sir Walter Scott and others) and didn't need necessarily have that much to say. (True confessions - sometimes I would even forget the name of the novel I was reading without the title at the top of the page, where it would always be in a printed book.)
Lately I've been reading more contemporary authors on my Kindle and I'll try to catch up with writing about them as well as I can remember.
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