Monday, January 11, 2016

My Name is Lucy Barton

by Elizabeth Strout

I have mixed feelings about this book.   When I initially finished reading I felt let down by how much of the story wasn't told but on further reflection I began to think the restraint was on purpose.

Have you read this book?  What are your thoughts and feelings about it?  Did you like it?  Why or why not?


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Beside Myself

by Ann Morgan

Six-year-old Helen and Ellie are identical twins, but Helen is smarter, more popular, and their mother's favorite. Ellie, on the other hand, requires special instruction at school, is friendless, and is punished at every turn.
Until they decide to swap places--just for fun, and just for one day--and Ellie refuses to switch back. 
This book knocked the wind right out of me.  It was like falling from a tree and landing flat on your back.  I'm still trying to catch my breath.

Not always a pleasant reading experience, but definitely a powerful one.  Hats off to Ms. Morgan for capturing the feeling of loss of self and the spiraling descent into mental illness. Told from Helen's perspective,  I appreciated that towards the end of the book the author gave the reader a glimpse into Ellie's life as well.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ashley Bell

by Dean Koontz

I don't even know what to say about this book.  I'm a big fan of Dean Koontz and some of his books.  In this one Koontz delves into the mind of a coma patient who is fighting an internal battle with forces of evil.  And yet the battle is totally internal.

I thought about this book for weeks afterward, which is a marker of a good book.  I don't know that I enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed some of his others.  My favorites are From the Corner of His Eye and Odd Thomas.  Ashley Bell didn't make it on the list, probably because of the strong sci-fi theme.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Reader's of Broken Wheel Recommend

by Katarina Bivald

A quirky, yet hopeful, book about a Swedish tourist who decides to vacation in a small town in Iowa.  She chose this town because she has been a penpal to a lady who lives there.  Only when she arrives the penpal has died.

 I enjoyed the characters who populate Broken Wheel but I find it quite unlikely that a young woman with no friends or social like in Sweden can move into a floundering town and bring it back to life.

Even with that major hurdle to overcome, the book was fun to read.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Super Genes

by Deepak Chopra & Rudolph E. Tanzi

This is not a book about the study of our DNA but rather a look at what has been learned about our genetic makeup and how we can influence that blueprint in relatively simple ways to improve our lives.

I was totally fascinated by this book.  As a retired biology teacher I've long been fascinated with genetics and the new discoveries that are being made since the human genome has been mapped.  Within the last couple of years I've heard tidbits about a new area of genetic study that deals with the epigenome.

Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression.  The things we eat, our thoughts and attitudes, the level or stress in our lives do not change our DNA blueprint but they do effect the switching mechanisms that turn a certain gene on or off, up or down.  Science has discovered a real connection between nature and nurture.  And, even better, we can learn to nurture ourselves and improve our lives.

Super Genes points out that there are three main components to our "super genome."  First is our DNA, second is the epigenome which is a buffer of proteins that encloses the DNA, and third are the genomes of the microbes that live n our intestines, mouth, and skin.   This 3rd group help us digest our food, resist disease, and counter a host of chronic disorders, therefore we want to do things that promote their health because they help promote ours.

The authors discuss the science behind their work in simple terms.  The most helpful part of the book was the chapters dealing with life-style changes we can make to transform the expression of our genes with diet, stress reduction, excercise, meditation, sleep, and emotions.  In each chapter they talk a little about the science behind their suggestions for change.  Then they offer a menu of easy choices, harder choices, and experimental choices.  The reader is encouraged to choose 1 item per week to work on.  That's not one item per chapter but one item from one of the chapters.  The idea is that after making a few easy steps that are to be continued the benefits will pay off and over time it will be easy to make choices that at first were hard.

My first week was the easy choice of take a probiotic supplement and a multivitamin daily. A probiotic is a food that contains active bacteria.  Tomorrow will be the start of a new week and I'm going to continue taking the probiotic and multivitamin but I'm going to add a prebiotic as well.  Prebiotics are the food for the microbes that are helping us.  Suggestions include oatmeal, bananas, pulpy orange juice (so I'm assuming an orange would work), and fruit smoothies made with unpeeled apples, various berries, and other fruits.

Each chapter ends with the a section that discusses the science behind the changes.

I highlighted a lot of passages in the book, but let me share this one from the emotions chapter:
"Once you know that negative emotions are harmul to you, your viewpoint changes.  It's no longer a free ride to attack someone else, feel envy, act out of spite, and fantasize about revenge.  Each of these emotions rebounds on you, right down to your genes."
Obviously, if our negative feelings make an impact then so do our positive ones.

This book is a life changer for me.  I look forward to other's thoughts and feelings as your read this book.  I highly recommend it.  Highly.