Home About Feed Archives Contact

Books: The War on Moms

June 18, 2010 | Books

I read The War on Moms: On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation (on Kindle) by Sharon Lerner this summer. Sort of an ironic read while visiting Norway for the summer. I’ll have a lot more to say about it when I get the chance.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 1 Comment  

Books: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

June 15, 2010 | Books

I just finished reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (on Kindle) by Stieg Larsson. Just like his other two books, I loved it. Next up is to finish watching the Swedish movie of his second book.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | Comments  

Books: The Poisonwood Bible

June 2, 2010 | Books

I just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. It was my first Kindle-read book — which was thrilling, yay! — and my third Kingsolver book. This one made me want to vomit — and not just in my mouth a little. I don’t think that’s what she was going for, although I do believe she was going for my disgust with Nathan Price and how he practiced religion as belligerence. She did a nice job of telling the story in various voices. It would have been even more interesting if she would have offered a peek of what was going on in Price’s head.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 2 Comments  

Books: Kindle

May 25, 2010 | Books

Look what I got for Mother’s Day. Squee!

I’m almost done reading my first book on it. Love the Kindle. Love the book. I sort of feel like I’m cheating on books. Eh. I’ll get over it.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 1 Comment  

Books: Walk on Water

May 12, 2010 | Books

I just finished reading Walk on Water: The Miracle of Saving Children’s Lives by Michael Ruhlman. My friend Karen sent me an autographed copy recently, and it immediately moved up to the top of my reading list.

I never would have picked up this book on my own, considering my experience with premature twins in the NICU and my unwillingness to relive it.

I had to put the book down a few times to regroup. The squirm factor was high (or maybe my tolerance level is just low). It was also hard to read without some tears. I felt deeply for the families who handed over their babies to strangers in hopes of saving their lives. I know how frightening yet necessary that is.

Ruhlman’s writing had a good ebb and flow to it, though. He balanced the emotionally difficult things to read with lots of statistics and complex information. That sort of allowed some breathing room.

There was a feeling of hyperbole about the whole “walk on water” thing. It was kind of irritating. But, hey, I’ve been known to gush about people whose talents I admire. And they’re only human, right? Yes.

Ruhlman truly admires these people he writes about. And, well, they DO things that very few people CAN do, so there’s something to the “walk on water” thing — just ask any parent whose child is walking the earth because of these people. Yet Ruhlman realizes that they are human. He tries to show all sides of them while trying to understand and explain what makes them different.

It’s a compelling read.

Even so, I’m relieved to be done with this book. While I feel privileged to have been invited into these operating rooms and the chests of infants and the dramatic events of everyone’s life, I’m glad to close the book and walk away. While I know I could never do that for a living, I am so grateful for the people who can. Because they’re the people who can make such a difference in people’s lives — people like my friend Karen. Her son had heart surgery four years ago next month, when he was 2.

Karen started an organization called Broken Hearts of the Big Bend, which offers support to other families affected by congenital heart disease. While I don’t have experience with heart surgery, I understand the need for support. I’m so grateful to know someone like Karen.

Reading this book also made me admire Ruhlman as an author. I’m reading his Ratio now, but I’m still trying to figure him out. Maybe a little math in the kitchen will help. One can hope.

Posted by Becky @ 2:09 pm | 5 Comments  

Books: NurtureShock

April 30, 2010 | Books

I just finished reading NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. I heard about this when someone posted a video with Merryman talking (mostly) about sleep and how devastating it can be to children who don’t get enough. That made sense. I remember when my children were babies, in one sleeping book or another, I read that if their sleeping schedules were off to try putting them to bed earlier instead of later. And it worked. After that, I’ve never underestimated the power and importance of sleep.


This book isn’t just about sleep. It’s about a lot of issues regarding children — from “why kids lie” to “the sibling effect.” It’s all about taking a different look at research and what it’s led us to believe. It provides interesting new ways to think about things.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | Comments  

Books: How Reading Changed My Life

April 26, 2010 | Books

I just finished reading How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen. It’s only 84 pages, but every word on every page spoke to me. Have you ever read her? If you haven’t, you should. She writes like a reader. A very well-read reader. I only disagree with her on Anna Karenina, which made her list of books she would save from a fire.

I thought about taking one of her lists and setting a goal to read everything on it. Each list has 10 books, and I’ve read a few on each list, so I’d have a head start. But I’m more tempted to make my own Anna Quindlen list, picking from each of her lists.

Here goes.

  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  • The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
  • The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  • The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  • Betsy in Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • The BFG by Roald Dahl
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • The Group by Mary McCarthy
  • Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

A reader’s dozen.

What should I read first?

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 4 Comments  

Books: Honey for a Child’s Heart

April 24, 2010 | Books

I just finished reading Honey for a Child’s Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life by Gladys Hunt. I read it because Ilina at Dirt & Noise wrote about it.

It’s a tad heavy-handed with the whole “separating the wheat from the chaff” ideas regarding books (and, in my mind, people), but I should have expected that, I suppose, from a Christian writer published by Zondervan, a Christian publisher.

But I like her lists for reminders and ideas. And, ironically, her definition of home is one of the least judgmental things I’ve heard in the last couple of years, and it’s a subject I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, “What is home? My favorite definition is ‘a safe place,’ a place where one is free from attack, a place where one experiences secure relationships and affirmation. It’s a place where people share and understand each other. Its relationships are nurturing. The people in it do not need to be perfect; instead, they need to be honest, loving, supportive, recognizing a common humanity that makes all of us vulnerable.”

I’d have to say amen to that.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | Comments  

Books: The Bean Trees

April 20, 2010 | Books

I just finished reading The Bean Trees, a novel by Barbara Kingsolver. The first Kingsolver book I read was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I loved it. This one was good too. She surprised me at the end. Nice.

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 2 Comments  

Books: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

April 19, 2010 | Books

Quick. Anna Karenina and Barbara Kingsolver. What do they have in common?

Well, for one, they’re both pretty. Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle pleases the senses. The colors are pretty, as are the red-and-white vegetables in a cupped hand on the cover. I thought they were radishes. Shows what I know. They’re Christmas lima beans. I run my fingers over the cover. The letters are indented, and the cover feels like fabric. Nice.

Anna Karenina is a pretty little book. (Yes, it’s a library copy. No, I didn’t steal it. I bought it at a library sale.) It’s barely bigger than a postcard when it’s open. The pages are thin, almost translucent. I love the way it feels in my hands. There’s a nice weight to it. I mean, look at it. Don’t you just want to gobble it up? I did.

Except it was SO painful to read. But I was determined to finish that darn book, even though I hated it. (I have since learned that life is too short to read a book you don’t enjoy.) Yes, I know. It’s been called the “greatest novel ever written.” Doesn’t mean I liked it.

That’s the difference. I loved Kingsolver’s book. Loved, loved, loved. What these books also had in common was they both took me forever to read. The first one because I couldn’t stand it. The second one because I loved it so much I didn’t want it to end.

I did finally finish reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, though. Kingsolver wrote it with her daughter Camille Kingsolver and her husband, Steven L. Hopp. Daughter Lily didn’t write for the book, but she was often the star of its pages. The book chronicles the year they spent eating locally produced food as well as growing their own. I read the book after Ilina at Dirt & Noise recommended it. She wrote her own post about how Animal, Vegetable, Miracle changed her life.

I’m not sure why I hadn’t read Kingsolver before. Plenty of people told me I should. I’m glad I finally did. I took her with me to the Y, and she had me laughing out loud on the treadmill. I’m sure the folks without ear buds thought, “Um, hello? If you can read AND laugh? You’re not working hard enough.” I took her to the doctor’s office, and she had me laughing out loud there, startling others from their celebrity-mag browsing.

She reminded me, in part, of my father, who grew up on a farm and, as far as I can remember, planted a garden wherever he lived. All the houses we lived in were rentals, and some came with the job. The tiniest back yard we ever had was in Omaha. He turned the whole thing into a garden. The biggest garden I remember seemed a mile long, but I have no idea how big it actually was. It had just about everything in it.

That was the time, in the mid-1970s that we lived on a farm for a couple of years. We went without a book deal (darnit) and without a family pact to change our lives. We simply went back to the place my father grew up. Looking back, it seems like a very hippie-dippy thing to do, but my parents were as far removed from hippies as one could get. Well, there was Kumbaya thing. Some people joke about “holding hands and singing Kumbaya.” I was actually there when they did. And there was the baking of homemade granola at my aunt’s house. In Boulder. So, who knows. Maybe “hippie” is a relative term.

In any case, we didn’t just dip our toes into the farm experience, we did cannonballs in the deep end of the pool. If my parents had any formal ideas about “sustainable living” or anything like that, I wasn’t aware of them.

We raised chickens for eggs and meat. Gathering and selling eggs was my project. I learned my way around a henhouse from my grandmother, who at that time lived in town after farming for decades. We raised ducks and geese. I remember “harvesting” chickens, something not terribly new to me, since I watched my grandmother butcher chickens before. (Did we harvest the ducks and geese too? I can’t remember now.) There were rabbits, a lamb and even a pony.

I’ve actually thought about having chickens again for fresh eggs. I’m surrounded by farmland here in Iowa, and surely it’s not all corporate farmland. I’ve found several resources for farmer’s markets and locally grown produce. There’s even a group in Eastern Iowa that exists because of Kingsolver’s book and what they learned from it. The group is Corridor Locavore, whose goal is a comprehensive directory of locally grown food and goods.

Just when I thought I couldn’t like Kingsolver any more, she made it clear she loves Italy almost as much as I do. She’s Italian by marriage and visited Italy after planning for 10 years. I’m Italian by way of my heart. There’s not a drop of Italian blood coursing through my veins, but I fell in love with Italy when we were there 10 years ago. (I hope to get back one day — maybe to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary? That gives me about three years to plan!) The sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the people. Oh, what a delicious country! The people we met were kind, generous, loud, funny, beautiful and hospitable. Hospitality in Italy always involves food. Amazing food. No matter how simple or elaborate.

We were “welcomed” to Italy with an unannounced train stop, dozens of police with guns drawn, checking everyone’s passport. We were told they were looking for a fugitive, and, no, this wasn’t standard procedure for welcoming guests to the country. It was thrilling. You know … in a death-defying rollercoaster kind of way.

But our real welcome involved food. We shared a compartment on the train with a young couple. They had packed a large lunch, and they insisted on sharing with us. How could we say no? We couldn’t.

Everything we ate and drank in Italy was so much more than satisfying. Everything else was a feast for the senses.

The young women who zipped through Florence on mopeds, which you would think would be quite a dirty business, but, no. They would stop and step away without a hair out of place, perfectly ironed, manicured and looking as if they belonged on the cover of a fashion magazine. Stunning. And the men. There were groups of them posing together in their clean white shirts, crisp pants and shiny shoes. Gorgeous. There were others dressed as gladiators in Rome, speaking dozens of languages to passers-by (sometimes to one person relunctant to speak, in an effort to determine which language she spoke) — hugging, kissing and cajoling them into signing on for a guided tour.

Watching Italians eat (especially men, I have to say) is a form of tourism the books don’t tell you about. They close their eyes, raise their eyebrows into accent marks, and make sounds of acute appreciation. It’s fairly sexy. Of course I don’t know how these men behave at home, if they help with the cooking or are vain and boorish and mistreat their wives. I realized Mediterranean cultures have their issues. Fine, don’t burst my bubble. I didn’t want to marry these guys, I just wanted to watch. (Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, p. 247)

The Italians we met were never ones to give up on us. We stopped at a small shop in Pisa. It offered pizza by the slice, which was freshly made and under glass. Their version of fast food, I suppose? I was tired and ready to give up with my questions in not-even-close Italian. The woman behind the counter sensed my frustration. She came around front, took me by the arm, speaking the whole time, pointing, gesturing, smiling. She didn’t want to let me go without eating some of her wonderful pizza. And it was wonderful. So was she.

As is Barbara Kingsolver. Hands to my heart, she’s better than a cup of perfect cappuccino — when it’s offered, don’t ever pass it up and then savor every last sip. (And, no. She didn’t make me cry about turkeys, not one little bit. OK. Maybe just a little bit, dangit. But all the laughs made up for that.)

Posted by Becky @ 6:00 am | 4 Comments  

  • Elsewhere

  • View Becky Gjendem's profile on LinkedIn

    Follow BeckyDMBR on Twitter

    Somebody likes me