Monday, March 29, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America's Largest Families--How they Do ItBooks Completed Last Week
Last week I finished The Duggars: 20 and Counting, by Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. Like many people in America who have small families, I find the Duggars and their 18 children quite fascinating. I picked up the book because I found the TV show rather boring and shallow, and I hoped to discover more in-depth information in the book. Unfortunately I didn't really find that. Sure, the book gives more details about the Duggars lives, but I guess I was looking for something more internal. Or maybe that's not quite right. Maybe something more, um ... real? Some evidence that the Duggars aren't completely perfect and happy all the time. That they have conflicts and problems, just like everyone else. Unfortunately the book only hints vaguely at such things, and focuses on the happy, happy, happy! Oh, and one fact in particular bothered me in the book. The Duggars state that they are not particularly well-off financially, yet they go on to say that they spend $3000 a month just on groceries. Wow! Unless they don't spend much money on anything else, I think they have to be pretty well-off to be able to afford that.

Last week I also read The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan. Well, I didn't actually "read" the whole book, but read some parts and skimmed through others. This is more of a resource book than a read-through book, and wow is there a lot of great information in here, everything from starting seeds to butchering chickens. As a fledgling homesteader myself, I've added it to my Amazon wishlist. I need to own this book.

Books I'm Currently Reading
This week I'm reading The Children's Book, by A.S. Byatt. It's an interesting book, and very complicated and disturbing, which is typical of A.S. Byatt. It's also nearly 700 pages long and very dense, so I'm not sure how long it'll take for me to read it.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review: Simple Country Wisdom: 501 Old-Fashioned Ideas to Simplify Your Life, Susan Waggoner. Hearst Books, 2009

Country Living Simple Country Wisdom: 501 Old-Fashioned Ideas to Simplify Your LifeI can't believe how beautiful this book is! It's full of warm, welcoming pictures, has thick glossy paper, and a lovely font. Even the size and feel of the book is aesthetically pleasing. I can't describe why, exactly, but the book just feels good in my hands. It even smells good! Every time I sat down with this book, I felt filled with a warm, pleasant feeling. Even just looking at the cover makes me smile.

Oh, I also found plenty of helpful tips inside. The book is set up by topic, and each topic contains short household hints, usually about one paragraph. I found the section on natural pest control particularly interesting, since I'm about to expand my garden in an attempt to grow lots of vegetables. There are plenty of other great topics too: laundry, cleaning, clutter control, cooking, etc. My only trouble with the book is the phrase "old-fashioned, " which occurs the title. I expected to find the type of tips my grandma, or my great-grandma would have given me about running a household. However, the book sticks primarily to modern tips. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- it just wasn't what I expected.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Two Short Reviews

Homeschool Open HouseI finished two books this week, but I had to return them before I had time to write reviews, so I'm afraid these won't be very thorough. The books were Homeschool Open House, by Nancy Lande and Wounded By School, by Kirsten Olson. In Homeschool Open House, Nancy Lande interviewed 55 homeschooling families about how they "do school." Overall I found the book pretty interesting, and I discovered a few ideas that I'd like to try at my house. But the book was very long, and I found myself skimming parts of it. Some families were just so different from my own, I couldn't relate to their lives. But still, a good read. I found books like this especially helpful when I was first starting out as a homeschooler, since I didn't know what sort of shape it would take in my own house and I needed lots of guidance and advice.
Wounded by School: Recapturing the Joy in Learning and Standing Up to Old School Culture
Wounded by School is a school reform book. While homeschooling is mentioned, briefly, the bulk of the book focuses on ways in which public school wounds children, and then suggests possible solutions. I found myself relating to a lot of things in this book, since I feel I'm still recovering from wounds I received from my public education. Everything from the more obvious wounds like teasing, bullying, and feeling invisible, to more subtle wounds such as boredom and the stifling of the joy inherent in learning. Before reading this book, I assumed that I was in a small minority of people who felt "wounded by school," but this book suggests otherwise. The author found many people from all walks of life who have been damaged by school. I admire the author's wish to change that by reforming public education, but I remain skeptical as to whether that is really possible. There are a few schools doing so in radical ways (see in particular,, but to me, the size of the institution, the federally mandated rules and testing, and the red tape make it impossible to reform it on a grand scale.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read
2. Open to a random page
3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
5. Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser: This book is written for any student who senses he or she may have been wounded by school, or is becoming reluctant to learn at school, and wants to understand more about this. (Are there people like me?)

Wounded by School: Recapturing the Joy in Learning and Standing Up to Old School Culture, by Kirsten Olson

Review: The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. and W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D. Free Press, 2009.

The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement
If you've noticed that children these days seem less polite and more bratty, and that people in general just seem to be more full of themselves -- according to this book, you're right! The Narcissism Epidemic is full of studies and statistics that confirm that we Americans are selfish, indulged, and spoiled. And wow, these qualities aren't particularly admirable, nor do they turn us into productive, responsible citizens. Instead they encouragement laziness and a sense of entitlement. I'm including myself here. Although I hope I'm not a complete narcissist, I'm certain that I'm spoiled, compared to most of the rest of the world. Simply living in America does this to us, since so many aspects of American society encourage narcissistic qualities, including the self-esteem movement, celebrity worship, easy credit, and parenting that shies away from discipline. According to the author, even things such as having a Facebook page, or writing a blog are symptoms of our narcissistic culture. Look at me! See the pictures of my beautiful children! Read what I'm writing!

I found the chapter about self-esteem to be especially interesting. The self-esteem movement began when I was a child, in the 1970s, and I remember singing such songs as "I'm something special, I'm the only one of my kind." But the authors in this book say, guess what? You're not special! Get over yourself! Of course, as parents you think your kids are special, but too much emphasis on specialness and uniqueness not only encourages kids to be selfish and think the world revolves around them, but it actually discourages them from working hard to meet goals, and from feeling connected to other people or feeling part of a community. Wow. I've been trying to focus more on goals, hard work, and empathy as qualities that I want for my children, and this book has inspired me to do that even more. To stop saying general things such as, "you're so smart" and instead point out how hard the kids have worked to accomplish a goal. Or how polite they act. Or how nicely they treat a friend.

In closing, I want to share one sentence that really summarized the book for me: "We're not number one [the U.S.], but we're number one in thinking we are number one." Words to ponder.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Books Completed Last Week

Last week I finished The Narcissism Epidemic, by Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell. I'll be putting up a review of it this week. I've read 13 books so far this year, and 100 seems a long way off. For whatever reason, I read a lot fewer books in February. I'll blame it on the short month! I'm hoping to pick the pace back up in March.
Books I'm Currently Reading
I'm still reading Oryx and Crake. It's become my bathtub reading, since I own the book. I'm always afraid of dropping library books into the tub! I'm also reading Wounded by School: Recapturing the Joy in Learning and Standing Up to Old School Culture, by Kirsten Olson, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, and Parker J. Palmer. And Homeschool Open House, by Nancy Lande. Both of these are quite good so far.

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