January 2018. Some food, some science, a depressing chick lit classic, neat brain stuff, and bar fly fantasies, here we go.
How Food Works – DK
DK essesntial makes grade school text books for adults.
Illustrated, informative, I’ve never had such an experience of not being able to put a book down. Every page you turn leads you to a perfectly digestible (NPI) bubble that leads the eye around the rest of page that makes you want to text people in the middle of the night to finish a conversation you were having about zinc absorption.
I brought this book into work one day to show off a chart for vegetarian substitution and it was a hit with a lot of people. I love talking about nutrition with everyone I can these days and I think everyone has suspicions, beliefs, and superstitions about their food that need correction or reinforcement. Control of your diet is control of your life. And a sense of pride that comes with sharing what you’re doing, what you’re working on in the realm of food, is how you stay true to your goals.
The Man Who Wasn’t There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self – Anil Ananthaswamy
God, titles people…
I love this book, it’s rare that I love a book so much I want to save it but I really enjoy reading this book in small bits. You can kind of trip yourself out reading about the agency of movement, involuntary thoughts, and the connections of memories, etc until you’re so immersed in study your own mind in the exact moment that you’re not reading the book anymore.
Fascinating stuff about Cotartd’s syndrome, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and what it means to perceive yourself as person.
It’s also a good reminder that it’s a miracle anyone is a functional person. The brain is like a car made of old stoves, it sort of works for what it does but it’s mostly by accident. It actually fuels my sense of wonder at the world that the human body is so drastically imperfect and sub-optimal and yet we can do so much.
Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience – Laurence Gonzales
I didn’t like this book at first and by the end I cherished it, I put it in the keep on hand for reference section of our shelves. Why I didn’t like it was that some of the stories felt like Oprah-baiting emotion-porn for housewives that had resilient endings and no science. But after forty or fifty pages it turns out those are just the opening volleys for the wider audience and he gets down into some good stuff, and by the end he writes clearly actionable lists of what to think and what not to think before during and after trauma. I’ve had some tough evenings in my on going daily battle with depression and I like to read over the list and correct my negative thoughts.
It makes me think of the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I saw a cheat sheet on how to pronounce that once but I can’t remember how), which has a lot of likeable emotion-porn stories with important lessons and science sprinkled through out but lacks the concise reference at the end. You don’t have to take notes for Surviving Survival, Gonzales put them in for you. So thanks.
Running a Bar for Dummies
I bought this on impulse because of a conversation I’d had about the selling of the Beagle, our beloved crappy watering hole. I was riffing one night about all the things I’d do if a bar just somehow fell in my lap right now. Everyone has an ongoing daydream checklist at their job titled Well If I Ran This Place… but I’m also fully aware that everyone thinks they know exactly what they’d do and everything is way harder than you expect when you don’t know anything about it, and blah blah blah so I started joking about all the traps I’d fall into if I actually had to start running a bar.
Cut to me in Indigo and my eyes fall across Running a Food truck for Dummies and I think there’s got to be… there it is… Running A Bar for Dummies, so I bought it to help my imaginary self not fall into the traps he’d foreseen that jovial evening.
And it actually scared me straight off the idea. Not just the traps I know I’d have to watch out for but the millions of big scary business things I’d never thought of and know nothing about. But the imaginary bar in my head is better off for it and more than ever I’m keeping my head up and ears open at work about the goings-on around and above my lovely small empire that is the grill station.
What I actually want to do someday is run a breakfast-type diner near a gym with a menu built around niche diets like vegans, paleos, body builders, and some good indulgent food for people on a cheat day. It’s imaginarily called Healthy As Fuck and Bob and I own and operate it but this is getting pretty far off topic.
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Aside from whims I also have categories to fill when I go book shopping. I aim to get something historical, something motivational, something fiction, and something from a woman’s point of view (which has expanded into something from and about a different life experience like something by and about a black American or a queer Japanese person or whatever to keep my empathy horizons broad) Bell Jar covered femininity and fiction this month and it’s a fantastic book. The language and characterization is pitch perfect, it’s like a female quarter-life crisis Great Gatsby but the grammar isn’t randomly terrible. And The Bell Jar is uniquely feminine, while I can identify with the protagonist I’m fully aware that universality does not apply, this could not be the same story if it were about a man and I’m not sure how I’d feel if it were by a man.
I’ve always identified with women in writing because I’ve always had a sense that the world isn’t quite for me. My strength is fragility compared to the world, I have a desire to feel beautiful and a desire to accept myself as I am, I’m emotional but not at the whim of emotion. I’ve just never sat right with the macho misinterpretation of stoicism.
I think reading fiction is important because it reminds you to slow down and take everything in. I had a talk once about reading in poetry-voice. I didn’t get poetry at all when it was taught to me, awfully, in school but when I discovered the spoken poetry of the truly wondrous Sarah Kay and then bought her book and heard her as I read it I learned to read in what I dubbed poetry-voice. Now I realize I have a non-fiction-voice as well and it reads fast and hard, I just chew up paragraphs as if they were brilliant discussions with a friend or tedious discussions with a bore as I aim to digest only pure information and get that sweet, sweet high of knowledge.
Which sometimes causes me to tear through a book so decisively that I know I didn’t get everything out of it that I should have. So slowing down and reading in that mid-range fiction-voice, looking when you don’t yet know what you’re looking for, is a peaceful helpful reminder.
Everything You Need To Know To Ace Math In One Big Fat Notebook – Workman
I’m still fortifying my math skills in the wake of the SAT practice tests so I’m doing math every night last thing before bed. This book is great for it’s quick, obvious, kid-oriented style and it’s brief practice questions that simply let you know if you grasped a process or not. If you’re a parent and you want to help your kid brush up on Math, this is the book I recommend and if you’re a grown up who needs to rebuild the shitty foundation our atrocious cattle lot education system stuck you with then this is how you regress and start anew.
I can already detect myself doing typical daily encounters with math more quickly and confidently.
And that’s January’s reading people, stay tuned for more food science, modern Nazi’s, Batman, Scooby Do, and sex, sex, sex already on the docket for next month.