Showing posts with label Books: Nonfiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books: Nonfiction. Show all posts

Monday, October 26, 2020

A Bird Book

The greatest brother ever, Loren, surprised me with a 7-pound book on birds last week. I've taken up birdwatching and apparently he decided to get me a better birding book before I did. I have a small field guide here but it doesn't have many birds in it.

This book is loaded with birds.

Many thanks to my beloved brother!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sunday Stealing #345

Sunday Stealing

Pick a book

Guide to Fiction Writing, by Phyllis A. Whitney. This book was written in 1982.

1.  Why did you pick the book?

A. I read it many years ago and refer to it occasionally when I (ahem) consider my (non) career as a fiction writer. I was looking through it just yesterday.

2.  What did you think about the book?

A. I loved this book. It is no longer in print, but it is a great how-to guide for creating setting, character, and plot.

3.  What do you know about the author?

A. Phyllis A. Whitney lived from 1903 to 1908. She died at the age of 104. She wrote 76 books in her lifetime. I read many Phyllis A. Whitney books when I was young, beginning from about the age of 9 or 10. She wrote gothic romances, for the most part. Part mystery, part love story, part ghost story. Thunder Heights, written in 1960, was the first book of hers I read (probably one my mother had). Her work had quite an influence on me until it was scribbled out of my head by my university professors, who honestly had no idea who she was because they were aiming for "literary" writing. I would be quite happy writing like Phyllis Whitney or Janet Evanovich, I think. Maybe I'll get off my butt one day.

4.  What’s the most memorable scene?

A. Since this is a "how to" book, there really isn't a memorable scene. Her instructions on how to put together a "book notebook" are enlightening, though. They never taught that at college.

5.  How did the book make you feel?

A. It made me feel like I could write a book, too. At least, it did the first time I read it.

6.  How do you feel about the way the story was told?

A. It was laid out well for a how-to book.

7.  Which parts of the book stood out to you?

A. The parts about making a "book notebook."

8.  Which specific parts of the protagonist can you relate to?

A. No protagonist, really, except the "you" who would one day be a writer, too (or not).

9.  Which character did you relate to the most?

A. Not really applicable.

10. Share a line or passage from the book.

A. This is my favorite line from the book, because it is so true. It is a truism I've not seen in any other writing book, especially those written by men. "Men writers who are married to non-working wives- that is, wives who stay at home- have a certain advantage. Every writer needs a wife!- someone to stand guard, to cook meals, to deal with the immediate problems of house and children, and keep them out of their husband's hair. It's more difficult for women writers, who have to do all these chores plus their writing." 

I made a living writing while being a wife, holding down part-time jobs, and going to school. Talk about a juggling act. I honestly have never seen this addressed like this in any other writing book, and I've read scads of them.

11. What did you think about the ending?

A. It ends like this: "This is a book about writing. I hope it's a book that you will mark up and use . . I hope as well that you've found in it some of the encouragement we all  need to keep us going. I have been where you are, and you will be where I (published) - if you never give up. Whatever sort of writing you do, don't let anyone put you down."

For a how-to book, it ends as it should - with optimism and encouragement.

12. Is the story plot driven or character driven?

A. That doesn't really apply to this book.

13. If the book was made into a movie, what changes or decisions would you hope for?

A. Again, it doesn't really apply, but I suspect this author's life might make a good story.

14. How did the book change you?

A. It made me rethink how I went about putting together a story, even nonfiction.

15. If the book is part of a series, how does it stand on its own?

A. It is not part of a series and it stands on it own.

I probably did not pick the best book for these questions, but I am in the midst of trying to reconnect with a part of myself I've lost.

This was a piece of the search.

I encourage you to visit other participants in Sunday Stealing posts and leave a comment. Cheers to all us thieves who love memes, however we come by them.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Thursday Thirteen

Here are 13 books about writing. There are countless books on writing. These are some I have read.

1. Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

2. Writing the Natural Way, by Gabriel Rico

3. The Writing Diet, by Julia Cameron

4. Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg

5. Steering the Craft, by Ursula Le Guinn

6. On Writing Well, by William Zinsser

7. The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White

8. On Becoming a Novelist, by John Gardner

9. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

10. If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland

11. The Widening Stream: The Seven Stages of Creativity, by David Ulrich

12. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway

13. The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, by Christopher Vogler

My favorites of these would be If You Want to Write, The Writing Diet, and Steering the Craft. But there are as many books out there telling a person how to write as there are ways to actually write a sentence.

There is no one right way to write. The only truism is that if you don't write, then you aren't writing. You can still be a writer and not write. You can live creatively and not write. But if you don't write, you aren't writing.

That's it. That's the most important thing.

Any books inspire you? Feel free to list them, I'm always looking for more to read.

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here if you want to read other Thursday Thirteens and/or play along. I've been playing for a while and this is my 666th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday. Or so sayth the Blogger counter, anyway.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Thursday Thirteen

Bookish Questions and Deep Thoughts

1. In the novel Frankenstein, by Mary Shelly, who is really the monster? The man who created life from dead body parts, or the thing created?

2. In the Ann of Green Gable series, by L. M. Montgomery, Ann Shirley is a curious child. Her curiosity causes her lots of trouble. Is curiosity a good thing?

3. In the Lord of the Rings, Frodo makes a decision to leave his home in order to protect it from great evil. He gives up everything to ensure that goodness survives. Would you leave your home to protect someone else? What would you give up to ensure the safety and security of humanity?

4. In the Harry Potter series, Hermione is a bookish character who actually knows the spells that Harry does not and often needs. However, her contribution is downplayed although her loyalty to Harry and protecting others is not. Is knowledge less than loyalty?

5. In the Stephanie Plum series of books, Stephanie is frequently kidnapped, shot, knocked unconscious, or otherwise hurt. She rebounds very quickly and doesn't suffer from PTSD. Do you think there are people who would not be bothered by such trials? Or is this portrayal of a resilient character unrealistic?

6. In the Stone Barrington series of books by Stuart Woods, the main character always gets his man in the mystery. He also always gets the woman - a different woman in nearly every book. The women are generally stereotypical characters and not rounded out. Do you think this is the way men see women, or is this a writer's shortcut?

7. In the Alphabet mysteries by Sue Grafton, Kinsey Milhone, her lead character, is a tough woman detective who doesn't delve into fashion, bake cakes, do needlework, or do other "womanly" things. Do you think it is necessary for a women to lose her "womanly" notions in order to function in a man's world?

8. In the book Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author takes herself completely away from her world in order to restore order to her soul. Have you ever taken a journey to find yourself? Do you think such a quest is necessary in order to grow as a person?

9. In her memoir, In Pieces, Sally Fields reveals that she was molested by her stepfather and that she has mental health problems stemming from an abusive childhood. Yet she went on to become a famous actress. Do you think that Fields' and her success is the norm for people who experience childhood trauma? Or is she an aberration?

10. In A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle, three children leave home to save an adult. Do you think children are capable of doing such actions in this day and age? Or is this pure fantasy?

11. In Alice in Wonderland, Alice finds a strange new world that does not resemble anything she knows as reality. In modern physics, the many worlds theory advocates that each decision we make creates a different universe, so that there are in fact thousands upon thousands of universes in existence. Do you believe there could be different universes? Could the rabbit hole simply be a writer's device that creates a portal into another universe? Or is Alice only dreaming?

12. In Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, the main character is a young girl of about 7 who raises herself alone in the marsh. Is this believable? Do you think a child that young could survive all alone without assistance? The same instance occurs in Island of the Blue Dolphins, but that book is set in the 1800s and the heroine is a little older. Which book seems more believable?

13. In The Hunger Games series by Susan Collins, Katniss must kill or be killed. Do you think her befriending others as a strategy to stay alive is feasible? Is this similar to the show Survivor, where people "make friends" and then stab one another in the back? What does this say about humanity, that we can be friendly to someone and then turn around and shoot them? Are we, really, human?

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here if you want to read other Thursday Thirteens and/or play along. I've been playing for a while and this is my 628th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday. Or so sayth the Blogger counter, anyway.

Friday, July 19, 2019

I Don't Live in the Virgin Isles

Today I received a notice from Barnes & Noble that several of the books I'd ordered were cancelled, because I live in the Virgin Isles.

I'm not sure when Virginia picked up and moved to the Virgin Isles, but there you go. I really wanted those books, too.

Note that two of the books have shipped. Apparently someone someplace knows that Virginia is not the Virgin Isles.

In a chat, a B&N customer service rep apologized, blamed "the carrier," and sent me a 15% off coupon for one item. I was told to order again.

I don't want to place another $35 order to get free shipping with B&N. I was trying to use up a gift card.

Not a happy customer. It is no wonder B&N is having problems, if this is their solution. They should have reinstituted the order so I wouldn't have to deal with the shipping fees, etc.

I really want to support B&N, honestly I do. But I can't get around the store at the moment and I just wanted some new things to read. I can download zillions of things on my Kindle for free. I can't do that with my Nook.

Sometimes you just have to throw up your hands and give in, I guess.

Sunday, April 08, 2018


A book that I hate is easier to note than one I love, because I love most books.

However, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne is one of the worst books I have ever read. It was so bad I wanted to burn it. It was so bad that I did not give it to the library or loan it to anyone; I threw it in a dumpster.

This so-called self-help book touts the "law of attraction" and how your own thoughts can change the world. It goes so far as to say that airplanes crash because all of the people on board that day want the airplane to crash. Or that children who are abused by their parents bring it on themselves. Talk about victim blaming. This one tops the list of anything I have ever read, completely disallowing for random acts of violence or random acts of anything, for that matter. If you're poor, it's because you want to be. If you're in a high school and you're shot, it's because you want to be. If you have pain it's because you want pain.

That a lot of people believe this only flies in the face of logic, as this fake science has absolutely nothing to back it up. I grant you that people can think themselves happy. They can, maybe, sit around and come up with some great invention and make themselves rich. But a child doesn't die in a car crash because he or she was thinking, "Gee, how nice it would be to die in a car crash right now." I mean come on. Life is full of circumstantial crap that none of us have any control over. I can only control my own thoughts and reactions, and if the book had stopped there, fine. But this crazy author went on to say that she thought her own eyesight back to health. Really? We're all sick because we want to be?

This book was (and is) nothing but a scam perpetrated on what has become an increasingly stupid and gullible public. You can read my initial review of it here. This is how I started my review: "If I were to memorize parts of this book, then go see a competent doctor or therapist and recite those parts, I am pretty sure I would walk away with a DSM IV diagnosis. Something along the lines of "narcissism with magical thinking." And major ego problems."

A book that I like is a harder pick for me, because I like many books, many different genres, and many different authors.

That said, I think I will list If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland, as one of my favorites. I haven't read it in a while but it is one of the few books I reread. It is not a book about how to write, but about how to think and see the world with open eyes and without prejudice and judgment. It's about bringing out the artist in you, and about living a lifestyle that acknowledges the abilities of your brain.

I normally do not write in books, but my old copy of this book has many highlighted passages. Like this line: "the faster you run and accomplish a lot of useless things, the more you are dead."

This book was written in 1938. That it remains relevant today says as much about it as any words I might otherwise express.

Linking up with the
April challenge from Kwizgiver. April 8 done!

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Book: The Mad Gasser

The Mad Gasser of Botetourt County
Reconsidering the Facts
By William B. Van Huss
Copyright 2017
88 pages

The author of this book contacted me for assistance in setting up a book signing about his modest effort to bring recognition to an interesting piece of local legend. He sent me the .pdf copy so I have read this piece at no cost to myself.

"The Mad Gasser of Botetourt County" is an incident that occurred here in 1933. Multiple households in Botetourt reported an invasion of a noxious gas that sickened people in the house. It began not far from where I currently live and moved around the community, and included a house across the road from the farm where my grandfather and his family grew up. You can read more about it here on my Botetourt  History blog if you want a brief synopsis.

The incident is often linked in with a similar occurrence that took place in Illinois about 10 years later. Most frequently, the incidents are considered to be an example of mass hysteria.

Van Huss has pulled out information about the Botetourt County incident, using newspapers as his primary source, in an effort to separate the two incidents. He argues at the end that the two incidents, while bearing some similarities, are not, in fact, related.

He has an intriguing cover, designed by his wife, for his book. Unfortunately, he needed a better proofreader as after about page 50 or so I began to notice typographical errors and missing words. This is common in self-published efforts, and since I edit manuscripts as part of my freelance work I am quick to pick up on such mistakes. Because the work is short - I read it in under an hour - it did not take away from the narrative but I do wish self-published writers would take the time and if necessary spend the money to have their work proofed before they hit "send."

The story he presents is much the way I have heard it and seen it in other publications. His information was more detailed than some I have seen, and if one wants a decent round-up of information available about the incident, then this book offers that.

What was missing for me, as a life-long county resident, journalist, and amateur historian, was a real effort to find other sources. There are no interviews of relatives of those involved in the incidents, (many of them still live here, including, I think, descendants of the officer and doctor involved), no apparent search for journals or diaries that may still exist and offer up a first-person narrative of the incident, and apparently no effort to visit the communities in question and drive around and see the distance involved between the attacks.
The roads have changed some since 1933, of course, but the distance between Haymakertown and Cloverdale is still the same, and it is more than "a few miles" and this would, at the least, indicate a perpetrator had to have a vehicle and couldn't have easily done this on foot or horseback. Pictures of the areas and homes involved would have been a nice touch and addition to the book. Many of the dwellings in question still stand.

Additionally, the newspapers used are The Roanoke Times and a few other sources, and not The Fincastle Herald. I know that editions of The Fincastle Herald from 1933 are missing in the microfilm archives, but I think, if one made an effort, that copies of those papers could be found and would prove interesting reading.

All in all, this will be a nice little keepsake book for those who want an outline of the story of Botetourt's mad gasser. It does not offer up new information, though, or reach conclusions that local residents haven't already reached.

The book is available on Amazon.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Books: Factory Man

Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Town
By Beth Macy
451 pages (including footnotes & index)
Copyright 2014

First, I have to make several disclaimers.

I went to college with the author. I consider us friendly acquaintances and rivals, as we are both journalists in the Roanoke Valley. She wrote for a different newspaper before turning to books. We are Facebook friends. She once wrote an article about my efforts to write a book about author Mary Johnston (efforts which ultimately came to naught).

We don't have lunch together, hang out, or talk trash. We greet each other kindly and professionally. I think I've spoken to her maybe 10 times in the last 20 years, to be honest.

My edition of Factory Man is autographed.

My bedroom suite was made by Virginia House, which ultimately Bassett bought out. I was grateful that my furniture was built before that happened because by then Bassett was making junk. The bed I sleep in is solid cherry wood and the drawers in the dresser are dove-tailed and not stapled together. It's solid, good furniture, and Bassett ruined Virginia House when they bought them out (the purchase is mentioned in the book).

Having said all of that, I debated a long time about reviewing the book publicly. I suspect anything I say can be misconstrued in any number of ways. If I praise too much, someone will say it is because we know one another. If I say anything negative, it will be construed as professional jealousy. I am sure I cannot win this one, but I will write a review anyway.

First, I am not sure how to classify this book. Amazon and others have it listed as a business book, and I suppose that fits best. It is a not a biography, nor is it really a history. It's more of an assessment of a certain industry, an analysis of its rise and fall.

I personally see it as an indictment of capitalism and globalization, a microcosm of the macrocosm of our society, but others may not. I know there are people who think this is the way things should be. I am not one of them.

The industry under discussion in the book is the American furniture industry. At one time, furniture was king in Southwestern Virginia. When you watched The Price is Right in the 1970s, they gave away Bassett furniture. I can remember my grandmother watching the show and saying, "That was made just down the road."

Bassett had a good name up until the late 1980s.

Factory Man tells how furniture making came to the area, and how the Bassets brought it here. They created a bank and then basically set up a town. The family experienced infighting; expansion proved exasperating, and marriages were made not only for love (if ever for love) but for what the spouse could bring to the industry table.

Thousands of people around here worked on these furniture lines. Then along came China and other importers. They brought cheaper furniture, some of it exact replicas of the Bassett brand.

Then, as has happened in so many other industries, local factories began importing the cheaper items.

Jobs went asunder like trailers turned to twigs in a tornado. Soon the area's best employers were laying folks off, not just a few at a time, but by the hundreds. Portions of Virginia have never recovered from the economic devastation of this loss of jobs.

That part of the story, the effect that globalization has had on "the little people," is the story that Macy tells in her book.

She also explains how John Bassett, III, fought to keep his factories going by finding trade-agreement loopholes. He is her hero, the old rich guy who wants to keep his people employed.

The two stories merge, of course, because they are bound up in the same issue of globalization.

Macy's research is evident on every page. She is thorough and meticulous. Her writing is personable and flowing. But she was dealing with tough subject matter.

For one thing, these people were not the most likeable bunch. They were men smoking cigars who were plotting how to make the most money they could, and they wanted to do it on the backs of their workers. Macy glides over this fact somewhat, showing the better side of the owners, generally. They did some nice things for their employees, certainly. But they also became rich off of the sweat of others.

In the end, this is a story of capitalism at work, and capitalism takes no prisoners and has no room for niceties. It rises and falls, and humanity be damned. I wanted to read stories from factory workers who hated the Bassetts, but there were few in there (I don't recall any at all, but perhaps there was one or two I am forgetting). I suspect Macy had a hard time finding people willing to publicly speak out about the furniture industry owners. One never knows what form retribution may take, after all.

The book reads like a newspaper article - a very long newspaper article. That's to be expected, as Macy is a journalist. However, the book bogs down in the middle and I confess I put it down for several months before picking it back up to finish it.

It suffers, too, because so many people have similar names. There is a chart of the family in the back of the book, but I did not find it until it was too late. By that time I was thoroughly confused as to which Bassett or Spilman did what to which factory. I have heard that this chart has been moved to the front of the book in the paperback edition, and I applaud that change if it is true. I wish I had known of the chart in the back sooner.

Macy set out to tell the story of the demise of the furniture industry and the loss of jobs. She does this admirably. She also wants to tell the story of John Bassett, III. She does this, too, but the tale feels incomplete. Perhaps it will feel incomplete until the gentleman retires or dies, I don't know.

The writer also offers no resolutions or ways to bring back these jobs backs, or how to create a new economy. She simply offers up what happened, fact by fact. The reader must draw her own conclusion from this. My conclusion is that American manufacturing has lost this fight. Even if a manufacturer remains over here, corners are cut so that the product suffers.

We are stuck with poorly made, low-quality items for a while. Eventually, I think, American made that is of quality will make a come-back, but it will be rather like the local food movement. Slow, steady, and a long time coming.

My book club read this book and it generated interesting discussion about our area. We read it not long after Norfolk Southern Railroad announced it was moving 500 jobs out of Roanoke. Roanoke has long been known as a railroad town, so for Roanoke this was a little like the furniture factories closing in Basset. The biggest difference is the railroad has been sending jobs out of Roanoke slowly for about long as I've been alive, so the impact was lessened.

I think Macy did an excellent job in her reporting of this important story. She has earned many accolades for this book and there is even talk of a mini-series or something with Tom Hanks (no real details available there). She deserves everything she can get and I would like to see her go on Bill Maher on HBO and discuss her book, because Beth is as impressive in person as she is on the page. That's an interview I would not miss.

I applaud my colleague on her hard work and brilliant effort. If you have an interest in globalization and would like to know why your neighbors no longer have a job, then this is must-read. I am not aware of many other writings that attempt to tackle this issue from the bottom up, instead of the top down.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Book Review: Why Pelvic Pain Hurts

Why Pelvic Pain Hurts: Neuroscience Education for Patients with Pelvic Pain
By Adriaan Louw, et al
Copyright 2014
67 pages

This book is a little primer for people suffering from pelvic pain. It talks about how it affects your life and how doctors don't understand it.

Pelvic pain/abdominal issues range from bladder issues to IBS to bone misalignment, join dysfunctions and digestive disorders. And sometimes you just have pain for no known reason.

The book uses several different metaphors to make its point, such as pain being like a cup running over, or having a lion on your back all day.

It talks about the body's alarm system and how chronic pain means your body can't get the alarms to shut down. It emphasizes that just because you have pain it doesn't necessarily mean that something is wrong.

I think that in part it is an effort to comfort those who suffer from abdominal/pelvic pain issues because you can't see what is in there and the fear that something is drastically wrong tends to be rather high.

In my opinion, this book is too brief. It starts out well and introduces some concepts, such as cortisol production, that someone might need to pay attention to, but it doesn't say where to look for help. The book then goes on to advocate things like eating right (but doesn't say what that means), and exercising such as stretches, but doesn't spell out anything specific. Just saying "do aerobics" is not especially helpful, especially if you're so sick you can't actually *do* aerobics.

So far none of the books I've read on abdominal and pain issues actually go far enough or offer the kind of help I am seeking. Maybe I just haven't found the right book.

This is a good book to give to people who want to understand what I'm dealing with - my husband, for instance, or close friends. It helps them understand how much pain I'm in, if nothing else.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Author's Talk: Beth Macy on Factory Man

Saturday my husband and I went to Barnes and Noble, Tanglewood, in Roanoke, to hear Beth Macy talk about her book, Factory Man.

Beth and I attended Hollins College at the same time, though she was in the master's program while I was an undergraduate. We had several courses together, though.
Beth went on to become the star reporter for The Roanoke Times. She's had an inspirational career and her writing has won her awards, acclaim, and fame.

Author Beth Macy
My husband is the man in black. He hung out at the rear of the crowd.
Beth reading from her work.
Gesturing during discussion.
At some point I became entranced by the number of post-its Beth had placed in her book.
For some reason, I think this picture, cropped though it is, is splendid. It is the perfect example of reading and writing.
Beth's autograph and note to me. The Write!!! came from my husband, who suggested she should add it to the page.

This is the book. It's nonfiction ostensibly about a man who built furniture in a little town called Bassett, which is just down the road a piece. It is, I think, much more than that. It is, instead, a commentary on the way the powers that be pay no attention to how their actions impact those upon whose backs they stand.
I'll let you know more about that when I've actually read it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Farewell, Old Friend

Last night I decided it was time to toss my paperback Random House Dictionary.

My maiden name was written on the inside of it, so this had been my go-to dictionary for about 34 years. The book was copyrighted 1978 so I imagine that was when I purchased it.

As you can see, this book was well-worn and used.

Duct tape held the back together.

Scotch tape held the front cover on.

The copyright date page, just for memory's sake.

It had yellowed considerably and developed that book-moldy smell that sets off my asthma. I'm doing a clean-out and had pre-determined that anything that made me wheeze would have to leave the house.

Including, I'm afraid, beloved dictionaries.

I have this new American Heritage dictionary that I picked up when Books-A-Million closed. It will be my new go-to paperback dictionary. I also have the Shorter Oxford Dictionary on my desk so I am not lacking for words.

But I really hate saying goodbye to that Random House. Sometimes it is hard to know when to let go.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Books: Heal Pelvic Pain

Heal Pelvic Pain
By Amy Stein
Kindle Edition
256 Pages
Copyright 2008

As regular readers know, I have been experiencing chronic abdominal pain since my gallbladder surgery a year ago. The local doctors so far haven't been much help, but it appears I have adhesions or scar tissue and it has affected the muscles in something called the pelvic floor. This is a group of muscles, fascia, and tissue in the area below the belly button ending at the legs. Problems down there are called pelvic floor dysfunction. Apparently about 10 million people have pelvic floor issues but they are often treated as other things. Misdiagnosis is common, from what I can gather.

This book was written by a physical therapist for pelvic floor dysfunction. It offers massage techniques, stretching and strengthening exercises, and general overall health advice for those who might benefit from some attention to that particular body area.

As I am already undergoing physical therapy for my abdominal pain and have been for about 8 weeks now, I was familiar with some of the techniques and was actually pleased (and relieved) to see that they were being used on me.

I wish I had not bought the Kindle version of this book but instead had gone for the hard copy. I have learned recently that nonfiction books are probably better for me than the tree-killing versions. I like to go back and reference and in this book in particular, I would have liked to photocopy a page or two of the exercises to take to my physical therapist. As it was, I tried to show her the exercises as they appeared on my Kindle but that didn't work so well. The Kindle also divides the pages funny and I have found that makes it difficult to consult while trying to do the exercises or massage.

The author emphasizes the need for stress relief and that is something my physical therapist has been emphasizing with me, as well. The author talks a little about diet but I felt that was lacking in detail. However, there are many other books about diet out there.

The exercises in this book would help anyone with just general health concerns, I think, but in particular women with bladder issues, bowel issues, or sexual dysfunction might be interested in taking a look. I think the massage techniques in particular could be helpful to the millions who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Additionally, Stein has just released a video demonstrating the massage techniques and exercises. The video is called Healing Pelvic and Abdominal Pain: The Ultimate Home Program for Patients and a Guide for Practitioners.

I bought the video and have watched some of it. So far I have found it helpful, but I think it might serve physical therapists as a guide more so than patients. However, that judgment might be premature as I haven't watched the entire thing. As an example, she uses some tools such as a massage stick and a massage ball. I use a tennis ball for a massage ball, but I had never even heard of a massage stick. So some kind of discussion about equipment might have been helpful. Also, I am hoping there is a routine in there somewhere that one can follow, like I would do with a Denise Austin video. We shall see. Please be aware I'm still watching the video so these comments could change.

I definitely recommend the book (do get the paperback) if you have any issues that seem related to pelvic floor or the abdomen. It is especially good if you are new to these concerns. Even if this is not what is causing my pain, I think the exercises are helpful.

Books: The Answers Are Within You

The Answers Are Within You
by Debbie Ford
Read by the author
Copyright 2003
Approximately 6 hours

In this book, Debbie Ford, whom I had never heard of before, writes about how we create our own story - the story of our life - which is not necessarily the reality of who we are.

As a writer, I found this idea very appealing, for it means I can change my tomorrows. Of course there are many random events that affect a person - nobody asks for a car crash or a major illness - but even so, our ideas of who we are can change and we can grow.

This audiobook offers up many meditations and questions that could help someone find triggering events that made them think certain things about themselves. For instance, some long-ago action by a parent or teacher might have given a person low self-esteem. Ford's theory is the self-esteem comes from the story you tell yourself and then believe: the teacher says I am bad, therefore I am bad, for example.

Rewriting your story takes work. She focuses on this rewriting by asking you what you gained from your story. Did thinking you were a bad person strengthen you in some way? Did it make you a better friend or coworker? Have you gone out of your way to be what you think is "good" and what kind of strengths has that brought to your life?

From there, she advocates seeking out your "secret" - the real you, the one hidden by the story we all create about ourselves. This would be the divine you, the one you really want to open up and share with the world.

I thought there were good ideas in this book. I was listening to it in the car so I wasn't able to stop and do the meditations or journaling aspects. I also listened to it over the course of many weeks and I suspect working on this daily would be beneficial.

Ford passed away in 2013, a fact I was not aware of until I began writing this blog post. I was looking to see what else she has written. Her website offers some free meditations and prayers, as well as online courses and training in various related things.

Definitely an interesting listen if you're interested in self-growth.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Books: Creative Thinking

Creative Thinking
By Earl Nightingale
Copyright 1994
Read by Earl Nightingale

I think this was initially put out in the 1950s on vinyl, and it came with a worksheet of some sort. This is on two CDs, and very short, but it has some powerful and interesting ideas.

The tracks on it include one about "testing your "C.Q" or creativity quotient. Nightgale asks a series of questions and the more yeses you have the more creative you are. I had 10 of 16, just one point off of being in the top 10 percent of the worlds most creative people or something like that.

Other chapters include Characteristics for Creativity, Your Most Valuable Creative Tools, One of History's Greatest Men (a story of Socrates, and an invaluable lesson in listening), New Ways to Think, Creative Problem Solving, The Brainstorm, and The Creative Person, among others.

Nightingale recommends listening to this several times, and I would like to hear it again with a pen and paper in hand instead of riding in the car. I think there are some valuable lessons in here.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thursday Thirteen

Here are thirteen websites that offer free reading. I have checked all of these out this morning and listed only those that you can dive right into without signing up for something. I suppose if you have a browser on your e-reader you can access all of these in some fashion, as most can be read in the browser. Some might be difficult on small screens, though.

1. Project Gutenberg - Among the first and probably the best well-known sites for free books. It has download formats for most of the popular e-readers.

2. Page By Page - Books and other resources available for reading at your computer.

3. Classic Reader - this has a place for a member sign-up but I am not sure why. These books are available for reading at your computer.

4. Bibliomania - This site also has free study guides for some classics

5. The Online Literature Library - More classics online.

6. Fiction.US - More classics online.

7. By Gosh - This site titles itself as being for children and offering children's literature, but Heart of Darkness and The Art of War do not seem like kid's lit to me. Anyway, you can find lots of poetry and other things here, too.

8. International Children's Digital Library - This site is worth visiting just to look at the pictures in some of the books. The book pages appear to have been scanned or photographed in some, if not all, instances.

9. The Complete Works of Shakespeare - If you feel a little lost or haven't read much Shakespeare, here's the space for you.

10. Plays Online - Bills itself as for play readers and writers.

11. Public Bookshelf - This site says it is for romance readers.

12. Bored - this site has literature, cookbooks, music and game books, etc.

13. Just English - A link that lists all of these sites and many others.

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here. I've been playing for a while and this is my 328th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Books: Warren Buffett Speaks

Warren Buffett Speaks: Wit and Wisdom from the World's Greatest Investor
By Janet Lowe
3 hours
Copyright 1998 or thereabouts

Warren Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway, purchased my local daily paper, The Roanoke Times, back in June. That was the only reason I had interest in listening to this audiobook, which I found in my local library.

I do not know much about Warren Buffett other than he's rich and thinks his secretary pays too much in taxes, since she pays more of a percentage of her share than he does on his billions. And this book did not really help me learn much more. What I did learn was not flattering.

Perhaps I thought Buffett was a do-gooder, but based on this tape alone, he's just another capitalist in love with watching his bank numbers increase. He is lauded in this tape because he drives an old car and doesn't live in a fancy home, but just because one eschews the trappings of wealth doesn't mean that one has good morals. Based on the quotes in this collection, Buffett's morals are those which benefit only himself, and he declines to use whatever influence he may have to make changes that would truly be helpful to society at large.

I was not impressed with him as a person. He may be a great investor and rich, but the quotes on this tape did not make him sound like someone I would like or care to spend time with. According to Wikipedia (which actually has more information on him than this tape), he has pledged to give his fortune up -- when he dies. Now if he'd give it up while he was still living, then he'd be doing something.

Buffett has some newspaper experience in his history; he was a paperboy and a grandfather or somebody like that was a news editor. This explained to me why he was buying the newspapers - once that gets in your blood, you're kind of stuck with it. It's an undying love affair of sorts that never eases.

I had hoped that when BH Media bought The Roanoke Times the paper would improve but that has not proven to be the case. In this tape, Buffett talks about acquiring businesses and then making them "leaner" and that seems to be what has happened to The Times, which is just a slim shadow of it former self. Newly implemented changes to the paper's website have only made things worse.

I suppose if you are in love with money, or making money, then Warren Buffett is someone you might admire. But if your idols tend to be more along the lines of those who actually do things for others, care about others, and who make a difference in the lives of other people, then look elsewhere.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Books: Shut Up & Write

Shut Up & Write
By Judy Bridges
Copyright 2011
176 pages

I found this to be a good handbook for writers regardless of the stage of career, though experienced writers might find it less informative than beginners.

Bridges had interesting ideas for character creation using a character wheel that I had never seen before. It was a bit like the technique I teach in my journaling class called clustering.

She advocated for one writing technique that I'd not seen elsewhere, either: retype the entire manuscript, don't just cut and paste and move stuff around. A new writer in particular might find this helpful. Having been a journalist for years I learned to edit on the fly and don't know that I could slow my self down long enough to do an entire retyping of a piece, but it might be worth an attempt or two to see if it helps the brain cells think a bit.

Additionally the book introduces newbies to business terms, style manuals, and other writing necessities. She offers a useful critique list, too.

I read the book looking for new ideas to offer my writing classes and found them, so this was an excellent read for me.

Becky over at Peevish Pen reviewed this book in great detail about 18 months ago; she does a fine job of explaining what is good about this book. So click on that link if you want more info.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Books: At Home

At Home: A Short History of Private Life
By Bill Bryson
473 pages
Copyright 2010

I had not read Bill Bryson's work before, though I had heard of it, particularly his book A Walk in the Woods.

In this book, Bryson explores the stuff and the rooms of a home, particularly his home, and explains how come forks have four tines and things like that.

Since I enjoy things like that, and am a history buff, I really liked the book and the way it was written. Having said that, I confess to not finishing it simply because it made me tired. I was reading this for my book club, and book club came and went, and I have not been too interested in picking this back up because I wanted to read some fiction.

However, I do intend to finish this at some point. I think it is important to note that you could skip around if you wanted and not miss anything, because this isn't a story with a thread of any sort. It's a bunch of interesting facts and annotations and commentary all weaved together, room by room.

I learned a lot in the 275 pages that I have finished and I expect to learn much more when I do come back to this book.

I highly recommend this if you're interested in history and would like to know more about the world around you.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thursday Thirteen

Here are some books I have on my reading list. They are not in any particular order:

1. At Home, by Bill Bryson (nonfiction)

2. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, by Patricia A. McKillip (fantasy)

3. Love Overboard, by Janet Evanovich (romance)

4. The Lost Years, by Mary Higgins Clark (mystery)

5. Full House, by Janet Evanovich (romance)

6. The Widening Stream: The Seven Stages of Creativity, by David Ulrich (nonfiction)

7. Lirael, by Garth Nix (fantasy)

8. Roar of the Heavens, by Stefan Bechtel (nonfiction)

9. A Wizard Alone, by Diane Duane (fantasy)

10. The Squire's Tale, by Gerald Morris (young adult, historical)

11. Creative Visualization, by Shakti Gawain (nonfiction)

12. As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen (nonfiction)

13. The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp (nonfiction)

I generally read about 50-55 books a year.

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here. I've been playing for a while and this is my 302nd time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Book: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
By Cheryl Strayed
Copyright 2012
346 pages (e-reader)

Cheryl, in her memoir, tells us the story of her life up to her mid-20s. After her mother dies, she falls apart and ultimately ends up hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which is the west's version of the Appalachian Trail.

It runs from lower CA to Canada or thereabouts.

Anyway, the author sets out on this 1,000-mile hike about as unprepared as anyone can be. Her shoes are too small and her backpack too heavy. She comes across as very ignorant about a great many things. She says she spent six months "preparing" by going to various camping and hiking stores and receiving all kinds of advice, and not once did she think to load her pack or try on her shoes? Really?

My book club is reading this book for its May selection, so I finished it completely. Oprah also chose the book for her book club, which I am sure boosted the book sales tremendously. But I am not sure that I would have (a) read this book as a personal choice and (b) finished it if I had. However, I would have missed out had I not read the book. At least sometimes I think that. I have some ambivalence about this story.

It is well-written, but I grew tired of the character's whining. I think every other page was: Four years before I decided to hike, my mother died, so I broke up my marriage. My mother died, so I tried heroin. My mother died, so I lost my job. My mother died, so my family broke apart. You get the picture.

There were a good many physical complaints, too, about her feet (she ended up losing her toenails because her shoes were *that much* too tight!) and the heavy backpack. As far as I was concerned, these were things that were within her control and she chose this suffering for whatever reason. The woman was one class shy of a college degree, for heaven's sake. She wasn't - or shouldn't have been - as ignorant as she made out to be.

The character had a tough childhood, which accounts for a great many things, but after 300 pages I was a little tired of the pity party. I kept waiting for the epiphany that I knew from page 5 would need to happen, and when it finally did, I wiped my brow and said aloud, "Whew, this train wreck is finally coming to a close."

The book has over 1,000 five-star ratings, and about 125 one star ratings on Amazon. I fall somewhere in between. I'd give it a 3.5 perhaps, not because it is an enjoyable read but because it tells a story that I think needs to be told.

She doesn't make the obvious connections between her parental neglect and her train wreck of a life, but they are there for the discerning reader to see. I think I would have liked for her epiphany to have pointed this out more, but it didn't, though it alluded to it. I think parental neglect is rampant in the United States, and poor parents are everywhere. In fact, I think the entire country is suffering under the burden of these grown-ups who were never nurtured properly and so they take out their anger and frustration on everyone around them. Only instead of hiking some trail, they go into politics.

Because the message is so necessary, and because I didn't know there was a Pacific Crest Trail until I read the book, I suggest reading this story. However, I tell you that with this caveat: I don't know that you will enjoy it. You will, though, learn something, if you read with an open mind.