Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What I've Read Recently

I just finished reading several books which I'm going to add to my Spring Reading Plan but in this separate post, because these were all easy quick reads that I got through too fast to put on my sidebar. Like The Bookworm, I don't seem to read so much fiction nowadays, though I want to tackle some this summer. I used to be such a fiction reader that I would spend the whole day with my nose in a book, so I cut back to reading novels only on hospital stays and during holidays. Maybe now it's time to swing back the other way, though.

Anyway -- here is the list -- these are all books I've read in May -- yikes! I get a lot of reading done on our trips to town, even though it makes me carsick. They were all fast reads in one way or another.

Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality

I'm not sure how this ended up in our library request pile -- my kids don't remember requesting it (!) and nor do I -- but I picked it up while I was eating lunch one day and finished it by evening. Medical journalism is a stress-buster for me, as I suppose it is for many people, judging by the number of medical books and reality TV shows out there.

The doctor who wrote the book is a young Asian woman and she went into liver transplant surgery at UCLA. This comes close to home since Aidan is an OLTX recipient and could have gone to UCLA instead of UCSF if our insurance had been just slightly different, perhaps. We could have met her, and we did meet her distillation in the ranks and ranks of intellectually high caliber young interns and residents at the hospital.

Growing Up with NLD

This came from the library in a spiral bound edition with double-spaced type -- so Liam asked me if I was reading someone's dissertation! But I guess it must be a paperback now judging from Amazon.

It was a personal account of a woman who had NLD before it was really a diagnosis, arranged by topic. Say, the chapter was Socialization -- she would tell about her experience in that area and then list some helpful tips in that area. There was an extensive bibliography and resource section and a chapter on managing NLD, as well as an introductory chapter giving an overview of the disability.

Why was I reading this? I have a couple of kids with soft symptoms for an LD, and am a bit that way myself. Often you can find really useful tips and insights in a book like this, even if your child does not fit the whole pattern.

Relationship Development Intervention with Young Children.

I got this because I was looking for social skills information for Aidan. Now RDI has become my information project for the summer. I found the book confusing -- lots of activities based on different "Levels". I had no idea where to start actually applying anything -- not being a bottom-up thinker at all.

So I got this book
Autism Asperger's Solving the Relationship Puzzle

I am still reading this, but it is much more clear now what the other book was about. It gives the whole context with case samples and so on -- very interesting.

The idea is that social skills therapy that focuses on what the author calls "Instrumental Skills" -- ie, social rituals that are relatively fixed, like buying something in a store or saying Hello and Goodbye -- are useful but don't get to the essence of the autistic spectrum child's problem -- which is learning to relate to people in a meaningful way. Many higher functioning autistic children have already figured out instrumental modes for getting what they want -- but they have not learned to receive pleasure from spontaneous, relationship-oriented encounters. So the programs are designed to help the child learn, through mentorship, how to tolerate and get emotional rewards from interaction. Most children learn this naturally through playful affectionate interactions with their parents and caregivers, but AS children have to be taught more consciously.

Yesterday, on our extended waiting room tour, I read Relationship Rescue by Phil McGraw. Someone in our little local community gave away a slew of Dr Phil books -- at 10 cents, I couldn't resist grabbing them to read.... someday. I read his weight loss and Life Strategies ones last year before the homeschooling debacle on his show. It wasn't like I was a great fan of Dr Phil's show before -- I only watched one episode, at my mother in law's house, and didn't like it. But the homeschooling thing (a couple of friends were involved a bit in it) took a while to get over. But now I've read this Relationship Rescue one. His style is a linebacker one, but like a linebacker he usually does get where he intends to go IF it's only a few inches or feet away. Sometimes, that kind of effectiveness is a breath of fresh air, especially when he knocks aside some longterm obstacle to the goal like the myth that couples have to have to have a lot in common to work as a couple, or that men have to learn to talk like women in order to communicate well -- those irritating ninepins deserve to get knocked down.

In the same line, someone in my community gave away Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It and it ended up in the library 20 cent rack. This I am reading while I'm on the "relationship" roll. Its a very evangelical-pastor type book, about how to preserve a faithful marriage if you are a man. I like the idea of building "hedges" to protect things you value -- an evangelical re-statement of the Catholic "avoiding near occasion" and "custody of the eyes and heart". But the idea of hedges could have been expressed in an essay -- apparently the book started off as an essay and got so much response that he built it into a book, and now apparently Tim LaHaye is involved in the new version. I find it SO not the world I live in but then I'm SO not an evangelical husband with 2.2 children and a house in the suburbs and a job that requires working and travelling with women. If you are one of those (I doubt if very many of my readers are) then maybe this will be a helpful book. For me, it reads like an anthropological study. Fascinating in its foreignness.

Another 10 cent "treasure" I read recently was Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution. The main reason to read a diet book, in my opinion, is to gather the motivation to kick off your habit changes. It worked for that. I don't think I'll ever try that Induction thing again though, even in modified form for 2 days. It almost stopped me in my tracks. However, he is right that there is gathering evidence that moderate carb restrictions are more effective for at least some types of people than fat restrictions. Limiting the carbs moderately has made a giant difference in my blood sugar swings, and almost eliminated cravings. A relief!

I think that is all the recent reads that aren't on my sidebar. I am still chipping away slowly at the sidebar reads.


lissla lissar said...

The best book I've read on the near-death experience is As I Lay Dying, by Richard John Neuhaus. I've always liked his writing in First Things, but I was unprepared for his clarity and serious insight into the act of dying. In some of his other stuff his comes off as a bit flip.

HAve you read Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson? It's my favourite novel, and it's also a profound meditation on death, the joy of life, and preparation for going home to God. The main character is a Congregationalist minister who is quite old, has just found out he's about to die, and is writing a series of letters for his very young son- the conversations he would like to have had when his son reaches manhood. I highly recommend it.

Willa said...

I haven't read either of the ones you mentioned, but will check them out. I like Neuhas' writing in First Things, too.

I found it was my husband who equested the Final Exam book. Good thing he told me before I brought it back to the library. LOL!

Shawna said...

OH my Willa, you are perhaps the most avid reader I know! Maybe thats why you are so smart! I love reading book gives me so many choices in deciding which book I will actually finish this year! LOL!

Cindy said...

Love your book list, Willa and especially your reflections.

Your persepective on Dr. Phil was right on...!

Mother Auma said...

Willa, if you are looking for a low-carb book, you might read The South Beach Diet. I found Atkins way too stringent, especially in the induction phase, but have had success with South Beach, and I like his down-to-earth, of-course-you-have-a-life kind of writing. Sugarbusters is another good book to read along those lines-- similar to South Beach with a couple of differences in terms of how to eat.