Good Reads

I have a confession to make – an especially odd one for a bibliophile like myself. We’ve lived in our little town in the middle of nowhere Montana for almost 9 years and I just got a library card last week.  It occurred to me that I was spending an enormous amount on books I never plan to read again – and could easily borrow from the library. So I finally went in, and found that I love this little library with its amazing selection of books and no crowds.  Here are a couple of great books I found and want to share with you. So here’s to libraries everywhere!

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD

Sleep is essential to good health, and in the Western world, we are incredibly sleep deprived. This book offers a carefully researched look at why we sleep, the impact of sleep, or lack of sleep, on our brains, our ability to function and our overall health.

The nurse in me particularly enjoyed Walker’s research on brain chemicals and circadian rhythms that cause and interrupt good sleep. I know not everyone will find that part of the book as fascinating as I do, but it is worth reading through because it helps understand the later parts of the book.  He does discuss the role of melatonin and its impact on good sleep – and why many of the OTC melatonin products simply don’t work well.

Of particular interest are the ways sleep changes as we age and how great an impact it has on our memory and functional abilities as we move into our second half of life.  He says “Inefficient sleep is no small thing, as studies assessing tens of thousands of older adults show…The lower  an older individual’s sleep efficiency score, the higher their mortality risk, the worse their physical health, the more likely there are to suffer from depression, the less energy they report and the lower their cognitive function, typified by forgetfulness.”  Now there is good reason to get a good night’s sleep!

I especially appreciated his discussion of sleep deprivation in school aged children and its devastating impact on learning. The other chapter that resonated with me was the discussion about prescription sleeping pills, which he describes as “the bad, the bad and the ugly”. That chapter is a must read!

He does offer 12 steps to healthy sleep in the appendix, which after reading the entire book, make good sense and may offer relief for those who struggle to sleep.

This book is worth a read whether or not you have sleep issues. Understanding the incredible role sleep plays in memory, health and well being is vital. If you are one of those sleep deprived by choice people, this book may well be what wakes you up to the terrible price you are paying by skimping on sleep.

 

Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos

This story reaches out and grabs the reader with its beautiful style and use of language. I found myself hooked immediately and finished it in 2 days (no, I did not stay up late to finish it after reading the previous book but I was tempted).  The two main characters, Cornelia and Clare, are believable and easy to feel sympathetic towards.  I love a book that grabs my attention from the first page like this one did. I won’t tell you the story because you can read that on the cover, but I will say that the friendship that develops between these two is quite engaging, as well as the love story that is really secondary to the story of their friendship. Love Walked In is definitely “chick-lit” but it’s relaxing and fun to read.

The main frustration I had with it is the same as I often have with non-Christian literature like this, which is the very casual attitude toward sex outside of marriage. For example, Cornelia’s friend was amazed that she had not slept with her new boyfriend after six dates. When the protagonist tells her eleven year old friend that essentially sex is fine in any context as long as you enjoy it, I was very annoyed. This little girl walking in on her mom having sex with a random boyfriend is NOT healthy or normal.  Fortunately, that was just a tiny paragraph in an otherwise good read.  My rule is that I try to always notice where the author is anti-Biblical, and never allow it to go unchallenged in my own mind. I do not want to slip into accepting behavior that God calls sin because I read a book that shows it otherwise. That is true in all of life, discernment is always needed. Other than that, this is a good book for a little relaxation and fun.

Thoughts on Reading

There is no doubt that I love to read. Books have been my good friends all my life. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve going to the local library in Monte Vista Colorado, my hometown, and heading home with all the books I could carry. Some of my husband’s grumpiest memories probably include loading and moving my boxes and boxes of books over the years as we’ve gone from Colorado to Alaska to Washington and on from there.

I have spent the last month reading instead of blogging. Whenever I feel stressed, I find that turning to a good book (or 10) helps. Of course, there is one Book that absolutely changes my life and renews my mind and that is the Bible. Every day, the Bible is the one trustworthy place to find truth and wisdom.

As I read other books, I find it necessary to always be comparing the truth of the Bible with what the author is communicating in whatever I’m reading, whether it’s a relaxing work of fiction, or a book about history, life, science and ideas. It is so important to learn to read well, with discernment, fully engaged in the book but also completely seeking to compare the truth of God’s Word with what the author is saying.

So here are some thoughts on a few of the books I’ve read this month.

The More of Less by Joshua Becker: I really did enjoy this book about “Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own”. The author has great ideas about minimalism and getting from clutter to clear. He offers assignments to help you begin the process and directions to keep moving forward.  It seems that, as a Christian, Becker is trying to take seriously Jesus statement in Luke 12:15 NASB: “Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not [even] when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” His main premise is that, in fact, too much stuff gets in the way of a life well lived.

But here is where the discernment comes in- Becker comments that he believes that Jesus was trying to tell the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 that all his possessions were keeping him from becoming all that he was intended to become.  This smacks of the current fad that says we must all find our passion and potential in life in order to live life to the fullest. What I believe Jesus was teaching here is that when we put anything ahead of Him, be it possessions, jobs, passions, books, or really anything,  that is idolatry and there is no place in the life of a follower of Christ for idolatry. Yes, we are drawn to worship many things instead of the one true God, and we must repent of that idolatry. Discernment, according to Spurgeon, is the ability to distinguish between truth and almost truth. This is a good example of “almost truth”. And it is hard to see.

There are other examples in his book I could point out, but I am not going to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Becker has many good and practical ideas for moving toward a life where possessions are not my idols, and stuff doesn’t dominate my time and energy. Being careful that minimalism doesn’t become an idol in and of itself!

Quiet by Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.

Just the subtitle of this one grabbed my attention. It perfectly describes my world at work! There are times I really want to shout “just stop talking for a minute!”

There is a lot of psychobabble in this book which I ended up skimming over, but really enjoyed the section titled “Does God Love Introverts? An Evangelical’s Dilemma” and the section titled “On Cobblers and Generals: How to cultivate quiet kids in a world that can’t hear them”.

I love that she discusses the ways introverts work and relate in a positive way and highlights the value of being quiet.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers:

This one is a most enjoyable mystery novel set in England in the 1930’s. The language is more formal than novels of today, so it takes a bit of getting used to, but the story quickly grabbed my interest and held it.

I found this book appealing because it develops the themes that surrounded women of that era. Can a woman get and use an education? Can a woman live a fulfilled life outside the norms of marriage and children? Can a woman actually be an intelligent and independent human being? And all this set in the midst of a mysterious threat at the protagonist, Harriet Vane’s alma mater. Sayers actually did graduate from Oxford, so much of the action in this story flows out of her experiences there.

Again – discernment. I am not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination, yet I am grateful for my education, my career and even more for my husband and my family. Give this one a chance – its part of a mystery series that Sayers wrote featuring Lord Peter Wimsey.

So I’m still reading but back to blogging too!