Friday, January 27, 2023

Audiobooks: Fitting Reading In the Crevices

Can audiobooks legitimately be used to help a busy mom who wants to read physical books, actually read books? Come along with me on a short journey to discover some answers!
This post is somewhat outside my comfort zone and expertise to write, since I strongly prefer physical books. I've been easily distracted by auditory input for most of my life, and have difficulty understanding and paying attention to a speaker unless I'm taking notes or performing an activity directly related to what is being said. However, my husband is a big fan of audiobooks to supplement his reading habit.

Have you met a bibliovore before? Now you know someone who's married to one! πŸ˜†

Headphones with green earmuffs on a lap desk

What is an audiobook?
Taking the word apart, an audiobook is a voice-recorded version of a book. In the days when most of my (intended) readers were children, audiobooks were on cassette tapes and, later, CDs. Now, they're accessed through apps, so not in physical media. Maybe sometime I'll post about the human attention span related to the advancement of technology...

Can you listen to audiobooks for free?

Short answer: It depends on where you look.

Long answer (mostly from Bookriot): there are at least 6 paid and 8 free options, depending on the features you would like associated with your audiobook habit. All but one of these are associated with apps or other internet sources.

Where to get audiobooks I have to pay for

  1. Kindle app. This is a service through Amazon (separate from Prime) and costs $10/month in the US. This one is popular because it is both flexible and comprehensive. You can have 10 books of your choice in the app at any one time. Some book options you can get through Kindle are . . .
  2. Audible app. This is an audiobook-specific service through Amazon and costs $8/month up to $150/year. Recent changes for the better include an upgrade for every plan from 1 "free" (i.e., included) book/month to constant access to a discounted library of thousands of books. More expensive plans do include the "free" books that aren't really free. 
  3. Scribd. I hadn't known before that this was the first site devoted to online publishing (2007); audiobooks were added in 2014. For the entire platform--including journals, sheet music, and other materials conducive to learning--the monthly cost is $9. While audio quality and overall quantity of written material are less than Audible, it's overall a better deal for most users.
  4. app. This was founded to help brick-and-mortar bookstores compete with Amazon. In its business model, the subscription cost pays partly for the audiobook and partly for a donation to a bookstore of your choice. The account itself is free; you pay monthly ($15) or individually.
  5. Kobo app. This service costs $10/month for access to one audiobook; additional books cost roughly that much extra (1 book per credit per $10).
  6. Downpour app. This has a smaller library than Audible (as do most of the non-Audible services listed in this post) but is also cheaper at $13/month. Its biggest draw for me is the ability to listen to books later or earlier in the year, depending on busy seasons of life (e.g., academic semesters for a professor).

Where to get audiobooks I don't have to pay for

  1. Libby app. This is a part of Overdrive, which is being phased out over the next few months. Libraries pay for actual borrowing of audiobooks or ebooks. If your library uses this service, you can have access to their audiobooks. You can use both Android and Apple products (iPhone/iPad) with Libby. (Thank you, Beth, for updating my knowledge about Libby and Overdrive!)
  2. Hoopla app. This is another library lending service, allowing you to "check out" a finite number of audiobooks/ebooks/other digital media per month.
  3. Librivox app. This is quite distinctive in that it uses volunteer readers to record chapters of public-domain audiobooks. Given that copyright generally extends to 70-ish years past the death of the author, I am quite curious to see the library of available titles.
  4. Nook app. This allows you to read or listen to books specifically from Barnes & Noble.
  5. iTunes and Google Play. These are free, but you pay for audiobooks within each app that you want to listen to.
  6. Library! 'Nuff said.

What are the pros and cons of audiobooks?

I asked three of my audiobook-aficionado friends to gain insight on this question. Admittedly, I prefer making rubrics, or lists with point values, but for a blog post a paragraph form makes more sense.

One pro of audiobooks is that it allows the ability to multitask. It feels very satisfying to plow through (recorded) pages of a book at the same time as one is completing chores or exercising. (Clinical side note: I don't recommend trying to complete a more cognitively demanding task while listening to an audiobook, because there is a lot of research showing that this type of multitasking, particularly using multiple sources of media at once, is basically just switching attention back and forth repeatedly, costing your brain precious energy and making you less efficient at each task you're trying to do.)

Another pro is that the accent of a good reader can bring a story alive. One of my books-in-progress is a set of reflections on the use of the Charlotte Mason method. A central component of this educational method is the use of narration of "living" books--that is, books with realistic vocabulary, sentence structure, illustrations (if applicable), and a personal interest of the sole author in the subject matter. As an example, if you're learning about a 19th-century Scottish perspective on 12th-century British culture, an audiobook such as Ivanhoe read by someone with a true-to-life Scottish accent (who knows how to pronounce names and places) can put your imagination into the setting of the story.

A third pro, for some, is the ability to progress faster through books, period. The child of someone I know doubled her reading pages by listening to an audiobook on double speed while reading along with the same book. My husband uses this technique for easier books to maintain attention for longer reading sessions. Listening only to the book on 2x speed--although this matches my actual reading speed pretty closely--drives me slightly batty, but it might work for you.

Now for the cons. One is a corollary of the second "pro" above: when unfamiliar names of places or people don't make sense when one is listening to the audiobook, one needs to get the physical book from the library. Sometimes, too, I've heard a word pronounced for the first time on audiobook, and it takes me a while to understand what it's referring to--in cases of words that I've seen only in print and developed my own internal pronunciation for.

Another con is the cost. While the slight majority of audiobook options above are free, the higher-quality recordings with more features (like saving progress for a mom of a little who can listen to 3-5 minutes at a time, if that) generally come at a cost. I'm cheap, so anything I purchase needs to be an investment, in my head at least.

Finally, learning preferences can make a difference. Despite what you may read elsewhere, the educational literature has debunked the popular conception of "I learn best in my primary learning style" like auditory, visual, or kinesthetic. That said, using a mix of content delivery modes does make for more effective learning. Simply hearing something on audiobook doesn't guarantee retention even for someone whose preferred style is auditory. Seeing the text as well as hearing it helps things stick.

My final decision

Those of you who know me in person will not be terribly surprised at my twofold decision:
  1. Keep physical books as my primary go-to and accept the consequent slowness of my reading progress compared to what I'd like it to be.
  2. Sign up to be a LibriVox reader so I can expose myself and others to public-domain books!
All told, however, working on this post has helped me become much more aware of the audiobook options out there. Have you learned something new today? Are you still firmly in the "audiobooks rock!" or "never-audiobooks" camp? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

TBR Lists and the To-Do List: Why I Don't Have a TBR List This Year (Again) and Why

In the spirit of this month's blogging theme of Obstacles to Reading, this week I'd like to talk about the TBR list, or the "to-be read" list or stack of books, specifically as it relates to the never-ending to-do list. If you've read The Renaissance Biologist for any length of time, you've probably figured out that I love lists.

Let me start out with a disclaimer: while I am extremely goal-oriented, I am not a New Year's resolution person. Since right around this time, or sometime in the next few weeks, is when most people who make a resolution will fall off that train, I want to ask: is a TBR list worth it?

And a second disclaimer: I don't have a TBR list this year. I also didn't have one last year, or the year before. I do have an ever-fluctuating TBR shelf, but that does not include all the (dozens now) titles that my husband has suggested I might enjoy. It's certainly not a static entity, so according to some sources the shelf doesn't quite count as a TBR. Basmo defines a TBR list or stack as a set of titles that the reader intends to read through in a certain time frame. Contrariwise, I get through what I get through when I get through it.

Disclaimers aside, a TBR list, well-designed and followed, can be an excellent tool to increase your reading if that's a goal for you. Let's dive in to an analysis of the anatomy of a good TBR!

What Does a Great TBR List Look Like?

First, it's written down somewhere you'll see it frequently. For some people, that means a Post-It on the side of one's work desk. For others, it's a note in one's phone, or a spreadsheet. For me, if I were to make a TBR, it would be a bulleted list in the back of my paper planner. It's incredibly satisfying to physically cross off or check off titles as I complete them.

Second, it's curated for you. This means that you should be reasonably sure that you can and want to finish each book on it. Don't read something just because Five or More Friends recommended it to you. Full disclosure: All members of my household are bibliovores . . . so we don't follow this recommendation very faithfully.

Third, it's a just-right length. This means that you have a decent idea of how fast each book can/should be read, by you, at this time in your life; how much time you will realistically have each day or week to read with the attention each book deserves; and how sad you will be if for whatever reason you can't or don't finish a book. It's okay to have a DNF (did not finish) list too--especially if the book turns out not useful, too hard, or spiritually harmful.

For the math folks: Speed of Reading (pages/minute) x Time per Week (minutes/week) x 1/Length (1/how many pages in the book) = Books per Week. This may be a decimal. That's okay!

Fourth (in my unsubstantiated opinion), it's something you're flexibly committed to. This is based on my experience in goal-setting, including helping myself and various other people set and reach realistic short- and long-term goals.

What Does a Sub-par TBR List Look Like?

Based on my experience with goal-setting for self, students, and patients, a sub-par TBR list is one with at least one feature that will decrease your chances of successfully completing it.

For the items in the previous section, a sub-par list is one or more of: unwritten, unselective, too long, too short, or unrealistic.

A very common way of defining "good" goals is the acronym SMART. While physical therapist Christina Swann (2021) argues that this has been overused in the context of health care providers negotiating treatment goals with their patients, it's still helpful. The acronym, which originated in a 1981 business publication, stands for:

  • Specific - for many people, writing down a specific task lets them know when it's done.
  • Measurable - related to the above.
  • Achievable/Assignable - you know who will be working on the goal (you)
  • Realistic - essentially the same as achievable
  • Timebound - depending on how well time pressure works for you, this might be an incentive to not let the work expand to fill the available time (Parkinson's Law).
In researching for this post, I dove down a small rabbit hole into goal-setting theory as something more evidence-based than SMART. If you're curious, the essentials of this theory that relate to list and goal completion include the following:
  • Set a reasonably specific, somewhat challenging goal for yourself
  • Be clear enough to know when you have achieved your goal (SMART is one way to do so)
  • For team goals, make sure that everyone understands the "why" and is bought in
  • Give yourself feedback (by reflection) and/or solicit it periodically from others
  • Break down large, complex goals into smaller, simpler steps

What Reading Speeds are Best for a TBR? (i.e., what are the fastest and slowest reading strategies, and why should you choose them?)

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I'm the daughter of a retired reading specialist. So, in the back of my mind, the emphasis in reading is in the balance of quality and quantity. As such, there are a range of reading techniques for various reading speeds that you can choose, based on what you're reading and what your goals are for that reading. If you're familiar with what you're reading, you will understand it no matter how quickly you read.

Fastest Reading Speed

The brain can develop thoughts at up to 3,000 words per minute (wpm). However, around 500 wpm is considered the upper limit for retaining some understanding of what you're reading. By training, I am a physical therapist specializing in geriatrics. So, for almost anything related to that (my area of expertise), I can use a very fast speed to scan, say, a journal article in 1-5 minutes, while remembering the main points and following the argument. I do this by eliminating subvocalization (saying words aloud in my head) and deliberately scanning down a narrow column rather than letting my eyes move from left to right for every single row of text. This speed is also useful if I'm looking through a text for a particular point.

Moderate Reading Speed

This speed is around 250-500 wpm, for material that is a little less familiar or a little more complex. Most reading adults hover around 200-250 wpm, while college students in the thick of assignments can consistently read around 300 wpm. The more difficult a text, the higher the likelihood that I'll need to reread at least part of it. Notably, I can't keep up this speed in a nonfiction book I care about remembering if Baby is needing a portion of my attention. One tip that several friends have recommended to maintain the faster end of this speed while sustaining attention is to play an audiobook at 2x speed while following along in a print or Kindle version of the book.

Slowest Reading Speed

This speed is less than 250 wpm (most people speak around 160 wpm). Reading aloud accomplishes the slowing down of one's speed. I use this speed for very difficult or unfamiliar material such as philosophy. To help myself pay attention because I don't normally like to slow down, I may choose to read aloud, copy text, or take notes to maintain this speed.

Finally . . .

How to Hack Your TBR

I started out this post referencing the To-Do List. How do you get through both the To-Do and the TBR? And stay sane while doing so? I have a few strategies from personal experience for both neurotypical and neurodivergent (specifically folks I know with ADD/ADHD). One tip for the To-Do list that I recently adopted is from this video from the Minimal Mom: prioritize the top 3 items per day, and do those. Since doing that, I have felt more mental space for both the to-do tasks and the reading.

To-do list with items checked off and title "Hack Your TBR"

Neurotypical Tips

These are from Bona Fide Bookworm, with my commentary.

  • Make sure your home library is organized.
  • Eliminate books that have been on your TBR an uncomfortably long time (recording when you added each book to the TBR if possible).
  • Reevaluate each book that you're undecided on. Consider a rubric that assigns point values for each given attribute that's important to you.
  • Be very selective about adding new books to the list. I've said it before, but it bears repeating.
  • Have several books, from varied genres, in progress at any given time. My reading productivity and enjoyment skyrocketed as soon as I allowed myself to do this. That way, there's always something readable, no matter what my mood.
  • Consider audiobooks too. I haven't counted audio-only books in my book completion lists over the last few years, mostly because I don't end up listening to a book in its entirety. A big part of that is my inability to focus on work with an audiobook on (or even really interesting music), so I don't foresee that changing with my current career. But if it works for you, use it!

Neurodivergent Tips

Most of these from this article are geared at children. Adult ADHD looks different, regardless of how old you were when you were diagnosed. Notice the amount of overlap with the tips in the previous subsection:

  • Get in a small group of people who are reading at the same time (assuming they all prioritize reading over socializing at that time).
  • Minimize environmental distractions in terms of noise, visible objects, availability of screens, etc.
  • Consider judicious marking of the book while reading (e.g., sticky notes, underlining). Do not use if you are like one member of my family who gets distracted by non-text marks when reading! If you're not a book marker, take notes on a separate sheet of paper or notebook.
  • Ask questions (e.g. the SQ3R method)
  • Channel the excess energy and inattention by reading aloud, walking around, reading along with a faster-paced audiobook, and read during times when you have decent energy levels.

I hope this post has given you some actionable tips for your TBR and possibly your to-do list. Enjoy the reading year this year!

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Reflections, Myths, Tips and Tricks for Re-reading . . . and why you should do it this year!

Given that not a lot of people read quantities of books per year, period, why am I making the case for re-reading? Especially to you, dear reader, whose to-be-read pile of books you haven't read yet is probably around 20-100 titles?

During the first few months of 2023, when I'm indoors and at home more, I figured it would be a great time to revisit some books that have been helpful to me over the years. As you've been seeing from my reading list posts from 2021 and 2022, I've biased myself towards books that are new to me. Not necessarily recently published, but plenty that I haven't read before and some that I don't care to read again.

Why Me?

Why am I setting this goal of specifically re-reading a few books first? There are a couple of reasons:

  1. People change and grow as they work through life. I am no exception, and I'm interested to see how my thoughts and emotions react to a book years after the first read.
  2. The mind forgets things if not regularly reinforced and tested. This is a pretty basic concept in neuroscience, psychology, and many other fields. I don't want to forget the best stuff.
  3. I feel less guilty about the vast areas in our home library that I haven't read, once I can pinpoint on the shelves books that I'm familiar with. (Side note: of the 1000+ books we own, I brought in maybe a quarter of them to the marriage. Someone in the family is a librarian familiar with all the titles, and it isn't me.)
However, I'm only one person, with one person's opinion. Why should you think about rereading this year? According to Alison Doherty and Basmo, there are several strong reasons to selectively re-read some books, at certain times.

Why and How Should You (Not) Reread?

Benefits of rereading books include better reading fluency applicable to other material, deepening our understanding of the original material, improving our memory for the material (I'm looking at you, students), rekindling our love for reading after a dry season (I'm looking at you, self), and giving ourselves comfortable feelings.

There are a few drawbacks to rereading as well. When I was reading these in the Basmo article, these helped me formulate the how of rereading so that it wouldn't set me back in my reading and knowledge goals that are always burning in the back of my mind.

The first drawback is the time spent rereading. This cannot be spent reading something new at the same time. Therefore, I would spread out and punctuate my new reads with rereads. (While I'm rereading the 5 in my list below one right after the other, I am simultaneously working through some new books like The Robe.)

Second, excessive rereading means that all the new books on the shelf stay there. While they're pretty, that makes me sad. I'm using the same strategy, being selective about what I want to reread, and keeping that ratio rather low, to avoid this pitfall.

Third, people change over time, and thus might not enjoy a reread that they enjoyed the first time, whether for knowing what will happen (and not being surprised), being distracted by children and work in a later stage of life, or something else.

Given those pros and cons, Basmo recommends a five-part strategy for how to reread:
  • Choose high-worth books, not just the easy ones.
  • Allow yourself to skip very familiar passages.
  • Slow down and ponder the details.
  • Analyze the particulars of the language the author used.
  • Keep track of what you read and reread.

What Should I Reread?

What am I rereading for the year? At this point, here's my short list, with reasons for each:
  1. Holy Bible (New King James Version). I am a Christian, and have read the Bible roughly once per year since 7th grade. I see no reason to stop. 😊
  2. Structure of Scientific Revolutions (T. S. Kuhn). The first time I read this book--in the previous edition (there are 6!), it was required for a class. That was approximately 5 years, one marriage, two job changes, and one baby ago. Because of the philosophy-related reading over the last few years, plus more research experience, I wanted to see the book with fresh eyes. Hopefully I'll finish it this week. The first time around, I found using an outline really helpful. 
  3. Mama Bear Apologetics (H. Ferrer). As this one was a lot newer, I first read this on the recommendation of a few friends. In the intervening time, reading Carl Trueman brought history and apologetics together in a much sharper light and broader perspective. I want to see how Ferrer's book compares, given it was written for a similar audience.
  4. The Charlotte Mason Companion (K. Andreola). I can't remember how old I was when I first read this book, but the bottom line is that my education was a hybrid of Mason's principles and a classical model. Now that I have a little pre-student of my own, it's high time to reevaluate and formulate my educational philosophy.
  5. Wheelock's Latin (F. Wheelock). I think I went through the 6th edition of this around when I read the previous book on this list. Not to be outdone by my husband who is reviewing his Greek and learning Hebrew, I need to refresh my language skills.


Stack of familiar books on a towel

Beyond my picks, here are the top 10 classics that Goodreads recommends for re-reading.
  1. Pride and Prejudice (J. Austen). I read this back in college on the recommendation of a strong Jane Austen fan, can't recall liking it very much, but have been assured that it is worth re-reading for the veiled sarcasm alone. Adding it to the list . . .
  2. The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald). I haven't read this, period. Oops!
  3. 1984 (G. Orwell). I've read this twice, I think. Scary dystopian novel. Done!
  4. Jane Eyre (C. BrontΓ«). I can't remember whether I've read this, which probably means I haven't. 2 for 2 so far.
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird (H. Lee). Haven't read this either, but based on what I've read about it, I probably should before my little reaches high-school age.
  6. The Catcher in the Rye (J. D. Salinger). Haven't read this one. My batting average is down to 0.33.
  7. Sense and Sensibility (J. Austen). I may have read this, but can't remember.
  8. Wuthering Heights (E. BrontΓ«). I did read this one once, and somewhat enjoyed it. Given that Jane Austen has 3 books in the top 10 list, I should probably prioritize her instead.
  9. Brave New World (A. Huxley). I've read this once, as an adolescent. Quite scary. Maybe again later.
  10. Emma (J. Austen). Since I felt I had done my duty by reading Pride and Prejudice, I know I didn't read this one ever.


Re-reading a book every once in a while, even with a long to-read list, is a good thing to do. I've prioritized five somewhat-related re-reads for early this year. How about you?

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Reading with Babies . . . and More?

Whether you've had (a) child(ren) of your own or not, if you're reading this post chances are you want to spend more time reading, good books specifically. In this post, I hope to answer some of the most common questions, and a few uncommon ones, about reading + children.

As you may know, I had a baby in 2022. That changed a few things! Parenthood is still very much a work in process, but here is what I've learned from the experience of myself and others.

What are Benefits of Reading to my Baby? (Why do it at all?)

As the saying goes, you can't pour from an empty cup. So, if you have a newborn and are therefore suddenly deprived of unbroken sleep, the use of your second hand (except if baby wearing), and periods of silence for concentration, you need to benefit from what you are doing for your baby in order to be a better parent!

My husband and I have seen three benefits for ourselves, before and after our baby was born.

First, up to a certain age, babies genuinely don't care what reading material you pick. So, until your child is old enough to bring you a book and strongly request you to read it for the 17th time, you are (mostly) free to choose what interests you, or what you need to read anyway.

Second, you hone your ability to speak dramatically and clearly. This is sure to come in handy by the time your child(ren) is/are theater-aged!

Third, if you want to see how your baby will react to different accents or languages, infancy is a great time to practice your pronunciation of German, Greek, or Middle English. A friend of mine visited his goddaughter when she was 6 months old, and got a confused expression from her upon reading aloud a few paragraphs of Chaucer.

Research and experience show benefits for the babies as well (link here). Related to language, a child's language skills are strongly correlated with exposure in earlier life to spoken language. Specific language skills and elements that a baby learns from being read aloud to include: telling different sounds apart, hearing complex vocabulary, varying sentence structure and cadence, and rhyming. Additionally, reading aloud models standard and non-standard communication elements like turn-taking, gesturing, and intonation.

Babies gain non-language benefits from read-aloud too. They bond emotionally with whomever is speaking to them. One interesting other benefit I recently learned about is that attention span progressively improves as well, which is a prerequisite for building other habits (think Charlotte Mason). The rule of thumb is 2-3 minutes (some sources say up to 5) per year of the child's life, of focused attention.

When Should I Start Reading to my Baby?

Like many parents-to-be, I started talking to and reading to my baby before birth. It helped me bond mentally and emotionally, and familiarize my baby with the sound of my voice. After the birth, I would read aloud when baby was awake, and silently during naps. Due to our family work schedules and fatigue, I unfortunately lost consistency in this habit until baby was 6-8 months old (and started to show interest in books).

At this point, it was a mix of high-quality (read: interesting to adults!) board books and whatever I happened to be reading from my own list. More on those books below. Many good-quality research studies (summarized here) support reading out loud to one's children from birth.

How Can I Read After I Have a Baby?

How can you ensure you read for your own edification after the baby is born? I take these ten points of inspiration from Jocko Willink's podcast on the similar topic of keeping up workouts with a newborn:

  1. Make it happen whenever you can. I am a creature of habit, but this has become a necessity. So many things I thought I could only accomplish at set times of day or on set days of the week, have been pushed into the crevices of time in a newborn's and now almost-toddler's routine.
  2. Abandon thoughts of a set schedule. Same reaction as to the point above. This is harder for some than for others, and I credit my ability to follow this tip to mom brain.
  3. Make sure you take the time to sleep and do other necessary life-sustaining things, too. I'm always eating, and will not refuse a nap when the opportunity presents itself!
  4. Set up some home spaces with ready reading material. This ensures that you can make progress even if the baby has fallen asleep on your lap, in any chair in the house. It happens.
  5. Squeeze in brief periods throughout the day. These can also occur at night, especially in the newborn phase with a first child when you can take naps in daytime to compensate for nighttime sleep interruptions.
  6. While your children and family are first priority - and while life with children is (I think) better than life without - you have to stay healthy (mens sana in corpore sano) for them. By reading when they are very young and beyond, you provide intellectual food for them and set a positive example.
  7. Accept that you won't be in the best shape of your life. This is actually reversed for some people I know . . . as a case in point, my husband's reading frequency skyrocketed with baby.
  8. Tackle the priority of the moment at any given time (sleeping, eating, etc.). This means reading will fall by the wayside during some periods, especially when all the baby does is feed, poop, and cry.
  9. Something is better than nothing. Every little bit adds up!
  10. Lack of reading makes a habitual reader irritable. Your spouse will tell you to get back to that habit so you're more pleasant to be around. So true!

What Should I Read After I Have a Baby?

Very short answer: whatever you can!

My longer, subdivided answer, has Parent picks and Baby picks. My favorite books for myself after baby arrived were nonfiction related to my current pursuits (Anglicanism, homeschooling, and whatever philosophy I can understand without too much specialized vocabulary). Fiction picks have come from a box of Reader's Digest editions, so far, of 1700s-1900s novels, for when my brain can't handle nonfiction.

Baby picks have gotten to be more fun as the little one has gotten more interested in books. The picture below showcases the Christmas bookshelf, omitting some more fun titles (Veggie Tales devotionals, Quantum Physics for Babies, and Experimenting With Babies) that are nearer to the nursery. The overall principle is to follow Baby's visual and auditory development. So, the very first books will be high-contrast with black-and-white illustrations, particularly faces.

Here's what is featured in the picture below, left to right (most links are to Amazon or Concordia Publishing House):

Small bookshelf with science, Sandra Boynton, and Christian titles

Once we officially have a toddler on our hands, I look forward to revisiting some of my own childhood favorites:
  • Berenstain Bears
  • Boxcar Children
  • Nancy Drew
  • Chronicles of Narnia
I hope you enjoyed this post, for yourself, your child(ren), or friends with children. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Monday, January 2, 2023

2023 Year in Preview: What to Expect Each Month

Welcome back, readers and writers-about-reading! In the spirit of setting goals for the new year, I intend to post every week to this blog, with quality content you can look forward to and gain inspiration from. Here's a sneak peek at what is coming up in 2023 . . .

πŸ‘‰ January - barriers to goals

πŸ’— February - love(s)

πŸ’ͺ March - spring cleaning and self-improvement

πŸ™ April - Easter and other theology

πŸ‘‹ May - graduation and transitions

😎 June - the greater and lesser outdoors

🏰 July - history and politics

πŸ““ August - more and less academic picks

πŸŽƒ September - autumn comfort

πŸ’§ October - options for drearier weather

πŸŽ„ November - holiday fiction and nonfiction

πŸ‘ˆ December - year in review

Happy reading!

Saturday, December 31, 2022

How to Read When You Don't Feel Like Reading

We know that we should be reading more. It's always a New Year's goal of mine! Even my husband, who spends each vacation day reading for at least 8 hours, wants to be reading more. But how do you get yourself to read when you really don't feel like it (which is often the case for me, despite the book lists from 2021 and 2022 of what I did finish reading)? I hope to offer some tips and useful advice, for myself first and then you, readers, in this post.

How to Read More

My mother was a reading specialist before she retired. She especially enjoyed working with kids with dyslexia, or those for whom English was not their first language. Whomever she was working with, she realized that the powerful benefits of reading lie in a combination of the quantity and quality of what one reads.

So, one ingredient of the more-reading recipe is quantity: reading more begets more reading. It takes time and sustained, repeated effort to form a habit, and a reading-habit is no different in this respect from any other habit. For me, the first month is the hardest, but then it becomes second nature.

Also, the momentum I developed from just writing down and numbering the titles I had read for the last few years is a huge confidence booster. Before I took that step, I read maybe 5-10 books per year, outside of work. As someone who grew up reading constantly, I wanted to continue that as an adult but let it slide for too many years.

Related to the book lists, the other part of the quantity side, for me, was setting an ambitious but achievable goal. Because I wanted to increase my reading but actually achieve it, I chose 20 as the target number of books because it translated to (1) much more than what I had been completing and (2) along the lines of 1-2 books per month, which I felt I could certainly do.

What about quality? I think this ingredient is equally important because what we put into our minds will eventually make its way out in thoughts, words, and actions, for better or for worse. For my 2021 and 2022 goals, this meant that I was choosing nonfiction before fiction, higher before lower reading level, and consistent versus inconsistent with my moral values.

Many people may think of nonfiction as "boring" - but what could be more interesting than some aspect of real life, well told and expressively written? Plus, nonfiction fills the mind with what is real, and the way in which it is written and the motives behind its authorship can have a distinct influence on the reader's thought process. I'm not talking about just history or textbooks here, but expanding my mental conception of "nonfiction" to include things like poetry about the design of tree branches and snowflakes, ideas for outdoor time (like 1000 Hours Outside), and *****.

Reading level can be tricky. Most of the U. S. population reads at a 7th or 8th grade level. Some examples of books written at this level, as 2022, are The Hobbit, Little Women, most novels by Jules Verne, and The Secret Garden. (I had a hard time finding nonfiction written at this level...perhaps more on that in a future post.)

The reading-muscle rises to the challenge of a higher level when that level is just above where you're at now. This also depends on the subject matter you're engaging with. My interests include physical therapy, nature, and education. Give me something at a very high grade reading level in those areas, and I can handle it easily. Something like modal logic or knitting patterns? Not so much.

As for the last criterion, values/ethics, that is something I could talk about for a much longer series of posts. My husband might, too, if I can get him to guest contribute at some point. My very brief thought on this, however, is that everyone has a value system, even if they don't think they do. Figure out what yours is, and the implications of those values (which can be a long process sometimes), and choose reading material in line with that.

Why You Might Not Enjoy Reading (Why You Might Struggle to Read)

Short answer: it's hard!

Longer answer: what I mean by "hard" is "harder than other things I could be doing." Some distractions I think many of us can identify with include our phones, our children, our news feeds, and our jobs. I am blessed to have grown up in and currently live in a setting where reading is valued . . . but it's still hard. To make the habit of reading a little easier to resume, I found this the concept of dopamine fasting helpful.

How You Can Grow to Enjoy Reading More (Again)

These are five things that have helped me to get back into a pleasurable reading habit:

  • Decide that reading is worth it!
  • Keep a stack of varied books-in-progress on my TV table on my side of the sofa.
  • Write down the books I finish (even if I don't really enjoy them) to keep myself accountable.
  • Maintain friendships with reading folks like Beth.
  • Put the TV in the basement, keep the phone on silent and in my pocket.
What are your other tips? Feel free to put them in the comments below.

Monday, December 26, 2022

2022: Books I’ve read

Lots of people have New Year's goals. My goal for this 2022 was to read 20 “fun” books (any not required for my job!). Feel free to peruse the list below of books that I read this year, with my mini-reviews. I hope you find some that you have enjoyed or are curious about reading yourself!

Books I Read Before my Baby was Born

1. Thinking, Fast and Slow (D. Kahneman). Finished 1/8/22. Daniel won the 2002 Nobel prize in economics and waxes autobiographical in this explanation of his research career. The central idea is that our two “selves” (automatic, stereotyping System 1 and fatigable, more logical System 2) interact to guide our reactions to and conceptions of the world. System 1 dominates most of the time, but System 2 can be trained to work more consistently to allow true critical thinking.

2. Babywise (R. Bucknam and G. Ezzo). Finished 1/9/22, probably reading a second time this year. The parent-directed feeding approach described is a middle ground between on-demand and scheduled infant feeding. Retrospective studies referenced indicate equal or better weight gain outcomes and nighttime sleep of at least 7 hours by 6-8 weeks of age. Some typos near the end but otherwise an easy, informational read.

3. I Love Jesus, but I Want to Die (S. Robinson). Finished 1/11/22, worth a second read and a spot in my office. Sarah deals with chronic and recurrent depression and anxiety, and offers this book as a "walk alongside" people, especially fellow Christians, who may feel guilt and shame that faith alone does not heal them. Chapters are autobiographical, with comprehensive resource recommendations throughout as well as in an appendix.

4. Mother and Baby Care in Pictures (L. Zabriskie, 1941). Finished 1/12/22, a fun picture-based book. My mother gifted me this book last year after receiving it from her mother-in-law. It’s interesting to see how recommendations and customs for prenatal care through toilet training have changed over the years.

5. What Does This Mean: Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Post-Modern World (J. W. Voelz). Finished 2/2/22, a decent reference text but not one for a second round of pleasure reading! My husband and I are attending an apologetics class at our church, and this Lutheran text describes how sound interpretation, the foundation of sound doctrine that can be defended, has been done, spanning the postmodern era but incorporating older sources as well.

6. Mama Bear Apologetics (edited by H. M. Ferrer). Finished 2/7/22, a great introduction to worldview apologetics for the Christian, focused on mothers/mother figures. I will read this again in the future as needed. Worldviews include rationalism, progressive Christianity, feminism, and Marxism. The text acknowledges the strengths of each worldview while walking the reader through the “chew and spit” discernment process.

7. The Peter Principle (L. J. Peter & R. Hull). Finished 2/11/22, a satirical inspection of promotion-to-incompetence, the effects thereof, and strategies to avoid this otherwise inescapable phenomenon. My husband and I have had supervisors of varying competence through our careers so far, and my decision to read this book was inspired by one in particular.

What Books I Read in the Newborn Stage

8. Grasping God's Word (J. S. Duvall & J. D. Hays). Finished 3/9/22 after my baby was born. This unexpected good find of a college-level textbook was accessible at a trained lay level as an introduction to exegesis of the Scriptures. I intend to reference it, share it, and use it in education and study.

9. Someone to Walk With: a Woman's Guide to Christian Mentoring (D. Paape). Finished 3/17/22, a practical guide to mentoring intergenerationally within a Christian institutional context. Using many biblical narratives including John’s account of the Samaritan woman at the well, Darcy brings the reader along in conversation about aspects of mentor relationships.

10. Single Case Experimental Designs: Strategies for Studying Behavior Change (D. H. Barlow, M. K. Nock, M. Hersen). Finished 3/26/22, an older edition of a classic textbook on experimental methods using one case at a time as opposed to groups in a randomized controlled trial design. This text expands on the basics that I already knew from teaching evidence-based practice courses and taking PhD-level statistics.

11. Seven Things I Wish Christians Knew about the Bible (M. F. Bird). Finished 3/30/22, a surprisingly dense and engaging read by comedic theologian, priest, and seminary professor. Because I enjoy providing theological content, here is the summary (cited from the back cover and appendix)!

  • How the Bible was put together
  • What "inspiration" means
  • How the Bible is true
  • Why the Bible needs to be rooted in history
  • Why literal interpretation is not always the best interpretation
  • How the Bible gives us knowledge, faith, love, and hope
  • How Jesus Christ is the center of the Bible
Appendix of key Old Testament scriptures with which to preach the Gospel:
  • Psalm 118:22-26
  • Leviticus 19:18
  • Psalm 110:1, 4
  • Daniel 7:13
  • Psalm 2:7
What Books I Read Returning to Work

12. Teach Students How to Learn (S. Y. McGuire). Finished 4/3/22, a simple yet effectively profound take on learning strategies for the college and graduate classroom. McGuire combines metacognition, motivation, and Bloom’s taxonomy in a way that can be presented in a single classroom lecture and, once applied, can increase test grades by 1-2 letter grades.

13. Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today (N. T. Wright). Finished 4/6/22, a lay-level exploration of one aspect of Wright's theology that is explored at a higher level in his ongoing 5-volume project. I find it easier to understand Wright when I listen to him rather than read his work, which is apparently typical for many would-be readers.

14. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What we can Do (C. M. Steele). Finished 4/14/22, a popular-level summary of the results and implications of Dr. Steele's research career related to why minority groups underperform in academia and other societal endeavors. Stereotype threat is a major factor impacting physiology and cognition, effectively making any person in a stereotyped group dual-task unless the threat is reduced by (1) emphasis on learning, (2) mentorship style communicating confident high standards and belief in one's ability to meet them, and (3) information emphasizing the aspects of a challenging experience that are common to all regardless of group status.

15. Diffusion of Innovations (5th ed.) (E. M. Rogers). Finished 4/14/22 (sort of), Rogers' classic text provides detailed examples and explanation of the concept of an innovation adoption curve. The total number of adopters of an innovation, over time, forms a slanted S shape, and the breakdown of how many adopters are in each category (early, middle, late, nonadopters) forms a skewed bell curve. I read this because a PhD colleague focused her dissertation on innovation in nursing.

16. To Be a Christian: an Anglican Catechism (ACNA, 2020). Finished 4/21/22, this official catechism of the Anglican Church in North America is a document both of us are reading as we investigate the teachings of this denomination

17. Family Cycles (W. L. Carter). Finished 5/2/22, this popular-level text by a marriage and family therapist discusses reasons and practical solutions for generational problems in communication among family members, specifically parents and children.

18. The Heritage of Anglican Theology (J. I. Packer). Finished 5/15/22, this posthumously published historical survey traces the history of Anglicanism in an easy-to-understand way. My husband will be reading this book once he finishes the 4 or 5 he's working through, as we learn more about the ACNA.

19. Anglicanism: a Reformed Catholic Tradition (G. Bray). Finished 5/30/22, this short explanation of the Anglican statement of faith (the 39 Articles) traces the rationale for each article through the history of the Anglican Church.

20. The Empowered Wife: Six Surprising Secrets for Attracting your Husband's Time, Attention, and Affection (L. Doyle). Finished 6/4/22 (goal MET for this year!), this self-help book on relationships is surprisingly helpful and reasonably evidence-based, aimed at wives. Mrs. Midwest recommended the book on her blog. The "secrets" are to
  • focus on self-care (what makes you, the wife, happy in the moment)
  • restore or increased verbalized respect for your husband (even if you disagree!) and his autonomy
  • give up controlling your husband (again, because he is his own person)
  • receive gifts - simply say "Thank you!" and leave it at that
  • learn vulnerability with your husband
  • refocus on expressing gratitude for the little and big things. GOAL MET!
What Books I Read Beyond my Goal

21. M is for Mama: A Rebellion against Mediocre Motherhood (A. Halberstadt). Finished 7/8/22, this long-in-the-making book gives practical, Christ- and Scripture-centered advice for navigating motherhood centered on faith and the fruits of the Spirit. Abbie also has a website with more frequently updated content.

22. Hermeneutics: An Introduction (A. Thiselton). Finished 7/23/22, this introductory textbook traces the history of the discipline of how to study the Scriptures, based on philosophical and linguistic traditions. Admittedly, I did not retain much of what I read (because I wasn't taking notes or slowing down enough!). However, Thiselton is one of the bigger names in the discipline, so is worth becoming familiar with.

23. The Anglican Way (T. McKenzie). Finished 8/1/22, this easy read outlines the essentials of the historic Anglican tradition and its closest adherents today, members of the Anglican Church in North America. 

24. The Well-Trained Mind (J. Wise and S. Wise Bauer). Finished 8/21/22, this updated resource (1982 then 1999) provides a thorough explanation and outline for completing up to 12 years of a classical education curriculum at home. As someone who was homeschooled through high school, I found the text balanced, albeit dated with some information toward the end on college admissions and internet-based resources.

25. Breaking the Social Media Prism (C. Bail). Finished 8/27/22, this book summarizes several social science studies that the author designed for social media users. Surprising (and debatable, according to my husband) findings include the need for real-life or anonymous online conversations to help people understand others' political views and moderate their own.

26. When Strivings Cease (R. Simons). Finished 9/17/22, this Reformed perspective on the individual understanding of the grace of God and its outworking on the Christian mind and life was an artistic read. Ruth is mother to 6 boys, with a Chinese-American background, both of which inform how she discusses grace.

27. The Lost World of Genesis One (J. Walton). Finished 9/17/22, this short read lays out Walton's cosmic-temple interpretation of Genesis 1 incorporating historical context of the ancient Near East, a knowledge of Hebrew lexicons, and a high view of God and Scripture. I had not heard of this perspective until less than a year ago.

28. Systematic Theology (A. Thiselton). Finished 9/24/22, this concise introduction to systematics from an Anglican perspective with 15 equal-length chapters. It is meant to spur curiosity and help the student/reader see the broad range of historical perspectives on important theological topics, while being short enough to complete in one semester.

29. Won by Love (N. McCorvey). Finished 9/27/22, this quick autobiographical read is by "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade. It tells how she was involved in the abortion industry almost by accident, then was brought kicking and screaming to Jesus Christ and started her own pro-life ministry.

30. Teaching What You Don’t Know (T. Huston). Finished 9/30/22, this was recommended to me by a slightly newer colleague. As someone with less than 2 years of full time teaching experience in an academic setting, I greatly appreciated Therese’s practical strategies and reassurance. 

31. The Mother’s Almanac (M. Kelly & E. Parsons). Finished 10/31/22, this sassy 1970s book gives age-appropriate, from-scratch ideas for thriving in and enjoying the child-rearing years. 

32. Nervous Energy (C. Carmichael). Finished 11/2/22, this self-help book is unfortunately based more on an explicitly Eastern mindset than I would like, but the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy tools described for harnessing anxiety are supported by adequate research evidence. I am already incorporating the techniques with my students. 

33. Intimate Allies (D. Allender & T. Longman). Finished 11/4/22, this mix of psychology and theological commentary explains five core issues/questions for married couples in light of Genesis 1-3 and other key passages. 

34. Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, 2nd Ed (S. McCutcheon). Finished 11/13/22, this classic explanation of the Bradley Method of unmedicated childbirth has additional references to and interpretation of clinical trials, evidence syntheses, and a layman’s distinction between the layers and types of evidence-based practice. 

35. The Trivium (M. Joseph). Finished 11/22/22, this classic by Sister Miriam Joseph uses a Thomist approach to describe and give examples of the components of the three parts of classical-education liberal arts: logic, grammar, and rhetoric. 

36. The Coddling of the American Mind (G. Lukianoff & J. Haidt). Finished 11/30/22, this book-club book documents causes, effects, and possible solutions for the culture of safetyism most commonly seen in Generation Z.

37. Reading Romans Backwards (S. McKnight). Finished 12/12/22, this book that engages with scholarship without actually quoting any (by the author's own description) communicates a rationale and method for reading the early chapters of Romans in light of the later chapters. I plan to read it again when I come to Romans in my daily Bible reading.

38. Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self (C. Trueman). Finished 12/21/22, this book traces the historical development of the modern concept of therapeutic/psychological/sexually politicized selfhood, its natural expression in the transgender and LGBTQ+ movements, and implications for Christians. It has a shorter summary in the book Strange New World, also by Trueman.

39. Irreversible Damage (A. Shrier). Finished 12/25/22, this highly contested book describes the author's exploration of the separate but related phenomena of transgenderism related to (1) lifelong gender dysphoria and (2) adolescent-onset (and usually temporary) dysphoria precipitated by prolonged social media use and peer group exposure to influencing ideas.

40. Little Women (L. M. Alcott). Finished 12/23/22 on the nth re-read, this classic 1800s fiction novel (in two parts!) has been a long-time favorite of mine. I wrote a separate post (12/24/22) about reflections on books 38-40 on this list.

What books did you read and enjoy this year? Feel free to share below in the comments!

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Little Women Re-read: Identifying with Jo March in a Cultural Transition

I have been routinely reading through three or four books at a time, this year. My husband encouraged me to do this rather than sticking to one book at a time, and now I can see why. The biggest advantage of this method is that I always have a book that fits my mood to turn to, no matter what mood I'm in.  

This month, the books were Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl R. Trueman (2020), Little Women (Louisa May Alcott, 1868-1869), and Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier (2020). Themes of concurrent reads don't often line up as closely as they did, so this was a fascinating experience.

Book Summaries

Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self

I would like to summarize the books from longest to shortest. At 400+ pages, Rise and Triumph has first place in this category. It is actually a middle-length historical synthesis of several thinkers including Phillip Rieff and Alasdair MacIntyre. Although this book is highly accessible in terms of writing style to someone able to read at a 12th-ish grade level, it is still very long for the busy pastor or interested lay person. If you'd like a shorter, 8th-10th grade level summary, I recommend Trueman's Strange New World, with chapters written in parallel, and even including study/discussion questions.

A great summary (aimed at pastors and priests) of Rise and Triumph is over at 9marks. This book compares modern-day Christians to Rip Van Winkle--unaware that they are part of the culture around them and are not actually the anticulture. The book's historical threads bring them up to speed; because of cultural change, although most Christians have absorbed many aspects of the culture, they as a group are thought of as harmful. So, what history is relevant? Over the last 3-4 centuries, certain key thinkers have influenced and marked a "death of God" in the larger Western culture.

Central concepts and theories that link the key thinkers' ideas together are (1) mimesis versus poiesis and (2) Rieff's three-worlds concept. Mimesis refers to imitating an existing order extra nos (outside of us)--whatever the source of that order. Poiesis, by contrast, refers to humans creating their own order or reality. The three "worlds" of Phillip Rieff refer to three attitudes or worldviews. The first "world" is that of a pagan, whose morality is based on widely accepted myths. The second "world" is that of a believer, whose morality is based on faith in God. The third "world" is actually an anticulture, because it is essentially secular and based on rejecting the notion of a god.

Now, we get to the path of the concept of the "self." Rosseau, in the 1700s, explained the concept of the "psychological self" which led to expressive individualism (i.e., the individual's self-exaltation and self-fulfillment is the most important). Next, the poets Wordsworth, Shelley, and Blake, in the late 1700s-1800s, popularized Rousseau's ideas into the "romantic self" and the idea of a therapeutic culture (i.e., an individual's surroundings should focus on supporting his or her mental world which is more important than a potentially contradictory physical reality). 

Nietsche, Marx, and Darwin, in the 1800s, built on these same ideas to produce the idea of the "plastic self" (i.e., each person can remake his or her own identity at will). Finally, Freud, in the early 1900s, put forth the idea of the "sexual self" (i.e., each human is fundamentally a sexual/sexualized being from infancy onward). Based on this train of historical thought, Marcuse, in the mid-1900s, developed the "sexually politicized self" (i.e., sexuality is used politically, and nothing less than active support of a person's sexual identity is tolerable).

Little Women

This is actually a pair of novels, the first published in 1868 and the next in 1869. The story traces the lives of four March girls, Meg, Jo (Josephine), Amy, and Beth in decreasing age order. Meg's marriage marks the beginning of the second novel (Part 2). Meg has a "proper" personality, Jo a "boyish," Amy an "artistic," and Beth a "mousy" temperament, if I had to pick a single adjective for each. Part 1 sees the girls in early- to mid-adolescence (12-16 years old), and all are adults (with the exception of the late Beth) by the end of Part 2. Through varied adventures, each girl grows into a woman and marries with children.

Irreversible Damage

I am not all the way through this book, but do know enough to say that the Wikipedia article about it currently misrepresents the theme. As someone with a decent amount of research training, including a PhD in health sciences, I can say that she has done due diligence to investigate multiple angles and interpret the extant literature (or lack thereof) on the phenomenon of what Lisa Littman's 2018 article in PLoS One (a prominent general science journal) called Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD). (Side note: a conference on that topic is documented here.) 

Shrier correctly notes that the recent surge in cases of adolescent girls suddenly declaring themselves trans and insisting on hormone/Lupron administration is distinct from cases of classically defined, life-long gender dysphoria in both presentation and clinical course.

Common Themes

Perhaps not surprisingly from the summaries above, common themes of the three books encompass gender manifestations and gender identity in a given cultural and historical context. Little Women portrays the dominant United States and western European cultures of the late 1800s, where most women married young, raised their children or other's children (as governesses or school teachers), and ruled peaceful homes so that their husbands could pursue fulfilling careers in ministry, business, or service. Traditional Christian morality pervaded the culture, reinforcing standards of conduct and traditional virtues of "prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice . . . faith, hope, and love." Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self traces how this type of culture became displaced by Rieff's "third world" anticulture, and Irreversible Damage shows the tail end of a manifestation of this anticulture.

Additional Reflections on Rise and Triumph

The 9marks summary highlights salient questions for Christians and others to consider:

  • How is it possible (logically and/or practically) possible, if at all, to have the inner (psychological) self actually be more real than the biological self?
  • What is the source of dignity and authenticity--God or the self?
  • Should Christians use the world's categories for sexuality in their own thinking, writing, and reasoning? "To concede the categories can concede the argument."
  • Given the history leading up to the psychological, sexually politicized self, is there any logical barrier to concluding (from the anticulture's rhetoric and documents) that pedophilia, polygamy, and incest are okay?
More points and quotes from the summary:

  • According to the anticulture, "who you think you are is your real identity . . . However, for one's identity to flourish, it must be acknowledged by others. The technical term for that identity is dialogical; in other words, it relies on language which is only developed through interaction with others."
  • "The Bible draws lines where current secular ideology wants no lines."
  • Interestingly, as a consequence of the history summarized in the background above, even the legal system reasons based on aesthetic appearance and emotional supremacy. Additionally, pornography is widely accepted because of the changed societal view of sex.
  • Highly recommend reading Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue after this.
  • The LGBTQ+ alliance is by exclusion of cis/hetero norms. No two categories "fit" together naturally.
Concluding Personal Reflections

I started this post referring to re-reading Little Women. For readers who haven't read that book in a while or at all, here is a summary of Jo's character development. As an early adolescent (15 years old), she did things that were not "proper" for girls in her era to do, such as lie on the rug at home and persist in boyish habits and mannerisms. She was not happy at the prospect of growing up into a young lady, and was disappointed in being born a girl. Perpetually outspoken and frank, in the awkward phase of adolescence, she spent years learning how to control her tongue and temper. Her mother allowed or encouraged her to develop practical "non-girl" skills including carpentry.

Her early training was in serving her Aunt March, which worked on her rough edges. As a girl and young lady, she had a short, hot temper and excess self-efficacy in her cooking skills. Her friendship with Laurie (Theodore Laurence, around her age) was always platonic--she was sure she could never love him romantically, though he grew into infatuation over time. Most of her friends and relatives were girls, so she especially treasured the friendship with Laurie. 

Through adolescence, she worked hard to master her temper and imitate good character models, although she was at times taken up in secular philosophy and money-making by writing "trash" below her level of morality. She learned when to speak and when to hold her tongue from several personal mistakes, and continued to be frank with Laurie and others. Once married to the older Professor Bhaer, she singlehandedly developed a boarding school for boys in her late aunt's estate. She matured, yet always preferred the chaos of being surrounded by boys and young men whose character she and the Professor shaped.

As a tomboy, I always identified with Jo March. A Millennial child of Gen X parents (and without social media by choice until I went to college), I had only brothers growing up and, while I preferred spending time with female friends more, I don't know what I would have done with a sister in the family. Also, I enjoyed writing and coming up with improbable/dramatic stories, as Jo did. My favorite forms of physical activity were/are walking, tree climbing, ice skating, and otherwise outdoorsy, level-surface activities. 

Also, like Jo, I didn't particularly enjoy being a girl or woman, at times well into my twenties. This was due to the privilege I saw afforded to my brothers by my parents, and after puberty the facts of cyclical soreness and other changes. Connecting this to Irreversible Damage, I can see that I was spared the mental health issues so prevalent among teenage girls today, due to my peer group selection and my late, practical entrance into social media.

What do you think of these books? Feel free to engage with their ideas in the comments!

    Thursday, December 15, 2022

    Upcoming blog content: What would you like to see?

    Hello, loyal readers! I would like to get more regular in posting to this page again. After some life changes, I've narrowed and changed the direction of what I'm knowledgeable enough and interested enough in to write blog posts about. What content would you be interested in, from the below or similar topics?

    • Physical therapy (geriatrics specifically)
    • Babies and infant development
    • University education
    • Christian/classical education
    • Books to read
    • Writing nonfiction and research
    • Quality improvement, quality assurance and performance improvement (QAPI)
    • Psychosocial aspects of health care
    • Frugal home decorating and homemaking
    • Tales from the nursing home and home health agency
    • Walking anywhere and everywhere
    • Life in southeastern Wisconsin

    Tuesday, September 7, 2021

    2021: Books I've Read

    Due to a lot of life changes, I'm not posting as much on here any more. However, I'm going to at least try to give some useful book recommendations based on what I've read in a given year, starting with this one.

    Books I've read and would read again:

    1. A. W. Tozer trilogy: The Knowledge of the Holy, God's Pursuit of Man, and The Pursuit of God
    2. Spiritual Warrior's Prayer Guide
    3. Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum
    4. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview
    5. Women of the Word
    6. Welcome Home (M. Smith)
    7. Six Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity Without Getting Complicated
    8. Applied Thematic Analysis (Guest & MacQueen)
    9. Life Together (D. Bonhoeffer)
    10. Book of Concord: Reader's Edition
    11. The Courage to Teach
    12. Fault Lines (V. Baucham)
    13. Clinical Practice to Academia
    14. What's the Use of Lectures?
    15. Happiest Baby on the Block
    16. Designing Clinical Research
    17. Writing your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day
    18. 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology
    19. Grit (A. Duckworth)
    20. When Children Became People (O. M. Bakke)
    21. Advent for Everyone: Luke (N. T. Wright)
    22. Experimenting with Babies

    Books I've read just to say I've read them:

    1. Taking our Cities for God
    2. FEW Devotions for Health
    3. How Qualitative Data Analysis Happens
    4. Made for Friendship
    5. Start with Why (Sinek)
    6. Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing
    7. The Science of Self-Learning
    8. How to Teach Anything
    9. Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets (H. Freeman, 1974)
    10. Ultralearning
    11. The Word Becoming Flesh (H. D. Hummel)
    12. Finding God’s Peace in Trials (E. George)