From Beth-Anne Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving The Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D. A follow-up book to Why Gender Matters, this is a readable and well-researched book that offers copious statistical data to back up his anecdotal claims that video games, teaching methods, prescription drugs, environmental toxins and the devaluation of masculinity are hindering the educational success of boys. Sax challenged my notion of competition and violence while encouraging me to change the way that I communicate with my boys. For example when trying to get a compassionate response from your son instead of saying: “How would you feel if you were X?” try, “What would you do if you were X?” Sax’s books will always have a place on my shelf as they offer insight, practical suggestions and support for parents. Lean In: Women, Work And The Will To Lead by Sheryl Sandberg Earlier this week I wrote about how Sandberg has added relevancy to the ongoing “women, work and guilt” conversation. Never professing to “have it all” or that “you can have it all”, Sandberg does encourage women (regardless of their employment status) to demand more, accept support and move forward with purpose. Of course some of her comments made me bristle. Such as when she chastises a man for playing soccer with his friends the afternoon his child was born, but a few chapters later she admits to seizing her Blackberry to return emails just hours after her own baby’s delivery. Regardless, Sandberg doesn’t strike me as someone who wants everyone to agree with her, she wants to pull back the curtain and expose the realities for working women and get people talking. My only wish is that a powerful stay-at-home mom would write a passionate, well-researched manifesto encouraging stay-at-home mothers to abandon the guilt and lean-into their life to find happiness and that this book would resonate on the level Sandberg’s has, revolutionizing the way women view their place in the home. The House At Riverton by Kate Morton After reading lots of non-fiction this month, I opted for this debut novel from the acclaimed author of The Distant Hours. Ever since I read The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence for high school English class, I have loved historical novels tethered to the present by a strong narrator. The House at Riverton is The Great Gatsby meets The Remains of the Day and had me hooked from the first few pages.
My reading is almost exclusively England-related these days. We are travelling to England in the summer, and I have been loving reading our guide books. If you are traveling with kids, I highly recommend the DK (Dorling Kindersley) series of Family Guides. We used their New York City guide for March Break, and it was invaluable. The descriptions for each attraction feature a “Letting off Steam” paragraph that tells you where the kids can have a quick run around, and a comprehensive “Eat and Drink” section with restaurant recommendations at several levels of formality for places to fill hungry tummies. Now I’m on to the London one and finding all kinds of exciting things to do, like three months’ worth in one week. We will need a holiday after this holiday.
Also for the Anglophile, I’ve just read Barbara Pym’s Jane and Prudence. Pym has a wonderfully sly and dry wit, and Jane and Prudence was exactly the read I needed to offset the “it’s all about me” trap I can fall into when I get too busy. None of her characters escape the narrator’s skewering, and I just took delight in a perspective that did not let a single person rest on her laurels. Jilly Cooper pays wonderful homage to Barbara Pym here, doing much better justice to the book that I am able to at the moment.
You are All Just Jealous of My Jet Pack is a fabulous collection of Tom Gauld’s cartoons for The Guardian. This is a perfect gift for any literature lovers in your life. Again, sly, dry wit. I have that rather unsettling feeling after reading this collection that I absolutely must have everything he’s ever done. It led me to buy a copy of The Three Musketeers, for which he’d only designed the cover. (The perils of buying online.) I’ve taken that one back, but am still intent on having more of his work. Good thing we’re going to London!
My husband and I are really trying to expand our garden, and dipping our toes into the fascinating world of permaculture (“permanent” and “culture” or “agriculture”) as well as into Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway, a key book in the field. One definition is: “the conscious design and maintenance of cultivated ecosystems which have the diversity, stability & resilience of natural ecosystems”. Our garden is very, very far from this, but we are dreaming about what our small urban backyard garden might one day be. For support on the ground now, we’ve also got The Everything Small-Space Gardening Book by Catherine Abbott.
Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson is also on the night table (actually it’s on the floor somewhere). Recommended by a friend, it’s supposed to show you how to positively, not punitively, establish limits for children with respect and love. Although the author does recognize her own repeated mistakes, this book (necessarily?) suffers like many other parenting books from a know-it-all tone and makes me feel guilty. But I seem able to tolerate these things so for now, I’ll keep reading it, because if there’s a good overall message, I want to know it, or be reminded of what I know, and to centre myself a bit more with my boys when things go awry.
It’s not often I go to a new friend’s home for dinner and stumble across a niche book about sustainability that I haven’t heard of. But that’s how I found Making Home by Sharon Astyk. I’m only 40 pages in, but know it belongs on my bookshelf with other treasures about how the personal is political, how living consciously and well requires living with less in some ways, but having so much more in others.