Archive of ‘Non-Fiction’ category

Review: Neurotribes

From Goodreads: What is autism? A lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius? In truth, it is all of these things and more—and the future of our society depends on our understanding it. WIRED reporter Steve Silberman unearths the secret history of autism, long suppressed by the same clinicians who became famous for discovering it, and finds surprising answers to the crucial question of why the number of diagnoses has soared in recent years.

Going back to the earliest days of autism research and chronicling the brave and lonely journey of autistic people and their families through the decades, Silberman provides long-sought solutions to the autism puzzle, while mapping out a path for our society toward a more humane world in which people with learning differences and those who love them have access to the resources they need to live happier, healthier, more secure, and more meaningful lives.

Along the way, he reveals the untold story of Hans Asperger, the father of Asperger’s syndrome, whose “little professors” were targeted by the darkest social-engineering experiment in human history; exposes the covert campaign by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner to suppress knowledge of the autism spectrum for fifty years; and casts light on the growing movement of “neurodiversity” activists seeking respect, support, technological innovation, accommodations in the workplace and in education, and the right to self-determination for those with cognitive differences.

Erin’s Thoughts: My earliest memories of autism are with my uncle who hardly spoke, lived with my grandparents, and was obsessed with organs (the musical kind). I spent time in high school volunteering in a day school for students with special needs, many of whom had autism. I grew up to be a special education teacher and welcomed a great number of children with autism and their families into my heart. Over the years, while loving many people on the autism spectrum, I’ve sought to learn as much about autism as I can. I have read a lot of books. A lot. I’ve read the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly. All of this to say that when I tell you that Neurotribes is not only one of the best books on the subject that I’ve ever read, but destined to become critical reading on autism in the future…well, I’m speaking with a touch of experience.

Despite being pretty familiar with the names Kanner, Asperger, Rimland, Lovaas, and many others, I learned so much from Steve SIlberman’s detailed, well-researched, and engaging work. This book really is the legacy of autism.  Silberman deftly describes the existence of autism as a neurodiversity throughout history while also shining a light on the work of many professionals who have defined and redefined autism throughout the years. You do not have to be a psychologist or educator to understand this book.  Even if you’re only experience with autism is Rain Man (it isn’t, trust me), this book is highly accessible and completely enlightening.  Neurotribes joins the ranks of Unstrange Minds by Roy Richard Grinker and the works of Temple Grandin as my most highly recommended reading on autism.

Review: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik

From Goodreads: You can’t spell truth without Ruth.
Only Ruth Bader Ginsburg can judge me.
The Ruth will set you free.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg never asked for fame—she was just trying to make the world a little better and a little freer. But along the way, the feminist pioneer’s searing dissents and steely strength have inspired millions. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, created by the young lawyer who began the Internet sensation and an award-winning journalist, takes you behind the myth for an intimate, irreverent look at the justice’s life and work. As America struggles with the unfinished business of gender equality and civil rights, Ginsburg stays fierce. And if you don’t know, now you know.

Jennie’s Thoughts:

I am a total fangirl of RBG and I am not ashamed. When I found out about this book, it immediately went on my wish list. I’m pretty sure I legit squealed when I opened it over Christmas. All this to say that I had high expectations.

And those expectations were exceeded. This book was phenomenal. It contains such awesome depth, from biographical details of her early life and marriage. To humorous artwork and Notorious BIG lyrics as chapter headings. (Seriously!)

And, there are numerous timelines and charts that give a great overview of the entire feminist journey, providing the reader with a history of many of the disgustingly outrageous biases towards women. One of my favorite aspects is the legal briefs that include notations to explain the meanings and intentions behind the words RBG wrote.

Basically, after finishing I started googling how one could juggle law school and children. I highly, highly recommend this if you’re interested in RBG at all. Really, everyone should read this. So, just go read it, please!

Review: HONY: Stories

Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton

From Goodreads: In the summer of 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton began an ambitious project -to single-handedly create a photographic census of New York City. The photos he took and the accompanying interviews became the blog Humans of New York. His audience steadily grew from a few hundred followers to, at present count, over twelve million. In 2013, his book Humans of New York, based on that blog, was published and immediately catapulted to the top of the NY Times Bestseller List where it has appeared for over forty-five weeks. Now, Brandon is back with the Humans of New York book that his loyal followers have been waiting for: Humans of New York: Stories. Ever since Brandon began interviewing people on the streets of New York, the dialogue he’s had with them has increasingly become as in-depth, intriguing and moving as the photos themselves. Humans of New York: Stories presents a whole new group of people in stunning photographs, with a rich design and, most importantly, longer stories that delve deeper and surprise with greater candor.

Jennie’s Thoughts: If you aren’t following HONY somewhere in the social media conglomerate, please start now. This review will wait, go and click that like or follow or whatever button it is that you need to see these amazing stories every day.

This book is very similar to the daily posts featured on HONY’s pages each day. Some of the stories in the book were past posts, actually. But, seeing the photos in person and reading their words on print…it’s even more powerful.

If you’ve ever wanted to experience a glimpse in another’s shoes, or get your heart broken and then reglued and then rebroken over and over, read this. It will destroy and restore your faith in humanity again and again. But I think it’s a thing we all need to see; a chance to hear stories we otherwise wouldn’t know and to see that our lives aren’t the only struggles and successes to be lived.

Review: Yoga for Emotional Balance


From Andrea—-For my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), one of my homework assignments was to read and review a yoga-related book. I thought I’d share here :)

Summary: This book specifically addresses how breathwork and yoga can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Forbes explains in detail how the two conditions can exist in tandem, while having opposite effects on the body. She touches on the prevalent use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, and how they are often taken together with both beneficial and contradictory effects

Forbes breaks down her book into two parts: The Path to Emotional Balance and Breathwork and Restorative Yoga. The first part is then broken down into five sections: Understanding Anxiety & Depression, What Gets in the Way of Change, How True Healing Happens, Five Ways to Transform Your Emotional Patterns, and Finding Meaning in Anxiety & Depression. Each of these five chapters shares anecdotal stories and explanations of the topic from Forbes’ psychotherapy and yoga sessions. The chapters each end with a breath work exercise. Each exercise begins with establishing a baseline, doing the breathwork (1:1, 1:2, etc) and noticing the difference after the practice.

The second part of the book focuses completely on determining your emotional style and developing a Restorative Yoga practice based on that. There is Anxious Mind/Anxious Body, Depressed Mind/Depressed Body, Anxious Mind/Depressed Body, and Depressed Mind/Anxious Body.

Review: I found this book to be very enlightening and applicable to my own life.( I especially like the anecdotal method of explanation, as I was a bit concerned that a book by a PsyD would be rather clinical). You can tell that Forbes genuinely lives her yoga, and isn’t out to make a buck off people looking for a quick fix. In fact, at the very beginning of the book she tells the reader that they can either read the chapters or not, but that the heart of the “cure” is in the practice, and in consistent practice at that. She acknowledges that reading the book in its entirety, combined with consistent practice, would be the most beneficial method, but really stresses the breathwork above all.

Forbes is able to explain the effects of the breath on the mind and body in an easy-to-understand manner. She suggests a 1:1 breath to maintain a calm, balanced mind, or a 1:2 breath to calm a racing, anxious mind.

I think this book would be beneficial to offer to anyone who struggles with anxiety and/or depression, provided they are open to the commitment of steady and consistent practice vs a quick fix.

Review: Dead Wake

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

From Goodreads: On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love.

Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.

Jennie’s Thoughts: I loved Larson’s In The Garden of Beasts, but I only liked The Devil In The White City, so I wasn’t sure where I would fall on this one. But, let me tell you right now, that I LOVED this book.

I was gripped from page one, my interest never waning. A few times I had to put the book down because the suspense was too intense. A non-fiction book! I mean, we all know how the story ends…the ship sinks! And still, I was so intrigued by the who and the what and the people that I had to take a moment to breathe.

Having just read the string of Presidential biographies during this time frame, I was double-obsessed with the pieces that Larson added in regarding the war and Truman. And, I’m going to be looking to read some more about the German U-boat program because, one book is just not enough for me.

I can’t rave about this book enough! Read it! And then we can talk!

Review: Creative Schools

From Goodreads: Ken Robinson is one of the world’s most influential voices in education, and his 2006 TED Talk on the subject is the most viewed in the organization’s history. Now, the internationally recognized leader on creativity and human potential focuses on one of the most critical issues of our time: how to transform the nation’s troubled educational system. At a time when standardized testing businesses are raking in huge profits, when many schools are struggling, and students and educators everywhere are suffering under the strain, Robinson points the way forward. He argues for an end to our outmoded industrial educational system and proposes a highly personalized, organic approach that draws on today’s unprecedented technological and professional resources to engage all students, develop their love of learning, and enable them to face the real challenges of the twenty-first century. Filled with anecdotes, observations and recommendations from professionals on the front line of transformative education, case histories, and groundbreaking research—and written with Robinson’s trademark wit and engaging style—Creative Schools will inspire teachers, parents, and policy makers alike to rethink the real nature and purpose of education.

Erin’s Thoughts: I feel it’s only fair to start this review by stating that I am a Ken Robinson fangirl.  Seriously.  Once he retweeted me and I spent the rest of the day beaming.  FANGIRL.  I first came to Ken Robinson’s thoughts on education in this short video:

Are you swooning?  That short video led me to his famous TED talk, which is absolutely worth you time and which I’d recommend watching before picking up this book.

Oh yes.  The book.  This post isn’t just about which videos to watch and swoon over.  Suffice it to say that being not only a huge Ken Robinson fan but also a complete geek over all things education, I was extremely excited about this book.  I’m very happy to say that it did not disappoint.  I was a tad worried that it would be a lot of regurgitation of what I’ve already heard and read from Robinson, but rather than repeat himself, Robinson refers you to his previous works and instead focuses on the research and philosophies behind driving educational change.  Robinson shares his ideas on how and why to make schools more individualized and less standardized through the way we teach, the way we test, the way we lead, and the way we partner with parents.  Like me, Robinson is a staunch critic of the fact that our current education system is based on the system developed during the industrial revolution to turn out workers who knew basic facts and could work on an assembly line.  This is no longer the world we live in and hasn’t been for some time.  Robinson comes out strongly against standards and standardized testing, and while in many ways I agree with him, I’d caution readers to read carefully and not just grab your pitchforks against the Common Core.  Certainly, there is work to be done there, but it’s important to remember that standards are meant to provide a progression of learning that teachers, students, and families can use to guide next steps in learning.  They aren’t meant to turn out cookie cutter children, even though that is unfortunately how they are often used.  This is a fairly friendly book even if you know little about the state of public education. Robinson shares a number of anecdotes from schools all over the world who are working to change education.  He is also careful to point out that his ideas aren’t anything new — a great number of educators such as Lev Vygotsky, Maria Montessori, and John Dewey have been talking about individualized education for centuries. Robinson’s book is about the urgent need for change in our schools.  I highly recommend it.

My favorite quote from the entire book is, “the best place to start thinking about how to change education is exactly where you are in it.”  It’s become my new motto!  Read this and think about how you might start to influence change in your schools.

Review: President Nixon

President Nixon: Alone in the White House by Richard Reeves

From Goodreads: Who was Nixon? An amazing thing about him wasn’t what he did as president, but that he became president. Reeves’ “President Nixon” uses 1000s of interviews & recently discovered or declassified documents & tapes–including Nixon’s tortured memos to himself & unpublished sections of Haldeman’s diaries–to offer a portrait of the brilliant contradictory man alone in the White House. This is a narrative of an introvert who dreamed of becoming the architect of his times. Late at night, he sat upstairs in the White House writing notes to himself on yellow pads, struggling to define himself & his goals: “Compassionate, Bold, New, Courageous…Zest for the job (not lonely but awesome). Goals–reorganized govt…Each day a chance to do something memorable for someone. Need to be good to do good…Need for joy, serenity, confidence, inspiration.” But downstairs he was building a house of deception. He trusted no one because he thought others were like him. He governed by secret orders & false records, memorizing scripts for public appearances, even for one-on-one meetings with his staff & cabinet. His principal assistants, Haldeman & Kissinger, spied on him as he spied on them, while cabinet members, generals & admirals spied on all of them–rifling briefcases & desks, tapping phones in a house where no one knew what was true. Nixon’s 1st aim was to restore order in an America at war with itself over Vietnam. But actually he prolonged the fighting, lying about what was happening both in the field & in the peace negotiations. He startled the world by going to Peoples’ China & seeking detente with the Soviets–& then secretly persuaded Mao & Brezhnev to lie to protect his petty secrets. Still, he was a man of vision, imagining a new world order, trying to stall the race war he believed was inevitable between the West, including Russia, & Asia, led by China & Japan. At home, he promised welfare reform, revenue sharing, drug programs & environmental protection. He reluctantly presided over school desegregation–all the while declaring that domestic governance was building outhouses in Peoria. Reeves shows a presidency doomed from the start. It begins with Nixon & Kissinger using the CIA to cover up a ’69 murder by US soldiers in Vietnam that led to the publication of the Pentagon Papers, then to counterintelligence units in the White House & finally to the burglaries & cover-up known as Watergate.

Jennie’s Thoughts: I bought this at a library used book sale because it was like $2. And even though I wasn’t super thrilled with it after I finished, I think it was worth the money spent. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book, but I wouldn’t say it’s not worth reading either.

There is A LOT of content in this chunk of a biography. Some of it was too detailed and repetitive and some of it was gasp-out-loud interesting. The excerpts of Nixon’s own notes and random scribbles were fascinating, and at times, appalling. I learned more about the man Nixon from this biography, but since it only focused on the White House years, I didn’t get a good appreciation of his full life. However, I think in this case I’m okay with that.

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