April’s Books, Part 2

It’s only the third of the month and I have this post ready for you!!  I love looking back at the books I’ve read each month as it always surprises me how many I read when it feels like I don’t have enough time to dedicate to reading.  I’ve split this post into two parts as I realized I had a lot to say about one book in particular.  You can read my views on Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco here.

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

tao of cobThe Tao of Cob: How a Kansas Grandmother Built Her Own Natural Home in the Woods by Dorethy Hancock   This was a lovely book not so much for the details on how Hancock built her cob home, although I found that interesting, but for the beliefs she shares on nature.

Hancock purchased land on the Reservation and true to traditional ways showed reverence for the land and animals she shared the property with. Naming her trees Grandmother, Mother etc and caring for them with the respect one would give another human, maybe more so in this day and age.

After completing her cob home she began an addition of straw which she never finished.  She felt overwhelmed by the task and moved on. The property and home is for sale still today. You can view pictures of the home and details on purchasing on her website.

 

spark joyI went to the library specifically to find two books, I found one, but as normal I came home with a few others.  Marie Kondo’s latest book, Spark Joy, was sitting on the shelf with new arrivals.  While I wasn’t overly impressed with her first book (The Life Changing-Magic of Tidying Up) I grabbed this one purely out of curiousity.

I was much more impressed with this book, although having read the first I skimmed a bit of it.   Unlike the first book, there were detailed illustrations on the specific folding method for all kinds of clothes, which was nice to see.  And quotes worth holding on to.

Only when we accept unconditionally people whose values differ from our own can we really say that we have finished tidying. Marie Kondo

One section was titled Tidying is the act of confronting yourself; cleaning is the act of confronting nature. The title and her explanation stuck with me and made a lot of sense.  I hate cleaning indoors and I have to admit there might be some truth to this.  I love nature but unless I intentionally bring it indoors (such as cut flowers) I want it to stay outside, and that includes dirt and bugs alike. My chair brings nature inside and I am forever sweeping and mopping to clear away the dirt, leaves and other bits the wheels bring in.  I’m trying to look at indoor cleaning in a different way, as the reminder of how much nature gives me to be thankful for and not to get so frustrated with the debris I track in.

When you have truly finished tidying, you’ll see what you want or absolutely what you must do next, so you really don’t have time to waste on complaining about others. Marie Kondo

The other main point I took away from the book is Kondo’s admission that when she goes into a house she looks at the built in storage and plans to have all items fill those areas and only those areas rather than purchase dressers and such to take up floor space, she even puts bookcases and dressers inside closets.  This would lend itself to a minimalist look in the home and free up the amount of square footage needed in our homes, plus make cleaning faster, if we didn’t have to have room for shelves and other cabinetry in the way needing to be  moved to clean around.

You don’t have to make yourself like someone else’s things. It’s enough just to be able to accept them.  Marie Kondo

Finally, she addresses relationships, something she says isn’t in her realm. She stresses that after a home has been cleared of clutter and everything has a home people report less friction in their relationships, or are closer to their loved ones. It’s an interesting concept I can imagine a cluttered, messy home could cause friction. If we surround ourselves with too much stuff we are doing so to fill a void. When that void is exposed by eliminating the unnecessary we have no choice but to address the void or the stress that led to the behavior that led to the clutter.

2nd servingMoving on, another book I picked up that day was 2nd Serving of Busy People’s Low-Fat Recipes by Dawn Hall. I’m not sure what drew me to this particular book other than I thought it might have wholesome recipes I could whip up for the grandchildren who don’t eat as I do.  It wasn’t long before I set it aside to return.

There were a couple of recipes I could easily adapt and make better for the children but the entire focus of this book was on low-fat ingredients; low-fat sour cream, low-fat cheese, low-fat cool whip, etc. which we all know means they’ve replaced the fat with sugar, and the microwave- which I don’t own.

The recipes are not vegetarian or whole food.    That said, if you have been cooking for any length of time you are probably comfortable, like I am, modifying a recipe to be prepared on the stove top. For instance there was an appetizer that looked like a nice sandwich spread for the children it contained chicken and pineapple this I could modify.  If you eat meat, cheeses etc and want simple meals you may want to check this out and simply substitute the low-fat ingredients for healthier ones.    There is a section on the slow cooker which was nice to see but I wasn’t interested in any of those recipes either..

zinnI then moved on to one of the books that took me to the library in the first place.  A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.  I began reading this on my tablet when it decided to quit working.  While there are parts of history not covered, such as the influence of the Iroquois Nation’s Constitutionon our Constitution, I learned quite a bit about the history of my country that has me less than proud of its past.

There were parts of the book in which I felt angry that I’d been lied to through 12 years of parochial and public education, not to mention four years of university.  Zinn presents a completely different view of the thinking of our founding fathers. He contends they wanted a government that would appease the poorer classes, keeping them in their place without revolt, while protecting the rights of the wealthy. As I continued to read this, in this our election year circus, I began to realize the oligarchy we now live with was always a part of our country’s history, it didn’t end with the breaking up of the steel or railroad monopolies, and the circus we are experiencing today isn’t the first.  On the subject of wars Zinn’s retelling of soldier’s accounts of the various wars from the Mexican-American to the Civil War show a manipulation by our government to instigate situations so the citizens would accept a war.

It’s my understanding that some teachers have ditched the typical textbook to teach history from Zinn’s book. I only hope it forms a better educated generation as a result.

 

30 pieces of silverWith the demise of my tablet I downloaded the Kindle app onto my phone and read 30 Pieces of Silver which I downloaded for free months ago.

This is written in much of the same flavor as Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. This story centers on the relationship of Judas and Jesus and the modern day search for the remains of Jesus’ brother. In some ways I would say this was better than the Da Vinci Code but it didn’t grab me and hold me as I expected it to.

In the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, in my opinion likes to show off how smart he is by using words no longer popular and throwing in foreign dialogue without the English translation. Those frustrating things were missing in 30 Pieces of Silver which made the reading of the story a smoother process. This was an easy read that lacked the suspense I’d hoped for.

 

how to be aliveLastly, I finished How to Be Alive by Colin Beaven,   which I purchased on Earth Day on special for $1.99.  Beaven wrote this in the self-help style for individuals and individuals wanting to connect with their communities. I was intrigued by the book as I become more involved in my community. The book promises to show ways we can help ourselves by helping others through the use of first-person stories. I have to admit I thought this meant the book would be made up of chapters of individual’s stories of how they managed to make changes in their communities. Sadly, the stories were only short paragraphs inserted to emphasize the points Beaven was making in that section.  Don’t get me wrong, this might very well be of use to many but for me I felt the subjects covered I’ve already tackled.  I would compare it to an introduction of downsizing or simple living being read by one already having downsized or already living a simple life. You can shake your head in agreement with the arguments but it holds little value for making further improvements in your life.

I do have to admit one section reminded me of a situation that happened when I was a teenager, and it was nice to enjoy that walk down memory lane. In a section on Owning Things, Beaven points out that our obsession with shopping is not a hereditary thing, as some would argue, but rather a behavior we’ve adopted because it fits with the accepted values of our time and we want to fit in. He shares the examples of how up until roughly 1950 people weren’t consumers because thriftiness was acceptable and you were looked down upon if you were causal with your money and belongings.  It was while reading this section that I recalled the horror I felt when my grandfather was pulled over by the police.

My grandfather was driving on a very seldom used street that had a stop sign. there was a dead end street to the left of us that had the right of way. My grandfather looked to his left and saw a police car (with officer inside) parked a bit back from the intersection but no other cars so he continued through the intersection without yielding to the stop sign.  The officer immediately threw on his lights and pulled us over.  My grandfather admitted he did in fact see both the stop sign and the officer (as he made eye contact with him at the time) but since asbestos was removed from brake pads which now caused them to wear down more quickly he wasn’t going to put more wear and tear on his current brakes to stop when there was no traffic to yield to. After some back and forth the officer caved and let us go with a warning that next time a ticket would be issued. I thought the only reason the officer caved to my grandfather’s argument was because he had to have a relative as stubborn and thrifty as my grandfather and realized he was fighting a losing battle.

Beaven’s point hit home for me when I reflected on that afternoon in the car with my grandfather.  He had the money to replace his brakes when they became worn, he just hated to throw any thing away and believed in taking care of what he owned so they would last as long as possible. In just a few short generations we went from saving our rags for the rag collector to becoming the world’s leader in amount of stuff we throw away.

Those are the books I read during April. What have you been reading?

 

 

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8 comments

  1. I’m glad you read Marie Kondo’s new book, because I was curious, but didn’t want to read it. While her first book had some good information in it, I thought many of her ideas were either old hat or unrealistic. It sounds like this book may have similar things in it. Like putting all of you stuff in your closet instead of having a dresser. Well, most of our closets are vary small and don’t fit very much. And we don’t have a lot of clothes/things compared to most. Is she only going to clients houses who have big closets because those are the people who have enough money to hire an organizer? So you can tell, she pushed a few of my buttons in the first book.

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    • I see she did push a few of your buttons. 🙂 No she isn’t only going in homes that have big closets, at least not big enough to hold everything some of her clients own. There was one client whose house was so full every tread of her stairs leading to the living space was filled with books. I do get the impression that storage in Japan is much bigger than what we have here. She mentions the kitchen cupboard which I get the impression is more like a floor to ceiling armoire. One thing I found interesting and she didn’t spend much time on was the fact that she recent married and her husband moved into her home. I couldn’t help wonder where his things are stored if she had to store purses inside purses to keep them on the shelf in her closet.

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  2. Thankyou, Lois.

    Re. the Marie Kondo book, I eventually did read it, though I was afraid it was going to be more of the same (much as I enjoyed the first one, I found it somewhat limited). As it turned out, I liked the second better, too. It’s more mature, takes real life into consideration more and I think now that Kondo is married and has a baby, if she brings out another book, it will be better still. Having said that, I think it’s important to remember that she comes from a very different culture and therefore also different architecture; one of your commenters is concerned about the closets – apparently, it is usual for a Japanese home to have deep closets and traditionally, to keep things stowed away. Here in Europe, even built-in cupboards rarely have the capacity of US or Japanese closets, so it would be unthinkable to put a dresser or bookcase actually into it! Just different cultures and I think the Japanese does rather shine through. For me, that is positive, for someone else, it might not be, it takes more understanding of something “foreign”.

    Which brings me to one of your criticisms of the Dan Brown books. Obviously, it is always a matter of taste so whether someone enjoyed them or not (I did, some don’t, that’s fine!), but that is beside the point. What I would like to point out is that in this day and age of globalisation, a good education should ideally include a smattering of world languages so that an intelligently and literately written book may include them without the reader struggling too much, as indeed has been the norm for centuries. Of course, not everyone can get a good education as a matter of course and standards have fallen everywhere, and I have to say the US is as guilty as many other countries of being rather too involved with itself, but personally, I would consider at least some French and Spanish, if not German, to be mandatory, and in an ideal world, Chinese and Arabic, too, so that people of the world could communicate more freely. There are huge populations that speak these languages and English is not necessarily the norm everywhere. I am talking about a basic understanding, not a degree in every language! Having said that, I myself do not have Spanish (though I can read and understand enough to understand a few phrases, since French and Italian are similar enough to it) nor any language with a different alphabet (Russian, Chinese, Arabic, etc.). I would, however, be sorry if there was no regard in my literature for any other language, culture or geographical difference than where I live. I hope this is not taken as a personal criticism, but the ability to speak and understand other languages opens up understanding of other mentalities and cultures and to me, that is crucial for the future of global existence. Why not aim for an ideal world?!

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    • First, on Marie Kondo, I had much the same impression on the closet sizes. To hear a dresser and bookcase is put inside a closet tells me these have to be very large closets. Even here the new homes are often built with closets as large as many main rooms. Of course these large closets in the US just have me shaking my head because they are built solely for the oversized wardrobes that would never fit in a couple of dressers.

      Now to Dan Brown. 🙂 First I did enjoy Brown’s books, although I found myself bored of the characters and story line by the last one. My comment about the vocabulary and foreign language was really only to point out the biggest difference between his books and 30 Piece of Silver. That said, I agree that being able to at least read some foreign languages would be both beneficial and enjoyable when I’m reading. There are some languages I can decipher because I studied a bit of Green and Latin which as I’m sure you are aware forms the roots and suffixes of many words in multiple languages.

      In our educational system prior to university the only options of foreign language courses is usually only Spanish or French, (to converse if we visited Mexico or the French-speaking area of Canada) My high school didn’t offer foreign languages but I chose to study independently sign language as I felt it was important to know.

      When I was growing up there was a huge feeling of not wanting your children to learn foreign languages because our grandparents and great-grandparents came here and wanted to be “American” so much they learned English. Although, I am speaking of the Northeast part of the country where I was raised, the south and southwest felt differently. Today there we are experiencing, not sure how to phrase this, but maybe a backlash of anger over how new immigrants (not all mind you) refuse to learn English. I know it’s not easy to learn a new language especially the older one is, but there are more than 30 different languages now spoken in some cities so there has to be a common language we can fall back on.

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  3. Oh, my goodness. The comments are as interesting as the post. Just a few good books and bang, it all breaks loose. I listened to Dan Browns books on audio years ago. Loved the intrigue of the stories. I’ll probably like the one you mentioned above. We all have such different tastes in books. I’ve known we were lied to for quite a while now and don’t expect the lying to stop in my lifetime. I like light mysteries at night, I’m reading another Chicken Soup on the joy of less now. Also a couple of books on self healing. They take time as well as books on writing and anything I can do one chapter at a time. I don’t get much reading time these days. Right now I need some sleep time. Short on that quota too. Giant hugs.

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    • I am always surprised when something sparks such controversy, but that’s what makes blogging fun. 🙂

      I too liked Dan Brown’s books although I have to say by the third book I was tired of the characters and was happy to reach the end. Then again I like to change things up so that probably says more about me than the series.

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