I’m reading through my stack of books, all queued for the next couple of months, but there are six I’ve recently read that I think are a perfect way to start the new year. So here are six new books that deal with relationships, health, and family. Did you read any of these? Please use the comments section (it is in green under every post) and let me know your thoughts–Alison
Robyn Okrant bills herself as “just a yoga teacher,” but that’s not quite all there is. She is also a writer, performer and director. Now, she is “famous,” too (I just saw posters for her new book plastered all over the subway). And she didn’t get known, without some effort. In the traditional of Julie Powell (of Julie and Julia fame), Okrant set out to “Live Oprah” for an entire year. She set about following every suggestion that Oprah made on her television show, and on Oprah Magazine. Like Julie Powell, she blogged about her experiences trying to live “her best life” via Oprah’s vision, ideals, values, and choices. And, like Julie, she seemed “surprised” when she received public attention during her project. Attention that brought her offers of a reality show of her own, and a book contract for Living Oprah – My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk By Robyn Okrant (Center Street/Hachette Book Group 2010) . Okrant admits that she began to get noticed, primarily because the name “Oprah” comes up in search engines and her followers are eager to find anything and everything they can on the subject of “O.” Despite this, the book seems straightforward and sincere. She shares her pains and doubts, and her struggle to keep up with her promise to do everyone before the end of the year. I do wish the author had written more about her interaction with others, especially her husband. It must have been weird, and annoying to him, and all those around her, to find the yoga teacher they once knew suddenly acting like someone totally different. Okrant even changed her appearance, wearing leopard flats (of of Oprah’s “must haves” for every woman’s wardrobe) and other items she didn’t feel particularly comfortable in. She changed her own personality, even her diet, to “fit in” with what Oprah felt her audience should think, do, say, give, cook, etc. This is a difficult and crazy stunt, but I believe the author book this ambitious challenge seriously and tried to see it through the best she could. If the end result was to find herself walking in another person’s shoes, she succeed. Maybe it was the year of living Oprah’s opinions that caused Okrant not to seriously consider the far-reaching ramifications of her year, I felt I needed more from her at the end. And, by the end of the book I was somewhat repelled by Oprah and her edicts, but the author never judges too strongly. If you like Oprah, you will be fascinated by what Robyn Okrant did. And even if you don’t ever watch Oprah or read her magazine, you will find it interesting.
The Summer We Fell Apart by Robin Antalek (Harper Paperbacks January 2010) is a compelling story about a family that reaches out to re-connect, but keeps failing at it. Four siblings suffer the effects of an eccentric, semi-famous actress mother, and a father who barely knows they are alive. He’s also an alcoholic writer that they idolize. All are adults by the time “dad” dies and all are living very different lives. You can’t choose your family, but blood is thicker than water. The family comes together around the death, but can’t sustain a close bond, and they fall apart again. But throughout their struggles you know that they want to be close in some way, even though they can’t find the means to that end so easily. Reading this book is like watching a train wreck. You squirm, but you can’t turn your eyes away. This debut novel painfully shows the effects of selfish parents, divorce, and dysfunctional people, but it also shows how brother and sisters coming from very different places in their lives, still have an undeniable connection to one another. The lives of the siblings: Kate, Amy, Finn and George are nicely woven together through the chapters, although each gets his or her turn in the spotlight. I really didn’t find the characters to be likeable, and I didn’t find the book a “happy” read, but I thought it was a good read. The Summer We Fell Apart is worthy of your consideration.
Getting Naked Again, Dating, Romance, Sex, and Love When You’ve Been Divorced, Widowed, Dumped or Distracted by Judith Sills, PhD (Springboard/Hachette Book Group, 2010) has a provocative title, but it’s basically a primer on how to change your thinking from that of a “coupled” person, to being single again. There isn’t a lot that’s new in this book in terms of dating how-to, but what is new is the focus of the advice. This book is directed towards women who are transitioning back to singlehood after a hiatus because of divorce, becoming widowed, or being dumped. The author neatly and nicely breaks down the stages of getting over one’s bewilderment, and moving back toward being able to forge a bond with someone, by focusing on stages of healing, recovery and growth. She looks at this much like the stages of grief, suggesting that you need to go through all of the stages, feelings, and experiences, before you find your way back to true love with another partner. I like her optimism, tempered by the realities of what someone is likely to experience, and feel, back in the “meet market.” I also like the fact that she is not pushing marriage, or even monogamy, as the end goal. This isn’t a dating book for young people. It is more a refresher course for the middle aged, offering a different perspective on what to do when you’re suddenly single again. It happens that a dear friend of mine was recently widowed. She’s not quite ready to go out there and date, but she is ready to poke her toe back into the realm of relationships. I’m giving this book to her and I think she’ll get something positive out of it. If you know someone who is over a certain age and suddenly alone again, this book can help them feel better about their situation, and get them moving forward again at the right time.
I hope you never really need the information in Back to Life After a Heart Crisis – A Doctor and His Wife Share Their 8-Step Cardiac Comeback Plan by Marc Wallack M.D. and Jamie Colby (Avery Books February 2010). But if you do find yourself facing heart surgery, as Dr, Wallack did, this book is going to be your best friend and “bible” through the entire process. Dr. Wallack is a physician and a marathoner, who suddenly discovered that he would need quadruple bypass surgery. It is one thing to treat others, but quite another when the doctor is the patient. All the training and information in the world still won’t reduce the fear, pain, anxiety and stress of the experience. Although he had treated plenty of other people as Chief of Surgery at Metropolitan Hospital in New York, he wasn’t prepared for his own medical challenges. Wallack’s wife Jamie, an attorney and former TV Food Network Chef (among other things) adds her “take” as caregiver, so the book covers not just the patient’s needs and issues, but also the caregiver’s. The book is chock full of great information about how to prepare for heart surgery, how to survive it, how to heal, and how to move forward again. It’s really well written and in it’s own way, quite entertaining. Although I have never had open heart surgery, I wish I’d had this book to consult before my father had his quadruple bypass years ago. My only criticism, if it is one really, is that I wish there had been more attention paid to the negative side effects of bypass surgery and more information/optimism about the future of cardiac treatments. Besides death, there is also the potential for diminished mental capacity, and other unanticipated and rare, but devastating results of such invasive surgery. But in terms of helping a patient feel courageous and strong again, and helping caregivers through a very difficult challenge, it is an excellent how-to. I’d call it a must read if this kind of surgery is in your future.
It is painful enough to go through a divorce, especially if you are the dumpee, not the dumper, but it must be doubly humiliating to be dumped for someone in the public eye, thereby catapulting you not just into single-dom, but into the public arena. That is just what happened to Mary Jo Eustace. Her ex husband, the hunky Dean McDermott, dumped her and their children for actress Tori Spelling, after they’d spent just a few weeks together on a made-for-television movie set. To her credit, Ms. Eustace doesn’t really take a “don’t get mad, get even” approach to her divorce in her book: Divorce Sucks-What To Do When Irreconcilable Differences, Lawyer Fees, and Your Ex’s Hollywood Wife Make You Miserable by Mary Joe Eustance Edited by Joanne Kimes (Adams Media, October 2009), The author really tries to show other spurned women who they can make it through a traumatic experience and come through, whole, on the other end. To be sure, she sort of “gets back” at McDermott by using personal examples throughout the book. But on the other hand, whose examples would be better for the author to choose if writing a how-to book based on her own divorce experiences? Ms. Kimes, the co-author, really does a good job of making the book info-tainment and coherant. She apparently has her own series of “Sucks” books. No matter if you’re a spurned Hollywood wife C whose otherwise private concerns were make instantly tabloid fodder due to the other woman’s status, and no matter that you might not have a good lawyer, let alone a Hollywood laweyer. The book will still resonante with divorcees, all the pain and sadness that a failed marriage brings, along with all sorts of unanticipated issues. There are so many relationship books on the market, but honestly, Divorce Sucks, didnt suck! Get it for your Kindle, and enjoy!
The Mayo Clinic Diet – Eat Well. Enjoy Life. Lose Weight by the weight loss experts at the Mayo Clinic and Donald Hunsrud M.D., M.P.H. (Good Books January 2010) is the latest book in the diet and exercise genre. Dr. Hunsrud is a diet expert at the Mayo Clinic and he, like all of the people in the photo on the back cover of the book, look pretty fit. The book offers all sorts of how-to to whittle your waistline, or just eat a healtheir diet. It also offers an ambitious, a quick start plan that is supposedly designed to help you lose up to 6-10 pounds in two weeks. To help you reach your goals, you can also buy The Mayo Clinic Diet Journal (I don’t see that this is really necessary, but if you like charting your progress, it’s a good tool). The book looks great, is full of gorgeous, glossy color photos, and there are tips and charts galore. I loved all of this. But then there’s the other side of the coin..and it is very sobering. If you want to lose weight, you have to also lose your unhealthy eating habits and stop being lazy about exercise. When I really looked at what you can eat on the Mayo Clinic Diet, it’s very spartan. And it could be very frustrating for the average person who wants to lose those pounds, but finds it hard to be super-motivated 24-7, especially when “life” gets in the way such as the office party, and the family who doesn’t want to eat the same diet. The solutions that the book offers sound good on paper, but they’re not realistic for many people. For example, if your family doesn’t want to eat “healthy” or you have kids that just loathe vegetables, the solution offered is to get them to like veggies by cooking them differently. Are you kidding? That’s a rose by any other name. Broccoli is still, well…broccoli, even if it is sauteed instead of steamed. Convincing your husband to forgo the chips and dips for the big game in lieu of carrot sticks, might be an even harder sell. Even less helpful were tips about managing hunger. The “tip” offered for when you’re hungry is simple to eat…more fruits and vegetables. But I’ve never known anyone who came home from a hard day at work and said: “I think I’ll have some lettuce to fill me up.” Still, the good thing about reading this book was that it reminded me how small an adult portion is. And it also reminded me that healthy eating means substituting things you love, for things you may not love so much. Like anything else, losing weight and eating well is a matter of choice. You can buy the book and let it sit on your shelf, or you can follow it slavishly to lose weight, or, perhaps, just incorporate some of what the book offers into your life to make it a bit healthier. The changes you need to make are simple, but they’re not always easy.
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