Book Club Discussion: Dataclysm by Christian Rudder

Dataclysm FL2W Book Club Banner

Dataclysm FL2W Book Club Banner

It’s not often you find me sneaking time to read a book full of data and statistics by Christian Rudder, Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think We No One’s Looking) is different.  OKCupid co-founder Rudder uses extensive data from the dating site and other sources to discover facts such as couples who have less mutual connections on Facebook are less likely to become divorced.

The book covers everything from our writing style on Twitter to cut and paste pick-up lines on OKCupid to developing your brand online. For our book club members–who are bloggers, this book was a fascinating look into our online lives. Head over to their blogs to read our Dataclysm book club discussion:

Read Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) and see what your Facebook status updates say about you.

Follow Christian Rudder on Twitter or on the OKCupid blog.

Invisible Illness Week: Book Recommendations

Invisible Illness Week

Invisible Illness Week

This week is National Chronic Invisible Illness Awareness Week – a week dedicated to raising the visibility for the countless people who suffer from illnesses that can’t be seen.   Chances are, you or someone you know is directly affected by an illness that can’t be seen; they shape our lives in ways that are hard to imagine for people that  can’t “see” the illness.  CNN shared a great article today, on how to talk to someone with a Chronic Illness – it is definitely worth a read!

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type II in 2009.  Being a reader who is married to a fellow book-lover, my husband and I read everything we could get our hands on.  We also recommended a few books to family members, to help them understand what we were dealing with.  I wanted to share a few of those today.

One of my favorites is an older book, by Kay Redfield Jamison.  An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness details Dr. Jamison’s struggle with Bipolar Disorder (manic-depression), and her climb out of it. William Safire, in a review for the New York Times, said. “The most emotionally moving book I’ve ever read about emotions.”, and I wholeheartedly agree.  Dr. Jamison speaks with firsthand knowledge as well as professional experience, in a language that is relatable and honest.  She has authored several other books, all equally readable, but for me personally this one stands out.

Madness by Marya Hornbacher

Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher was a New York Times bestseller when it was published in 2008.  Ms. Hornbacher offered a no holds barred, intimate look at her battle with Bipolar Disorder.  Although she suffers from Type I, reading about her struggle still gave normalcy to mine, as I fought to regulate medications and regain a grip on my life.

She wrote a book before Madness – Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia (P.S.), which details another Invisible Illness.  I have not read it, but based on my experience with Madness I am sure it is phenomenal.

Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder by Julie A. Fast & John D. Preston, MD


The book that my husband got the most out of was Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder.  Described as  “… a first of its kind book—written specifically for the partner of a person with bipolar disorder. If you have a loved one with bipolar, you know how disruptive and straining this disorder can be to your relationship. You may experience feelings of fear, loss, and anxiety as well as a constant uncertainly about your loved one’s ever-changing moods.

This book is designed to help you overcome the unique challenges of loving someone with bipolar disorder. With the supportive and helpful information, strategies, and real-life examples contained here, you’ll have all the tools you need to create a loving, healthy, and close relationship.”

It is something both he and I refer back to on a regular basis.

There are other books I’d say are worth browsing, especially if the diagnosis affects you.  Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder by Racehl Reiland (I too found those words on a piece of paper upon discharge, with not much explanation) is one.  Manic: A Memoir by Teri Cheney is another that immediately comes to mind.

Whatever your Invisible Illness is, it is important to educate yourself about it, so you can educate others.  Read everything you can get your hands on, ask questions of your treatment team and caregivers, and talk to others who have been down the path you’re on.  YOU are your best advocate, and your best chance at conquering your illness.

Do you or someone you know suffer from an Invisible Illness?  Have you read any books that helped you through it, or that you’d recommend to others?  Feel free to share here!

Book Review: Honeycomb Kids

Honeycomb Kids by Anna M. Campbell

Honeycomb Kids by Anna M. Campbell

Just in time for Earth Day, I received a copy of Honeycomb Kids: Big Picture Parenting for a Changing World and to Change the World! by Anna M. Campbell to review.  I was really excited about this book; I love ideas about raising conscious and aware children that can become productive members of society.  Normally, I find parenting books in and of themselves to be off putting (I’ve checked out more than a few that seem condescending, and mundane).  Happily, I immediately clicked with this author’s relaxed writing style and obvious devotion to her children and family.

Here’s the official synopsis of the book:

Honeycomb Kids is a parenting book for the 21st Century. Including more than 300 practical ideas and activities, it comes with two priceless benefits: not only does it help you prepare your children for an uncertain tomorrow, it also helps you shift to a better family life for today. Reading this book will empower your family to make the most of a world increasingly defined by over-population, rising prices, poor health, fast depleting natural resources and an unstable political, social, environmental and financial landscape. Feeling daunted by these realities? Don’t be! This book shows you how to nurture the timeless values and resilience your children will need to become contributors, not just consumers.

Intriguing, right?  I know!!  Demonstrating her dedication to her family, Campbell and her husband abandoned the fast paced city lifestyle and moved to a farm in the country (oh how I’d love to do that….I live in a rural area, but not a great community! I wish we could move to a farm!).  The book opens with a comprehensive overview of challenges facing our children and world today; she goes on to share what they might have to look forward to if changes don’t happen.  I really liked that with each specific challenge presented, facts and studies were included to back the information up.  It is helpful to have the resource material to learn more about the topics, to both educate ourselves and our kids.

An interesting concept Campbell presented was the concept of the hive.  As noted at the beginning of Part Two:

“A successful beehive is a place of cooperation, industriousness, shared decision-making, planning, determination to survive together, reverence for nature, yummy stuff, and a little bit of magic!  Kind of like the ideal human family!”

Exactly!  I loved it when I read it – I smiled out loud.  Another thing that resonated with me was her discussion of the problem with “helicopter parenting”, and not allowing our children the space (or providing them with the tools) to deal with and overcome adversity.  It is possible to be too encouraging (kids need realism too – maybe they really CAN’T sing, or they DID play poorly in a soccer game).  There’s nothing wrong with giving kids some responsibility to young kids – my six year old can absolutely handle making her pb&j for her lunch at school each day; doing so provides her with a sense of pride and accomplishment (and she knows how to forage in the pantry!).  It does children a disservice when parents try to be superheroes, and handle every minute detail of their little lives.  Just like kids need to get dirty, and play outside, they need to be taught how to handle real-life issues, stresses, and problems.  (No, I’m not saying you should boot them out in the street.  But isn’t it better for you to be the person that teaches them how to handle adversity, rather than the inevitable day come when they have to fend for themselves, and don’t know how? Like the author, I’d much prefer my children learn from me, in a setting I can have some input towards.)

At the close of each chapter, Campbell provides “Thought Launchers and Conversation Starters”.  I enjoyed these sections immensely.  I will admit, often the suggestions were not at all practical for the area I live in (no way would a “time bank” work in my community), but by and large they at least contained a nugget of something we could adapt and use for our family.  And since reading the book, I find myself stopping to think about the way I’m preparing to phrase a question, so that my daughter will benefit the most from the ensuing discussion (my two year old son only participates if we are talking about trains, or Batman!).

I certainly didn’t mean for this review to be so opinionated, or so wordy.  Thanks for sticking with me!  Here’s what you should take away from what I’m saying about this book: it’s definitely a keeper.  It’s an easy read, full of thought-provoking discussions and ideas on raising well-rounded kids.  The author is someone I wish I was friends with, and I’m so grateful she shared her life experiences in this book!

Quick Facts:
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Cape Able (April 6, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0980747503
ISBN-13: 978-0980747508
Author Bio: Anna M. Campbell

*I received a complimentary copy of this book to review. All opinions are my own; no other compensation was given.

January Book Club: Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet by Susan Cain

Happy New Year everyone! We’re excited to announce our first book selection for 2012:  Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. Western cultural has put a premium on extroverts, but Susan Cain delves deeper into how introverts tick.

More about the book:

Did you know that thirty to fifty percent (depending on which study you consult) of Americans are introverts? That’s one out of every two or three people you know. If you’re not an introvert yourself, you probably work with or love one. But much like women in a man’s world, the quieter half of the population is routinely discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.

Yet many of the achievements that have propelled society, from the theory of evolution to the invention of the PC, from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the Cat in the Hat, came from people who were quiet, cerebral, and sensitive. Even in less obviously introverted occupations, like finance, politics, and activism, some of the greatest leaps forward were made by introverts: Eleanor Roosevelt. Al Gore. Warren Buffett. Gandhi.

None of this is an accident. There are specific physiological and psychological advantages to being an introvert. In my book I’ll tell you what they are — and what we can all learn from the introverts among us, including how to be more creative, think more carefully, love more gently, and organize our schools and workplaces more productively. I’ll also challenge contemporary myths of human nature, including the belief that creativity is fundamentally collaborative, and our preference for charismatic leaders.

Pre-order your copy of  Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain and join us on January 19 as we discuss all things introverted.  Quiet is published by Crown and will be released on January 24.

In the meantime, learn more at Susan Cain’s website.

What’s In Your Fall Stack?

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Wow, summer went by so fast.  2011 was the summer of fiction for me, and I’m pleased that I knocked out (almost) all of my books.  I only have half of one left to go.  Today is the official first day of fall; I thought it only appropriate to share the books that are next on my reading list.  I’m definitely a fan of making reading lists and sticking to them (albeit loosely at times).  My husband and I have a huge home library and there is so much we’ve purchased over the years and forgotten to read!  We are also frequent visitors to our local library, which is about a block away.  I’m the type of person who loves a list because it gives me a goal and keeps me focused.  In no particular order, here are the next books up in my queue for Fall Reading:

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magician King by Lev Grossman is the second in a planned trilogy; the first was 2009’s novel The Magicians.   If I had to characterize them, I’d say they were sort of “Harry Potter meets Narnia for grown ups” – they follow a quartet of friends on their adventures in magic school, a fantasy realm, and places in between.  Grossman writes with wit and sarcasm, yet manages to bring raw emotion and characters that are easy to relate to.  The Magicians was playful, edgy, and engrossing, and I don’t doubt that the follow up will be just as entertaining.  I cannot wait to check this one out of the library (although I’m sure my husband will beat me to it).


Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I have two novels by the timeless Gabriel Garcia Marquez on my list.  I’m starting with Chronicle of a Death Foretold, which is about the investigation of an ancient murder.  I’ll be following this one with Of Love and Other Demons , a novel about an allegedly possessed girl and the ill-fated love affair between her and her supposed savior, the priest who comes to oversee her exorcism.  I love Garcia Marquez’s work – Love in the Time of Cholera  and One Hundred Years of Solitude were so deeply moving and well written I’d read them both again in a minute.  The two novels on my list now are both relatively short (both are fewer than 150 pages) but promise to bring all of his considerable writing prowess to the table.


A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage comes to me highly recommended by my husband.   Standage tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the twenty-first century as seen through the glasses of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. I’m a history nut, and this promises to be an interesting way to see how these beverages have played a role in human events.

Next up on my my non-fiction side of the stack is Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach.  This is another one of my husband’s recommendations.  I’m a sucker for the “advance praise” on the book jackets – if an author I know and respect liked it, I’m in.  This book garnered kudos from Devil in the White City‘s Erik Larson as well as A.J Jacobs (who penned the fantastic The Year of Living Biblically).

Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford

I’ve also got a biography on my list this fall: Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Millford.  I can’t even begin to list the reasons I’m excited about this one – I love Millay’s works, I love biographies,  I love the title Millford chose.  I’ve read nothing but excellent reviews of this book, and really cannot wait to get started on it.  At 509 pages in paperback (550 including the notes and index) the book promises to deliver on information and insight.

Finishing up my non-fiction shelf is A Murder in Virginia: Southern Justice on Trial by Suzanne Lebsock.  This is an account of gender and racial politics and murder in the South at the turn of the twentieth century.  It also happens to take place about five miles from where I live, which is very interesting.

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco

Now back to my fiction list!  The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco is one I started awhile ago and loved, but didn’t finish.  Eco’s books require more focus than I could put into a novel just after my son was born.  I’m excited to jump back into this, though.  It’s the story of what happens to an Italian man who has a stroke, wakes up, and remembers nothing of his life; he does, however, remember every book he’s ever read (and every bit of poetry and literary quotes).

The last book on my list for now is The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.  This was a last minute addition – I honestly had forgotten I bought this book (see – this is why I make lists!).  I shared an amazing quote from it on the From Left to Write Facebook page earlier this week, which prompted me to go find the book on our shelves and put it on the stack!  The quote was “Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”

I’m not including on my list the books I’m reading as part of From Left to Write!  I’ve just finished up Carry Yourself Back to Me by Deborah Reed and am about halfway through Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra.  And of course, there are the books that aren’t actually on this list, but have been part of my “need to read” for quite some time – The Hunger Games trilogy, The Kite Runner, and others.  But that is a whole different list!

My goal is to be done with all of these books by Thanksgiving weekend in November.  I better get to work!  What’s in your stack this fall?  I’d love to hear about it –  feel free to leave a comment below, or share a link to a blog post you’ve written about it!