Nonfiction November – Nov 20-24: Nonfiction Favorites

This week (Nov. 20 to 24), Nonfiction November is hosted by Katie @ Doing Dewey with the topic of Nonfiction Favorites: We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

Is the topic pretty much all that matters?

Definitely not. While there are certain topics that I tend to gravitate towards (basically the subjects I write about here on this blog), I’d like to think that I have a broad range of interests when it comes to nonfiction reading.

Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love?

I think that, with any story, it needs to engage the reader. That’s the most important thing, really. I’m merciless when it comes to DNF books; if I’m not hooked within the first 50 pages (sometimes less) then I have no qualms about abandoning the book. That goes for fiction, nonfiction, whatever.

When I think about preferred writing styles, I’m drawn most to creative nonfiction. I love Creative Nonfiction, the literary journal. Among my writerly bucket list items is to be published in CNF one day.

Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

So many factors go into whether a particular nonfiction book will be one that catches my eye. It can be anything from the subject matter to the author to the setting. It really varies. You can find some of my nonfiction favorites on my Book Reviews – Nonfiction page.

 

Book Review: Ageproof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip, by Jean Chatzky and Michael F. Roisen, MD

During the past few months, I’ve found myself gravitating to wellness-related books, blogs and podcasts. This interest started last year around this time when I embarked on Couch to 5K and made some modifications to eat healthier; however, a few factors have accelerated this.

For starters, I’m less than a year and a half away from a milestone birthday, the one beginning with 5. A year after that, the kids will graduate high school, and The Girl has recently been giving a lot of thought to potential colleges. These next few years are looming large. There’s also The Ongoing Family Situation which has me thinking a great deal about what I can control now to potentially affect future quality of life. I’m thinking particularly of retirement planning and ways to slow memory loss through food and exercise.

And I’m trying not to let all these thoughts keep me up too much at night nor preoccupy my every waking moment because if one isn’t careful, this line of thinking can quickly spin out of control into full-fledged anxiety. There has been a bit of that associated with all this, like the other week when I met one-on-one with the retirement planning guy at work. They brought in our plan’s representative–who looked like he was about 12 years old–for one hour complimentary financial consultations and I swear to you, his advice to me was basically, “I don’t know what to say.”

I kid you not. I mean, I already knew I was screwed. Thanks, Junior.

All this is to say that this feeling of health and wealth (I speak of the latter figuratively, of course) coming into fuller focus made me the perfect reader for Jean Chatzky and Michael Roizen’s new book, Ageproof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip which I spotted while browsing at the library and listened to on audio.

This is basically a manual for How to Live Your Life. I don’t mean that facetiously; rather, this covers every aspect of living. Yes, there’s plenty of advice that we’ve all heard or read — and either implemented, ignored or put off until “someday.” But there are also some good checklists and strategies, like starting with the importance of doing  “system checks” (both health-related and financial) before making any major changes. There are chapters on breaking bad habits, reducing stress, how one’s occupation influences health. The sections on financial information was more helpful than the representative from my retirement plan.

Here’s what Age-Proof doesn’t have: there’s no secret sauce, no magic elixir recipe for eternal life. (Besides, who would really want that anyway?) The most important thing it does have is reassurance that “no matter what you’ve done in the past, it’s never too late (till you’re six feet under) to get the body or bank account you want.”

Audio is definitely the way to go with this one, mainly because of Dr. Roizen’s exuberance about … well, almost everything. He and Jean Chatzky alternate narrating their portions of the book — sometimes interrupting and interjecting thoughts — and while it’s a little hokey in some spots, it’s also kind of cute.

Not to mention important.

this is a week for the birds

Milburn Orchards, Elkton, MD. August 2010. Photo by Melissa Firman.

So, here’s what I’m staring down during the week ahead.

You ready?

The Boy and The Girl’s 16th birthdays.

(I have no gifts purchased and zero ideas, especially for The Boy, and no money for an “experience” gift, like a weekend in New York or something like that.)

A major holiday involving a 6 hour drive (each way) across T**mpsylvania.

(That would be Thanksgiving, complete with multiple helpings of stress and several people who aren’t talking to us.)  

The two-year anniversary of The Husband’s seizure during Thanksgiving Dinner 2015 and me reviving him on the bathroom floor.

(Of which we’re still dealing with lingering physical, cognitive and emotional effects. Us, not the bathroom floor.) 

And just for good measure, my 30 year high school reunion!

(My high school years were … well, you can read about them in my post “25 Year Later. It Gets Better.” It says something that this is the event I’m most looking forward to this week.) 

On top of which (yeah, there’s more) the weather is total crap (raining, cold, windy, snow) and I’ve had a cold since Wednesday. I’m at that stage where I’m convinced I’ll be sick forever. This has turned into a sinus headache from hell.

The only thing to do is all that I can do in these scenarios:

Breathe.

Do what I/we can, in whatever way works for me/us.

Don’t obsess over what we can’t control.

Focus on the positive aspects. (Neither kid wants a car for their 16th birthday nor has any interest in driving yet! Now that’s something I’m thankful for.)

Breathe.

Abandon expectations and all notions of “the way it was/should be/could have been.”

Reduce social media time.

Make sure to get enough sleep.

Breathe.

Again.   

And again. 

 

Weekend Cooking: Instant Pot Vegetable Stock and Spiced Lentil Soup

Like many cooks, I keep a gallon-sized Ziploc bag in my freezer to save vegetable scraps, which I then use to make vegetable broth when its full. (I once thought this was a rather complicated process but in actuality, it’s really easy and convenient.)

Today was the perfect day to do this. It’s one of those rainy, windy and just all-around miserable November days, the kind where you just crave a big bowl of soup for dinner (something that sounded perfect to me, since I’m dealing with a stupid, pesky cold).

I’ve only made broth in the slow cooker, but today I decided to try Laurel Randolph’s recipe from The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cookbook

I started by dumping my entire bag of frozen vegetable scraps into the Instant Pot.

I added enough water to cover the vegetables, some dried parsley and garlic pepper seasoning blend, a bay leaf and set the Instant Pot to cook on the Soup setting for an hour. Did a natural release for 15 minutes and voila!

Gorgeous vegetable broth! (After straining the vegetables, that is. Important step.)

(That’s a 1/2 cup.)

Obviously, this made A LOT of broth.

My choice of soups was the Spiced Red Lentil, Tomato and Kale Soup from Oh She Glows. Minus the kale, that is. I’ve tried it in many recipes, I’ve wanted to like it,  I know it’s super-healthy, but I just don’t have any affection for kale. I do have a strong affection for Angela Lidden’s blog Oh She Glows, which is one of my favorites.

Again, I wanted to convert this to an Instant Pot recipe. I found a few variations online and used them as a guide. You start off sautéing onion and garlic in olive oil. Then, add ground cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, and coriander. I didn’t have the last two so I just left them out. Add a can of diced tomatoes, 6 cups of vegetable broth, and a cup of red lentils.

I wasn’t sure how long to cook this for. One converted recipe said 3 minutes and another said 15 with a 10 minute natural release. That’s kind of a wide range, so I just went with 15 minutes and a 5 minute natural release.

This was absolutely excellent (as have been every recipe I’ve made from Oh She Glows.) You know how good this was?

So good that The Husband requested to see this soup again — and soon.

He usually likes most things I make but he was especially enthusiastic about this, so we’ll put this on the regular rotation.


Speaking of the Instant Pot, I’ve been thinking of doing a series of blog posts focusing on the Instant Pot — recipes, common questions, etc. I don’t necessarily want to start a separate blog. Any ideas what to call this feature?


Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.

Nonfiction November – Nov 13-17: Become the Expert

This week for Nonfiction November, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness  (who happens to be one of my very favorite book blogging friends) invites us to either Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert by either sharing three or more books on a single topic that we have read and can recommend (be the expert), put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that we’ve have been dying to read (ask the expert), or create our own list of books on a topic that we would like to read (become the expert).

As I tend to do, I’ve been way overthinking this.

(Overthinking, now’s that’s something I’m an expert in.)

While I wouldn’t call myself an expert, there are certain subjects I tend to gravitate towards in my nonfiction choices.

Autism.

Politics and current events.

Death.

Feminism.

Mindfulness and spirituality.

Food.

LGBTQ issues.

I could easily and happily recommend three books to you on any of the above topics. (Feel free to ask me in the comments if you need a suggestion.)

But an expert?

Nah.

Since I believe there’s always more to learn about a subject, I’ll go with Door #3.

Become the Expert.

Recently, I’ve been seeking out books about the workings of the brain. I don’t mean a neuroscience textbook; rather, I’m very curious to learn more about memory and how trauma affects our memories. In addition to autism, our family has been impacted by dementia, depression and anxiety, migraines, and PTSD. I’m interested in reading more about all of these. A lot of lifestyle issues — sleep, exercise, food, stress, connection with others — are crucial to our brain health and our overall well-being.

A few books on this topic that I’m interested in reading include:

The Inheritance: A Family on the Front Lines of the Battle Against Alzheimer’s Disease 
by Niki Kapsambelis

Earlier this summer our library hosted Niki for a talk and book-signing. The Inheritance focuses on the DeMoe family. Of the six DeMoe children, five have inherited the genetic mutation that causes early onset Alzheimer’s; the sixth, Karla, has inherited the responsibility for all of them. But rather than give up in the face of such news, the DeMoes have agreed to spend their precious, abbreviated years as part of a worldwide study that could utterly change the landscape of Alzheimer’s research and offers the brightest hope for future treatments—and possibly a cure. Much of this research is happening right here in Pittsburgh.

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
by Matthew Walker, PhD.

In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s
by Joseph Jebelli

Memory Rescue: Supercharge Your Brain, Reverse Memory Loss, and Remember What Matters Most
by Daniel G. Amen

How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain
by Lisa Barrett Feldman

Memory’s Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia 
by Gerda Saunders

 

Nope

Art project, by The Girl.

Shared here on the blog with her permission.

Book Review (by The Husband): Grant, by Ron Chernow

The Husband made his debut in Shelf Awareness yesterday as a published book reviewer. He took on the mammoth tome (more than 1,100 pages!) that is Ron Chernow’s Grant.

You can find his review here.