books for women, genres, tales from the local library

The anti-aging genre.

I ran across this cluster of books in our library’s featured titles section and was immediately struck by the implications. In the health section of that library, which is one of the smallest branches in our county, there are tens more of them. Given the explosion of books dedicated exclusive to cheating Father Time, I’d say anti-aging qualifies as its own genre separate from health and wellness. There is a distinction to be made between desiring wholeness and well-being, and a dogged pursuit of the fountain of youth.

The opposite of aging, for those unaware, is death. We either age or die, and we certainly cannot “age backwards”. So books with titles like these bother me, and here’s why:

Look at the psychological game the library tries to play here by marking these books as part of the ya category (young adult). Why would a young adult be interested in a book on looking younger? Conversely, what do these books’ target audience gain from the characterization of the books as young adult?

They are, after all, marketed directly to women like me. Namely, these are catnip for 40-something women, many of whom are in various stages of mini-crises. The crises range from sexual and relational, to career and motherhood and everything in between.

In our youth worshiping culture, a woman who is recently divorced, grappling with her rapidly changing body, or just watching a daughter blossom into everything she used to be, these titles are tempting. I find them sad. And yes, even I have read a book or two which focus on adding a little friction (okay, focus on adding a lot of friction) to what can feel like a fast downward slide. Usually they are –like this one- medical in scope.

One of the reasons I review the books I read about this season of life, even though I grappled at first with whether to do it, is that openness helps keep me tethered to the reality of where I am on life’s journey. It makes it possible to grow older gracefully* rather than give in to the pretense of stopping the inevitable or turning back the clock. There is no way we can be 25 again, or 35 again, no matter how well we eat and how far we go to pretend otherwise.

I recognize that my life has been touched by heaping measures of grace and love which make it easy (or easier, at least) for me to grow older gracefully. I’m not in the brutal postmodern dating market. My husband long ago lost all objectivity concerning my looks and desirability, which I embrace as the blessing that it is. I have adult children, but also relatively young children to raise yet as well. There are bits of residue and vestiges of younger years present in my daily life.

At the end of the day, however, 46 is 46 is 46. Age is not relative, and all any of us can do is take the best care of ourselves that we possibly can, enjoy where we are, and try to live in a way that brings comfort and solace during our twilight years. Fantasizing over books telling us we can “crack the aging code” are not helpful over the long run.

But since when has contentment sold any books?

*Disclosure: I am fully persuaded that my grandmother would vehemently disagree with my assertion that I am growing older gracefully with one perusal of one of my health receipts. She could stretch the dollars I spend on collagen peptides, bio-identical progesterone, make up and skin care over a fortnight with little effort. Hopefully the money I save on hair dye and anti-aging books makes up for it. A little.

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Culture, nonfiction, tales from the local library

The ABCs of Adulthood

The ABCs of Adulthood: An Alphabet of Life Lessons, by Deborah Copaken. Hardcover, published in 2016. 72 pages.

While browsing the library’s shelves this morning (a very relaxing activity for me), I ran across this little book. Since I was momentarily between books and this one is extremely short, I grabbed it and read through it. It took all of twenty minutes.

This little book is exactly what it implies: an A to Z quick view list of little and not so little things the emerging adult might do well to remember. Put an emphasis on might, in my opinion, as some of the advice is downright awful.

Beginning with the letter A for anger, which the author calls a useless emotion, to the letter Z for Zzzzs, to remind the reader the importance of getting enough sleep, Copaken offers a book written with her children in mind. Indeed, some of the advice is quite good.

Anger is often -if not always- useless, but everyone would do well to pause and reflect before acting out in blind rage. Advising her readers to keep in mind that having children (letter C) shouldn’t be an afterthought and that prime childbearing years have an expiration date is also a good reminder at a time when these decisions are often pushed off to the last and most risky minute as people chase other dreams.

Despite the good advice this book offers wih regard to health and getting on with forming a family, it undercuts it with dichotomous, destructive sex advice (letter S). The cognitive dissonance involved in telling young people that they should feel free to enjoy sex with any person  they like and are attracted to as often as they want, without guilt, but take care of their health and emotional well being is the kind of thing that makes this book worthless. If the last 60 years has taught us anything, it’s the danger and destructive fallout that comes of trivializing sex.

J was for Jung, which I found partiuclarly intriguing given that I am in the process of reviewing Jordan Peterson’s latest book. Peterson draws heavily on the psychological research and philosophy of Carl Jung, whom this author also strongly recommends young people read if they really want to learn how to think. I’ve only read a bit of Jung, but the intersectionality of his work with the present trend towards finding sanity and liberation from the cultural madness makes me a bit more curious about what he had to say. We’ll see.

If the worst advice was on sexuality, the best advice, particularly in this current culutral climate, was O for Offline. I’m sure no further explanation is required on that. There were in fact, several valauable bits of information that might not be glaringly obvious to a young person being launched into the adult world. Unfortunately, that same lack of experience makes the bad advice that much worse.

If  I was rating this one purely on the scale of my own belief system, I’d probably consider it below average. But I’ll give it an average grade since it does get some things right.

 2.5 out of 5 stars.

 

children's books, Culture, tales from the local library

Feminist Baby: The Sequel

A while back, gripped by incredulity, I mentioned this book which I ran across while in Barnes and Noble, the Feminist Baby.

Because I was incredulous, it never occurred to me that such a silly book as Feminist Baby could evolve into a series of note, but apparently, it has. My incredulity is more symptomatic of how out of touch I am. This lately occurs more often than I realized, but I digress.

Feminist Baby is back, and finding her voice, no less:

Feminist Baby Finds Her Voice!

Feminist Baby is learning to talk
She says what she thinks and it totally rocks!
Feminist Babies stand up tall
“Equal rights and toys for all!”

Let’s disregard for the moment my sincere and well known problems with the ideology of feminism as a whole. This increase in political “literature” for toddlers combined with feminist “fashion” for toddlers (yes I’ve seen it in the flesh), raises a larger question for me, and it’s this:

With so many things in the larger culture encroaching on the innocence and wonder of childhood, why would anyone choose to read this to their toddler in lieu of real, living books which highlight wonder and beauty? How are children served by political indoctrination as early as possible?  In whose universe does a bull horn toting, equal rights clamoring baby belong aside the likes of:

Cover image - Goodnight Moon

Image result for the very hungry caterpillar

Image result for The Snowy Day

Image result for Madeline

Image result for If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

It doesn’t.

There will be time to infuse our kids with our political thoughts and ideologies. They’ll pick most of it by osmosis anyway. There’s no need to infect them with adult cares before they can even understand what they mean.

Real books never get old and they speak to us, young and old alike, across the generations.

Nonsense is only good for a fixed point in time, such as this nonsensical Feminist Baby series.

 

 

Els' Rabbit Trails, tales from the local library, Uncategorized

On lost library books…

…and the resulting loss of dollars.

As much as I love the library, there is the occasional downside to checking out books there. Among those are late fees and lost books.

One of the things I like about our library is that not only do you get three weeks to read your plunder, but you also get three renewals so long as the book isn’t being waited for by another library patron. I routinely keep books for nine weeks. Routinely, and not because it takes me nine weeks to read a book, though that has been known to happen.

No, I keep books for nine weeks because with three bookshelves in the house, and the tendency to read books everywhere from the bathroom to the kitchen, to the car, I often misplace books.  Usually, I find them before they are due and avoid fines. Occasionally, however, they are not found before the nine weeks are up, and fines start to accrue.

Depending on the book (hard cover or paperback, new or old, in demand or no one cares), I risk the fines in the hopes that the book will turn up. It’s worth it to me to pay $3 in fines on a $29 book and the more valauble the book, the more diligent the search, and the more likely it is to be found.

Some books however, such as the one which inspired this mini post, make more sense to just pay for. It’s a really cheap book, despite inspiring more conversation here than this blog has ever experienced before or since. So when the nine weeks and a few days expired, I reported it lost and paid for it. Total of around $12, if I recall correctly.

I just found it. I’ll take it to the library, and they’ll give me back half of what I paid them for the loss. Sigh.

Files this one under tales from the local library.

 

American history, Culture, educational, Els' Rabbit Trails, intriguing authors, nonfiction, tales from the local library

Change of plans…

It is invariable that the moment I solidify my list and order of reading, something else catches my fancy and off I go, tiptoeing through the bibliophile tulips. Two books have recently knocked my previously arranged list out of order.

Florida, A Short History keeps its place as my current read because I need it to build my fall curriculum.  It’s also going to take a while to dig for the gems I don’t know and figure out what to put where, what is worth assigning extra work, and so and so on. After that, the queue gets shuffled as two other books have earned top spots.

I chose not to purchase Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules to Live By because the reviews -including the relatively positive ones- left me thinking I might regret the investment if I did. As a result, I ordered it from my library, where I was supposedly number 44 on the list of patrons waiting for it. I figured it would take at least two months for me to get it. It didn’t, and I got it yesterday. Since there is a waiting list for it, I won’t be allowed to renew it so I have to get it read over the next 21 days. Easy peasy.

The second book which has moved to the top of my heap is called Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” , which Zora Neale Hurston reportedly penned before her death. History.com reports that Hurston conducted an interview with the last known survivor of a transatlantic slave ship back in the early 1930s but struggled to get the manuscript published. It is finally being released on May 8. I have to read that, and right away.

The best laid plans and all that good stuff. I’ll log this as a reminder of why I shouldn’t publish reading queues and schedules. No one who really knows me would ever call me spontaneous or an improviser (especially if they know my man), but when it comes to my reading habits, both words definitely apply.

h/t: Bike Bubba for the history.com link.

RELATED:

Intriguing Author Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Hurston Confirms Solomon’s Declaration.

Big Ideas Offered in Short Stories

Dust Tracks on a Road

Have a great weekend!

 

 

children's books, fiction, homeschool, joys of reading, just for fun, tales from the local library

Picture Book Bonanza!

Our 9-year-old is one of the sharpest tools in the shed. Mother wit is not her strongest suit (we’re working on that), but she was blessed with a hefty bit of cognitive fire power.

I don’t just say that about all of my children. We tend to be very open and honest about gifts, talents, abilities, and how the Giver of all gifts does things the way He does for a reason. There’s a point to this particular line of thought, and it is wholly centered around books.

During our recent trip to the library, the kid surprised me by making a beeline for the picture book section. Since she has read chapter books alongside picture books from the time she was 6 or 7,  I figured she might find picture books less worthy of her time and attention. It turns out that a full school year of reading great literature, even though enjoying it,  gave her a craving for some light-hearted, brightly colored picture books.

After readng them to herself, and reading them with her 11-year-old sister, she wasn’t quite read to return them to the library until she’d had the pleasure of my voice reading them to her. I am very glad we took the time to do that, because these were all very enjoyable books:

 

phobe sounds it out

The fun thing about these books is that they were books I would never would have chosen on my own, since none of them meet the standard guidelines I tend to use when picking out children’s books.

The other interesting thing I noted was how often she gravitated towards boks with characters who looked like her. Although only two of the books listed here met that criteria, she looked at quite a few.

The lesson I took away from this excursion was that no matter how “advanced” kids are, they’re still kids, and they like kid things. Such as brightly colored picture books!

Culture, marriage and relationships, nonfiction, tales from the local library

Swoon

 

Swoon bookSwoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them, by Betsy Prioleau. Published in 2013. 288 pages.

I don’t know if Thomas, the man whose return slip indicated he checked this library book out before me, is the same reader who rudely took notes inside the book, but if he is, I can’t help but wonder if he found anything within its pages that might help him on whatever quest inspired him to check it out in the first place.

Swoon, Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them, by Betsy Prioleau is a long-winded journey on the road to a well-known conclusion. Namely, that when it comes to being popular with women, some men have “it”, others don’t, and the characteristics of the men who do have it are too widely varied to be easily quantified. In other words, there was no new information to be found here.

That isn’t to say that the book wasn’t filled with interesting or even fascinating historical references and narratives of men throughout history who were known to be famously, and sometimes infamously, “popular”. Some of them in our modern age would defy credulity, such as Benjamin Franklin. Others, such as Casanova, hardly need to be explored as their stories are so familiar.

The one thing this book made perfectly clear however, and I tend to agree with the author on this if not much else, is that the men who have the greatest success with women tend to be men who genuinely like women, finding us fascinating and interesting, even if they are well acquainted with our flaws and weaknesses. Interestingly, despite a questionable encounter with a woman which might call into doubt Prioleau’s analysis, the late Sam Cooke, whose music I enjoy listening to for hours on end, was seducer for whom this author had little to offer other than glowing praise.

What I didn’t like about this book was born entirely of my own moral code. Despite my usual ability to set aside any demands that an author acquiesce to my view, it bothered me Prioleau offered no moral judgement –only awe or praise ever- against the character of men who used their *gift* for swaying women in questionable ways. She seemed convinced that the fact that they were often amiable, likable men absolved them of responsibility for the way they plowed through women. Pun fully intended.

To her credit she noted, and there is a strong ring of truth here, that those men who are honest about who and what they are with the women in their single lives are usually just as honest, faithful and true in the event that they decide to settle down. And some of them do.

In the end, this book was more historical references smattered with opinions than anything offering insight. There was never an answer which indicated *Why* the men in her book elicit the titular female reaction, which is fitting. What’s more, there was a wholesale dismissal of men such as rappers, gamers, or others she deemed low class as well as the types of women who respond to them. The implication was that they are an almost sub human class of people not numerous or smart enough to be included as real samples in her exploration. The lady doth protest too much, or perhaps is just a snob.

Men whose seductive prowess are wielded in ways which didn’t offend her sensibilities are good and worthy to be emulated, regardless of the lack of character their behavior implies. Others, not so much. The veneer of subjectivity Prioleau attempted to portray here is wafer thin, and doesn’t hold.

The end effect of Prioleau’s approach to the subject is a book which is at times entertaining, but is sunk by her intellectualism, inability to set aside her class biases, and honestly discuss the things about women that make them susceptible to certain kinds of men, whatever their social strata or background.

This book never provides a sufficient rejoinder to the subject its author promises the reader she will demystify.

Grade: C, and that because there was some entertainment value in it.