Robyn's Reads: February 2017

11:17:00 AM

I got two books in this month, which is a huge success to me. Not only did I have a new baby, but also had all the company that comes from having a new baby, so I could have easily been distracted. Well don't worry, late night nursing and pumping to the rescue. I've been making a really concerted effort to read real books when I'm up with Jared rather than just scrolling aimlessly on my phone. Since I read these two books this month I really think it will help me keep momentum instead of falling into the newborn slump. We will have to wait and see!

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Summary: When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a prosperous Syrian-American and father of four, chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the days after the storm, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and helping those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared. Eggers’s riveting nonfiction book, three years in the making, explores Zeitoun’s roots in Syria, his marriage to Kathy — an American who converted to Islam — and their children, and the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible. Like What Is the What, Zeitoun was written in close collaboration with its subjects and involved vast research — in this case, in the United States, Spain, and Syria. (GOODREADS)

My Thoughts: This was our book club book for the month, and to be honest I wasn't that excited at first. It was hard to tell what the book is about from the summary, but once I started reading I was hooked. *SPOILER ALERT* Zeitoun goes missing because he is arrested for suspicious behavior that then gets blown out of proportion to include Homeland Security. If even that sentence would have been included in the book summary I would have been interested, but at first all you see is a guy paddling a canoe around a flooded city. That is probably my largest complaint about the book.

Once the story picked up I was really interested and feel like I learned so much about what happened during Katrina and some of the aftermath. I was only 14 years old and didn't really pay that much attention to it while I was growing up in Idaho. And even though the book itself wasn't necessarily my favorite to read (especially that first half), it was a wonderful choice for a book club. There were so many topics to discuss. Religion. Katrina. Family Preparation. Terrorism. The Legal System. Culture. Family Relationships. It was truly one of the best book club discussions I have been to in a long time.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (Not so much for the book itself but for all the topics it makes you want to think and talk about that are related to it.)

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

Summary: Gretchen Rubin's answer: through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives.

So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits?

Better than Before answers that question. It presents a practical, concrete framework to allow readers to understand their habits—and to change them for good. Infused with Rubin’s compelling voice, rigorous research, and easy humor, and packed with vivid stories of lives transformed, Better than Before explains the (sometimes counter-intuitive) core principles of habit formation.

Along the way, Rubin uses herself as guinea pig, tests her theories on family and friends, and answers readers’ most pressing questions—oddly, questions that other writers and researchers tend to ignore:

• Why do I find it tough to create a habit for something I love to do?
• Sometimes I can change a habit overnight, and sometimes I can’t change a habit, no matter how hard I try. Why?
• How quickly can I change a habit?
• What can I do to make sure I stick to a new habit?
• How can I help someone else change a habit?
• Why can I keep habits that benefit others, but can’t make habits that are just for me?

Whether readers want to get more sleep, stop checking their devices, maintain a healthy weight, or finish an important project, habits make change possible. Reading just a few chapters of Better Than Before will make readers eager to start work on their own habits—even before they’ve finished the book. (GOODREADS)

My Thoughts: I read this as a follow up to reading The Happiness Project back in December, and I'm glad that I did. Better than Before is packed full of so many different strategies for choosing, starting, and maintaining habits and I feel like I learned so much about myself, and some of my close friends and family. As she outlined each strategy, the research behind it, and why it does or doesn't work I was able to think of someone I know who falls under each one.

It was also eye opening to look at some of the strategies and finally understand things about myself that I knew all along, but have someone else put it into the words that I was never able to. For example, She talks about the difference between an Abstainer and someone who participates Moderately. I am completely an Abstainer. If I'm not supposed to eat or do a certain thing, I can't just do it every once in a while, I have to decide to never do it again. Cheat days don't work for me because I never really feel like I'm fully committed. Turns out that my thought process is legit and a viable way to live certain parts of my life.

Better than Before would be a great book to own rather than check out from the library like I did, however now that I have read it I don't know if I will buy it. I wish that I would have been able to mark up the book, taking notes in the margins and highlighting as I went so I could easily reference things later. However, since I already read through it once I worry it might lack a little of the punch it gave me from reading the first time. Maybe in a few years I could get a new copy and try again, but I will definitely take some time.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book to someone who is looking to just recenter their life. If you are in a little bit of a funk, out of a routine, and trying to get back to the core of who you are as a person, reading Better Than Before and The Happiness Project together can really help you focus on what makes you, you and get ready to start again.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Possibilities for Next Month: 
The No. 1 Ladies Decetive Agency
Still Alice

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