I've recently gotten hooked on the Freakonomics podcast so I decided to borrow Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's latest book from the library. The full title is SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance which would not fit in my little title box for this post.
My favorite thing about this book, that also shows up every week in the podcast, is how they challenge popular beliefs about current issues by using statistics to come to different conclusions than everyone else. It stretches my brain and I learn some new things at the same time. Like learning about the whaling industry. I didn't know that oil (the fossil kind) replaced the whaling industry. At the time whaling could have been considered too big to fail since whale oil was used to light houses. A theory that really stretched my brain was the after-affects of September 11 in increased policing of terrorism reduced policing in other areas like the financial sector. I had never linked the two before, but it does make a lot of sense.
That's not to say I agree with all the ideas in the book. I thought the hose idea to fix global warming was stupid but I do appreciate the focus on creative, simple, and unconventional solutions to current problems.
Another interesting tidbit I learned from this book was how to get rid of illegal markets. If you go after suppliers of illegal things (like we do right now with drugs) then it creates more demand and the market sticks around. If you go after the demand the market will shrink. It seems pretty straight forward and obvious but there are a few reasons that we don't do that. As a society it's easier to villianize drug dealers than the poor little guy who wanted a fix. But the biggest reason, I think, that we don't go after the demand is because there is so much more of it. The police can barely keep up with getting rid of suppliers.
Narrator Review: Four Stars
Stephen Dubner also narrates the Freakonomics podcast so I was used to hearing his voice. This book felt like a really long podcast and it was enjoyable for me to listen to. Stephen reads at a good pace and does a good job of adding interest to the book. I find his way of narrating conversational and very easy to listen to.
Overall, it's an interesting and different look at current issues that I learned a little from and was entertained by as well.
Content warning: one use of the f-word and a discussion in the first chapter of the "business" of prostitution. It wasn't graphic but it was still a little too much info for me.(less)
The author, William Davis, had a lot of really good points in Wheat Belly some of which I had...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The author, William Davis, had a lot of really good points in Wheat Belly some of which I hadn't thought about before like how much wheat there really is in a grocery store. It's pretty much on every single isle. When you look at all the over-proccessed and packaged foods, it's easy to see why he says that we've traded cheap food for our health. Ain't that the truth. I also didn't know how high the glycemic index for wheat bread was. It's higher than a Snickers bar. So the next time I went to the store I totally bought a huge bag of Snickers. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the point he was trying to make but man - I could have been eating candy this whole time! It was interesting when he went into some science and research about how addictive wheat really is. It causes us to crave food constantly and eat more than we need.
I didn't really agree with the implication that he made that even if you eat healthy and exercise, you don't lose weight if you eat wheat. I do see the value in reducing wheat in our diet after he drives home how much we overeat it. I can also see the value in reducing wheat in your diet if you are diabetic since wheat does have such a high glycemic index. But there are enough healthy people who eat wheat that I just can't see how this would be true all the time.
I learned some cool things about your body and how it works. Your body's ph balance is so important that it will draw calcium from your bones if you have too much acid for your body to neutralize (like from drinking too much soda). The author explained how abdominal fat (which he believes comes mostly from wheat) can cause inflammation becuase it spikes your blood sugar which causes your body to make more insulin and then insulin makes more fat which causes inflammation. It keeps going around in this vicious circle. And when he had a study that said Rheumatoid arthritis was shown to improve with gluten removal I convinced my husband to go on a gluten-free diet to see if it will help his arthritis.
The last chapters got kind of boring to be honest. To sum up - wheat makes you old and gives you heart disease. It was kind of technical and hard to follow a lot more than that. Then he generalized the findings and research he had about wheat and turned it into not eating any starch at all (is this guy serious!!?) to limiting the amount of fruit you eat (say what??). He summarizes his diet in the back of his book to eating unlimited amounts of meats, veggies, and raw nuts, and then limited amounts of non-gluten grains and fruits. I'm really not sold on that. I don't see anything wrong with eating fruit and gluten-free grains as a main part of your diet.
I decided to go on a gluten-free diet after reading this because we eat mostly a gluten-free diet already since my son has celiac.Since I don't like making two dinners and I usually eat leftovers for lunch, I'd say half my diet was already gluten-free. We eat more fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese and meats now. We still eat gluten-free grains. I feel much better (e.g. I have more energy and I'm not starving by 10 am). Even though our food costs more, I find that we are eating less like the book says and my food budget has stayed about the same. Not to mention our diet is healthier with things like fruit and yogurt and cheese sticks for snacks instead of over-processed crackers. So far, I have enjoyed the gluten-free diet that we are on. I find that the food tastes better. We buy this gluten-free cereal that fills me up longer and tastes better than the wheat cereal I was getting even though they have similar amounts of fiber and protein. The wheat cereal actually had more calories than the gluten-free kind.
Narrator Rating: 4 stars
The narrator was easy to understand and made the novel interesting but I had to kind of roll my eyes at how many times during the book he said "healthy whole grains" sarcastically. He really couldn't resist saying it every other page. I looked at the print version - healthy whole grains is not in quotes every time it's mentioned (it is in quotes a few times) so I didn't understand the need for "sarcastic" pronunciation every time it showed up.
Overall, the author convinced me that we eat way too much wheat in our diet but he did not completely convince me to go to the extreme diet that he suggests in the back of the book.(less)
Is it cheesy to say The Power of Habit changed my life? Well it has. I finished this book yesterday and today I decided to change one of my bad habits...moreIs it cheesy to say The Power of Habit changed my life? Well it has. I finished this book yesterday and today I decided to change one of my bad habits that I've had my whole life. Using the steps in the book I quickly found out that my bad habit was a distraction for me from my stress and within three hours I learned that I had no clue how to deal with my stress. It was funny because I discovered something about myself that I hadn't realized before. I'm better at dealing with large, life changing stress than I am about dealing with the small everyday stresses of life like a cluttered house and dirty dishes.
I used my bad habit to distract myself all day long and suppress my stress and anxiety so I didn't have to think about the things that were bothering me. I completely broke down within four hours and called my husband in tears telling him I just didn't know what to do. How DO people deal with stress? I talked it out instead. Some of the stresses we came up with plans to change and some seemed to go away just from talking about them. My husband was a little shocked and saddened when he realized how often I must be stressed (because I do my bad habit all day long). Yeah, I can't believe how much I am stressed out either and I've been running from it too which I'm sure just adds to my stress.
After I talked things out I blogged for an hour which helped me relax and the temptation for my bad habit was gone for the time being. It came back in full force later that day when my son's bus was late. I couldn't find a distraction big enough to stop thinking about all the many, many things that could have gone wrong (my imagination uses it's power for evil sometimes), so I did some serious praying to calm my racing heart. His bus got there 5 minutes later and I survived, though honestly I was a little shaky and it felt like my heart was racing. I've got a lot of work ahead of me to learn good stress management and I'll probably need another book for that. :) I've tried and failed many times to change my bad habit over my life time feeling like I'm worthless or that I'm a bad person or that there was something wrong with me, but I don't feel like that anymore.
It is critical to understand that self-control doesn't fail because the person cannot muster the needed resources. Instead it fails because the effort seems too great for the payoff.
-Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit (Footnote 5.6)
I can tell you for a fact that my habit is going to be just as hard to change as it's always been but I have faith now that I can do it. And that faith is something I've never had before. Also, if you have any stress management books I would be very much interested in them. :)
I flew right through this book. It is truly fascinating how our brain works. Our brain is literally designed to make everything it can a habit to save energy and resources. Once you figure out how it works you can "program" your brain to do anything without even thinking about it. I highlighted the heck out of this book.
Here are some of my favorite things I highlighted while reading:
Habits never disappear. You can replace the bad habits but without faith in God or the belief that you can in fact change, old habits can come back.
If you want to change a habit, use the same cue, provide the same reward but get a new routine.
It's interesting how new habits form. Toothbrushing was from an ad campaign.
Pick a reward you crave. That's the key to lasting habits.
While I am still working on changing my bad habit, I did successfully create a new habit. Exercising. I hate exercising. I always have. To be honest I STILL hate exercising but I do it regularly now. Why? I used the tools in this book. My cue is my son going to preschool. It's at the recreation center so I wear my workout clothes when I drop him off and just walk around the indoor track the whole time he is in school and pick him up when I'm done. I can get two miles in about an hour. There's an old guy that teases me when he passes me. Whatever. My 28 minute mile is an awesome pace. My reward is what keeps me doing this. I listen to audiobooks which I look forward to. Exercise is boring to me but audiobooks make the time fly by. I crave my alone time and listening to good books. I would be sad now if I didn't exercise.
I had a friend ask me (after I told her about how much I loved this book) what the basic steps were for changing a habit, so here they are:
Identify the routine
Experiment with rewards (try different routines that give different rewards)
Isolate the cue (Location, Time, Emotional State, Other People, Immediately Preceding Action)
Have a plan
In handy infographic form if you'd like :)
Overall, this was a self help book that truly changed my life and I think everyone should read it.
Content warning: two uses of strong language (n word and f word).(less)
I loved the writing in A Study in Scarlet. The dialogue was catchy and natural. I found the b...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I loved the writing in A Study in Scarlet. The dialogue was catchy and natural. I found the book surprisingly easy to read especially considering how old it is. The thing that really stands out in this book and the thing that has made it last for so long are the characters. Sherlock is very cheerful, eccentric, sarcastic, loves to be flattered, and is bluntly honest. And of course the thing that makes his character so fun to watch on TV in the modern adaptation - his cocky genius. I couldn't hate this guy if I tried. I loved seeing these two iconic characters meet (Sherlock and Watson) to set the stage for the rest of the Sherlock Holmes series.
The first half of this book was a fascinating mystery. I was glued to the story, turning pages, dying to know what happens next. Then we get to Part 2. The second half of the book was the longest, most drawn out and boring flashback I have ever read. We find out the solution to the mystery at the end of Part 1. Part 2 goes into why he did it. Apparently Mr. Doyle doesn't believe in recapping what happened. We get to live it. If we're going to live through it, at least make it interesting. It was not at all interesting because almost nothing happens for most of Part 2. I skimmed a lot of it. It also felt very disjointed to go from a mystery in London to the American West. It felt like I was reading two different stories that had nothing to do with each other. Part 2 is only tied in to Part 1 by the very end.
Portrayal of Mormons
I have to say as a Mormon, reading Part 2 of this story was a little difficult for me since Mormons are not painted in a good light for this part of the story. But let's start with this hilarious quote first.
In the central portion of the great North American Continent there lies an arid and repulsive desert...
- Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet p. 63
Repulsive! Arid! My home this is! Yoda and I are highly offended. Okay not really. But he kept describing the whole state of Utah like it was entirely covered in the Salt Flats where everything was covered in "alkali dust" and used words like "barren", "misery", "despair," and my personal favorite "gloomy." The whole thing just made me laugh. While it is true that the west side of the Great Salt Lake is all those things, the pioneers settled on the EAST side of the lake which was your more run-of-the-mill desert with snakes and cacti and stuff. And regular desert dirt that almost nothing can grow in thank you very much. I mean if you're going to insult my state at least get it right. :)
The thing I struggled with the most was the portrayal of Mormonism as a cult. And when I say cult I mean a group forcing people to do things by threats or brain-washing. Mormons believe the point in life is to make choices. There is a point in the story where Mormon pioneers find a starving, wandering man and his daughter and say they can join them only if they become Mormon. Brigham Young (or any Mormon) would NEVER force anyone to be Mormon. Not cool Mr. Conan Doyle. I did some research and in Mr. Doyle's defense, he believed these things to be true at the time. Still - forcing people to do things is against our religion and always has been.
The murderer's motive was based on their hatred of the practice of plural marriage (or polygamy). While Mormons did practice it, it was portrayed in the book that if you didn't get married to more than one person you were kicked out (and then hunted down by a secret band of murderers. Say what?? That most definitely didn't happen). Not everyone practiced plural marriage. Many early Mormons were monogamous and were in fine standing with the church. I won't go into tons of detail in this review, but if you're interested the official Mormon (also known as Latter-Day Saints or LDS) website has more information on plural marriage and Mormonism. It's an interesting article that talks about the trials the people who lived it faced, how long it was practiced and more. And just to be thorough Mormons don't practice polygamy today and haven't since 1890.
Overall, I adored the first half of the novel and meeting the most iconic characters in literature, but I found the second half to be boring and the anti-Mormonism made me uncomfortable. I would give the first half of the novel 4 stars and the second half like 1/2 a star.(less)