Road Reading, Part IV

My reading frenzy continues! Still on track to read 100 books this year and I am loving what I’m learning. Only two books in this latest ten were actually stories – both true. I’m looking forward to diving into a little more fiction reading in my next round.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey
I know this is required reading for many high school and college students, but I never read it before this! And oh how I wish I had. This book is the real deal and if heeded can have huge implications for individuals, families, and organizations. Covey does not claim to have created any of these principles. They are, he says, simply laws of the universe that he has observed and cataloged for the purpose of personal change. The seven habits are ingrained in my head now and I see them at work every day. It’s another thing that’s getting me excited to dive into a busier lifestyle when we return to new jobs and responsibilities!

“Principles always have natural consequences attached to them. There are positive consequences when we live in harmony with the principles. There are negative consequences when we ignore them. But because these principles apply to everyone, whether or not they are aware, this limitation is universal. And the more we know of correct principles, the greater is our personal freedom to act wisely.”

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Zip back to 2005 and the wake of Hurricane Katrina as Dave Eggers (anything he writes is gold) follows the story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his family. A hard-working and successful Syrian-born contractor, Zeitoun decides to ride out the storm while his family evacuates. He finds an eerie peace in his empty neighborhood as the flood waters rise and feels confident with a fully-stocked freezer of meat, his tent, and grill set up on his garage roof. He drags out an old canoe and paddles around, feeding his neighbors’ house-bound dogs, giving out bottled water to whoever he sees, and helping elderly neighbors out of their homes and into the evacuation areas. Until one day the media hysteria surrounding New Orleans intersects with his life in an incredibly unexpected and unjust manner. Though the story is sadly true, it’s a unique journey in someone else’s shoes and a horrifying account of the lack of accountability in our country.

“Every person is stronger now. Every person who was forgotten by God or country is now louder, more defiant, and more determined. [Zeitoun] must trust, and he must have faith. And so he builds, because what is building, and rebuilding and rebuilding again, but an act of faith? […] If he needs to restore every home in this city, he will, to prove he is part of this place.”

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
Oh how I needed this book in my life right now. The hardest thing about traveling for me, unexpectedly, has been food. I didn’t realize what a borderline obsession I had/have with eating healthy food and didn’t expect to be so far from healthy food options most of the time. I can get swept up in the omega-3s and the paleo and the Whole30 and the amino acids as much as the next guy. I enjoy learning the science of it. I enjoy being good to my body. I enjoy giving it the building blocks it needs to do all the stuff I make it do. This book helped me to see that the way we view food has been prescribed to us, formed by decades of poorly written domestic agricultural policies. Thankfully, there’s an easier approach than weighing all the different diet options of the day: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. But as Pollan goes on to unpack, eating food is not as simple as it sounds. The majority of things in large grocery stores today don’t qualify as actual food. He shares a history of food production in America and why our shelves are packed with “enriched” things that will creepily never go bad. And, best for me, he gives a straightforward and easy way to move ahead without worrying about the protein-to-carb ratios and the calories-from-fat business: eat food.

“If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.”

God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage by Gene Robinson
I was not the audience for this sweet book. It’s written by a Bishop in the Episcopal Church who is now openly gay after being married to his wife and building a family with her. He writes earnestly and shares honestly; it’s beautiful! But it is written for a small mid-section of people who would choose to pick this book up but may still be horrified that it’s written by a gay Bishop. I didn’t need the convincing that it offered, but I did enjoy hearing his full story, his self-discovery, and the acceptance he found. He does a great job working through the six key scriptures that many people use in their arguments against gay people and/or gay marriage by putting them in context and explaining the many different possible translations of the original texts. He also explains why civil unions simply aren’t enough and everyone deserves to enter into this beautiful thing called marriage.

“Jesus was consistently on the side of those who were outcast by society and bore the unfair burden of disdain, discrimination, and prejudice. It is likely that he would look at modern-day lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and hold real sympathy for them and their plight. He would have understood the implications of a system set up to benefit the heterosexual majority over the homosexual minority. It is hard to imagine Jesus joining in the wholesale discrimination against LGBT people. Isn’t it logical that he would be sympathetic to young gay teens who take their own lives rather than live with the stigma attached to their sexual orientation? Would he not be found speaking a word of support, encouragement, and hope to them? Would he not be seeking a change in the hearts of those who treat them as outcasts?”

Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick by Jeremy Dean
This book was kind of a flop for me. Maybe it’s because I’ve read too many books that are similar to it lately, but it referenced a lot of studies I was already familiar with and was laid out in a way that was not intuitive to my learning. I didn’t feel like I got any new information from it, besides realizing how strong our habits can be. If this interests you, I’d suggest Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard instead.

Fearless by Max Lucado
This was a great, simple but profound, and quick read. I think learning not to fear is something one needs to grow in through experience (creepy, hanging ladders, anyone?), but this book did supply the building blocks to approach the concept intellectually through the story of the gospel. This would be a great book to explore with a friend or as a small group to really unpack reactions, applications, and challenges from each chapter. It certainly is a book that got me motivated to enter into a season of being fearless because of this great faith we’ve been given. What are we so afraid of anyway?

“Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that. Faith did that. People who refused to consult or cower to their timidities did that. But fear itself? Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors. Wouldn’t it be great to walk out?”

Run Less, Run Faster:Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Run-a-Week Training Program by Bill Pierce and Scott Murr
Found this book on our cousins’ bookshelf in New York and gobbled it up in a night when I couldn’t sleep. It got me excited to be back in one place eventually and able to train right for another race! It’s been tough to do anything consistent when traveling, including eating right and working out. The premise of this program, which I’ve found a few of my friends have tried, is three focused runs a week including a tempo run, speed workouts, a long run, and cross-training two days a week. I love the clarity and focus of this program. The book includes a ton of charts so you can see where you can expect your track workouts or tempo runs to be based on what marathon finish time you are aiming for. This book, a GPS watch, and registering for another marathon is what I’ll reward myself with after this year of travel is done! (Newport 2016 anyone?)

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
We have a good friend who is a virologist, which I think might be the coolest job ever on Earth. (I don’t think he thinks so though). My favorite books and movies are those ah!-here’s-a-novel-virus-and-it-may-kill-the-whole-planet-unless-dashingpublichealthprofessionals-intervene-and-save-us types. So I asked him for book recommendations and he gave me this one. It’s a true story about the first recorded cases of Ebola strains in the US in the 1980s. It’s graphic and it’s nail-biting and it’s incredible. I couldn’t put it down. It shows just how far we have to go in terms of truly understanding viruses, how they mutate, how they jump from one species to another, where they “live” in the world, and how they can be contracted. Compelling and pretty action-packed for a book about monkeys and scientists.

“In a sense, the Earth is mounting an immune response against the human species. It is beginning to react to the human parasite, the flooding infection of people, the dead spots of concrete all over the planet, the cancerous rot-outs in Europe, Japan, and the United States, thick with replicating primates, the colonies enlarging and spread and threatening to shock the biosphere with mass extinctions…The Earth’s immune system, so to speak, has recognized the presence of the human species and is starting to kick in.”

The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa TerKeurst
This book came highly recommended by a few women I greatly respect and love. It’s a wonderful journey into the power of the words yes and no, what motivates us to say either one, and how they play out in our hearts and lives. In a world that is constantly demanding more of us, TerKeurst begins with the concept that whenever we say “yes” to something we have a little less of ourselves to say “yes” to something else that may be an even better fit for us, our community, our skills, etc. She urges readers to develop the internal mechanisms to think through our intentions, weigh the outcomes, and say our answer confidently, so that we can be sure to give our best yes to the things God has in store for us. I didn’t personally connect with this book too much, but I think it has some great insight. I think I’ve just been reading a few too many improve-yourself-books and have heard these lessons and universal truths again and again. I love having the time to read while we travel, but I find myself slightly anxious to get back to a little more hustle and bustle and put these things into practice. If saying “no” makes you squeamish and saying “yes” is a problematic pattern for you, this is a great book to explore.

“In this great day when most women wave banners of authenticity about our pasts, we crouch back from honesty about our presents. We’ll tell you all about our broken places of yesterday but don’t dare admit the limitations of our today. All the while the acid of overactivity eats holes in our souls. And from those holes leaks the cry of the unfulfilled calling that never quite happened. We said yes to so much that we missed what I call our ‘Best Yes’ assignments—simply because we didn’t heed the warning of the whispers within that subtle space.”

Your Marketing Sucks by Mark Stevens
I found this book on our friends Erin and Mikhail‘s bookshelf and the title itself was compelling enough to pick it up! (This guy knows how to market). I have taken healthcare and nonprofit marketing courses in graduate school, but it was interesting to read this book from a completely profit-driven, business perspective and think about how it might translate to “generating profits” for nonprofits, either through social enterprise or garnering more donor or foundation support. Stevens attests that marketing is way more important than we think it is, but many businesses fail to monitor the benefits and returns from it or even enter into it strategically. I like his concepts of integrated marketing: both integrating each aspect of marketing in synergy and also integrating it with big, hairy, strategic discussions of the company at the executive level, too. I’m a big fan of organizations being aligned in these ways. Great book. Quick read. Glad I know some stuff about business marketing now.

“Most marketing does suck. And it does because people haven’t thought through what they’re trying to accomplish before they start spending money on marketing.”

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