Book Breakdown: Food Rules

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual is a short book that expands on the manifesto Pollan presented in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual is a list of 64 easy to understand rules about the practical application of this manifesto.

I read this book in one sitting. The rules are grouped under each section of the manifesto and Pollan recommends adopting one from each section. These are the three rules that resonated with me:

Eat Food: “Avoid food products that make health claims.”

Mostly Plants: “Eat animals that have themselves eaten well.”

Not Too Much: “The banquet is in the first bite.”

Some of the rules have a paragraph or two explaining them, but for the most part they are pretty self explanatory. This book does not go into the extensive research that Pollan presented in his previous book, and I was more receptive to the message in Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual because I had read In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto first. I would these books together for anyone looking to reevaluate their eating habits.

Have you read these or any of Michael Pollan’s other books on nutrition? What are your thoughts on his manifesto and rules?

Book Breakdown: Wherever You Go There You Are

This book has been on my to-read shelf for 2 years and I am glad that taking on this habit has finally motivated me to read it.

Kabat-Zinn’s best selling book is broken down into 3 parts focused on defining meditation, practical applications, and the spirit of the practice. The chapters are short and often accompanied by quotes and passages from other works on meditation.

It seemed like every time I picked up this book, I was able to apply the teachings immediately. I read the chapter Patience when I was experiencing a lot of anger and it helped me to detach from the storm of emotions.

This is also the third source that has touted the benefits of early morning meditation. I have been trying to sit first thing in the morning, but it has not been happening with any consistency. The chapter Early Morning has reaffirmed my intent and I will be waking up 15 minutes earlier everyday to listen to a Headspace guided meditation.

Not every idea or anecdote resonated with me. I am not a big fan of chapters ending with the phrase “Get the idea?” especially when my answer is no. But the topics are so varied and brief that the goal must be to get a better sense of meditation rather than to present a step by step guide.

Wherever You Go, There You Are does an excellent job of making the abstract concept of mindfulness accessible. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning the basic principles of meditation.

Would you like your own copy of Wherever You Go, There You Are? Simply leave a comment to be entered into a drawing to win a copy of the book.

Book Breakdown: The Art of Living

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time inspired me to start this blog. In it Ferrazzi discusses how a 10-day Vipassana course changed his life. The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation is a synopsis of that course and I thought it would help me cultivate my meditation habit.

William Hart is an assistant teacher to Goenka and he set out to provide an outline of Vipassana as taught in Goenka’s 10-day course. Each chapter is a lesson followed by actual questions and answers from course participants and Goenka and is followed by a parable. The book/course is a progression through the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. Each lesson builds on the last to show you that gaining wisdom, ethical conduct, and concentration will provide enlightenment.

There are some assertions in the book that seem fanciful to me. I don’t buy into the idea that the Buddha understood particle physics from meditation, but I won’t invest the time to research further since their scientific credibility isn’t a huge concern for me. I also found it took me longer than normal to absorb the meaning of certain passages. I am a quick reader, but I kept having to reread sentences and paragraphs before I understood the meaning. That might have to do with the number of Pali terms in the book that were totally foreign to me.

I did get some great insights into suffering, intention, awareness, equanimity, and compassion. Chapter 3: The Immediate Cause included my favorite story, “Seed and Fruit.” The following quote provided a flash of insight about karma and how we are make our own future.

“Our difficulty, our ignorance is that we remain unheedful while planting seeds. We keep planting seeds of neem, but when the time comes for fruit we are suddenly alert, we want sweet mangoes. And we keep crying and praying and hoping for mangoes. This doesn’t work.”

I will also give this book high marks for prompting me to entertain the idea of becoming a vegetarian. I’m not there yet, but I have never really entertained the idea until now.

I would recommend The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation to anyone interested in learning more about Vipassana, the teaching of the Buddha, or looking for some insights into the loftier goals associated with meditation.

Do you want to win a free copy of The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation by William Hart? Follow me on Instagram @ppreoccupation to be entered into the drawing! The winner will be announced on Monday.

Book Breakdown: You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

 

When browsing Goodreads shortly after I decided to start this blog I noticed this book on a friend’s to-read shelf. The title alone sparked my interest because it seemed like exactly what I needed to help improve my writing skills.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction–from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between is presented in 2 parts. Part 1 defines creative non-fiction and is full of general tips for improving your writing. Part 2 focuses on how to successfully write creative non-fiction by analyzing some well known works in depth.

Creative non-fiction is “true stories, well told.” By focusing on the story and characters you can frame your work by building scenes that embed the non-fiction elements you want your readers to learn about. Storytelling will allow you to engage your audience and help them push through the dry, informational bits. Gutkind calls it the “creative non-fiction dance,” and teaches the reader the basic steps.

There are 18 exercises peppered throughout the book. I am particularly excited to try immersion (exercise #6). “Just watch, listen, take notes… and see what happens.” I am going to a family reunion this weekend and it is the side of my family that I am not very close with. Approaching the event with a writer’s eye has made me less nervous about meeting 28 new family members for the first time.

I don’t know that I will adopt a creative non-fiction style for all of my blog posts, but some might benefit from a more stylized approach, especially the ones that deal with my interactions with other people.

Overall, this book is well structured and insightful. I recommend it to anyone with a great idea for a non-fiction piece who wants to reach a wide audience. I would also suggest it to any fan of Malcolm Gladwell, Rebecca Skloot, Janenette Walls, etc. looking for insight into why their pieces work so well. It’s an entertaining book with excellent tips on becoming a better storyteller.

Want to win your very own copy of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction–from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between? Just follow this blog to be entered into the drawing! The winner will be announced Wednesday.

If you already follow my blog (THANKS!) and want a chance to win, just leave a comment.

Book Breakdown: Bird by Bird

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life was on every list I read with book suggestions for becoming a better writer. After finishing this bestselling book, I can see why.

This book is broken into 5 parts, and modeled after the writing class Lamott taught at UC Davis. Lamott gives us a candid view of what her day to day writing experience is like, as well as a variety of material from authors who have inspired her. Each part has practical advice on the writing process, but the real appeal is in the anecdotes peppered throughout. It’s not everyday you read something categorized as reference that makes you laugh and tear up in equal measure. There is a beautiful story included in this book about a baby named Brice that made cry me and want to be a writer. A real one.

The practical tips are geared toward writing better fiction, but Lamott provided plenty of information that will improve non-fiction writing skills as well. I found the chapters Getting Started, Shitty First Drafts, Calling Around, and Someone to Read Your Drafts (thanks, Clayton!) particularly helpful. I am going to refine my blogging habit to include writing at least 300 words a day as Lamott suggests. I have been struggling to keep my posting schedule, and adding this writing goal will hopefully help me to stay on track.

I would recommend Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life to anyone who has aspirations related to writing. This book can inspire you to get started or give you the motivation to keep going. At 237 pages I think anyone could fit this into their reading list. I know I am glad I did!

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