Category Archives: non-fiction

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion For Life by Crystal Paine

Say Goodbye to Survival ModeI know my blog is primarily for reviews of books written for tweens and teens… but I also know that there are adults (parents, teachers, librarians, and writers) among my readers.  Therefore, I am taking some liberties and sharing this book review on my own blog as well as my library’s Staff Picks blog.  If any of my readers could stand to benefit from knowledge of a book, I think it’s worth making an exception once in a while.  :-)

Earlier this summer, a patron came in looking for this book because one of her friends swore it was a life changer. I was in over my head with both personal and professional commitments, sleeping poorly, and desperate for anything that could help me change my “barely keeping my head above water” style of living. As soon as I placed a request for the patron, I added another for myself. The very day that I started reading this book, I read the first couple of chapters and started making lists of my priorities, goals, and routines so I could set up a concrete plan for moving forward. I am sure I probably could have worked through things on my own, but it was so much easier to have a step-by-step plan that was created by an author who had “been there, done that.” Although I would like to say my life turned completely around in the week it took me to finish this book, I have to be more honest and say that I’m simply on my way. I’m working on saying no to things that don’t help me reach my goals rather than over-committing myself; I’m working on finely tuning my morning and evening routines to get all of my “must do” stuff done (while letting go of the stuff that doesn’t truly matter); and I’m trying to live by the OHIO (Only Handle It Once) rule I once learned at a workshop about organizing — don’t put it in a pile or on a list if you can just get it done right now. So far, so good. Wish me luck!

Happy Reading!

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

Port Chicago 50Before hearing Steve Sheinkin speak at the 2014 YSS Spring Conference in White Plains, NY, I had never heard of the Port Chicago 50.  When Sheinkin told us about the Port Chicago disaster and then went in to explain how the 50 men who had been too afraid to return to work were charged with mutiny, I was dumbfounded.  I *had* to know more about this story and how it was that the charge of mutiny actually stuck.  I don’t often find non-fiction books so compelling, but I found myself sitting in my driveway after I got home and popping in my ear buds during lunch breaks at work because I just couldn’t tear myself away from this story — especially when I got to the court trial.  It was like I was listening to an episode of Law & Order: Historical Case Files.  (If they end up starting a spin-off show with that title, y’all are my witnesses that I came up with the idea and deserve some royalties!)

I especially appreciated how Steve Sheinkin pointed out the fact that the members of the Port Chicago 50 were early, and largely unsung, heroes in the Civil Rights Movement.  Not only did their plight shine a light on the unfairness of the segregation of duties within the Armed Forces, but their treatment by civilians once they left the base was sometimes atrocious, regardless of the fact that they were putting their lives on the line to fight for their country.  One of the quotes that best summarizes how these men effected change in the people around them actually came as the answer to a question between friends.  When Joe Small (the so-called leader of the Port Chicago 50) asked his friend Alex (a formerly racist Alabaman) what had changed his mind about befriending a black man, Alex replied, “I found out something. A man is a man.”  So simple a statement, yet so profound.

Happy Reading!

 

This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl

this star won't go outEsther Grace Earl was an exceptional teenager.  She was a kind, thoughtful, and generous Nerdfighter who managed to bring out the best in herself and the people around her while simultaneously battling thyroid cancer.  Esther bravely endured lengthy and painful treatments with the hope that she could live long enough to “make a difference, to help someone.”  Well, she definitely succeeded.  Not only did she inspire people while she was alive, but her legacy continues via a charity called This Star Won’t Go Out.

This book is a collection of Esther’s blog posts, letters to her family, CaringBridge entries from her family, and reflections from people who knew her, interspersed with photos.  There is an introduction by John Green, which explains how he met Esther and the role she played in inspiring him while he wrote The Fault in Our Stars.  I found it difficult to read this story because I found myself getting depressed and angry about the unfairness of it all.  How can there be healthy “bad people” in the world while innocent children and teens die from cancer?!?  As I finished the book last night, and I came to the section where Esther’s parents recalled her final words and moments, I couldn’t help but sob.  Thankfully, there was a small samples of stories Esther had written to lighten the mood at the end of the book.

Happy Reading!

I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

I am MalalaWhen I first heard of the assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai, I was in shock.  The fact that the Taliban treated women and girls so poorly was no surprise, but the fact that they actually tried to kill a girl who merely fought for girls to be educated was practically unbelievable.  I was so relieved to hear the reports that Malala not only survived but that her fighting spirit was still intact.  While I find it terribly depressing to know that she cannot safely return to her home, it is heartening to know that Malala has the attention of many world leaders and is being kept safe as she travels the world to continue her work — fighting for the basic right to education.  After watching Malala’s interview on The Daily Show — which left Jon Stewart absolutely speechless — I knew I had to read this book!

While I was already familiar with the general history of unrest in the Middle East, I appreciated Malala’s overview of the formation of Pakistan.  I think it went a long way toward explaining how people could have “let” the Taliban take over; how low literacy rates meant that people had to trust what they were told, and how the intolerance and hatred crept in so slowly that many people did not see what was coming.  The overview of her family’s history, specifically how her own father fought so hard for his education and the education of others, also explained how Malala grew up to be so passionate about the right to an education.  Even though she didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize, it’s great that she was nominated — her nomination has the possibility to inspire a whole generation.  I can only hope that the youth of the world are paying attention and that Malala’s virtues are contagious, because there’s no limit to what a generation of people with her drive, courage, and enthusiasm can accomplish.

Happy Reading!

Rapture Practice: My One-Way Ticket to Salvation [a true story] by Aaron Hartzler

rapture practiceAaron Hartzler credits his acting ability to all the practice he got at home.  After all, having questions about his faith and his sexuality weren’t exactly encouraged by his strict, Christian parents.  If he wanted to stay out of trouble, he had to pretend to believe what they believed and to behave as they thought he should.  As a child, he found it easy to get swept up in the excitement over the thought that Jesus might come down and take them all away to heaven at a moment’s notice.  As a teen, though, Aaron had begun to enjoy his time on Earth too much to hope for the rapture.  He also began to question many of the strict rules his parents upheld in the name of religion — especially the rules against listening to popular music and going to the movies.  He began sneaking around and breaking rules and, what started off as smaller/more innocent lies, soon became intricately planned deceptions and full-fledged rebellion.  Though I grew up attending church, my Presbyterian upbringing was very liberal and I found it fascinating [and sometimes horrifying] to see how vastly different it could have been even though his religion was based on the same holy book as mine.

Happy Reading!

Secrets of an Organized Mom by Barbara Reich

Secrets of an Organized Mom[NOTE:  I get that this was not written to be a tween/teen book, but I think even tweens and teens could benefit from the organizational tips and tricks given.  Plus, I know I have adult followers who would totally appreciate hearing about this book!]

When I saw this book on display among the new books of the Parenting section, I swear I heard it call my name!  Though I have OCD and clutter has always been able to cause me undue anxiety, my house has never been completely organized.  Many of my friends seem to think that it is well organized, and maybe it is pretty good compared to some other houses, but I know there is still a lot of room for improvement.  Being a working mom, I rarely have enough time to do more than get by from one week to the next.  After all, keeping a house organized while staying on top of the billion or so other things a mom needs to do is not an easy feat!  I often say that I practice “subsistence living” — I am not falling behind, but I only seem to get the bare minimum accomplished.  I would love to feel like I am actually making headway on the clutter [i.e. getting rid of it] instead of barely getting by, though, so I figured I would read this book and give her methods a try.

The first chapter lays out Reich’s ground rules, and subsequent chapters help you tackle specific areas of the house.  I like that you can apply her four-step method and her “Ten Commandments of Organizing” to pretty much any room/organizational challenge.  And, while she does talk about children’s areas and children’s stuff, this book could work just as well for people without children if they simply skip the parts that don’t apply.  The practical advice paired with a “tough love” attitude made me give it a try… and seeing the end result in my 8-year-old son’s room sealed the deal!  He is happy that he has more room to play and that he can find all of his toys, and I’m thrilled that the “place for everything” structure empowers him to clean it all up when he’s done. Almost one week later, his room still looks like it belongs in Better Homes and Gardens:-)

I absolutely love this book!  So much, in fact, that I just ordered a copy of my own — to reference in the future and maybe even to lend to friends/family who want to check it out.

Happy Reading!

Passive Aggressive Notes: Painfully Polite and Hilariously Hostile Writings by Kerry Miller

passive aggressive notesIf you’re looking for something funny and light to read during your winter break, this is just the ticket!  It almost made me wish I would have saved the passive aggressive notes I’ve encountered throughout my life so I could send them in to the author for inclusion on her website (or calendar!).  For a taste of what the book has to offer, or for more once the book is done, check out her website: http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/

Happy Reading!