Friday, January 18, 2008

Books you need to know about!

I have so many book reviews backlogged in my brain. I hope to review all of these more fully, and individually on in the near future (to see all my reviews click this link) but I just wanted to get some very quick capsule recommendations out to you:

Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood by Karen Maezen Miller. Karen is a friend of the blog and has been a guest on The Mojo Mom Podcast (Oct.5.06 episode). She is also one of the kindest and wisest people I have had the pleasure to befriend before we've even met in person. Her book is a real treat -- a perfect New Year's gift to yourself. I have recommended Karen's book in the past and now that I myself need a mojo recharge, I am appreciating her work once again.

Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers by Nancy Amanda Redd. Body Drama takes a complete, honest look at body issues of all kinds. This is a brave and wonderful book. It's aimed at teens but I learned a lot by reading it. Written by an amazing young woman who competed in the Miss America pageant and also graduated from Harvard. You have to love Nancy Redd for using her platform to launch a discussion about real body issues. (On her blog she shares a very funny story about filling out her Miss America paperwork as Miss Virginia.)

The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way by Hillary Rettig. I learned about this book from Cary Tennis' column on a few months ago and it is a great tool for a Mojo Mom. Mothers are driven to create a life of meaning and we often end up on a life path that is similar to an activist or artist's, even if we don't officially identify ourselves that way. Rettig gives very practical advice about succeeding on this path without burning out. I could mentally substitute the word "Mom" for "Activist" throughout and the advice made a lot of sense. Her book has one of the best bibliographies I've ever come across, and it's led me to other good books, including....

The Soft-Addiction Solution by Judith Wright. I don't usually gravitate toward this kind of book but The Lifelong Activist had recommended it and it was a very valuable quick read. I skimmed over some of the case studies but the core message about putting aside the "soft addictions," seemingly harmless habits like TV, shopping and potato chips, was very valuable. Wright shows us how to choose deeper meaningful experiences over quick-fix, mindless rewards.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Several people I love and respect had enthusiastically recommended Eat, Pray, Love to me last year and I have to say I was disappointed when I finally read it. I found it rather shallow and narcissistic in an American-centric way. But a reader critique of that book steered me toward Three Cups of Tea, which chronicles the long journey of an American mountain climber who found a calling to promote peace by building schools in Pakistan. If you were intrigued by the search for meaning in Eat, Pray, Love but are interested in vocation rather than vacation, try Three Cups of Tea.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have wondered about the book Three Cups of Tea. Thanks. Also, I found Eat, Pray, Love a little less desirable than the media portrays it for the reasons you mentioned, and also that she started the experience "manless" and ended up "finding someone." Maybe it's just timing that her happiness/resolution comes with finding another person to enter her life, and the great sorrow comes when she gets divorced. Maybe the book would have been the same if she'd ended her journey alone. But I wonder if it would have looked differently.

To her benefit, I saw the author on Oprah--and she came across much less narcissistic than she does in the book. She seemed much more likeable. And all writers have to be narcissistic to a degree to think someone wants to read their writing. So I can forgive her that.

7:13 AM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

I don't mean to be unkind to Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love. My honest review is that it was difficult for me to wade through her book, which really surprised me. I think my criticism can be summed up by saying that I really didn't learn as much about Italy, Indonesia or India by reading the book as I learned about her. I also felt that she wasn't able to be totally honest about the difficult parts of her story, that she was self-editing on the one hand, and blurring her life with the countries she was visiting on the other. When she wrote that she had a lack of boundaries her perspective made a lot more sense to me.

The contrast with Three Cups of Tea really stood out in two ways. First, I did learn a lot about Pakistan, Afghanistan, and America's failed opportunities to be more effective there on a peacemaking, social support level. Kabul still does not have regular electric power today. We need to think as much about rebuilding and humanitarian aid as we did about fighting a war against the Taliban.

Second, Greg Mortenson has put his life on the line for more than a decade to advance his mission, which has only gotten more difficult since 2001, and, I would imagine, more dangerous than ever today after Benazir Bhutto's assassination. I feel for Mortenson's family and I don't think I could be married to someone in his position, but I greatly admire his work.

Elizabeth Gilbert's world travels were planned with a book deal already in hand which feels so much less natural, and sets the project in a whole different light for me.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Cary Tennis said...

Thank you for noting my recommendation of Hillary Rettig's book "The Lifelong Activist."

I also have a book which I would like you to know about. It is a collection of columns and can be found at

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Amy. You always make me smile.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Thank you for these great recommendations. I'm going to have to buy a new bookshelf now!

2:52 AM  
Blogger MamaMo said...

Sort of on the topic of "soft addictions", I think you'll enjoy this short video on "The Story of Stuff"

1:01 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Good point, and in fact I wrote about The Story of Stuff recently on my CNET blog (parent.thesis) so I hope you'll check that out as well.

1:10 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Hi to Cary Tennis--thanks for stopping by the Mojo Mom blog. I just started reading your book today. It's fascinating. I appreciate your thoughtfulness, especially online at Since You Asked, where you seem very aware that the community can hurt as well as help with their copious comments.

It's a real challenge being an advice columnist who is backed up by a Greek Chorus of hundreds of Salon commenters whether you like it or ont!

1:14 PM  

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