February 2017 Books

I only read 8 books this month! I worked a lot more in February and just didn’t have as much time to read, plus I was spending more time with Andrew in the evening watching Homeland. I read a book in February that is entering my very small canon of MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS I’ve ever read. I also read some excellent fiction and got a new cookbook! Yay for February!

The Sun is Also a Star, Nicola Yoon, YA Fiction. EVERYONE was talking about how awesome this book was and while I enjoyed it I really don’t get what all the fuss is about.

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite, Robert Kurzban, nonfiction science. I LOVED this book and it’s changed how I see everything to do with the mind. This is going on my “MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL TIME” list! I wrote about it here.

The Rational Animal, Douglas Kenrick and Vladas Griskevicius,  nonfiction science. This book continues with the same topic as Hypocrite, the modular view of the mind and how we don’t have one self but at least 7 distinct subselves in our minds that specialize in certain evolutionary goals. These modules work together sometimes, communicate sometimes, but mostly take turns being the most activated and hence the one in charge of the decisions we make in different contexts. Best part? Some of them are connected to communication centers of the brain and some aren’t, so these modules are making decisions for us that we don’t have conscious access to (intuition?).

Rules of Civility and Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles, literary fiction. I read these back to back as they both became available on Overdrive at the same time. I loved them both and think Towles is incredibly gifted. If I had to pick only one to keep forever, it would be Gentleman in Moscow. The main character and his way of life are described so perfectly. He has something to teach us all about rolling with the punches, finding deep value and purpose in serving others, adapting to what life sends your way, and dealing with adversity. But also it’s interesting to see how values from one generation can become anti-values in the next, not for any other reason than to just be different. This plays out not just on the personal level, but as this book details, on the level of countries and governments.

Even though I liked A Gentleman in Moscow a bit better, I recommended Andrew start with Rules of Civility because it’s a faster paced book. A Gentleman in Moscow is slow and steady, not filled with exciting moments and big questions. It’s the kind of book some people will read and say “….but nothings happening??”. If you like a quicker and faster paced book, I think Rules of Civility is a better choice.

Primal Fat Burner by Nora Gedgaudas, nonfiction health and nutrition. Saw this one on the new nonfiction shelf at the library and since I am already a fan of ketogenic diets and I’ve read her previous book, Primal Body Primal Mind, I brought it home to look over. I’m pretty well read on the subjects of both the paleo diet and ketogenic diets so I don’t read these books to learn more but to benefit from someone else’s perspective on the topic and maybe get some new recipes. Well, I didn’t find more than one or two recipes that I felt suited my life at the moment. I’m not interested in using expense or hard to find ingredients (although I certainly was in the past). If you are the type that already has coconut aminos, free range chicken livers, grass fed marrow bones, and collagen in your kitchen, then this book might work for you. But if you are like me and do most of your shopping at Aldi or Sams’ Club, go ahead and skip this. I would never, ever recommend this book as a starter book on the paleo diet OR ketogenic diets. It’s just way too hardcore. Reading it makes me almost feel anxious. It’s just not my gig anymore to be that involved about every aspect of my diet. Not to say that she isn’t right. A paleo ketogenic diet is probably the healthiest way to eat for most of us. But it doesn’t have to be this difficult.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, general fiction. This was lots of fun to read after three nonfiction books. I felt like her depiction of PTA mom culture was pretty spot on and funny, all the drama and judging and taking oneself too seriously. The book was different and quirky and a great light read.

Bacon and Butter: The Ultimate Ketogenic Diet Cookbook by Celby Richoux, cookbook. I got back on board with keto in February after flip-flopping around for months trying to do this or that with my diet and nothing sticking. Keto is my home base and this time I dropped into ketosis without any trouble or side effects and have been feeling good. I got this Kindle book for inspiration and have tried at least three recipes already, all of which Andrew and I both liked enough to put into regular rotation. It had a lot of good reviews on Amazon and was cheap. Nothing like a new cookbook to get me excited and motivated about being in the kitchen!

And two books I started but abandoned due to lack of interest:

The Likeness, Tana French, thriller. I got this from the library because it was in this blog post about page turners (btw, I’ve read a bunch of the books on that list including Eleanor and Park, Tell Me Three Things, Sea of Tranquility, Dark Matter, and Rules of Civility) . But I gave it about 50 pages and couldn’t get into it. It’s a longer book and I didn’t feel like wasting more time on it, so I gave up. But everyone else seems to like it, so if this genre does it for you, give it a try.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl, YA fiction. I got this on audiobook and listened to it on the way down to Birmingham. It didn’t pull me in and for 3 hours (and then more time on the way home) I felt like the story was still just getting set up. I gave up. I wonder if it’s just not good as an audiobook.

A Coursera Course Changed Everything

A new member of my MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS list.

As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite books is Thinking: Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (I’ve written about it enough that I now can spell that last name with double-checking). I love learning about cognitive biases and the mistakes we all make in decision making and thinking in general. But I also always wondered WHAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO ABOUT IT. I had the knowledge of the ways we make faulty decisions but never could figure out what to do with it other than trying to catch myself in the act. Same with other sources on decision making like one of my other favorite books, Anti-fragile or anything by Dan Ariely (he had a great Coursera course as well but I don’t see it in the catalog right now).

I had no idea that a Coursera class on Buddhism and Modern Psychology would answer this question for me. Or rather it would take everything I had already learned and flip it upside down. Because according to evolutionary psychology (the topic of the course), what we call cognitive biases aren’t mistakes in thinking but evidence of the real reasons why we do things (and not mistakes at all).

There are two ways to think about “reasons”: the underlying evolutionary reason and the proximate reason (the reasons we give when asked why we made a decision). An example of this given in the book The Rational Animal:

Consider the question of why birds migrate each year. The proximate reason is because days get shorter; day length is the immediate cue triggering the bird’s motivation to begin its journey. But the ultimate reason for the bird migration has nothing to do with day length. Instead, it has to do with the fact that the best food and mating sites change with the season.

Decision making in humans is informed by evolution, just like everything else. When you consider all of these errors and biases through the lens of evolution, they appear to make reasonable sense for a human animal designed to survive to reproductive age and then reproduce as successfully as possible. Traditional economics never considers these deeper reasons for behaviors, only the proximate reasons (the reasons we SAY we do things). They are missing the forest for the trees.

And not only that, cognitive biases are nothing more than an ever-increasing list of exceptions to a model of human behavior (traditional economics), suggesting that the MODEL IS WRONG. For me, it’s no longer a question of how to avoid cognitive biases or compensate for them. It’s all about understanding my brain through the lens of evolution. That means MANY of the decisions I make are made in parts of my brain (what this course calls modules) THAT I HAVE NO CONSCIOUS ACCESS TO. Yet when asked why I made those decisions my brain is DESIGNED TO MAKE STUFF UP that I am 100% convinced of!

The course details the principle theory of evolutionary psychology, which is that we do not have one true self in our brains but instead a number of modules that evolved to assist with certain evolutionary goals.  With the help of a great book, Why Everyone Else is a Hypocrite, the course does a great job of explaining how these modules work and detailing the evidence that our brains are designed to make some decisions without that information being available to us consciously or to other parts of the brain that would allow us to communicate our reasons accurately. Another way to describe the modules is “subselves”, of which the book book The Rational Animal lists the following seven:

  1. Self protection
  2. Disease Avoidance
  3. Affiliation
  4. Status
  5. Mate Acquisition
  6. Mate Retention
  7. Kincare

Depending on the situation, any of these subselves might be more highly activated than the others and calling the shots. You will make different decisions about similar situations depending on which subself is the most activated at any particular time. It’s all so amazing and makes so much sense to me. The difference between behavioral economics and evolutionary psychology is that the former believes that rational decision making means always doing what is in your economic best interest, while the latter believes rational decision making means doing what serves the subself that’s currently activated. The reason I am so blown away by all of this is because I finally have a model of behavior and decision making that MAKES SENSE to me. And that model is that we just make stuff up all the time while our brains do all the choosing and leave us out of it. I love it.

How audiobooks make me smarter

Last year I listened to all the Harry Potter books on audiobook for the first time (the narrator, Jim Dale, is totally awesome). I was amazed by how many little things I picked up on, and my Harry Potter trivia skills really took off. I am a fast reader and that means I lose a lot of information. I still know what I’m reading and plot points and subject matter, but I rarely do a true deep dive into a book anymore. What I discovered with the Harry Potter audiobooks is that audiobooks force me to stay at one speed and not rush, and in that slowing down I can absorb a lot more information.

Last year I also listened to some Great Courses and learned a lot about religion (The Meaning of Life:Perspectives from the World’s Great Intellectual Traditions and Cultural Literacy For Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know).  Again, the steady pace forced me to slow down and I got a lot out of it. And now I am benefiting from this strategy again with a Coursera course called Buddhism and Modern Psychology. In that class I’m learning how ancient Buddhist belief and practice relate to the modern field of Evolutionary Psychology and it’s changing everything for me. I can’t help but wonder if I would have been as impacted by what I am learning if I was reading the recommended reading for this class by itself (Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite) rather than in conjunction with the audio/video course. I don’t know this topic well enough to connect the dots myself. Having the dots connected for me in this class has been one of the most enjoyable moments of learning I’ve had in years. It’s completely energized me.

The reason I read is to learn. I enjoy it and it’s fun but the reason I read is to learn. Taking this class has taught me the value of the classroom again and how truly educational it can be to read books under the guidance of a teacher who understands the context of what is being read. If my goal is to learn, then I need to keep this in mind and make more time for things like Coursera classes and maybe a little less time for just reading whatever strikes my fancy.

The Theme of Outsiders in The Undoing Project and The Case Against Sugar

I hope this is the first of many posts I do where I talk about themes that emerge between various books I am reading. Today I want to talk about being an outsider and how it relates to higher education.

One strong theme in The Undoing Project, the Michael Lewis book about the pioneers of the filed of Behavioral Economics Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, is that their ability to disrupt an entire field of academia (economics) came out of their non-traditional education at Hebrew University. At a time before the university even had a psychology department, these two were cobbling together their own degree programs. It was perhaps this lack of traditional education and not learning the “standard” way of seeing things that they were able to see obvious flaws in economics that those who had a more traditional education could not.

The same is certainly true in the history of nutrition science. In Gary Taubes’ latest book, The Case Against Sugar, he again finds himself at odds with the nutrition science world in his insistence that it is sugar and excessive carbohydrates in the diet than have caused the explosion in Western diseases like metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and even cancer. Many people criticize Taubes’ position on carbohydrate and the role of insulin because he is NOT an academic. I think it is because he is a science writer that he can see what academics cannot see. It’s got to be very difficult to go through many years of schooling and working in your field under one set of rules and assumptions and have someone from outside come in and challenge everything you’ve done. The easiest way to dismiss them is to point out their lack of credentials.

Imagine an academic world in which there was a recognized benefit from having outsiders or non-traditionally educated experts involved in the field. Their role would be not just generating new ideas and ways of thinking about things, but to be a BS filter and prevent group think among people with shared assumptions and frameworks.

As I was writing this I realize that this happens all the time in blended families and I can tell you from experience that it sucks. Step-parents can see things that mom and dad and the kids can’t. That outside perspective can be very useful but it’s so damn hard to hear it because: they just don’t get it, they don’t have the right motivations, they think they have a better understanding than the people who have been living it for years. Those criticisms are sometimes true, but that does not make their observations false. It’s the same for outsiders everywhere and they play a vital role in the health of all systems, from a family unit to an academic area of study to government.



What I can’t stop thinking about – The Undoing Project

I read a wonderful book last week, one of those rare books that you are completely excited about and that actually lives up to your expectations: The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis. In the reliably engaging and entertaining style of Lewis, he told the story behind the creative collaboration of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversy that changed the world of economics and psychology.

Now, let me say that there are only 3 books (so far) in my life that I think are important enough that I wish everyone would read them and Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow is one of them. I was very excited to learn that Lewis had written a book about him and the subject of behavioral economics. I knew that Kahneman and Tversky had worked together for many years but I really didn’t know that much about their collaboration. I’m really glad for having learned more about Tversky and Kahneman as people and how the two of them together became such an intellectual force. Read the book, please. If Thinking, Fast and Slow is too technical or boring for you, you might get interested in the topic of decision making by reading this book instead, especially since it’s people-centered instead of idea-centered. And come on, Michael Lewis could write about carpet and I would read it.

But what I really want to talk about today is just one tiny aspect of the book that I have been thinking about since I read it. And of course it’s about the Enneagram. I really got the feeling through the book that Tversky was an 8 and Kahneman was a 4. I could see it both in how their relationship was described and how their individual personalities were described. Kahneman was described as introverted, easily hurt, prone to depression, with only a very few close relationships, very creative, and not the type to prepare (he gave his lectures as a professor off the cuff without notes). Tversky was brash, loud, extraverted, opinionated, and marched to the beat of his own drummer. He was motivated by revenge and a desire to prove himself. He was also well-loved by everyone, except his intellectual enemies.

Being a 4 myself, I was struck by something Kahneman said about fantasy and daydreaming that really sounded 4-ish to me. He mentioned that fantasizing and daydreaming about things could be just as satisfying to him as actually doing those things. Because of this, he learned early on to never allow himself to fantasize about things that could actually happen, because otherwise he might not feel any motivation to achieve them. I can’t help but be struck with the incredible value of that idea as a path of growth for a Type 4.

Type 4s, myself included, spend loads of time in the world of fantasy and daydream. We have a tendency to magnify the intensity of emotional experience and this occurs mostly in our heads as we imagine things that might happen or things that have already happened that made us upset. I’ve noticed this in myself first thing in the morning. If I do not get up right when my alarm goes off, I start daydreaming and thinking about stuff as I lie there in bed and it inevitably turns negative, which means I’m starting the day feeling badly about someone else or myself. Kahneman’s daydreaming rule has been popping into my head at these moments and helping me not only increase my conscious awareness of when I do this but also reminding me that thinking is not a substitute for doing and you can’t always believe what you think and feel.

It’s obviously not just Type 4s that could stand to adopt the rule to never daydream about stuff that could actually happen. Kahneman might not be a 4 and it doesn’t matter. It’s still a great piece of advice from an amazing man who continues to influence my life for the better.


Why We Are Moving

We are moving into our new house some time in March. It’s just a tad bigger than our current house and has 4-5 bedrooms, just like our current house  The biggest differences between our current house and our new house are:

  • New house has NO yard. Current house has 3 acres
  • New house is walkable to library, grocery store, restaurants. Current house is not walkable to anything – not even to just GO for a walk
  • New house is way more expensive than what we paid for current house

When we moved here 5 years ago, it was because I wanted to have land and chickens and maybe some larger animals. Andrew was worried that the upkeep would be too much and that most of it would fall to him, to which I objected. We fought. We bought the house. The upkeep fell to Andrew. And while I liked having chickens, I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. As much as I wanted to like homesteading, I just didn’t. I realized that wanting to like something is VERY different from actually liking something.

I also wanted a smaller, cheaper house. This is the smallest, cheapest house I have ever owned. I am glad for this experience as it did force me to embrace a more minimal lifestyle. I had to get rid of half my kitchen stuff, for example. I have made my tiny kitchen work and I like it. I like not having as much stuff. But our house needs some remodeling, and over the past 5 years we haven’t made it a commitment to figure out how to pay for them and it’s made us tired of living here.

We aren’t the right owners for a property like this. Again with the wanting to like something instead of actually liking it. We wanted to like fixing something up but since we didn’t actually like it, we never did it. We updated the house on the cheap (paint and stuff like that) and I think we did a good job but we didn’t do the major things that we envisioned like a master bath remodel or an exterior re-do.

So I have learned some lessons:

  1. I am better suited to new houses that don’t require updating.
  2. I am better suited to houses with minimal outside upkeep (did I mention that I didn’t learn to use a lawnmower until about 2009?)
  3. Aesthetics matter a LOT to me. I think our current house is ugly on the outside and it’s always bothered me. I compromised on this when we bought the house because I thought we would fix it one day. But instead I’ve lived in a house for 5 years that I think it ugly.

Our new house is in a neo-traditional neighborhood with front porches and rear alleyways, within walking distance of the LIBRARY, movie theater, and main shopping district in our town. I have loved neighborhoods like this for a at least 15 years. But it seemed it just wasn’t the right choice for us financially and I tried to listen to Andrew this time and not make a decision I would later regret. He wasn’t nearly as interested as I was in the dream (I always have a dream) and he is way more practical. But he is also not one to stay in one place for long, and we have that in common.

Fast forward another month or two and Andrew had slowly been talking himself into the new house. On my birthday he took me to the neighborhood and we paid the deposit. And I think we have a book to thank for pushing us to take action. We both read Walkable City by Jeff Speck right around the time we were debating moving and it certainly influenced us to want to try living in a walkable area. Only time will tell if we have made the right choice but I wouldn’t be moving if I didn’t feel that this move would make it easier for me to live the life best suited to me.



Notable Books of 2016

Well, my reading goal for 2016 was to read less but more difficult material. I didn’t do that. I read my normal amount and continued to simply read what I felt like reading and what was available.

Some overall highlights of the year:
1.  I have started reading fiction again and have discovered a love of YA (young adult) fiction. In my 20s and early 30s I read almost exclusively fiction and then for some reason completely switched to almost all non-fiction. It’s been a joy to rediscover the joy of reading just for fun.

2. I read a lot of books on the Enneagram and will continue diving deeper into that subject. I recommended one at the end of this post.

3. I will be at roughly 110 books by the end of the year next week, which is on par for the last few years.

Now let’s get to my favorites:


All Things Cease To Appear, Elizabeth Brundage. This was the best literary fiction I read this year. Actually, it might be the only literary fiction I read this year but still. It was beautiful and reminded me why I used to love literary fiction. Good fiction is more true than real life, more illuminating than reality, and just plain magical in the way it can connect us to our humanity.

The Course of Love, Alain de Botton. A fiction book that describes married life better than a non-fiction book on marriage ever could. I wrote about this one here.

Carry On and Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell. The books that introduced me to the wonderful world of YA fiction. I read Carry On first, which I recommend for the sheer joy and surprise that comes from not knowing anything about Fangirl. Fangirl was written first and Carry On is a spin-off but trust me, read Carry On first (but only if you know nothing about either of them). I’m smiling just writing about them because they are so delightful.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline. This was so much fun to read! I loved it so much and can’t wait to see it as a movie. I immediately passed this on to my 15 year old son and he loved it, too. If you want to have fun with a book, this is for you, especially if you like science fiction or grew up in the 80s.

The Sea of Tranquility, Katja Millay. Another YA novel, but this one is much richer; it’s not just a fun read. It’s a page turner and so engaging and big and just plain good. The characters are all well developed and the story is funny, heartfelt, serious, and real. Plus, love story. Yay!


The Big Picture, Sean Carroll. I think this is my favorite non-fiction book of the year. It’s one of those books that makes you feel it was written just for you. The meaning of life from a scientific point of view? A way to think about meaning and purpose without religion? YES, I’ll take it! It’s a beautiful book and made me feel so happy. I felt like my way of seeing the world was articulated perfectly here.

Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari. A must-read for those who like to keep up on the non-fiction that change the way you think about BIG IDEAS. This book changed the way I think about some big ideas like humanism and the idea of natural vs. unnatural.

Women, Food, and God, Geneen Roth. I didn’t even give this book a star rating on Goodreads yet it is showing up on this list. It’s here because this is the book I can’t stop thinking about even if I don’t want to. I wrote about the book here. I tried to follow her food rules and completely failed and since then I’ve been really deeply thinking about my relationship with food, how it needs to change, and why.

Yoga and the Quest For the True Self.  I really loved this book. I read it after diving into yoga for the first time in my life. I was eager to explore the philosophy of yoga and this was a great introduction to the topic of yoga as a catalyst for change and personal growth. I loved it enough to buy a copy, which only happens once or twice a year.

But What If We’re Wrong?, Chuck Klosterman. I found this on the new non-ficiton shelf at the library and picked it up. The first two essays didn’t do it for me and I almost gave up on the book but I kept going and I am SO glad I did. There is nothing I believe in more than challenging what I believe in, and that is what this book does. It’s a collection of essays that attempt to cast doubt on things we think we know to be true, and it does a great job of reminding us how stupid we all are.

The End of White Christian America, Robert P. Jones.  An amazing look at the rise and fall of the Religious Right and the end of the era of White Christians as a voting block than can win elections. I read this before Trump was elected and I’ve been thinking about whether the entire book is now not as right on as I thought it was or what. But it is still amazing and still discusses religion and politics in a way that is important, neutral, and fascinating.


One sentence recaps:

An Abbreviated Life. Toxic, narcissist mom ruins everything and blames it on daughter.

Love Warrior: Finding yourself and embracing the deep vulnerability of love.

A Mother’s Reckoning. Depression and suicide can happen in any family and be completely invisible to you.

Switched On. A man with Asperger’s briefly experiences the lifetime of emotions he never felt.

Poser, My Life In Twenty-Three Yoga Poses. Yoga can help you deal with you dysfunction hippie parents.

Finding God In the Waves. Southern Baptist to Atheist to Mystic conversion story.

An Altar In the World. God is out there in nature.

You can see all the books I read this year on GoodReads. For next year, I will probably aim for 100 books again as that seems about the right amount for me. I’m considering spending the money to join the metro Nashville library system so I have more options. $50.00 a year is worth it if it saves me from buying stuff.

I will continue to read Enneagram books as I am able to buy them. I buy physical copies of all of those because I reference them ALL THE TIME. In fact, we are moving in a couple of months, so about 2 months ago I packed away most of our books. But I had to go back into the boxes and dig out my Enneagram books because I use them so much! The newest book on the Enneagram came out a few months ago and is a great introduction. Here it is:

Happy New Year and happy reading! 

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4 books that flip everything upside down

Here is a short list of books I’ve read that have challenged the majority thinking in a variety of different topics:

Acid Test by Tom Shroder. I learned from this book how ecstasy and other psychedelics are being used to treat soldiers with PTSD and how politics has prevented these therapies from being more widely used. I’m now much more libertarian in my views of drug laws as a result of reading this book.

Magicians of the Gods by Graham Hancock This is a fun romp through ancient history. What if there was a comet event at the beginning of the end of the ice age (10,000 years ago) that wiped out entire cultures as advanced as those that came much later (ancient Egypt and Incan culture). And what if there was evidence for this comet in the physical Earth (its primary impact zone being North America) and also in the similar oral traditions and myths passed on over many millennia? How cool would that be?

Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary TaubesI read Good Calories, Bad Calories back in 2010 on a trip to Florida. and it was life changing. I’d always been interested in healthy eating and read a ton on the subject but this book turned it ALL upside down and permanently changed the way I thought about food and healthy eating.

Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Taleb. This is one of the only books I aim to re-read on purpose once a year. The ideas in this book are so simply counter to the assumptions we all live under that it makes it hard to take anything at face value. I trust the intellectual integrity of Taleb so much that he influenced who I voted for this year. I had already made up my mind but when I read what Taleb and some others were saying on the subject it didn’t just change my choice, it completely changed how I framed the question of who to vote for. And that’s what this book is all about.

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Book and Podcast Round-Up

Here are some good things I’ve read and listened to in the last month or so:


Ask Science Mike, Episode 86, Live in Nashville. This was so much fun to listen to and laugh out loud funny at times. I’m a new listener to this podcast and came to it from The Liturgists.

Joe Rogan Experience, Episode 53, Stefan Molyneux. This episode introduced me to someone who I do not agree with on most points but who was fascinating to listen to and challenged me to think about things in a new way. I love that! I don’t know where I first heard of Stefan but I saw mention of him being on this podcast so I downloaded this episode from August 2014 to hear more about his ideas (he’s an anarchist, btw, but also has really great ideas about non-violent parenting).

Fresh Air, How Trump’s Candidacy Has Divided Right-Wing Media. I am particularly interested in how Republicans have responded to Trump’s run for president. I have great admiration for those on the right who do not support him from a moral and ethical standpoint. I find their position to demonstrate great courage and a true commitment to their conservative beliefs and values in a time when that kind of position can get you ostracized by your closest friends and colleagues. I think we should all take their example and examine whether we are more invested in our institutions or our values. It can be surprisingly easy to confuse the two.

The RobCast: Pete Rollins on God. This was a multipart series that was just fascinating to listen to! There are so many amazing and intelligent and wise people out there thinking and talking about big picture religion and theology and I love listening to them even as a non-religious person!

I’ve listened to every episode of these podcasts in the last few months:

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

The Girl Next Door

The Popcast


You can see the books I’ve read recently and what I thought of them on Goodreads. If I had to pick a top three from the last three months they would be:

The End of White Christian America, Robert P. Jones

The Course of Love, Alain de Botton

All Things Cease To Appear, Elizabeth Brundage

Fiction books that teach non-fiction material

a union of two soulsThis post contains affiliate links. If you click through a buy something, I make a small percentage as a referral fee. 

Ninety percent of the books I read are non-fiction. I like fiction and it is slowly creeping it’s way back into my life thanks to some great recommendations from podcasts, but right now my heart is with non-fiction. Recently, however, I’ve read two fiction books  that taught me about non-fiction subjects better than a non-fiction book ever could, and I am realizing that perhaps this a genre of books I’ve been missing out on.

I came across the first book, How Yoga Works by Michael Roach a few months ago at a used book store. I assumed it was a non-fiction book so I bought it since I was interested in any yoga books I could find and had already read everything my library had. I was surprised once I started reading it to realize that it was a fiction book! I kept reading and was delighted to discover that despite being a work of fiction, it was a special kind of book that could educate readers about a non-fiction subject. In the case of How Yoga Works, the fiction story is meant to convey the teaching of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and it does so much better than reading the Sutras themselves, especially for someone new to yoga. While the prose was not exactly literary quality, it was a really wonderful and helpful book for me. I learned a lot and added many new tools to my mindfulness practices.

The second book, The Course of Love by Alain de Botton, was recommended by Modern Mrs. Darcy. I’ve read non-fiction by de Botton before and the review for this book was so positive that I knew I would like it. Just like How Yoga Works, this beautiful book teaches us about important non-fiction topics in a way that cuts straight to our emotions and makes the subject matter so much easier to learn and absorb. In this case, the topic is marriage, love, and attachment styles.  de Botton takes us into the marriage of a couple for the course of 14 years, making the normal but never easy struggles of every marriage the star of the show rather than the focus on infatuation as love that we normally find in our culture. To de Botton, marriage is not the end to a love story but the beginning, where all the work and struggle and growth actually occurs. Throughout the book de Botton intersperses his own thoughts on the couple’s issues as the third party voice of the narrator, giving us perspective and reflecting on how each person in this marriage is managing or not managing their own issues and emotions. It’s really thought provoking and encourages entering into the inner world of those we are closest to with less defensiveness and more compassion. I would love to put this book into the hands of everyone getting married so they know that they are not alone, that every marriage is a struggle and a trial.

The fiction story as teaching aid is nothing new, of course. From Aesop’s Fables to Jesus teaching in parables, stories have always been the most powerful way to teach real human truths. It’s a lesson I was glad to learn with these two books and I hope my reading future brings me more of these gems.