Posts Tagged ‘Exercise’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Heidi B’s Picks

December 17, 2014

I am an eclectic reader, and 2014 saw my reading choices all over the map. I love grown-up chick lit (sometimes known as the more serious Women’s Fiction, or even domestic fiction), coming of age stories, and anything related to how the human body works. Below are my five choices for books I read in 2014 that made an impact on me; most are not new, but new to me. Happy reading!

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This is a terrific book that often is unfortunately labeled as a “teen novel.” Chboksy’s debut novel is a cult classic as well as being critically acclaimed; no easy feat. Anyone who navigated adolescence (uh, all of us) can relate to some aspect of Charlie, an awkward wallflower and high school freshman that no one seems to notice. Well-drawn characters, realistic dialogue, and a plot twist at the end all make for a classic.  See my full review.

The ShiftThe Shift by Tory Johnson
The subtitle of this book is, “How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier Life,” but this is not a “diet” book. This is one woman’s narrative on how she shifted her entire life, her way of eating, and her place in the world, all in one year. Oh, and by the way, lost the 70 pounds that had dogged her for 40 years. Everyone I know who has read this book has read this in one sitting; a couple of people I know and love have made major changes to their health due to this book. Hat’s off to Johnson for an inspirational read.  See my full review.

Wishin' and Hopin'Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb
Who doesn’t feel even a tiny bit nostalgic when seeing the endless running of “A Christmas Story” on cable TV? Come on, admit it: you do. Wishin’ and Hopin’ is a delightful Christmas tale by veteran storyteller Wally Lamb; a racier, edgier, more irreverent 1960’s version of the classic Red Rider BB Gun tale A Christmas Story. Set in 1960’s Connecticut and told through the eyes of 10-year-old Felix Funnicello (cousin to Annette), this is a delightful, coming of age story with a nostalgic twist.  See my full review.

The Story of the Human BodyThe Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, Disease by Daniel Lieberman
The history of our bodies, in terms of evolution, is a complex and fascinating subject. Lieberman is a Harvard professor of human evolutionary biology, as well as being a gifted writer. He tells the story of human evolution in a manner that is readable like a biography, and as compelling at times as any thriller. What made humans become bipedal? (hint: to see over tall grasses!) Why did we move from hunting and gathering our food, to farming it? What aspects of our development contributed (and continue to contribute) to diseases that plague us? Lieberman is a talented and popular science writer. What could have easily have become mired in jargon is explained for the layperson. A fascinating read.  See my full review.

The Husband's SecretThe Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
The premise in The Husband’s Secret is: what would do if your husband had a deep, dark secret that might shatter your life, and like ripples in a pool, the lives of others? This is grown up chick lit with stories of lives that intersect told in alternating chapters. A sharper reader may pick up on how these women’s lives intersect, but I never saw it coming. The ending was a blockbuster.

Best New Books of 2014: Sharon S’s Picks

December 12, 2014

It is said that “Truth is stranger than fiction,” and to me it is just as interesting. I read fiction and nonfiction for the same reasons: to be entertained, instructed, and inspired. Here are my favorite new books for this year:

Pastor Needs a BooPastor Needs a Boo by Michele Andrea Bowen
A former FBI agent as well as a dedicated pastor, Denzelle Flowers of New Jerusalem Church in Durham got burned on the romance scene when his wife left him for a richer man. When the perfect Proverbs 31 woman shows up in his life he’s not ready to admit it, even though everyone else sees that she’s the one for him. Meanwhile, Pastor Denzelle decides to run for bishop, and has to pack both his gun and his Bible as major corruption sweeps through their denomination.

What Makes Olga Run?What Makes Olga Run? by Bruce Grierson
What makes a 93-year-old woman participate in track events worldwide, and set records that compare (in her age category) with those of the best athletes in the world? Well, she loves doing it, and her ability to do it stretches our stereotypes about aging. She is not alone—there are other “super seniors” like her around the world. Bruce Grierson leads us through a fascinating investigation of what keeps them going strong. See my full review.

William Shakespeare's Star WarsWilliam Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher
Hang on to your lightsabers! Doescher cleverly conflates famous lines from Shakespeare with famous scenes from Star Wars, making for a blend of comedy and drama worthy of the Bard himself. What I like best is getting to see into the minds of the characters through the asides and soliloquys. The series is continued in The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return. My family and I have been reading it aloud to each other (my husband plays the role of Chewbacca, and my 12-year-old son plays R2D2). See my full review.

Life is a WheelLife is a Wheel: Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America by Bruce Weber
The death of his parents and other major changes shook Weber up and gave him a lot to think about concerning life, love, and death. It didn’t help matters that he had spent the last three years of his middle-aged life writing obituaries for The New York Times. He decided to do something to prove to himself that he was still alive and kicking — bike across America! I love books like this, where someone decides to do something semi-crazy, and I can go along for the ride without the expense or the sore leg muscles! Based on the daily blogs he sent back to the newspaper, this book is a very entertaining and interesting read.

The Owl Who Liked Sitting on CaesarThe Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar by Martin Windrow
One reason I like to read is to experience vicariously things I may never experience myself, or at least not in the same way. I love owls, and Martin Windrow gives me a window into what they are really like, close-up and personal. Mumbles is a charming little tawny owl who is nevertheless no pushover! I loved reading about her daily life, and her and Martin’s close relationship of many years. See my full review.

What Makes Olga Run? by Bruce Grierson

October 3, 2014

What Makes Olga Run?Olga Kotelko is a 93-year-old Canadian track star, part of an elite group that scientists call “super-seniors”—people in their 80s and 90s, even 100s, who are setting world records that compare favorably (in their age categories) with the best athletes in the world. At World Master’s competitions, Olga competes in 11 track events, including high jump, hammer throw, and the 100-meter sprint.

How is it that Olga is breaking records at an age when most people are breaking hips? This is what Grierson, Olga, and the scientists who study her want to find out. Much as we would like to find a “magic bullet” of youthfulness, it appears to be a combination of many factors, physical and psychological, that work together.

Raised on the bitterly cold and windy plains of Saskatchewan, Olga grew up with ten siblings on a farm where everyone carried heavy loads and walked long distances. However, Olga did not start systematic training until the age of 70. Scientists think that starting her intensive training late in life may have been to her advantage. Many young athletes pick up bad habits and over-train, both of which may cause them to burn out early. Olga refuses to do anything she does not feel comfortable doing. “I don’t have to prove anything,” she says.

On the other hand, she may have something to prove psychologically if not physically. Olga survived 10 years of an abusive marriage, being told by her husband that she was worthless and incompetent. It was clear to Grierson as he watched Olga beaming from the winner’s podium that she was enjoying being told by the applause of thousands how capable and inspiring she is.

Olga may be tough, but she is also loving. She is known for speaking kind words to her competitors and even slowing down a wee bit to let someone who is “a nice person” pass her on the track. She has strong community and church ties, and she lives in the basement apartment of her daughter’s home, always near family. She balances her go-getter attitude with being kind to herself. For example, when she travels she sometimes asks for a wheelchair at the airport. “Why not save my energy for the meet?” she says.

Far from being a dry, scientific treatise on aging, this book is the portrait of a lovable lady drawn by a man who clearly admires her spunk. What is her secret? Is it the organic vegetables from her garden, or is it a skeleton so strengthened by exercise that falling down a flight of stairs at age 93 broke not a single bone? Perhaps more than anything, what keeps Olga moving is doing what she loves to do.

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Sharon S’s Picks

December 23, 2013

One of the reasons why I like to read is for inspiration and instruction on how to live a better life. Here are the “new to me” books that inspired me most this year.

Healing Through Exercise by Jorg Blech
We all know that exercise can help prevent illness, but Jorg Blech provides well-documented evidence that exercise also promotes healing from existing illness. That means it is never too late to start. Even moderate exercise can have profound effects. The body atrophies more and more the longer we sit or lie in bed, so Blech urges us to get moving in whatever way we can to improve our health and extend our range of motion. Read my full review.

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew
First-time novelist Mayhew has crafted a wonderful tale of growing up in the South in the 1950s. The story is told by 14-year-old Jubie, whose unjaded point of view enables her to understand many things the grown-ups around her fail to notice. In the face of tragedy, Jubie finds the courage to act on what she knows to be true, even though it goes against the grain of her society. Read my full review.

Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard
Is America still a place where you can make a life for yourself with very little besides hard work and gumption? Shepard decided to find out by starting a new life as a homeless man in an unfamiliar city. What he was able to achieve and how is a fascinating and thought-provoking tale. Read my full review.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Paulo Coelho’s characters are afraid of happiness; after all, it might be better to keep on dreaming than to realize your dreams and be disappointed in them. This story of a young shepherd who dared to pursue his dream in the face of many obstacles has inspired countless readers. It is a good place to start if you want to read the works of this internationally acclaimed author.

The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius by Kristine Barnett
Jake Barnett is a 14-year-old genius who is working on a new theory of relativity which is expected to put him in line for the Nobel Prize. However, this biography is his mother’s story of how she brought out the best in a child who was diagnosed as profoundly autistic and unable to learn. It is a story of courage and creativity which is my favorite true story of the year. Read my full review.

Healing Through Exercise by Jorg Blech

April 24, 2013

My husband says I would rather read about exercise than do it, but I retort that learning about the benefits of exercise is a good way to get motivated!

Jörg Blech really makes me want to get moving. He says that exercise not only prevents illness but can also help you heal and recover when you are ill. This is true with almost all of our modern ills, from diabetes, cancer and heart disease to back pain and depression. You start feeling the benefits at surprisingly low levels; even thirty minutes each day, 5-7 days per week, can really make a difference. For example, studies show that if people walked at a brisk pace 2.5 hours per week, then one-third of all heart attacks could be avoided.

As a European science correspondent and the author of five best-selling books, Blech brings us evidence from medical journals around the world. His prose is clear and easy to understand; he boils down the scientific jargon into specific descriptions and guidelines we can use right away.

A particularly enlightening chapter is the one called “The Dangers of Going to Bed.” The common medical prescription of “bed rest” is being called into question more and more. Even after a single night’s sleep, our muscles begin to atrophy, which is why we instinctively stretch when we get out of bed in the morning. Unlike bears and other animals which have built-in mechanisms for hibernating, human beings were made to keep on the move. Even vigorous house work or moving around at your job is good for your body.

So, let’s get going! You can come back to your book after your energetic half-hour, and enjoy it all the more for the rest you’ve earned.

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