Posts Tagged ‘Learning’

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.

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The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius by Kristine Barnett

June 4, 2013

At age fourteen, Jake Barnett is one of the world’s leading astrophysicists.  He is a graduate student and published researcher at Indiana University, where he is working on an original theory in relativity which is expected to put him in line for the Nobel Prize.

At age three, Jake was diagnosed with autism.  Although he had been an early talker, he stopped making eye contact and did not speak a single word for eighteen months.  He spent many hours of the day staring at a blank wall.  Therapists and special education teachers told his mother, Kristine, that he would never learn to read, that the most she could hope for was that he would learn to tie his shoes by age sixteen.

Although Kristine recognized the importance of therapy sessions for an autistic child, she noticed that the sessions were always focused on things that Jake couldn’t or wouldn’t do.  She decided to give him opportunities and encouragement to do the things he enjoyed doing.

When Jake made webs of colored string so huge and complex that Kristine could not get past them to go into her kitchen, she never complained, but noticed how beautifully patterned they were.  When Jake dumped out all the boxes of cereal in the house and refilled them with styrofoam balls, she let him.  How could she know at the time that he was calculating volume?

Eventually, she came to see that in school and therapy sessions, Jake literally had been too bored to pay attention.  When he seemed to be staring at the blank wall behind the therapist, he was actually observing the play of light and shadows.  He became so adept at noticing these patterns that he put himself to bed every night at precisely the same time (even after his parents hid every clock in the house) using his own “shadow clock.”  Indeed, the interplay of light and time later became the basis for his groundbreaking theory in physics.  He was completely uninterested in things like social niceties and the wooden block puzzles the therapists tried to get him to do.

Once he had time to do what he loved, Jake became more able and willing to do things that were less interesting, but that other people believed were important—things like sleeping, eating, and interacting cooperatively with others.  Now he has many friends, plays basketball, chats easily with his younger brothers, tutors his fellow college students, navigates a downtown university campus alone, and gives lectures on his theory.

Nurturing our “spark” can help us become well-rounded, happy, and fulfilled individuals like Jake.  However, it takes another kind of genius—like his mom, Kristine—to help bring out the best in us.

Find and reserve this book in the library.


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