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Review: They F*** You Up: How To Survive Family Life

They F*** You Up: How To Survive Family Life
They F*** You Up: How To Survive Family Life by Oliver James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very interesting book, and one that goes farther than anything else I’ve ever read in nature v. nurture. The answer, according to Oliver James, is about 99.9% nurture. Plenty of evidence and examples are given, such as the fact that many child abusers were themselves abused as children, i.e. ‘nurture’ made them that way. Highly successful people are much more likely than anyone else to have lost a parent when they were a child, and their despair drove them to achieve. Babies born to poor, uneducated, nutritionally deficient mothers, when adopted by well-off highly educated people, become just the same as a child from those same middle-class people. Even genetically identical twins, when separated from their parents at birth, turn out very differently from each other. I have to admit, I’m convinced by him (or at least 99.9% convinced). If you have any opinion at all on the spectrum from genes to environment, I think you would be interested in this book.

Now that I have the information, though, what am I supposed to do with it? How to stop from f***ing up my own children? Other than not beating them, the book ends without anything in the way of practical advice.

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Review: Grass

Grass
Grass by Sheri S. Tepper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Suspenseful and very subtly creepy for the first half, with a wonderfully built world populated with intriguing alien species, new religions, and strange rituals. I stayed up hours past my usual bedtime for several nights in a row just wanting to find out more about the world and everything in it.

The second half focuses more on the characters, though, and since I don’t think they were nearly as strong as the world it wasn’t as enjoyable – but still good. Apparently this is part of a trilogy, but I feel like this book stands well on its own with all loose ends wrapped up, so I won’t be reading the others.

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…If You Can Call This Living

[The exciting conclusion of last week’s Eating to Live post.]

After a week of eating undelicious foods, I can sum it up in one word. I can, but I’m not going to*. Here, have a thousand words instead (there are also four pictures, so make that five thousand words):

We were very surprised to discover how much joy we truly get out of food, and that the joy isn’t even mainly from eating food. We enjoy planning out our menu each week and buying the food. We enjoy making the food. Cooking a delicious meal for others is one of life’s greatest pleasures, perhaps as good as eating the food, and we both felt unsatisfied making food for the other that we knew wouldn’t be enjoyable. Emma runs the Around the World in 196 Recipes blog, which has us trying all kinds of interesting and (usually) delicious foods from around the world, and of course we do the Saturday Sandwich here at Family Against the Flow. Anticipating the delicious food we’ll be eating later in the day brings us pleasure, and at the end of the day we can always look back on the day and think about the wonderful food we’ve eaten. This past week, we’ve had none of the joy in this paragraph at all. Continue reading

Review: Johnny Got His Gun

Johnny Got His Gun
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book starts slowly, but it really gets going. I put it down only briefly, to sleep, and finished it as soon as I woke up. It amazes me that war can still exist when ideas like those written in this book are freely available for anyone to think. War does exist, though, and I was further amazed when I read the author’s introduction after the main story and read that even he, a man who was one of the Hollywood Ten and lived in exile in Mexico because of his blacklisting for his political views, believed that censorship (even of his own anti-war book, Johnny Got His Gun) during times of war could be a good idea, as long as it was a war he agreed with.

If you’re a fan of the Metallica song One, you might be interested in reading the book it was based on.

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Eating to Live

For most of us in the developed world, food is always delicious. For my wife and me, I know it certainly is. Everything we eat is a mouthwatering array of flavors, and we make sure of that when we plan our weekly menu. We don’t eat anything we don’t love – ever. For myself, the things I love are savory: spaghetti, curry, meat pies, entire hogs basted in barbecue sauce and their own juices. My wife has an extra love of sweets: chocolate, cake, doughnuts, whole swans dipped in fondant and sprinkled with nibbed sugar. Hardly a day goes by where both of us aren’t having the things we love to put in our mouths, and frankly it’s hard to find that many swans and hogs at this time of year. Continue reading

Review: Fat

Fat
Fat by Rob Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The blurb on the back of the book implies that it’s set in a near-future dystopian society where fat is soon to be illegal. The book teases you early on with the mention of Well Farms, which are (voluntary) camps for fat people to be thinned down, and I’m sure you can imagine the slippery dystopian slope that could slide down. Instead, what the book gives you is three characters who exist in a world which is exactly like the world we actually live in. None of the characters get a satisfying ending, but none of them were likable to begin with so you don’t feel too cheated.

The writing is light and enjoyable to read, and I did feel interested in what’s going on with each character. Enough to keep me going to the end, and enough to earn 3 stars.

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Review: What We Believe But Cannot Prove: Today’s Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty

What We Believe But Cannot Prove: Today's Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty
What We Believe But Cannot Prove: Today’s Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty by John Brockman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Out of the hundred or so essays in this book, only about five were thought-provoking. Around half were something like ‘God does not exist’ or ‘string theory is very complicated,’ both of which are things I could probably have predicted these people (psychologists, physicists, etc.) would say anyway.

The most interesting belief presented was that humans are not conscious – that is, we don’t actually make decisions. We act by instinct, in the same complex ways that ants and bees do, but we also happen to be able to think about the way we’re acting, and have convinced ourselves that we’re actually in control of it all.

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Review: The Iron Heel

The Iron Heel
The Iron Heel by Jack London
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For me, the best dystopian books make me feel sadness because everything is so terrible. 1984 crushed my soul, especially with the twist. This book makes me feel sadness as well, but in a different way – sadness for the way things could have been, how the world could have eventually been a better place if the Brotherhood of Man actually existed.

If you’re looking for a story, though, I advise you to skip this. There’s a little story, but not much. If you’re looking for a political manifesto, also skip it, because again there’s not much. If you’re looking for some sort of combination of both of those, though, then this might be what you’re after.

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