Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book Reviews (#90)

I've finished a couple books recently. Both were really engaging & have me thinking.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
This book inspired the title for this blog. Written by the author of the widely-read memoir Blue Like Jazz, this book is a look-back at the author's life after he has been approached to make a movie of his life, based on his hit book. The film-makers, however, assess that the "real" Don doesn't have a life story that is compelling enough to make a film about. He sets out to change that.

The feeling I had with this book was that it was like drinking a smoothie. It contained a lot of things that were really good for me, but was easy to take in and digest. Miller deals with all kinds of complex issues...parent-child relationships, crisis of identity, spiritual faith and disappointment, friendship, the proper place for work in our lives, how we see ourselves, existential angst...yet he does so in such a way that it isn't overwhelming or heavy. Rather, it pulls you in and has you asking yourself questions about your life and the story it is telling. Miller is funny and witty, but in an unassuming way. It's easy to feel like he's your buddy.

If I have a criticism about the book, its that I feel like the impact of his faith on his life is understated in this book, having read Blue Like Jazz. He discusses his Christian faith in A Million Miles, but so much less so than in Blue. I longed to know more about how his faith informed the snippets of story he was telling, because that was what was so compelling to me about the other book. But overall, I loved it and definitely recommend it.

Nurture Shock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman
I heard about this book on NPR and then it was recommended to me by my sister-in-law, Rachel. I'm an admitted social science geek, as well as a former early childhood ed professional, so this book was right up my alley. The book examines several widely-help cultural beliefs about childrens' development and then explores the science behind those beliefs--debunking many "common sense" thoughts about what is best for kids. The authors take on the ideas that educational programming on TV promotes less aggression than more violent TV shows, that teens who are actively engaged in extra-curriculars get into less trouble, that exposing kids to a variety of activities so they are well-rounded is more important getting more sleep, why kids lie, how kids learn about racial issues, why siblings fight, how praise actually effects kids, and more.

I want every one of my friends who is a parent or is thinking about becoming a parent to read this book. Seriously. Though it is a social science book, it's not overly technical and is accessible. It really shakes up what you think is "best" for your kid. I think most people want to do their best for their kids. This book will help you channel that desire in more effective ways and help steer you from things you think are good for them that may actually have a negative effect on them. Read this book--you won't be sorry you did.

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